The Guaranteed Inheritance
This is the third blog post on the longest sentence in the Bible, Ephesians 1:3-14. Though there is so much rich theology in this short passage, the main thrust of the text is on the inheritance that we have in Christ. With that primary theme in mind, I believe this passage answers three questions for us:
How do we get this inheritance?
Who gets this inheritance?
How can we be sure of this inheritance?
Paul assumes that his readers know what this inheritance is: because of our union with Christ (see Wayne Grudem's excellent chapter on the doctrine of "Union with Christ"), we will rule and reign with Him over all things in the new heaven and new earth (see Matthew 5:5, Romans 8:16-17, 1 Peter 1:3-5).
Question 1: How do we get this inheritance?
The first question is answered in verse 11 and verse 13a. Verse 11 states: "In [Christ] we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will." Not only has God predestined us for adoption (verse 5), He has also predestined us for an inheritance! What a joy to think that we have an inheritance that is greater than anything this world has to offer. And how does this predestination show itself in our lives? The first part of verse 13 answers that for us: "...when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him..." When we hear the gospel of the salvation Jesus offers and believe in Christ, this inheritance is ours! God's sovereign predestination and our belief in the gospel are not at odds with each other but go hand-in-hand.
Question 2: Who gets this inheritance?
In the context of all of Scripture, as well as our current text, we could easily say "everyone who believes in Christ!" And that would be the right answer. But Paul highlights the uniting and reconciliation that the gospel brings by talking about both Jews and Gentiles. In verse 12, he states: "...so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory." The "we" he highlights is talking about believing Jews. But then he brings in the Gentiles at the beginning of verse 13: "In him you also..." Here he highlights the believing Gentiles. He will talk more about this gospel racial reconciliation in chapter 2. But here, he just briefly hits on it to show emphasize the point that is not only the Jews who have an inheritance, but people of every tribe, tongue, and nation who trust in Jesus.
Question 3: How can we be sure of this inheritance?
Because we still live in a broken world, it is all too easy to drift into the mindset of thinking, "this is it." I know I do. It is easy for me to forget that I have an eternal inheritance stored up in heaven for me. And one day, I will see that full reality. To help us not forget, God has given up a down payment or "guarantee." Verses 13b-14 state: "...were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory." The word "guarantee" in Greek (arrabon) literally means, "a legal and commercial term that means 'first installment, deposit, down payment, pledge,' and represents 'a payment which obligates the contracting party to make further payments.'" And that deposit is God Himself! God has given us His Spirit as His down payment. This means that the work His Spirit does in us now is a little snapshot of our future reality in perfection. Tony Merida says it well,
"God is not just telling us about something in the future, He is bringing the future into the present so that we may taste what the future is like."
This passage is amazing when we begin to think about it. God can do whatever He pleases (as verse 11 tells us), and yet He chooses to give us mere humans an inheritance. What amazing grace! This should change everything about us. Think about it: if you had a sure promise that you would soon inherit $100 million, how would that change your life today? You would probably worry a lot less about money, be much more generous, and live life more intentionally. God has promised us something much greater than $100 million. This should change everything about us. Passages like Ephesians 1:11-14 should cause us to worship the God who owns "the cattle on a thousand hills" (Psalm 50:10).