In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of Him will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of His glory. In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, 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. Ephesians 1:11-14
What is this passage about? In a word – inheritance.
So thinking about inheritance –
What is it?
The passage doesn’t specifically tell us what it is. But it does suggest that it is something that is guaranteed by the Holy Spirit, and something we will acquire possession of – I’m guessing in the future (i.e. at the resurrection).
Romans 8:23 talks about the redemption of our bodies.
1 Peter 1:4-5 talks about inheritance in terms of something that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for us, the fullness of our salvation, something that will be revealed at the last time.
On that basis, I think our inheritance has do to with our resurrected bodies. We’re going to get them when Jesus comes from heaven, to earth. If we are alive when He comes, then it’s in the twinkling of an eye that we will be changed (1 Corinthians 15). If we have the privilege of dying before He comes, then there’s a sense in which we will accompany Jesus… I’m not sure quite how that will work, and at what stage we’d get our new bodies – 1 Peter 1:5 gives the impression that our new bodies are currently kept in heaven for us – but again, what that looks like, I don’t know. I get this cartoonish picture in my mind of a Terracotta Army – and that’s like our new bodies – but until there is that reunion of spirit and body – they remain in a warehouse, lifeless, waiting to be possessed. But there is also the sense in which the bodies we currently possess will be resurrected at this stage.
Thinking about this a bit more broadly, Ephesians 1:10 talks about the unification of all things, things in heaven and things on earth – which points us to the new heavens and earth – which is where will enjoy our inheritance – conscious that this unification is something that He Himself accomplishes in the fullness of time.
It’s interesting though, that verse 11 says we have obtained and inheritance… but verse 14 talks about our acquisition of it. Perhaps this is one of the many “already and not yet” aspects of our salvation – the whole “You are saved; you are being saved; and you will be saved”.
Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we shall be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is. (1 John 3:2)
What is the basis upon which we have obtained and will acquire this?
Big picture: Predestination
The reason that we have obtained and will acquire possession of this inheritance is the eternal purposes of God – that before the creation of the world the Trinity lovingly predestined us, for this adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will.
In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ according to the purpose of His will. (Ephesians 1:5)
In Him 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… (Ephesians 1:11)
So in those verses you we have twice repeated His predestining of us, and in both cases, we’re told it’s according to the purpose of His will.
The details: Hope, Faith, and the New Birth
I mentioned earlier that idea that we are saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved.
The first aspect of that is what verses 12 and 13 refer to.
Verse 12 talks about our hoping in Christ. Verse 13 talks about our belief in Christ. Hope and Faith.
What does it mean to hope in Christ?
What about this belief in Christ? Paul tells us here that the basis of our belief in Christ is the reality that we have heard the word of truth. This word of truth, Paul tells us, is the gospel of our salvation.
It echoes Romans 10:9-17
“…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:9-17 ESV)
Another aspect of this is closely related: The New Birth.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:3-5 ESV)
How do we know that we’re going to get this inheritance?
God has given us a guarantee, namely, His Holy Spirit. Ephesians 1:13 tells us that we were sealed with the Holy Spirit. The same verse tells us that this sealing was concurrent with our exercise of Word-of-Christ authored faith in and confession of Jesus Christ as the Risen Lord.
But how do we know we’ve been sealed by the Holy Spirit? By what we are told the Spirit does, namely His testimony of our adoption.
“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Romans 8:15-17 ESV)
Do you know that you are a child of God? Do you know that you are a son of God by way of adoption as sons through Jesus Christ?
The Chief end.
The Catechism asks “What is the chief end of man?” We could just as easy ask “What is the chief end of this inheritance?”
Both questions are rightly answered with reference to the glory of God. Our chief end is to glorify God. The chief end of our inheritance is the praise of God’s glory.
Verse 12 and 14 of Ephesians 1 bear this out. Our hope in Christ is to the praise of the glory of God in Christ Jesus (v. 12). Our being sealed with the Holy Spirit, our eventual possession of the inheritance we have in Christ, these are both to the praise of His glory.
This is why God does this. This is why God bothers to predestine us. This is why God bothers to call us and give us new life in Jesus Christ through faith unto a living hope. This is why we will someday be given a glorious inheritance by way of a resurrected imperishable, undefiled, and unfading body. This is why He seals us with His Holy Spirit. This is why the Spirit bears witness to our spirits that we are the sons of God. It’s all about God’s desire to glorify Himself – to make Himself look good to all of creation both now and for ever.