The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
May 20, 2012


1) Ephesians 1:11-14 (Tom Edwards)


Ephesians 1:11-14
by Tom Edwards

As we continue with Paul in the Ephesian letter, he goes on to say in Ephesians 1:11,12: "also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory."

This inheritance is not unconditional.  Rather, as Paul declares, it is obtained "In Him" (Eph. 1:10).  So we must first be in Christ (Gal. 3:26,27), where all the spiritual blessings are (Eph. 1:3).  Consider also Paul's exhortation in Acts 20:32: "And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified."  So the inheritance is for the sanctified; or, in other words, those who have become "saints."  According to this passage, the gospel can also build up the child of God and, thus, secure the inheritance it offers.  Jesus told Paul that his mission would be "to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, in order that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me" (Acts 26:18).  So again we see that this inheritance is for the "sanctified," for those who have forgiveness of sins and have been brought into God's kingdom.  For by their submission to the gospel, they would be able to receive the grace of God and "be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life" (Titus 3:7); and in that hope, to "be careful to engage in good deeds" (v. 8).

For in Paul's day, just as in ours, there were those who thought that God's grace would cover them even without repenting of their sins.  Jude refers to some of these false teachers as being "godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality..." (Jude 1:3). However, Paul makes it clear that those who would live that way will forfeit their inheritance of eternal life.  Consider, for example, these following passages:

Ephesians 5:3-7: "But do not let immorality or any impurity or greed even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.  For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.  Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.  Therefore do not be partakers with them."

1 Corinthians 6:9-11: "Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God."

Galatians 5:19-21: "Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God."

In this world, the best of  inheritances are only temporary.  Possessions, such as cars, homes, appliances, etc. can wear out and break down.  And more permanent possessions, such as land, could benefit the owner no longer than his earth-life.  But notice what we read about the inheritance of heaven in 1 Peter 1:3-9 and how the hope of it affected the believers while on earth: It is "imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you."  Therefore, they could "greatly rejoice" even when "distressed by various trials." And, as Peter declares, "though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls."

Yes, the inheritance that God has for His children pertains to eternal life itself, as Jesus states in Matthew 19:29: "And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name's sake, shall receive many times as much, and shall inherit eternal life."

When Paul says "we have obtained an inheritance..." (Eph. 1:12), it appears he is referring to the Jewish Christians in contrast to the Gentile Christians (though these Gentiles also had this inheritance). Going along with that is the expression in verse 12 that also identifies them as "we who were the first to hope in Christ."  For instance, whom did Jesus first come to, during His earthly ministry?  "But He answered and said, 'I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel'" (Matt. 15:24).  To whom was the gospel first to be preached? Acts 1:8: "but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."  In Acts 2, as prophesied in Isaiah 2:2-4, the word of the Lord went forth from Jerusalem on that day of Pentecost; and the church was established.  Acts 2:5 mentions Jews "from every nation under heaven" who were there at that time when the church came into existence.  However, the conversion of Cornelius and his household -- who were the first Gentile converts to Christ -- did not take place until about 10 years later.  In Roman 1:16, Paul declares, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek."  And even though Paul refers to himself as "an apostle to the Gentiles" (Rom. 11:13, NKJV), note to whom he usually first took the gospel: "Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And according to Paul's custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, 'This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ'" (Acts 17:1-3).  As the passage states, this was a "custom" for Paul to first go to the Jews in the synagogue, if there was one there in the community.  And there had to be only a quorum of 12 Jewish males in order for that community to have one.  

The Jews had been awaiting the Messiah, since way back in Old Testament history -- even those who had a misconception of Him.  Two of these who lived to see His arrival are mentioned in Luke 2:25-38 (Simeon and Anna).  Notice what Paul states in these following verses: "And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, 'THOU ART MY SON; TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN THEE'" (Acts 13:32,33).  "And now I am standing trial for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers; the promise to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly serve God night and day. And for this hope, O King, I am being accused by Jews. Why is it considered incredible among you people if God does raise the dead?" (Acts 26:6- 8).  

This is not to say, however, that only the Jewish Christians would receive this inheritance; for look what Ephesians 1:13,14 says: "In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation--having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory."

Much is said in the Ephesian letter about the unity that now exists between Jews and Gentiles in Christ, that the Gentile Christians are fellow-heirs with the Jewish Christians, so there is actually no distinction between them.  Consider also these following passages:  "For the Scripture says, 'WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.'  For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon Him; for 'WHOEVER WILL CALL UPON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED'" (Rom. 10:11-13).  "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise" (Gal. 3:26-29).  "Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him -- a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all" (Col. 3:9-11).  

Note also in Ephesians 1:12 that Paul refers to himself and these fellow Christians as being those who "should be to the praise of His glory."  Is this not one of the answers for why God made man?  The Lord says, through Isaiah, "Everyone who is called by My name, And whom I have created for My glory, Whom I have formed, even whom I have made" (Isa. 43:7).  Consider also these following passages: "Sing the glory of His name; Make His praise glorious" (Psa. 66:2).  "My mouth is filled with Your praise And with Your glory all day long" (Psa. 71:8). "Kings of the earth and all peoples; Princes and all judges of the earth; Both young men and virgins; Old men and children. Let them praise the name of the LORD, For His name alone is exalted; His glory is above earth and heaven" (Psa. 148:11-13). "The people whom I formed for Myself Will declare My praise" (Isa. 43:21).  "He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me; And to him who orders his way aright I shall show the salvation of God" (Psa. 50:23). "By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples" (John  15:8). "But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Pet. 2:9).  Alfred Martin writes that "Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever."

Let's now look more at Ephesians 1:13,14: "...you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance...."  In this passage, Paul is now referring to the Gentile Christians, instead of those of Jewish background, as we saw earlier.  But, of course, what is said of them in this passage is also true of the Jewish Christians.  In thinking of this "seal," William Barclay points out that "In the ancient world -- and it is a custom which is still followed -- when a sack, or a crate, or a package was dispatched, it was sealed with a seal, in order to guarantee that it came from the sender, and that it was intact.  The seal indicated from where the package had come and to whom it belonged.  The possession of the Holy Spirit is the seal and sign which shows that a man belongs to God."  That the Holy Spirit is given as a "pledge" or an "earnest," this comes from a Greek word that means, "money which in purchases is given as a pledge or down payment that the full amount will subsequently be paid" (Thayer).  So for all who truly have the Holy Spirit in their lives, that is evidence that if they continue to abide in God's word, they will one day be ushered in to the glories of heaven to enjoy forevermore. Having the Holy Spirit is conditional upon our obedience to God's word: "And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him" (Acts 5:32).   Compare also Romans 8:11-17.  

In our day, it is not the miraculous measure of the Holy Spirit, for that was given through the laying on of the apostles' hands (Acts 8:14-19).  But when we have submitted to the gospel plan of salvation and are living a life according to its teaching, we are then being led by the Spirit and can have the assurance in God's word that we belong to Him, have a citizenship in heaven (Phil. 3:20), and are heading for that glorious place (1 Jn. 5:13).  And when we are living that type of life, then we will also have the fruit of the Spirit abundant in our lives (Gal. 5:22,23).  Being sealed by the Holy Spirit is also spoken of in Ephesians 4:30: "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption."  Note, too, when this "sealing" took place, according to Ephesians 1:13.  It wasn't something that happened before the world began, based on an arbitrary choice of the Lord to unconditionally elect only a certain few individuals, relatively speaking.  Rather, the sealing took place, as this passage shows, "after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation" and "having also believed."  As the Bible makes clear, salvation involves not only God's part, but also that of man.

Therefore, one cannot be saved apart from the gospel; and the steps to salvation cannot be made by proxy.  Rather, each individual must comply with the following, as God's word reveals: 1) one must first hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17), 2) one must then truly believe in Jesus (Jn. 8:24).  And to truly believe, it must also involve 3) repentance (Luke 13:5), 4) acknowledging one's faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10), and 5) being baptized in water for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16).  For all of this is necessary in order to become a Christian; and, therefore, in order to be sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.  And one must then strive to maintain that relationship with God through faithfulness (Rev. 2:10).  For without this type of obedience, one's faith would become ineffectual (Jms. 2:17-26), and the inheritance would be forfeited (cf. Eph. 5:5).

Since the Holy Spirit has been given as a pledge of our inheritance, "with a view to the redemption of God's own possession..." (Eph. 1:14), then this particular "redemption" is speaking of the redemption of the body, as we also see in Romans 8:23: "And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body."  Does not the very fact that Paul speaks of having "the first fruits of the Spirit" indicate that there is also more that the Spirit will be doing, as latter or additional fruits?  For instance, the "redemption of our body" is still a future thing that God will bring about for His people; and what a glorious transformation that will be for all who have been sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise and will be able to forever enjoy the inheritance of heaven!   May we, therefore, each submit to God's gospel plan so this will be true for us as well. 

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

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evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
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