The apostle Paul concludes this section of praise to the Father for pouring out his spiritual blessings by describing the great hope we have in Christ for an inheritance. We have been studying this long sentence of Paul from verses 3-14 where Paul is describing our identity in Christ. Your identity is bound up in the blessings God has poured out through Jesus. But we come now to another glorious picture of who we are in Christ and the great blessings that come from this identity.
Obtained An Inheritance (1:11)
In our last lesson we learned that we have been redeemed by the blood of Christ. The debt of our sins has been paid. You can either pay for your sins or you can let Christ pay for your sins. Our redemption and debt removal has caused us to be an heir of God’s inheritance. We are obtaining a portion of God’s inheritance. It is important to not think of the inheritance as heaven. It is easy to read about receiving an inheritance from God and think that the author is speaking about our hope for heaven. But that is not the point of this text. We need to look back into the scriptures and the promises of God to understand what Paul means when he says that we have obtained an inheritance.
But the LORD has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be a people of his own inheritance, as you are this day. (Deuteronomy 4:20 ESV)
For they are your people and your inheritance, whom you brought out by your great power and by your outstretched arm. (Deuteronomy 9:29 ESV)
When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance and divided the human race, He set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the people of Israel. But the LORD’s portion is His people, Jacob, His own inheritance. (Deuteronomy 32:8–9 HCSB)
Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance. (Psalm 33:12 NIV)
I want us to see that being God’s people was the inheritance. Israel was regarded as the Lord’s inheritance and portion. What made Israel special over the Gentiles? God’s relationship with Israel was made them special and distinct. God would provide, protect, defend, and bless Israel in ways that the Gentiles would never experience. However, the scriptures show Israel being set into slavery because of their disobedience and lack of faith. But through Christ people can have the privilege of being God’s inheritance. How do we have this inheritance? It was not by our actions again. Notice that verse 11 declares that we have been predestined to this inheritance. God was going have a people who would be his possession that he would bless and they would praise him. All of the blessings of God have been restored. You are his chosen people. You are his valuable possession. Your joy and hope is not in you but in God who values you. You belong to God and that means something glorious. God has made it possible through the cross for us to belong to him. No one questions God when it comes to this. Everyone likes to question God and his goodness. But no one stops to think about how God can look at us with our mountain of debt of sins, forgive us, and make us heirs of his glorious inheritance. No one! God has solved a problem for us. We must stand in awe of this truth. We cannot lose sight of the beauty of belonging to God, being the people of God, God is with us, he is our God and we are his people. Our sins make this impossible but with God all things are possible.
The First To Hope In Christ (1:12)
Let’s look at what this accomplishes by examining verse 12. God made us to be his inheritance “so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.” For the first time the apostle Paul speaks of the two different groups: the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians. He will talk about this distinction more in chapter 2. But those who were “the first to hope in Christ” are the Jews who we read about hearing the gospel in the first nine chapters of the book of Acts. The gospel message was proclaimed first in Jerusalem and Judea. The message was to first go to the Jews. Through Christ, the Jews are able to receive this inheritance. But notice what this was to cause: so that they would be to the praise of his glory. The Jews, who were shown in the scriptures to be violators of God’s covenant and lawbreakers, are now put into a relationship with the Father and made heirs of God’s blessings and promises through the death of Christ so that their lives would be to the praise of God’s glory.
You Also (1:13)
Now, are the Gentiles left out of the inheritance? Are Gentiles excluded from being heirs of this great inheritance and having the blessings of God dispensed to them? Look at verse 13. “In him you also….” The Gentiles, who were previous excluded, are now also included in these promises through the death of Jesus. Notice Paul says that you also “were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.” Is Paul describing something different? Is this a different blessing being described to the Gentile Christians? Not at all and there are many reasons why. First, Paul said “you also.” What Jewish Christians have received so also the Gentile Christians have received. Second, the Holy Spirit is the “guarantee of our inheritance.” The inheritance is what we have been talking about in this section. Go back to verse 11: “In him you have obtained an inheritance.” Paul is declaring that Jews and Gentiles have equal access to this inheritance. You also are able to be counted as God’s chosen people and prized possession.
How Do We Obtain This Inheritance? (1:13)
Paul does not leave us to wonder how the Ephesians came to access and participate in these glorious blessings. Go back to verse 13. Paul begins, “when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.” The word of truth is the means to your salvation. Faith comes by hearing the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). It is the gospel that will produce your salvation. Deep faith comes from hearing the word of Christ. True, saving belief will only come from hearing the voice of God. The gospel must be your power. The gospel must be your strength. The gospel must be central to your life. This is why every sermon is from the word of God. This is why every study is examining the scriptures. The word of truth is what saves us. Studying anything else is a vain pursuit. I was at a church on vacation that for its Sunday morning Bible study in the auditorium was studying the movie, Courageous and applying to the principles found in the scriptures. Friends, this is studying the wrong thing. I do not care how spiritual a movie or book may be, we do not study C.S. Lewis or Tolkien, or some other writer. God’s word is the only word that gives life. His word is the only word that saves. His word must be all that we want to hear and believe.
The Down Payment (1:14)
Now what does it mean that we were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit who is the guarantee of our inheritance? Notice that the scripture says in verse 14 that this is the down payment (HCSB, NET) or pledge (NASB, NRSV) or deposit (NIV) of our inheritance. This is the first installment of the full inheritance to come. So what is this talking about? I submit to you that this is speaking of the same thing we read about in the book of Acts.
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:38–39 ESV)
Think about what we have just studied from the scriptures about the inheritance. Israel was God’s inheritance. They were his prized possession with all the privileges and blessings of being his people. However, they lost this inheritance because of their faithlessness and disobedience. This is what Peter is promising to those who will come to Christ. Acts 2:38-39 says that your sins will be forgiven and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit when you are cut to the heart, repent, and are baptized. This is the fulfilling of the great promise of God. People could now be God’s inheritance again and receive the blessings and privileges of God through Jesus. The apostle Paul taught the same truth when he recounts his conversion to Jesus.
15 “And I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 ‘But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; 17 rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, 18 to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’ (Acts 26:15–18 NASB)
Paul was sent to the Gentiles to open their eyes. Notice the three purposes Paul recounts. First, to turn the Gentiles from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Second, that the Gentiles may receive the forgiveness of sins. Third, to receive an inheritance. Peter said they would receive the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Paul said they would receive the forgiveness of sins and an inheritance. The gift of the Holy Spirit and the promise of the Holy Spirit in Ephesians 1:13-14 is the obtaining of the inheritance. You are now God’s inheritance. You are God’s people. You are able to access and receive the blessings and privileges of being a child of God. You are now an heir with Christ. You are also part of God’s redemptive plan.
Now here is the amazing part of this sentence: this is only a down payment. All that we have in Christ right now: you are saints, you are faithful, you are chosen, you are predestined, you are redeemed, and you are heirs are only the down payment. These things are the first installment. Access to the Father and all the blessings in Christ are just the first taste of all that God will give us when Christ returns. Friends, there is so much more to come when Christ returns.
Now what is this knowledge supposed to do in us? Notice how verse 14 ends: “to the praise of his glory.” The Jews have been brought in and obtained the inheritance to the praise of his glory (1:12). The Gentiles have been brought in and obtained the inheritance to the praise of his glory (1:14). God has brought you into his inheritance and made you belong to him so that you would live to the praise of his glory. When we glorify ourselves we are stealing glory away from God. Why was Moses prevented from entering the promised land? Yes, it is because we struck the rock rather than speaking to it as God commanded. But listen to God’s words: “Because you did not believe in me, to show my holiness before the eyes of the Israelites…” (Numbers 20:12). We must live to the praise of his glory, displaying God’s holiness and grace in our lives. He has made you an heir. You are part of the glorious inheritance. Live to the praise of his glory.