In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.

—Ephesians 1:11

Almighty God, just because He is almighty, needs no support. The picture of a nervous, ingratiating God fawning over men to win their favor is not a pleasant one; yet if we look at the popular conception of God that is precisely what we see. Twentieth-century Christianity has put God on charity….

Probably the hardest thought of all for our natural egotism to entertain is that God does not need our help. We commonly represent Him as a busy, eager, somewhat frustrated Father hurrying about seeking help to carry out His benevolent plan to bring peace and salvation to the world….

Too many missionary appeals are based upon this fancied frustration of Almighty God. An effective speaker can easily excite pity in his hearers, not only for the heathen but for the God who has tried so hard and so long to save them and has failed for want of support. I fear that thousands of younger persons enter Christian service from no higher motive than to help deliver God from the embarrassing situation His love has gotten Him into and His limited abilities seem unable to get Him out of. KOH054-055

Lord, may I always remember it is a privilege to be a servant of the Most High God in accomplishing Your divine purposes, for You don’t need me to accomplish Your will. You are mighty God. Amen. [1]

  1. in whom we—I, Paul, and you, the addressed—also have been made heirs. Note the word “also,” meaning: not only did we, in vital union with Christ, receive such blessings as redemption, forgiveness of sin, and spiritual illumination (wisdom, insight), favors which have already been mentioned (verses 7–10 above) but, in addition to these initial favors, which, though they have abiding significance, focus the attention upon the past (deliverance from that terrible power by which we were bound, pardon of past sins, banishment of former darkness), the right to future glory was bestowed upon us. “We were made heirs,” says Paul. Heirs are those who, apart from any merit of theirs, were given the right to all the blessings of salvation in Jesus Christ, nevermore to lose them. The inheritance is given to them in two stages: certain blessings are bestowed upon them in the here and now, others in the hereafter (see on verses 13 and 14 below).

The objection might occur, “But will all the blessings of salvation—future as well as present—really be ours? Does God’s plan for our lives also secure the future?” The apostle answers this by continuing: having been foreordained according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will. Neither fate nor human merit determines our destiny. The benevolent purpose—that we should be holy and faultless (verse 4), Sons of God (verse 5), destined to glorify him forever (verse 6, cf. verses 12 and 14)—is fixed, being part of a larger, universe-embracing plan. Not only did God make this plan that includes absolutely all things that ever take place in heaven, on earth, and in hell; past, present, and even the future, pertaining to both believers and unbelievers, to angels and devils, to physical as well as spiritual energies and units of existence both large and small; he also wholly carries it out. His providence in time is as comprehensive as is his decree from eternity. Literally Paul states that God works (operates with his divine energy in) all things. The same word occurs also in verses 19 and 20, which refer to the working (energetic operation) of the infinite might of the Father of glory, which he wrought (energetically exerted) in Christ when he raised him from the dead. Hence, nothing can upset the elect’s future glory.

Moreover, although everything is included in God’s universe-embracing plan and in its effectuation in the course of history, there is nothing in this thought that should scare any of the children of God. Quite the contrary, for the words clearly imply that the only true God, who in Christ loves his own with a love that passes all understanding, acts with divine deliberation and wisdom. All his designs are holy, and he delights to reward those who trust in him. Human responsibility and the self-activity of faith are never violated in any way. There is plenty of room for them in the decree and in its effectuation. Scripture is very clear on this (Luke 22:22; Acts 2:23; Phil. 2:12, 13; 2 Thess. 2:13).

Besides, God is not like the heathen deities who are moved by changing circumstances, by whim and caprice, so that one never knows how long their favor is going to last. He who in his love has foreordained his people to adoption as sons will never forsake them, but will finish that which he began in them (Phil. 1:6). He will carry out his plan to the very finish. Nothing will ever be able to frustrate his design. “Nor sin, nor death, nor hell can move his firm predestinating love.”[2]

11 The NIV starts a new paragraph here, though, of course, the sentence that started with 1:3 continues through 1:14. It starts with the now familiar “in him” (lit., “in whom”), detailing yet another divine action for those who are incorporated in Christ. Paul employs the verb klēroō (GK 3103), which means “to appoint or obtain by lot” (cf. BDAG, 548). If Paul intends the idea of “appoint,” then he means that in Christ we were appointed to be his possession or to become his inheritance. Thus O’Brien, 115, defends the translation “we were claimed by God as his portion.” The NIV interprets this as “we were also chosen” (cf. v. 4). If the sense centers more on “obtain,” then Paul might mean that in Christ the church obtained its inheritance (cf. NASB). Muddiman, 76–77, translates this phrase as “in whom we have gained our allotted portion.” This would parallel the idea of predestination that follows: what God has determined for his people. It is difficult to make a choice here, for both make good sense in the context and fit the uses of the verb elsewhere, though this is its only occurrence in the NT. Perhaps the former has a slight edge, given the common OT sense of the people of Israel as God’s inheritance (e.g., Dt 4:20; 9:29; 32:8–9; 1 Ki 8:51; Pss 33:12; 106:40; cf. Col 1:12). In either case, we note the corporate emphasis again: we are God’s inheritance as members of the corporate Christ, or we obtain our inheritance in Christ.

As in v. 5, Paul appends the verb “predestine,” but we do not find what God has predetermined for his people until v. 12—that “we … be for the praise of his glory.” Before saying that, however, Paul provides insight into the way God predestines such things. Compounding synonyms, Paul affirms that God predestines in a very purposeful way. The outcomes do not occur randomly, nor are they in any doubt, for they follow from the prothesis (“plan, purpose, resolve,” GK 4606) of God, who accomplishes what he does (“all things”) according to the boulē (“resolution, decision,” GK 1087) of his thelēma (“will, desire,” GK 2525; cf. v. 1). The structure proves somewhat opaque; again the language is florid and expansive, and the meanings of the terms overlap. Paul’s point is not in doubt. In Christ God is accomplishing a very carefully worked-out plan for his people.[3]

1:11 One vital feature of the mystery is that believing Jews and believing Gentiles have their share in this grand program of God. The apostle speaks of the mystery in relation to Jewish believers in verses 11 and 12; in relation to Gentile believers in verse 13; then he combines them both in verse 14.

As for the Christians of Jewish ancestry, Paul writes, In Him also we have obtained an inheritance. Their right to a share is not based on their former national privileges, but solely on their union with Christ. The inheritance here looks forward to the time when they and all true believers will be manifested to an amazed world as the Body of Christ, the Bride of the Lamb.

From all eternity these Jewish Christians were marked out for this place of privilege by the sovereign will of God, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will.[4]

[1] Tozer, A. W., & Eggert, R. (2015). Tozer on the almighty god: a 365-day devotional. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Ephesians (Vol. 7, pp. 87–89). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[3] Klein, W. W. (2006). Ephesians. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, pp. 52–53). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1910). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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