The Divine Perspective
having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we … should be to the praise of His glory. (1:11, 12b)
Our discussion here will follow the order of the Greek text of verse 12, in which (as reflected in the King James Version) should be to the praise of His glory precedes “who were the first to hope in Christ” (which phrase will be discussed below in relation to the human perspective).
God’s perspective on our inheritance in Christ is here shown in His predestination, His power, and His preeminence.
God’s predestination. having been predestined according to His purpose. As Christians we are what we are because of what God chose to make us before any man was created. From eternity past He declared that every elect sinner—though vile, rebellious, useless, and deserving only of death—who trusted in His Son would be made as righteous as the One in whom they put their trust. As Paul has already established, “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him” (v. 4).
William Hendriksen’s comment on this passage is helpful and concise:
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. (New Testament Commentary: Exposition of Ephesians [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1967], p. 88)
God’s power. who works all things after the counsel of His will. Works is from energeō, from which we get such English words as energy, energetic, and energize. God’s creating and energizing are one in His divine mind. When He spoke each part of the world into existence it began immediately to operate precisely as He had planned it to do. Unlike the things we make, God’s creations do not have to be redesigned, prototyped, tested, fueled, charged, and the like. They are not only created ready to function, they are created functioning.
Energizing is an indispensable part of His creative plan and work. Because in His wondrous grace God chose us to be His children, citizens of His kingdom, and joint heirs with His Son, He will bring all of that to pass. “For I am confident of this very thing,” Paul declared, “that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). God works out what He plans. He energizes every believer with all the power necessary for his spiritual completion. It is not sufficient to think that God only makes the plan. He also makes it work out.
God’s preeminence. should be to the praise of His glory. As mentioned above, this phrase begins verse twelve in the Greek text, and that order fits logically with what Paul has been saying about God’s perspective on our inheritance. The Lord’s perspective and working are seen in His predestination, in His power, and, as we see here, in His preeminence. Man is redeemed for the purpose of restoring the divine image marred by sin. Because God’s intention in creating men was that they should bear the divine image, salvation’s goal is creation’s goal. God desires creatures that will give Him glory by both proclaiming and displaying His glory. For that reason He redeems men.
Scripture always presents salvation from God’s side, in order that He should have full credit. In our humanly-oriented society, God’s wanting exclusive credit seems inappropriate—but only because men have no concept of His greatness, holiness, and glory. What views they may have of Him are simply projections of themselves. The praise and glory that men so much desire are totally undeserved, and their motives for wanting them are purely sinful. But God seeks glory for the right reasons and because He alone is deserving of it. His seeking glory is a holy desire of which He is supremely and singly worthy.
Our predestined salvation, including our attendant eternal and boundless blessings, are therefore designed that they should be to the praise of His glory.
God’s Heart (1:11a)
“In him we were also chosen,” says Paul (Eph. 1:11). The words echo what has already been said about all believers earlier in this long sentence: “[God] chose us in him” (Eph. 1:4). Our tendency in English is simply to insert a form of the verb “to be” to make sense of this phrase, “God chose us (to be) in him.” But the meaning is deeper and different than that. If we were chosen to be in him, then the focus is on the end of the process, or what results. And while that truth is present, the focus is more on the origin of God’s choosing than its end results. Although the NIV offers the translation “chose” and “chosen” for the verbs in both verses 4 and 11, in actuality the words in Greek, while overlapping conceptually, are distinct. Here the Greek word (eklērōthēmen) indicates that “we are apportioned as an inheritance.” The passive voice favors the notion that “we” are those who are made to be the inheritance rather than those who have obtained an inheritance. The apostle is making it clear that God’s love is based on something in his heart rather than on anything that we would achieve or claim for ourselves—just as an heir does not inherit because of what he has gained but because of what his father gives.
The chosen people of Israel were not chosen because of anything in them. They were not more holy, more numerous, or more distinguished than any other nation. Moses tells the people in Deuteronomy, “The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest” (Deut. 7:6–7); and, “It is not because of your righteousness or integrity that … the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people. Remember this and never forget how you provoked the Lord your God to anger in the desert” (Deut. 9:5–7). As the Old Testament people of God were called God’s inheritance (e.g., Deut. 4:20; 9:29; 32:8–9; Ps. 33:12; 1 Kings 8:51), so too his new covenant people are God’s portion and inheritance (Eph. 1:18). This apportioning is according to God’s own choice (he is the agent—implied in the passive verb—who apportions the inheritance), which is further emphasized by Paul when he discusses God’s predestining purpose.
Why were the people to remember that their God loved them because of what was in his heart rather than what was in theirs? So that the people would “know therefore that the Lord your God is God” (Deut. 7:9). The concept of choosing, which sometimes raises questions about God’s fairness, is actually being used here to comfort God’s people. Paul wants everyone to remember that we are loved not because of what is in us but because of what is in God. The loving faithfulness of God that is revealed in Christ is the cause of our being his. The locus, or cause, of the covenant people being God’s is moved from them to him; they are his because of what is in his heart.
God’s Plan (1:11b)
Divine causation is emphasized in the words that follow the reminder of God’s choosing. The covenant people were chosen “having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (Eph. 1:11b). These words follow close on the heels of Paul’s earlier statement that the will of God purposed in Christ is “to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ” (Eph. 1:10). God plans to bring everything under his Son, and even now the Father is making everything work together for that purpose—everything! The scope of these words our humanity has not the capacity to contain.
One summer I took a group tour with a botanist through meadows in the shadows of the Rocky Mountains. In addition to showing us the marvelous colors of the wild flowers we so easily fail to notice, he also used a hand-held microscope to reveal the incredible design of violets, clover, and orchids at the cell level. And while these flower cells were whispering the glory of God, the mountains above us were at the same moment shouting his greatness. I was moved to awe in those moments by remembering that all things—as great as mountains and as small as flower cells—are being coordinated according to God’s plan to bring glory to his Son as the head of all things.
11. Through whom also we have obtained an inheritance. Hitherto he has spoken generally of all the elect; he now begins to take notice of separate classes. When he says, we have obtained, he speaks of himself and of the Jews, or, perhaps more correctly of all who were the first fruits of Christianity; and afterwards he comes to the Ephesians. It tended not a little to confirm the faith of the Ephesian converts, that he associated them with himself and the other believers, who might be said to be the first-born in the church. As if he had said, “The condition of all godly persons is the same with yours; for we who were first called by God owe our acceptance to his eternal election.” Thus, he shews, that, from first to last, all have obtained salvation by free grace, because they have been freely adopted according to eternal election.
Who worketh all things. The circumlocution employed in describing the Supreme Being deserves attention. He speaks of Him as the sole agent, and as doing everything according to His own will, so as to leave nothing to be done by man. In no respect, therefore, are men admitted to share in this praise, as if they brought anything of their own. God looks at nothing out of himself to move him to elect them, for the counsel of his own will is the only and actual cause of their election. This may enable us to refute the error, or rather the madness, of those who, whenever they are unable to discover the reason of God’s works, exclaim loudly against his design.
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.
11 The verb translated “we were claimed … as his portion” has been rendered more freely in a number of recent versions. In the RSV it is taken together with the following participle and rendered comprehensively “we … have been destined and appointed.” The NEB, less freely, renders it “we have been given our share in the heritage.” The NIV renders it “we were … chosen.” But we are dealing with a passive form of the verb which means “appoint by lot,” “allot,” “assign,” and the passive sense should be brought out unless there is good reason to the contrary. The reason for the rendering “we were claimed by God as his portion” (rather than “we were assigned our portion”) is that it is in keeping with OT precedent.86 In the Song of Moses (Deut. 32:8–9) the nations of the world are assigned to various angelic beings (“the sons of God”), but Yahweh retains Israel as his personal possession:
“for the Lord’s portion is his people,
Jacob his allotted heritage.”
So here, believers in Christ are God’s chosen people, claimed by him as his portion or heritage. That this is the sense is confirmed by the reference in v. 18 to “the glorious wealth of his inheritance in the saints.”
The idea of the divine foreordination is repeated from v. 5. There God is said to have foreordained his people “according to the good pleasure of his will”; here this is said to be part of his eternal governance of the universe, for he “works all things according to the counsel of his will.” His will may be disobeyed, but his ultimate purpose cannot be frustrated, for he overrules the disobedience of his creatures in such a way that it subserves his purpose. So in Acts 4:27–28 the apostles in their praise and prayer acknowledge before God that Herod and Pontius Pilate and the other enemies of Jesus conspired together, all unwittingly, “to do whatever thy hand and thy plan had predestined to take place.”
Inheritance (v. 11)
We have been predestined not only to adoption and to holiness (vv. 4–5), but also to “an inheritance,” Paul says in verse 11. But what is that “inheritance”? Does Paul have in mind the list that we have been piecing together over the last few paragraphs? In other words, are sanctification, adoption, redemption, and forgiveness our “inheritance”? Or is Paul thinking in this verse about our “inheritance” in heaven? Perhaps both! We do have a great many spiritual blessings, even now, do we not? But, all the more thrilling, these things will be perfected when our “inheritance” is deeded over in full, someday, in heaven! Moreover, on that day we will see Jesus face to face! We will see the nail prints in his hands and feet, and be with him forever! What an “inheritance”! What a reason to say with Paul, “Blessed be God”!
That Christ’s interest in this church is deep, indeed, is shown also in the statement which follows, namely, in him 11. 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.”
Ver. 11.—Even in him—in whom we were also made his inheritance. This is the literal rendering of ἐκληρώθημεν, and it is more expressive than the A.V., “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance.” God taking us for his own heritage involves more than our getting an inheritance from God (see Deut. 4:20, “The Lord hath taken you … to be unto him a people of inheritance”). It is implied that God will protect, care for, improve, and enjoy his own inheritance; he will be much with them and do all that is necessary for them. Formerly God’s inheritance was Israel only; but now it is much wider. All that God was to Israel of old he will be to his Church now. Having been predestinated according to the purpose. The reason why the reference to predestination is repeated is to show that this new privilege of the whole Church as God’s inheritance is not a fortuitous benefit, but the result of God’s deliberate and eternal foreordination; it rests therefore on an immovable foundation. Of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his will. Predestination is not an exception to God’s usual way of working; he works, or works out (ἐνεργοῦτος) all things on the same principle, according to the decision to which his will comes. When we think of the sovereign will of God as determining all things, and in particular determining who are to be his heritage, we must remember how differently constituted the will of an infinitely holy Being is from that of frail and fallen creatures. The fallen creature’s will is often whimsical, the result of some freak or fancy; often, too, it is the outcome of pride, avarice, sensual affection, or some other evil feeling; but God’s will is the expression of his infinite perfections, and must always be infinitely holy, wise, and good. Wilfulness in man is utterly different from wilfulness in God; but the recoil we often have from the doctrine of God’s doing all things from his mere bene placitum, or according to the counsel of his own will, arises from a tendency to ascribe to his will the caprice which is true only of our own.
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.
11. In whom—by virtue of union to whom.
obtained an inheritance—literally, “We were made to have an inheritance” [Wahl]. Compare Eph 1:18, “His inheritance in the saints”: as His inheritance is there said to be in them, so theirs is here said to be in Him (Ac 26:18). However, Eph 1:12, “That we should be to … His glory” (not “that we should have”), favors the translation of Bengel, Ellicott, and others, “We were made an inheritance.” So the literal Israel (De 4:20; 9:29; 32:9). “Also” does not mean “we also,” nor as English Version, “in whom also”; but, besides His having “made known to us His will,” we were also “made His inheritance,” or “we have also obtained an inheritance.”
predestinated—(Eph 1:5). The foreordination of Israel, as the elect nation, answers to that of the spiritual Israelites, believers, to an eternal inheritance, which is the thing meant here. The “we” here and in Eph 1:12, means Jewish believers (whence the reference to the election of Israel nationally arises), as contrasted with “you” (Eph 1:13) Gentile believers.
purpose—repeated from “purposed” (Eph 1:9; Eph 3:11). The Church existed in the mind of God eternally, before it existed in creation.
counsel of his … will—(Eph 1:5), “the good pleasure of His will.” Not arbitrary caprice, but infinite wisdom (“counsel”) joined with sovereign will. Compare his address to the same Ephesians in Ac 20:27, “All the counsel of God” (Is 28:29). Alike in the natural and spiritual creations, God is not an agent constrained by necessity. “Wheresoever counsel is, there is election, or else it is vain; where a will, there must be freedom, or else it is weak” [Pearson].
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (pp. 31–32). Chicago: Moody Press.
 Chapell, B. (2009). Ephesians. (R. D. Phillips, P. G. Ryken, & D. M. Doriani, Eds.) (pp. 46–48). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.
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