Home > Uncategorized > The Letter of Paul to the Ephesians (Part 9 of 155)

The Letter of Paul to the Ephesians (Part 9 of 155)

September 23, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Ephesians 1.11: In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will…
Our previous verse (not yesterday, but two days ago, since I took yesterday off) was about God’s plan and how he has, in his wisdom, made it known to us. Paul rejoices not only in the greatness and beauty of God plan, but in his decision to reveal it in the way that he did, at the time that he did. Today we hear about how we’ve “obtained an inheritance.”

What does this mean? We think today of an inheritance as something that we receive when someone else, usually a relative of ours, dies. Clearly that is not quite what is meant here, but the concept is similar: something has been stored away for us so that, at an appointed time, we may receive it. In the next clause, Paul explains why we may think of it like this, via the somewhat lengthy label for God as “him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will.” Paul seems to want to emphasize yet again the sureness of what God is doing. We can be confident about our inheritance because, well, it has been promised by God, and there is no surer guarantee of a promise than the One who is in total control of the whole universe and history.

I notice now that Paul uses the word “also” in talking about our inheritance. I’m not sure what to make of this because, to be honest, I felt initially like this verse is not saying anything new, anything that wasn’t contained in the previous verses. But clearly Paul considers this to be an additional point he is making. I think that this may tell us something. In my eagerness, I’ve already been reading “heaven” into all that Paul is saying, but maybe he wasn’t so explicit about that. Looking back at all that has come so far, he has talked about the greatness of being adopted as God’s children, and of having our sins forgiven, of having been redeemed, of being blessed with every spiritual blessing. This can all be taken as present tense!

It is humbling, then, to realize right now what we have already been given. And this is part of the point. Part of how the gospel restores us is through the indestructible hope it gives us. It sets us free to love our neighbor in truth when we know both what we have already and what we are promised. The blessings of the present and of the future are inextricably linked to each other in God’s wonderful plan for redemption. We don’t need to set our hope on this life only (which really leads to despair). But we also do have freedom in this life to live–though imperfectly–as God means for a human being to actually live, knowing that we are already God’s children, and are coming to live more and more in this reality. By knowing God’s ultimate plan for us, an unending love, now and forever, we can lose our lives to gain them, and “live for the praise of his glory,” as tomorrow’s verse tells us. Let us mediate on that today.

Next verse:

1.12: …so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. janet thayer williams
    September 23, 2010 at 9:45 am

    I think the inheritance Paul is speaking of here is one of the things ALREADY obtained. An inheritance is something you have been promised, yes, but there is some suspense as to what or how much that is until the will is read and the estate distributed. The spouse, legitimate children, adopted children, brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces, even aunts and uncles might be getting some of the estate. The Ephesians are probably a group sensitive to the frustrations (and language thereof) of probating a will. Frustrations that are even more pronounced in regards to an ENORMOUS estate. Paul’s letters are all to congregations that clearly bicker amongst themselves. And Paul is a writer. He knows how to use language that will resonate with his audience.

  2. janet thayer williams
    September 23, 2010 at 9:48 am

    Paul the fiduciary!

  3. September 23, 2010 at 10:16 am

    Interesting…well I think that it is, like the other stuff, something that participates in both the present and the future. But I think the word is much more future heavy than other ways Paul talks about the promises of God. He does say “obtained” though.

    I’m unsure if he is meaning to address any bickering here; the letter to the Ephesians doesn’t seem to have much of this in it as some other letters, and Paul is usually pretty direct when he is addressing some sort of disagreement. Maybe it is just general encouragement he’s offering.

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