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Christ's Role in the Drama of Redemption - Part 4

Tom Pennington • Ephesians 1:7-12

  • 2007-10-14 AM
  • Ephesians
  • Sermons


Several years ago USA Today Weekend came out with an article that was quite interesting. It recorded the reality that there is a major shift going on in our society, a shift of wealth. The article said this. Let me read a portion of it to you. This is from USA Today. "Baby boomers, [ it says,] are beginning to step into the largest inheritance ever. Some 10.4 trillion dollars in total, [they went on to say] is going to change hands within this generation. On average, baby boomers are expected to receive around $90,000 apiece with the top 10% of inheritors taking in a cool half million each." But unfortunately, experts say, boomers are largely unprepared. In many cases, parents, who put a lot of effort into setting aside a bequest, haven't given the actual transfer of wealth a great deal of thought either. That can be a costly mistake. Inheritances can be frittered away by mismanagement, lost to estate taxes, or drained by court battles. This is a reality. It's going on now. There's this large shift of wealth that's taking place in our culture.

Now, I have to take issue with that article, because for most of us, our inheritance is not going to be on average $90,000. For most of us, our inheritance is going to be much, much larger than that, because if you're in Christ, the Bible says that you stand to inherit everything that belongs by right to Jesus Christ. You may not have much of an inheritance to look forward to here, but you have an eternal spiritual inheritance that you cannot even begin to fully imagine.

It's that inheritance that we learn about today from Ephesians 1. I invite you to turn there with me, Ephesians 1. We are in the middle of verses 7 - 12, a unit of thought, studying the role of Jesus Christ in God's great eternal plan of redemption. In these verses, verses 7 - 12, Paul outlines the blessings or benefits that come to us because of Christ's part in God's great plan. We've already studied the first two of those blessings together, the blessings that Christ has been made to us. Let me remind you of them.

They are, first of all, redemption. We saw this in verse 7. Christ purchased the forgiveness of our sins.

Secondly, we discovered that Christ has been made to us wisdom. In verses 8 10 we learned that Christ teaches us God's will and God's way and God's plan.

Today, we come to the third blessing or benefit that is ours because of the role of Jesus Christ. Not only "redemption", and "wisdom", but also "inheritance". Christ guarantees our eternal inheritance. Look at verses 11 - 12'''. Paul writes,

"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"

Now the other blessings that we've examined together primarily point to the past, to what we have already received. Certainly, they have continuing results, but the reality of redemption, the reality of God's wisdom given to us in Christ through the word of God, those are existing realities. This blessing points primarily to the future. We have been promised an inheritance, but it is not yet ours.

Sadly, for most of us, when we think in terms of our spiritual inheritance, we don't begin to properly value it as we ought to. But the New Testament has much to say about our inheritance, as we'll see together. And here in Ephesians 1, Paul gives us a kind of mini-lesson in the richness of this concept that you and I, by virtue of our relation to Jesus Christ, have an inheritance awaiting us. And as we study this passage together, we'll see that Paul identifies for us several key elements, or components, if you like, of this inheritance. And I want us to look at those elements or components as we work our way through these two verses this morning.

The first one is a brief one but an important one. What is the "channel" of our inheritance? Notice verse 11. Literally verse 11 begins like this, "In whom also we have obtained an inheritance". in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, in whom also we have obtained an inheritance. By including that little phrase in the Greek text "in whom" Paul again points us back to Jesus Christ. We could say "in Christ, we have also obtained an inheritance". Here is another rich blessing that is ours because of the role of Christ in God's great plan of redemption. Because of our connection, this is what it means to be in Christ, as we've learned together, because of our connection to Jesus Christ as our representative, we have obtained an inheritance. Christ is the channel through which this inheritance becomes ours.

Now that brings us to a second element of our inheritance. The channel is Christ, but what is the "source"? Let's look at the source of our inheritance. Where does it come from? Well, notice in the English text, in verse 11, the words, "we have obtained an inheritance." In the Greek text that whole expression is only one word. It's a Greek verb, inflected with various endings to give us its meaning. As is true of all inflected languages, if you've studied a language that has endings attached to it, and that gives meaning, then you understand that the form the verb takes tells you a number of things. For example, it tells you, the form of the Greek verb tells you, the person. Is it first person, I; the second person: you, or the third person: they? The form also tells you the tense, when the action is happening, or what kind of action is happening. The form of the verb in an inflected language, in addition, tells you whether the verb is active or passive. Now, I know it's been a long time since English class for some of you. You haven't dusted off the meanings of active and passive verbs for a while, but occasionally in Scripture, in fact, often I would say, it's very important to understand this. Let me give you a very brief English lesson. I taught English in college, so I can do this. I'm qualified, alright?

When we say a verb is active, what we mean is that the subject of the sentence is performing the action. I hit the ball. The subject of the sentence, I, is performing the action, hitting. When we say a verb is passive, we mean that the subject of the sentence is receiving the action of the verb. I was hit by the ball. I, the subject of the sentence am now receiving the action of the verb. I'm being hit. That's passive.

Now the reason this is important, let's look back at verse 11. In verse 11 the verb is passive. You don't really get that from the English translation you have here. In English, to fully get the sense of the Greek verb, we'd have to translate it something like this. "We have been assigned an inheritance," or "we have been appointed an inheritance." It's awkward to translate into English because it's only one word, and we don't do passive verbs that way in English. But you get the idea. We have been appointed an inheritance. So, in other words, both by the meaning of the word "inheritance" intrinsically an inheritance is not something you earn or merit, and also by the verb itself, the passive voice, "we have been given an inheritance", the Scripture intends to underscore that we had nothing to do with this inheritance. It was all of God's grace. He simply chose to do it. God has given us an inheritance.

Now, our approach to inheritance, as Americans, is very similar to the Roman approach. In the ancient world, the Romans passed on their estates by virtue of a legal written document, much as our wills are, or trusts. This was everything, in the laws of Roman inheritance. You had to have a document. It was usually a public document, guarded by law with formalized language, much as ours is written in a sort of legalese, and it gave the directions for how your estate was to be handed out.

But both the Greeks and the Hebrews approached this whole issue of inheritance quite differently. The will really wasn't an issue. You didn't have to have a will, you didn't have to have a trust. They, instead, approached this whole process with a sort of automatic approach. There was an understanding across the culture of how the estate would be passed on, and if you wanted to deviate from that, then you needed a document that stipulated that reality. So, there was this sort of automatic approach. And in essence, while the Greeks didn't do it on purpose, the Greeks followed what was really an Old Testament pattern of inheritance.

In the Old Testament laws of inheritance, if we were to take the time to go back and look at those, you would discover that the firstborn son automatically, by virtue of being the firstborn son, would receive a double portion of the father's estate. And then the rest of the estate would be meted out to all the sons. Every son would receive a part of the inheritance. The firstborn son would receive a double portion, and the others would each receive a single portion of the estate.

So, if there were two sons for example, as in the case of the prodigal son. You remember the story of the prodigal son, the parable Jesus told. Essentially you had two boys. The younger son comes to the father and demands his share of the estate. He was due, by virtue of being a son, a share of the estate. But in Hebrew terms, what would have happened, because there were two boys, the estate would have been divided three ways. The older son would have gotten two portions, and the younger son would have gotten one. So that's what happened. If you were a son, in the Greek or Hebrew world, you got an inheritance, by virtue of the fact that you were a son. And occasionally, as we see in the case of Job, for example, the daughters would receive a share of the estate as well.

So, it's not surprising then that when it comes to God, Christ, God's eternal Son, is identified as His primary heir. You remember Hebrews 1:2. We read "in these last days God has spoken to us in His Son, whom He has appointed [what?] heir of all things…." He's the primary heir. He's the only heir by right. And by the way, we don't have time to turn there, but if you want to read a little more about this, there's a very interesting parable Jesus tells.

It's recorded in a couple of places I would note for you, in Mark 12:1 - 12, and in Matthew 21:33 to 46. In both of those cases, Jesus tells this same parable, and in the parable, Jesus is the heir. The son in the parable represents Him. He's the heir. And He receives the rule of the vineyard, that's in the description. In Matthew it's called the kingdom. In other words, Christ inherits the right to rule, the right to rule in the world, in the new world in which He will reign alone and supreme.

What I want you to see, though, is this. Listen carefully. There is a connection that cannot be broken, in Biblical terms, between sonship and inheritance. If you're a son, then you're an heir. You see that in Christ, and the same holds true for us as well. Scripture connects our inheritance to the reality of our adoption. Turn back to Romans 8. Romans 8:14, as Paul lays out this great chapter about our security in the Spirit, he comes to the work of the Spirit in securing us. And he says in verse 14 "For all [of those] who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God." If you are a true child of God, then you have the Spirit of God. If you have the Spirit of God, you're a true child of God. That's what he's saying.

Verse 15, and here's what the work of the Spirit is in us. "… you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but [if you're a Christian] you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, Abba! Father!" Abba is an Aramaic word. It was a term of both respect and endearment, but it was a term that was used to describe a closeness, an intimacy, while still a heavy level of respect as well. Abba! Father! Notice, he says in verse 15 you're no longer slaves, you're now sons and daughters. You're part of the family. You've been adopted, and you can now rightly cry out Abba! Father!

Verse 16, how do we know this? Well, the Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit. There's an internal witness of the Spirit that we belong to God. Verse 17 is the key. If we are children, if we've been adopted, if we're now sons and daughters instead of slaves, "… if children, [then] heirs also, heirs of God [and here's the shocking part] fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him."

In other words, if we remain faithful to Him throughout our lives, which often involves suffering, that proves the validity of our faith. We're proving that we're truly sons, and we will be heirs with Him. Notice he says, "heirs of God and fellow heirs [or as some translations say it, joint heirs] with … [Jesus] Christ…." Jesus Christ is the only rightful heir, but by virtue of our adoption, you understand this is a reality, we studied adoption together. This isn't fiction. God says, in My mind, when I saved you, I literally, legally adopted you as My child. And as My son or My daughter, by virtue of that reality, you now share in the same inheritance My own eternal Son does.

Paul makes the same point over in Galatians 4. Galatians 4:4. He speaks of Christ's coming. He says,

"… when the fullness of time came, [when it was right,] God sent forth His Son [this is the incarnation] born of a woman, born under the Law so that He might redeem those who were under the law"

Part of the reason He came was to redeem us, but there's another part of the reason. Notice verse 5.

"… that we might receive the adoption as sons." [He came to make us part of God's family, legally adopt us. Make us children.] Verse 6, "Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, [enabling us to cry out] Abba! Father!" [You are truly a child of God. You have been legally adopted by God, therefore,] verse 7, "… you are no longer a slave, but [you are] a son"

You're really a son. And if a son, and if a daughter, then what? an heir through God. Christ is the only Son by right. He is the only legitimate heir, but God, in a gracious act has adopted us into His family. And because of that adoption, He has made us joint heirs, fellow heirs with Jesus Christ. Christian, think about what that means. Think about the reality of this. Everything that belongs to God, and by right to His unique Son belongs to us as well. I have a hard time, I don't know about you, but I have a hard time fully appreciating this reality. I was the last of ten children. My parents spent all our inheritance feeding us and clothing us. My dear mom, a few years before her death, insisted that she divide her meager estate, her meager assets, among the children. It amounted to a couple of thousand dollars. But while I may say that I have no inheritance here, God, the Bible tells me, has adopted me, and with that adoption He has by an act of sheer grace given me an inheritance. And if you're in Christ, if you've repented of your sins and believed in Jesus Christ alone, then the same is true for you as well.

But what, exactly is it that we've inherited? What is this inheritance? Don't you want to know? I certainly do, but Paul doesn't tell us in Ephesians 1. But in a number of contexts in the New Testament, he does. We learn what we could call the third element of our inheritance. We've learned that the "channel" is Christ, through which we receive it. God is the "source" of our inheritance. Let's look at the "content" of our inheritance. What is it? Well, in general terms, the passage we just read from Romans 8 hints at our inheritance. Romans 8:17 says, "if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ"

Joint heirs or fellow heirs with Christ.

So, ask yourself this question. What does Christ inherit? What do we see in Hebrews 1? He is heir of all things. That means, in a general sense we could say this: we will inherit everything in the universe, along with Christ. Everything is ours. And that's absolutely true. But, more specifically, the New Testament identifies three things that we will inherit. It emphasizes three things that we will inherit as part of this inheritance that's ours in Christ.

Number one is "spiritual salvation", spiritual rescue from God's wrath against our sins, eternal life. In Ephesians 3 Paul alludes to this. Ephesians 3:6. He's talking about his ministry, the stewardship he's been given, of a mystery, and verse 6 he says, "to be specific, [the mystery is] that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel"

In other words, he's essentially saying this; the inheritance has to do with what the gospel promises. You get what the gospel promises. You get forgiveness of sin. You get the declaration that you are righteous. This is your inheritance. The rest of the New Testament makes this same point. In Matthew 19:29 our Lord says that we will inherit eternal life. In Titus 3:7, "… being justified by His grace, we [are] made heirs of the hope of eternal life."

Hebrews 1:14, we will inherit salvation. Hebrews 11:7, speaking of Noah says that "… by faith Noah became an heir of what? … "of the righteousness which is according to faith." In other words, part of what we become heir to is justification by faith alone. We are declared righteous by God based on the righteousness of Jesus Christ. His perfect life is credited to our account, and God treats us as if we had lived that life. This is what we inherit. In 1 Peter 3:9 it says we will inherit a blessing, referring to all of that spiritual reality that's ours because of Jesus Christ. You understand this, Christian? God says He's got an inheritance reserved in heaven for you, 1 Peter 1, and that inheritance includes eternal life. It includes spiritual rescue from God's wrath eternally. You will never get what you deserve.

But there's more. Not only spiritual salvation, but the Bible also says that the content of our inheritance includes what it refers to as the kingdom, the kingdom. What is that? Well, sometimes this is referred to as our inheriting the earth, or the world. For example, in Matthew 5:5, you remember in Jesus' sermon on the mount, He begins with the beatitudes, and He says, "blessed are the gentle for they shall inherit the earth" What does that mean? Well, Romans 4:13 puts it this way: "the promise to Abraham or to his descendants [is] that he would be heir of the world." But usually, it's not called the earth or the world. Usually it's called the kingdom. In a number of places in the New Testament we're told that we will inherit the kingdom. In Matthew 25:34 Jesus says, "… the king will say to those on his right, 'come you who are blessed [by] My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world"

There, in context, Jesus is referring to the millennial kingdom, that rule of His for a thousand years here on a renewed earth. But there are other passages where it seems to go beyond that thousand-year period. First Corinthians 6:9 and 10.

"do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived." [And then he gives us a list of sins.] … fornicators, [meaning those who are sexually sinning], … idolators, … adulterers, … effeminate, … homosexuals, … thieves, … covetous, … drunkards, … revilers, … swindlers.

He says none of those, and that's not an inclusive list, that's simply a few examples, if you will. Those who are characterized by sin, he says, none of them will inherit the kingdom of God. The implication is that we will inherit the kingdom of God. First Corinthians 15:50, as he's talking about the resurrection, he says, "… brethren, [know this that] flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom…." Galatians 5:21: "… I … [have] forewarn[ed] you, that those who practice … [these sins] [and he has another list of sins] will not inherit the kingdom of God."

Ephesians 5:5: "Know this with certainty that no immoral person or impure person or covetous man who is an idolater has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God."

We studied James recently, and James 2:5, as he deals with partiality in the church, he says, "… did not God choose the poor of this world to be … heirs of the kingdom which He promised for those who love Him?"

What is this kingdom? Well, we get a little closer to it I think if you look at Hebrews 11. In Hebrews 11 a little different terminology is used. There, we're told in verse 9 that Abraham lived as an alien in the land of Israel, the land of promise, as in a foreign land. He lived in tents with Isaac and Jacob. But together, he and his son and grandson were fellow heirs of the same promise. What promise? Well, look at the next verse, verse 10. "for he was looking for the city which has foundations whose architect and builder is God." What is 'the city that has foundations whose architect and builder is God'? He wasn't talking about some city over in Palestine. He was talking about heaven.

And further, if you turn to Revelation 21:7, there John writes, he who overcomes will inherit. That phrase 'he who overcomes' is shorthand in John's writings for "all believers". He who overcomes will inherit these things. What things? Well, in the context of Revelation 21, he's referring to that magnificent description of the new heavens and the new earth that God will create once He destroys this one by fire, as Peter tells us. And the heavenly city of the New Jerusalem. So, let me wrap it up for you. Here's what he means when he says we're going to inherit the kingdom. He means, we're going to inherit living under the reign of Jesus Christ, in heaven, on this earth during a thousand-year millennium, and in a new heavens and a new earth forever. That's what we inherit.

But that's not all. There's one more important part of our inheritance, and it's the greatest part of all. Not only do we inherit spiritual rescue, spiritual salvation. Not only do we inherit the kingdom, the opportunity to live under the rule of Christ forever.

But thirdly, we inherit God Himself. You remember when the land of Israel was apportioned back in Joshua's time? It's talked about in Deuteronomy and then in Joshua's time, it was actually apportioned out. You remember there was one tribe, the tribe of Levi, that didn't get any land, no land. Everybody else got land, they got no land. Why? Because God said don't give them land because I will be their inheritance. Wow! Wouldn't you have liked to have been a part of that tribe? I don't get land. I get God. Well, eventually, the Old Testament made it clear that it wasn't just true of the tribe of Levi. It was true of any genuine believer in God. I love Psalm 16, and in Psalm 16:5, the writer of the Psalm says, "The LORD is the portion of my inheritance…."

God is my share. That's what I'm getting. But it's not just true for the Levites, and for Old Testament believers. It's true for New Testament believers as well. Turn to Revelation 21, Revelation 21. We went through this a few weeks ago, so I won't belabor it here. On a Sunday night we looked at the new heaven and the new earth. Verse 1 of chapter 21. "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there's no longer any sea."

And then, John sees this city, the New Jerusalem, descending out of heaven. And as that happens, verse 3, he says, "… I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the … [tent] of God's among men, and He will dwell among them and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them.'"

And then in verse 7 it gets a little more specific. "He who overcomes [again, that's shorthand in John's letter of Revelation for all believers, genuine believers–he who overcomes] will inherit these things [The new heavens and the new earth. This wonderful city I've been describing] and I will be his God, and he will be My son."

That is New Testament terminology for "You get Me"! You understand what's being promised us? This is your inheritance, Christian. You get everything in the universe, but especially, you get spiritual salvation, rescue from what your sins deserve. You get to live under the righteous rule of Christ forever in heaven and then on earth during the millennium for a thousand years, and then in a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness is at home. And most of all, best of all, you get God Himself. That's your inheritance.

We've seen the "channel" of our inheritance, the "source" of our inheritance, the "content" of our inheritance. The fourth element is the "certainty" of our inheritance. We've just discovered that we have been promised an amazing inheritance. But we live in an unsure and uncertain world. How common is it in our world for people who are expecting an inheritance, or who receive one to see all of it slip away, and not to enjoy a single bit of it? It's not uncommon in our world for an inheritance to be lost.

Biblically, I think of Naboth, who received from his ancestors that vineyard there nearby the palace back in Kings, and Ahab and Jezebel see him killed and take it away. We can lose an inheritance here in this world. And Paul knows that we live in an uncertain world, but he wants us to understand just how certain our inheritance really is. And so, notice what he adds in verse 11, "… having been predestined according to His purpose, who works all things after the counsel of His will." Paul adds this to give us confidence that our inheritance is certain. Now think for a moment with me. In this world, how would potential heirs of an earthly fortune lose their inheritance? There are really only three ways that you could lose an inheritance.

One would be, the father changes his mind, and that happens. You've read stories to that effect. You've seen it happen. The child does something that disgruntles, that makes the father turn his affections, and suddenly he finds himself out of the will. You're done. You married somebody I didn't like, you did something I wasn't pleased with, the father changes his mind.

A second way that, in this world, you can lose an inheritance is that the father's plan is still to give you the inheritance, but somehow his plan is thwarted. He doesn't change his mind, but something else happens to thwart his plan and purpose. Maybe he makes poor financial decisions and before you actually get the inheritance he's squandered it all. Maybe he spends it on an RV. You've seen that tag on the back of the RVs, 'we're spending our children's inheritance'. Whatever. Some external factor or force prevents him from doing what he intended to do. The economy crashes. The government seizes his assets for some reason.

A third way that a person in this world can lose an inheritance is, the person receiving the inheritance does something to forfeit it. The most graphic example that I can think of was Esau. You remember, he sold his birthright for some food. He didn't have any sense of its value, of its importance. So those are the three ways you can lose an inheritance, and in this passage, Paul addresses them all, all three of these potential problems. Let's look at it.

First of all, will God change His mind about our inheritance? Will God change His mind? Look at all the words that Paul uses to show us that God's purpose is settled, He has made up His mind. "Predestined", "purpose", "counsel of His will". Paul couldn't use stronger terms to say God has decided. You say, well, okay, that's helpful, I understand God has made up His mind, but what if He changes His mind? Turn to Hebrews chapter 6 I love this chapter. One of my favorite passages is here. Hebrews 6. The writer of Hebrews addresses this same question. He starts, in verse 13, down through verse 20 of Hebrews 6, to deal with the promise God made to Abraham, not the promise of land, not the promise of descendents, but the spiritual promise, the spiritual promise of justification, of the gospel.

Notice that in verse 17, the heirs of the promise are defined. Who are those heirs? They're defined in verse 18 as "we who have taken refuge" in Christ. We who have fled to Christ. So, he's not talking about the land, he's not talking about the descendants, he's talking about the spiritual part of the promise made to Abraham, the promise of forgiveness and justification.

Now, how do we know that God will fulfill that promise to us? How do we know? Well, here, the writer of Hebrews gives us two ways we know. We know, first of all, because of God's own oath. Now, this is shocking, and I don't have time to take you through the whole passage, but look at where he comes in verses 13 – 17, with the point at verse 17. " In the same way [just as men swear to confirm something, in the same way] God, desiring even more to show [that is to demonstrate or to prove] to the heirs of the promise [that's us, the heirs of the promise of justification, of salvation, God wanted to prove to us] the unchangeableness of His purpose, [How did He do that?] He interposed with an oath" Literally, we could translate it, He guaranteed it with an oath. Think about this. God took an oath. He swore by Himself that He would do this. How can you be sure God isn't going to change His mind? Because God swore by His own name that He wouldn't do it. That's what the writer of Hebrews is saying.

You can also be sure because, not only of His oath, but because of His character. Verses 17 and 18.

[God can't change.] "… the unchangeableness of His purpose" [And also, God can't lie.] "it is impossible for God to lie…."

And God has done all of this. He's given us His oath. He's told us about His character, that He can't change, and that He can't lie, so that we who have taken refuge in Christ would have strong encouragement to keep holding on to the hope set before us. Listen, God will never change His mind about our inheritance. He can't, because God doesn't change, and God doesn't lie. Now go back to Ephesians 1. You say, alright, I understand God's not going to change His mind; that can't happen.

But what about number two? What about the Father's plan being thwarted? God wants to do this, but something gets in the way. Notice how Paul describes God in verse 11 of Ephesians 1. The One "who works all things after the counsel of His will".

The Greek word for 'works' there, is an interesting word. It's the Greek word from which our English word 'energy' comes. In fact, if I give you the Greek word you'll recognize it. The root word is "energeo". You recognize that? It's energy. It speaks of the power and resources to accomplish what you set out to do. The same Greek word, by the way, is used down in chapter 1:19 and 20 of the power God used, the energy God used, when He raised Jesus Christ from the dead. You know what Paul is saying here? The very same energy that God used to raise Jesus from the dead, He is using to work all things after the counsel of His will, including your inheritance. And by the way, the word "works" is in the present tense. He didn't work in the past, and now He's taking a lunch break. He is working. He is working. He is working.

In other words, God is constantly working even today, even this moment as we sit here, by His unstoppable energy, to absolutely ensure that everything He has decided to do will be accomplished. Do you understand what Paul is saying? The one who has promised you an inheritance is unstoppable. God cannot be stopped. Nothing will stand in His way. He is the one who is working all things after the counsel of His will. Psalm 115:3 says, "Our God is in the heavens. He does whatever He pleases." God does what He wants to do. And nothing will stand in His way. He is unstoppable. He can't change His mind, and His plan can't be thwarted by somebody else, but here's where the real problem comes.

We come to the third issue. You say, alright, yeah, I understand, God doesn't change His mind. I understand God does whatever He chooses, but can a person who has truly been adopted by God do something to forfeit that inheritance? That's the question isn't it? That's the question we typically come to. It comes back to us and our weakness and our frailty. But really, to even ask that question is to miss the big point that Paul is making here, because you did nothing to gain your inheritance. Remember the passive voice? You just received it. You did nothing to gain it, and you can do nothing to lose it. The main point that Paul is making in the second half of verse 11 is that salvation and its inheritance is entirely of God.

Notice verse 11 again. God predestined, that means to determine beforehand, God predestined to give us an inheritance. It was His decision beforehand. And notice that God didn't make this decision arbitrarily. It was, he says, according to His purpose. That is, it was in keeping with His design, with His plan. And that purpose was not a careless purpose, but was, notice verse 11 again, the product of counsel. That word speaks of deliberation and careful thought. And all of this grew out of where he ends the verse, God's will or God's desire.

So, let me wrap it all up for you. Listen carefully. God made the decision to give you an inheritance utterly without any outside influences. No one suggested it to God, and He was in no way responding to anything about you. That's where our confidence comes, because Paul includes verse 11 to give us assurance and to strengthen our hope. Our inheritance is certain because it is God's eternal decision, and nothing will ever change His mind. And it's His divine energy that will make it happen, and nothing can stand in His way. He is unstoppable. As William Hendrickson said,

"God is not like the heathen deities who are moved by changing circumstances, by whim and caprice, so that no one knows how long their favor is going to last. He, who, in His love has fore-ordained His people to adoption as sons will never forsake them, but will finish that which He began in them. 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."

Amen and amen. Listen, if you are in Christ, you will inherit spiritual salvation, the kingdom of Christ, and God Himself, and nothing in the universe can ever change that. It is certain.

Now, there's one last element of our inheritance. We've seen the channel which is Christ, the source which is God, the content which is everything in the universe including spiritual salvation, including the kingdom, and God Himself. We've seen the certainty of our inheritance.

Lastly, I want us to consider the "goal". The goal of our inheritance. Look at verse 12. "to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory". Verse 12 is simply the chorus that concludes the sort of second stanza in this great anthem of praise by Paul to God. It's the song that began back in verse 3. And Paul completed the first stanza about the Father in verse 6 with this refrain. Look at verse 6 again, "to the praise of the glory of His grace."

And here in verse 12, as he completes his praise for the role of the Son in God's plan, he repeats it again. Here is the goal of our inheritance. He gave us an inheritance to the praise of His glory. But more than that, everything Christ accomplished that's listed in verse 7 - 12 comes back to this: This is the goal of everything Christ did. It was to bring glory to Him. This is why God used Christ in such a way, is to bring praise to His glory. Now notice in verse 12, Paul says, "we who were the first to hope in Christ".

Who is that? Well, there's a lot of confusion about this, and some commentators make this a complicated issue. Look at the word 'first'. It can equally be translated 'already'. And so, I think the simplest and best explanation, and several commentators take this approach, is that all Paul means here is that every believer reading this letter had already come to hope in Christ. So, let me read it for you that way.

Verse 12, "to the end, or for the purpose that, all of us who have already come to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory" Christ has become to all of us redemption and wisdom and our inheritance, and He's done that in order that we would be to the praise of His glory. You remember back in verse 6 when we studied this same expression. We learned that "glory" is used to refer to the honor and praise that intelligent beings ascribe to God. God intended that Christ's role in His eternal plan would cause us, other humans, and even angelic beings, to ascribe honor and praise to Christ–to acknowledge and extol what is true about Jesus Christ. This is why God has acted. And this reminds us back again, doesn't it, that it's not about us. Even our inheritance is ultimately not about us. It's about Jesus Christ.

Now, maybe before today, you've never understood how important your inheritance, your spiritual inheritance, really is. Paul says it's very important. In fact, down in verse 18 of chapter 1, he says, "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened …" [That you have spiritual illumination. And notice the second thing he prays for.] "that you will know what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints."

We'll get there! But he's saying, you need to get a grip on your inheritance. It's crucial, he says. Listen folks, the things that you enjoy in this life, all of the stuff of this life, everything you experience here, this is not all there is. And living for this life only is like exchanging a magnificent diamond for a plastic substitute. Stop being satisfied with the trinkets and baubles of this life. You have a magnificent inheritance reserved in heaven for you. You and I need to pray with Paul that we would truly begin to comprehend this reality and to live in light of it.

Scripture likens us to the underage children of a wealthy father. Think about yourself like this. This is how God views us. We are the underage children, the minor children, of a wealthy father. We have a magnificent inheritance that will soon be ours. But in this life, we still live like the minor children, on a meager basis.

Spiritually, we haven't begun to experience all the spiritual richness that awaits us in heaven. But someday, everything that belongs to Jesus Christ will be ours as well. You say, well, so what? Why does this matter? Why is it important for me as a Christian to understand I have an inheritance? Why is this such a big deal to Paul? Well, think of it like this. What if, in tomorrow's mail, you received, along with the direct mail and junk stuff and bills, you received a certified letter from a prestigious New York law firm. And you tear into this certified letter, and the letter explains to you that after extensive research, they have discovered that you are the last remaining relative of one of the world's richest people. And that within six months, when the estate is finally settled, you will inherit that person's entire personal worth and business empire.

Now, how would that affect you over the next six months? Let's say that, right now, you live under some financial duress. You live wondering how you're going to make ends meet over the next few weeks. Even if things were hard over the next six months, the knowledge of that would radically affect your thinking about what you're going through here and now for the next six months. Why? Because you know what's coming. The inheritance is coming. And the problems will be solved, and I'll be living well.

That's the point with our eternal inheritance. Do you understand that God has promised you an inheritance? And whatever happens in this life, whatever good or bad, whatever difficulties or troubles, whatever comes here, you can live under it, and you can bear up with it because the inheritance is coming. You will inherit everything in the universe, specifically, spiritual salvation, living forever under the perfect rule of Christ in a perfect world, and God Himself. What an inheritance! Listen, believer, don't be satisfied with the stuff here. Don't live for the here and now. Live for that reality. That's why the New Testament emphasizes our inheritance.

Let's pray together.

Father, we are so earthbound. We are so tied to this world and its stuff.

Father, I pray that You would help us to live here as those who know that we are merely the underaged children of You, our wealthy Father, and that someday we will inherit the universe, along with our older brother, Jesus Christ. Father, I ask that you would help us to live with that awareness. Help us to understand it. We pray with Paul that You would open up the spiritual eyes of our understanding so that we would grasp the riches of our inheritance in the saints.

And Father, I pray that You would help us to live in light of that reality, that we wouldn't live for this life and its stuff. Father, help us to live for eternity as those who stand to inherit everything.

We pray in Jesus name. Amen.