OUR SOVEREIGN GOD PREDESTINED US TO AN INHERITANCE THAT MAGNIFIES HIS GLORY
Frank Thielman: God did not simply predetermine that they would be his children because it gave him pleasure to do so (v. 5), but in his capacity as the God who effects all things, he also worked very deliberately to make believers his heirs; he did this in accord with his “purpose” and the “counsel” that resulted in the doing of his “will.” . . .
Paul praises God because he has made his adopted children his heirs. In other words, they have all the blessings that come with membership in God’s household. Their status as God’s heirs is not a result of some accident or of anything they did but because God carefully planned in advance to give them this blessing. He did this so that his people might exist to praise him not only in the future but also in the present as they wait in hope for all things to take their assigned place in relationship to Christ.
Grant Osborne: There is considerable debate as to the meaning of 1:11–14. Many believe that the “we” of verses 11–12 are Jewish believers and the “you” of verses 13–14 are Gentile believers, signifying the unity of the two groups in Christ and the church. Others feel it is stylistic, with the emphasis on all believers (“we”) and then the specific readers of this letter (“you”). This is a difficult decision, and either is viable. However, while I spent most of my teaching career opting for the first view, since I do not see the Jew-Gentile issue addressed until 2:11 I now think the latter view is more likely. Paul is continuing his emphasis on God’s salvific gifts and recapitulating the blessings to all Christians he mentioned earlier.
Charles Spurgeon: When Jesus gave himself for us, he gave us all the rights and privileges which went with himself; so that now, although as eternal God, he has essential rights to which no creature may venture to pretend, yet as Jesus, the Mediator, the federal head of the covenant of grace, he has no heritage apart from us. All the glorious consequences of his obedience unto death are the joint riches of all who are in him, and on whose behalf he accomplished the divine will. See, he enters into glory, but not for himself alone, for it is written, “Whither the Forerunner is for us entered.” Heb. 6:20. Does he stand in the presence of God?-“He appears in the presence of God for us.” Heb. 9:24. Consider this, believer. You have no right to heaven in yourself: your right lies in Christ. If you are pardoned, it is through his blood; if you are justified, it is through his righteousness; if you are sanctified, it is because he is made of God unto you sanctification; if you shall be kept from falling, it will be because you are preserved in Christ Jesus; and if you are perfected at the last, it will be because you are complete in him. Thus Jesus is magnified-for all is in him and by him; thus the inheritance is made certain to us-for it is obtained in him; thus each blessing is the sweeter, and even heaven itself the brighter, because it is Jesus our Beloved “in whom” we have obtained all. Where is the man who shall estimate our divine portion? Weigh the riches of Christ in scales, and his treasure in balances, and then think to count the treasures which belong to the saints. Reach the bottom of Christ’s sea of joy, and then hope to understand the bliss which God hath prepared for them that love him. Overleap the boundaries of Christ’s possessions, and then dream of a limit to the fair inheritance of the elect. “All things are yours, for ye are Christ’s and Christ is God’s.”
I. POSSESSION PROMISE
“also we have obtained an inheritance,”
Frank Thielman: In the Ephesians benediction itself, Paul will say in verse 14 that the Spirit is “the down payment of our inheritance” (κληρονομίας ἡμῶν, klēronomias hēmōn), a phrase that, as we will see below, refers to the eschatological inheritance of God’s kingdom, over which Jesus, the Messiah, rules as God’s vice regent (5:5). In verse 18 Paul will speak of God’s “inheritance in the saints” (τῆς κληρονομίας αὐτοῦ ἐν τοῖς ἁγίοις, tēs klēronomias autou en tois hagiois). It seems probable, therefore, that when Paul uses the term ἐκληρώθημεν here in verse 11, he intends for it to refer not simply to an “allotment” or “portion” that has been given either to believers or to God, but specifically to an “inheritance” that has been given either to believers or to God.
But is the inheritance theirs or God’s? Since Paul will speak of the inheritance of believers in the next subsection of the benediction (v. 14), it seems likely that he also intends to refer here to the status of believers as heirs. If so, then the thought is similar to that of Rom. 8:17, where Paul describes believers as adopted children of God and therefore his “heirs” (κληρονόμοι, klēronomoi; cf. Gal. 3:29; 4:1, 5, 7). Paul has already praised God for his adoption of believers (Eph. 1:5). Here in 1:11, he praises God for making believers his heirs.
John MacArthur: [Explaining the two ways that this verse can be translated:]
The passive form of the verb (kleroo) in Eph 1:11a allows for two possible renderings, both of which are consistent with other Scripture. It can be translated “were made an inheritance” or, as here, have obtained an inheritance. The first rendering would indicate that we, that is, believers, are Christ’s inheritance. Jesus repeatedly spoke of believers as gifts that the Father had given Him (John 6:37, 39; 10:29; 17:2, 24; etc.). Jesus won us at Calvary—as the spoils of His victory over Satan, sin, and death—and we now belong to Him. “ ‘And they will be Mine,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘on the day that I prepare My own possession’ ” (Mal. 3:17). From eternity past the Father planned and determined that every person who would trust in His Son for salvation would be given to His Son as a possession, a glorious inheritance.
Translated the other way, however, this word means just the opposite: it is believers who receive the inheritance…
Both of the translations are therefore grammatically and theologically legitimate. Throughout Scripture believers are spoken of as belonging to God, and He is spoken of as belonging to them. The New Testament speaks of our being in Christ and of His being in us, of our being in the Spirit and of His being in us. “The one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him” (1Cor. 6:17). Paul could therefore say, “For me, to live is Christ” (Phil 1:21).
The practical side of that truth is that, because we are identified with Christ, our lives should be identified with His life (cf. 1Jn 2:6). We are to love as He loved, help as He helped, care as He cared, share as He shared, and sacrifice our own interests and welfare for the sake of others just as He did. Like our Lord, we are in the world to lose our lives for others.
Although either rendering of eklērōthēmen can be supported, Paul’s emphasis in Ephesians 1:3-14 makes the second translation more appropriate here.
II. PROCESS PLAN
A. Sovereign Divine Predestination
“having been predestined”
Grant Osborne: We are “predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” God’s actions are not contingent on historical developments on earth. He is in absolute, sovereign control and has a plan of salvation that guides history in accordance with his will. The forces of evil are powerless against the divine plan and purposes, for he is in the process of working out everything according to this providential purpose; this applies especially to his predestined choice of every believer. We belong to God as his inheritance (Zech 2:12), and he will protect each one of us. In verse 5 Paul stated that the Christian has been predestined “in accordance with his pleasure and will,” and this restates that truth. The emphasis here is on the pleasure God takes in seeing his will worked out in the lives of his children. Paul wants his readers to realize how incredibly blessed and privileged we are to have the God of all creation care so deeply and work so mightily for us!
Andrew Lincoln: With the use of two prepositional phrases beginning with κατά and a genitive construction linking two synonymous nouns, this clause heavily underlines that believers’ appointment in Christ to their destiny is part of God’s sovereign purpose.
B. Sovereign Divine Purpose
“according to His purpose”
Bruce Hurt: God has an eternal purpose for all things. If God is God at all, He is sovereign. He cannot work independently of His own nature, for then He would cease to be God, something that is impossible. He is a wise God; therefore, His eternal purpose is a wise one. He is a powerful God; therefore, He is able to accomplish what He purposes. He is a loving God; therefore, what He purposes will manifest His love. He is an unchanging God; therefore, His purpose is unchanging.
William Hendriksen: Neither fate nor human merit determines our destiny. The benevolent purpose—that we should be holy and faultless (Ep 1:4–note), sons of God (Ep 1:5–note), destined to glorify him forever (Eph 1:6–note, cf. Ep 1:12, 13, 14-notes Ep 1:12; 1:13; 1:14)—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.
C. Sovereign Divine Working
“who works all things after the counsel of His will,”
Frank Thielman: The blessing of God’s relationship with his people comes at God’s joyfully considered initiative. . .
Words that emphasize God’s meticulous planning and sovereign control pile up one upon another: πρόθεσις (prothesis, purpose), ἐνεργέω (energeō, work), βουλή (boulē, counsel), θέλημα (thelēma, will). This piling up of words arises not merely from stylistic verbosity but also from Paul’s desire to encourage his readers to think of themselves as an especially privileged people—privileged not because of their accomplishments (2:5, 8) but because of what God, who effects all things, has done for them. He carefully planned to make his people his heirs before he did it. This action was neither haphazard nor dependent on anything they would do to earn it.
G. Campbell Morgan: Our God is a God who not only wills; He works; and He works according to His will … The word counsel stands for deliberate planning and arranging, in which the ways and means of carrying out the will are considered and provided for.
Alfred Martin: There is no clearer of more sublime statement anywhere in Scripture concerning the sovereignty of God.
S. Lewis Johnson: What is the providence of God, put simply?: God’s care over everything in his universe. Every little thing in the universe is subject to the purpose and planning of God. “According to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his will.” There are no accidents in the program of God. All things are things that take place within the counsel of his will.
Everything. Notice how universal it is: “of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his will.” Every little thing. Because in the final analysis, many of the greatest things are the result of very little things. . . You see, often the little things are the things that are really the important things. God is not a God who handles the big things but leaves the little things up to us. It’s the little things that make the big things happen.
III. PRAISE PURPOSE
“to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ
should be to the praise of His glory.”
William Hendriksen: If, then, God’s decree from eternity is thus all-embracing, and if it is fully carried out in history, and if the destiny of his children was included in this plan, then Pau and the readers have no reason whatever for boasting in themselves.
Grant Osborne: The verb proēlpikotas (“first to put hope”) could well be emphatic—“put our hope completely”—rather than referring to time—“put our hope beforehand”; that would make better sense in this context. If so, Paul is celebrating the further blessing that in Christ we who are the chosen children of God are enabled to place our hope entirely in him.
Clinton Arnold: It is better, however, to take the preposition as intensifying the force of the verb and maintain the referent of “we” as all Christians—Jewish and Gentile. Thus, “placed their hope firmly” expresses this idea well. Part of the difficulty in determining the meaning of this compound verb is that it appears nowhere else in the LXX or NT. It is clear, however, that the preposition προ- does not necessarily have a temporal connotation. There are many examples of words for which it simply serves to intensify their meaning. Ernest Best correctly notes, “In Hellenistic Greek prepositions often do little more than stress the main thought of their verb” and thereby concludes that “this verb may mean the same as the simple verb.” The perfect tense refers to all those who have already put their hope in Christ and continue to do so.
Frank Thielman: Paul ends the third section by briefly describing the eschatological tension in which all believers live. The benediction’s second section (vv. 7–10) has spoken of God’s plan “to sum up all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth in him” (v. 10). Christ is the very person in whom all Christians exist, and therefore the participation of all believers in this summing up of all things is assured. Now, however, before all that happens, believers live in hope that it will happen, a hope that is not some fragile expectation that may or may not come to pass, but a hope whose basis is Christ himself. God has made his people heirs so that even now “we who hope beforehand”—before the full summation of all things in Christ—will exist for the praise of his glory.
Vaughan: A third matter to be considered is God’s aim in making believers His possession. This is expressed by the words “that we should be to the praise of his glory” (vs. 12). God’s intention was not that believers might take pride in their position and boast of their special privileges.
Andrew Lincoln: In the final analysis God’s working out of his purpose serves his own glorification and the believing community exists to further that end. The praise of God’s glory is the goal of its whole existence, not merely of its cultic worship.
John MacArthur: 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.