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Ephesians 1:11-12

“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of . . . his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:11-12).

Being familiar with Scripture’s emphasis on divine grace, it is easy for us to accept that the people of God have always received an inheritance from Him. Numbers 34 uses the term inheritance to refer to the gift of the Promised Land to Israel. Hebrews 9:15 and many other biblical passages call eternal life our “inheritance.”

What might be less obvious, however, is that the Bible also says that God receives an inheritance. Certainly, the Lord does not receive an inheritance in the same manner as we do, as no one is in a position to grant Him anything; rather, He gives an inheritance to Himself. Still, this indicates that He gains a benefit in some sense. Simply put, God benefits Himself when He gives Himself an inheritance.

Today’s passage tells us that God receives an inheritance. This is not evident in the ESV, which translates the Greek verb for “obtained an inheritance” actively in relation to the subject “we” in Ephesians 1:11. This translation is acceptable and widespread, but modern commentators favor reading the verb as passive, since it appears in the passive voice in the original Greek. Accordingly, the translation should be something like this: “We have been made an inheritance [by God and for God].” As odd as this may sound, it fits well with Scripture. The final Davidic king — the God-man Jesus Christ — receives the nations as His inheritance (Ps. 2:8). Isaiah 19:25 refers to Israel as God’s inheritance, and the three-fold parallelism of the verse means that this description applies also to believing Egyptians and Assyrians. Zephaniah 3:17 describes the Lord rejoicing over His people much as one might rejoice over a great inheritance.

The idea that God, by His grace, makes us into His inheritance is incredible, and it results from Him working “all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11). This is one of the clearest statements in Scripture on God’s meticulous providence — the Creator plans and steers all events down to the smallest detail, including even the seemingly inconsequential decisions we make every day, such as the color of the shirt we will wear or the cereal we will eat for breakfast. All things great and small, good and evil, are included in our God’s sovereign ordination of history. Such a truth comforts us greatly, as it guarantees that He will use everything that happens in our lives to make us finally fit to be regarded as His inheritance (Rom. 8:28).

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Our Creator does not need anything from us, which makes it all the more remarkable that He purposed in eternity past to make us His own inheritance. This is a great privilege, and it is due entirely to His sovereign grace. May we be thankful for this status and also mindful that His governing providence is working out all things — good and bad — to make us fit to be regarded as His inheritance.

For Further Study
  • Deuteronomy 32:9
  • Psalm 33:12
  • Proverbs 16:4
  • Romans 11:36

In the Fullness of Time

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From the May 2011 Issue
May 2011 Issue