“In Him 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.” (Ephesians 1:11–12, NASB95)
In verse 5 we read that we were predestined by God as sons. Here in verse 11 this is expanded on again as we read that as children who through His Son have been brought into His family by adoption we also have obtained an inheritance. This inheritance is a done deal as we see by the past tense wording. It was accomplished for us by Jesus on the cross as determined by God before the beginning of time. Jesus is the means of our inheritance.
As I even think of the word “inheritance” I am reminded that in the normal course of things that someone has to die first before it is released. Sure, there are exceptions but even in those exceptions there is still a look at the passing of benefit from one to another with a forward look at that other person dying. Simply put, there is no other way by which we can enter God’s family but through His Son who He determined would be the perfect One to die for our sins. He was not the perfect sacrifice for our sins because He was the best choice. He is the perfect sacrifice because He is absolutely perfect, and with His death, burial, and resurrection He passed to us our own forgiveness and the rich inheritance of salvation.
Jesus is God. He has always existed as God with the Father and the Spirit. He never had to be adopted Himself to be subsequently sent to bring us in by the same means, but He Himself was given authority by the Father as the Son to bring us in through Himself. God chose us and He gave us through Christ an inheritance. This is how He planned it. It happened exactly according to His purpose and according to what He determined was the way He was going to do things. We did not deserve anything from Him, and we had no say in what He chose to do. This is His way, and He accomplished it fully in His beloved Son.
Scripture records for us accounts of people asking Jesus what they must do to inherit salvation. It is an interesting question when you stop to think about it. “Do” and “inherit” seem incongruous with one another. It seemed as if there was a belief that in order to receive any portion of an inheritance one had to perform and be pleasing to the one who grants the inheritance. They seemed to think that they had to gain God’s pleasure in order to receive salvation from Him.
But is this kind of thinking really that foreign from how we as people operate. I’ve heard from people how either they or someone else was removed from their parent’s inheritance (will) because of something they did, disagreed over, or maybe were “cheated out of.” And I’ve also heard of others being given an inheritance who were totally surprised as they had no relation with the individual or any accompanying expectation. Our concept of inheritance seems to be a mixture or what is due and what is earned, and what is to be received by virtue of birth alone as opposed to any other virtue or favor. These Jews were no different.
In one encounter we read, “As He [Jesus] was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. “You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’ ” And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.” (Mark 10:17–22, NASB95)
In this incident Jesus explained that this rich man turned away because he treasured his things more than he did even being given salvation. He was torn between the two and went away grieved inside. He had lived according to the religious statutes, but he was unwilling to give up what he had been given in order to receive the greater gift that came from God. Having spoken to His disciples about this struggle we read that they responded in astonishment and asked, “Then who can be saved?” (Mark 10:26, NASB95) It was as if they responded, “If it is this hard for the best placed, then what hope do any of us of inheriting the eternal life of which He spoke?” This is where Jesus turned the tables. The man asked what he could do, and the answer was that there really wasn’t anything great enough that he could do other than to turn his life over to God and follow after Him with his whole heart. Then Jesus told them that it was not the man who would earn the inheritance, but God who would grant it. In verse 27 we read, “Looking at them, Jesus said, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.”” (Mark 10:27, NASB95)
Luke records for us another occasion on which this question was asked. “And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”” (Luke 10:25–28, NASB95) The man answered correctly. Life came as a result of loving God which flowed out into a love for others. The man, however, couldn’t accept the answer as it was given. He had to parse exactly who it was that was his neighbor, as to say, ‘Really, do I have to love everyone?’ It was then that Jesus spoke of the man who, being overlooked by religious people, was helped above and beyond by the compassionate Samaritan. At the end He asked the man who His neighbor was, to which the man gave the correct answer. Jesus then said, “Go and do the same.” (Luke 10:37, NASB95)
Each of these examples pointed to something greater than what man was able to do. Man in incapable of pleasing God because of his works because man’s best is still flawed with sin. Jesus demonstrated in both cases that God’s standard was higher than their capabilities. In Galatians chapter 3 we read, “For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.” Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “The righteous man shall live by faith.” However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “He who practices them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”— in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” (Galatians 3:10–14, NASB95)
The greatest thing given to us by God through His Son is our salvation. We have been given as a love gift the forgiveness of our sins, the righteousness of His Son, eternal life, and entrance into His forever kingdom. These were given to us because God loves us. It was not done in repayment or even for future payment. The payment was made in full by Jesus. Jesus gave of Himself for us that we might receive this incredible adoption, and by taking His life back up again He assured its fulfillment.
With this salvation comes so much more than we could ever imagine. It is more than just being forgiven and allowed into God’s presence. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10, NASB95) We were not adopted into a corner of God’s home, but were fully brought in and immediately made a part of His family who He tends to constantly. At the moment of our salvation we become His children chosen by Him from before time.
We are dearly loved and fully His. He did this for us. Paul went on to write in verse 12, “to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.” He knew that he and the others with Him were incredibly blessed to have seen Christ and to know the hope of salvation in Him. As partakers in this they would also be the first to be the fruits of God’s great gift and ones through whom God would be glorified.
Think of these first followers of Christ and even Paul who was opposed to Him until he was encountered by Christ on his way to persecute Christ’s followers. They were all chosen by God for His purpose and Jesus kept every single one of them for the Father (except the one chosen for rejection—Judas). All of the early believers who were persecuted and even put to death were kept by God. The ones who even came before Christ and who believed God by faith were kept by God (see Hebrews 11). All who have followed and believed were kept by God. Even today God keeps. Our inheritance of salvation and life is a gift from God and He is the One who is glorified by it. Paul began with the words, “Blessed be….” All of the praise belongs to our glorious God.