Imagine that as you sit down at the dinner table tonight, a knock comes at your door. As you open the door, a man in an expensive suit greets you and explains the unbelievable news that a distant relative has passed away and has left you with all of his possessions. The relative was an independently wealthy multi-billionaire recluse, and now all of his fortune is your inheritance. What an amazing experience that would be. Perhaps once the disbelief dissipated, you would be absolutely ecstatic. When we come to Ephesians 1:11, Paul fills the roll of the man in the sharp dressed suit. Instead of a distant relative, he says that because Jesus died for our sins, and God has redeemed us, “We have obtained an inheritance.” What an unbelievable and unexpected blessing! Becoming the heir to a billionaire would be a spectacular thing, but becoming an heir to the Almighty God of the universe, that is a completely different matter.
Here Paul explains the theology behind our receiving the inheritance of God as being “in whom [Christ].” We did not get this inheritance because we had the right last name. We didn’t get this inheritance because we worked really hard and were finally noticed by God. We have become recipients of this eternal inheritance because of the work Jesus accomplished for us. Paul continues his explanation of our receiving this unspeakably awesome inheritance by telling us that we were “predestinated” to receive it because God desired to give it to us. Here Paul describes God as both the one who “purposed” it and the one who “worketh” it. He desired to give us the inheritance and he works it out for us to receive it.
Moving to verse 12 and 13, Paul further tells the believers in Asia Minor that this predestinating work of God was accomplished by their believing the gospel. In His own will, God desired that Christians (ourselves included) would come in faith to trust the truth of the gospel. In His power as the One who “worketh all things,” God then brought us into faith and salvation through faith. Here from verse 7 through 13, we see the truth unfold perfectly. Those whom God purposed to receive the inheritance in Christ, believed and were redeemed by God’s grace through the death of Jesus. Having believed and been saved, God then gave an “earnest.”
An “earnest” is a foretaste of what is to come. In the illustration of gaining the inheritance of the billionaire, this would be like the man in the suit giving you one million dollars in cash before leaving your house. After promising billions, he gives a taste of what that experience will be like by providing you with something that is incredible and exciting. Similarly, God has promised us eternal reward and an inheritance, but now, he gives us His Spirit. In verse 14, the Holy Spirit is described as “the earnest of our inheritance.” This means that for the time being we do not fully experience all the benefits of our inheritance, but we do get a foretaste.
So what is the inheritance? One day we will be in heaven apart from the presence of sin. There will be no more heart ache and no more affliction. There will be no more sorrow and no more tears. There will be an unhindered knowing of God that can only be had by being in the presence of the Almighty God. Here we find the foretaste of that inheritance in the Holy Spirit that God gives to us. When we are aching, we can find comfort in the Spirit of God as He works through the word of God. In times of trial and affliction, it is to the Spirit that we run for solace. And although at this time we are not in the presence of God fully free from sin, we can look to God and find strength in His Spirit to gain victory over sin. For now, we have the Spirit, a foretaste of the wonderful inheritance that awaits us.
Reflect: What did we do to earn our inheritance? What is our inheritance?