Ephesians 1:18b

Sermon preached on February 19, 2006 by Laurence W. Veinott. Copyright 2006. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.newlifeop.org/.

One thing that I really value is my grandfather's pocket knife. It's very precious to me. It has great sentimental value. It's the only thing that I have that belonged to him. I value it much more than its monetary worth. I don't know what I'd get for it on eBay—but I would guess that it would be worth a thousand times that to me. You could say that it's my only inheritance from him.

But that knife doesn't know how much I value it. It's an inanimate object. But we're not inanimate objects. And what the apostle Paul teaches us here is that we're not to be like inanimate objects when it comes to knowing and appreciating that we are God's inheritance. In Ephesians 1:18 the apostle Paul writes,

"I pray also that the eyes of your heart
may be enlightened
in order that you may know
the hope to which he has called you,
the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints"

We should know that we are God's inheritance. We should know how rich and glorious it is. We should know how greatly valued we are by God. God wants us to know these things and appreciate them. That's Paul's prayer for the Ephesians. We're the people of God and we should be rejoicing in our standing in our Savior Jesus Christ. So what I want to do this morning is to look at this wonderful text so that we can apply it to our lives.

The main thing we see from it is that

you are to realize that you are God's inheritance.

We know that everything belongs to God. Psalm 24:1 declares,

"The earth is the LORD's,
and everything in it,
the world,
and all who live in it;"

God owns everything. He created all creatures and the universe for His glory. Everything belongs to Him.

Nevertheless, there is a sense in which some things are His in a unique way—some things are specifically referred to as God's inheritance. This is true of His people. For example, in
Deuteronomy 32:9 we read,

"For the LORD's portion is his people,
Jacob his allotted inheritance."

God's people are His portion, His inheritance, in a way that doesn't apply to all people. Israel was God's inheritance.

We see this as well in
Deuteronomy 4:20 where Moses said to the people of Israel,

"But as for you,
the LORD took you and brought you
out of the iron-smelting furnace,
out of Egypt,
to be the people of his inheritance,
as you now are."

This Old Testament background of Israel being God's inheritance provides the background to the concept of inheritance that we see in Ephesians 1. In verse 11 Paul wrote that the Jewish Christians were chosen—claimed by God as His portion. They are God's inheritance. Then in verses 13 and 14 Paul showed that the Ephesians Christians we also God's inheritance. He said that they were included in Christ when they believed and that they were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit, guaranteeing their inheritance,

"until the redemption
of those who are God's possession—
to the praise of his glory."

Just as Israel in the Old Testament was God's inheritance, so now all Christians belong to this inheritance. We have been brought in to be heirs together with God's ancient people of Israel. As Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:6,

"This mystery is that through the gospel
the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel,
members together of one body,
and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus."

So Paul's request at the end of verse 18 is that that God would open the eyes of their hearts so that they would be able to grasp the riches of the glory of this inheritance. They, too, are now God's inheritance, God's portion.

But to fully appreciate this, we need to note certain things about God's inheritance for there are some
dissimilarities here from how we normally think of an inheritance.

The first one relates to the fact that we usually think of an inheritance as something that someone leaves you. You don't normally buy an inheritance, someone else gives it to you. But what we should understand about us being God's inheritance is that

God purchased us as His inheritance.

The idea of purchase is not foreign to the biblical conception of inheritance. You'll remember that Esau sold his birthright to Jacob. (Genesis 25) Jacob purchased the firstborn's inheritance for a bowl of stew. It was something that became his because he purchased it.

In the same way we became the Lord's inheritance because He purchased us. He didn't get it for free. Someone didn't give us to Him. In
1 Corinthians 6:20 Paul wrote,

"you were bought at a price."

God bought us and we then became His inheritance. In Deuteronomy 9:26 Moses wrote,

"I prayed to the LORD and said,
'O Sovereign LORD,
do not destroy your people,
your own inheritance that you redeemed
by your great power
and brought out of Egypt
with a mighty hand.'"

John Calvin writes, (on Deuteronomy 4:20)

"He argues that, from the period of their deliverance, they have been wholly devoted to God, since He has purchased them for His own peculiar possession."

God purchased us as His inheritance. And what a price He paid! What did He redeem us with—was it with silver or gold? No. Such things could not purchase us to be God's inheritance. Remember how Peter put it in 1 Peter 1:18-19,

"For you know that it was
not with perishable things
such as silver or gold
that you were redeemed from the empty way of life
handed down to you from your forefathers,
but with the precious blood of Christ,
a lamb without blemish or defect."

What cost our redemption! Jesus had to suffer and die for our sins. Think of it—the Lord of glory, Creator and Sustainer of all things—the author of life Himself—giving up His life for us! That's what it cost Jesus.

Or think of what the Father did. The Father sent His Son. As we read in
John 3:16,

"For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life."

To think that the Father had to forsake His Son, the Son He loved, the Son He was well pleased with—to see our sins on Him and to pour out His wrath on Him—for us to become His inheritance—can you comprehend it? To think that while Jesus was on the cross, Jesus in His human nature had to endure the breakup of the blessed fellowship that existed between Him and the Father. E. K. Simpson writes, (Ephesians, p. 39)

"Christ has taken His people to be His everlasting portion, and the cost of His purchase must endear it to Him as well as to them. He has wounds of love and gratitude round them that can never be snapped asunder."

Christians, God purchased you as His inheritance—at such a great cost. Christians, realize how precious you are to God.

Every human being has an intrinsic worth in virtue of our creation in the image of God. But sin has greatly diminished our worth. Indeed, in ourselves, in our state of sin, we're only worthy of
condemnation. In Ephesians 2:3 Paul said that we were like the rest,

"by nature objects of God's wrath."

The Old Testament speaks of sinners being an abomination or being detestable to God. (Deuteronomy 18:12) But Christians, all has changed now that you have believed on Jesus. Now you have such worth. It's not so much worth in yourselves—but worth because you are in Christ. You're valuable and precious because you're united with Christ. You are God's inheritance. You are co-heirs with Christ. In Hebrews 2:13 Jesus says,

"Here am I,
and the children God has given me."

You are God's inheritance. How high He has raised you! How privileged you are! There is nothing better than this.

Now we need to take this to heart. In ourselves we might think that we're nothing—but in Christ we have such worth, such value. We are so dear to God, so precious to Him.

You are His inheritance and as His inheritance you are glorious. Praise Him for making you His inheritance. Praise Him for giving you such value.

Now for those of you who are not Christians what you should see from this is that in Christ you have the opportunity to be valuable.

As you are you're not valuable. Indeed, as you are you are fit mainly for hell's fires. That's what Jesus said in Matthew 25 about the servant who hid his talent which is what you're doing if you're not in Christ. Jesus said, (26f)

"You wicked, lazy servant!
So you knew that I harvest
where I have not sown
and gather where I have not scattered seed?
Well then, you should have put my money
on deposit with the bankers,
so that when I returned
I would have received it back with interest.
Take the talent from him
and give it to the one who has the ten talents.
For everyone who has will be given more,
and he will have an abundance.
Whoever does not have,
even what he has will be taken from him.
And throw that worthless servant outside,
into the darkness,
where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

If you're not in Christ you're worthless, fit only to be cast out.

But in Jesus you have the opportunity to become exceeding valuable—to be God's inheritance, to be forever to the praise of His glory. Repent of your sins and go to Jesus now. Ask Him to save you. He surely will.

second dissimilarity that we have between our ordinary conception of inheritance and what we have with us being God's inheritance has to do with the fact that we usually think of an inheritance as something that is chosen for you. You don't choose it. Someone else chooses it for you. The person who leaves it to you decides what you get. For example, say you had a rich relative who had two houses—one in the city and one on a lake. Say he left you his city house and your brother the house on the lake. Your reaction might be—

"Well, I would rather have the house on the lake."

Or maybe he doesn't leave you either house—instead he leaves you his old beat up snowmobile that doesn't even run. I don't know about you—but I hate snowmobiles. I wouldn't even want a new one—let alone one that didn't run. Someday I might get left a snowmobile—but I'd never pick it.

But God's inheritance is not like that.

God chose His inheritance.

In the Old Testament we read that God picked Israel as His inheritance. In Psalm 33:12 we read,

"Blessed is the nation
whose God is the LORD,
the people he chose for his inheritance."

God chose them to be His inheritance. Yet He made it very clear to the people of Israel that He didn't choose them because they were better than the other peoples. In Deuteronomy 7:7 Moses said to the people,

"The LORD did not set his affection on you
and choose you because you were more numerous
than other peoples,
for you were the fewest of all peoples.
But it was because the LORD loved you
and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers
that he brought you out with a mighty hand
and redeemed you from the land of slavery,
from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt."

We see the same thing here in Ephesians 1. God chose us before the foundation of the world. He chose us according to His pleasure and will. He did not choose us as His inheritance because He saw something good in us. John Calvin writes, (on Deuteronomy 32:9- For the Lord's portion is his people.)

"This is the main point, that God was moved by nothing but His own good pleasure to make so much of this people, who had been derived from a common origin with all others: for when he says, that Jacob was the portion of Jehovah, and the lot of His inheritance, he does not mean that there was anything better in them than in others, but he assigns the reason why God preferred this one nation to the rest of mankind; viz., because He took it to Himself as His hereditary portion, which dignity depends upon His gratuitous election."

That's what we see here in Ephesians as well. We were by nature objects of God's wrath (Ephesians 2:3), like the rest we were dead in trespasses and sins. But God chose us to be His inheritance in spite of that.

Now what this means for us is we should realize how honored we are in Christ.

F. F. Bruce writes,

"That God should set such a high value on a community of sinners, rescued from perdition and still bearing too many traces of their former state, might well seem incredible were it not made clear that he sees them in Christ, as from the beginning he chose them in Christ… God's estimate of the people of Christ, united to him by faith and partakers of his resurrection life, is inevitably consistent with his estimate of Christ."

Can you grasp that? God's estimate of you, as united to Christ, is consistent with His estimate of Christ. That's incredible. But it's true. He took us from our sin, from being an abomination—and has united us to His Son, Jesus. His estimate of us is now consistent with His estimate of His Son. We are joint-heirs with Christ. (Romans 8:17)

Paul prayed that we would know the riches of the glory of His inheritance. What an inheritance it is. It is full of glory. We are one with Christ.
Hebrews 2:13 again. Jesus says,

"Here am I,
and the children God has given me."

Or consider what we read in Revelation 21:1f,

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth,
for the first heaven and the first earth
had passed away,
and there was no longer any sea.
I saw the Holy City,
the new Jerusalem,
coming down out of heaven from God,
prepared as a bride
beautifully dressed for her husband.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
'Now the dwelling of God is with men,
and he will live with them.
They will be his people,
and God himself will be with them
and be their God.'"

We are God's. He loves us. He delights in us. You Christians should be rejoicing that you are God's inheritance.

The third thing we should note about God's inheritance is that in Ephesians 1

there's a close relationship between it and 'the praise of God's glory'.

We see this in three places in this Ephesians 1. First, we see it in verse 5. Although there's not a reference to 'inheritance' there—it does talk about us being adopted as God's sons, which is closely related to being heirs. Then it goes on to give the goal of our adoption—the praise of His glorious grace. Then in verse 11 Paul speaks about Christians being 'chosen' – or 'claimed by God as His portion' — 'to the praise of His glory'. Then in verse 14 it talks about inheritance and the redemption of those who are 'God's possession'—to the praise of His glory. And here in verse 18 there is a reference to the inheritance 'of riches' and 'of glory'.

The thrust of all this is that God's inheritance is going to be to the praise of His glory. It is His inheritance that is going to be raised up, and to use the words of
Ephesians 2:7,

"in order that in the coming ages
he might show the incomparable riches of his grace,
expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus."

We are God's inheritance and in the coming ages we are going to be to the praise of His glory. We are God's inheritance and we are going to be made glorious. We will be with God to the praise of His glory. Hebrews 2:13 again. Jesus will say,

"Here am I,
and the children God has given me."

And He will receive praise, glory and honor from the archangels, from the cherubim, from the seraphim. We will be to the praise of God's glory. E. K. Simpson writes about us being God's inheritance, (Ephesians, p. 39)

"They are wondrous trophies of His reclaiming and upraising power, a spectacle to angels of beings brought back from exile at a tremendous outlay and reinstated after grievous rebellion in unshaken fealty to their true sovereign."

How honored you Christians are! You are God's inheritance. You are God's portion. For all eternity you will be 'to the praise of God's glory'. In the coming ages He will show the incomparable riches of His grace in you. F. F. Bruce writes,

"Paul prays here that his readers may appreciate the value which God places on them, his plan to accomplish his eternal purpose through them as the first fruits of the reconciled universe of the future…"

It's all because of Jesus and His work. How honored we are that God has deigned to use us to the praise of His glory.

In closing I want to make two more brief applications.

First, Christians,

live accordingly. Live as God's inheritance.

It's not just in the future that you need to be to the praise of God's glory. You need to do it right now. F. F. Bruce tells us that one of the reasons Paul prays that the Ephesian Christians would be able to grasp the riches of the glory of His inheritance, is,

"in order that their lives may be in keeping with this high calling, and that they may accept in grateful humility the grace and glory thus lavished on them."

You are God's inheritance. By God's grace you can live up to that. Don't be like David—who gave the enemies of the Lord an opportunity to blaspheme. John Calvin writes, (on Deuteronomy 4:20)

"He argues that, from the period of their deliverance, they have been wholly devoted to God, since He has purchased them for His own peculiar possession. Hence it follows that they are under His jurisdiction and dominion; because it would be foul and wicked ingratitude in them to shake off the yoke of their redeemer. And, in order to strengthen the obligation, he extols the greatness of the favor, because nothing could be more wretched than they were, when God stretched forth His hand to deliver them. Their bondage is therefore called metaphorically, a "furnace," nay, an "iron" one; and, then, their present far different condition is compared with it; for this was solid and most desirable happiness, that they should be translated into God's peculiar inheritance."

You are God's inheritance. Live accordingly. Live lives of love, lives full of the fruits of the Spirit.

Lastly, note that this inheritance is 'among the saints'.

This means that you should love and value other Christians greatly.

God has not just loved you. He has not just saved you. He has saved those around you in this congregation. But it's not just this congregation that is God's inheritance. All Christians are God's inheritance. John Stott writes,

"For God's inheritance… will not be a little private party for each individual but rather 'among the saints' as we join that 'great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.'"

William Hendriksen adds,

"When a believer's hope is what it should be, he never looks forward to an inheritance just for himself. What will make the inheritance so glorious is exactly the fact that he will enjoy it together with 'all who love his appearing' (2 Timothy 4:8)"

Christians—look on other Christians as being part of God's inheritance, as people being so precious to God, so valuable. Seek to help other Christians, to be a blessing to them, to help them serve and praise God better. Your focus should not just be on your individual progress in the faith or our individual spiritual well being. Quite the contrary—you are part of a great group—a group who will be to the praise of God's glory. Appreciate other Christians. Seek to be a blessing to them and to help them praise God better.