GOD'S INHERITANCE IN CHRIST
A. Introduction: Last year we began to examine a prayer Paul prayed regularly for Christians living in the city of placeCityEphesus (located on the west coast of modern-day placecountry-regionTurkey). Eph 1:16-23
1. Paul was deeply connected to these people and had already poured much into them. The Lord used Paul to establish the church at placeCityEphesus about 53 AD. Acts 19:1-20
a. Although Paul established a number of churches throughout the placeRoman Empire, he stayed with the Ephesians longer than anyone else (three years), teaching publicly in a school everyday for two years. He also taught in their homes. Acts 19:9,10; timeMinute20Hour2020:20
b. When the time came for him to leave, he was fairly certain he wouldn't see them again in this life. The Book of Acts records a heartfelt scene between himself and church leaders where Paul committed them to the care and keeping of the Lord. Acts timeMinute32Hour2020:32
c. The epistle was his first contact with them since he left. When he wrote the letter (60-63 AD) he was in prison in placeCityRome, not knowing whether he would be executed or released. He wrote to comfort and encourage the believers.
1. Many of the epistles (including this one) were meant to be read out loud. With the exception of Romans, Ephesians is Paul's most systematic presentation of doctrine or what Christians believe. It divides into two parts. Chapters 1-3--What God has done for us through Christ. Chapters 4-6--How Christians should live in light of it.
2. It would have been written in the context of what Paul taught them for the three years he was with them. This wouldn't have been brand new information. It would have been a reminder, a refresher, and an amplification of what he already taught them.
2. This was potentially his last contact with them in this life so his words take on extra significance. He would have written what he considered most important for them to know.
a. In his letter Paul told them how he prayed for them: that they would have insight and revelation in three areas as they learned more and more about the Lord¾the hope of His calling, the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and the greatness of His power toward them. v18,19
1. These believers were real people who lived real lives in this world. (We'll meet them when we get to Heaven.) They, like us, lived in a fallen world with a real devil, along with all the issues that come with living this life.
2. Although it was another time period with different circumstances, there's no reason to believe that life was any less challenging for them than it is for us. And we have to presume that Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, prayed for them what was most needful for them.
b. In these three points Paul was actually praying for them that they would see the big picture or the overall plan of God (or the picture on the box).
1. We've made the point that being a Christian is often like trying to put a puzzle together without looking at the picture on the box. With every sermon or message we heard preached, we get individual pieces of the puzzle but struggle to fit them all together.
2. But Paul knew that if they understood the big picture, or the overall plan of God, it would not only help them know where to put individual pieces, it would enable them to live effective, victorious lives. (There's a lot in that statement we'll address at another time.)
3. Here's the big picture: God's purpose is to have a family of sons and daughters made in His image with whom He can dwell in a perfect world forever. Sin took that plan off track. But God devised a plan called redemption to deal with it. Eph 1:4,5; Isa 45:18; Rev 13:8; etc.
a. The Lord took on flesh and was born into this world. Jesus went to the Cross to pay the price for sin so that it can be removed from all those who bow their knee to Him as Savior and Lord. Col 1:21,22; John 1:12; I John 5:1; etc.
b. When a person believes on Jesus a process of transformation begins that transforms unholy, unrighteous sinners into holy, righteous sons and daughters of God who are fully glorifying to Him in every part of their being (lessons for another day). II Cor 5:17,18; I John 3:2; etc.
4. Back to the three points in Paul's prayer. These points are a brief summary of God's plan. We have to consider them separately for the sake of discussion, but they are all related and interdependent.
a. God calls us into His plan through faith in Jesus. When we respond we become sons of God with an inheritance. God then works in us and through us by His power to produce the effects of what He has provided through redemption. (Lessons for another day)
b. We spent a lot of time in the last part of this series looking at the hope or expectation of coming good we have because we've answered the call and have become sons and daughters of God. In this part of the series we're going to look at the inheritance we've been given. Our inheritance includes all that God has provided for us through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
B. When Paul informed the Ephesians that he prayed they would have insight and revelation regarding their inheritance (v18) he had already referred to the inheritance we have in Jesus several times. v11,14
1. The Greek word translated inherit means to possess, to receive as one's own, to obtain. Before we talk about what inheritance means for us we must discuss what it means to God.
a. Eph 1:3-14 is a continuous statement in the original language. It is a statement about God's plan and purpose (lesson for another day). But Paul has a dual thought going here in regard to inheritance. Through Christ we are made God's inheritance and we have an inheritance.
b. Note these passages. There is much in them that we aren't going to discuss right now. We'll get to it in later lessons. Just notice the references to God's inheritance and our inheritance.
1. Eph 1:11--In Him too we have been made heirs (Weymouth); In whom we were also made his inheritance (Alford); In Him we also were made [God's] heritage (portion) and we obtained an inheritance (Amp).
2. Eph 1:14--Who is an earnest of our inheritance (Conybeare) unto the redemption of God's own possession (ASV); until the day when God completes the redemption of what he has paid for as his own (Phillips).
3. Eph 1:18--How gloriously rich God's portion in His people is (Williams); the wealth of the glory of His inheritance in the saints (Wuest).
c. Let's be clear on definitions: Heritage is a synonym for inheritance. Inheritance is something you inherit or come into possession of. To inherit is to receive by legal right from an ancestor at death.
2. To fully benefit from and walk in the provisions of your inheritance in Christ you must first understand God's inheritance. Through the Cross of Christ God obtained His family or His inheritance.
a. Acts 20:28--Before Paul left the believers at Ephesus he told the elders: Care for the people, the church because the Lord purchased it with His own blood. They knew that this whole plan of which they had become a part was initiated by God.
b. Paul opened his letter to them by reminding them of that fact. Eph 1:4--For consider what he has done¾before the foundation of the world he chose us to be, in Christ, his children, holy and blameless in his sight. He planned, in his love, that we should be adopted as his own children through Jesus Christ. (Phillips)
1. “For consider' in the original Greek is from two words meaning to select out for oneself with the accompanying idea of kindness, favor, and love.
2. God, motivated by love, chose us for sonship, relationship before He created the earth. Man's sin took the plan off track. But God devised a way to deal with it through Jesus and the Cross. 3. Eph 1:7--Paul reminded them that through Christ we have been redeemed. To redeem means to buy out of bondage. By shedding His infinitely valuable blood the Lord Jesus paid the price for sin so that all who put faith in Him and His sacrifice can be bought out of sin and transformed into sons and daughters (lessons for another day).
3. In that context Paul makes his first statement about God's inheritance (v11). Through the Cross of Christ God obtained His possession or His inheritance. This is consistent with some things Jesus said before He went to the Cross.
a. The religious leaders of the day (the Pharisees) regularly criticized Jesus for associating with sinners and publicans (Jewish tax collectors who worked for the Roman government and were considered traitors by their own people). Luke 15:1,2
b. At one of those encounters, in response to their accusations, Jesus told three parables, one about a lost sheep, another about a lost coin, and the third about a lost son. Luke 15:4-32
1. There's a lot in these parables, but consider several key points: One, lost items don't lose their value when they are lost. Two, their created purpose cannot be realized by the owner while the items are in their lost condition. Three, the owners search for what they've lost. Four, the owner rejoices when the lost item is found.
2. Jesus clearly told these parables to illustrate His motivation and the response of Heaven to a sinner who comes home to God through repentance and faith in Christ and His sacrifice.
c. Jesus came to earth to seek and save what was lost to God when mankind went astray into the pigpen of sin, corruption, and death. Luke 19:10
4. When Christians hear that they have an inheritance in Christ we tend to think of it disconnected from the big picture or the overall plan of God: God will get me a new car or a job promotion or He'll fix my family and make our relationships healthy and tranquil.
a. I'm not saying He won't do those things. But that's starting in the middle of the story. Without the back story (God's overall plan in creating man and then sending Jesus to die for our sins) we struggle with faith and confidence in God's help.
b. Far too many Christians struggle with trying to believe in God's help and love, but wrestle with feelings of unworthiness. He won't help me. He doesn't love me as much as others. How could He? I'm such a mess, etc.
c. In our culture value and worth are connected to our accomplishments and talents. But it's the opposite in the kingdom of God. Your purpose and value come from God.
1. True value and worth come, not from within, but from the esteem in which something is held by an outside source. For example: A lady spots a lamp at a garage sale. In her estimation it is worth whatever she has to pay for it. The seller considers it a piece of junk she would just as soon throw away.
2. Our value comes from the price God was willing to pay for us to have us as sons and daughters, the blood of His own Son. Acts 20:28; Heb 9:12,-14; I Pet 1:18,19
3. Everything we are and have as sons of God through faith in Christ is based on His goodness and grace and not our deservingness. Because He never changes the basis of our value and worth, our position and purpose in Him, will never change. Therefore we can be secure and confident in Him (lessons for another day).
d. Paul wrote Rom 8:32--He who spared not His own Son, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things. If God helped you on your worst day (any day before you were saved) with your greatest need (salvation from your sins) why would He not help you now that you are His dearly loved son or daughter, His purchased possession, His inheritance?
5. Paul received the message he preached directly from Jesus (Acts 9:16; Acts 26:16; Gal 1:12--lesson for another day). Jesus commissioned Paul to preach about the inheritance that He's provided (Acts 26:18). Jesus and Paul expected this information--that they were God's inheritance--to affect the way believers in Jesus live their lives.
a. I Cor 6:19,20--He wrote to believers at Corinth (another church he established) who were having problems with sexual immorality amongst them: You belong to God now. He bought you. You are not your own any more. You have no right to behave like that anymore. Glorify Him.
b. Titus 2:14--He wrote that Jesus “gave Himself on our behalf that He might redeem us (purchase our freedom) from all iniquity and purify for Himself a people¾to be peculiarly His own¾ [people who are eager and enthusiastic about [living a life that is good and filled with] beneficial deeds.” (Amp)
1. This is consistent with what Paul wrote to the Ephesians. Eph 1:12--So that we who first hoped in Christ¾who first put our confidence in Him¾[have been destined and appointed] to live for the praise of His glory! (Amp)
2. The Lord bought us back to purify and transform us and make us a people who bring glory to Him. That's part of His inheritance and ours.(lessons for another day).
A. Peter echoed the same sentiment when he wrote to believers in Jesus. He wrote that we are chosen (same word Paul used in Eph 1:4) and we are peculiar. Peculiar means purchased. We are God's own possession.
B. I Pet 2:9--But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a dedicated nation, [God's] own purchased, special people, that you may set forth the wonderful deeds and display the virtues and perfections of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. (Amp)
6. The Ephesians understood their inheritance in the context of the fact that through faith in Christ and His sacrifice on the Cross they were God's inheritance, His purchased possession. And that knowledge gave them confidence to live and walk in victory.
C. Conclusion: When it came time for Paul to leave the church Ephesus for the final time he turned them over to the Lord's care. Acts 20:32
1. But notice that the care was connected with the Word of God which Paul said would build them up and give them their inheritance. The Living Word, the Lord Jesus, obtained and provided it. The written word reveals and describes it.
2. In this part of our series we're going to look at what God's Word says about the inheritance we have received through Christ's sacrifice. We've got a lot to talk about in upcoming lessons.