This morning for our Bible study together, we come again to the first chapter of Ephesians, and I’d invite you to take your Bible. If you don’t have one with you, there’s probably one in the pew rack there that you can look along, and it might make your time more meaningful if you follow along as we share. For those of you who may be visiting with us, we’re committed, really, to teaching the Word of God. I believe that what I have to say is, at best, very insignificant; what God has to say is absolutely necessary.
So, we spend our time dealing with the Word of God, and what a treasure it is, and how grateful we are that He’s given it to us. One of the most wonderful parts of the Bible is the letter that the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus; it’s called the letter to the Ephesians. This wonderful letter expresses some tremendous life-transforming truths. And for us this morning, I think God is going to really speak about something that is exceedingly wonderful, as we anticipate the things God has prepared for us.
I remember years ago, when I used to travel in the South and do assemblies, and we used to do a lot of ministries in the black high schools, that we would meet with a lot of people who looked at life rather bleakly. And I can remember many, many conversations with young people, down in Mississippi and other parts of the South, and they would say to me, “John,” they would say, “do you think - do you think we’ll ever be able to - to amount to what we want to amount to? Do you think we’ll ever be able to fulfill our dreams for our life?”
We’d have conversation after conversation through those years in those kinds of ways. And, you know, I see that in all parts of life. I see that with young people today, and with old people as well, who - who really face life with a sense of foreboding; who wonder whether or not there ever will be a fulfillment in life. Who wonder whether life will really turn out to be what it could be. Who wonder whether there is really potential for something wonderful, and fulfilling, and exciting, in life.
That brings me to share with you the thoughts in Ephesians 1:11 to 14, because they are really about the promise of God in Jesus Christ to everyone who believes. There are some things that can make life meaningful. There are some fantastic things that God has planned for those that are in Christ; some promises that God will keep. Now, when you use the word promise, you know, maybe some people would be cynical about it, because, let’s face it: we’ve all known people who made promises and didn’t keep them.
And frankly, we’ve all made promises ourselves and didn’t keep them, right? And in our society today, it’s promises, promises, promises, promises. Governments make promises and break them. Nations make promises and break them. Advertisers make promises and break them. Politicians make promises and break them. Preachers make promises and break them. Husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, moms, dads, uncles, aunts, friends, enemies, everybody. But there is One who makes promises - guess what? Never breaks them; never.
That’s Jesus Christ. And the promise that He makes, here in Ephesians 1:11 to 14, is above all things, wonderful, incredible, and exciting. And I want to share with you this morning what Paul has to say about it. Peter said this - 2 Peter 3: “The Lord is not slack concerning” - what? – “His promises.” Isn’t that great? “The Lord is not slack concerning His promises.” In fact, the apostle Paul said, “He is God, who cannot lie. In Hebrews 10:23, the Bible says, “He is faithful that promised.”
In Romans 4:21, the Bible says, “What He has promised He is able also to perform.” There is somebody who keeps His promises. That’s God. God, who cannot lie, keeps His promises. Now, listen. Paul is telling us in Ephesians 1 verses 3 to 14, this whole - this whole passage is one sentence. The longest sentence in the Bible. He just goes on and on, and his heart is so full of praise he can’t find a period anywhere. It’s just a matter of, “and then there was this, and then there was this,” and so forth.
He’s just pouring out praise, and what he is praising God for is this wonderful promise that God has made in Jesus Christ. That’s what’s on his heart. He says in verse 3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ.” And then he goes on to recite that He’s chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, He’s predestinated us to be to the praise of His glory. Verse 7, as we saw last week, He’s given us redemption through His blood.
He’s forgiven our sins, according to the riches of His grace. Verse 8, He has abounded to us in all wisdom and prudence; He’s even made known the secrets of His will. And all of these things - in verse 10 – ultimately, He’s going to bring us into one great, harmonious union with Himself forever. No wonder he’s full of praise, huh? No wonder. Now, basically, verses 3 to 14, from a technical viewpoint, are divided into three parts. Paul, in chapter 2, kind of explains, begins to explain how the church operates in the world.
We’re going to get into that. We’re going to see how the church is to work in the world, how we are to live in the world, how we are to touch the lives of other people. That’s all a part of it. But in the first chapter, he’s not in time; he’s in eternity. He takes us all the way back, as verse 4 says, “before the foundation of the world,” and he lets us watch God master-planning history. And as God is master-planning history, the basic key to the whole thing is the building of the church. And Paul says, “Here is God, before the foundation of the world, putting together the church.”
And three key words separate the three parts to this passage. First, the pattern that He used, or the plan that He used, was based on election: “chosen in Him before the foundation of the world.” That’s what gives us our value, people. That’s what gives us our sense of worth. Do you realize that you - that’s right, you, who love Jesus Christ, are in His church, have received Him as your Savior - you were master-planned by God into the church before the world began?
And the second word that he uses is redemption. First that its election - that’s the past part of it, God’s choosing - then redemption. In verse 7, we’ve been redeemed. Now, that simply says that those whom He elected, He redeemed. And the word means to buy back. We were lost in sin; He bought us back. The third word is inheritance. The reason He chose us was to redeem us. The reason He redeemed us was to give us - what? - an inheritance. To give us great and precious promises. That’s fulfilling.
I remember one time, I was up in the mountains at Big Bear, and there was a young man there who had a withered arm and a withered leg; severely so. And we were trying to work with a group of young people at a camp up there, and this young man was way in a corner, and he wouldn’t come out of the corner. So, on the second day, I finally thought, “I’m going to go talk with him.” So, I went over - and he would just kind of hide in the corner. And I went over, and I said to him, I said, “What’s your name?”
He expressed his name to me, and I said, “I’m John.” I said, “You know, I notice that you never enter in.” And he looked at me, boy, and he just had a kind of bitter scowl on his face, and he pulled his sleeve. He had a jacket, trying to, kind of over his head, and he pulled his sleeve up, and he said, “Look what God did to me.” Well, that was kind of hard for me to handle, you know. And I said, “All right, Lord, You got to help me get a good answer, help him to understand.” And I said, “You want to know something?” I said, “That’s not you.”
I’ll never forget what he said: “Who is it?” I said, “It’s not you.” “Well, what do you mean it’s not me?” I said, “It’s just the house you live in, that’s all. It’s just the house you live in, you see, and that’s very temporary; you are a forever person.” And I said, “Not only that, God’s got a forever plan for you, and He’s also got a new body for you in the future.” He said, “You’re kidding.” I said, “No.” And I shared Jesus Christ with him around a little table there, and he gave his heart to Jesus Christ.
He’d never come out of this little corner. And then he said to me after that, he said, “John, would you play ping-pong with me?” I said, “Sure, I’ll play ping-pong with you.” And he walked out in front of the whole group, and he played ping-pong. You see, he realized that God had some things for him that far surpassed some of the iniquities of life. But that’s the way God is, see. And that’s because God loves us, and has master-planned us into an incredible promise that He’ll fulfill. And that’s the essence of Ephesians 1:11 to 14.
Let’s look at verse 11. “In whom” – now, watch this - “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance.” Now, stop right there. “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance.” This is the word of God to us. He’s saying we have obtained an inheritance. Now, what tense is that verb? Past tense - I remember that, even - past tense. That means it already happened. You say, “Well, wait a minute, we’ve already received this inheritance?” That’s right. The moment you invited Jesus Christ into your life, the inheritance is yours.
You say, “Is it like a human inheritance, you don’t get it until you’re 21?” Well, part of it you don’t get until you get to heaven, but some of it’s yours now; we’ll see that in a minute. Now, let me talk about this phrase for just a second in verse 11. Stay with me, because we’re going to move fast now. In verse 11, it says, “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance.” Now, the form of the Greek words here is in a passive form; the verb is passive. Now, that means, in this case, that it can be translated two ways, okay?
The passive verb can be translated two ways. Let me give you the first possibility. It can be translated this way: “In whom we were made an inheritance.” You got that? “In whom we were made an inheritance.” Now, if we take that meaning for the phrase, then it means we are Christ’s inheritance. In other words, Christ inherited us. You say, “That’s no bargain.” Well, it’s true, though. Christ inherited us. Could it be saying that? It could be; linguistically, grammatically, it could say that. And you know something? That is true.
Listen to Jesus’ own words: “All that the Father” - what? – “gives Me shall come to Me.” You see, we are the gift from the Father to the Son. You see, when I received Jesus Christ, God was saying, “Here, I present to You John MacArthur.” That’s the sense in which we are His inheritance. And you see, God has granted to the Son the inheritance of the church. He’s given Him the church as a reward for His faithfulness. When Jesus died on the cross and rose again, the Bible says in Philippians 2, that “God exalted Him, and gave Him the name above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow” - you know that?
God not only exalted Jesus - because of His wonderful work on the cross and coming out of the grave - God not only exalted Him, but God gave Him the spoils of the victory at the cross, and you and I are the spoils. He won us at Calvary. And we are His heritage. We are His inheritance. We are the gift of the Father to the Son. And that’s why Malachi says, “And they shall be Mine in the day that I make up My jewels.” See?
Now if you’re struggling around with a sense of a lack of self-worth, just realize that you are important enough to God for God to take you, to win you, and to give you back to Jesus as an inheritance. You’re a gift from the Father to the Son, a love gift. You say, “I don’t understand why the Father would want to give me to the Son, and I don’t know why the Son would want to take me from the Father.” That’s the way God’s grace and love works. So, He bought us at the cross.
In fact, Paul says to the Corinthians, in 1 Corinthians 6; “What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Spirit of God, which you have of God, and you are not” - what? – “your own, but you are bought with a price?” And in that wonderful text that I love so much, talking to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:28, he says, “The church which Christ purchased with” - what? – “His own blood.” He’s bought us. We’re His inheritance. We belong to Him. We’re His personal possession. So, that’s one thing this phrase could mean.
But it could mean something else, too, because of the form of the verb. It could also mean the way it’s translated in the Authorized: “In whom we have obtained an inheritance.” It can also mean that. It can also mean that we have received Christ as an inheritance. So, in one sense, we’re His inheritance, and in another sense, He is ours. He inherits us, and we inherit Him, and frankly, folks, we got the better deal. We inherit Christ. When you become a Christian, He becomes yours. You know, I love that hymn, “I am His and He is mine.”
That one, and “The Church’s One Foundation.” Those are my two favorites. I am His, and He is mine. That’s it. And both things are true. When I became a Christian, I inherited Him. He became mine. And - and I say both are true, because that’s what the apostle Paul says, in 1 Corinthians, chapter 3, verse 21; he says – now, watch - “For all things are yours; Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours.” In other words, he says, “You inherit everything. It’s all yours. You have obtained an inheritance in Christ.”
Then, in the very next verse, he says this: “and you are Christ’s.” You inherit everything, and He inherits you. It’s that beautiful union, do you see? Now, listen. When you become a Christian, according to 1 Corinthians 6:17, it says, “He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit.” One spirit. You become one with Jesus Christ, and you know what happens? He becomes yours, and you become His, so that you lose your identity. You really do. A Christian has no identity apart from Christ. For example, the apostle Paul says, “For to me, to live is Paul” – no.
What did he say? “For to me, to live is Christ.” You see, he loses himself, you know; and as - when you go through the world living as a Christian, you know, the whole idea is to be Christ in the world, isn’t it? It’s to love like He loved, it’s to help like He helped; it’s to care like He cared, it’s to share like He shared. That’s what it’s all about. We’re not in the world to take advantage; we’re in the world to lose our lives - like Jesus lost His - for the good of others. And you know what happens?
When a true Christian lives the way he ought to live, you can’t find out where he leaves off and Christ begins. Do you understand that? Can’t. You can’t see the line. You lose yourself. And so it’s true, He is our inheritance, and we are His inheritance, and that’s because we are one anyway. Now, I kind of lean to the fact that in this context, even though both of those points are true, in this context, the second one is the one that Paul is emphasizing. Because he’s talking about the fact that we have obtained a promise; he’s talking about the things that God has for us.
So, although both of those interpretations are possible, both of them are true, theologically, the one that I think he is using here is the one that is translated, “In whom we have obtained an inheritance.’’ I think he’s talking about what we receive in Christ. And the New Testament talks so much about that. In 1 Peter, chapter 1, verse 3, it says that because we have been begotten in Christ, verse 4 says we receive “an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.”
This inheritance is ours, reserved for us; it’s incorruptible, undefiled, and doesn’t fade away. Now, it’s not just pie in the sky. When you become a Christian, part of that inheritance is yours right now, though the fulfillment of it is yet future. We have a limitless inheritance. You say, “Well, what is it? Well, I mean, what is it? What do I get? I’m thinking about being a Christian - what do I get? What is this inheritance?” Well, are you ready for this? Every promise God ever made. Period. You ready for that?
Now, if you want me to delineate them, we’ll be here a while. Every promise God ever made. You say, “Well, every promise God ever made?” That’s right. Every promise. In 2 Peter, chapter 1, verse 4, it says, “By which are given to us exceedingly great and precious promises” - great and precious promises. In 2 Corinthians 1:20 - listen to this - it says this: “For all” - are you ready for this? - “all the promises of God in Christ are yes.” Did you get that? Isn’t that great? “And in Him are amen” - isn’t that good?
All the promises of God in Christ are yes. If He made it, you can say, “Is it for me?” And the answer will be, “Yes.” Isn’t that good? And then you can say, “Amen,” which means so let it be. Hey, God is in the business of giving, isn’t He? Great, precious promises. What are you looking for? Peace? That’s in there. Love? Grace? Wisdom? Eternal life? Joy? Victory? Strength? Guidance? All your needs met? Power? Knowledge? Mercy? Forgiveness? Righteousness? Gifts of the Spirit? Trouble? That’s in there.
Pain? Suffering? Fellowship with the Trinity? Instruction from the Word? Truth? Spiritual discernment? Heaven? A room in the Father’s house? Eternal riches? You name it. You see, because - this is a great thought - because when you became a Christian, you are one with Jesus Christ, and when you are one with Jesus Christ, you receive everything the Father gives Him, because Paul says you are heirs with Christ, and joint-heirs. You’re the inheritors of all the promise. Oh, what a deal. You know, you present Jesus Christ to somebody, you’re really offering him everything; everything.
Now, let’s look at the text. That was the introduction; now, I’m going to preach the sermon. There are three things I want you to see; three things: the ground of our inheritance, the guarantee of our inheritance, and the goal of our inheritance. Why? You say, “I don’t understand how we get this. I don’t understand how we can be sure we keep it. And I don’t understand why God’s doing this.” That’s what I want to share with you. First of all, what is the ground of our inheritance? What is the basis for this? Why does God do this? And how?
And what is it that makes it real? Verse 11, let’s look. First two words: “In whom.” Now, this modifies Christ in verse 10. Christ, “In whom we have obtained an inheritance.” Now, we’ll stop there for a second. The ground of our inheritance is Christ, beloved; Christ. You see, there’s no way to get anything that God has to offer apart from Christ. There’s nothing outside of Christ. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
I didn’t say that; that’s what the Bible says. And I believe the Bible to be the authoritative word of God, and God says it’s in Christ; it’s in Christ. “In whom” - look at it in verse 11 - “In whom we have received an inheritance.” “In whom” - it’s being in Christ. It’s being one with Christ. It’s that indivisible union. Verse 3 says we are blessed because we are in Christ. That’s really the Christian’s spiritual biography. Let me show you that - go back to Romans 6 for just a minute, the book of Romans, chapter 6, and I’ll show you something interesting there in verse 3 and following.
One of my favorite chapters. I remember one summer, I spent three months studying the first eleven verses of this chapter, and just a tremendous experience. But I want to just - I’m not going to tell you everything I learned that three months, but I’ll just tell you a couple of things. In Romans 3:6 - or 6:3, rather - it says, “Know ye not, that as many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death?” Now, it’s not talking about water baptism; it’s talking about union with Christ, talking about being placed into Christ.
As many of us as believed in Christ, and were then brought into a spiritual union with Christ, as many of us as did that, “were baptized into His death.” Now, watch. We were baptized into His death. Now, the next verse. “We are buried with Him by baptism into death: that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection.”
Now, notice that. Listen, here’s a fabulous thought: when you became a Christian, somehow, by some marvelous miracle that only God could do, you, as if it was done, as if this happened, were taken right from here, and transported two thousand years back, nailed to the cross, buried with Christ; you rose with Christ, you’re one with Christ forever. That’s the way it worked. God performed an incredible miracle. God put you in union with Jesus Christ. You died with Him, so your sin was paid for.
You rose with Him, you walk in newness of life, you are now one with Him, to receive all the inheritance that God could ever give His beloved Son. That’s union with Christ. That’s being in Christ. That’s different than following the teachings of Jesus. It’s different. It’s dying with Him. It’s rising with Him. Not just listening to Him. It’s putting your faith, and trust, and confidence; it’s a real union. And ultimately, the wonder of all wonders, is the Bible says that someday, when you see Jesus Christ, you will be what? Like Him, 1 John 3:2.
Did you know that Romans 8 says that He wants us to conform us to the image of His Son? Incredible. But you see, that’s what happens when you’re saved; you are one with Christ. You die to the old, you live to the new, you inherit everything He has. You are in Christ to obtain an inheritance that is His inheritance. And as I say, as you begin to live for Jesus Christ, you find out you can’t tell where you cut off and He begins. Now, you say, “But how did this happen? How?” Okay, look back with me - Ephesians chapter 1 - let’s see how.
Let’s look at God’s side for a minute. How did it happen? Verse 11: it happened from God’s side because we were “predestinated according to the purpose of Him who works all things after the counsel of His own will.” Now, stop right there. It happened, first of all, from God’s side because God predetermined it. Now, this is a wonderful thing. Go back to verse 4. “He has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world” – you see? It happened from God’s side because He chose, He predestinated.
Now, I don’t know if you’ve been with us the last few weeks, but if you have, you know how I’ve emphasized the fact that the wonderful thing about us is that we are what we are because of what God has chosen to make us, long before we were ever born. Boy, I - that just boggles my mind. I don’t suppose I’ll ever understand that. Why would God choose me? A sinner, inadequate, useless. Why would He set His affection on me? That’s in the counsel of His own mind. And that’s - that’s part of being in Christ, you see; from God’s side, He predestinated according to the purpose of Him.
It was His plan. And that’s a mystery. In fact, the word predestinated is proorízō in the Greek; it means to mark out the boundaries. God planned it out. He marked out the limitations. But I want you to notice a second phrase in verse 11. It says, “Who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will.” This is a fabulous statement. The word worketh in the Greek is energeó, from which we get energetic, or energize, or energy. Listen to this, now. Whatever God plans, God energizes. You got that?
God doesn’t come out on the edge of whatever one day, and say, “I think I’ll create Me a world. Now, let me see, how do you do that? Got to figure that out. Got a great plan here; just got to figure out how to make it work.” No. All God had to do was say, “I want to create a world,” and zap - because God’s plan is loaded with energy to accomplish it. It’s intrinsic to it. God doesn’t plan something, then figure out how to make it happen. God always energizes whatever He thinks. Listen, a thought on God’s mind is energized into reality.
That’s because He’s all- powerful. So, He not only predestinated us, but He is energizing the accomplishment of that. Listen to me, beloved. If God, in His wondrous grace, chose us to be a part of His plan for eternity, then believe me, He will bring it to pass. Do you believe that? “I am confident of this one thing,” Paul says. “If I don’t know anything else, I know this” – “that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” – that, I know. What God starts, God finishes.
And you’ll notice over in verse 19 the same word, energeó, is used again. In verse 19, it talks about at the end of the verse, “the working of His mighty power” - the energizing of His mighty power - “which He energized” - it’s there again in verse 20 - “in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead.” Now, if you want an illustration of how powerful He is, that’s the one: He raised Christ from the dead. That’s the kind of energy that’s working out His plan. God works out what God plans. Nothing can change it.
If God makes a plan, He’ll energize it. If God says, “I determine to set My love upon you,” Paul says, “Who” - verse -Romans 8. “Who shall separate us from that love?” Anybody? No. If God says, “I don’t condemn you,” Paul says, “Who is he that condemns?” If God says, “I hold no charge against you” - Romans 8 - Paul says, “Who shall lay any charge to God’s elect?” Nobody. In other words, when God decides something in the plan, He energizes its accomplishment; it’s irrevocable. What a secure hope.
Well, from God’s side, you see, the ground of our inheritance is being in Christ. From God’s side, it’s predestination. You say, “What about our side? What about our side?” Well, verse 12, it says the reason God does it from His side is “That we should be to the praise of” - what? – “His glory.” You see, salvation is always presented from God’s side, so that God gets the credit, you see? People say, “Well, God is - I mean, does God just want a lot of credit?” Yeah. Yeah, God wants all the glory.
I mean, let’s face it, who’s the competition, right? I mean, He’s worthy. You see, the reason we don’t - we kind of, you know, “Well, why does God want all this glory and praise for Himself?” The reason we have trouble with that is because we can’t understand the pure and holy right to glory, because we’re sinful, and we seek it for the wrong reasons. So we know that when others seek it, they also seek it for the wrong reasons - but don’t project that on God. God seeks it for the right reason; He deserves it.
And God wants to be praised and glorified. And the way that He can be glorified and praised in salvation is to say, “It’s all of Me, and none of thee. I did it.” And that gives Him the glory. You say, “Well, what do we do, just sit around and say, ‘Oh boy, I hope I’m predestinated? You know, I’m waiting for some zap.’” Are you waiting for the old Groucho Marx duck to come out, and say, “Predestinated, so you’re in.” “I hope it happens to me.” Like Spurgeon said, “Run around and pull up people’s shirttails to see if they have elect stamped on their back.”
No, you see, because, you see, looking at one side of it, God’s side is predestination; but what about the human side? Look at verse 12. 1 love this. “That we should be to the praise of His glory, who first” - and the Greek word is – “hoped in the Christ.” You see, the human part of it is that we had to place our hope in Jesus Christ, you see? That’s the balance, that’s the tension. It’s of God, and yet we’re a part of it too. In fact, verse 13 says, “In whom you also trusted, after you heard the Word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also afterward ye” - what? - “believed.”
You see, there’s the human part; you believed. Sure, from God’s side it’s predestination; from our side it’s faith. You say, “But how could God choose, and we believe, and they both exist at the same time?” I don’t know. But as I’ve told you before, the things that I don’t understand in the Bible are the best part, because they remind me that God wrote this book. If a man wrote it, he’d resolve all those. God must’ve written this, and the answer’s in His own mind. You know, somebody once said, “You look up to heaven, it says, ‘Whosoever will may come.’ As soon as you get into heaven, the back side of the sign says, ‘Chosen in Him before the foundation of the world.’”
Don’t worry about how you resolve it, just know this: God gets all the credit, but you must respond in faith. Let God harmonize it; it’s too big a problem for me. As I told you before, you try to figure it out, you’ll be under the bed saying the Greek alphabet. But I just know this: He says, “You hoped” - in verse 12 - he says, “You hoped in the Christ.” It’s a definite article, the Christ. “You put your hope in the Messiah, the Christ, the Savior, and you believed, and you trusted, when you heard the Word, and you heard the gospel.”
You see, it isn’t just predestination; there must be the preaching of the gospel. There must be the hearing of the gospel. There must be the believing of the gospel. There must be the hoping in the Christ of the gospel. Gospel means good news, and Romans says “Faith comes” - and the Greek says, “Faith comes by hearing a message about Jesus Christ.” Faith comes by hearing a message about Jesus Christ, you see, and faith is our response to God’s elective purpose. The ground of your inheritance - let me tell you this, my friend - God has so many wonderful things for you.
And from God’s part, He’s done His part; He’s chosen you before the foundation of the world, master-planned this inheritance. All He says to you is, “Will you believe?” Will you open up the pages of this precious book, and will you read about the Jesus Christ, God in human flesh, who died for you and rose again, the Jesus Christ who paid the penalty for your sin? And if you’ll simply believe, you will confirm God’s elective purpose, and enter instantly into the promise that He’s given, and God always keeps His promises.
You see, believing is our part. It’s a simple thing. You don’t have to do spiritual gymnastics, you don’t have to go through rituals, you just believe. “For with the heart man believeth unto salvation, or righteousness,” Paul said. “As many as received Him, to them gave He the right to be the sons of God, even to them that” - what? – “believe on His name.” Isn’t that great? You see, that’s why God hates - more than anything else, God hates a system of religion that says you can earn your way to heaven, ’cause that isn’t true. It isn’t true.
I think there are many people who claim the moniker born-again, who claim to be Christians, who are not Christians by biblical definition. And consequently, while they’re calling themselves Christians, they manifest characteristics that are not Christian, and they confuse the issue. A true Christian is one, simply, who isn’t trying to earn his way to heaven, ’cause he can’t. “By the deeds of the flesh shall nobody ever be justified,” Paul said. There is only one way, and that’s through faith in Christ. The true Christian simply believes.
You say, “Well, doesn’t he do good works?” Yes. They are the response to his faith, not the effort of his human merit. Big difference. So, it has two elements, this ground of our inheritance. It means being in Christ - from God’s standpoint, predestination, from ours, personal faith. Let me go a step further. Leaving the thought of the ground of our inheritance, let’s go on to the guarantee of our inheritance; the guarantee. You say, “This sounds so good, John; how do we know it’s true? How do we really know that this is ours?
“How do we know that we can - you know, I’m going to - I’m going to say, ‘Well, maybe I’ll be a Christian; maybe I’ll believe.’ I’m going to jump in with both feet. What’s the guarantee that this thing is going to work? How do I know that I’m going to jump into this thing - reorient my life, start living in this kind of way, in love with Jesus Christ, and serving God - and I’m going to wake up some day, and it’s all going to be empty, and I - or else I’m going to die, and I’m going to hit the wall on this deal. How do I know?”
Well, God knows that you wanted to know. We’re really guarantee-oriented, you know. You buy a car, you buy an appliance or something, you want that guarantee, a little bit of security. Well, God has a guarantee for you, because He knows that you need to have that confidence. So look at the end of verse 13 - just wonderful. It says this. “You were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession” - stop right there.
Now, look: we have not yet totally been redeemed. We’ve been redeemed spiritually, but we haven’t had our physical body redeemed, a la Romans 8, you know, the redemption of the body? We haven’t yet gone to heaven, is what he’s saying. We haven’t had the full possession of all of our inheritance. We haven’t got the full schmeer yet, you know. We’re not in the Father’s house in heaven, having received everything. That hasn’t happened yet. You say, “Then how do I know it’s going to happen? What’s the guarantee?”
And he says, “You were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.” He’s called the Spirit of promise because it is this promise that He is there to seal, you see? “And He is the earnest of the inheritance” - He is the guarantee-or that the redemption of the full purchased possession will happen. In other words, when you became a Christian, God did a wonderful thing - and Me, and everybody - He gave you the Holy Spirit. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ,” Romans 8:9 says, he is not a Christian.
So, if you are a Christian, you possess the Holy Spirit. Paul says your body is the temple of the Spirit of God. When you became a Christian, God took up residence in your life. That’s why the change has taken place. That’s why there’s something new in your life. The Spirit of God is there. And He is there not only to empower you, and not only to fill you for service, not only to equip you for ministry, not only to function through the gifts that God has given you, but He’s there to guarantee your inheritance.
He’s there to give you confidence; like Romans 8 says, as we have the possession of the Holy Spirit, and are led by the Spirit, we know we are the sons of God. You see, He has a confirming work. The Spirit witnesses with our spirit that we are the children of God. He is a securing force. He is a guarantee. Let me show you what I mean by that. Now, look at the word sealed. “You were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.” Now, what does it mean to be sealed? Well, that’s very interesting.
It doesn’t mean like the Good Housekeeping Seal. It doesn’t mean like a big long piece of wet tape that you stick on it to seal it. That isn’t the idea. It is the seal of authority, and we’ll talk about that in a minute. In those days, any official document - if you had an official paper like this or something - you’d pour the wax on that thing, and the king or whoever would stick his ring in that and would seal it, to be unbroken. Now, the Spirit of God is the seal. Now what does that mean? Let me show you four things that the seal of the Spirit signifies.
By the way, the sealing work of the Spirit is mentioned two other places in the Scripture, 2 Corinthians 1, and Ephesians 4:30, so we’ll see it later on in Ephesians again. Number one: the seal used by princes and kings and nobles in the time of the Bible was a sign of security, all right? It was a sign of security. Let me show you an illustration of that, very quickly. Daniel, chapter 6. Now, you remember good old Daniel. Daniel was told not to pray to God or he’d get in a lot of trouble, and so he prayed to God anyway, and he got into a lot of trouble.
And they threw him in the lion’s den. And then in verse 16 we read this: “Then the king” -- Daniel 6:16, just listen now. “Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel” – there’s Daniel’s brought in - “and they threw him in the den of lions.” Okay? “Now the king spoke and said to Daniel, ‘Thy God whom thou servest continually, He’ll deliver thee.’” The king didn’t want to put him in there, but he got conned into it by little political games that were going on. But anyway, he threw him in, he says, “Boy, your God better get you out of this. I’m believing He will.”
Now watch, verse 17. “A stone was brought” - they rolled a stone across the front of the lion’s den, or the lid of it, whatever - “and laid upon the mouth of the den” - the stone – “and the king sealed it with his signet, the signet of his lords, that the purpose might not be changed concerning Daniel.” In other words, when you walked up to that stone, and you saw the king’s seal in the wax, or whatever he used on that stone, nobody, but nobody, opened that den. Why? Because the king, the highest authority in the land, had sealed it.
It was secure; it was not to be opened. The signet and the seal was the mark of the king. Now, listen: only someone higher than the king could break that seal. That was the sign of security. “This is locked by the king; don’t open it.” I’ll give you another illustration. When they buried Jesus Christ in the tomb, they rolled the stone across, and what did they do? They sealed it with a seal of Rome, which was to say, “No power can dare to open the seal, unless it is a power greater than Rome.”
You know what happened? A power greater than Rome broke the seal. But it was the sign of security. Listen. When you became a Christian, God put His Holy Spirit in you, stamped His signet, which is the Holy Spirit and said, “This is secure, and no one can ever touch this life unless he be a higher authority than Almighty God.” And there is none. The seal is the sign of security. People say, “Do you believe that we’re secure in Christ?” Yes, that’s what it is saying. The Spirit is that seal.
Second: the second use of the word seal is as a sign of authenticity; authenticity. Now, you know something beautiful about that? When God gives us His Holy Spirit, it’s as if He says this: “Don’t mess with this person; this is an authentic child of the King.” Isn’t that great? The only authentic Christian is the one who possesses the Holy Spirit, who’s sealed with a mark of authenticity. So, the seal speaks of security, never to be broken; authenticity, genuine child of God.
Thirdly, it’s also used in the Bible as a sign of completed transaction. And I’ll tell you this little story without looking it up, but you can read it yourself, Jeremiah 32. Dear old Jeremiah, what a heartbreaking guy. The Lord says to Jeremiah in the first chapter, “Jeremiah, you’re going to be My man, Jeremiah. You’re going to go out, and you’re going to preach all your life, and you’re going to pour out your heart, and you’re going to announce the things that I want you to say. And by the way, Jeremiah, nobody, no time, is ever going to listen to anything you say. But go to it, brother.”
You know, you’ve got to be kidding. And you know, dear old Jeremiah went out there, and he wept, and he cried, and he stood up and he preached, and he did all this stuff. He was quite a guy. Oh, he was such a faithful guy. And he set about to buy a field, to buy a piece of property; God told him to buy a piece of property. Jeremiah 32, Jeremiah buys it. And you know, when he got all done, what he did? The Bible says he sealed the transaction. You know what the seal means? It is a sign of a finished transaction. Isn’t that great?
It’s a sign of a finished transaction. Beloved, we are not in the process of getting saved, see. When you put your faith in Jesus Christ, God gave you the Holy Spirit and said, “That is a finished transaction.” So, it’s a mark of security, it’s a mark of authenticity, it’s a mark of a finished transaction. Lastly, it’s a mark of authority. It’s a sign of authority. And there’s a sense in which – listen - when God gave you the Holy Spirit, He said, “Look, world, see this guy, see this lady? They speak with My authority.” Isn’t that great?
So, the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of promise, guarantees the inheritance, it secures us. It authenticates us as genuine. It delegates to us divine authority. And it symbolizes a finished transaction. Beloved, when God gave you the Holy Spirit, He gave you the guarantee, and all the guarantee you’ll ever need, that every promise in Him is yes, amen. And lastly, we’ve seen the ground of inheritance in Him. We’ve seen the guarantee of inheritance, the Spirit of promise.
Now, the goal of inheritance. Why does He do it? Why does God do this? The end of verse 14. “Unto the praise of” - what? – “His glory.” God wants to be glorified through you. Hey, we’re not Christians for our own glory. Listen, the day you start to seek to be somebody, the day you start to push yourself up, the day you start to set yourself up as some authority, or to make somebody famous out of yourself, or be some kind of a hot-dog, is the day you enter competition with the eternal God. And you know what? You lose. That’s right.
Hey, we’re servants. We’re servants. I don’t know about you, but I’m humbled by God’s grace. Aren’t you? What He has done for us, to the praise of His glory. All I want to do in this world is lift up Jesus Christ, just lift up Jesus Christ, just lift Him up. And so, God has done these things for us. Let me just add one closing thought. Look at verse 14, the beginning of the verse. It says the Spirit “is the earnest of our inheritance until the time of the purchased possession being redeemed.”
What is the earnest? This is beautiful. The Greek word is arrabón; arrabón. It means two things. One, it means down payment, okay? Down payment. Now, listen to this. God says “MacArthur, I’m going to give you all My promises, and just so you’ll know I’m not wolfing you, here’s the down payment, the Holy Spirit.” Isn’t that great? He gave me the down payment already. He’s in too deep now to renege on the rest. It’s a big down payment. And you know the second thing the word arrabón means? It means, in the Greek, engagement ring. Isn’t that great?
People say, “Well, these Christians are always talking about pie in the sky, and going to heaven, and meeting with Jesus.” You know, the Bible does talk about that, and it says there’s going to be a marriage supper; Christ is the bridegroom, the church is the bride. And you say, “Well, how do you know that wedding’s going to come off?” And I always say, “Because He gave me an engagement ring.” Listen, girls, when a guy comes up to you, and he says, “Boy, I really like you a lot, honey. I really love you; I’d like to marry you,” take it with a grain of salt.
If he comes up to you and says, “I’d like to marry you,” and hands you a $600.00 diamond, you can believe it. Take it to a jeweler and make sure it’s a diamond, and then you can believe it. But you see, there’s a commitment there, see; there’s an investment, and that’s exactly what God is saying. “Hey, I’ve got a promise for you. I’ve got an inheritance for you. I’ve got something laid up for you that’s so incredible, and just so you’ll know that I’m not kidding, here’s My down payment, here’s My engagement ring, here’s My Spirit of promise.”
And beloved, the Spirit lives within us, to constantly confirm to us that we’re the sons of God who are - who are in the process of seeing the fulfillment of all the promises of God. Well, my heart is filled with praise for One who would be so gracious to such a sinner; and it all comes to the praise of His glory. Let’s pray together. Thank You, Father, for unloading on us all the riches of Your grace. Thank You for the fact that so many people come here to feed on Your Word, and to share their love with one another.
Thank You that we had to build these walls to surround this church. Thank You that You’ve brought us close together, around Your Son. We pray that, as we have so wonderfully inherited Him, that we would realize also that He inherited us, for His own purposes, and His own use. May the world be unable to see where we end and Jesus begins as we walk through the world. We pray in His wonderful name. And everyone said, “Amen.”
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