Calvary Road Baptist Church


Ephesians 1.11-12

My text for this morning is Ephesians 1.11-12.

11     In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:

12     That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.

Please look carefully at those two verses. In some ways, they are a recapping, a condensed restatement, of what Paul has written in the previous eight verses, in preparation for breaking some new ground in the verses that follow. For this reason, it is important that you understand what Paul has written thus far in his letter to the Ephesian church. This will be accomplished with careful and prayerful scrutiny of the passage before us.

The Greeks thought and spoke in terms of spheres of influence. This is reflected in their language. It is precisely because of this, in my opinion, that God chose to use Greek as the language of the New Testament, and chose to develop the Greek language of Paul’s day in the way He did. Do you know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior? If you do, then you would be described by the Apostle Paul as “in Christ,” or something equivalent to that. Already in Ephesians, Paul has used that or an equivalent phrase eight times, and two more times here in verses 11 and 12. Why so? Because we who know Jesus Christ as our personal Savior, we who trust Him, do not live in the same universe lost people live in. Oh, it appears to be the same universe, and it is the same physical universe. However, it is a different spiritual realm. It is an existence that is dominated, controlled, presided over and ruled by the Lord Jesus Christ. For that reason, Paul refers to saved people in verses 11 and 12 as “in whom” and as trusting “in Christ.” It is vital for us to realize that absolutely everything Paul says about blood-washed and blood-bought people comes from the reference point of us being “in Christ” as opposed to being “in the flesh” or “in the world.”

With that recognized, Paul reminds his readers of some things in verse 11 that he has already stated earlier. Consider some individual words and phrases with me so that some of you can learn some things, while others can refresh your memories. First, take note of the phrase “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance.” Here we see Paul writing about being in Christ’s frame of reference, “in whom.” Having taken note of that, notice two other things: First, take notice of the word “obtained.” May I point out that the word refers not to a decision that you or I or any saved person makes, but to being chosen, to being appointed, to being destined?[1] Since the verb is passive, it most definitely does not refer to appointing, but to being appointed, not to choosing, but to being chosen. This concept sure is bothersome to folks who take issue with the sovereignty of God. However, that is what the word means. As the reporter said, “I don’t make the news. I just report the news.” Next, the word “inheritance.” There is a great deal in the Old Testament that refers to the children of Israel being God’s heritage. However, that cannot be what is in mind in this instance because of the general tone and thrust of the passage. Since Paul’s entire chapter is speaking to that which is received from God by those who, with empty hands and nothing to offer Him, are saved by Him, this most assuredly refers to the believer’s inheritance from God, not believers being God’s heritage. Paul will take this theme up in verse 13, when he refers to the “earnest of our inheritance.” This indicates that we have not yet received possession of everything we have title to as believers in Jesus Christ.

So, here are Paul’s subjects, in Christ and with an inheritance. How did they get that way? If the word “obtained” did not settle the issue for you, then this phrase will: “being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” If you are at all convincible and open to the clear declaration of scripture, then this phrase will convince you how those who are “in Christ” came to be “in Christ.” First, we are predestinated. That is, our destiny is determined beforehand.[2] And what gives God the right to make such a determination, to involve Himself in our eternal destinies? He is God. He can do anything He chooses to do. The question is why does God do this? I have two answers to that question: First, I am not sure that He, being God, can do anything other than that. How can One Who creates and sustains all things act contrary to His sovereign nature? Second, He has an overriding purpose in doing what He has done and will do. What is the connection between God predestinating and God purposing? There is God working all things after the counsel of His Own will. “Will” has to do with what God wants to do. “Counsel” has to do with what God decides to do. “Worketh” has to do with energizing and moving in a certain direction. So, predestinating is simply God deciding what plan He will implement to bring about the purpose that He seeks to accomplish. The predestinating, and the purpose, and the working, and the counsel, and the will all involve human beings. If you have a problem with God exercising this kind of authority over His creation, of which creation you and I are a part, then you are a humanist and want, finally, to be your own god.

All that is in verse 11. There are two more things I wish to point out in verse 12. First, look at the phrase “who first trusted in Christ.” Is there a debate about whom this refers to. The debate over this phrase comes about because who this refers to tells us whom Paul is talking about in verses 3-12 when he uses the words “us” and “we.” Does this refer to all Christians? Does this refer to all Jewish believers from the time of Abraham? Or does this refer only to Jewish Christians saved during and since the earthly ministry of Jesus, through personal faith in Him? It cannot, I think, refer to all Christians, both Jewish and Gentile. Why? Because of the first phrase of the very next verse. In verse 13, Paul writes, “In whom ye also trusted....” That word “also” is contrasting and distinguishing those to whom he is writing from those about whom he has been referring. Who he is writing to are Gentile Christians. Therefore, the “us” and “we” in verses 3-12 do not include Gentile believers. That means we are in this passage dealing with Jews. However, which Jews? Jews including Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and David and Isaiah? Or Jews, only, who have been saved through faith in Jesus since His earthly ministry? The key to interpreting who these Jewish believers are is this sphere of influence phrase we find so frequently used by the Apostle Paul, “in Christ.” The phrase “in Christ” is never used to refer to saved people prior to the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. This does not mean that folks could not be saved before Jesus, because we can be absolutely sure that people were saved during that time. However, the saints of previous eras are not described as being “in Christ.” So, the phrase “who first trusted in Christ,” consistent with what we know of the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus, and the day of Pentecost, and the first few years of Christianity, must and can only mean Jewish Christians. They were the first to hear. They were the first to see. And they were the first to respond and trust Jesus Christ as not only the Savior of their sinful souls, but also as the promised Messiah of Israel.

At this point, we should ask, “Why would God choose to save those Jewish Christians first?” A complete explanation can get rather complicated, but Paul’s statement is simple, direct, and concise, and is all we need right now. “That we (read Jewish Christians here) should be to the praise of His glory.” God had a purpose in saving Jewish Christians first. To set an example, perhaps, for those of us to follow, He saved them so that they might praise His glory. And since all through this letter there is a specific aspect of God’s glory that is being explained and highlighted, we can be sure that, specifically, it is the glory of God’s grace that He wants praised. Few believers these days are Jewish Christians. None who are Jewish Christians of our day were saved prior to the great harvest of Gentile souls that took place in the years following Pentecost. Therefore, no one here is a literal part of the “us” or “we” crowd the Apostle Paul referred to in Ephesians 1.3-12. However, the passage does apply to every one of us who know Jesus in a personal way. Why? For two reasons: First, because God used the Jewish Christians as He had so often used the Jewish people as a whole in the past, to be an example of His dealings with His people for those who would follow. Second, because God saves souls only one way. How they were saved is how you unbelievers need to be saved. What He sought to accomplish when saving them He seeks to accomplish when He saves you.

All creation should praise God. All creation will praise God. However, only a select few will ever be able to praise the glory of God’s grace. Angels can praise God’s glory. However, angels cannot now, have not ever been able to, and will never be in a position to, praise the glory of God’s grace. You see, God’s glory refers to some shining and magnificent display of one of God’s attributes. In the Old Testament, it was most frequently the glory of God’s holiness, which was displayed and praised. However, it is the glory of God’s grace, which Christians, which saved people, are uniquely qualified to praise. How do we know this to be true? How can I stand before you and say that I and we who are Christians can praise the glory of God’s grace, and you who only profess to be saved, you who make no claim to be a Christian, cannot praise the glory of God’s grace?

Notice what the Bible says about me and about us with reference to three time frames, and you will see why we can praise the glory of God’s grace and you cannot.


Remember now, I refer only to the past in the lives of those of us who know Jesus Christ, who have trusted Him and have been converted. Two events have occurred in every genuine Christian’s past.

First, we “obtained” in the past. Let me remind you, again, that this word “obtained” is a passive verb form that indicates we were chosen, we were appointed, God destined us . . . presumably, since Satan would never want anyone to be saved. What makes me think I did not choose? What makes me think I did not appoint? What makes me think the decision was not mine? I could spend all day answering that question, but two brief passages will have to suffice for now.

John 1.12-13:

12     But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

13     Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

Please notice that the will of the flesh and the will of man does not play a part in anyone’s conversion. If you are saved, you are born of God, not because of any human decision or effort. Why is this necessary?

Romans 3.11 and 5.6:

“There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.”

“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”

Because the sinfulness of each and every human being left us all both unwilling and unable to do anything except that which is wrong and wicked and sinful, thank God He intervened in my life and obtained for me an inheritance in Christ. That is how I, and that is how every Christian, “obtained.”

Then, we “trusted” in the past. Although conversion is not the product of human will, it is important to note that your conversion did not occur in violation of your will. When you were converted, you did trust Jesus Christ. You did place your faith in Him. How did that happen? It happens the same way with every person who is saved. As a lost man, you have no faith. Not saving faith anyway. Not the kind of faith that God uses to save a wretched soul from sin and the torments of Hell. Therefore, God decided a long time ago that each and every person He saved would be saved, not because of doing good deeds and trying to earn your way to heaven, but by grace through faith. That is, a free gift that is granted to those who simply trust Jesus for their salvation. How does a lost man obtain faith? Through the preaching of the Word of God. Romans 10.17: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Through the preaching of God’s Word, God places into that sinner the faith to trust Jesus Christ. In short, God gives you the confidence in Christ that is needed to trust Him. Therefore, you see, there has never been a saved person who did anything to merit his salvation. Every saved person who has ever been born again by the Spirit of God has been saved by trusting Jesus with faith that was given to him through the preaching of the Word of God. I was saved almost thirty-seven years ago, about seventeen years after I heard God’s Word preached as a little boy. Somehow and in some way, whether in a church auditorium or one on one, God’s primary means of saving sinners is through the preaching of His Word. That is how God typically gives faith to sinners to be saved. That is also how God will give you faith to be saved right here and right now, my lost friend.


There are a great many people who will say they are Christians and who claim to be born again. The question is, are they, really? Are you? If the Apostle Paul is correct, and what he writes is inspired and true, two things are presently true about every Christian:

First, we have a present position. At the risk of beating the issue to death, we need to recognize and hang on to the fact that Christians, real Christians, truly saved people, are “in Christ.” That means believers actually live in a domain that is ruled by Jesus Christ. If that be true, why is it that you act just like the man or woman who lives in a domain ruled by Satan? How do you explain that? Is Jesus that powerless? Look at Colossians 1.13: “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.” This is what I am talking about. This is what happened when I trusted Christ, and when every sinner is actually converted. A saved person ends up in a different kingdom than the one he started out in. Since I became a citizen of a new kingdom, I behave differently. I am a different person. Are you? This is not something that is to be realized in the abstract. Folks, this Christianity thing is real, and it is now, if you are truly saved.

Second, we have a present praise. Not only do believers behave differently, we also talk differently. Notice, I did not say we should live differently or that we should talk differently. I said we do, present tense, live and talk differently. Specifically, Christians do what they have been created in Christ Jesus to do. What is it that we do? We praise the glory of His grace. That is, we brag on and we boast about that aspect of God’s glory which is called grace. What is grace? Its most basic meaning has to do with favor. However, in the context of being saved, since we do not deserve anything from God in and of ourselves, the favor of God is unmerited; the favor from God is undeserved. Therefore, we brag about, we talk about, we celebrate, we live our lives in such a way, and we reach out into the community to tell folks, that God is not only powerful and smart, God is not only holy and righteous, but He is also gracious. God actually gives salvation away freely to sinners who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ out of a heart that is convicted of sin and which hungers for forgiveness. This is not something Christians should do. Neither is this something Christians could do. As well, this is not something Christians would do. This is the present tense experience of people who really are saved. This is why God saved you. So, get with it or get saved. “Pastor, if people who are saved are in Christ, and act like it, and actually praise God, how do you explain all the Christians who don’t act like they are in Christ and who simply do not praise the glory of God’s grace?” I do not explain them. It is they who have the explaining to do. Not me.


By prospect I refer to that which is future. Be careful to remember that the future I refer to is not uncertain, but certain. It is not a future that might be, but a future that will be. How can I say this? Because I know Who holds the future. Do you? Notice what the future holds for the genuinely saved child of God.

First, an inheritance. Listen carefully while I explain what I mean by inheritance. According to Ephesians 1.3, we already have every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ. That means, ownership has been established, but possession has not yet occurred. Therefore, in the future, whether it is when Jesus comes for me or when I expire and go to Him, I shall take possession of that which I already own because of being in Christ. I shall actually possess my possessions, my inheritance.

However, that is not all. For the child of God, the future also holds for me an eternity. It is an eternity with Christ, not an eternity in Hell. “Oh, I don’t believe all that stuff about people going to Hell forever. That’s just stuff to scare little children.” Is it? Have you ever talked to anyone who has been to eternity and come back? I do not mean someone who has dreamed up some out of body experience. I mean, do you know someone who has died, been buried, and has come back from the dead? I do. Listen to what Jesus said about eternity the night before His crucifixion. Remember, being the Son of God, none of this stuff was new to Him. He knew what He was talking about. In Matthew 25.46, He said, “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” There are two eternal destinies. There is everlasting punishment for those who are not saved and there is eternal life for those who are saved. The word “everlasting” and the word “eternal” translate the same Greek word. Therefore, life with Christ and an eternity in the lake of fire will be of the same duration, for ever and ever and ever and ever and ever. For the Christian that is a wonderful eternity, full of joy and bliss and delight. However, for the person who does not have the past that I and other Christians have had, and who does not have the present that I and other Christians have, there certainly will not be the future that I and other Christians will have either.

Look at every Christian and you will see the same thing with regard to their past, their present, and their prospect. Every child of God, every saved person, everyone who has been converted and washed in the blood of Jesus Christ has obtained an inheritance and has trusted in Christ.

Have you trusted in Christ? Have you? Really? Since you have trusted Him with your soul, do you trust Him with your pocketbook? Do you trust Him with your marriage? Do you trust Him with your wayward child? Perhaps you have trusted a christ, but not the Jesus Christ of the Bible. Because if you have trusted the scriptural Jesus, then you would have in common with the saints of the New Testament, not just the same past life and conversion, but the same present life, living “in Christ” and praising the glory of His grace. Do you do that? By your life? By your lips? By your attendance? By your evangelism?

Friend, salvation is by grace through faith and not of works. No Christian works to be saved. However, saving faith does work, and it works hard. It also works faithfully. Furthermore, it works effectively. The result of its work is others being saved. If you are really a Christian you will bear the fruit of seeing folks saved, by involving yourself in efforts to reach the lost and guide them to Christ. Finally, saved people have the same prospect. We who are saved have an inheritance waiting for us in heaven. We have an eternity that is secure. Thus, we have a reason to praise the glory of God’s grace.

How about you? From the passage we considered this morning, does it makes sense to conclude that you are saved? If so, great. However, if not, why not address the matter with me sometime? There is nothing more crucial to your well being than this matter of salvation from sins. Once that takes place, you will join with us as the only creatures in God’s universe who can praise the glory of His grace.

[1] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 522.

[2] Ibid.

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.