15 October 2010

Ephesians 1:11-14

"In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory." (v.11-12)


The Spirit, for Paul, who may or may not have written this letter to the people of Ephesus, is more usually associated with the transformative power and presence of God in the life of the Church and its members.

The Spirit, as we saw on Wednesday, guides and enables gracious moral behaviour as the true mark of God's people. And the Spirit gives depth and authenticity to prayer and worship in the Church. Something of this may be implied by the phrase about living "for the praise of his glory", but the emphasis here is less practical and present, and more mystical and future. The Spirit here is understood in terms of a pledge or guarantee of an inheritance we will only receive in full in "the heavenly places".

The Greek word 'arrabon', translated here as "pledge", is also used by Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians in a very similar way (2 Corinthians 1:22 and 5:5). It was a familiar term in 1st century contract law - it was the first instalment that guaranteed payment in full at a later date. The experience of the Spirit now, therefore, is both a foretaste and a guarantee of what is to come. And it is what is to come that is primarily in view here, much more than the here and now.

The "inheritance" for Paul is usually related to the promise that both Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews) are, in Christ, Abraham's heirs as God's people, with the hope of a future bodily resurrection. But here the idea is more to do with our pre-existent immortal souls (see Ephesians 5:3-5) being destined for eternity in "the heavenly places" through faith in Christ while on earth. This concept, much more Greek than Jewish, has had a great influence on subsequent Christian belief. Many Christians seem to believe in the immortality of the soul, rather than the resurrection of the dead (despite what they recite in the Creeds!)

To Ponder

"Many Christians seem to believe in the immortality of the soul, rather than the resurrection of the dead." Which, if either, do you believe? Why?

What do you think it might mean to "live for the praise of his glory"?

"Redemption" (verse 14) simply means 'restored to the rightful owner' - in this case, to God. What you think this means in terms of life here and now?

Bible notes author

The Revd David Rhymer

The Revd David Rhymer has done a number of things over the last 40-odd years - including teaching (science), publishing (theology), full-time ministry (Baptist and Methodist) and national Methodist Team work (training & development officer for Cornwall). More recently he has been responsible for a part-time theology degree course at Exeter University, and until 2017, was involved with teaching students preparing for ministry in the south-west.