“In whom we have received an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of the one who works all things according to the counsel of his will, to the end that we who exist to the praise of his glory — those who first hoped in Christ; in whom you also, in hearing the word of Truth, the Gospel of our Salvation, in which you also believed and were sealed in the Holy Spirit who was promised.”
It is important to see the flow of Paul’s argument, which ties together Jewish believers and gentile believers into the single body of those whom God has called and predestined. Yet, with that said, as has been the case with much of this book, the theology of these three verses is incredibly compact and needs to be unpackaged somewhat to get to the heart of what Paul is teaching us.
First, note the language of the inheritance. As co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17; Galatians 3:29; Ephesians 3:6; Titus 3:7), we are given the right to an inheritance. Some translations prefer to use the word, “obtained,” with respect to this inheritance, but to do so would imply that the inheritance was somehow earned or merited — something contrary to what Paul says immediately in the next clause. The word in question, κληρόω (klaro’o), typically refers to those things gained by drawing lots (something over which God is sovereign — Proverbs 16:33), and not something that is earned or given meritoriously.
No, this inheritance is toward those who were “predestined according to the purpose of the one who works all things according to the council of his will.” When I first became convinced of the Calvinistic view of the sovereignty of God, this verse became my “go-to” verse when I was asked to make my point. In many ways, it is still my go-to verse.
For God to predestine something, that means that God decided beforehand what would take place — deciding before I had done anything on my own — in light of Ephesians 1:4, deciding before the foundation of the earth. And, furthermore, the reason that God decided these things beforehand, according to the Apostle Paul, is because he willed it to be so. God did not foresee our actions and declare it to be the case nor did he act in response to other actions that I had chosen. No, God sovereignly ordained these things to take place entirely on the basis of his sovereign will. One cannot read the scriptures carefully and come away with any other conclusion. God is sovereign over all things that come to pass — nothing is left to chance and hallelujah that it isn’t. All things are done according to the Council of God’s will — as Paul writes in Romans 11:33-36:
Oh, the depths of the riches and of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How unfathomable are his decrees and incomprehensible are his ways!
“For who is he who knows the mind of the Lord? Who is he that has become his counselor? Who is he that first gave to him that he might receive repayment? For out of him and through him and for him are all things. For to him is the glory unto eternity, amen!”