by J. D. Watson
Ephesians 1:11 declares the seventh of eight great riches we have in Christ: "We have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will." The words "we have obtained an inheritance" actually translate a single word in the Greek: ekle\ro\themen. In Classical Greek, from the time of Homer (8th Century BC Greek poet), the noun root kle\ros referred to "the fragment of stone or piece of wood which was used as a lot.'"
Lots were drawn to discover the will of the gods. Since land was divided by lot, probably in the framework of common use of the fields, kle\ros came to mean a share, land received by lot, plot of land, and finally inheritance. Similarly, in the Old Testament, the same basic concept of casting lots (cf. the Urim and Thummin) was used to discover God's will (Num. 27:21, 1 Chron. 24:5f, etc.) and to divide land (1 Chron. 6:54-81).
So the idea Paul conveys here is that the lot of inheritance has fallen upon us, not by chance, but by the sovereign will of God. His point in the entire passage (vv. 3-14) is to outline our riches in Christ. Specifically, the idea of inheritance really carries us back to being predestined to adoption in verse 5—the believer cannot be predestined to sonship without being predestined to inheritance. Inheritance was, in fact, a primary reason for sonship. Paul also says in Romans 8:17, we are "joint-heirs with Christ." As theologian Charles Hodge put it: "We have not only been made sharers of the knowledge of redemption, but are actually heirs of its blessings."
There's a beautiful picture of this from 17th Century Scotland: The Presbyterian Covenanters wished to worship the way they wanted but were persecuted by the Scottish dragoons [heavily-armed mounted soldiers] empowered by the Anglican regime of King Charles II. One day a Scottish lass was making her way to one of the secret meetings of the Covenanters and was caught by a troop of dragoons. The leader demanded to know where she was going so early on a Sunday morning. She knew the danger she was in and the danger she would cause her fellow believers if she revealed the location of the meeting. Also knowing she couldn't lie, she finally said, "My Elder Brother has died and they're reading his will. I want to be there to see what he has left for me." Indeed, what a wonderful truth to know that we are joint-heirs with our Elder Brother.
From whence does this inheritance come? We note here two things that Paul reemphasizes from earlier in the chapter.
First, "predestinated according to God's purpose": As we recall, predestination has to do with final destiny. Our final destiny as believers has been "predetermined" or "foreordained." We have been "foreordained" to final adoption (1:5), and "foreordained" to be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29). With this in mind, we can now understand the use here in verse 11. Paul said in verse 10 that everything would be united in Christ. So, following that flow of thought, our final destiny is to receive an inheritance.
Second, all this is "according to "the counsel of [God's] own will." This, too, points back to verse 5. There we discovered adoption was motivated out of "the good pleasure of his will."
This brings us to consider once again one of the most important thoughts of our study of Ephesians: What is God's ultimate purpose? What is His ultimate purpose in human history? This purpose is revealed in verses 3-14, but in short, His ultimate purpose is to restore the unity between man and God so that man can glorify Him.