In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. – Ephesians 1:11-14 ESV
In these verses, it is essential that we pay close attention to the personal pronouns that Paul uses. For the first time, he begins to use the references, “we” and “you.” He is referring to believers, but to two different groups of believers. This will be important to understanding the text. His use of “we” indicates that he is speaking to the converted Jews in Ephesus. He is one of them. When he refers to “you”, he is speaking to the Gentile believers in the church, the non-Jews. So when Paul writes, “In him we have obtained an inheritance,” he is talking about the Jewish people. Jesus was born a Jew. He brought His message of the Kingdom to the Jewish people first and the initial converts to Christianity were Jews. In a sermon Peter gave right after the events of Pentecost, he said to the Jewish crowd, “God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness” (Acts 3:20 ESV). The Jewish disciples chosen by Jesus would be the very first converts. According to Paul, this was all predestined by God according to the counsel of His divine will. God had intended all along for the message of salvation to go to the Jews first, “so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:12 ESV). But God had not left out the Gentiles.
He continues his letter by saying, “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 1:13 ESV). God had planned all along for the good news of Jesus Christ to begin with the Jews and then spread to the who world (the Gentiles). Jesus’ commission to His disciples, given just prior to His ascension into heaven, made it clear.
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. – Matthew 28:18-20 ESV
Just prior to that occasion, Jesus had appeared to the disciples in His resurrected form and had told them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:46-49 ESV).
Luke records in the book of Acts that Jesus gave His disciples one last command before He left them. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8 ESV). And that is exactly what happened. They went to Jerusalem and they waited. And on the day of the Feast of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came, just as Jesus had promised. One of the end results of that amazing event was that the disciples were suddenly endowed with the miraculous ability to speak in languages they did not know. As a result, they were able to witness to the tens of thousands of people from all over the world who had gathered for the feast. Luke records for us exactly what happened:
Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” – Acts 2:5-12 ESV
Peter preached a sermon and 3,000 individuals came to Christ that day. The church age had begun. And the message of Jesus Christ would spread all throughout the known world as these new converts returned to their home towns at the end of the celebration of Pentecost.
Luke records that after Peter had finished his sermon that day, the people “were cut to the heart” and asked, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37 ESV). Peter told them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (Acts 2:38-39 ESV). By accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior, they would receive forgiveness of their sins and be made right with God. They would also receive the Holy Spirit, just as the disciples had. This was not tied to their baptism. Baptism was simply a part of their commitment to express to the world that they were aligning themselves with the cause of Christ. It was to be an outward expression of their internal transformation. But the key was that they would receive the same Holy Spirit the disciples had just received.
And Paul told the Gentile believers in Ephesus that they had been sealed by the very same Holy Spirit when they had believed. And, as a result, they could be assured of their future inheritance, just like Paul and the believing Jews in their congregation. Because the Holy Spirit “is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:14 ESV). The Holy Spirit is literally a “down payment” made by God to remind us that the promises He has made to us regarding our eternity are real and reliable. God’s Spirit never leaves us. He will also never let us go. His presence within us assures us of our eternal security. He will reside within us until the day that Christ comes to get us or God calls us home. Our inheritance is assured.