Scripture: Ephesians 1:15-23
The feeling of newness and freshness when we obtained or experienced something new is unforgettable. We remember that feeling when we bought our first car, how we closed the door lightly, and how even the sound of the closing door felt good to our ears. We remember the feeling when we bought our first house, that feeling when we opened the door after we got the keys after signing the papers.
Those memory are always there. But the freshness of touching our car, or entering our house, subsided after a while.
I remember laying in the hospital bed in the emergency room, and I remember the surgeon asking me if I wanted to call someone because I might not come back from the open-heart surgery. Well, I did come back, and I read that 90% of patients with similar condition didn’t even reach the hospital. I was grateful that I survived.1
The first month was difficult. Although I felt very tired during the first month of recovery, I felt that every day of my life was a gift from God and that everyday was a bonus. I remember that feeling, and I remember praying to God that I may not forget that feeling or take God’s grace for granted. I am glad that after nearly 5 years, I could still simply look out the window at any time and feel that freshness and thank God that I am still breathing.
When we came to God through our acceptance or his son Jesus Christ, something even more powerful and wonderful happened! Our sins were forgiven. We became the children of God. We were marked for eternity by the Holy Spirit. Our salvation was guaranteed. We became part of his eternal kingdom. We started to live our new lives with God and with hope. Using Paul’s description, God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing! It is no wonder that we felt great about our conversion experience.
But as time goes by, is the excitement subsiding also?
This was Paul’s prayers for the believers in Ephesus: that with the help of the Holy Spirit, they may know God even more. About 10 years after their initial conversion, Paul prayed they may see even more what kind of hope they had because of God’s calling, what kind of riches God’s inheritance was, and what kind of power God was exercising on believers. Again, after being taught by Paul himself, the Ephesians must not be hearing the greatness of salvation for the first time, but the prayer is that they still feel that greatness of their salvation, fresh, and even more and deeper.
We are now in the second part of the prayer, which literally says “that we may know… the riches of the glory of the inheritance of his in the saints” (1:18). The word for “inheritance” is κληρονομία (kleronomia). It is used in the Bible to mean inheritance (property passing from parents to offsprings, usually in the future), possession, or in Christian usage, simply salvation.2 The use of “inheritance” gives the sense of something that is legally own but the full possession of it will occur in the future. Here the term could mean the blessings that believers will fully receive at the end, such as bodily resurrection and being with the Lord forever. Or it could mean the believers being God’s possession, which in the context of the book means the the joining of Gentile and Jewish believers into one entity, the Church.3 Or it could simply mean salvation.
While we might not know for sure what specific meaning Paul has in this short clause (or if he even meant to be that specific at all), it is still quite clear that the inheritance is related to salvation and that Paul connects salvation with glory and riches. In other words, he is proclaiming “so wonderful, so glorious, and so rich is the act of God in giving us salvation! I pray that the Holy Spirit of wisdom and revelation will help you see it! I pray that your inner eyes may be opened that you may truly know it!”
Shouldn’t we pray for the same?
“For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all his people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that can be invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” (Ephesians 1:15-23 TNIV)
- But honestly I truly believe that if I didn’t come back, God would still be a good and loving god, and I would still be in a joyful state, just in another world. ↩
- BDAG, 4271. I will add a list of abbreviations soon. ↩
- In this case the intended meaning depends on whether Paul was talking about believers’ inheritance or God’s inheritance. Believers’ inheritance relates to the final completion of salvation, whereas God’s inheritance relates to His chosen people, the Church in the New Testament. The text says his (that is, God’s) inheritance, but linguistically it could still mean the inheritance that God gives to believers. An example would be “Grandpa is bringing his gift to little Joey.” Although grammatically it says “his gift,” it means the gift that little Joey, and not Grandpa, is receiving. On the other hand, if “Grandpa is enjoying his gift that little Joey gave him,” “his gift” is the gift that Grandpa receives. Thus the possessive (or Greek genitive) “his” cannot be the only determinant. With the use of “inheritance” in the OT and chapter 2 of Ephesians, the second sense is quite likely. However, the sense of God’s wonder in giving the salvation is clear enough even though we might not know which specific meaning Paul was saying. ↩