gratitude & hoopla: Possessing the Inheritance: Ephesians 1:11-14

gratitude & hoopla

"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace." G. K. Chesterton


Possessing the Inheritance: Ephesians 1:11-14

In Ephesians 1:11 Paul says we have "obtained" our inheritance; but then, in verse 14, he says that we have not yet come into "possession" of it. The inheritance is ours, it seems, but we do not yet possess it. Here I take possess to mean something like, "to experience as a manifest reality." We might say, to have "in hand." But Paul also says that the Holy Spirit is essentially a token or down payment of this inheritance (elsewhere the word is "foretaste" or first fruits). In other words, the Holy Spirit is an experiential ("in hand") confirmation of that which is not yet enjoyed in fullness.

Paul summarizes this "not yet" back in verse 3: "every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places." In a word, it is our "inheritance." We have obtained it in a legal sense, but we have not yet come into possession of it. It is a promise, and to the extent that we do possess it, that fact is a seal or guarantee of what is to come. This seal, this down payment, this "first fruit," is the Holy Spirit.

Notice: that which is now (experientially) is set against that which is not yet. There is a contrast here. In other words, that which we receive as a down payment is the actual present-time experience of a future grace. The point is, the Holy Spirit is an experienced manifestation of that which is otherwise future and therefore inexperiencable, that which can only be accepted on faith, without our having "seen" it (Hebrews 11:1: "faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen").

It's like this. Suppose you were to inherit a vineyard in a distant country. The vineyard has been deeded to you. The legal work is done, and the vineyard is yours by right, by law, even though you have never been there. It is yours, and no one else can claim ownership of it.

But the fact is, though you have "obtained" it, you have not yet come into "possession" of it. It is to you a matter of speculation and happy imagining, but not of direct experience. With this exception: your advocate has sent you, as a token and pledge of what is to come, a bottle of wine, distilled from the grapes of your vineyard. Each time you uncork that bottle, you whiff the bouquet of your vineyard. You experience ("possess") your inheritance. Your friends come to visit, and you pour them out a taste of the fruit of your vineyard, "to the praise of the glory of God."


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