“In Him, in whom we have been made a heritage, having been foreordained according to the purpose of the all things energizing One according to the counsel of His will, in order that we should be unto the praise of His glory, we who before hoped in Christ.”
That God has caused all wisdom and prudence to richly abound to the New Testament Church, in the beloved Son in the flesh, is the clear teaching of the apostle Paul in the preceding verses. According to His eternal good pleasure God has purposed to sum up all things in heaven and on earth in Christ Jesus. The actual realization of this consummation of all things, of uniting all things under one Head, is brought about in the birth, suffering and death of Christ, His resurrection and ascension unto God’s right hand in the heavens above.
In this Son of God in the flesh, we, the Church of Jesus Christ, have redemption and the forgiveness of sins. The meritorious cause of this redemption is the vicarious death of Christ on the accursed tree. We have been bought with a precious price. And God in Christ has made us His peculiar heritage.
It is to this element of our being the “heritage” of God, and of having been constituted such by God, that the apostle calls our attention in these verses. Hence, they are of great interest to us. Repeatedly we have called attention in these articles to the fact, that Christ is the head not only of the Church, His body, but that He is also Head over all things, over all principalities and powers and dominions in heavenly places. That He is, indeed, Head also of the angel hosts is clear from; as well as from and . With this truth we were also confronted, and, in fact, we are still interested, when we tried to explain the Scriptural implication of God’s “summing up” of all things in Christ.
The question of the proper relationship of the Church to Christ is interwoven with the other question of the unique place that the redeemed and purified Church occupies in “all things”. It is to the latter question that an answer is given in the verses 11 and 12. And, thus, indirectly and by implication, we receive an answer to the question of the difference between the legal status of angels and redeemed men respectively.
First of all, we would call attention to the very evident fact, that the writer again places the greatest emphasis on the fact, on the immutable good-pleasure of God, that all that the saints become, their peculiar degree of glory and honor amongst “all things”, is “in Him”. The same Lord Jesus Christ, the Beloved Son in the flesh, in the one in whom we have been made a “heritage”. And He is the one, and there is no other, in whom God sums up all things. Let us look at Him, see Him crowned with glory and honor, standing at the very pinnacle of God’s creation! Whom do you see? None other than our Lord! Him we see, who is our Lord, as He is the Lord of none else! He filleth us with His Almighty grace and Spirit. For all the spiritual blessings in heavenly places have become ours in Him. God, as the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ, has thus blessed us in Him. Well, look at this great work of God, this infinite mystery of God’s will, and remember that it is all “in Him”.
And what have we been made in Him? The apostle says: we have been made a “heritage”. This term portrays to us a certain aspect of the church’s relationship to God. It does not exhaust the entire riches of all the blessings in heavenly places, to be sure. It rather pictures to us our sonship, kingdom privileges and possessions from a certain aspect.
The idea of the term “heritage” we often meet in the Old Testament Scriptures. It conveys to mind the idea of precious and peculiar possession. Everything that God has made, His entire creative handiwork is His possession. Are not the cattle upon a thousand hills His? Is He not the Lord, who sitteth above the circle of the earth? And does Be not deal with all according to His sovereign Decree? True as this all is, it nevertheless is true, that God does not call all things, that He has made, His heritage. This is a title of honor reserved for His people Israel, whom He has made a holy nation, a royal priesthood, called into the fellowship of His covenant life.
Inwe read: “But Jehovah hath taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be unto Him a people of inheritance, as at this day”. And, again, we read in , where, Moses rehearsing in the ears of Israel, how he interceded on their behalf at the foot of Mount Sinai at the occasion of making the golden calf, had said to the Lord: “Yet they are Thy people and Thine inheritance, which Thou broughtest out by Thy great power and by Thine outstretched arm”. And to mention one more passage, we quote , where we read “Blessed is the nation whose God is Jehovah, the people whom He hath chosen for His own inheritance”.
In reading these passages, it should be borne in mind, that they all speak of Israel as God’s heritage, His peculiar possession. They are so because God has redeemed them, has delivered them from Egypt, from the house of bondage. That He redeemed them thus was solely because He chose them to be His heritage. According to elective grace God gave His Promise to the Patriarchs. To this promise He added His word of oath. This Promise cannot fail. God cannot forsake His people, His heritage, the heirs of the Promise. To this good-pleasure of God Moses can appeal, when he pleads Israel’s cause at the foot of the mount, when God threatens to break forth upon them in His fury to destroy them. But the word of oath is the end of all contradiction. Also in the mouth of the pleading Moses as he stands before the fury of God’s anger.
Another element that must not be lost sight of is, that Israel was God’s peculiar heritage typically as a nation. The blessing was, indeed, not for us. The elect obtained it and the rest were hardened. But until the appearance of Jesus Christ, until His death and resurrection Israel as a nation was called by the title of the elect remnant. With His appearance in the fullness of time, in His mighty labors He liberates the Israel of God, disengages it from the national, typical and legal forms. And what always was God’s heritage, according to the Promise and the Word of oath, is still God’s heritage. Only the heritage is now not limited by carnal commandments, by a middle wall of partition to Israel as a nation, but it is out of all nations. That is the national, typical character of the Old Testament heritage of God, now done away “in Him”, that must not be lost sight of, as often as we read these quoted passages, which speak of Israel as a heritage.
What we have learned from these Old Testament passages can be summarized under the following points:
It is exactly in this thought-world, that we find ourselves in the verses 11, 12, which we are studying. The church is here called God’s heritage because of her unique relationship to God, and that, especially, as she is contrasted with all other creatures, yea, with the very angels in heaven. Almost literally all the elements, that we found in the Old Testament references are here mentioned by the apostle. That is very striking, indeed.
The apostle brings out the following elements here in connection without being God’s heritage, or rather, our having been made such a heritage, a peculiar possession.
From the foregoing it is quite evident, that both the Old and New Testament speak the same language on this score, and that, too, in every element, that our Scripture passage contains.
It should, therefore, be clear that the addition “we who have before hoped in Christ” does not refer to the believers of the Old Testament dispensation, not to the believers out of the Jews in the New Testament dispensation in distinction from the believers out of the Gentiles. There are expositors, who thus understand the sense of this passage. They allege to find this contrast in the “in who also ye” of the verses 13, 14 when compared with “we who before hoped in Christ”. And so they would render the sense of the passage as follows: “We are a heritage in Him—we of the Jews who have first hoped in Christ—in whom also we having heard the gospel—and having believed have been sealed—to the future redemption, that gives possession”. However, we believe that this construction does not do justice to the sense of the words, not to the line of thought of the apostle.
Apart from what we have seen of the unity of the “heritage” of God both in the Old and New Testaments earlier in this article, we would still call attention to the following reasons for rejecting the just named construction of the text.
In the first place, the original Greek does not at all contain the contrast of “we” and “also you”. The phrase “we who have before hoped in Christ” literally reads “The ones having just up till now hoped before in Christ.” The matter as to who they are, that have hoped is not at all stated. It is left very indefinite. The emphasis is not on the “we” over against “you also” at all. The phrase merely stands in opposition to the “in whom we have been made a heritage”. And as we have already pointed out, this heritage are the people of God in their very peculiar relationship to God in Christ. And the “heritage” is clearly the church of all ages, as she has come into the possession of the New Testament riches of the kingdom. The very middle wall is broken down. Let us not rebuild it here.
Secondly, the entire context that preceded this passage, speaks of the consummation, the final perfection of this work of God, in which the church shall be perfected, as God has seen her before Him ideally in His counsel from everlasting. The eyes of all the saints were directed unto that end. A hasty reading of the description of the heroes of faith, in Hebrews 11, should convince the most skeptical, on this score. The viewpoint of the apostle is here this viewpoint of Hebrews 11 and of.
Thirdly, and that in close connection with the foregoing, we may remark, that the apostle exactly pictures the “ye also” of verses 13, 14, the very “ye also”, that are by some put outside of the class the “before hoped in Christ”,—I say, these Paul exactly pictures to us in their state of expectation to the final and glorious manifestation of their being the heritage of God, the saints in the light. And to this we might add, that thus it is according to the Scriptures everywhere.
The great comfort of the fact, that we are all the “before hoping in Christ”, that we all are in this class is, that thus we can firmly assure in our ardent desire, that we “also” belong to that peculiar people, and may therefore in hope now be saved, and enjoy such an exalted and unique place in God’s handiwork in Christ Jesus. For this “before hoping” is an earmark, an infallible proof of elective grace in our life. And thus the apostle would have it be understood.
We hope on Christ, hope for the final redemption and adoption to sons. With longing expectation, with eyes scanning the heavens—the heavens, that are illumined with the revelation of the Son of God in the flesh, by virtue of His death and resurrection and glorious exaltation,—we await His appearance in hope. We look for Him, as our Savior. And looking, waiting, trusting—we are saved, saved in hope. Evermore we give heed to the prophetic Word, which shines in our night of sin and death, until again the light of hope glows brightly in our benighted life, and we again seethe daystar, the harbinger, the promise of the new day. In this hope the assurance, that we are God’s peculiar heritage is ours!