"Paul's reign [is] drawing to a close. Jesus, on the contrary, lives more than ever." (Renan, Saint Paul (1875))

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Paul’s Four Inheritance Warnings

 

Paul says "we" are "predestined" to our "inheritance" in heaven in Ephesians 1:11.

Does this mean we are guaranteed to go to heaven once we believe, or once we believe and repent, etc?

Paul four times said no in the four passages we will quote below. Hence the word "predestined" in Ephesians 1:11 may be overloaded in English. It may not imply 'guaranteed.'  The meaning instead can be "ordained" -- which means simply intended, aimed for, etc. We will discuss that possibility after we review these four passages.

For in these four passages below, Paul clearly said that if a Christian commits various sins (which are cognizable as moral rules from the Mosaic Law), such as covetousness, adultery, etc., this means you shall “not inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor. 6:9, Ephesian 5:5-7, Galatians 5:19-21, and 1 Thessalonians 4:6-8.) Jesus said those who “inherit the kingdom” means they have “eternal life.” (Matt. 25:34,46.)

 

So whether you "inherit" the kingdom in Paul's usage or "inherit eternal life" in Jesus' words, they are about the same thing. Or should be.

We will discuss these four passages in a moment. The point is, if these warnings apply to those who truly became Christians, then this proves that Paul is not talking about having to only repent from sin initially, but that repenting is continually necessary as we sin in the future. Paul could only have intended 'faith' (including repentance from sin that it requires) to have its Greek second meaning. It is a more strenuous meaning of faithfulness. It must necessarily include the notion of faithful obedience, or these four inheritance warnings make no sense. As Paul says in 1 Cor 3:16-17, "you are the temple of God," and "if any man defile the Temple of God, him shall God destroy." 

1 Thessalonians 4:6-8

Let’s take first 1 Thessalonians 4:6-8, from among these four passages. It clearly is addressing Christians, and says when you act disobediently that you “reject God” who has previously given you His Holy Spirit:

[For] each of you to know how to be acquiring his own vessel [fig., wife] in sanctification and honor, (5) not in lustful passion of desire, just as also the Gentiles, the ones not knowing God,(6) [so as] not to do wrong and take advantage of his brother in this matter, because the Lord [is the] avenger concerning all these [things], just as also we forewarned you and solemnly testified. (7) For God did not call us to impurity [or, immorality], but in sanctification.(8) Therefore, the one rejecting [this] [or, regarding [this] as nothing] does not reject a person but God, the One having also given His Holy Spirit to you. (1Th 4:4-8 ALT.)

1 Corinthians 6:8-10

Or in 1 Corinthians 6:8-10, we read similarly an address to brother and sister believers in Corinth:

But you act unjustly, and you defraud, and these [things to] brothers [and sisters]! (9) You know that unrighteous [ones] will not inherit [the] kingdom of God, do you not? Stop being led astray [fig., being deceived]; neither sexual sinners nor idolaters nor adulterers nor passive partners in male-male sex nor active partners in male-male sex (10) nor covetous [ones] nor thieves nor drunkards nor slanderers [or, abusive persons] nor swindlers will inherit [the] kingdom of God. (1Co 6:8-10 ALT.)

In this 1 Corinthians passage, Paul clearly says that these Christians are acting unjustly toward brothers and sisters in the church. Paul understands these persons have truly accepted Christ. He then sternly warns them that anyone misbehaving will not inherit the kingdom of God. Actually, someone was leading them astray. Some taught that they safely could act unjustly toward brothers in the faith, or commit a wrong in the list of misdeeds in Paul's list, and still inherit the kingdom of God. Paul is sternly warning them that the opposite is true.

The passages of Ephesian 5:5-7 and Galatians 5:19-21 are to the same effect. These two epistles are addressed to the “brethren.” Paul warns, as he says he warned them before, that anyone who practices various moral sins “shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” Let's read them next.

Ephesians 5 

The broader context of Ephesians 5 is necessary to put verses 5-7 in context. As you read ask yourself whether Paul is warning the believers / saints to fear God, that they be followers of God, etc., or otherwise they will suffer the consequences in verses 5-7 of not inheriting the kingdom? Or, did Paul truly itend to warn only nonbelievers, as Paulinists contend, to whom the epistle is not even written? Does the latter make any sense? Here now is Ephesians 5:1-21 to provide the full context around verses 5-7:

 

1 Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;

And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.

But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;

Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.

For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.

Be not ye therefore partakers with them.

For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:

(For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)

10 Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.

11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

12 For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.

13 But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.

14 Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.

15 See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,

16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

17 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.

18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;

19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;

20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;

21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. (Ephesians 5:1-21 KJV.)

 

Those who are wed to Ephesians 1:11 meaning that we are "predestined" to an "inheritance" in heaven, interpret Paul in Ephesians 5:1-21 as merely exhorting us to 'fear' God but without any serious need to fear loss of salvation. That is supposedly guaranteed.

But the words 'do not be deceived' in Ephesians 5:6 joined with the inheritance warning is virtually identical language to 1 Corinthians 6:9 ("do not be led astray" "deceived"). There the joined-warning is unquestionably to "brothers" that they will be barred an inheritance of heaven for certain sins. Hence, there is every reason to regard Ephesians 5:1-21 has the same meaning as 1 Corinthians and Thessalonians quoted above.

Ephesians 1:11: Is It Each Person is Predestined?

Thus, the meaning then in Ephesians 1:11 that we are "predestined" to an inheritance must somehow be an exaggerated meaning or is qualified by Ephesians 5:5-7. The verb in Ephesians 1:11 translated as "predestined" is from the verb proorizô meaning:

to determine beforehand, to predetermine, pre-ordain  [Perseus Tufts Online ancient Greek dictionary.]

 

Paul arguably meant in Ephesians 1:11 that God determined beforehand that "we" would have an inheritance.... This is a collective "we" and not an individual "you" -- so that the people of God would inherit something as part of God's plan.

But just like God said all the sons of Abraham would be "blessed" through him (Genesis 12:3), we should not err like the Jews who often misinterpreted that they were each and everyone of them blessed through Abraham. Instead, the sons of disobedience even though Abraham's sons are not going to be blessed eternally in heaven.

Hence, Paul arguably had the same corporate understanding when he said "we" have been ordained to have an inheritance in the same way as God spoke about the "Sons of Abraham" being blessed through Abraham. In the latter, God was speaking of a general corporate predestination, and not individual predestination.

If Paul's "we" is similarly a general corporate meaning, then Paul made a true statement in Ephesians 1:11. It simply did not needlessly express the obvious exceptions to the general principle stated in Ephesians 1:11, namely such predestination will not carry sinning unrepentant Christians to be in heaven later. 

Now read Ephesians 1:11 with this understanding, and you will see how it fits with the four inheritance warnings of Paul intended for Christians referenced above:

In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: Eph 1:11 KJV.