“Also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11).
Let’s first note verses 1 through 9 and all the verbs expressing God’s blessing, electing/choosing, predestining, freely giving, lavishing the “riches of His grace,” “making know the mystery of His will,” obtaining an inheritance, etc. have God as the subject of the verbs (doing the actions) and man as the direct object (e.g., hēmas, “us”- receiving the actions).
Second, in 2 Thessalonians 2:13: “God has chosen you [humas] from the beginning for salvation….”). We have been claimed as God’s own possession within the context of our being chosen “in Him,” as seen in Ephesians 1:4-5. The phrase, “obtained an inheritance” is from the Greek term, klēroō. Used here, the term literally denotes receiving or giving a heritage or inheritance, or “the idea to allot, to assign in the sense of a privilege.” The TDNT defines the term as, “an ‘appointment’ or ‘determination,’ which affects men in their being. It is also the goal, which is assigned to them in their calling. The term is exemplified in the OT signifying Israel as God’s klēros—namely, His heritage.
“Having been predestined according to His purpose.” The verb “predestined” also appears in verse 5. The term “purpose” is from the noun, prothesis—from pro (“before”) and tithēmi (“to place or set”). Thus, lexically, “to set or place before, for a particular purpose, predestined purpose” (see also in Rom. 8:28; 9:11; 2 Tim. 1:9). Additionally, the term is used to denote the setting forth of the consecrated bread in the temple before the Lord (Mark 2:26; Heb. 9:2).
“Who works all things after the counsel of His will.” The verb translated, “accomplishes” is energountos—from the verb energeō, which is a compound word from ergon (“work”) and the preposition en (“in, by”), which intensifies the verb. The literal translation of the participle would be, “working, energizing, operating” (see the usage of the same verb at 1 Cor. 12:6; Eph. 2:2; and Phil. 2:13 [twice]). Hence, God is energizing all things after the council of His own will.
“All things.” The Greek reads, ta panta, “the all things.” Note that the article (ta, “the”) and adjective (panta, “all”) are in the neuter gender, thus denoting “the all things” inclusively. The same neuter phrase is used in Colossians 1:16-17: 16 “For by Him all things [ta panta] were created – all things [ta panta] have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things [ta panta] hold together.” Along with these passages, John 1:3, 10; Hebrews 1:10-12; and 2:10, robustly present, as Paul did, the Son as the agent of creation—namely, the Creator of all things. God is the ultimate cause of all things. There is nothing that exists outside of the category of ta panta, “the all things,” which God causes, ordains, decrees, and energizes after the council of His own will.
“After the counsel of His will.” The term “counsel” is translated from boulē. Here the term expresses the divine plan, purpose, and intention of God—namely, “according” to His sovereign counsel and predetermined purpose. Note Acts 2:23, which contains the same term (boulē), “This Man, delivered over by the predetermined PLAN [boulē] and foreknowledge of God.”
The one article (“the”) before the first noun (“plan”) and not the second (“foreknowledge”) grammatically shows that God’s “foreknowledge” is established in His hōrismenē boulē (“predetermined plan/decree”). In other words, “God’s decrees are not based on Him simply foreknowing what human beings will do; rather, humanity’s actions are based on God’s foreknowledge and predetermined plan”  (esp. Rom. 8:29-30). In fact, the same noun (boulē), with the same force, is used in Acts 4:27-28:
27 For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your PURPOSE [boulē] predestined to occur.
Totally Sovereign Over All Things
What does sovereignty mean? Sovereignty simply means absolute control. Scripture presents that everything that happens, or that has happened, or that is going to happen is independently ordained and determined by God in that He has absolute control of all things. He doesn’t need to consult or ask permission from anyone, nor is He limited to anything outside of Himself. He acts to bring about His plan and nothing will, nor is able to, thwart it (Isa. 46:10-11).
So, because God “works [energizes] all things after the counsel of His will,” both good and evil then is likewise controlled by God, since evil is under the category of “all things” (Gen. 50:20; Isa. 53:4; Lam. 3:38; Acts 2:23; Acts 4:27-28). As we saw with the crucifixion, many things God ordains does involve sin, but always for a higher good (Acts 2:23; 4:27-28; Rom. 8:28).
For example, God is Sovereign over,
- All creation (Isa. 54:5; Dan. 4:17, 25; John 1:13, 10; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:10-12; 2:10).
- All calamities (Isa. 45:5-7; Amos 3:6).
- All earthly authorities (Deut. 4:35, 39; Isa. 37:16; Dan. 5:18, 21; Hag. 2:22).
- Man’s life, death, sickness, and disease (Deut. 32:39; Exod. 4:11 [cf. also John 9:1, 12:39-41]; 1 Sam. 2:6-7; Job 13:15; 14:5; 42:11; Ps. 139:16).
- Evil (Prov. 16:4; Lam. 3:38-39).
- The slavery of Joseph (Gen. 45:7; 50:20).
- Samson’s marriage to the Philistine woman from Timnah (Judges 14:1-4).
- Eli’s wicked sons (1 Sam. 2:22-25).
- Judas’ betrayal of Christ (Matt. 26:23–25; 27:9-10; Luke 22:21–22; Acts 1:16, 20).
- Our eternal destiny (John 6:37-39; 10:15; Acts 13:48; Eph. 1:4-5; Rom. 9:6-23; 2 Thess. 2:13).
It is God who puts men to death, gives them life—on His own prerogative (Deut. 32:39; Luke 10:20-22; John 5:21—[note in this passage that raising the dead and giving life to them are accomplished by both the Father and the Son]; 12:39-41; Rom. 9:16-24; etc.).
Arthur Pink rightly observes:
“It is strange, yet it is true, that many who acknowledge the sovereign rule of God over material things will cavil and quibble when we insist that God is also sovereign in the spiritual realm. But their quarrel is with God and not with us. We have given Scripture in support of everything advanced in these pages, and if that will not satisfy our readers, it is idle for us to seek to convince them.”
How do Christians who do not embrace the full sovereignty of God pray for their lost loved ones? A prayer for the lost that is not based on God’s immutable, irresistible grace and power in salvation would be an impotent and ineffectual prayer, which would set man as the ultimate cause of one’s eternal destiny and not God.
The notion that God leaves the final decision of salvation in the hands of sinners is solidly against the biblical teachings both on the nature of man and on the doctrines of grace (Jonah 2:9; Luke 10:21-22; John 5:21; 6:37-40; 10:15, 25-28; Acts 13:48; Rom. 3:10-18; 8:7-8, 29-30; 9:16-23; 1 Cor. 1:30-31; Eph. 1:4-5; 2:8-10; 2 Thess. 2:13 et al).
God “works all things after the counsel of His will.” YHWH speaks of His absolute sovereignty in Isaiah 46:8-11:
8 “Remember this, and be assured; Recall it to mind, you transgressors. 9 “Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, 10 Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’; 11 Calling a bird of prey from the east, The man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it.”
Again, God “works all things after the counsel of His will.” What an assuring passage! “All things”- means just that. All things are in the control and hand of God, the unchangeable Creator, and not in the hand of His creatures. Therefore, we are comforted in knowing that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). Only because God is undeniably sovereign can the commands in Philippians 4:6-7 be so encouraging:
6 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
- Psalm 34:8-10: “O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
- Romans 8:37, 39: “But in all these things [viz. referring back to vv. 29-30] we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us!
- Hebrews 13:5-6: 5 “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” 6 so that we confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?’”
Whether pandemics, personal calamity, victories, losses, or any other thing, – let us never lose sight of the sovereignty of God over “all things”— so Paul glorifies God in saying, nothing in all creation “will separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus Our Lord!” (Rom. 8:39).
 Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Gerhard Kittel et al.).
 Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics.
 Arthur Pink, Sovereignty of God, “Difficulties and Objections.”