Adopted into God's Family
Adopted Into God’s Family
May 6, 2007
We’re going to start something different today. We’re going to begin working our way through the book of Ephesians, probably the most eloquent of Paul’s epistles. There’s a lot of meat in these six chapters, so we’ll be in this book for quite a while. But first let me tell you about Hetty Green. You don’t know who Hetty Green is?
She had gone down in history as “America’s Greatest Miser,” yet when she died in 1916, “Hetty” Green left an estate valued at over 100 million. She ate cold oatmeal because it cost to heat it. Her son had to suffer a leg amputation, because she delayed so long in looking for a free clinic that his case became incurable. She was wealthy, yet she chose to live like a pauper.
Eccentric? Certainly! Crazy? Perhaps—but nobody could prove it. She was so foolish that she hastened her own death by bringing on an attack of apoplexy while arguing about the value of drinking skimmed milk! But Hetty Green is an illustration of too many Christian believers today. They have limitless wealth at their disposal, and yet they live like paupers. It was to this kind of Christian that Paul wrote the Epistle to the Ephesians. Let’s start with some background information on this book we are about to study.
Let’s read today’s passage. If you have your Bible with you please turn to Ephesians, chapter 1 and we’ll read verse 1 through 6. I’m reading from the New American Standard: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love
He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,
to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”
Some names in history we identify immediately, and “Paul” is one of them. His name was originally “Saul” ; and, since he was from the tribe of Benjamin, it is likely he was named after the first king of Israel. Unlike his namesake, however, Paul was obedient, and faithfully served God. As a devoted rabbi, Saul became the leader of the antichristian movement in Jerusalem. But in the midst of this activity, Saul was “arrested” by Jesus Christ and was converted. That is when
Saul of Tarsus became Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles. About the year 53, Paul first ministered in Ephesus but did not remain there. Two years later, while on his third missionary journey, Paul stayed in Ephesus for at least two years and saw that whole vast area evangelized. During these years, he founded a strong Christian church in a city that was dedicated to the worship of the goddess Diana. For a description of Paul’s ministry in Ephesus, read Acts19 and 20.
It was nearly ten years later when Paul wrote the letter we call the epistle of Ephesians to his beloved friends in Ephesus. Paul was a prisoner in Rome, and he wanted to share with these believers in Ephesus the great truths the Lord had taught him about Christ and the church.
The letter was written from Rome about the year a.d. 62. Though Paul was on trial for his life, he was concerned about the spiritual needs of the churches he had founded. As an apostle he felt an obligation to teach them the Word of God and to seek to build them up in the faith. Let’s look at verse one.
Are you surprised to find Paul addressing his letter to saints? After all, saints are dead people who have achieved such spiritual eminence that they have been given that special title, saints. Or are they?
No word in the New Testament has suffered more misinterpretation than this word saint. Even the dictionary defines a saint as a “person officially recognized for holiness of life.” Who makes this official recognition? Usually some religious body, and the process is known as canonization. The deceased person’s life is examined carefully. If the candidate’s character and conduct are found to be above reproach, if he has been responsible for working at least two miracles and then he is qualified to be made a saint.
As interesting as this procedure is, it is not biblical. Nine times in this brief letter, Paul addresses his readers as saints. These saints were alive. They had never performed any miracles. Their only miracle by trusting Christ as Savior. The word saint in the New Testament describes “one who has trusted Jesus Christ as Savior.” We are saints if we have trusted Jesus as our Savior. Can you call yourself a saint? If you have accepted Jesus death and resurrection as your ticket to heaven, you are a saint. Paul addresses his letter to faithful saints.
The faithful, biblical saint is “one who has been set apart.” The word is rooted to the word sanctified, which means “set apart.” Saints are in the world, but not of the world. Like a scuba diver, he exists in an alien environment because he possesses special equipment—in this case, the indwelling Holy Spirit of God. Every true saint possesses the indwelling Holy Spirit, and it is through the Spirit’s power that the Christian is able to function in the world. So answer my question again. Are you a saint? If you have trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, you have been set apart – set apart for His purposes and you can call yourself a saint.
How did these people at Ephesus become saints? The answer is found in two words found in the first two verses. See if you can spot them as I read verses 1 and 2. They are “faithful” and “grace”. When Paul addresses his letter to the “saints … and faithful in Christ Jesus” he is not addressing two different groups of people. The word faithful carries the meaning of “believers in Christ Jesus.” These saints were not saved by living faithful lives; rather they put their faith in Christ and were saved. If you skip forward to Ephesians chapter 2, verse 8, you will find a key principle of sainthood, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is a gift of God.
The word grace is used twelve times in Ephesians, and refers to “the kindness of God toward undeserving people.” Grace is getting what we do not deserve; mercy is not getting what we do deserve. Grace and mercy often are found together in the Bible, and they certainly belong together in the experience of salvation. Grace and faith go together too because the only way to experience the grace of salvation is through faith.
Let’s look at another phrase in verse 1 – “in Christ.”The phrase “in Christ Jesus” describes the spiritual position of the believer: We are with Christ, he is in Christ, and therefore we are able to draw on the wealth of Christ for our daily living.
Each book in the Bible has its own special theme and the theme of the book of Ephesians is found in Ephesians chapter 1 and verse 3: “the Christian’s riches in Christ.”
Let’s look at verse 3 now. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” God the Father has made us rich in Jesus Christ! When you were born again into God’s family, you were born rich. Through Christ, you share in the riches of God’s grace, God’s glory, God’s mercy, and “the unsearchable riches of Christ”. Our Heavenly Father is not poor; He is rich—and He has made us rich in His Son. Have you appropriated God’s riches or are you living as Hetty Green lived, as a miser?
J. Paul Getty, one of the richest men in the world, was worth billions. The weekly income of some of the “oil sheiks” runs into the millions. Yet all of this wealth is but “pennies” when compared with the spiritual wealth we have in Christ. In this letter, Paul explains to us what these riches are and how we may draw on them for effective Christian living.
Let’s look at the second part of verse3 again: “who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,” We have “all spiritual blessings.” This can be translated “all /the blessings of the Spirit,” referring to the Holy Spirit of God. God promises to supply all our spiritual needs “according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus”, but He does not promise to shield us from either poverty or pain. The Father has given us every blessing of the Spirit, everything we need for a successful, satisfying Christian life. The spiritual is far more important than the physicall.
The Holy Spirit is the one who channels our riches to us from the Father, through the Son. Not to know and depend on the Holy Spirit’s provision is to live a life of spiritual poverty. No wonder Paul began his letter to the Ephesians reminding them of their riches, given by the Holy Spirit. We might ask professed Christians today, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? If the answer is no, then you are not saved.” “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His” Romans 8:9. 1 Corinthians 3:16 says “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” Unless you have the indwelling Spirit of God, you are not His child! Unless you have the witness of the Spirit, you cannot draw on the wealth of the Spirit. An the wealth of the Holy Spirit is spiritual riches, spiritual blessings.
Our blessings are “in heavenly places in Christ” or “in the heavenlies.” The unsaved person is interested primarily in earthlies. Jesus called them “the children of this world”. The Christian’s life is centered in heaven. Our citizenship is in heaven; our names are written in heaven; our Father is in heaven; and our thoughts and affections ought to be centered on the things of heaven. Evangelist D.L. Moody used to warn about people who were so “heavenly minded they were no earthly good,” but that is not what Paul is describing. In fact, we should be so heavenly-minded, we will be some earthly good! “The heavenlies” (literal translation) describes that place where Jesus Christ is right now and where we the believers are seated with Him. The battles we fight are not with flesh and blood on earth, but with satanic powers “in the heavenlies”, says Ephesians 6:12
The Christian really operates in two spheres: the human and the divine, the visible and the invisible. Physically, we are on the earth in a human body, but spiritually we are seated with Christ in the heavenly sphere—and it is this heavenly sphere that provides the power and direction for our earthly walk.
The President of the United States is not always seated at his desk in the White House, but that executive chair represents the sphere of his life and power. No matter where he is, he is the President, because only he has the privilege of sitting at that desk. Likewise with us: no matter where we may be on this earth, we are seated in the heavenlies with Jesus Christ, and this is the basis of our spiritual life and power. Our position is not at a desk in the White House, it is at a throne in heaven!
The fact that Paul is writing about wealth in verse three would be significant to his readers, because Ephesus was considered the bank of Asia. One of the seven wonders of the world, the great temple of Diana, was in Ephesus, and was not only a center for idolatrous worship, but also a depository for wealth. Some of the greatest art treasures of the ancient world were housed in this magnificent building. In this letter, Paul makes an analogy. He compares the church of Jesus Christ to a temple and explains the great wealth that Christ given His saints – us! Paul has already used the word riches; but you may want to check his use of other “financial” words such as inheritance, abundance and fullness, or filled. Paul is saying to us, “BE RICH!” BECAUSE YOU ARE RICH.
Let’s move on before our time is up. Look at verse 4 “4even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. I love this part; “He chose us.” Did you know this? You were chosen by God. He chose you! You did not choose Him! This is also called election. God chose you before you were born. He knew you would believe because He sees all time from the beginning to the end. That is part of His character – He is omnipresent – everywhere all the time and all-seeing – omniscient. Let’s continue in verse 4. He chose us – why? To be holy and blameless. That’s our purpose as believers – to be holy and blameless. Holy means set apart; same as sanctified. Our purpose in life is to become like Him, to have His mind and His character, hence His concern with what we are rather than with what we do. Pretty awesome task! Pretty awesome responsibility!
Verse 5 confirms our election. Let’s read it now: “In love 5he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” He chose us because He knew we would be believers. This is what predestination means. God knew before we were even a gleam in our parents eyes that we would be believers in Christ and that we would be adopted into His family and eventually conformed to His Son. He knew we would come to Him in faith. We are adopted children of the Lord of Creation
Adoption is one of the most profound realities in the universe. I say “universe” and not “world” because adoption goes beyond the world. It is greater than the world, and it is before the world in the plan of God, and it will outlast the world as we know it. Indeed it is greater than the “universe” and is rooted in God’s own nature.
I have two aims this morning: 1) that all of us would consider and embrace the wonder of our adoption into God’s family through Jesus Christ, and 2) that many of you would consider adopting children into your family as an overflow of the inheritance that you have in Christ from God, your Father. Just as Brian and Aimeee Hunstad are in the process of doing – sharing their abundance with those whose future is hopeless. We can do this by supporting a child such as Bimola or with Bridges of Hope, or the Gospel for Asia mission as Doug Braaten told us two weeks ago. We can support a camper at Manitou Lake Bible Camp. Do you understand what adoption means? I must help others! But first I need to understand and enjoy my own adoption by God before I can properly understand and enjoy what it should mean to adopt someone into my family.
Adoption as mentioned in Ephesians 1:5 is done in love. Look at verse 5 again, but start at the end of verse 4. “In love 5he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.” There are three things I want to point out from this passage about God’s adopting us. These three things are just what you would expect if you read Romans 11:36 : “From him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” All things, including adoption, are from God and through God and to God. That is what I see in Ephesians 1:6. We are adopted “to the praise of the glory of His grace by which He made us accepted in the beloved.”
1. Adoption Is From God
First adoption is from God. “In love he predestined us for adoption.” So adoption was part of God’s plan. It was his idea, his purpose. It was not an afterthought. He didn’t discover one day that against his plan and foreknowledge humans had sinned and orphaned themselves in the world, and then come up with the idea of adopting them into his family. No, Paul says, he predestined adoption. He planned it.
And if we ask when this He planned it, verse 4 makes that plain: “He chose us in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world.” Before the creation of the world, and before we existed, God looked on us in our need, and he looked upon his Son crucified and risen as the all sufficient atonement for our sin. And to that end he “predestined us for adoption.” It happened before the creation of the world.
So the first thing you need to know about your adoption into God’s family through Christ is that God chose you and predestined you because He loved you before the foundation of the world. God’s love for you and its expression in your adoption into his eternal family reaches back to eternity. So when Paul says, “From him are all things” (Romans 11:36), he includes our adoption, and means that before the foundation of the world you were his child.
Not based on your fitness, your worth, or your distinctives. It is rooted in God’s eternal purpose and grace. And that means that your adoption is not fragile or conditional or uncertain. God will not adopt and then find out that you are not worthy and unadopt. He knows we are unworthy. And he chose us anyway. This is unshakable. He won’t change His mind!
2. Adoption Is Through Jesus Christ
Second, “All things are from him and through him.” This is true of adoption and you can see it in Ephesians 1:5. “In love 5he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ. What does that mean? It means that we had to be died for.
Before the foundation of the world God saw that we would be sinners and He planned the death of his Son so that our sins could be forgiven and God’s wrath removed. Note two clear implications of this.
1) Not all people are God’s adopted children.
The blood of Christ covers the sins of all who believe (Romans 3:22-25). Verse 22 in the New Living puts it this way: “We are made right in God's sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are”. Verse 24 and 25 state God declares us righteous, through Christ Jesus for Jesus was a sacrifice for our sin. It goes on to explain why this was fair in God’s eyes. I encourage you to read those verses: Romans 3:22-26 if you thinks God accepts and adopts all people. He does not! Believers in Jesus are adopted, and no others.
The second implication of being adopted through Jesus Christ is:
2) We were not cute little orphans that God was attracted to; when we were adopted by God, we were His enemies, in rebellion against God.
That is who God decided before the foundation of the world to adopt. Romans 5:6, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” Romans 5:10, “While we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.”
So our adoption is not based on our being worthy or cute or attractive. It is based on the free and sovereign grace of God planned before the world and bought for us by the blood of Christ.
3. Adoption is from God the Father through Christ the Son and for God’s Glory
“All things are from him and through him and to him.” Adoption is “to him.” That is, it is for his glory. You see that in Ephesians 1:5-6. “He predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace.” The goal of your adoption is so God would be praised.
God adopted us in our unworthiness to make his grace look great. You were adopted to praise Him. God’s action is radically God-centered and God-exalting. How can God’s seeking to exalt himself be right? The answer is that the glory of God is what we were made to see and enjoy. Nothing else will satisfy our souls. Therefore if God does not exalt himself for us to admire and enjoy, then he is unloving. That is, he does not give us what we need most.
Consider and embrace the wonder of our adoption into God’s family through Jesus Christ. Families: consider adopting others into your family as an overflow of the inheritance that you have in Christ from God, your Father.
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.