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The Assurance of Being Adopted by God

August 28, 2022

Teacher: Shawn Powers
Scripture: Ephesians 1:3–6

Introduction

Reading of Ephesians 1:3–6. 

If you are a notetaker, the title of this sermon is Adoption and Assurance. In 2021 I took Redemption Hill through the Book of Ephesians, and when I go through a book in the Bible, it is not uncommon for me to tap the breaks on specific passages. For example, I spent eight or nine sermons on Ephesians 1:3-14. We turned over as many theological stones as possible. I want to share with you this morning some of the stones we looked at. Now, is it possible that this sermon will feel like a water cannon? Sure. But by the time I am done, I pray that you, Christian, will rest in the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. I hope you will see the beauty of God’s adoption and know that you are assured of your standing before God because of Jesus Christ.

If you are not a Christian this sermon will land on you a lot different. And my prayer for you is that the Holy Spirit will open up your heart to see and know Christ.

Prayer.

I’ve never had the joy of experiencing the opportunity to be an adoptive parent. But over the years, I have known numerous people, especially Christians, who have adopted children. I have seen parents adopt children from orphanages in countries that are in extreme poverty. I have seen parents adopt children locally. For various reasons, a birth mother forgoes her right to raise her biological child, and the child is adopted. The motive to adopt can differ from one set of parents to the next, but there are many shared experiences. I think it is fair to say that adoption is a good and gracious act. Whether the adoptive parents are Christian or not, Christians choosing to adopt means sacrifice. It means giving up some liberties to invite another human being into the family. Adoption is expensive.

I applaud anyone who gives up much to adopt a child. Earthly adoptions are a powerful metaphor for spiritual adoptions. With earthly adoptions, we see a glimpse of a greater divine adoption, and with divine adoption comes the assurance of salvation.

It is easy to understand the concept of adoption, but we sometimes fail to see its implications of adoption. The fundamental question we need to answer is, what does it mean to be adopted into a family, especially a spiritual family? Where you born into a broken home? Being adopted by God brings healing. Perhaps you are like my family, and I am raising my kids in a Christian home. Guess what? Shawn Powers is a flawed earthly Father and I desperately want my children to know God as a loving and gracious Father. If you did not grow up in a Christian home - like myself - I have really good news for you.

My goal this morning is to help you to see the beauty of adoption in God’s family and for you to know how to rest in the assurance that God does not undo or throw away the adoption paperwork.

Context

Adoption in the Bible

Adoption is not an unusual category in the Bible. It appears in the Bible more than people realize.

Moses was adopted. You might remember Exodus 2, where we read about the birth of Moses. One problem. Moses was born into slavery in Egypt. Pharaoh was not excited that the Hebrew people were having babies like crazy, thus increasing the Hebrew population. The growing population was seen as a threat to Pharaoh. Therefore, Pharaoh threw down an edict saying every newborn Hebrew males needed to be murdered. This is Pharaoh’s attempt at population control. So, the mother of Moses does what is best for her newborn son. She puts him in a basket and floats him down the river. It seems crazy that any mother would do this to their newborn son, but when you stop to think about it, what were her choices? He will be murdered, or she orphans him by floating him down the river giving him the slightest chance to survive.

In God’s providence, the daughter of Pharaoh found Moses in the river, and her immediate instinct was to adopt Moses. The survival of Moses resulted in him becoming one of the most prolific figures in human history. God used an adopted child to change the world.

When the Book of Ephesians was written, the circumstances of an orphan was dire. There was no foster care system. There were no adoptive agencies. To be without a mother and father was to be without hope. It was to have no future. Yes, adoptions happened in isolated situations in the 1st century. The Romans had a legal procedure, and the Greeks had a procedure. But all in all, adoptions were rare, and they happened only if they benefited the adoptive family.

Roman Adoption

Here is what a Roman adoption looked like in the 1st century. It will paint a good contrast and one point of comparison with God’s divine act of adoption.

The motive of Roman adoption was to continue the family line and maintain property ownership.

So let’s say you are married. You have four children, but they are all daughters. Because you do not have a son, your good name will cease when you die. The property you own will also be up for grabs when you are burned or buried.

Under the Roman patriarchal system, men had all the power, authority, rights, and privileges. So you can imagine how the motive for an adoptive son - generally speaking - was incredibly selfish.

Not so with God. God’s motive to adopt is selfless, not selfish. God does not adopt because he needs something from you. He adopts to bless. Because God is selfless in the adoption, his children become the beneficiaries of a gracious act, which leads to the point of comparison between Roman law and God’s divine adoption. When a son was adopted into the Roman family, he had all the rights and privileges of a naturally born son. The same idea holds true within God’s adoptive system. Because you have been adopted into God’s family, you have been given rights and privileges far exceeding expectations.

To be adopted means you are a son or daughter of the most high God.

  • To be adopted means you are a son or daughter of the Creator of the universe.
  • To be adopted means that the storehouse's doors that contain heavenly blessings (v. 4) have been opened to you.
  • To be adopted by God means you have a Father who is unselfish, loving, and caring and wants the very best for you.

And here is the sobering truth. Before God graciously adopted you, you were a child of wrath. The beginning of Ephesians chapter two provides a clear distinction.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ… - Ephesians 2:1–5

Christian, you were a child of wrath. But God (v. 4) broke in and breathed life upon your cold dead heart (regeneration), and now you are an adopted son or daughter of the most high God. Take note that there are only two categories of people in this world. You are either a child of wrath, which means you are an object of God’s judgment because of your sin, or you are a forgiven child of God and thus an object of God’s grace and mercy. And as we will see in a moment, you are a recipient of God’s assurance.

Earthly adoptions are a powerful metaphor for heavenly adoptions, and the Bible speaks clearly about temporal and spiritual adoptions. So let’s take a closer look at God’s benevolent will to adopt undeserving children of wrath and sons of disobedience into his loving family.

I want to closely examine Ephesians 1:5-6 by asking several simple questions . When, how, and why.

1. When Does Adoption Take Place?

2. How Does Adoption Take Place?

3. Why Does Adoption Take Place?

The answers to these questions reveal the assurance of faith we can have because of God’s will to adopt.

I’ll address these questions in order.

1. When Does Adoption Take Place?

First, when does adoption take place?

Before joining a team of folks who planted Redemption Hill in 2018, I was a pastor over youth in another local church. And during a youth event, one of the students came up to me and said it was her “Gotcha Day.” I had no idea what she was talking about. I thought this teenage girl was making a joke, and I simply did not understand the joke. Several minutes later, it was explained to me by her friend that “Gotcha Day” was the day when her adoptive parents took her home from a Russian orphanage. So instead of a joke, it was a day of celebration. For this young lady, her "Gotcha Day” was more significant than her birthday.

If you are a Christian and the sovereign God of the universe has adopted you, here is a question I want you to answer: When was your Gotcha Day? Your Gotcha Day is the most important day of your life. We read in Ephesians 1:4 that your Gotchas Day was purposed before the foundation of the world. And then, in verse 5, another word is used to describe when your adoption was determined. The term used in verse 5 is closely tied to the word chosen or election in verse 4. Here is the part of verse 5.

In lovehe predestined us for adoption… - Ephesians 1:5

So what does it mean for God to predestine you? It means God marked out or determined your destiny before Genesis 1:1. It does not matter at what age you were saved. The sin you committed cannot keep you from God if he predetermined to regenerate your cold dead heart. Predestine/Predestination can be a heady theological word, and its meaning is undoubtedly debated among anyone interested in theology. So I would like to dismiss at least one interpretation of predestinatoin.

A troubling interpretation of predestination is that in eternity past God pulled out his crystal ball and looked into the future to see who would choose to follow Jesus Christ and hence be adopted by God. There is one problem with this interpretation. It’s not in the Bible. If God did pull out the crystal ball and look into the future to see who would become a Christian, then God did not choose. If God did not choose and predestine you in eternity past to be an adopted son or daughter, then we need to grab our Bibles and begin to rip out passages and chapters that speak to God’s sovereign will to predestine to adoption. Check out Romans 8:29-30.

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. - Romans 8:29–30

Romans eight is a beautiful passage about the work of God to save. Again, does foreknow and predestine mean God pulled out the crystal ball? No. God foreknew and predestined you for adoption because he determined your future in eternity past. Consider God’s predestination with the terms of authorship and ownership. Who is the author of your life? You or God? Who is the owner of your life? You or God?

Imagine with me for a moment you are the author of a novel. You wrote a book! A novel has a plotline with characters. Well, because you are the author of the book, you know the beginning from the end. You have chosen how the hero will overcome evil, and you have determined how the villain will be destroyed. There are characters that you highlight as good, and others are bad. Well, when someone else picks up your book to read the story, the details will not suddenly change as the person reads. This is not a “choose your own adventure” book. The story and the story's pieces have been determined, and all the reader needs to do is enjoy the story.

So when did your adoption take place? God wrote you into his story before the foundation of the world. You were created - Christian - to be adopted. At just the right time, God regenerated your cold dead heart and gave you the gift of faith. All of this is possible because God declared you justified, which is why you are now a son or daughter of God.

Here is the second question we need to tackle. How does adoption take place? Let’s look back at our Bibles.

2. How Does Adoption Take Place?

In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ… - Ephesians 1:4–5

The short answer to the question of how is you were adopted through Christ and to Christ.

It’s crazy how emphatic the Greek language is when highlighting how your adoption took place. There is no escaping from the how of your adoption is 100% through Christ and to Christ.

Let’s observe some contours about how your adoption has taken place through Jesus Christ. First, the act of adoption is solely because of God’s grace to give you faith to believe in Christ and declared you justified. You had no authority or power to tell God to adopt you, and there was no way for you to meander your way into God’s family. A person cannot conjure up the faith to believe in Christ.

The same principle is true for earthly adoptions, especially young children. Children who are adopted - generally speaking - do not have a choice. Right?! It is only because of the will of the adoptive parents that a child is taken from the orphanage and into a new family.

It is by grace alone that you are a part of God’s family; May that humble your heart.

Second, your adoption is a reality because of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The only path for God the Father to adopt was for the Son of God to take on the wrath of the Father for your sin and the sin of all God’s elect. You have been adopted because Jesus took your place on the cross. And to show the world he had power over sin and death, Jesus rose from the dead. He is Risen!

God the Father sacrificed his one and only Son so you could be adopted.

Ya know, in this world, everything has a price. If you want something, you have to give up something.

God the Father gave up His Son so He could take you in as a son or daughter. So how was your adoption secured? Through the atoning work of Jesus Christ.

Here is the third point about how you were adopted. You were adopted because God decreed your adoption. Look at the entire statement of verse 5.

In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will… - Ephesians 1:4–5

One of the primary themes in Ephesians 1 is a Christian’s union with Christ. Another theme that emerges from the first half of Ephesians 1 is the sovereign will of God. In verse 5, we see the mystery of God’s will in redemption was made known to an adopted child. The same idea is reinforced in verse 9 when it says redemption took place according to the purpose of God’s will. And then, only two verses after that, we read,

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will… - Ephesians 1:11

The same Greek word for will - θέλημα - is used repeatedly in Ephesians 1. How did your predestined adoption take place? According to the purposes and will of God. For some people, reading these verses is like experiencing another Copernican Revolution. Here is what I mean.

Before the 16th century, almost everyone thought the universe as they knew it circled the earth. This astronomical belief informed science and humanity. Part of the assumption of this belief is that everything that has been created revolves around humans. Everyone thought they knew how astronomy worked. But then Nicolaus Copernicus came along and observed that the earth revolved around the sun! What Copernicus said was a significant (x3) paradigm shift for the day, and his observation eventually impacted many aspects of everyday life. Even though he was initially rebuffed, Copernicus was correct.

The same idea is true for some people when they are confronted with the sovereign will and purpose of God in salvation, justification and adoption. The temptation is to make the “how” man-centered, but the truth is that it’s God-centered. The shift from a man-centered theology to a God-centered theology is cataclysmic. It changes everything. It’s another Copernican Revolution. It changes how you view the world, and it changes how you understand your adoption as a son or daughter of God the Father. According to God’s sovereign will and purpose, He took you into his family. It would be arrogant to think you took God into your family or you inserted yourself into God’s family. So how are Christians adopted into God’s family? By the sovereign will of God through the atoning work of Christ.

3. Why Does Adoption Take Place?

The third and final question that I want to ask is why does adoption take place. There are several reasons why you were adopted. For a moment, look at Ephesians 1:4. If you are reading an ESV, what are the last two words of the verse? In Love. The love of God the Father for you is so overwhelming that in your place, he gave over His Son Jesus to suffer and die. The how of your adoption is wholly and entirely because of God’s will through the Son, and the why of adoption is because God loves you. The Father loves you so much that He sacrificed His Son. And the sum of who God is, is love.

I had mentioned that one of the patterns of Ephesians 1:3-14 is that you repeatedly read in him and in Christ. The pattern is slightly altered when we see the words at the end of verse 4 - in love. In love, God predestined you for adoption. Again, we read the when but we also see the why. Why were you adopted? Because God loves you. The point is reinforced at the end of verse six. Take a look.

…he has blessed us in the Beloved… - Ephesians 1:6

It’s a bit confusing in English, but it literally says God’s adopted children have been blessed with heavenly blessings in the Beloved One; The Beloved One is Jesus Christ. Once you are in the Beloved One, you are always in the Beloved One. One of the fantastic consequences of adoption is that you cannot become unadopted.

Now, the when, how, and why of divine adoption point to the promise of assurance.

Once again, let’s dial into a comparison between the sweet picture of an earthly adoption with a heavenly adoption. I’ve never met an adoptive parent who, once they have signed the adoption papers, proceeded to rip them up at some point in the future. The opposite is true. When parents adopt a child, they know it’s for life. Even though there are ups and downs with parenting, they know they are in it until the very end. There is no going back, and there is no “unsigning” the adoption papers.

With God, the point is more pronounced. God will keep his adopted sons and daughters, not only until the end - physical death, but God keeps them forever. God’s gracious and loving grip upon you, Christian, is far greater than your grip on him.

Over the last year, I have been inserting our denominational Confession of Faith into sermons and other aspects of the church. I know this is a plug, but it applies to what we read in Ephesians 1. I appreciate being a part of a confessional denomination because of the depth and breadth of our theology. We have 35 chapters/sections in our Confession of Faith. Chapter 14 is all about adoption. Chapter 20 is entitled The Assurance of Grace and Salvation. Here is a short snippet of what our confession says about assurance.

Although false professors and other unregenerate men may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and fleshly presumptions of being in the favor of God and state of salvation, their hope will perish. Yet those who truly believe in the Lord Jesus and love him in sincerity, endeavoring to walk in all good conscience before him, may in this life be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace. They can rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, and this hope will never make them ashamed. - 20.1

One aspect of God’s goodness in adoption is that you can be assured and rest upon God’s saving grace.

I read a story about a woman who wrestled with adoption and assurance. Her story highlights God’s securing grace in light of adoption. The church-going woman says,

Adoption is attractive to me because it is the perfect antidote to legalism…[Legalism] was the driving force in my life. I kept trying to be good enough for God but despaired at how impossible the task was. At the very heart I was afraid of one thing. At some point I would do something terrible and consequently lose my salvation. Although the church I was raised in preached assurance of salvation, I often wondered if I believed it mostly because I wanted it to be true. The confusion came from the fact that although the churches I attended said they believed in the assurance of salvation, they preached a list of things one had to do to be a "good Christian.” I got the feeling that if you failed in any of those areas you probably were not saved to begin with.

The study of adoption has clarified the confusion I once felt. Adoption is a legal procedure which secures a child's identity in a new family.... God didn't choose to be our foster parent. We don't get kicked out of the family because of our behavior. We don't have to worry day to day whether or not we are good enough to be part of the family. In his infinite kindness, God made us a permanent part of his family. ... Nothing can undo the legal procedure that binds me to Christ. He died to redeem me. He signed the adoption papers, so to speak, with his blood. Nothing can cancel the work he did for me. I am free from the fear of falling away. Hallelujah!

Amen. You, too - Christian - are freed from the fear of falling away, and you can bask in the loving-kindness of God because of your adoption. I should also point out that the assurance of salvation does not give an adopted child of God a license to sin. No. An adopted child of God is given the freedom to live for God, and empowered by the Holy Spirit to fight against sin.

One final reason why your adoption has taken place is that the glory of God will be seen in your life. The New American Standard Bible says it plainly; you were adopted,

…to the praise of the glory of His grace… - Ephesians 1:6

God’s glory begins to be reflected and refracted in your life when God brings you into his family. The moment you went from an orphan to a child of the most high God, glory began to shine on you, through you, and off you. And this leads us back to what we read in verse 3. We bless or praise God. We worship and glorify God for what he has done for us. Without a doubt, all of Ephesians 1 leads us to worship.

Conclusion

I’ll end by telling you when my journey to reformed theology began. God the Holy Spirit, breathed life onto my cold dead heart in my early 20s. I was converted and given the gift of faith and repentance. It was not long before I was attending and getting plugged into a local church and reading my Bible every morning. My Bible knowledge at the time was almost zero, but I began to read. And at one point, shortly after the Lord saved me, I began to make my way through the Gospel of John. And John 10 changed everything I knew about how I was saved and how I will be kept by Christ for ever. Here are the words that rocked my world.

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. - Jn 10:14–16

And then, several verses later, our Lord continues.

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” - John 10:27–30.

We don’t read the word adoption in these passages, but we see what it looks like. The Good Shepherd must bring his sheep into the sheepfold. There are sheep not currently in the sheepfold who will respond when they finally hear the voice of their shepherd.

We don’t read the word assurance in these passages, but we see what it looks like. Once the sheep are in the sheepfold, they will never perish. The electing love of the Father ensures that no one will snatch the sheep out of the Father’s hand.

John 10 and Ephesians 1 help you to see the beauty of adoption and for you to know how to rest in the assurance that God does not undo or throw away the adoption paperwork.

Pray

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