Pre-Appointed for Adoption
Ephesians Lesson #018
February 17, 2019
“Father, what a joy and privilege it is to study Your Word today to think about what You have revealed to us, to probe its depths, its implications to see how all of Your Word fits together in one glorious, consistent whole.
“That as we study Your Word, we are challenged not to live for ourselves, but to live for You; to recognize that as those who have been blessed in this dispensation to be united with Christ, to be in Him, to have all of these spiritual blessings as ours. We have privileges and responsibilities far beyond anything that we can quite imagine unless we dig into Your Word.
“This is our potential, and as we achieve that potential, our ability to serve You, to glorify You expands and enlarges. Father, by pursuing that the consequences will reverberate throughout eternity. Give us a focus on this eternal task and the significance of it, as we continue our study in Ephesians, we pray in Christ’s name, amen.”
Open your Bibles with me to Ephesians 1.
Yesterday, I was talking to a longtime friend of mine and pastor. I’m going to be at His church in about a month for a conference, and we were talking about what I could teach. I said, “Well, I could go over what I’ve been teaching in Ephesians the last five or six lessons,” and I told him what that was. I said, “You know, the more I teach this, probably after I’ve done it five or six more times, I might be able to get it right and explain it well.”
He commented, “So you do that too?” I said, “Yeah.” The more we articulate it, the better it gets, and the better it gets into our own heads, because as pastors we learn too. He said, “Do you ever find yourself studying something and teaching it just so you’ll learn it?” And I said, “Yeah, but don’t tell anybody.” That’s just our little secret.
We’re continuing our study, and by the way, I said, “You know, I’ve got 17—I think today’s 18—lessons in Ephesians. He said, “So you’ve gotten to, let’s see, Ephesians 1:4.” I said, “Yeah, just about.” So much is here.
Last time I opened up with an illustration from a jigsaw puzzle, and how we put things together. That we have to have a strategy, and part of this analogy—there are so many ways you can go with that analogy—is like the parts of a jigsaw puzzle have to be categorized and organized. That’s very similar to looking at especially a huge sentence like we have in Ephesians 1:3–14—that all these words are like pieces in that jigsaw puzzle—and we have to figure out which ones are the key ones,
Just like when you start with the jigsaw puzzle, one of the first things you do is you find all the pieces that have a straight edge. Then the next thing you do is start looking at them to see which ones have the same colors, and you begin to move them in those directions.
Let’s say it’s a landscape scene, then the blue sky’s going to be the top, so all the ones that have blue in them you move to the top. If there are trees, you know those are going to be in the middle, so those that have green and brown like trees, you move along the sides, and then if there is earth or ground or people at the bottom, then you put those together. You begin to see the patterns, and you begin to see how everything fits together. That’s what I’ve been doing.
As we get into this next part, we’re going to be looking at this idea of adoption. We may not get quite there today, just a little bit, because as we have gone through this section and identified these words, it’s important now to go back and to understand how they fit within the flow of these four verses,
Ephesians 1:3–6, “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 should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.”
There’s just a lot here, and as we’ve gone through this using the jigsaw puzzle, what we looked at first was foreknowledge and how foreknowledge precedes choice.
We have the verb “to choose,” and there’s a selection process, but it’s based on something, as I pointed out in the previous lessons. It’s always based on some qualification in the object.
The problem is, a Calvinist comes along and says, “See you’re basing that on works.” Well, that’s because they see faith as a work. They redefined it: faith is a work and faith is a gift, and there’s no exegetical basis for that. We will get into that eventually when we get to Ephesians 2:8–9.
Faith is not a gift, faith is not meritorious and faith is not a cause of anything. The selection is based upon the possession of righteousness, as we have seen, which is ours in Christ. Once we believe in Him, we are given or imputed His perfect righteousness.
He knew ahead of time everything in His foreknowledge, and we’ve covered all of those verses, so whom He foreknew He predestined, or pre-ordained or pre-appointed to a task. That’s the idea from Romans 8:29. And that’s the idea of what was wrongly translated as predestination. That’s our third important word.
The fourth that we will get to the next time or the next is “His will,” simply because we have to understand the phrases that intervene. These define the borders for that jigsaw puzzle, and inside is the image of Christ, which is the purpose.
As we look at these words, one thing I’ve pointed out is how things got muddled and confused, especially when Jerome, who was an early church father in the late fifth century, translates the New Testament. He uses the Latin word for predestination to translate the Greek word PROORIZO.
That’s led to a lot of confusion, because predestination is automatically defined by most people as God chooses whether you’re going to end up in hell or end up in heaven. That’s the real issue; that’s the determinative thing, and that pretty much negates genuine human free will. That’s what happens and how it ends up.
This is what gets to this last point; it’s God’s will versus our will is how it’s often set up, and that God has determined not just who will be saved, but every single minute event in history. That’s what it means when they define God being in control, and that’s how they define God being sovereign.
We don’t have any support for that sort of wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling microcellular predestination or control. We do have God giving men a range within which they make choices and can suffer consequences. He can override those choices, but He gives man that privilege and that opportunity.
Now the early church was confused on a lot of things, but I have a quote here from one church father. His orthodoxy’s questioned in many areas, but that’s not the point of this particular quote. It shows how the early church before Augustine understood these things. It wasn’t until Augustine that you have the shift to a deterministic view.
This is from Origen of Alexandria. He was an early church father; his primary time of ministry is the early third century (AD 185–254):
“To him—to Paul—pre-appointment is not the beginning of calling and justification, (as in Romans 8:29) for if this was the beginning of the order and since those who are subtly introducing persuasive arguments are using absurd reasoning concerning salvation’s origin, indeed, foreknowledge comes before pre-appointment.”
He clearly does not understand PROORIZO as predestination, and he clearly sees that foreknowledge precedes. That was standard prior to Augustine.
As we move forward, I want to talk about what we learn about God’s plan, what we learn about how this should impact us as we look at Ephesians 1:3–5 now that we have identified these keyword meanings.
Ephesians 1:3, “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.”
We’ve seen that to be blessed by God means that we receive various benefits, privileges, and assets from God based on His grace. God freely gives these things to us, and because Paul uses the pronoun “us,” we know that this covers the basics that God provides for every believer.
We have entered into an army; we’ve entered into the body of Christ. But it’s also referred to in some places that we’re in spiritual warfare, it’s like a spiritual army, and God outfits us. It’s like when you go into the military, and you go to basic training, you’re issued a bunch of equipment. That’s equipment that you’re given, the basic tools to do what you’re expected to do.
God gives us the spiritual tools, these blessings, and we’re told in this passage that it’s every spiritual blessing. It’s beyond the outfitting of any other—let me change the metaphor—to any other team. Same thing would be true as in the military, you go play for a football team, when you sign up you’re issued all of your equipment; you’re provided that which you need in order to accomplish the job.
Some people play for one team, some people play for another team. We play for the team of Christ in the Church Age. We are in Christ.
In the Old Testament Israel was the team, and if you were a believer in the Old Testament, you had a different set of equipment, but you were equipped for carrying out your mission within that team. As those who are in the church, the church team members are given other equipment: more equipment and more advanced equipment.
These blessings that we are given are different for each believer in each dispensation, as I just pointed out. If you were before Abraham, you had one set of assets. If you’re in Israel especially after Sinai and the giving of the law, you have a different set of assets and privileges and blessings.
If you are in the church, you have a different set. If you’re a believer in the millennial kingdom you have, again, a different set of blessings. Not only that, but if you are in the millennial kingdom, if you’re Jewish, you have one set of blessings that are yours by virtue of the new covenant, and they are not the same as the Gentile believers who are in the millennial kingdom.
So you have to know who you are and what God has provided for you, and that tells each of us that we have to be in the word to understand not only what God has given us in terms of preparing us and equipping us, but it’s there that we learn how to use that equipment.
That’s why later in Ephesians, when Paul talks about the fact that God has given “…apostles and prophets and evangelist and pastors and teachers for the equipping of the saints,” that is really the sense not of giving us those assets, but teaching us about them: What are they, how do we use them, so that we can be effective in serving the Lord within the body of Christ on the basis of who we are as Church Age believers.
We’re given one set of assets that’s true for every believer in the Church Age, but there are also additional blessings that are given to some believers that are not given to other believers.
We know in terms of spiritual gifts, that it is according to the measure that Christ has given them to us. Some have spiritual gifts to one degree, some to a lesser degree. Some are more adept; maybe they have more than one gift that works together that enhances their service to a different degree than someone else. But everybody has a spiritual gift and a spiritual enhancement for serving the Lord.
We have to learn what those gifts are, what those provisions are, so that we can use them. The foundational basics are provided to some degree for us in these verses from Ephesians 1:4–14. As we’ve seen, Paul breaks them down in terms of that which is provided by God the Father, that which is provided by God the Son, and that which is provided by God the Holy Spirit.
When we look at Scripture, we see that this is obvious. In the Old Testament in the age of Israel, different believers had additional assets compared to every believer in the Old Testament, and that was blessings that were given by God. We can think of David. David has an enhancement in relation to His leadership in relation to the indument of God the Holy Spirit.
This was also true of some of the priests. Prophets had different abilities that were given to them in order to be the revealers of God’s will and God’s Word. Those that wrote, and recorded God’s Word also had those different abilities. So there are certain things that everybody has in common, and some things that they have in distinction.
The reason that I’m saying that, laying the groundwork right now, is because we’re going to get to a point where we talk about inheritance and inheritance blessings. That’s introduced by the concept of adoption that we will get to when we get to Ephesians 1:5, that we are predestined; actually, that’s the bad word. We are preordained is a better word, but people get fuzzy on that.
Ordination means you’re pointed to a task. I talked about that last time. If you get ordained as a deacon in some churches, you get ordained as a pastor, you’re being set apart to a particular task. It has nothing to do with salvation. It has to do with appointment to a task.
Now when PROORIZO—has that prefix PRO—it means that in eternity past, God determined or appointed members of the church to a particular task. As I pointed out last time, it’s related to our spiritual life; it is not related to our justification.
In every dispensation there are these differences. You also think of Mary. She’s in the age of Israel, she’s in the dispensation of the Law, and she’s given greater blessing. In Luke 1:42, she is “blessed among women” because she is going to be the mother of the humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We see these distinctions. When we get into heaven, because of our being adopted into Christ—that relates to being heirs, heirs of God and heirs of Christ. We’ve studied this before. Two different categories of inheritance related to two different levels of reward, so that just as through all the dispensations, every believer in each dispensation has certain things in common. We also see that there some that have additional blessings.
When we get into the Kingdom and on into eternity, we will see the same distinction is true for Church Age believers. At the resurrection, all believers get some things in common. At the judgment seat of Christ, there will be some additional blessings that are bestowed upon those who have performed well during this Church Age, and others who have not performed well, or at all, will lose rewards.
We will get to that. I am just setting the stage here in terms of what we’re learning here. We’ve been: “…blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” These are the blessings that we all have in common in Christ. This is our position.
Over 35 times the Apostle Paul uses this phrase or a close synonym to describe our position. That is so important for understanding the riches that we have because they are our riches, our assets, our privileges, our blessings that are in Christ covered in these first 3 chapters.
Ephesians 1:4, in English translation reads, “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.”
He chose us, but this is all fuzzy translation, and it fit a deterministic presupposition that had come to dominate the Middle Ages because of Augustine’s influence, I’ve pointed this out before. Augustine was a heavy influence on Calvin, as well as Luther and many others, and so that sort of set them to think a certain way, and this impacted how things are translated.
This first word or two words, this first phrase “just as” comes across in English as a comparative, and if you’ve read it and thought about it, you might be saying, “What’s being compared?”
The Greek word is the word KATHOS, which is also a comparative conjunction, but it has other nuances than comparison. It can mean “just as” or “as,” but it also has a causal sense “because,” “since,” or “inasmuch as” according to the lexicons.
If we don’t translate it “just as,” but we translate it as “since,” it’s going to make more sense to you—that’s S-E-N-S-E. I don’t want to confuse “since and “sense.” Since I have a southern accent, it may be obscured, so they are not homonyms.
We read that God blessed us with every spiritual blessing “since” or “because;” so the “us” is important. It’s “us” who are in Christ in Ephesians 1:3, and it’s “us in Him” in Ephesians 1:4. We saw that “chose” is not the best translation for understanding the dynamics here. He blessed us, “since He appointed” a group: “us in Him.” We’re the team.
It’s not talking about how you get on to the team, it’s talking about the mission of those who are on the team. I keep repeating this. We’ve heard it and read it and misunderstood it for so long, we have to get this clearly into our thinking. “He appointed us in Him…” and we learned this from looking at some other passages, we are the choice ones.
That act of choosing, selecting those with a certain quality, is based upon God’s foreknowledge, as we learned in 1 Peter 1:2, that we are “choice.”
In the beginning, 1Peter 1:2, “choice according to the foreknowledge of God…: So that basis, that choice of the choice people, were choice ones. Actually, that’s a noun there in 1 Peter 1:2. It’s “…according to the foreknowledge of God the Father…”
It’s based on His omniscience in eternity past—knowing all of the knowable—but it is accomplished, “…by means of the sanctification of the Spirit.” Choice by means of the sanctification of the Spirit. It’s not chosen by the will of God here.
The means here is given as sanctification, which takes us back to what we studied a couple lessons back in Matthew 22, the parable there on those who are invited to the wedding feast. There’s an initial invitation that went out. There were those who were, “not willing to come”—notice the emphasis on their volition: they were “not willing to come.”
It wasn’t because they weren’t chosen. Nobody, in fact, in Matthew 22:1–14 is chosen.
When you get to the end, you learn that there were others that were invited. Then the father of the bridegroom came in, discovered somebody there that was not dressed in the correct wedding garments, which is analogous to the righteousness of Christ, and he is kicked out and sent to where there is weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Then the last verse, which is often quoted, is translated as “…many are called but few are chosen.”
The problem is no one in the parable was chosen. That noun should be translated as choice. “Many are called—that is, many were invited, but only a “few were choice.”
Why were they choice? They were choice because they possessed the right wedding garments; that is, they were there because they were dressed in the righteousness of Christ.
The emphasis there is that those who are choice are choice because they have that special quality of excellence that is given them in God’s grace when they believe in Jesus, which is the means, not the cause, of their salvation.
Isaiah 61:10 says that God has “…clothed me with the garments of salvation. He’s covered me with the robe of righteousness.” That’s the basis for Jesus’ parable in Matthew 22.
As we look at the passage in Ephesians 1:4, “since He appointed us in Him—this new body—before the foundation of the world.”
We see first of all that God the Father is the focus. He’s the subject. He’s the One who’s doing all the work here in Ephesians 1:4–6. This action is predicated upon those who have responded to the invitation and have been given the robe of righteousness—that’s their basis.
In the Church Age, this is all related to what we have been given in Christ. We go on to read that this is for a purpose, “…that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.”
I want to take you through a chart familiar to some of you, not familiar to others. When we trust Christ as Savior we are believing in Him, Acts 16:31. At the instant that you trust in Christ, you are given new life. You move from spiritual death to spiritual life. That will be the subject of Ephesians 2:1–10, we’re given that new life in Him instantly. We are alive in Him.
At that same time, at that same instant, we are going to be identified with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. This is an eternal reality. We are placed in Christ, identified with Him. This is called the Baptism by the Holy Spirit in Romans 6:3–6.
We are identified with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection, so we are now new creatures in Christ, 2 Corinthians 5:21. New creatures in Christ. All things are new, “…old things have passed away, behold all things are new.” That’s the eternal reality: we are in Christ. We are now called children of light; before we were children of darkness—that’s our new position in Christ.
In terms of our day-to-day experience, that’s described by this other circle, and this is the area of our walk. We’re going to either be walking in the light—that’s why I choose chose white ’circles. We’re either going to be walking in the light, wherein we’re going to be filled by means of the Spirit—walking in the light is the same as walking by the Spirit—or we’re going to be outside of it and walking in darkness.
What this describes and the thing I’m emphasizing here that we see all through Ephesians is what Paul keeps talking about: these blessings, privileges, and assets that we have in Christ. That is our identity. If you want to talk about identity politics, we’ve got the best identity in the world.
This is our identity in Christ. It’s who we are now. We possess His righteousness, and we’ve been given all these blessings, and that should define who we are, how we live, and how we make decisions when we live in this life. We have been placed in Christ.
Now let me read Ephesians 1:4 again since, “…He appointed us in Him before the foundation of the world.”
We see that Ephesians 1:5 talks about that this is “…according to the good pleasure of His will.” In eternity past God set forth a plan of salvation.
Now that’s not just how we get into heaven. The word “salvation” refers to 3 different types of salvation, 3 different stages. We will look at that in just a minute.
But the foundation for us in the Church Age is understanding who we are in Christ and this new identity that we have in Christ, because that new identity places a distinctive obligation upon us. It is an obligation that is different from the obligation that was placed upon Israel in the Old Testament under the Mosaic Law. It is an obligation that we can choose to either take responsibility for: we can respond to and fulfill it, or we can ignore it and deny it.
If we ignore it and deny it, and we don’t grow spiritually and we don’t serve the Lord and we’re not conformed to Christ, it doesn’t mean we lose our salvation. What it means is that we will not experience temporal blessings we might have experienced otherwise, and we will lose other blessings and rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
What is important for us to understand today is that we have this new identity and new privileges and assets, such as the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and being filled by means of the Spirit, being able to walk by means of the Spirit, and walk in the light. How we respond to that—those commands, determines not just our spiritual life growth in this time period before we die, but it also impacts eternity. It impacts our future roles and responsibilities in eternity.
That takes us again to the purpose clause in Ephesians 1:4, “since He appointed us in Him before the foundation of the world…” He’s working according to a plan and we have the responsibility to either conform to the plan or not conform to the plan. That plan has a goal. That is expressed by this part purpose clause, “…that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.”
Now the question that comes to some of your minds is, “Well, is this a positional holiness and blamelessness, or is this experiential?” It is experiential; but what we see is that this is, “before Him.” It has to do with our ultimate destiny and glorification because it’s. “before Him;” that is, before His throne.
This first word is the word HAGIOS. HAGIOS is based on the Hebrew word, qadash which means to be set apart. Often when people think of the word “holy,” they think of that which is morally pure or flawless, that which is totally without sin. That is not part of the primary meaning of this word.
The primary meaning of the word is to be set apart. So it could be used with different context to be set apart to different things, but it is primarily used in a religious context of something that is set apart to the service of the deity.
In pagan religions, the fertility religions of the ancient world, there were temple prostitutes that serviced people in the temple. The idea there was that if they engaged in sexual activity and were productive, as it were, fertile, this would encourage the god to give them fertility and prosperity—a very primitive and pagan notion.
Those temple prostitutes, male and female, were referred to by adjectival forms of the noun qadash. They were set apart to the service of their god. They were not morally pure or blameless. They were immoral. They were promoting prostitution and sexual immorality outside of marriage, but they were set apart to the service of their god. That’s the core meaning of the word for holy. It means to be set apart.
A second idea that is inherent to the word HAGIOS is the idea of being distinctive or being unique. In the Old Testament, Israel as a nation was called to be holy. They were to be different from all other nations. They would be distinctive. They would have a central sanctuary. They were not involved in the temple prostitution or the fertility ideas of the other nations.
They had a God that was unlike any of the other gods, for He was the Creator God of the heavens and the earth and all that is in them. They were distinctive, so as a nation they had a distinct belief system, and they were to live differently from people in other nations.
We see here that in the Old Testament, you have those who are born as Jews, descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They are on the Jewish team. They are on Abraham’s team. They are on Israel’s team; and they had a mission as a nation to live differently from everybody else. They failed time, and time, and time again; and God in His grace forgave them time, and time, and time again until they rejected His provision of a Messiah. Then He temporarily has set them aside in human history.
In the New Testament this command that is given to Israel “to be holy, for I am holy” is repeated to Church Age believers. It has different things that are distinctive about it than what you would have in the Old Testament. It’s not national; it is the body of Christ.
In 1 Peter 1:15 flowing out of who the choice ones are, back in the opening of 1 Peter 1:1–2, it continues the mandate for those who are the choice ones by means of God the Holy Spirit. The mandate put upon them, the obligation put upon believers, is that we too like Israel are to be holy because God is holy.
We are to be distinctive in our lifestyle. We are to be different from other people in our lifestyle, and that is learned by the study of God’s Word. What is it that should characterize those who are on the team of being in Christ?
We are “appointed” for this task, just as when I was ordained, I was ordained to the task of preaching the gospel and teaching the Word of God. So we as believers—those who are in Christ—are appointed to be holy and to be blameless.
This is another interesting word. It’s the word AMOMOS. MOMOS has the idea of that which is guilty or has blame. The “A” in front of it is called the alpha privative, and it negates. It’s like our preposition “un,” which negates a word. So if something is normal or natural, we would then say, if it wasn’t natural, it would be unnatural.
If it wasn’t healthy, it would be unhealthy. So it creates an opposite, so that the term to have blame or to be blemished or to be guilty is negated by that “A” at the beginning, and it means to be blameless or spotless. That doesn’t mean perfect.
Even in the Old Testament, the Hebrew equivalent word tamim has to do with one who is living an overtly obedient life; he is a walking with the Lord. When he sins, he confesses sin, and this is the word that is used.
We studied Job a little bit, a couple of weeks ago on Thursday night. Job is blameless. He fears the Lord. ’ It doesn’t mean he’s perfect or without sin, but he is living a mature, spiritual life.
That tells us that we are appointed to maturity. We’re not appointed to immaturity. We’re not appointed to be spiritual babies, spiritual infants, and yet that’s what is satisfactory for so many Christians. They’re just happy that they are saved, and they don’t care about growing out of their diapers and maturing to be a productive member of the body of Christ, serving the Lord and exploiting the assets and privileges that God has given us.
That’s our purpose. The purpose God set forth for us is to live a life that is distinct and different, based on the Word of God and without blame; and this is done “in Him.”
In Ephesians 5:27, we have another use of this phrase, and this tells us when this will ultimately happen. It is talking about Christ’s love for the Church as an illustration of the husband’s love for his wife. Christ loves the Church, Ephesians 5:27, He gave Himself for the Church “… that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing.”
This is talking about glorification. This isn’t talking about Phase 1, although it’s related to our possession of positional righteousness. It’s not talking about Phase 2, which is our spiritual growth, although that is the background for it. It’s talking about what the end result of that should be, and this is what becomes evident as we are before God in our glorified state.
As I’ve just used the phrases Phase 1, Phase 2, and Phase 3, let’s understand this. This is so important for understanding so many things about salvation.
There are 3 stages of salvation. Earl Radmacher used to say, “If you asked me if I were saved, I might say, ‘Well, I was saved yesterday, I’m saved today, and I’ll be saved tomorrow.’ ” There are 3 tenses to salvation. In fact, I think somebody wrote a book on that or something. There are 3 tenses to salvation. I prefer 3 phases of salvation.
The first occurs at the cross. We trust in Jesus Christ and we are saved, “for by grace you have been—perfect tense—you have been saved.” It’s a completed action. It’s not a process. In Roman Catholic theology, justification, salvation is a process.
This is Phase 1. It takes place in an instant when you believe Jesus died on the cross for your sins, and at that instant, you’re given eternal life, and it happens, and it is irreversible. We receive that new life. It is distinguished from Phase 2 and Phase 3 sometimes by calling it just justification salvation.
Phase 2 is related to our spiritual life. We are born again in Phase 1, and now we’re a little bitty, whiny, crying baby, and we have to grow to maturity. That’s spiritual life. Sometimes this is called experiential sanctification. This is where we are today, if you’re a believer in Jesus Christ, you’re somewhere along the growth chart for your spiritual life.
Then when we die, we’re absent from the body and we are face-to-face with the Lord, and this is called glorification.
Other terms that are used: at the cross, we are positionally sanctified. Sanctified comes from the same root as holy, and we are positionally set apart to God, but we are not experientially living a distinct life yet. We have positional sanctification.
Then in our growth, referred to as progressive or experiential sanctification, this is what we experience day to day. Some days it’s 3 steps forward, some days it’s two steps backwards, or for some people it’s 3 steps forward and 4 steps backward. But we’re trying to go forward and learn the Word, apply the Word, and grow spiritually.
When we die, we are at final sanctification. We are face-to-face with the Lord, we’re separated from our sin nature.
That brings up another aspect that we often associate with this, and that is that at the cross we’re freed from the penalty of sin, so we’re no longer going to spend eternity spiritually dead, separated from God in eternal condemnation. We’re freed from the penalty of sin and we’re freed from the tyranny of the sin nature, but we’re not freed from the presence of the sin nature.
So we have to learn to apply the word and to grow so that we can experience a freedom from the power of the sin nature in our life. We’re putting to death the deeds of the flesh In Romans 6 we’re reckoning ourselves dead to sin.
Then when we’re absent from the body and face-to-face with the Lord, we have our freedom from the presence of the sin nature. We’re freed from the presence of the sin nature, but not until we are absent from the body face-to-face with the Lord.
Ephesians 1:5 then comes into play, and it begins with the participle that goes back to a finite verb earlier—that He pre-appointed us by predestinating us. It’s a participle of means. He chose a destiny for us. It’s not talking about heaven or hell. It’s talking about those in Christ: God said, “Okay, I’ve got a plan for you.”
There was a plan for Jewish believers in the Old Testament. But the plan for Church Age believers, you’re on the Church team, then those who are on the church team are pre-appointed or directed to be like Christ, Romans 8:29. Here it is “… to adoption as sons …”
The ancient world had a couple of different things going on with adoption. There is Roman adoption; there is Greek adoption. There was something going on like adoption in Israel, but we don’t have a word for it. When you had levirate marriage, when you had things of that nature, there was something like that going on with the Hebrew background, but it’s not called adoption.
The purpose for adoption in the Roman system of adoption was to secure an heir. Think about that. We are appointed to heirship, we are appointed to be heirs.
And what’s tied to heirship? The inheritance goes to whom? Let’s say you’re Jacob and you’ve got all these sons, who gets the inheritance? Does all of it go to one or another? No, you determine who is going to receive the double portion of the inheritance, and he will be called the first born. Firstborn doesn’t mean he was the first to be born. It means he’s the one who’s the appointed or designated heir.
I referenced this last week in an article on the Royal Grant Treaty, written by Moshe Weinfeld in 1970. He talks about the firstborn, and refers to the firstborn as being appointed. It’s that same word that is sometimes translated “to choose”—it’s bahar.
Here’s a guy writing in a totally different context; a context where he’s describing how a covenant then appoints the firstborn or the heir. He translates the word, that is translated by many as “chosen,” as the “one who is appointed,” because it always has to do with someone appointed to a task.
It’s not just choosing somebody willy-nilly. It’s appointing them to a task. It brings out another aspect, and so this is for the one that is the firstborn. That’s really important! Who’s the firstborn in the Old Testament? It’s Israel. Again, it’s a corporate concept. It is Israel.
In Exodus 4:22 God tells Moses to tell the Pharaoh, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Israel is My son, My firstborn.”
Israel’s not the first of all the nations to come into existence. In fact, she came in rather late on the scene. Nations first developed out of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11. It is not till Genesis 12 that Abraham is called, and they don’t really become a nation in terms of numbers until the period between Genesis and Exodus.
But she’s the designated heir. She’s the one God has chosen to give privilege to in the Old Testament: the privilege of receiving revelation of God, the privilege of being a custodian for the revelation of God and the preservation of the Scripture, and to be the ones through whom the promised Messiah would come.
This is the double portion of the firstborn, the double blessing of the firstborn. But when we get into the post-cross era, the firstborn is different. The firstborn is Jesus Christ.
Romans 8:29 again, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined—that is preordained or appointed ahead of time—to be conformed to the image of His Son …”
What does he say about Him? “… that He—that is the Son—might be the firstborn among many brethren.”
Those who are foreknown and pre-appointed are the many brethren, and Christ is the firstborn.
Colossians 1:15, “He is the image of the invisible God—meaning His full deity—the firstborn over all creation.”
Again, it’s not talking about first in time; it is talking about His preeminence, and that He is the designated heir of all things. When we are “in Him,” then we are given an inheritance. We become heirs of God.
We will come back to talk about that next time, because it starts connecting the dots here for us in terms of what Paul is saying in these verses, and how this fits into shaping how we think about who we are and what we’re doing here on this planet.
Whether you have been given a vocation, a calling, to be an engineer or to be a teacher or to be a banker or doctor or ditch digger, whatever that calling is, there is a spiritual calling. That is to serve the Lord, to advance, to be conformed to the image of Christ, and to serve Him. We have to live in terms of that identity.
So many people enter into careers that are so demanding, that that’s their test that they fail, and they say, “I’ll worry about my spiritual life after I retire.” Who says you’re going to live that long? See, we have to put priorities first. That doesn’t mean you should not enter into those professions, but you have to understand that each profession is going to have different demands on you, and work within the framework of that.
We’re called for purpose, and that purpose has to do with being conformed to Christ. It brings glory to God among the angels, it brings glory to God in terms of human history, and it carries out the purposes God has within the angelic conflict.
It is such a multifaceted reality, and we can’t lose sight of that. It is a day-to-day challenge, a day-to-day war. Every day we have to decide, and every hour we have to decide, “Am I going to live today to serve the Lord or not?” —serving Him within whatever profession you are. Whether you’re a father, a mother, whatever your role is in the family, all of these things pertain to that. That’s the primary question: How am I going to serve the Lord today?
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study these things, to work through what it means to have been pre-appointed to a task. And that task has to do with our spiritual life mission to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, to be conformed to His image, to be prepared for the next stage in terms of the ruling and reigning with Christ in the kingdom, and then on into eternity.
“Father, we pray that if there’s anyone listening who’s never quite grasped the gospel, understood it, that perhaps today it will be clear to them that we are all born sinners, we’re born spiritually dead without life, without hope.
“The only way to have that change is to be born again, to get a new life, and that comes only by trust in Jesus Christ. The instant we believe in Him, we have eternal life, our destiny with You is secured, can never be changed, and we’re given new hope, new life, and a new reality.
“Father, we pray that You would help those who are unsaved to understand the gospel, and we pray that they would respond and believe in Jesus Christ as Savior. For the rest of us that we might be challenged to pursue our spiritual growth and spiritual life, and we pray these things in Christ’s name, amen.”