Adoption: Heirs of God
Ephesians Lesson #019
February 24, 2019
“Our Father, we are so thankful that we have Your Word, that it is a sure and certain guide to how we should think, how we should live, every aspect of our lives, that as Paul said we are to renew our thinking, and we do that by the study of Your Word. As our Lord prayed, we are sanctified by means of Your Word. It is not through any means other than God the Holy Spirit in conjunction with Your Word that we are transformed from faith to faith. We are transformed from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity as God the Holy Spirit begins to produce fruit in our lives, character transformation as we walk with Him.
“Father, as we continue our study in Ephesians, learning about the wealth that You have provided for us in Christ, our inheritance, the blessings You’ve given us, Father, we pray that we might be challenged, that we might respond in gratitude, realizing that all of this was given to us to use that we may glorify You and that we might be faithful witnesses to the angels and to those around us of Your goodness and grace.
“We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Open your Bibles with me to Ephesians 1. This morning, we’re looking at what the Bible teaches about adoption and what it means to be an heir of God. We have been studying for several weeks the first four verses in this opening eulogy—which means a statement of good, a blessing—that Paul gave that goes from Ephesians 1:3 to Ephesians 1:14.
We’ve taken about seven or eight lessons. I know some of you are thinking we will be in Ephesians until Jesus comes back or I die or both, I don’t know, and we might be, but we’re laying a foundation. That’s one reason that I’m taking time to set these words here.
Paul was doing that, actually, in this opening part where He talked about what God has provided for us, using terms such as choice and predestination and adoption. Later, He talked about the pleasure of His will, and we will bring that in in the next couple of verses.
Ephesians 1:11 talks about His will. It uses the word that we have translated as God’s pre-appointment or pre-ordination, what is wrongly translated as predestination. It also talks about the counsel of His will, but it begins by saying, “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance …”
The introduction to this idea of inheritance that is further developed here comes out of Ephesians 1:4–5, so the vocabulary was introduced there. These important doctrines of Scripture, these important teachings of the Word of God are laid out for us so that the groundwork is laid here. We will again and again come back to them as we work our way through the rest of Ephesians. Because we’ve taken the time to establish a good foundation at the beginning, when we get to these later on, we will add a little bit here and there to develop our understanding.
We have been looking the last couple of weeks at these verses. Ephesians 1:4 is translated, “just as He chose us …”
I have retranslated this based on the studies we’ve done the last few weeks as “since He appointed us in Him.” That is a corporate concept, not individual. We’re not talking about individual selection for justification salvation, as I’ve explained the last few weeks, but about the corporate appointment of those in Christ to a specific mission.
This idea of being the choice ones, how did we become choice? Not on the basis of some merit in our lives, not because we did something that pleased God, but because Christ on the Cross did something that pleased God. When He, as the righteous Son of God, paid for our penalty as our substitute on the Cross, at that time in history, our sins were forgiven.
Colossians 2:12–14 says that the certificate of our debt was nailed to the Cross, not when we believed but when Christ died. It is so important to understand that truth because the issue now is not our sin. The issue now is our faith in Christ. According to John 1:18, the basis for condemnation is because we have committed sin. Is that right? No. The basis for our condemnation is because we have not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. The instant we believe, which is not meritorious, the merit is in the Cross. The merit is in the person of Christ. The instant we believe we are given the righteousness of Christ.
That is described in the Old Testament with the idea of being clothed with garments of salvation. Isaiah 61:10 says, “He has covered me with the robe of righteousness.” The imagery of being covered with “the robe of righteousness” is picked up several times as you go through Scripture. We see it in Zechariah 3:3 with Joshua the High Priest, who had his dirty robes removed and new robes put on him, another picture of the imputation of righteousness, which is the basis for our justification.
I’m spending time on this because it shows up again in the imagery that is behind adoption.
We receive the robe of righteousness just as those in Matthew 22 who were invited to the wedding feast were given the appropriate wedding garments. The one who responded to the invitation but hadn’t actually believed, hadn’t trusted in Christ, was not given the robe of righteousness. He was kicked out and sent to the Lake of Fire because of his lack of appropriate garments, which is basically because he didn’t possess the righteousness of Christ.
His righteousness makes us choice. We are choice, not because of something inherent in us but because of the fact that we possess the righteousness of Christ. We are not changed morally when we become Christians. We are changed positionally when we become Christians. Our legal status before God is changed from being condemned sinners to being righteous. This is the foundation. He has appointed us in Him. We are the choice ones.
When did that happen? I have not talked much about this phrase, but it will become significant as we get into talking about the sovereign will of God in the coming weeks, so I want to say something about it now. In Ephesians 1:4, “… before the foundation of the world …” is an important phrase that was used about eight times in the New Testament. I chose a couple of examples to bring to your attention.
John 17:24 gives Jesus’ high priestly prayer to the Father. This is the real Lord’s prayer, not Matthew 5 that is typically recited as the “Our Father,” the Lord’s Prayer. That is the disciples’ prayer. In the Lord’s prayer, the Lord prayed on our behalf as our High Priest, and in that He said to the Father, “You loved Me before the foundation of the world.”
What does that phrase mean? Ephesians talks about the fact that this appointment of us—that is a corporate appointment—is also before the foundation of the world. This term, “the foundation of the world,” refers to what our English word means by foundation. If you’re going to build a house, the first thing you do is lay a foundation because it supplies stability to the rest of the edifice that is built upon it.
As you go through Scripture, the foundation is always the first thing. It is that which supports the altar in the temple. The word foundation is used there. It supports the altar. This idea of foundation is a description of the first thing that happens in the construction of something and is used metaphorically to refer to the plan of God from eternity past before creation.
1 Peter 1:18-20 also talks about this with reference to Christ’s work on the Cross. Verses 18 and 19 are familiar to most of us. These verses begin with a causal participle in the Greek, not just knowing, but because you know. You know something. You’ve been taught something. What do you know? You know that you were not redeemed by perishable things.
The word redeemed means purchased. The purchase of everyone by the blood of Christ means we were purchased out of the slave market of sin. We were not purchased by perishable things. Human works are perishable.
The New King James translated it “corruptible.” The idea is that it just doesn’t last. It can’t supply anything of permanent value. It’s not related to money. It’s not related to social status. It is not related to any of the details of life. It’s not related to our morality, our religiosity, our sincerity, any of those things.
Then, Paul said to them, and remember he was talking to Jewish background believers, we’re “… not purchased by perishable things …” The New King James translates it “your empty manner of life.” I translate it, “this is your meaningless way of life.” What does that mean?
He referred to the Jewish religious rituals that were according to the “… traditions of your fathers …” That technical term didn’t describe Mosaic authority that was revealed in the Torah. It referred to that which was called the oral law, the second area of oral tradition that was basically the teachings of the Pharisees. That law wasn’t biblical.
Jesus was accused of not following the traditions of the fathers. That referred to the Jewish rabbinical authorities who contradicted the authority of Moses. Peter used the word vanity. It was emptiness. It was meaningless. It had no value whatsoever. They got it from the tradition of their fathers. That was the oral law.
1 Peter 1:19. “But by the precious blood of Christ …” That term is a metaphor for the violent, physical death of Christ on the Cross and for His spiritual death through which He paid the penalty for our sin during those three hours when God the Father poured out upon Him the sins of the world. We were redeemed by His death for us, in our place, a substitutionary death on the Cross.
1 Peter 1:20. “He indeed …” He was talking about Jesus. “He indeed was foreordained …” There is that key word again. He was appointed to that death for a purpose because He alone was qualified to make that payment. He was the Lamb Who was without spot or blemish “… before the foundation of the world.”
All of this describes the fact that God in His omniscience knew everything there was to know. It’s so interesting for us to think about how the omniscience of God works with things because we just don’t have a clue about knowledge. You can’t tell me how you know anything. You can’t really tell me how you came to know anything. If I can’t tell you how this process of knowledge ultimately works, then when it comes to transferring that to God’s knowledge, we’re really lost. We only understand God’s knowledge by analogy. We cannot understand it as it is.
Let’s examine one more passage on foundation in the Old Testament. When God began to ask rhetorical questions of Job to point out Job’s complete inability to understand God’s thinking and understand God’s purposes, He used a series of questions that Job couldn’t answer. He started in Job 38:4-7. He said, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” That was a key statement. It was the beginning. It was the first step in the process of creation. He said, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” In Job 38:7, He said about that time, “… when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”
“All the sons of God” means all the angels. The term “sons of God” is a technical term, bene ha Elohim, for those who were directly created by God, based on this verse, before He created the heavens and the earth. At that time, they were united, which means this verse was describing a time before the satanic fall. There had been no fall of the demons yet. All angels were united in rejoicing over the creation of the earth. This term “foundation of the earth” takes us back to that time in eternity past.
As I just pointed out, this relates to the knowledge of God. We talked about the importance of God’s foreknowledge as described in Romans 8:29. In 1 Peter 1:2, that preordination is based on His foreknowledge. It was not done in a vacuum. It was not, as Calvinists say, that God can’t know what will happen unless He first determines it. In fact, a number of Calvinists have come to reject that idea as viable. It’s a logical irrationality to argue that because it ultimately destroys the knowledge of God.
What we see here is that at some point in eternity past, God had a plan. When we talk about it that way, it uses a certain anthropopathic imagery because we are talking about God having a plan. It’s as if, at one time, there wasn’t a plan and then there was a plan.
Remember that God’s knowledge is completely distinct from our knowledge. Our knowledge is gained knowledge. We learn, we experience things that we add to our knowledge all the time until we reach a point in life when perhaps we start losing our knowledge, but we all go through that process of learning and acquiring new information.
God never acquires new information. He always has known everything there is to know from eternity past, billions and billions and billions of years ago. Just take your mind and go back in time as far as you possibly can, and yet billions and billions of years before that, God knew everything there was to know. There never was a time when God did not know everything about what He was going to do about salvation. There never was a time when God didn’t know that Adam would sin. There never was a time when He didn’t know about the Angelic Conflict. There never was a time when God did not know about of the church. It was a mystery to us. It had not been revealed, but God knew about the church billions and billions of years ago and billions and billions of years before that. Nothing is a surprise to God.
His knowledge is exhaustive. That means there is nothing He doesn’t know. He knows all that will happen, all that might have happened, all that should have happened, all that could have happened. Nothing is missing from His treasury of knowledge. It is eternal. There never was a time when He didn’t know these things. God’s knowledge is immediate. Our knowledge is all mediate. We learn from things, and we grow in knowledge, but His knowledge is different. I hate to use the word intuitive, but it’s internal to Him. He has always known it.
Isaiah 55:8-9 says, quoting God, “ ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts and your ways are not My ways’ ”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“ ‘for as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways are higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.’ ” We can understand God’s knowledge only analogically. That means we can only understand it through some sort of analogy. We know that all analogies break down at some point; therefore, we can understand it only to a certain degree, and beyond that we are absolutely lost.
This is important because one of the phrases that we will come to has to do with His will, and this leads to a doctrine in Calvinism called the Divine Decree. There is only one decree. A lot of people will misstate that, just like they add an “s” to the end of Revelation, the last Book of the New Testament. It is not Revelations. It is singular. It is The Revelation of Jesus Christ.
In Calvinism, there is only one decree. It is all encompassing. That means that God, in this one decree, decreed everything that would happen. That theory is integral to their understanding of foreknowledge, but it ends up destroying knowledge. I believe if we were to work it out philosophically, it also destroys the possibility of knowledge, but of course they would argue against that.
We see in Ephesians 1:4, “… since He appointed us in Him”—that is, those who are the choice ones—“before the foundation of the world …” Before God began to create anything, at some point in eternity past, He had this plan. The plan had always been there, and that plan involved God’s purposes for those who lived between Adam and the Flood, those between the Flood and the call of Abraham, those between the call of Abraham and the coming of Christ, and those who would be in in the Church from the Day of Pentecost until the rapture of the Church. These are the choice ones, and their purpose is “that they would be holy and blameless before Him in love.”
We looked at this last time, that this relates to the three stages of salvation, that instantly at faith in Christ we are justified. That is when we receive that imputation of righteousness and God declares us legally to be just.
We have to understand these concepts that God uses to express our relationship to Him. They are legal terms. Terms like covenant, righteousness, imputation, justification are all legal terms. So is the term adoption that we’re getting to here. This was a legal concept in both Greek culture and Roman culture, and Paul used that in order to help us understand an aspect of our new legal relationship to God. At justification, we receive eternal life, and we are eternally saved.
Paul used the analogy of being a baby. We are going to see this terminology also in this study. We are called a BREPHOS, which is a term that can refer to an infant either in the womb or out of the womb. It referred to John the Baptist in the womb of his mother Elizabeth. It usually refers to an infant outside of the womb, and that infant has to grow and mature.
Different words are used related to this in the Scripture. In our spiritual life or spiritual growth, we go from spiritual infancy to spiritual adulthood. When we are absent from the body face-to-face with the Lord, we are glorified. Ultimately, we will receive our resurrection bodies. There will be no more sin. All of this will be removed. We won’t have a sin nature, so I don’t know how we will recognize some people.
Have you ever thought about how much of your personality—I’m not going to say my personality, but how much of your personality—is shaped by your sin nature? It is just amazing! If you take all of that away, what are you going to look like? I have no idea what I’m going to look like, but we will all recognize each other in Heaven. That’s a very positive thing. We won’t be strangers, but we will all be able look at each other and say, “You look so much better!”
The terms that are used for this are our positional sanctification and our position in Christ. We have to understand who we are in Christ as well as the terms that describe our experiential growth, experiential sanctification, progressive sanctification, and then our final, ultimate sanctification when we will be face-to-face with the Lord.
We are freed from the penalty of sin at salvation. We don’t have to worry about our eternal destiny anymore, but we still struggle with sin. That is the reason for spiritual growth. We have to learn to say no to the sin nature. We are freed from its power but not from its presence. At Phase 3 salvation, we are freed from the presence of sin.
Having understood that, we must understand that these verses at the beginning of Ephesians refer not to what happens in getting us justified in terms of an election— a divine choice as to who will be saved and who will not be saved—but to God’s plan for those who are already in Christ. This is Phase 2 salvation. This is a sanctification, a spiritual life issue. It challenges us to understand where this is going because when we get down to Ephesians 1:6, it is “to the praise of the glory of His grace by which He made us accepted in the beloved.” This is critical for us. This is glorification, so Phase 2 will impact Phase 3. How we appropriate that which we have in Christ now affects aspects of Phase 3. That comes under the category of inheritance.
Ephesians 1:5 is translated, “… having predestined us to adoption as sons …” We will look at the word for that, but we’ve seen that the choice of us in Him is by means of pre-appointment. PROORIZO should be translated that we are appointed to a task ahead of time. That task ahead of time has to do with pursuing our privileges and responsibilities, developing our understanding of those in Christ, because it is connected here to adoption. HUIOTHESIA comes from the root word HUIOS, which is the word for son, for an adult son. Jesus is the HUIOS TOU THEOU, the Son of God. He is referred to as an adult Son, and He is identified as the firstborn.
Again, firstborn is a technical term. A firstborn son is not the firstborn chronologically but the one who is the most significant. He is significant because He has been appointed as the heir. Although in the law of primogeniture, the eldest would have been the heir in many situations, the father could appoint another son as his heir. We see this in the patriarchs of Israel. Instead of the younger son serving the older, which is the law of primogeniture, the older served the younger. Ishmael served Isaac. Esau, the firstborn, served Jacob. The preeminent one was identified in a covenant of inheritance as the firstborn.
In our study on covenants on Tuesday nights, I have quoted an insignificant article. You can’t read anything in any study in any commentary that is of any value whatsoever that touches on covenants without some footnote to an article by a Jewish scholar, Moshe Weinfeld, on covenants that he wrote back in the early 1970s. This groundbreaking study distinguished between the Royal Grant Covenant and what is called a Suzerain Vassal Covenant. Basically, a Royal Grant Covenant freely gave to the designated heir certain blessings, not on the basis of anything that they had done but as a free gift. This was typically given to a servant nation that was loyal, so it was a reward for loyalty.
That brings in the whole concept of inheritance because part of inheritance is reward. Part of inheritance is the same for everybody, and another part is distinct. Every Christian gets a base package in his inheritance. We will see that the phrase “heir of God,” refers to that basic inheritance. Other believers who have performed well will get an additional inheritance. That is like the Royal Grant Treaty. “You’ve done well. I’m rewarding your loyalty.” Both are related to and grounded in this doctrine of adoption.
Ephesians 1:5, a couple lessons back—not the whole section, but just the underlying portion—, I retranslated as, “Before Him in love: by appointing us beforehand…” That is PROORIZO, which is normally and wrongly translated predestination. “… by appointing us beforehand to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto Himself.” This adoption is through Christ but is also directed toward Christ, for His benefit in terms of the body of Christ. The next phrase, “… according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace …”
I quoted Weinfeld again, just a reminder that He used this phrase that would often be translated “to choose a firstborn.” He was not talking about anything related to predestination, election, or any of those things. He was writing an article dealing with ancient Near Eastern covenants, and he translated that keyword in the Old Testament, bachar, which is usually seen as the Old Testament background for understanding the word elect in the New Testament. Election is not selecting somebody arbitrarily but choosing a qualified person, in this case, the firstborn. He translated it “appoint him” or to “make him the firstborn heir.”
All of those concepts relate to our study today, which is our adoption into God’s royal family. All this for thirty-five minutes sets the stage for understanding this critical, critical doctrine of our adoption into God’s royal family. Basically adoption—it’s interesting—from both a Roman and Greek background, was a way of securing the inheritance to the next generation.
Adoption wasn’t about some small child who was helpless and had been abandoned, and now you want to protect that child and bring him into your family to provide a good home with the things that he wouldn’t have otherwise, sharing that which God has already blessed you with. That is often the motivation for adoption today or that you are unable to have children, and people have a desire to have children. But in the Old Testament and the New Testament periods, adoption was primarily to secure an heir for the future, to pass on the possessions and to maintain the family name into the future.
They understood the importance of the third Divine Institution of family. Even though there was a lot of perversion, an incredible amount of perversion, an incredible amount of immorality, neither in the Greek nor the Roman system did they redefine marriage away from the original, created definition, which was one man and one woman. They did a lot of things that violated it, but they didn’t redefine it, which is the arrogance of our culture. When we look at the background from these other cultures, we learn that their focus was on inheritance. The adopted one was invested with certain privileges as well as responsibilities.
When we look at Scripture in the Hebrew Bible, there’s no Hebrew word for adoption. Everybody comments on this. However, it’s clear from the Scripture that they understood and practiced the concept. We have examples of adoption.
For example, in Genesis 15:1, Abraham adopted Eliezer as his heir. Abram said to God, “ ‘Lord God, what will You give me,’ ” because God had just promised that in his seed he would be blessed. Abram was childless and said, “ ‘… what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?’ ” The concept of adoption was there, but the terminology was not. We see that the purpose for adoption was to secure the inheritance.
Adoption was practiced in the Old Testament and under the Law. In the Mosaic Law, under levirate marriage, if a man died childless, the responsibility to raise heirs to the name of the dead husband was for a brother to take his wife and have children. The firstborn of that union would be raised as the son of the deceased brother. That passed on the inheritance and preserved the family name. It was a preservation of the Divine Institution #3.
We have other examples in the Old Testament. Moses was adopted into the family of Pharaoh in Exodus 2:1–10. Mordechai adopted and took care of Esther. The word adoption wasn’t used, but that was what he was doing in Esther 2:7, 15.
In Ezekiel 16:1–7 the concept of adoption, even though that term wasn’t used, was the background for describing God’s relationship to Israel. That goes back to Ephesians 4 when He called Israel “My firstborn, My designated heir.” He designated Israel as His firstborn.
All of these come together as part of the cultural background to adoption.
1. Adoption was used in the New Testament as an illustration by analogy of the new position of the Church Age believer in relationship to God.
We are adopted into God’s royal family. That’s the terminology. All these concepts of inheritance and privilege and responsibility are loaded as part of the baggage of that word adoption.
Privilege means that we’ve been elevated to a position spiritually that is far beyond anything ever experienced by any other believer in human history. We have been given all these privileges in Christ, but as any of you who are parents know and any of you who have been children know—I think that includes everybody—privileges entail responsibilities.
I’ve heard people say, “Well, you can’t talk about that because that’s legalism.” Well, I can talk about that because you are ignorant! Obligation and responsibility are not terms of legalism. Legalism means I’m doing what I’m doing in order to gain God’s favor and in order for God to give me salvation.
As believers in Christ, we are given a new life, and we have an obligation, the responsibility to grow and nourish that new life. We are to desire the milk of the Word like a newborn baby so that we may grow thereby. That is a responsibility. That is an obligation. If we don’t fulfill that obligation, we don’t lose our salvation, but we may lose a blessing and we may lose inheritance. We have to understand this background to adoption.
2. The Greek word HUIOTHESIA describes the act of investing a non-biological son with the privileges and responsibilities of an adult son.
I’m going to hear some feminist say, “Well, that sounds sexist.” Well, the question you asked is sexist. We have to learn to start turning these things back on people. We have to understand that cultures recognize that in God’s plan and purpose, there is a significance to the male that does not go to the female.
But guess what? There is a significance to the woman that doesn’t go to the man. The woman is called an ezer. The man is never called an ezer, which means a helpmate. The only other person in the Bible who is described as an Ezer is God. A significant thing for women is that only God is designated as an Ezer other than women. Not men. They don’t have that role. Each sex has certain distinctive roles and privileges that the other does not have, and that’s part of God’s plan and purpose.
Today, this language of sonship is always going to be taken in terms of this gender exclusive mentality. All of this is a subtle satanic attack on the Word. You have to understand that. It’s not just an attack in terms of the basics of homosexuality verses heterosexuality and attacks on the marriage. So many key doctrines in Scripture are grounded in this distinction between male and female that once you start perverting the meaning of those terms, you will go to the Word of God with your mind cluttered by these false concepts put forth by our culture.
The first thing you’re going to do is throw Scripture away because it is anti-woman. It’s sexist. It’s anti-gay. That means that Christianity, by definition, or the Bible, by definition, hates women, hates homosexuals, hates everybody. This incredible twisting of Scripture makes God hateful instead of the God of love. This is Satan’s ploy.
This act of adoption impacted an adult male because inheritance in that culture was passed on through the men. There were provisions in the Law for the lack of a male heir. For example, in the case of the Zelophehad in Numbers 27:7, when he died, his inheritance went to his daughters. God does not limit women, but through a male, salvation was provided. There are significant aspects then to these distinctions.
This non-biological son was invested with privileges and responsibilities, and this indicates our new position in Christ, which must be distinguished from our individual experience. Positionally, we are adult sons. That is how God looks at you positionally. Because you are in Christ, He looks at you as righteous. You know you are not righteous some of the time, but He looks at you as an adult and expects you to behave like an adult; however, experientially, too often we are spiritual infants, and we are irresponsible like spiritual infants. We have to learn our identity so that we can pursue it.
3. Basically, four passages talk about adoption, Romans 8:15, 23, Galatians 4:5, and Ephesians 1:5. These four passages relate to Church Age believers. Each one uses adoption to emphasize another aspect of our position in Christ.
4. The importance of understanding the analogy.
We have to look at ancient Greek or Roman culture in order to understand adoption. Paul did not seem to be referring to either of them per se. In other words, he was not taking the Roman practice or the Greek practice and making his analogy stand on one or the other. He drew generically from what they had in common. Adoption was a legal act. It was grounded in law.
As I’ve pointed out many times, sin is a violation of God’s righteousness; and therefore, there is a legal condemnation, which is spiritual death. In order to solve that problem, the language of the Scripture is also legal. It is courtroom language, words like justification by faith alone, words like righteousness, words like adoption.
This shows that something is going on in human history that has to do with a courtroom type situation. Ultimately, that goes back to the Angelic Conflict and God’s condemnation of Satan and the fallen angels. God judged them and announced the sentence and went so far as to create the Lake of Fire for them. But they are not there yet, so something is going on. That means that human history fits within the structure of this trial and condemnation of Satan.
Adoption was a legal contract designed, as I’ve said already, for the preservation of the family and primarily to establish inheritance. A child would reach adulthood and be invested with this adoption. There would be a ceremony in which a robe was placed on Him. The Scripture never goes that far with the analogy, but when we see that this adoption was related to a robe being placed on him, what image comes to your mind? It is those Old Testament pictures of the robe of righteousness and the new robe that was put on Joshua the High Priest in Zechariah 3:4.
This indicates a close relationship in the Church Age between justification and adoption. Because we are justified, God is able to adopt us into His royal family because we possess His righteousness. Paul described it in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “that He who knew no sin was made sin for us that the righteousness of God might be found in us.”
5. Four keywords are part of the language here.
- BREPHOS describes an infant, sometimes an unborn infant like John the Baptist in the womb of his mother.
- TEKNON is a broad word that refers basically to a child of any age who is still under the care of his parents.
- A HUIOS is an adult child. Notice they don’t have a word for an adolescent or a teenager. In the twentieth century, they invented this New Age category, but in all ancient cultures up till the twentieth century, in all cultures, a child became an adult. They didn’t have the transitional phase of an irresponsible adult.
- NEPIOS refers to a little older child, not a BREPHOS, and sometimes was used pejoratively—that means as an insult—to refer to an adult who acted like a child. When you’re talking to your fifteen or sixteen-year-old kid or maybe your twenty-five-year-old husband, you say, “You’re acting like a baby.” NEPIOS was used a couple times by Paul that way.
6. They would have an adoption ceremony that indicated a formal transference of status from being outside the family to being a full-fledged member of the family and the appointed firstborn and heir. That was symbolized by a new robe that was put on him.
7. In Galatians, Paul used the illustration of the pedagogue. The pedagogue was a tutor. A child was given this tutor. Paul used that as an analogy to the Law. In the Old Testament, the Law was the pedagogue, and Israel was the child. They were under the pedagogue. Paul pointed out that when the child reached maturity, the pedagogue was removed, and the child was treated as an adult.
In history, God dispensationally treated Israel as a child under the Law, but in the Church Age, because He has given us all the privileges of adoption as heirs, we are treated as adults. Again, this puts a tremendous amount of responsibility on us as Church Age believers, but also great privilege.
8. In Ephesians, the emphasis is on the new position of the believer. This gets further developed as we move to Ephesians 1:11, “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance”—that is talking about what we have in Christ—“having been pre-ordained according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will.” We will deal with the sovereign will of God a little later.
9. This is accomplished through baptism by means of the Holy Spirit. We are identified with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. When we become a new creature in Christ, the power of the sin nature is broken. That is the mechanics for understanding our adoption into Christ.
10. When we enter into union with Christ through baptism by the Holy Spirit, at that instant of salvation, we become adult sons positionally.
It doesn’t matter if you are a woman. Remember, in terms of the spiritual life, there is neither Jew nor Greek, male or female. That doesn’t mean that sex differences disappear. It means that we all have the same relationship to God and equal access to God. We are positionally adult sons, HUIOS HUIOTHESIA. That was a legal concept in the Law. We have privileges.
Slides 27, 28, 29, 30, 31
In terms of our chart, I’m going to develop this a little more. We have our eternal realities on the left. This is what we have positionally in Christ, who we are in Christ. On the right, we will develop the experiential aspect. At the instant of faith in Christ, we are placed into Christ by the baptism by the Holy Spirit.
Other things happen at that same instant in time. We are justified. We are regenerated. (I’m not putting these in any kind of logical order. Chronologically, they all happen at the same time.) We are regenerated. That means we are given new life in Christ. Because we are given new life, we are adopted into God’s royal family, and we become heirs of God, a significant phrase to understand. Because we have all those realities, we are supposed to be filled by means of the Spirit, walk by means of the Spirit, and walk in the Light. That is our spiritual life.
11. As adopted heirs of God, as adopted members of God’s royal family, we are in union with Christ. Because we are in union with Christ, we become heirs of God. Notice, not heirs of Christ. I’m going to show you why in just a minute—heirs of God, but not joint heirs with Christ. That is a second aspect of inheritance.
You may want to turn here so you can re-punctuate the text. Romans 8:16. “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God...” That is the word TEKNON. We are children of God. That is not making a distinction between an adult son at this point. The focal point here is the heirship of God.
Romans 8:17. “… and if children, then heirs.” Notice that the New King James sets this off with an em dash. “—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ …” This was translated to make the phrase “heirs of God” and the phrase “joint heirs with Christ” synonymous. Both then are conditioned on suffering with Christ.
Remember, in the Greek New Testament in the uncial documents, not only did they not have punctuation, but all the letters were uppercase, and there were no spaces between the words. A Greek scholar has to be able to read it and distinguish the words. You may think that would be hard, but if I gave you this verse without any spaces and capitalized every word, you would read it perfectly the first time. You know how to read English, and your mind automatically recognizes word breaks.
But there was no punctuation in Greek. The punctuation was provided by a translator on the basis of his interpretation of the text. We have to ask the question, “Where should those commas be?” The way it was typically translated, the condition of suffering with Him is the condition for being both an heir of God and a joint heir with Christ. Let me give you an illustration.
If you have the sentence “A woman without her man is nothing,” you have to punctuate it a certain way for it to make sense. I thought this was a great illustration. Most women punctuate it like the second line. “A woman, without her, man is nothing.” In other words, the statement is that without a woman, man is nothing. The third line is the way most men would translate it. “A woman without her man, is nothing,” two completely opposite meanings depending on where you place your comma.
If you re-punctuate Romans 8:17 by putting a comma after God, it reads, “and if children, then heirs—heirs of God”—comma, that’s one category—“and joint heirs of Christ”—no comma—“if indeed we suffer with Him.” “Heir of God” refers to what every believer has in common in terms of our inheritance in Christ, but if we grow and mature, we will suffer, and then there will be additional rewards. That is being a joint heir with Christ.
This is a challenge for us. We are all adopted into God’s royal family. We are all given incredible blessings and privileges, but they are simply a potential for us to grow and mature. If we activate those potentials, if we go forward in spiritual growth, then as Paul wrote Timothy, “Those who desire to be godly will be persecuted.” 2 Timothy 3:12.
There will be some sort of opposition, some sort of rejection. Even in a Christian culture, some may reject you because you are a believer, and that’s part of suffering. It doesn’t have to be anything extreme. It doesn’t have to mean that you are tied up in chains and put on the rack or burned at the stake. It can mean just rejection or some hostility to you. Because you live in the devil’s world in an anti-God world, you are going to face that kind of rejection.
Adoption guarantees one form of inheritance, but your desire to move forward and grow spiritually affects another level, and that’s when we get into the whole doctrine related to rewards and inheritance, which we will be covering eventually as we go through Ephesians.
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to study these things, to see how all of these different key terms that are used by Paul here in Ephesians 1:3–6 fit together, lay a foundation to help us understand what we have in Christ, the incredible blessings You’ve given us, the privileges You’ve given us. Father, it goes beyond anything we could ever imagine.
“Father, we pray that You would open our eyes to understand this more fully, that we could grasp what was being described for us, and Father, that we might be motivated to pursue this, to learn about these privileges and to pursue spiritual growth to glorify You.
“Father, we pray for anyone listening that he might recognize that faith in Christ is the only thing necessary for salvation. You don’t have to reform your life. You don’t have to change anything. You don’t have to feel sorry for your sins, any of those things that are often put forward as conditions of salvation. It is simply faith in Christ, believing that He died on the Cross for your sins. We pray that You would make that clear to anyone listening to this message today, and that he might trust in Jesus Christ as his Savior.
“Father, we pray that You would challenge us with the implications of being adopted heirs of God. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”