ALIVE Adoption | Ephesians 1:3-14
Topic: New Testament Passage: Ephesians 1:3–1:14
Christopher Rich – September 22, 2019
ALIVE | The Way Unearned
ALIVE ADOPTION | Ephesians 1:3-14
Introduction | The Way Unearned
Good Morning Welcome to Damascus Road where we are Saved by Jesus Work, Changed by Jesus’ Grace, and Living on Jesus’s Mission. Today we continue our series walking the through the book of Ephesians called ALIVE: The way Unearned where we see life with God has been given to us.
In Christ, we have been made alive for a purpose. To live in the way God has created us. Both the rewards of and endurance in this life are by His grace alone so they are by nature unearned.
We are all Orphans. I am speaking from a spiritual and soul level sense. We may have parents, even have really good parents who loved and cared for us well. Yet we still experience a sense in our souls of being lonely, abandoned, disconnected, or at the very least you have a sense of a lack of satisfaction or separation. Where, or when have felt let down, forgotten, or abandoned? When I was 5 years old I was accidently left in the parking lot of a Toys R’ Us at night by my Dad, while my mom had gone into the story. Separated from both parents, I ran toward the car but he didn’t see me and I was picked up by a local police officer, taken into the story, and thankfully was reunited with my mom. However, it wasn’t necessarily my Dad’s fault. Mom had told me no to going into the store, but I didn’t want to listen. It was my disobedience that lead to the separation. It was brief but scary. We all have some distance or separation from God we want resolved. We are people who live with great longing. What is your deepest longing? Not the surface level want’s fleshly lusts, or material wants, but deep heart level longing. Something in our soul is missing. We know we’re broken at some degree, and we know we’re unsettled in our spirit. Our deep longing is to be whole and to be home. Because of sin we’ve been separated from the God who made us, not momentarily like me in the parking lot, but we exist in a state of exile from his presence, and orphaned from His family. We won’t be satisfied with anything less than being reunited and reconciled. Left alone we have as much opportunity to flourish as a toddler left in a parking lot. We are all orphans who need to be rescued, made whole, and have hope we’ll make it home on the way unearned.
PART I | No Longer Fatherless | Ephesians 1:3-6
Eph 1:3-6 | 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
In letters to other churches, Paul, after his greeting, gives thanks for the members of the church how much gratitude he has for their faith, how precious they are to him. Praising God for them, praying for them. But here, Paul begins not with praising God for the people but praising God for who HE is and what HE has done for the people. In doing this Paul is tying the identity of the Ephesian church back to God. You cannot know yourself, who you are, who you are intended to be unless you know about the God who created you. Paul begins this letter with a powerful reminder to the Ephesians of who they are to God and who they are with, God. These verses begin with blessing and end with praise but contain theological precision for our understanding. We need to know what God we’re blessing God as trinity God the Father has blessed us, In Christ (Jesus, God the Son) the nature of His blessing (favor) are spiritual (Lit blessing of the Holy Spirit)
The Father’s Planned Love- He = Father, Chose Us = Us, in Him = Christ. God the Father is the great initiator. We bless God because God has first blessed us! God has been is intentional in His blessing. God’s plan to bless us with every spiritual blessing. This is clear in pointing to spiritual blessings, so we don’t confuse them with material blessings we usually attribute to God. God provides for our material needs and Jesus tells us not to be anxious over them, but our deepest need isn’t bread alone, but words from our Father. The greatest blessing God can conceive for us is not to have all the things our heart can desire, but is to give us a heart that is united with Jesus who then becomes our greatest desire. God’s planned grand blessing has always been to unite us to Jesus. When? Before there was a beginning. Before time as we know it began, before we even existed, God’s purpose of His will was to adopt as His own children by the work of Jesus (that hadn’t been executed yet) so that we should holy and blameless before Him. The result of this plan is that those In Christ have been predestined for adoption. There are big words used here that are critically important to understand the power of God’s will and purpose.
Chosen/Election/Predestined- From these words we get some key doctrines to understand how God works, has worked, to save His people adopting them into His family. We experience the outcome of God’s plan, purpose, and work in our own time so we believe when we have faith in Jesus, we chose God, but it didn’t say “even as we chose God at the time we believed”. We think we have decided, or chosen God, which is true in our experience, we did choose God but only because He first chose us before we (or anyone) had even drawn a breath. God is first and greatest agent in initiating us being adopted into His family. “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” is true! AND he’s not waiting for you to get started executing that plan. It started before the world was even formed. It didn’t require you to initiate, God initiates. When God the Father has a plan it doesn’t get revised. It doesn’t get rolled out with various degrees of execution. Well this part of it worked well, this part didn’t, back to the drawing board. God doesn’t change his plan not because He’s stubborn and inflexible, like we are when we refuse to adapt to changing circumstances. God’s plan is so effective and His will so powerful it never meets obstacles it can’t overcome or circumstances it needs to adjusts or conform to. When God’s will collides with obstacles, circumstances or people in opposition to it, it is they that are shattered and changed, not God’s will.
In Love/Adoption/Blessed/Praise/Grace all matter! These are all words used by Paul to describe the motives of God, the character of God, the work of God in our lives. When we are alone, discouraged, disconnect, we when we feel unloved, unknown, uncared for these are the words we need. In these verses we are given keys to understand the nature and work of God, but they are not given to increase our theological precision but the give us comfort in the midst of trial and endurance in the midst of suffering. There is a God who made everything in the universe and before he made it all, he knew you in all your mess and imperfection and he planned for you to be a member of His kingdom by paying the price of your sin (deserving death) with the death and blood of His royal Son Jesus, makes you clean and blameless before a holy God and so you could obtain an inheritance which includes all the riches and glory of heaven. Now tell me that isn’t attractive…. The context of these verses is to encourage the saints, not encourage debates.
To be right with God the Judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father is greater. – J.I. Packer, Knowing God
In Christ, we are no longer forgotten orphans. We have been intentionally adopted into God’s family as sons and daughters. Being adopted cannot be earned by great work of the adoptee but can only be granted by the great adopter. God’s plan for us also has a purpose that we would be holy and blameless.
Holy and Blameless points to our need. It assumes that as spiritual orphans we are not only a sympathetic character, oh sad a fatherless child in need of a home. We think oh just a homeless kid well of course God would want to adopt us who wouldn’t. It’s like The Blindside move I’ll adopt you into our family because you have such great potential to be D-1 recruit and potential NFL draft pick. It would be so good for God have me in His family. Instead, when we see part of the Father’s purpose in electing/choosing us is so we should be both Holy and Blameless, it logically assumes that without God the separation and sin has made us both unholy (unclean) and blame worthy, accountable for our sin. Justice, what we’ve earned would mean that in front of God we’re not an object of pity but actually an object of just wrath. When we consider our unadopted state in these terms it shows the greatness of the character of the one who has adopted us into His family. What this means is we are troubled and broken children with “special needs” who will be difficult additions to any “perfect family” God knows all of our mess, our sin, our needs, how broken we are, how imperfect we are, how needy we are and He has chosen us. Not because of our merits but despite them. This should never lead us to pride, but should always drive us to greater humility. If your understanding of theology leads you to pride, you’re doing it wrong.
We struggle with this because our affection of others is often earned by others in someway they have blessed us or we see them as pleasing. You know this is true. Think about a marriage relationship or dating, at no point does a guy go up to girl and say “I see nothing pleasing or attractive about you, you wanna go out? See how selfless I am I that I would go out with you even though you not only are repulsive to me but also have wronged me”. When we elect at the very least it should be based on merit. We think this candidate is better than this other one, or not as bad as another. We don’t say “I’ve voting for x because there is nothing, they’ve done to earn this position or about them that merits my confidence but I hope they know how good and gracious I am towards them.” Both would be so foolish to us! Yet this is the will of God for us to no longer be fatherless. God knows we’re orphans and His answer is Grace to us in Jesus.
PART II | Adoption Has a Cost | Ephesians 1:7-10
Eph 1:7-10 | 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
The Son’s Paid Debt – Just because God is gracious to us don’t mean he doesn’t take sin seriously or that it is a cheap easy gesture for him to call us out of our state of orphan rebel and into His forever family. Our adoption isn’t earned by us, but that doesn’t mean it comes without a great cost. Sin is costly and has consequences. Because our is against an eternal God the consequences of our sin are eternal. For our just consequences to be realized it requires a sacrifice greater than we can give and remain alive. We cannot have redemption or forgiveness on our own, and we cannot be welcomed into the family without our sin being dealt with. Jesus paid the price of our adoption, redeeming us from our sin, through His sacrifice for us on the Cross. “In Him” in Christ we right now have redemption, (literally meaning deliverance by payment of a price) we have been purchased from slavery to our sin. Alone sin has the biggest claim on us.
Forgiveness by grace- When people have wronged us we don’t want forgiveness we want justice. We don’t want their sin or trespasses looked over, we want them highlighted. We want people to pay restitution, to us. You will be back in my good graces when you’ve paid off your debt to me. We then stay in frustration and even bitterness while waiting for others to earn back our favor. That is not what adoption in Christ is. In order to be Holy and Blameless before God the Father, our sins against God have to be dealt with. When we’re adopted into the Family of God He’s not waiting for us to pay restitution to Him. He has already paid for our redemption. Adoption is only possible where there is redemption. Holy and blameless is only possible where there is forgiveness. We are “legally free” to be adopted because our sin no longer has the greatest claim on us! God has accomplished this by the Cross. The Cross shows the great opposition the love, will, rule, and reign of God in our lives and world as people literally purposely designed to kill the Son of God who came to save people. But the Cross also shows the Greater Will of God who purposely planned to bless sinners by paying the debt of their sin with His perfect sinless sacrifice in their place. The act of taking communion we participate in every week is a reminder of the price that was paid so we could be redeemed. Christ’ Body was broken so we could be made whole, Christ’s blood was shed to cover the cost of our sin. Because of Jesus work in our place, our sins are forgiven and God has “lavishly” given us life in His family. Think about that word, lavish. That is the oppose of stingy or even frugal. It’s an excessive over flow of God’s unmerited (unearned) favor which covers all our sin deserves AND characterizes the type of spiritual life we can have now. God HAS blessed us with every spiritual blessing. This is past tense in His planning and action, present in our state as redeemed and forgiven adoptees
This adoption has a future implications. The plan of God the Father and the payment of God the Son is to bring unity UNDER the authority of Christ. When the “fullness of time” come unity for those in Christ will be fully experienced. But that time is not yet (though I wish it was) we don’t know when it will be. But what we have in this is the knowledge of the ultimate trajectory of History as we know it will be towards Christ’s rule and reign over all things. That means God’s plan is to unite people with Christ for their holiness and blamelessness, it is ALSO that people would be united by Christ to one another. There is an individual plan and purpose of adoption to save people to be sons and daughters AND there is a corporate plan to bring together these individuals as a people who are brothers and sisters.
PART III | Adoption Has a Purpose | Ephesians 1:11-14
Eph 1:11-14 | 11 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, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
The Holy Spirit’s Promised Future - Christ is the inheritance! Our life now walking the way unearned with Christ is part of obtaining our inheritance. Yes he died for it, but unlike an earthly inheritance where the one blessing you has to be gone, when our inheritance is a spiritual blessing and life “In Christ” we enjoy the inheritance now with the one blessing us being present. We also have a greater future promised us.
We may not always fully understand why, but it is the wisdom and will of God to make us part of His family forever. We can know part of the purpose of this adopted family is both His glory and our Joy; as we praise God for what He has done for us and look forward to our future with Him. The Holy Spirit’s promised future also presently empowers us for mission. Knowing God choses people, and God has predestined people to be adopted into His family should drive us to know our evangelistic efforts will enjoy as much success as the Holy Spirit grants. Verse 13 says “when you heard” that means someone told them the Gospel…. of salvation. It also means if you’re hearing the Gospel you have a response required. You are to believe in, hope in, trust in, the Gospel of Jesus saving work in your place. It is that belief that seals you with/by the Holy Spirit. If you are just hearing this for the first (or 51st) time respond with faith!
The Holy Spirit will seal those saved by the Son on the cross. Sealed isn’t like Tupperware, it is like the seal on a letter, or brand on cattle. It is a mark of ownership, of possession. Through faith in Jesus you are “owned/possessed” by God You are His. Knowing you are God’s and that life eternal with Him is secure as he has lavishly given you His grace with the counsel of his will with all wisdom and insight should bring you great peace. Those who believe in Jesus Christ alone are given a guarantee of the inheritance and that we will be delivered to the Father in all Glory by the Spirits power and not our own. This is incredible to consider our eternal relationship with God is not dependent on the strength and perseverance of our will and our faithfulness but of the God the Holy Spirit. God’s plan gives us a sense of peace and security that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion Phil 1:6
We only have a small taste of this great inheritance of forever life with Christ. Guarantee is like down payment. We’re only experiencing the “earnest money” amount of the fullness of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives now. Greater things are yet to come, until then we rest in God’s plan and will for us. So the what is God’s plan and will. The who is Him uniting us with Christ, the how is through Jesus paying the price for our sin and the Holy Spirit sealing us as His people. The Why is for us to respond. How do we respond? Praise the Glory of God. (v6,12,&14) Praise of God the Father who has planned to love us in precisely the way we needed before we even knew we needed it. All of our life is a response to this new identity we have been given. The implication of our adoption will go deeper in our lives as we continue with life in the family.
How would you live differently if you knew your identity, future, security, blessing and inheritance were all secure?
How would it give you more patience when you are anxious?
How would it empower you to live more in line with God’s will when you know His will is your holiness and blamelessness before him?
How could it give you more endurance, when you’re suffering to know you have an inheritance that has already been obtained for you?
How could it give you more hope when you are discouraged to know you are forgiven and redeemed?
At our heart the only thing we plan for is our sin. Our will and plan will always leave us abandoned as dead spiritual orphans. Our will is sin, God’s will is to make us Alive Adoptees so we can walk the way unearned. He’s executed our adoption perfectly through the plan of the Father, the price the Son paid, and perseverance ensured by the Holy Spirit, so we can rest as son and daughters who Trust Jesus.