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, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
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, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 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, who is the guaranteed of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Do you know what a backstory is? It’s the story that happened long before what you’re reading or watching. It’s about the cause of the current situation and the meaning behind it. Do you know the backstory of the movie Up? It’s about the boy and girl who meet as children grow together, fall in love, have a happy life, until she is gone and he tries to fulfill one of their dreams. Superhero movies have their backstories. They’re called origin stories. Superman was an orphan from a doomed planet. Spiderman lost his parents and uncle. You know how they go.
When we do Bible study we often look at the end of the story. The fulfillment. We like results. We like to see everything work out in the end. But the backstory, how we got to where we are at, is more than the stuff of novels. History is the backstory. History is always the backstory. That’s what makes history really interesting.
Every teaching in the Bible has a backstory. This thing called adoption has one. And it is one that you will find practical application to life whether you are in school or in the workplace.
What is adoption? In everyday life it means making someone a part of your family who was once not family. Sometimes the person is a known relative. Other times it is the best of charity to a complete stranger. It means, to the Christian, being brought into the family of God and being a recipient of the full inheritance, of all of God’s promises to His people of faith. We were not only strangers to Him, but he adopted people who were at one time opposed to Him.
Definitions are easy. What’s hard is the questions. How and why did it come about and what in the world difference does it make in my life today? Why would God do such a thing? Here’s the backstory:
Adoption began with a covenant that had two parts. God made this covenant of both nation and faith with Abraham. He said in Genesis
Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.
And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
God established a relationship with Abraham and his descents both with respect to the nation and to Abraham’s faith response to God. The two were intertwined. God’s promises were bound together in this relationship like the strands of a rope. We can see each one as distinct but if we separate them there is no rope. That revelation of God into human affairs went on for some time.
This close relationship of the national covenant, the descendants of Abraham, and the faith covenant, that being justified before God is by faith, is affirmed in the New Testament
I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.
Paul didn’t forget that he was Jewish. Not for a second. The Hebrew people, the descendants of Abraham, were the first to be adopted by God. And adoption was about God’s plan for them. But why would God choose such a small and seemingly inconsequential group of people? He did it to glorify Himself.
For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, and repays to their face those who hate him, by destroying them. He will not be slack with one who hates him. He will repay him to his face. You shall therefore be careful to do the commandment and the statutes and the rules that I command you today.
Those are the promises of God and his love for His chosen nation.
Go back to Romans 9:1-5.
The promises, the faith relationship, even Jesus as Messiah, are tied to this covenant relationship with a single people. And though it’s not all a saving covenant it remains a covenant none-the-less. That’s how it started. But that’s not all there was to it. The covenant relationship was extended. As always, Jesus did it.
Remember, that the sacrifice of Christ was according to the law of Moses, the national laws set up for the descendants of Abraham. He was the lamb of God, the scapegoat, the sin bearer. But those are principles related to the law of Moses. And for the rest of the world His sacrifice, his sin-bearing was the same. Why? Because there is sin whether one is under the explicit law of Moses or whether one simply sins against God’s righteousness. Sin needs to be dealt with. Remember, too, that the Romans crucified Him but the Pharisees turned him over to them. All are under sin. As such we gentiles needed a sacrifice for sin, too. Christ provided that.
For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Sin is committed by all of us outside of the Law of Moses just like sin is committed by everyone who is under the Law of Moses. Sin is as inescapable as is death.
Sin is the universal for which Christ died, the sin that he bore. He died not just for sins, the specific acts that we do, but also for sin as in our lostness. For that we respond in faith for his redemption. And to accomplish this for the rest of the world he started his second adoption program.
There’s another term that is used in the New Testament that has the idea of being included into something where we really don’t belong. That’s the idea of grafting in, like grafting a branch onto a tree trunk. Exactly like that. He grafted in the gentiles who responded in faith. Abraham’s faith was directly to God and apart from the law. The covenant mark of circumcision was established with Abraham after he expressed his saving faith. This was 400 years before the Law was given to Moses.
Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.
In other words, God has through Christ’s work brought Jew and Gentile, two distinct classes, together through faith. The family originated with the Hebrew nation and the people of faith in this covenant relationship continues with both as one family. God has not forgotten his covenants of old. We saw that in Romans 9. He has simply expanded the faith part of it beyond its starting point. His covenant with His people group has not ended. That’s a covenant that he intends to keep.
As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
Yet the two covenant promises differ. It’s easy to think of ourselves as separated from the Jewish people, that this faith relationship is all ours. We spread the message. We do all the work. But we do well to not forget that it all started and God has not forgotten the people of the first promise.
And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.
Again, God has not forgotten His promises and covenants, not in the least. God grafts in all who come by faith. We gentiles are the wild branches and the natural branches are the Hebrew nation, the Jewish people. All may be grafted in through faith as was Abraham.
This is the ultimate in real inclusiveness. No longer is the covenant intended for a single ethnic group. It began and is intertwined for the nation that God desires to come to faith. The full inheritance as children of God is there for all. It crosses ethnic lines. It crosses national boundaries. No matter what the critics on social media or teachers in school might say, Christianity is by no means a white man’s religion. It never has been. It always has been and always will be global.
While the US remains the nation that sends out the most missionaries, Brazil is number 2 and South Korea is not very far behind. In other words, it’s a global faith.
From the human perspective of the day class was displayed in several ways. There was social class where elites held sway over the working and merchant classes. In some ways not much different than today though the classes were far more rigid than ours. There was ethnic separation with the same amount of rigid separation. That is far less common today in the West but still exists. There was political class. These were strict classes and it would be rare for one to pass up the class ladder.
There was also religious separation. Rome tried to unite its peoples through religious unity. The had this building called the pantheon. It housed all the idols from around the empire. That was their type of inclusiveness. Just worship whomever you wish as long as you also worship the emperor. Needless to say both Christian and Jew had serious reservations about it and persecution was the result. The Roman inclusiveness practice had limitations and restrictions similar to today’s practices.
Missions is all about adoption. The gospel, the call to disciple-making, has always been for all people everywhere. The Lord’s commission to his disciples made it clear:
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28: 19-20
And it was restated in Acts at the ascension:
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Church history supports this. The apostle Thomas, we’re told, went east toward India. It went North to Europe and South to Africa.
And for modern evidence of this all you have to do is look at ours and so many fellowships as well as global church planting where redemption in Christ lets us call each other brother and sister without reservation.
So, don’t let anyone intimidate you as to your faith and who owns it. Only God owns it.
The Family, God’s Household
Being adopted brings us into God’s family. That’s why we can use the family language of brother and sister.
In many families and cultures, throughout human history, adoption did not include full inheritance. Families would adopt step children but keep the inheritance for their natural born children. Men would husband multiple wives and children, providing everything they need but leaving many of them out of the inheritance, keeping the inheritance for a select few. Sometimes it was political, like Solomon’s many wives and concubines. These women and their children were cared for but most received no inheritance. Sometimes it was economic. Men might be able to provide for large families but would leave the inheritance to only a select group. Seldom was the inheritance available to all.
That’s where the family of God differs. Full inheritance belongs to all His children, whether by the first covenant or through adoption.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved
Sometimes when we read a statement the most impacting words are some that we read past. See that word “together?” It seems silly to say that together means together. But what it doesn’t mean is being redeemed as solitary, independent individuals. We are, according to God’s plan, brought into a body. This is not a collection of autonomous individuals. This is a group, a body, a family. That’s why churches have work days, pot luck meals, prayer times, and all the things we do together. Because family life that is stable is both quantity and quality time. You know it in home life. It’s the same in church life.
It’s even more significant in the city of Ephesus. That’s where the idol makers got quite angry with Paul for his work. He was seeing gentiles come to faith. Not just the Jewish folks. That meant people weren’t buying idols. The gospel had crossed the class line of Jew and gentile and brought them together to worship God.
God’s household is more than just the nuclear family. Around the world families often stay close together, sometimes even in the same building. Some groups still keep family close by, adding on rooms for the elders as needed.
In our world of the individual and self-gratification we forget that family is core. God’ has a household and he establishes households to model His relationship with His people
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
Relationships are models. That’s why He wants pastors and elders to be responsible people. We represent Him. That’s why he wants stable, mature homes. They represent Him. That’s why he broke down the dividing wall between classes. Because the covenant has been expanded to grow the family, the household. His household.
This household covenant extended to gentiles in very clear language. To that church in Corinth Paul cites God’s call to Israel to be faithful as a call to those in Christ to be faithful
“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
Therefore go out from their midst,
and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch no unclean thing;
then I will welcome you,
and I will be a father to you,
and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.”
II Corinthians 6:16-18
And you know what makes a family close? It’s that internalized, understood, shared relationship. You know what it is when you’re with family. You know it even more in the family of believers. Again, to that most selfish, compromising church of the New Testament, Corinth, Paul also said this to the believers there:
And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
II Corinthians 3:3
This adopted family is united by God’s Spirit because of Christ’s work.
And, of course, families involve – discipline. Some discipline is learning the disciplines of belonging. Things like Bible reading, Bible understanding, and prayer. And yet this discipline is not simply something imposed on it. It is a part of belonging. We’re going to that I Peter 1 section that was made so clear to us last week:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
I Peter 1:3-9
Hard times are the discipline needed for refining who we are in Christ.
The resurrection came as the result of the sin-bearing and yields the fruit of an inheritance that is eternal. That’s our hope as adopted children.
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
I Peter 1:14-21
The cost to accomplish this was Christ’s sin-bearing. That can’t be repeated enough. Fifty years ago many outside of Christ lived morally, just as a Christian would. Sometimes it was difficult to tell a moral unbeliever from the average believer. The language and behaviors were the same and we would chalk it up to “wheat and tares,” that there will always be unbelievers hiding in our fellowship that we don’t recognize. All we could do was to allow God to sort things out in the end.
Who could have imagined the world we see today. Teaching has become more critical than ever as believers, even evangelical pastors and seminaries, adopt a Marxist worldview and the message of the gospel is corrupted. With all that is going on with grooming children in a number of civic institutions the Christian is often forced to withdraw. We no longer have a civic voice, a seat at the table. We are living in Corinth, a nation that has become like that city of ancient times, that promotes radical individualism, with affluence and personal satisfaction as its highest virtues. Churches are, unfortunately, at times corrupted with these same attitudes. “Don’t like a church? Someone offend you? Find another. Don’t sit and talk. Don’t work things out. Don’t act like family. Just find another church when it suits you.” That’s the message that many believers hold onto, a corruption that came from the world.
It is for this lost world that Christ died. And as valuable as a public voice against public and civic sin is, it can never, ever take the place of the message of Christ to the person who needs to personally come to faith. It is this household adoption, even this fellowship of believers, that serves as an example or a testimony to who God is and what Christ has done and what Christ provides.
It is so, so easy to look at the fallen world around and see the need for Christ. But the believer often forgets why he was called by Christ. We are all vulnerable to sin. We are all capable of sin. In our comfortable world it is easy to think “I didn’t sin today. All is well and God is good.” There’s a smugness built into a comfortable culture that leaves us unaware of who we are inside.
In a world of individualism the call to the Philippian jailer who held Paul, the message for today is more challenging than ever: To declare Jesus as Lord. That Jesus is sovereign.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.
That Jesus is my sovereign. That Jesus is the cover for my self, my sin, my everything that I live completely oblivious to. He bore that sin character in me that I don’t see, and sometimes even excuse, because “that’s just how I am.” It costs us a surrender. It cost Him everything.
This is our adoption as children of God, members of His covenant and members of His family, full inheritors of his promises to the children of faith. One comes by faith with the recognition that God through Christ redeems.
Adoption is one the most fantastic expressions of God’s grace. Just as He initiated the covenant with Abraham so, too, He initiated the promise of adoption to all who come through faith. Come afterward if you want to talk about a faith commitment to the God of promises.