DOCTRINE OF ADOPTION

Pastor James J. Barker

Text: EPHESIANS 1:1-6




INTRODUCTION:


  1. Several important Bible doctrines are taught in the first few verses of Ephesians chapter 1.
  2. We see here the great doctrine of election -- "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world..." (1:4).
  3. God chooses, but the Bible also teaches that man has a responsibility to believe. In the very last chapter of the Bible we see the very last invitation in the Bible.
  4. Revelation 22:17 says, "And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."
  5. Man must come to Christ in order to be saved. Our Lord said this to stubborn sinners in John 5:40, "And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life." God does not force sinners to come.
  6. The Bible teaches both the sovereign will of God and the free will of man. First Peter 1:2 says, "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father."
  7. Another important doctrine taught in Ephesians 1 is sanctification -- "that we should be holy and without blame before him in love" (1:4).
  8. Sanctification is that sovereign act of God whereby He sets apart a person for Himself. The basic meaning of the verb sanctify is to separate, or to set apart for a holy purpose.
  9. For example, the Lord's Day is sanctified, in that it is set apart from the other days of the week. For the Old Testament Jew the Saturday sabbath was sanctified; it was set apart. Genesis 2:3 says, “And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it.”
  10. For Christians today, it is the first day of the week, the day our Lord rose from the dead -- the Lord's Day -- that is sanctified.
  11. Another doctrine found here is the doctrine of predestination -- "Having predestinated us..." (1:5; cf. 1:11). Note "us" in vs. 5 -- predestination always refers to Christians, never to lost sinners! (cf. Romans 8:29 and 30 -- "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son...").
  12. Predestination never refers to sinners being predestined to hell; it refers to Christians being predestinated to be conformed to the image of Christ.
  13. “Predestination is that effective exercise of the will of God by which things before determined by Him are brought to pass” (Scofield Bible).
  14. Ephesians 1:5 says, "Having predestinated us unto the adoption...", and this brings us to another important doctrine, and the one I would like to focus on this morning -- adoption.

 

I. THE MEANING OF ADOPTION

  1. The word "adoption" is used in the Bible only by the apostle Paul. He uses the word in three places -- in the eighth and ninth chapter of Romans, he uses it three times; then again in Galatians 4:5, and then here in Ephesians 1:5.
  2. The word “adoption” as it is used in the Bible is different from the way it is usually used today, i.e., the taking of a child into a family to be a legal member of that family.
  3. The literal meaning of the Greek word is “son-placing” —the taking of a minor (whether in the family or outside) and making him or her the rightful heir.
  4. Every born again believer becomes a child of God the moment they trust Christ as their Saviour, and he becomes an heir of God through adoption.
  5. Adoption does not mean “son-made,” but “son-placed.” Christians are made sons the moment they receive Christ (cf. John 1:12).
  6. This is regeneration. John 1:13 says we are born of God. John 3:3 says we are born again. John 3:8 says we are born of the Spirit.
  7. Six times in the epistle of I John we read that we are born of God.
  8. This is regeneration. Regeneration is a change of nature. Adoption is a change of relationship.
  9. Though the words are often used interchangeably, there is a big distinction between “child” and “son.” The word “child” has to do with our membership in the family of God.
  10. The word “son” has to do with maturity. It refers to the position we occupy in God’s family as adult sons. We are more than children; we are full-grown sons. There is an important difference.
  11. John Phillips gives this illustration: “If we see a sign on a business that reads Henry Brown and Sons, we know that Henry Brown’s sons are partners in their father’s business. They have grown up and assumed positions of authority and responsibility in their father’s business. We never see a sign that reads Henry Brown and Children!”
  12. The word "son," as distinct from the word "child," signifies the believer is a full-grown son, adopted into God's family as an adult member of the household.
  13. In the early days of the Roman Empire, when a boy was born into the family, he was cared for by his parents until he was 21 years old.  At the age of 21, they took him and placed him in the market place before the public.  He was “son-placed.”  From that time on he could sign his own name to legal documents, and went forward with the full authority of a man.  This act at the market place did not make him a son; he was a son when he was born into his parents’ family.  Now he was son-placed.
  14. Adoption does not mean son-making, but “son-placing.” In eternity we shall be sons no more than we are right now. First John 3:2 says, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God...”
  15. William Evans wrote: “Regeneration has to do with our change in nature; adoption, with our change in position…the full realization of sonship awaits the coming of Christ.  It is at that time that the adoption will be fully consummated.”
  16. That is why the apostle Paul says in Rom. 8:23 that we are “waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.”
  17. This is all “according to the good pleasure of His will” (Eph. 1:5).
  18. “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father” (Gal. 4:6).
  19. Regeneration has to do with our change in nature.
  20. Justification, with our change in standing.
  21. Sanctification, with our change in character.
  22. Adoption, with our change in position.
  23. In regeneration the believer becomes a child of God (John 1:12, 13); in adoption, the believer, already a child of God, receives a place as an adult son (Gal. 4:1-7).

 

II. THE TIME OFADOPTION

  1. In a certain sense, our adoption is eternal in its nature (Eph. 1:4, 5).
  2. Before the foundation of the world we were predestinated unto the adoption of children. We need to distinguish between the foreordaining to adoption, and the actual act of adoption which took place when we believed in Christ and were saved.
  3. Just as the incarnation was foreordained, and yet took place in time; and just as the Lamb of God was slain from before the foundation of the word, and yet actually slain only on Calvary.
  4. This eternal aspect of adoption should be understood to appreciate the sovereignty of God, and to show that our salvation had its origin solely in the grace of God and not by our good works (Rom. 9:11; 11:5, 6).
  5. Just as if we should adopt a child it would be a wholly gracious act on our part.
  6. Unfortunately there are many people who are depending upon their good works. I meet them all the time, and if they are depending upon their works, then they are not depending upon Christ.
  7. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:8, 9).
  8. Adoption takes place the moment one believes in Jesus Christ. First John 3:2 says, "Beloved, now are we the sons of God."
  9. John 1:12 says, "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name."
  10. Sonship is now the present possession of the believer. The world does not recognize our adoption, but God does.
  11. First John 3:1 says, "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not."
  12. Formerly we were slaves to sin; but now we are the sons of God. The Christian can sing, "I'm a child of the King."

My Father is rich in houses and lands,
He holdeth the wealth of the world in His hands!
Of rubies and diamonds, of silver and gold,
His coffers are full, He has riches untold.

 

I’m a child of the King,
A child of the King:
With Jesus my Savior,
I’m a child of the King.

 

My Father’s own Son, the Savior of men,
Once wandered on earth as the poorest of them;
But now He is pleading our pardon on high,
That we may be His when He comes by and by.

 

I once was an outcast stranger on earth,
A sinner by choice, an alien by birth,
But I’ve been adopted, my name’s written down,
An heir to a mansion, a robe and a crown.

 

A tent or a cottage, why should I care?
They’re building a palace for me over there;
Though exiled from home, yet still may I sing:
All glory to God, I’m a child of the King.

  1. Peter Bilhorn was a preacher and a hymnwriter. He wrote some 2,000 Go­spel songs in his life­time, and for a while, he worked with the great evan­gel­ist Bil­ly Sun­day.
  2. In 1883, he was en­gaged in evan­gel­is­tic work among the cow­boys out West, and he recorded this story: “We had start­ed up the Mis­sou­ri Riv­er for Bis­marck, Dakota, and on Sun­day we stopped at a new town, named Blunt, to un­load some freight. A crowd of men and boys came down to the wharf. I took my lit­tle or­gan, went on the wharf-boat, and sang a few songs—among others the glor­i­ous hymn, ‘I’m a child of the King.’ I thought no­thing more of the oc­ca­sion un­til long af­ter­ward, when I sang the same song in D.L. Moo­dy’s church in Chi­ca­go, Il­li­nois. Then a man in the back part of the house arose, and said in a trem­bling voice: 'Two years ago I heard that song at Blunt, Da­ko­ta; I was then an un­saved man, but that song set me to think­ing, and I de­cid­ed to ac­cept Christ, and I am now stu­dy­ing for the min­is­try.’”
  3. Perhaps there is someone here this morning who needs to consider this important question: "Are you a child of God?"

 

III. THE SPIRIT OF ADOPTION (ROMANS 8:15)

  1. The Spirit of adoption is the Holy Spirit, who indwells each and every child of God. If you are saved, you have the Holy Spirit.
  2. We did receive the spirit of bondage before we were saved (8:15). We were judged and condemned and cursed by the law. But now that we are saved by the grace of God, the spirit of bondage has gone, and we have the spirit of adoption, which is the spirit of freedom.
  3. The chief mark of our adoption and full-grown sonship is being "led by the Spirit of God" (Romans 8:14, 15).
  4. Being "led by the Spirit of God" implies a conscious response on our part to the teaching and guidance of the Holy Spirit. That is why the Holy Spirit is referred to as "the Spirit of adoption" in Romans 8:15.
  5. In Galatians 4:6, the Holy Spirit is called "the Spirit of his Son."
  6. Galatians 4:6 says, "And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father."
  7. Spurgeon said, "Note, that it does not say into your heads or your brains. The Spirit of God doubtless illuminates the intellect and guides the judgment, but this is not the commencement nor the main part of his work. He comes chiefly to the affections, he dwells with the heart, for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and 'God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts.' Now, the heart is the centre of our being, and therefore doth the Holy Ghost occupy this place of vantage. He comes into the central fortress and universal citadel of our nature, and thus takes possession of the whole. The heart is the vital part; we speak of it as the chief residence of life, and therefore the Holy Ghost enters it, and as the living God dwells in the living heart, taking possession of the very core and marrow of our being. It is from the heart and through the heart that life is diffused. The blood is sent even to the extremities of the body by the pulsings of the heart, and when the Spirit of God takes possession of the affections, he operates upon every power, and faculty, and member of our entire manhood. Out of the heart are the issues of life, and from the affections sanctified by the Holy Ghost all other faculties and powers receive renewal, illumination, sanctification, strengthening, and ultimate perfection" ("Adoption -- the Spirit and the Cry").
  8. Romans 5:5 says, "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." Any professed Christian who is unloving, unkind, unforgiving, unfriendly, or bitter, needs to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
  9. But before a person is filled, he first needs to be regenerated by the Holy Spirit. Sinners need to be saved "by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost" (Titus 3:5).

 

CONCLUSION:


  1. Pastor W.A. Criswell said something that I find very interesting, "I am told that by law you can disinherit a natural-born son; but by law you can never disinherit an adopted son. I presume the reason that lies back of that is there could be a possibility of a man adopting a son, get angry at him, disinherit him, then adopt him again, and then get angry with him, and disinherit him, and then adopt him and disinherit him. No such thing as that is possible by law. Once you adopt the child, he is your child forever; you cannot un-adopt him, disinherit him. And you know that is a great reflection of a doctrine that you and I believe God has promised to us. There's no such thing as being saved and then unsaved, and then saved and then unsaved, and then saved and then unsaved, and back and forth, back and forth. If you are ever really saved, your name's written in the Lamb's Book of Life; you're saved forever. If you are adopted, you are adopted forever; and if you are saved, you are saved forever. He has adopted us as sons of God" ("Adopted into the Family of God").
  2. That is something wonderful to consider -- If you are adopted, you are adopted forever; and if you are saved, you are saved forever. You are part of God's family -- forever.
  3. If you have been born again, you can never be "unborn again."
  4. Jesus said, "Ye must be born again" (John 3:7), but He never said, "Ye must be born again and again and again."
  5. If you are saved today you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit, and that seal can never be broken.


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