We've been walking through the book of Ephesians in Karis Church, and this past Sunday I began a two-part look at marriage from chapter 5. It's hard to think about what we do in marriage if we don't yet understand what it's for. This past Sunday, I talked about how marriage is from God but it is also for God.Read More
This past Sunday, I preached from Ephesians 3:14-19. You can listen to or read the message here. We passed out cards designed to help us pray through that prayer of Paul for each other. Below is that card. Pray with us!
Karis Church elder Derek Zimmermann proclaimed the joy we should have in our adoption this Sunday. So thankful for Derek's heart for God and His people!
A couple of weeks ago – Bobby preached on blessedness. What does it mean to be blessed in Christ? Bobby did a great job mining out the blessings we have in Christ. The pinnacle or chief blessing in Christ lies in our salvation. Our blessedness and our salvation are intimately intertwined. Further, as Kevin taught last week, our blessedness is something planned and purposed by God for eternity past. We are predestined to be blessed in salvation through Christ. Now, we are going to dig deeper yet into the mystery of the blessing granted us as we continue to sort through the spiritual inception presented by Paul here in the opening verses of Ephesians.
This may seem like we are crawling through this section, but we really aren’t. If we made Kevin teach what it meant to be blessed through forgiveness through redemption pictured in adoption as purposed and predestined according to the lavish grace of God through Christ in 45 minutes he would probably quit. And you would be missing out. There is much here to be made much of. So bear with us. This is a worthy journey.
Today, we are going to zoom way in to verse 5. We are going to ponder the truth that as part of our blessing in salvation, we are adopted through Jesus Christ. Pray with me as we get going.
Look again with me at Eph 1:3.
 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,  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 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. – Eph 1:3-6
God predestined us not just for salvation, but for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ. Now, adoption is not a widely covered topic, and sadly there is just not enough written on this doctrine. It is not popular. And this is incredibly unfortunate. And I would venture to say this reality is reflected in the values of our culture/society. I hope today that we can dip our toes into the ocean of grace present for us in embracing and rejoicing in our adoption.
We have called this sermon series The Beautiful Mystery. One of the main themes/ideas that we are going to keep coming back to and connecting with every text is the idea of our union with Christ. Specifically how this gives us a new identity. And we will consider what adoption says about our identity shortly, but first, let’s step back and consider what adoption is and what it says about God.
1) Adopted through Jesus Christ, we are blessed w/a Father
Now, as I mentioned earlier, I fear the doctrine of adoption is rarely given due time in our study of our faith, despite being a pivotal piece in our understanding of our relationship with God, specifically as our Father.
Theologian J.I. Packer claims that a fitting summary of the entire NT would be ‘Adoption through propitiation’. In fact, he describes adoption as ‘the highest privilege that the gospel offers: higher even than justification.’ Now, before anybody throws any bibles or coffee mugs at me, let me help unpack this a bit.
There are some tremendous resources out there for those of you who would like to scratch that theological itch and study the doctrine of salvation, specifically the order of salvation (Grudem, Sproul, Stott, esp. – come ask us). Without clumsily, abruptly and inadequately covering it all, I want to briefly help us identify and differentiate two distinct aspects of our salvation – justification and adoption.
Justification is the idea of a legal declaration by God as Judge in which a) our sins are forgiven and b) Christ’s righteousness is ours. We are seen as righteous. The sinlessness of Christ is attributed to us, as he received the punishment for our sin. This is the Great Exchange dubbed by Luther. We get what Christ earned (righteousness) as Christ gets what we deserved (punishment).
Adoption, on the other hand is an act of God in which he makes us members of His family. By his grace, God welcomes us as sons, becoming God the loving Father in addition to God the righteous Judge.
Justification says we are righteous. Adoption says we are family. So, again, Packer says adoption is ‘the highest privilege that the gospel offers’. This is not to say the adoption is more important than justification, as that is as ridiculous of a statement as it is untrue. In a way the two are inseparable - in that they are both part of our salvation as worked out by God in His sovereignty according to his design…yet justification paves the way for our adoption. Justification enables us to reap the benefits of adoption.
What I am getting at here, is that in adoption, we find a richer, higher, more satisfying reality than we do in justification. Think of this in terms of relationship. Imagine with me a teenage orphan. Ran away from his foster home. Caught shoplifting and called to court. Someway, somehow the judge declares him innocent. Free. He will pay no penalty for his crime. Later, the judge approaches the teenager and tells him he wants the child to live with him, as he himself is a foster parent, and further yet the man wants to adopt the child. The kid is elated. Relieved. Full of joy. Why? Because of the man’s actions as judge or as father? Which moreso conveys the idea of a never-ending commitment of love and pursuit? A home? Gifts? Family? Someone to call Dad.
Our understanding of our adoption and the Fatherhood of God is essential in our pursuit of joy in God, which is what Packer is getting at.
Adoption provides a key perspective in embracing our identity through Christ. A perspective that can’t be found in justification. Hear this quote from Packer’s Knowing God (should be on screen):
‘You sum up the whole of New Testament teaching in a single phrase, if you speak of it as a revelation of the Fatherhood of the holy Creator. In the same way, you sum up the whole of New Testament religion if you describe it as the knowledge of God as one’s holy Father. If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father… To those who are Christ’s, the holy God is a loving Father, they belong to his family; they may approach him without fear and always be sure of his fatherly concern and care. This is the heart of the New Testament message…To be right with God the Judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father is a greater.’
To be right with God the Judge [justification] is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father [adoption] is a greater. A greater and higher joy is to be found in embracing God as Father. What does adoption say about the Fatherhood of God?
Adoption displays God’s fatherly Love. We struggle knowing how to view a loving father. Now we are all sinners, and I don’t want to minimize that, but often we struggle to see God as our Father because of our own experience with our earthly fathers. We struggle because…
Some of us don’t have an earthly father. Maybe you were raised by a single mom, or grandparents, or other family, and never had the experience of having a father. Simply don’t know. Feels awkward.
Some of us had absent fathers. They were there, but they really weren’t there. The work-hard do-gooders that provided financially (or tried to) as a means of love (or maybe they didn’t try to), and emotionally were on another planet. They never told you they loved you. They didn’t really even talk to you. The idea of a father to you is not appealing.
Some of us had works-righteousness fathers. They sort of morphed in and out of existence based on your grades, performance in sports and other activities, behavior, etc. Their love seemed exclusively conditioned on your output. To you, a father is a boss, a superior, who you are constantly trying to impress. The idea of a father is off-putting.
Some of us had good earthly fathers. Believers even. They loved us – and showed us with their provision and their words. They were there when we needed them. But, at times, we invoked their anger. Or uncovered their frustrations. Or felt their own spiritual struggles as they sought to lead us. We witnessed their doubts. They were by and large faithful men, but sinners nonetheless. To you, a father is mostly good and dependable, but at the end of the day you fend for yourself. They let you down.
Friends, through Christ, we have a new Father. A Holy Father who is unlike any we have ever known. And He is always there for us, with open arms. He never lashes out, withholds love or disappears. He is faithful. Too many of us let our personal experience with our earthly father paint our expectation of our heavenly father. Karis, what would happen if we let Scripture tell us about our Father in heaven? Read again with me in Eph 1.
‘In love  he predestined us for adoption 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.’ – Eph 1:4b-5
OK – here is how this went down. The Trinitarian God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) of Eternity past, the creator of all that you see, feel, touch and hear, in His wisdom, has planned from before the beginning of the creation of everything we have ever known to be real that He would adopt you as His own, calling you a son of God.
He did this in spite of your unworthiness. He did this for the praise of His name and to showcase His glory. He did this by sending His son, Jesus Christ, with whom the Father has had eternal, perfect love and fellowship with, to die a cruel death on a cross so that you may know what it means to have a Father. He did this to justify you, and further adopt you into this eternal, perfect love and fellowship. He did this to reconcile you to himself – the long lost son to His father, to spend eternity with Him. He did this in love. For you. For me. At the expense of His only Son.
Hear the opening verses of this song we often worship with here at Karis:
How deep the Father's love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory - How Deep The Father's Love For Us
Friends, God’s Fatherly, adoptive love knows no bounds. At least none that I can fathom. God the Father is a God of love. He treasures you. The unworthy sinner is made a son forever and granted a seat the Father’s table. This is the scandal of adoption. The scandal of the gospel. And He accomplished this by sending his firstborn, Jesus Christ, to bring many sons to glory. God is a relentless, jealous Father, who desperately wants our affections.
What early Christians claimed as their adoption would have been unheard of in biblical times as a fatherly act. It would have transcended their idea of fatherhood. In adoption, we are granted the privilege and right to be deemed a son of God, as God displays His Fatherly love, which surpasses any other we have ever known. As God is our Father, we are in turn sons and daughters. We are given a new identity. Next, I want to look at how adoption shapes our identity, mainly in a vertical sense, but also a horizontal one.
2) Adopted through Jesus Christ, we are declared sons
Now, first off, some of you may be waiting for me to clarify that sons actually should mean sons and daughters, right? You surely aren’t saying that gender is unimportant, right? Well, of course gender is important. And to answer the question, I will say yes and no.
In one sense, we are sons and daughters through Christ. We are made brothers and sisters. Our gender remains uniquely important to our relationship to God and one another.
In another sense, though, we are to embrace the concept that we are sons of God through Jesus Christ. This is incredibly important as it relates to our inheritance.
Billy will be preaching more on inheritance in a few weeks, so more then. But in summary, in biblical times, inheritance was typically passed down to sons. Us being deemed sons is important, as it speaks to our inheritance as co-heirs with Christ.
Lets look at another writing of Paul about the idea of sonship. Read with me from Galatians 4:
‘ But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,  to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.  And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”  So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.’ – Gal 4:4-7
Our identity as sons conveys a level of intimacy that is otherwise missing. Here Paul is saying that as sons we are given the Holy Spirit that causes our hearts to cry out Abba! Father! We are to approach God in with a child-like faith. This is how we are to act. Who we are. Children.
It’s not just that we just live under his rule as our king or president. In fact, He is our king. But adoption takes this a step further. Adoption says more.
We live under His rule in his kingdom, but moreso we live in His house. That room at the end of the hall. It’s yours. He kept it for you. God is our Judge, Savior, Redeemer, Ruler, King, Protector, and Defender.But, God is our Father. We are His children. Embracing our sonship is key to understanding our relationship with God.
We have unbridled access to Him. No bodyguards. No secret service. No walls. No more curtains. God is more than a distant ruler.
Think of President Obama and think of your Father. Hug Obama and you will end up in an orange jumpsuit. Not your father though. He is there waiting, with open arms. We have unbridled access to know and be known. As the author of Hebrews puts it - the curtain has been torn in two.
Karis, you are dying to be ‘known’ as Kevin preached about last week when he referenced the book of Revelation. An intimate knowledge. We want that intimacy with God. Deep down we do. We want to be fully known, and fully loved. To be vulnerable, yet comfortable. That feeling is human, because it is part of what it means to be made in the image of God. To long for that openness and vulnerability Adam and Eve shared with God. It is part of what it means to be a son. I know this is difficult for many of us, myself included. I see it in our faith. Part of being human is craving a fatherly affection. It is good and right.
Our twins are 2 ½ now. And discipline has been non-stop for some time. Often times, what seems like to no avail. One issue is that the girls get so upset at the idea of us correcting them. In fact Zoe will panic – she freaks out and simply becomes impossible to even talk to. We have learned to pick her up, simply ask her if she needs some love, and embrace her once she asks for it.
Friends, this affection, this intimacy is there for us from the Father. Do we embrace it? Do we trust him? Do we cry out to him? Do we pray to our Father, or to the Holy One? Also, our sonship sheds some much-needed light on our discipline. Hear this from Hebrews 12:
And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.’ - Heb 12:5-8
Be encouraged that discipline from the Lord signifies your sonship. It evidences His love for you and your identity as a son. How often do we read the psalmist crying for mercy towards his wrongdoers? God never promises that in this life. This is the concept of God’s passive wrath. Alternatively, as sons, we are blessed with God’s active discipline. Be encouraged by this, as it signifies something great. We are legitimate children of the Father.
Now, If I am a son of God, and so are the rest of us in this room, we are family. As adoption speaks to our vertical reality as sons, it also speaks to the horizontal reality of us being family. In adoption, we are welcomed into God’s family. Later on in Ephesians (Ch. 2-5 esp.) we are going to more deeply consider how we are united as a family through Christ. As we are called to faith, we are united with brothers and sisters as family. Paul goes as far to say later on in chapter 4 that we are ‘we are members one of another’, expounding on the idea that separately we are parts of the body that collectively form a whole. We are to care for one another as part of the same body.
Similarly, in 1 John we are told about a unique call to fellowship with one another through the blood of Christ. There is something unique about family through the blood of Christ. We have a bond of being loved from eternity past as family. And we will spend eternity with one another as brothers and sisters.
So, look around you. Think about the people in your MC. Are you loving them as you would love your own? Are you loving them as family? If not, heaven might be tough for you. As you look around, do you realize you don’t really know anyone? This is your family. Lets live like it.
That is a steep call, but a right one. Wrestle with that. Think of ways in which you can display your brotherly love and affection for one another. In a way that celebrates and pictures the fatherly love we receive daily. Now, this is happening here. Meals following new babies. Love for the Ballous. Hosting for church family during hard times. Karis – keep at this. This is us living out our identity as family.
Finally, lets ask where this all take us.
3) Adopted through Jesus Christ, we are called to respond
What do we do with this? What now? Well, I have 2 things I want to finish with today. Ways that we are called to respond. First: Our response to the truth laid before us in our adoption should be a fairly simple one: worship.
Adoption should lead us to worship
Embedded right smack in the middle of the text read this morning we find the ultimate purpose of God in redemption and adoption.
‘In love  he predestined us for adoption 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.’ – Eph 1:4b-5
’To the praise of his glorious grace.’ (v. 6). This idea is at the center of this gospel inception from Paul, and is later echoed later in verse 12. As always – God’s ultimate concern is that He is glorified. Bobby really did a stellar job 2 weeks ago of unpacking why this is not only OK and right, but how anything else would be insufficient.
In short, God alone is worthy of glory and praise, thus everything that happens on this earth and for eternity will happen to in some way, shape or form glorify Him. Our adoption is no different. But, this does not cheapen God’s grace or negate the riches we have spent outlining this morning, rather it enhances them.
As we worship we find deeper satisfaction through Christ. Worship should lead to joy which leads to worship. So on and so forth.
Christian – revel in your adoption. Worship isn’t an obligation – it is a privilege. Revel in the fact that you get to worship God and praise the Father for your sonship.
Now, one of the most challenging questions I have wrestled with during my walk is this: How do I worship when it doesn’t feel like worship? If you are asking this question – you’re not alone.
Read this excerpt from Grudem’s Systematic Theology with me, were Grudem has us consider the meaning of the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:
‘This prayer for daily forgiveness of sins is not a prayer that God would give us justification again and again throughout our lives. Rather, the prayer for forgiveness of sins each day is a prayer that God’s fatherly relationship with us, which has been disrupted by sin that displeased him, be restored.... The prayer, “Forgive us our sins”, therefore is one in which we are relating not to God as eternal judge of the universe, but to God as a Father. It is a prayer in which we wish to restore the open fellowship with our Father that has been broken because of sin.’
In short, our sin acts as a blockade of sorts that muddles up our relationship with our Father. This idea is seen elsewhere in 1 Pet 3:7 where Peter warns husbands to honor their wives so that their prayers are not hindered.
So, as a follow up question: If worship doesn’t feel like worship, is there perhaps sin in your life, which is marring the Father/son relationship granted through adoption?
Parents out there: disobedience from our kids helps picture this. How hard is discipline? Our kids are at the age now where when we go to discipline them – they run into the other room and shut the door, yelling ‘Go Away!’ That was incredibly hard to hear for the first time. That level of hardness. Stubbornness. But friends, isn’t that us to our Father? That is so often how we act. Even if we don’t shut a physical door, we are shutting him out and yelling at Him just the same.
Unsurprisingly, I often find that in times where worship seems to be tough treading, so does my time in the word and prayer. This isn’t rocket science and leads me back to what I mentioned earlier: our worship is cyclical in nature. As we worship, as we pray, as we sing praise, as we feast upon God’s word, both a) our desire for Him and b) satisfaction in Him will increase. If you are struggling, ‘Taste and see’.
I don’t want you to hear me say that this is easy. Repentance is hard work. But it is the work we are called to through Christ. And it is a worthy pursuit.
Karis, join with me in worship of the God we are privileged to call Father.
II) Adoption should lead us to adoption
Adoption is a privilege. A blessing as Paul puts it. And with that privilege comes responsibility. We are sons of God – and we are to look like it. A general call to holiness aside, I think this means that as we are Adopted, big ‘A’, we are to be a people that are pro-adoption. Little ‘a’. As in, real kids. What better way to reflect God’s grace through Adoption than by being a part of showcasing the very act of adoption in the flesh.
Russell Moore has an incredibly helpful text on Adoption titled Adopted for Life. It is a helpful read, and I really encourage you to check it out, even if you don’t see yourself considering adoption. Which, by the way, is not wrong. Actual adoption isn’t for everyone, though I would argue (with help from Moore) that being pro-adoption is for everyone in Christ, even if you don’t adopt.
Moore challenges us to inseparably link the two in our head. Meaning we shouldn’t have a category for pondering our Adoption without thinking of adoption, and vice versa. Friends, this is true because in Scripture we see a God who is incredibly pro-adoption. The psalmist refers to God as ‘Father of the fatherless’ in Psalm 68. We see a theme and priority of God’s love directed towards orphans and widows.
Moreover, adoption has been a theme woven throughout Scripture, from the onset of Exodus as we see pharaoh’s daughter adopt Moses as ‘he became her son’ (Ex. 2:10) through Joseph agreeing to wed a mysteriously pregnant Mary after direction from the Holy Spirit, eventually adopting Jesus. In fact, the lineage of Jesus as heir of David even comes through Joseph via adoption. So, it’s a good thing Joseph was pro-adoption. We should care about adoption because God cares about adoption.
Also, a deeper appreciation for adoption will lead to a deeper appreciation of what it means to be family. Here this from Moore:
‘But if people in our churches learn not to grumble at the blessing of minivans filled with children – some of whom don’t look anything alike – they’re going to learn not to grumble at the blessing of a congregation filling with new people, some of whom don’t look anything alike. If our churches learn to rejoice in newness of life in the church nursery, they’ll more easily rejoice at newness of life in the church baptistery, and vice versa.’
Being pro-adoption in return helps us be pro-Adoption. Meaning as we adopt, as those around us adopt, we are bestowed with a greater understanding and appreciation for what it means to be Adopted into a God’s family. What does that mean for you specifically? What am I calling you to consider? I want to leave us with 3 things.
First: value procreation. Now, I want to preface the rest of this with wholeheartedly affirming the biblically founded notion of singleness. Some are called to singleness. We, as a family, want to help you wrestle with that call. For the rest of us, though, if we are called to marriage, we are called to be fruitful and multiply. While this isn’t limited to biological family, it does start there. The very idea of a family, being a father/mother or child are existing concepts from a natural family.
Some of you are convinced kids aren’t for you. Or that you are meant to adopt only and aren’t even considering having your own children. I would encourage you to pump the breaks and wrestle with that a bit more. God values family, and God values procreation. He calls us to it.
Second: consider adoption. All of you who are married or soon to be married: have this conversation. Even if you are convinced you don’t need to. Be softened by the reality of your Adoption in Christ and ask yourself what that means to you. It would be wrong of me and I have no desire to force or coerce you into adoption. But I am convinced it is right of me to call you to consider it. Because of my Adoption. Yours.
Talk to those closest to you. Spend time with this. You don’t need an answer this week, this year even. But to avoid the question entirely is a slap in the face to our Father in heaven. Wrestle with this, and do so with family. There are gobs of resources out there for you – books, articles, conferences, agencies, seminars, and especially people who have adopted. We want to be a part of wrestling through this with you.
In fact, we are hosting an Adoption seminar. Saturday March 19th @ 4pm @ Westside. Includes time discussing foster parenting. Time of prayer.
Last: support adoption. You may not be called to adopt. And that isn’t necessarily wrong. But it would be a serious misunderstanding to stop there.
Ask yourself – what are ways I can support adoption while not actually adopting?
We have families here that have adopted. Praise God for them. Seek to encourage them, as it is hard work. Pray for them.
We have families here that are actively pursuing adoption. Likewise, praise God. Pray for them and the process. Consider serving them during this time, with food, hospitality even funds. It is expensive.
Educate yourself. Read Moore’s book. If I can get you that far, victory.
Realize that being pro-life includes being pro-adoption. We care about all people as they are made in the image of God. That includes the unborn. That includes orphans. That includes the family down the street. That includes all of us.
Barna group research has shown there are 150 mil orphans, 18 mil having no parents at all worldwide. 18 million children w/o a home. Let that forever sting the hearts of the Adopted in Christ. Karis, I leave us with a simple question: Who is to care for the orphans of this world if not us, orphans adopted as sons to an eternal loving Father?
God is at work here. We are seeing his transformative work shaping us, making us a people who embrace our Adoption, as well as the outward call to adoption. Keep at it. Consider your Adoption as the highest privilege granted through Christ. May our response honor that privilege.
We had a few technical difficulties this week, but here is this past Sunday's sermon, one on election. The audio and manuscript are both found below. Although this is a very challenging topic, I did feel pretty good about this one. However, one point of clarification I wanted to make about something I say: if you doubt you're chosen and, after inspection, don't see the work of God in your life, call out to Him. Don't consign yourself to hell. Run hard toward heaven.
Have you ever felt unwanted? Were you the last kid picked on the playground? I sure was most of the time - regardless of how well I played. Maybe you’re single and see no prospects in sight. I was single until 29. Maybe you have gotten passed over for job after job. I’ve felt that, too.
Or maybe you just feel aimless. Like you have no purpose. As if you’re going nowhere. I definitely felt that way the first half of my twenties, at least. Well, I have hope for you today. I have some encouragement for you. God has chosen a people. That people has a glorious destiny before them. And that includes you, if you believe.
Now that shouldn’t surprise us, if we think about it. The Lord rescued this man Abraham and promised to bless Him in big ways. He made his children, the nation of Israel, His chosen people. His plan was to bless the world through them. Take a look at Exodus 19 with me.
Ex. 19:1 On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai.
Ex. 19:2 They set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness. There Israel encamped before the mountain,
Ex. 19:3 while Moses went up to God. The Lord called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel:
Ex. 19:4 You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.
Ex. 19:5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine;
Ex. 19:6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”
The Lord made Israel His treasured people for His special purposes. They didn’t get there on their own. God did it. He destroyed their enemies. He carried them to Himself. The Lord chose a people.
We see that reality in the Old Testament, but we also see it applied to the church in the New - and especially here in Ephesians. We’ll focus on verses 4 through 6 of chapter one today - along with a few quick looks at verse 11. We’ll see that we’re chosen. And that’s a key aspect of our identity. We’re blessed. This is the first way we see we are. I’m going to walk us through these verses word-by-word this morning. And it’s my hope that you’ll be encouraged by them.
Verse 4: “He chose us in Him.” HE chose us. Who’s that? It’s the Father. As Bobby said last week, we see Trinitarian glory - in this really long, Greek sentence here. The Trinity refers to one God in three persons, each who is equally God. But it doesn’t mean that the persons don’t have different roles. And that’s what we see here. The Holy Spirit applies salvation to us - that’s in verses 13-14. The Son accomplishes salvation for us - that’s in verses 7-10. The Father plans salvation for us. That’s what we see right here.
Now maybe you grew up with a Father who rejected you. Maybe your family told you that you were headed nowhere. If you’re a believer, you have a Father in heaven, and He treasures you.
It says, He CHOSE us. He picked you. He singled you out. He didn’t have to, but He did. He elected us. Piper points out that this word in verse 4 emphasizes God’s freedom. “He chose us.” The word used in verses 5 and 11 emphasizes God’s goal. “He predestined us for adoption as sons.” That’s verse 5. We’ve been “predestined according” His purpose. That’s verse 11. The Lord has picked us. He’s given us a destiny. And it’s a pre-destiny. More on that in a bit. But let that soak in for a bit. The Lord wants you. He has a plan for you.
He chose US. He picked you and me and the rest who believe. Out of all the people in the world, He chose you and me. Let that sink in for a bit. He didn’t have to choose us. He could have chosen others. And that would have been His divine prerogative. He would have been totally just.
He chose us as individuals. But this also reminds us of something: He meant for us to be a part of a community. We’re not meant to be alone. Again - listen to the intro sermon if you missed it - the mystery isn’t just that we’re united with Christ. It’s that we’re united with one another in Christ. And that’s an awesome thing.
Maybe you’ve been rejected. Maybe you feel like you’re going nowhere. Here is a family where you can be accepted - not because you have everything in common with them. Because they’re determined to love as the Father has loved. And this is a family that has a purpose. We’re going somewhere. We live for the greatest purpose the world has known.
He chose us IN HIM. We’re still in verse 4. We’ve themed his series, “The Beautiful Mystery.” Again, that mystery is that we’re in union with Christ Jesus. As awesome of a mystery that marriage is, it pales in comparison to this union we have with Jesus. The Father chose us to experience this union with Jesus. It comes through the work of Jesus on the cross for us. Jesus is the “him” here.
Now some have tried to say that God’s election goes something like this. Sometimes they point to this verse. They say God chooses Jesus and everyone who’s in Him gets saved. It’s like Jesus is driving this bus, and everyone who jumps on gets to come along. And we determine if we’re on the bus. Now I don’t think that works. It doesn’t say God chooses Jesus here. It says He chooses us. And I don’t know how the words “in Him” can carry all of that freight. But there’s another problem. Look at 1 Corinthians 1 with me, beginning in verse 27:
1 Cor. 1:27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
Did you catch that? Verse 30: “Because of him you are in Christ Jesus.” And why is that the case? It’s so “the one who boasts” will “boast in the Lord.”
Now we’ll come back to that idea, but here’s the main point. It’s only because of the Father that we’re in Jesus. And that comes through the work Jesus. And it’s for a relationship with Jesus. Maybe you feel like much isn’t going right for you. You are in Him. Thank you, Father!
He chose us in him BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD. Let’s go back to what I said about the Trinity earlier. The Spirit applies salvation to us in time. Jesus died on the cross in time. But the Father’s plan happened before time began. In eternity past, the Father devised a plan where the Son and the Spirit would do these things for us. Where we would be one with Christ.
Many of us in Karis are having kids now - even second and third kids. You get everything ready for their coming. The baby room. The clothes and supplies. And you have all these hopes and dreams for their future. Can you believe that the Father had things in mind about you? Even before creation? Revelation 13:8 speaks of “everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.” If you’re a believer, you were in that book. His Son had died in His mind. In His mind, we were already His. So marvelous and mind-blowing and hard to comprehend!
We’ve seen WHO does this - the Father. We’ve seen WHAT He’s done. He’s chosen us. We’ve seen WHO He’s chosen. That’s us. We’ve seen HOW he’s done it. In Jesus. We’ve seen WHEN He’s done it. Before the foundation of the world. Here’s at least one reason WHY He’s chosen to do this.
He’s done it IN LOVE. See the end of verse 4 and the start of verse 5? “In love he predestined us.” Why? “In love.” He didn’t do it because He had to. No. The Father has been in loving community with the Son and the Spirit forever. He did it because He wanted to. He desired to let that love overflow into His creation, and especially toward the pinnacle of His creation, human beings, us.
He chose to let us share in His trinitarian love. And it certainly wasn’t because we were lovely. The best definition of love I’ve heard is from Paul Tripp. He defines it this way:
“Love is willing self-sacrifice for the good of another that does not require reciprocation or that the person being loved is deserving.” (Paul Tripp)
God chose a plan where He would sacrifice Himself for us. For our good. Out of love. Not expecting us to pay Him back. In no way because we had earned it. And He did it before time began. “In love, he predestined us.” As 1 John 4:19 puts it, “We love because he first loved us.” His affection was directed your way before time began. And it’s flowing in your way still.
Notice that He predestined us FOR ADOPTION AS SONS. Here’s the purpose, the “what for” of God’s plan. VERSE 5. He wanted to make us a part of His family. It was for adoption. Now Derek is going to talk about adoption next, so I’m not going to steal his thunder this week. But before time began, the Father didn’t just want to save us. His plan wasn’t just for us to stand before Him innocent and forgiven. Although, that’s awesome. He wanted us to run into His arms. He wanted us as a part of His family. And as a part of His family, to give us an inheritance. See the beginning of verse 11: “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined.” He’s now our good, loving Dad. He did this “through Jesus Christ.” More on that next week.
There’s another purpose here. It’s in verse 4. He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be HOLY AND BLAMELESS. He didn’t pick us because we were holy and blameless. But that’s His purpose for us. Yes, in the new heavens and new earth. 1 John 3:2 says, “We shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” That’s His purpose for us.
But He also wants to see that progressively in us now. “Holy” is put more positively. He wants us to more and more look different, more and more like Him. “Blameless” describes it more negatively. He wants to trim all the stuff that doesn’t look like Him away from us.
Not just later, but now. One direction our mind goes when we think about these things is: “Am I chosen?” Do you have a longing for Christ in your heart? And do you see Him transforming your life? If you have neither of those things - even in the tiniest measure, you have to question things. God’s agenda for His children is to overwhelm them with His love and have that seen overflowing in their lives.
If you’ve ever spent much time with kids, they ask a lot of questions. Every question leads to another “why.” Right? Why is the grass green? It’s spring. Why? Chlorophyl. “Why?” It has to do with the sun. Why? It rotates on an axis. Why? Finally, I usually say, “Go ask your Mother.” Or I just say, “Because.” But whys lead to more whys, right? That’s what we see here. Why does the Lord do all of this? We’ve seen, “in love.” But why?
There’s a deeper “why” here. Look at verse 5. He predestined us for adoption through Jesus ACCORDING TO THE PURPOSE OF HIS WILL. Why did God do this? It was according to His purpose. He wanted to. That’s really all we get. Look at verse 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.” God works everything in the world according to His will. That’s His providence. He governs over all His creation. Things happen the way He wants. But it’s also the same with salvation, with His election. Those who are in Christ are there because of His purposes, because of His will.
That means it’s not ultimately because of our will. You may say, “Well, I chose Him.” That may be true, but something happened before that choice. What’s true of Christ’s disciples is true also of us.
John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.
You may say, “Well, I made the decision.” But long before you did that in time, the Lord had already decided. Hear this, also in John:
John 1:12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
You’re in Christ according to HIS will. That’s why. Now, as you know, many have said, that God just has foreknowledge of who is going to choose Christ, and He chooses them. Now I don’t know how that isn’t post-destination. But I just don’t see it in Scripture. Foreknowledge is mentioned, but it’s talked about in terms of foreknowledge of persons, NOT decisions. Yes, 1 Peter 1, verses 1 and 2 talk about believers being elect “according to the foreknowledge of God,” but there’s no mention of our choices there. Of our choosing of Jesus.
Also, if you ever pick up an old King James Bible, you might read about so and so “knowing” so and so. And then a kid results. This is intimate knowledge. That’s the background of the knowledge the New Testament talks about - this knowledge that’s in advance. This is knowledge that is extremely intimate. It’s the kind of knowledge the Lord applies to His people in Amos 3:2. God says, “You only have I know of all the families of the earth.” This is a deep, rich covenantal knowledge of love. As 1 Corinthians 8:3 puts it, “If anyone loves God, he is known by God.” The Lord has this knowledge of us. And He had it long ago. And that’s why we chose Christ, why we decided to follow Him. This is foreknowledge of persons, not facts.
We have a number of families in our church that have adopted. They looked at profiles of the children. They gazed at their pictures. They prayed for those kids, long before they ever entered their homes. They knew them. They picked them. That’s what we’re talking about here. Sure, some day, down the road, they’ll likely say, “I’m sure glad you picked me. I choose you back.” But they’re not there due to their will. And neither are we. Isn’t it amazing that the Lord would set His affection on us?
The whys keep going deeper, but so do the “what fors.” What’s the purpose for which God chose us? We looked at this. So we would be adopted as sons. So that we would be holy and blameless. But there’s a deeper one here, one that Bobby mentioned last week. Verse 6. He predestined us for adoption through Jesus, according to His will, TO THE PRAISE OF HIS GLORIOUS GRACE. We see something similar down in verse 11. He predestined us, according to His sovereign will again, “so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might also be TO THE PRAISE HIS GLORY.”
Friends, what was God’s ultimate purpose in choosing us? That we would praise His grace. That it would bring Him much glory. That’s the real “what for.” Now this reminds us that it had nothing to do with our works. One day, these kids that have been adopted are going to walk through high school graduation. Many of us are going to be there cheering. They’re going to look at their moms and dads and say, “I owe it all to you. I didn’t deserve this. I thank you.”
That’s us. And, again, it’s not like the Lord looks through the corridors of time and sees our good works and then elect us. Listen to Romans 9:
Rom. 9:10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.”
Hear verse 16, also. “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” It’s not our works. It’s by His grace. It’s not even our work to walk an aisle or pray a prayer or get in the baptismal.
He rescues us by His grace. He works good in us by His grace. If we’re at all holy and blameless, it’s by His grace. And that’s so we can’t take a shred of the credit and steal a bit of the glory for ourselves. It all goes to Him. All of it. That means our lives from start to finish are this picture of the amazing grace of God. That the world would look at us and give God glory. That we would look at Him and give Him glory. What a privilege!
Let me review where we’ve come from. Our God and Father chose us out of all the people in the world to be one together, to be one with Christ and rescued through Christ. He chose us way before time began, purely out of His amazing love. He did this that we would be changed and would be made to look like Him. He did it so that we could be in His family, that He could be our Dad. He did it just because He wanted to. He did it irrespective of what we would ever do. He did it by grace so that He would get all the glory.
Hear these words from Deuteronomy 7:6-8. Hear them applied to you, applied to us:
Deut. 7:6 “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. 7 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, 8 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.
Wow! Are you encouraged? I hope so. That’s how the Lord wants us to feel. But maybe these words don’t leave you encouraged at all. But rather, frustrated or sad. Maybe it doesn’t sound like good news to you. I want to take on a few objections you might have right now.
I know the first thing you might be asking is, “What about free will?” That’s a good question. But to get anywhere, I think we need to think more deeply and more biblically about the subject.
Some of you may think it’s like this. Amy and I go out on a date night, and I can get either sushi or Seoul Taco on our dinner together. Yeah, you’d say, “Free will is like that. You can pick either.” Here’s the problem with that. I hate sushi. I’ve been to Japan four times. It goes down slimy and disgusting to me. I’m not remotely interested in it. But I could eat a Bulgogi bowl three times a day.
If we define free will as what we can choose without any kind of disposition of any sort, we’re left with some problems. It’s absurd. How do we make any choices at all? We’d all just stand there. It doesn’t fit with reality. Every choice we make is motivated in some way. But beyond that, it’s just not biblical.
We like to think of it this way: God votes for us. Satan votes against us. We cast the deciding vote. But we’re not morally neutral. Listen to this picture Paul paints of people apart from Jesus, in Romans 8:7. “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed it cannot.” On the next page here, in Ephesians 2, God’s word says we’re dead in sin. We’re following Satan. We’re living for the passions of our flesh. The reality is that we’d vote for that candidate every single time. We may technically have the ability to mouth “Jesus is Lord,” but we don’t want to. We may have the natural ability, but not the moral ability. It takes something HUGE to change things.
Free will is the ability to choose what we want. We always choose what we want. We always choose according to our strongest inclination in the moment - whether we’re talking sushi or spirituality. And we don’t want God apart from a work of God. We need Him to melt our wills and bend our wills.
Maybe you say you don’t want that. You don’t want your will or anyone’s being manipulated by God. Well, that’s dangerous, as we’re heading the wrong way without Him. But hear me: this isn’t a dictator ordering someone to worship Him. It’s more like a woman blowing a man away with her presence. He wants to be with her. He can’t NOT be with her. He’s been won over by her love. And God’s is so much greater.
If I tell my kids we’re going to Six Flags, I don’t force them to get in the car. They’re in there. They can’t even sleep the night before due to excitement. Right? I don’t have to force them. Some people picture God’s election like this: some people will be dragged into God’s kingdom kicking and screaming. Others will be beating on the car trying to get in. But that’s not the biblical picture at all. God graciously overcomes the resistance in the hearts of His people. They hear the shepherd’s voice. They want to follow him. They want to go on the trip. The rest of the world doesn’t want to come close to the car. More on that when we get to chapter two.
Some of you also might ask, “How is this fair?” Kids sure like to say that, right? “Why does he get this, and I get that? It’s not fair.” Usually when we’re saying this, we’re talking about equality. We want everyone to get the same thing.
Is that what we really want? An angry Hitler in the new world? Do we really want everyone to be chosen? That leaves us with an unjust God who doesn’t take sin seriously, who doesn’t defend His children’s good or care about His honor. It also leaves us with a heaven we don’t want, with all kinds of “bad people” there. But that misses the point. We’re all dark and dirty and in need of grace.
We might just want everyone to get a fair shot. But think about another trip with me for a second. I win a free cruise to the Carribean. I can take 30 people. I’m taking my family. I’m taking the elders. I’m taking Bobby and Laura. My sister and her family. I’d take people I like. People who look and think like me. But that’s not what the Lord does. He is choosing a people from every nation. Think back to what we read in 1 Corinthians 1. He picks the foolish, the weak, the low. Again, He doesn’t want anyone to boast. Maybe the Lord is far more fair than we would ever be.
Often what we really mean, “Is this right? Is this just?” Back to the adoption illustration. When Aarik and Brooke were in that orphanage in South Africa, they could have technically brought home more children. But the people running the place weren’t going to look at them and say, “Why won’t you pick more? Why won’t you be fair?” They were under no obligation to take any at all. In fact, they were being gracious and kind just to bring home one.
But, then again, the Bible doesn’t picture us as smiling, cute children, looking at prospective parents, longing for a home. We’re rebels, angry at everyone, living in the streets. R.C. Sproul explains it this way. Think of two categories: justice and non-justice. Everyone gets one of the two. In the category of non-justice, there are two realms: injustice and mercy. We all deserve death, judgment, and hell - justice. Some graciously receive life, salvation, and heaven - mercy. But nobody is stuck with something they haven’t earned, something they don’t deserve. No one gets injustice.
Two more quick things I’ll say about fairness and justice. The Lord wants us to trust Him and not fight Him. In Romans 9:20, Paul says, “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’” We’re talking about the beautiful mystery of the gospel in Ephesians - this hope that we now can understand. This is a different kind of mystery - one we’ll never completely fathrom. We have to trust Him.
But here’s another thing I have to throw in there. Let’s say you buy into that idea that God chooses who will choose Him. That it’s tied to foreknowledge in some way. You still don’t really fix the problem. You still have a God who could have saved more, but doesn’t. Yes, He wants all people to be saved. But not all are. You just accent man’s will. I just accent God’s - something I think is clearly more biblical. You still have to answer all the same questions.
Here’s another reasonable question: “Why even bother? Why do ministry?” Why should we share the gospel? Why should we pray if everything’s already been decided?
Well, first of all, we’re not teaching fatalism here. Our choices do matter. We’re making them all the time. We’re not machines. Yes, God’s in control over His creation and our salvation. But He’s working in and through all our choices. And they’re real.
Second, then, our prayers our means to God’s ends. When someone is saved by Jesus, it isn’t just their decision that’s part of God’s plan. It’s the people praying for them. It’s the people sharing with them. God doesn’t just ordain the last chapter, but the chapters along the way. Not just the climax, but the scenes that come before. So we can’t just sit there. People still have to call out to Jesus. People still have to preach the name of Jesus.
Let me throw this one back the other way again. If you don’t think God is in control, why do you pray? What exactly are you asking God to do? Why do you think He’s going to do something? And, as you share, what’s your hope? Is it all up to you? Isn’t that ton of weight on your shoulders? I’d so much rather rest in the sovereignty of God.
Here’s another thought: if you say it’s all God’s foreknowledge, what do we really gain from that? If something is in God’s mind, if He can see it, from eternity past, aren’t things just as fixed? Don’t we have the exact same problem? Why pray? Why share?
But back to the question: why bother? Here’s the reason. We’ve been chosen. We’ve been given a destiny in advance. We’ve been given a purpose. Look at 1 Peter 2:9 with me.
1Pet. 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
Sound familiar? It’s Exodus 19 - the passage we began with - applied to us. This is who we are. It’s key to our identity. And just as with ancient Israel, it comes with a mission. They were to bless the earth, to stand as a light to the world, and they failed. And now we have the same calling. But we have a different power. We have the Holy Spirit. We’ve been given the Spirit to empower us as we proclaim His grace. As we sing of His excellencies, of His great glory.
It’s like we’re in the military, and we’ve been chosen. But we’re not just picked to go sit in the barracks and play cards - to kill ourselves watching Netflix. We’ve been chosen for a mission. The chosen can’t be frozen. To sit around and say that God will save people anyone just doesn’t make sense.
I want to wrap up by giving two points of application. If you didn’t catch it, I’ve already given you a few in dealing with those objections. We should revel in this new freedom we have in Christ. We should have confidence that God is doing everything right. We should have zeal for the mission He’s given us. But here are two more very important ones.
It should give us humility. Isn’t it crazy that this doctrine of predestination can have the perplexing effect of making some people arrogant? We’re the chosen ones. We’re the ones that understand this doctrine. That’s nuts! It should humble us. We didn’t deserve this. It wasn’t by our choice. Pride is crazy. It shouldn’t puff up our heads. It should melt our hearts.
But let me challenge those of you who may not agree. And let me say, if you’re not quite with me on this doctrine and don’t even think you ever will be, there’s still room for you here. But consider this. Maybe your objections about whether or not people are treated fairly or justly aren’t really the issue. Maybe it’s that you want to maintain control. You want to say that you chose Him. You want some of the credit.
But here’s what I’d say about that. The New York Giants football team hasn’t been known for their off-the-field behavior. This past year, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul blew off most of his hand, setting off fireworks. A few years back, wide receiver Plaxico Burress somehow discharged a firearm in his pants, shooting himself in the groin. Not too smart. When we question God on these things, we’re doing two things. We’re playing with fireworks. Our God is a consuming fire. And we’re shooting ourselves in the groin. These truths are meant to encourage us.
This should also give us joy. Isn’t it nuts that this is often seen just as a philosophical truth to be debated? It’s meant for far more than that. It’s meant to be an encouragement. It’s meant to give us joy. Again, that the Lord of the universe is our Dad. That He has had His mind on us before time began. That He picked us - not for anything we had done. In fact, we deserved the opposite. But He picked us. He’s brought us into His family. He’s making us new. He did this out of love. He did it all because He wanted to. This should give us overwhelming joy. And that joy in His amazing grace gives Him the glory He deserves.
Someday, Brooke and Aarik are going to look in Sibu’s eyes and say, “Buddy, do you know how long we waited for you? It seemed like the call would never come. But what a happy day!” Matt and Alison are going to say, “Me-me, you won’t believe what went into getting you here. People bought all this art. We got all these grants. It was worth it.” Aaron and Maureen are going to say, “God put adoption on our hearts, and we picked you. You were in a rough place. But we loved you. We brought you into our home. What a blessing it has been!”
Karis, who knows where those kids that we now know and love would have been? But they were chosen. Now they have a destiny. What humility that should bring, but what joy, as well.
That’s us, church. Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord for His glorious grace. He overcame our enemies. He carried us on eagles wings. We are blessed. Not because of any thing we’ve done. We have no reason to boast. We are His. We are chosen. Simply because He wanted us. Let’s pray.
Deacon Bobby Schembre is a gifted preacher. This is perhaps the best one he's ever preached. You have to hear this. We are so blessed, people of God. Let us bless our Lord.
Bobby's three points:
1. God is blessed.
2. We are blessed.
3. We must bless God.
His diagnostic questions:
- Are you a complainer or grumbler?
- Are you joyless, or more accurately, is your joy based entirely on circumstances?
- Are you fearful of death?
- Do you envy those who have more than you?
- Are you mastered by your past? (Do hold on to bitterness because of past abuse or past sins? Are you unable forgive? Do you hold onto guilt and shame?)
- Are you mastered by the present? (Do you have zero ability to exercise delay of gratification or self control? Do you try to eat up all the physical blessings you can because you don’t believe in the superior pleasures of knowing God now? Does physical pain and suffering destroy you because comfort is your god?)
- Are you mastered by your ideal future? (Are you always dreaming about health, new job, retirement, better home with open floor plan, stainless steel appliances, getting out of debt, getting married, finding a partner, etc.? In other words, are these things your heaven?)