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The Children of God (3)

August 20, 2017

The Children of God (3) 

In our previous study, we continued our exploration of a central biblical theme drawn from this brief text.

 

 

 

 

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” – Paul to the Ephesians, chapter 5:1,2.

Focusing on the words, “as beloved children,” we began to consider some of the richness of the biblical teaching regarding Adoption. However, as Paul wrote this text, it is clear that he did not use the specific word, adoption. Why is that?

I closed our second post by proposing a somewhat succinct definition of the term, adoption as it is used in the Bible. Drawing upon several passages, my definition sought to distinguish that although Adoption is intimately connected to the biblical teaching on redemption, salvation, or deliverance from sin, it is not specifically dealing with the same subject. Though it is also related to the new birth, or regeneration, its emphasis is not the same.

All of these terms, however, are directly related to the answer of this vital question:

“How is it then, that some among the fallen children of Adam come to be called “the children of God?”

The Bible’s teaching is clear and consistent regarding the consequences of Adam’s rebellion in the Garden. Paul, speaking to those believers in Ephesus, whom he referred to just a few sentences earlier in this fashion,

     “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.” – Paul to the Ephesians, chapter 1:4-6.

and,

     “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…” – Paul to the Ephesians, chapter 1:7,8.

also, goes on to declare,

     “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” – Paul to the Ephesians, chapter 2:1-3.

Clearly, if you are to believe the Bible, you cannot escape the universal fact that, none of us enter this world free of sin’s consequences. Simply stated, we are not naturally children of God.

In our earlier posts we began to see that for one to be adopted and accepted as beloved child, presupposes that until that moment, he was not. This required God’s direct intervention, through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, in Christ’s giving up of Himself to suffer the full penalty of the consequences of the rebellion. Thus, accomplishing redemption, which is the foundation of the good news of the gospel.

The gospel declares what God, in Christ has accomplished, why it was necessary, and how these things have inescapable relevance to you and me. Accompanied with the power of God, the proclamation of this good news opens the eyes and hearts of some, and further darkens and hardens others. For those who hear, and by faith believe, entrusting themselves fully to Christ, their redemption is sealed. The Holy Spirit is given to indwell and empower them until they enter the fullness of their inheritance in heaven.

For those who, through their natural inclination, pay no attention to this good news, or ridicule and reject it, continue in their natural condition, under God’s wrath. Their continued rejection leads them deeper into sin, and its dark and harsh affects.

     “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” – Paul to the Romans, chapter 5:8-11.

When considering the immeasurable richness of this relationship with God, which we who are believers have been given entrance, what else can we do but rejoice in such a wondrous salvation?

Redeemed, reborn, reconciled, adopted as beloved children, sealed by the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, Who stands as the security of our future entrance into our full inheritancethis is the salvation of which the Bible speaks!

In our on-going studies, we will continue to trace out this thread, with our focus narrowing upon Adoption. I will attempt to follow the general points of my proposed definition, but we’ll see how that goes. I would like to close this post with an extended quote from a tremendously gifted man. I believe this will help to pull together what we have seen thus far.  This excerpt is from David Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ (born, 1899) expositions of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, chapter 1.

     “This term ‘adoption’ is a most interesting one. The Apostle Paul is the only writer in the New Testament who uses it, and there is little doubt but that he borrowed it from Roman law. It is a term, an idea, of which the Jews knew nothing. It was no part of their legal system; but it was a term used by the Romans.

Now the Apostle Paul was a Roman citizen and he had lived in that atmosphere; so he naturally uses this term. Under Roman law adoption secured for the adopted child a right to the name and to the property of the person by whom he had been adopted. The moment a child was adopted by a person, that child had legal right, an absolute legal right, to make such claims. On the other hand, Roman law granted to the person who adopted the child all the rights and privileges of a father. It worked both ways.

The Apostle obviously uses the term in order to convey the particular idea of the place or status of a son. It is a purely forensic or legal term…which defines standing or status, rank, privilege, and position. Its emphasis is not on the nature of the child so much as upon the rank of the child.

Let me illustrate. If you say of a person that he is an adopted child, you are saying that he is not in a blood relationship to a certain man and woman. He has not a natural connection with them but he has been legally adopted by them; he stands as their child though he does not actually partake of their nature.

It is this distinction, which the Apostle employs here, and obviously is an important one. The nature of a Christian as a new man in Christ, as a son, is determined not by adoption but by regeneration. We become children of God because we are born again, because we have become ‘partakers of the divine nature,’ because the Holy Spirit enters into us, because we are born from above, because we are a new creation.

Receiving this we become the children of God. But that is not conveyed by the term, ‘adoption,’ which does not place the emphasis upon the common nature, which we have, but entirely upon the legal standing, upon the rank, the position; and upon the privileges that come from that position. In other words, adoption can be defined as the proclaiming of the new creature in his new relationship to God as a son. By adoption, then, we become sons of God and are introduced into and are given the privileges that belong to membership of God’s family…

We can now see why the Apostle uses this particular term ‘adoption.’ It is as if he was not content with saying that we have become children of God by the second birth; he wants us to realize where we stand, and what our rank and privileges are.”

God’s Ultimate Purpose – An Exposition of Ephesians 1:1-23 – D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones; Baker Book House 1978 – ISBN: 0801055911

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Linda Bass permalink
    August 20, 2017 4:00 PM

    I just “Amen” all the way through reading this! It is very clear and reassuring in my walk and life in Christ.

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