Part 2: Adoption (1:5a, 11a)
(Catch part 1 of this study of Ephesians.)
As gracious as election is, as loving as God is to choose us to benefit from the death of His Son, His love goes even further than that. Paul continues, saying that God “predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ” (1:5a). Now, Matthew Henry suggests a distinction between election and predestination:
Election, or choice, respects that lump or mass of mankind out of which some are chosen, from which they are separated and distinguished. Predestination has respect to the blessings they are designed for; particularly the adoption of children, it being the purpose of God that in due time we should become his adopted children, and so have a right to all the privileges and to the inheritance of children. (MHC6 1207)
Whether or not there is a theological distinction between the two is of less importance to me at this moment than the idea of adoption. This is truly a tremendous blessing. We who were “children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3) are now “children of God” (John 1:12). Not only are we no longer enemies, but we are adopted into God’s family. As such, we “have a right to all the privileges and to the inheritance of children” (MHC6 1207). We are “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17). Think about what that means. We are co-heirs with Christ. God bestows on us the privileges and inheritances of children, yes, but more than that, He bestows on us the privileges and inheritances that He gives to Christ! That is how much God loves us. He sent His Son to die on the cross as an atoning sacrifice for our sins, though He certainly did not have to do such a thing. And then He adopted us into His family as sons and daughters, of similar standing with Christ. Truly God did this “in love” (v.4), since there is no reason for Him to have done any of this to sinners deserving His wrath. Truly this demonstrates His love for us. This is the source of our worship; we praise Him because of His incredible mercy and grace shown to us sinners.
But adoption has yet more implications. If we know that God will take care of us as He took care of Christ on earth, if we know that He has blessed us greatly and will continue to bless us greatly, if we know that He will provide for us and sustain us, then to not trust God for all things is an affront to God. To trust in our own ability to sustain ourselves financially, or to overcome sin, tells God that we have power equal to His. Thus, anxiety is a sin, because it betrays a lack of trust in God for our future. The love of money is a sin, because it takes the trust we should have in God and places it in money; we trust that having enough money will make our future secure. Through sins of misplaced trust, we tell Him that we can handle things. It demeans our adoption and its cost—the blood of Christ—and it demeans the promises found in our adoption. How tragic. How foolish. Compared to God, I am nothing. God knows everything down to the number of hairs on my head (Luke 12:7a); I know only what He allows. God has the power to kill (Matt. 10:28); I cannot add a day to my life by worrying (Matt. 6:27). Who am I to trust in my own power against God’s?
The solution to these sins, then, is to be familiar with God’s promises and to trust in them. In small group at GOC, we just finished reading through John Piper’s book Future Grace. In it, he writes about the necessity of believing in God’s promises, having faith that He will provide all things for us, including sanctification, as the source of strength for fighting sin. (If you have not read it, I certainly recommend that you do.) A major passage Piper references for fighting anxiety is this:
26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ (Matt. 6:26-31)
Adoption means that we are beneficiaries of blessings such as these. We are the recipients of promises that assure us of God’s sovereignty, and of His love to use that sovereignty to our benefit. God, in His incredible grace, does not only save us from hell and His wrath, but bestows upon us as sons and daughters incredible riches.
Verse 11a describes another part of adoption: “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined.” 1 Peter 1:4 states that there is an “inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,” and Matthew 25:34 states that we will inherit a “kingdom prepared for [us] from the beginning of the world.” Another one of the benefits we receive as a result of adoption is the riches of heaven. Justified, sanctified, and glorified by His blood, we stand righteous and ready to inherit those rewards, as well.
All this to say that God is incredibly gracious. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8) to free us from sin in this life and death in the next (Rom. 8:2), and He shows His love all the more in the blessings He gives us through adoption. In the face of those blessings, there is no choice but to trust Him. No one else—certainly not ourselves—could guarantee the promises God guarantees us. It would be a mistake not to trust Him. It would be a sin not to trust Him, because it would fail to give Him the glory He deserves for shedding His perfect Son’s blood to secure my adoption. As I look back on the cross and forward to my inheritance, I pray that God would inspire faith in me to live with my trust in His promises. There is no reason for me to fear anything, to worry about anything, because I know He will take care of me. With my trust rightfully in Him, may I live boldly and fearlessly in a way that glorifies God, doing His work to further His kingdom on this earth.
MHC6: Matthew Henry Commentary, Volume 6
Henry, Matthew. Commentary on the Whole Bible. CCEL ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, Public Domain. 6 vols. Web.