The following is a slightly edited transcript from a sermon preached at Pioneer Bible Church on February 27, 2022.
Adopted and Accepted in Christ
We are learning in Ephesians that all believers in Jesus are SAINTS. “SAINT” means we are set apart in our calling, and we are to be set apart in our practice.
To review, chapters 1-3 of Ephesians talk about our position in Christ. Really, the first half of the book is all about what God has done on our behalf. The only command in this first section is “remember” in chapter 2.
Chapters 4-6 are all about our practice in Christ. The last
half of the book tell us what we are to do in the power of our calling by the grace of God.
This neat outline is laid before us by Paul himself in Ephesians 4:1. He says, “I, therefore…” (in light of what I have told you in chapters 1-3) “…a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called…”
This week we will be looking at the fact that believers in Jesus are “Adopted and Accepted in Christ.” This is in Ephesians 1:3-6, and I invite you to turn there with me.
We are taking our time to work through this first section od Ephesians, because this passage is foundational to the rest of the letter. Paul’s section of praise is going to lay the groundwork for the rest of our study, and it is essential to have a handle on this before we take in the rest of the letter.
Please read with me in the copy of Scripture you have.
(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,
(4) even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love
(5) he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,
(6) to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
As we get ready to look at Adoption and Acceptance, lets remind ourselves of the past two weeks.
Here is a list of all the blessings that Paul says belong to those who are believers in Jesus:
- We are chosen.
- We are adopted
- We are accepted
- We are redeemed
- We are forgiven
- We have been given knowledge of God’s will
- We have obtained an inheritance
- We have been predestined
- We have been given the Holy Spirit, who has sealed us and is the down payment of our inheritance.
The unfortunate tendency in American Christianity is that we get so caught up in the blessings that we miss how those blessings have become ours. We never want to simply look at the blessings, but we want to see all these blessings ALWAYS and ONLY through the lens of Jesus Christ. It is through Jesus Christ alone that we have any blessing. It is through His person and His work and our union to Him.
Another way of looking at this is to see it from this perspective. In Christ we are chosen, adopted, accepted, redeemed, forgiven, knowledgeable, heirs, predestined, and sealed and guaranteed by the Spirit.
This is all to the praise of God’s glory and grace.
So, we could also look at this from this perspective. Jesus Christ is God’s Chosen One, the Son of God, God’s Beloved, the Redeemer, the Forgiver of Sins, the Center of God’s plan (1:9-10), the heir of all things (Hebrews 1:2), and the Giver of the Holy Spirit.
Through faith in Jesus Christ, you and I are brought into Jesus Christ. We are united to Him in such a way God views us as He views Jesus. Since Jesus is chosen, we are chosen. Since Jesus is the Son of God, all who trust in Him are the children of God. Because Jesus is God’s Beloved, all who are in Him are accepted by God. Since Jesus is the Redeemer, all who are in Him are Redeemed, because His work of redemption is applied to us. That means all who are united to the Forgiver of sins are forgiven. Since we know Jesus through faith, we also understand that God’s plan is to bring everything under Jesus. Since Jesus is the heir of all things, those who are in Him have received an inheritance as fellow-heirs. Since Jesus gives the Holy Spirit to all who trust in Him, united to Him we are sealed by the Holy Spirit. We are recipients of the Holy Spirit who is the down payment of our inheritance.
So, all our blessing is in Jesus Christ, which was always God’s plan. God promised Abraham that it would be through his Seed that the nations would be blessed (Genesis 22:17-18). Paul tells us that this is a reference to Jesus Christ Himself (Galatians 3:16).
Since we are united to Jesus, we are part of the nations who have been blessed by Abraham’s descendant, and we are now the people of God. These blessing are for us, the corporate body of Christ, here locally and globally.
Last week we saw that in Christ we are God’s chosen. The purpose of this choosing is to be HOLY (set apart). We are set apart in Christ to be God’s loved people. We are set apart to belong to God and be used by God.
We are also set apart to be blameless, or it could be translated “without blame.” Remember Spiros Zohdiates’ definition of “before him” is very helpful: “in someone’s direct, concentrated gaze.” (1) In the direct and concentrated gaze of God, we are without blame. Not because we are without blame in ourselves, but because Jesus is truly without blame, and, in Him, we are without blame.
Remember that God has done all of this in love. God has sacrificed His Son because He has loved us and wants us to know Him.
This brings us to the section that He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ. Predestination means to limit in advance. Again, this adoption has its condition and predestination through Jesus Christ. How do individuals become adopted as children of God? It is through Jesus Christ, God the Son. God has decided that this is the way, and the only way, to be brought into His family and receive all His blessings.
Through union to the Son of God by faith, we become the children of God. John 1:12 says, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,” It is through union to Jesus that we are made the children of God.
This adoption goes far deeper than simply being brought into the family of God. This word “adoption” could be translated “sonship.” The context is in the Greco-Roman practice of adoption. Often a man, a man who may even have children of his own, would look for an adult male to adopt and make the heir of all his possessions.
God has, through our attachment to Jesus His Son, made us His children. He has not only made us His children, but He has made us His legal heirs. All that God has to offer is ours. This sonship is not limited to male heirs only, but it is for all who are in Christ Jesus.
This is not something we grow into or work to reach. All who are trusting in Jesus Christ alone to be in a right relationship with God are heirs.
We have obtained an inheritance according to verse 11, and that inheritance is ours in full. We are God’s adult children with all the rights and privileges of the heir. This is because we are in Christ. Jesus is, according to Hebrews 1:2 the heir of all things. United to Him, we are also heirs. This is the purpose of God’s will. The plan of God is that those united to Jesus Christ share in His inheritance.
Why? Why did God do this? The ESV says this was “…according to the purpose of his will.” However, we could miss the point of this passage if we only saw this as the purpose of His plan. There is more to it than just a plan. God has a plan, but the plan delights Him. The plan to take those who were once His enemies, place them into Christ, and in union to Him make them chosen and heirs of all His goodness brings joy to the Father’s heart.
The New Living Translation is extremely helpful here: “This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him immense pleasure.”
Why did God do this? Because it was His delight!
This plan of salvation in Christ is what God wanted to do, and He really enjoys doing it.
We do not have to view God the Father as someone who is coerced or forced into the work of salvation. He is not being dragged into the work of saving against His will. Instead, He is the One who planned this before time began, and it gives Him immense joy to carry it out. Instead of seeing God as our begrudged Savior, we can see Him as overly excited to save and bless all who are in Christ.
This is true not only of us who have already believed, but of all who will trust in Jesus now and in the future.
If you are here and are not trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ to be in a right relationship with God, God would be overjoyed to take you. No matter how terrible your past, or how bleak your current reality, GOD LOVES TO SAVE ALL WHO WILL COME TO HIM THROUGH JESUS.
Jesus Christ has paid for your sin completely when He died on the cross for you, and when you trust in Him and His work for you completely, God is delighted to bring you into His family and give you all that heaven has to offer, including Himself!
This work of salvation is completely and totally through the work of Jesus. We enter this sonship through union to Jesus. We are united to Him through faith in Him.
Again, we must keep “IN CHRIST” in the forefront of our minds in this passage. “IN CHRIST” is the main point of this passage. We are blessing God for what He has done, and He has done it in and through the Lord Jesus Christ. United to Jesus, you and I are heirs of all God’s blessing, because God has determined to bless the nations, including us in Christ.
Notice, it is by His glorious grace that He has done this. Remember that Chuck Swindoll explained grace as someone of higher status stooping down to show kindness and do good to someone of lower status. (2) God in the Highest, has leaned into us with all His love by Jesus coming to die in our place for our sins and rise again to give us new life in Himself.
You know I am amazed by grace. God could have leaned down to destroy us, yet He chose to lean into us in love. He loves to love us. He loves to show grace.
By His grace He has blessed us in the Beloved. The word “blessed” here can be translated as “accepted.” Those of us who struggle with acceptance issues, if we are in Christ, if our trust is in Jesus, then God has accepted us forever in Him. You don’t have to struggle with acceptance, because God has accepted you.
When we struggle to accept brothers and sisters in Christ, may we remember that God has accepted them in Christ.
This word “blessed” could also be translated “graced.” By his glorious grace God has graced us.
This word is only used here and in Luke 1:28 in reference to Mary, and there it is translated “favored one.” The idea as best I can think to put it is that God has leaned into us and embraced us in love.
How did He do it? Why did He do it? I hope that the repetition is enough to make it fly out of our hearts and roll off our tongues: He did it in Christ.
He did it in the Beloved One. I hope when we read this we automatically think of Jesus’ baptism. Not only should we think of the baptism of Jesus, but we can also think of the transfiguration of Jesus. Do you remember when Jesus took Peter, James, and John on the mountain and displayed all His glory before them? What did the Father say about the Son at the Transfiguration? “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him” (Matthew 17:5). We have been accepted, graced, loved in the Beloved Son. Jesus is the Beloved Son in whom the Father is well-pleased. United to the Beloved Son, we are the beloved children of God.
The application of this passage flies at us again in verse 6 – “to the praise of His glorious grace.” The whole point of this section is to lift our hearts up in worship of God for the work that He has done and is doing in Christ. He is lifting our hearts in worship for all He has blessed us with in Christ.
God alone deserves the praise and the glory because God alone has done the work. God has blessed us so outrageously and beyond our wildest imaginations that there is no way we could ever claim credit for it. It must be all of grace! It must be all His work and not our own!
Think of how outrageous these blessings are. Paul is giving us this section before he enters chapter 2. Literally, God has taken His enemies, died for our rebellion against Him, and pursued us in love to have us as His children and the heirs of all that is His. It must be all of God and only He can take credit.
May our hearts soar in worship as we meditate on the glory of His grace. May our mouths speak to ourselves, one another, and to the world –
To God be the glory
Great things He has done
So loved He the world that He gave us His Son
Who yielded His life an atonement for sin
And opened the life-gate that all may go in (3)
- This was taken from HELPS Word Studies © Discovery Bible 2021. This was accessed on biblehub.com.
- Charles R. Swindoll in Grace Awakening, which was published by Word Publishing in 1996. The concept referenced is on pages 8-9.
- “To God Be the Glory” by Fanny Crosby (1875), public domain.
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.