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Count Your Blessings

Part 9

Blessing 17. ADOPTION

Ephesians 1:5 says:

Eph 1:5 (God) appointed us beforehand for adoption through Jesus Christ

The Greek word for adoption literally means “son-placing” and implies being given inheritance rights as a son has. Some people think of the universe as their father, saying, “I am a child of the universe”, or they think of the earth as their mother. But the universe is a hard taskmaster. It gives no-one any rights. Disaster or death can strike at any time (for example disease or a lightning strike). If the universe is our father, we are in a terrible situation. But God is not like this. Imagine some very rich aristocrat going to an orphanage where the children live in a harsh regime without any love, and taking some child, maybe a dirty and bad-mannered one, and saying not just, “I'll look after you”, but “I hereby adopt you as my son. You have all the legal rights of a son, and I will never revoke them.” This is what God has done with us. God of course cleanses us and improves our manners as well (in fact we are “born again” through the word of God). He has placed us as His sons, giving us a right to blessings we could never have dreamed of.

Israel has an adoption as well - this time in an earthly context. When the Hebrews were slaves to the Egyptians, God instructed Moses to go to Pharaoh with the following instructions:

“And you will say to Pharaoh, ‘This is what the LORD says, «Israel is my son, my firstborn. And I say to you, ‹Let my son go so that he can serve me.› And if you refuse to let him go, be aware that I will kill your son, your firstborn.» ’ ” [Ex 4:22-23]

So God has adopted Israel into a firstborn's position. Israel has a calling to serve God, and this they will do when God equips them to do it by bringing about the New Covenant. God says:

For this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law in their inner parts, and I will write it on their heart, and I will be God to them, and they will be a people to me. [Jer 31:33]

This will make Israel a firstborn nation on earth,

an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people destined to be a special possession, [1 Pet 2:9]

Israel will become great and educate this distracted world in the knowledge of God. Indeed,

For the nation and the kingdom
    which will not serve you
Will perish,
And such nations
Will be utterly wasted. [Isa 60:12]

Israel's restoration will be accompanied by a much-needed restoration of the land of Israel e.g.

At a time when water will be laid open
    in the desert,
As will streams
    in the arid tracts. [Isa 35:6]

Presumably at that time, or a little later, there will be a spiritual restoration of the nations:

For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD, As the waters cover the sea. [Isa 11:9]

Israel's adoption is still at the forefront in Romans:

Israelites, who have the adoption and the glory and the covenants and the instituting of the law and the service and the promises, of whom the fathers are, and from whom Christ is as regards the flesh, who is above all, God blessed throughout the ages. Amen. [Rom 9:4-5]

Israel is likened to an olive tree in Romans. Some Gentiles have been grafted in to provoke them to jealousy (Rom 11:11).

The position of the people forming the olive tree is dependent on them obeying the instruction to

remain in the kindness [of God] [Rom 11:22]

The Gentiles were cautioned:

So see the kindness and severity of God: severity towards those who have fallen, but kindness to you, if you remain in the kindness, otherwise you will also be cut off. [Rom 11:22]

However, these people were, if willing, led by the Spirit of God, and

are the sons of God. For you have not received the spirit of bondage again, leading to fear, but you have received the spirit of adoption, by which we cry, “Abba, father.” [Rom 8:14-15]

Also, despite some Israelites having stumbled, it was not beyond recovery (Rom 11:11), and it was known that eventually all Israel will be saved (Rom 11:26).

The adoption of Israel, even with Gentiles grafted in, is clearly different from the adoption in Ephesians.

Another Scripture dealing with adoption is Galatians 4:5.

But when the fulness of time had come, God sent out his son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive the adoption, [Gal 4:4-5]

The Gentiles could even be counted as Abraham's seed:

Gal 3:26-29 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For any of you who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are of Christ, then you are Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise.

This adoption is a secure possession of the Galatian believers, because Paul emphasizes that the believers are receiving a promise which cannot be set aside:

Brothers, I speak humanly: it is just like the way no-one annuls or adds to a man's covenant which has been confirmed. [Gal 3:15]

This adoption is associated with the Jerusalem that is above:

But Jerusalem of above is free, and she is the mother of us all. [Gal 4:26]

This Jerusalem is also mentioned in Hebrews as the heavenly Jerusalem:

But you have come to Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the upper-heavenly Jerusalem, and myriads of angels, [Heb 12:22]

Does the Galatian adoption apply to us? On the one hand “there is neither Jew nor Greek”, but on the other hand the adoption has a Jewish basis (a promise to Abraham) and outlook (the heavenly Jerusalem). It also has the Gentiles in mind:

Christ has redeemed us ... this being in order that the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles by Christ Jesus, so that we might receive the promise of the spirit through faith. [Gal 3:13-14]

The Galatian adoption would appear to contain a lot of teaching about adoption which is relevant to us, but it does not seem to be identical to the Ephesian adoption, which belongs to a

mystery of Christ, which was not made known to other generations, to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by spirit, [Eph 3:4-5]

Our adoption is into an upper-heavenly family, in

in the upper-heavenly places [Eph 1:3]

which are

far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name which is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come, [Eph 1:21]

There is no mention of Abraham or anything typically Jewish, except for contrast1. Presumably the heavenly realms here are far above even the authority, power and dominion of Jerusalem (earthly or heavenly) and titles associated with it (Zion, the Holy Mountain, etc.). It should not be surprising that the Ephesian adoption, which is addressed to Gentiles who were

alienated from the citizenship of Israel [Eph 2:12]

should be different to Israel's adoption. After Acts 28:28 we might expect something different:

the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it. [Acts 28:28]

What is surprising is where this blessing is based, and how high in the family we have been placed.


1NIV's “with Israel”, CEV's “to the Jews”, GNT's “with the Jews”, God's Word®'s “as Jewish people do” and Weymouth's “with us Jews” (Ephesians 3:6) are translators' additions and the words do not occur in any Greek manuscript, so are not Scripture.

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