Adopted Into the Family of God
August 29th, 1982 @ 8:15 AM
ADOPTED INTO THE FAMILY OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
8-29-82 8:15 a.m.
This morning here in the First Baptist Church in Dallas, the pastor is delivering another sermon in the series on soteriology, the doctrinal messages on salvation. And this one is entitled The Adoption, Our Adoption into the Family of God. It will be an exposition of the revelation of that wonderful, wonderful status God has bestowed upon us who have found refuge and life in Him. So turn to Ephesians chapter 1; Ephesians chapter 1: Our Adoption into the Family of God. We are going to read first verses 4 to 6. Ephesians chapter 1—this is an encyclical, it is a letter to all of the churches of all ages:
He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love:
Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,
To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved.
Having predestinated us unto the adoption of—
the Greek word is sons—
sons of God.
In this Book of Ephesians, in chapter 2, verse 1 and verse 3, he says that by nature we are children of wrath; that we are dead in trespasses and in sins. But he says that in Christ we have been quickened, we have been resurrected; we have been born into the kingdom of our Savior [Ephesians 2:1, 3]. Then in verse 5 he avows, of chapter 1, that we’ve just read, that God has done something else for us: not only has He quickened us from the dead, raised us to a new life in Christ, but He has conferred upon us the adoption of sons [Ephesians 1:5]. We are joint-heirs [Romans 8:17], we are partakers of the divine nature [2 Peter 1:4], we’re going to sit on thrones judging angels [1 Corinthians 6:3]; God has highly exalted us.
Well, that is a corollary of a doctrine that I have believed all my life; and if you have been a Baptist you also have believed it. I am told that by law you can disinherit a natural-born son; but by law you can never disinherit an adopted son. I presume the reason that lies back of that is there could be a possibility of a man adopting a son, get angry at him, disinherit him, then adopt him again, and then get angry with him, and disinherit him, and then adopt him and disinherit him. No such thing as that is possible by law. Once you adopt the child, he is your child forever; you cannot unadopt him, disinherit him. And you know that is a great reflection of a doctrine that you and I believe God has promised to us. There’s no such thing as being saved and then unsaved, and then saved and then unsaved, and then saved and then unsaved, and back and forth, back and forth. If you are ever really saved, your name’s written in the Lamb’s Book of Life [Revelation 17:8, 20:12, 15, 21:27]; you’re saved forever. If you are adopted, you are adopted forever; and if you are saved, you are saved forever [John 10:27-30]. He has adopted us as sons of God [Ephesians 1:5].
Do you notice he avows here that this is a predestinated act of God? [Ephesians 1:5]. That’s another good old doctrine of our Baptist faith. The Bible teaches predestination. And he avows here that we who have been saved, who have been quickened [Ephesians 2:1, 5], we have also been predestinated to be the adopted sons of God [Ephesians 1:5]. Well, that carries with it another wonderful thing God is doing for us. In the elective purpose of God, you might ask, “Why didn’t God destroy the race back yonder in the beginning? Why didn’t He destroy Adam and Eve when they sinned and fell?” [Genesis 3:1-6]. Well, the reason is revealed to us in the elective purpose of God, Paul describes it “as from the foundation of the world” here in verse 4 [Ephesians 1:4]. It is God’s purpose that through our fall, through our very sin, God shall exalt us above all principalities and powers, higher than the angels themselves [1 Corinthians 6:3]. That’s one of the most amazing and marvelous revelations in all the Word of God. God took that fall in the garden of Eden [Genesis 3:1-6], and instead of destroying our first parents and destroying us, it is God’s predestined purpose that we be exalted above anything we could ever have known by natural creation [1 Peter 5:6]. Not only that, he says He has predestinated us to this adoption of sons, according to the good purpose of His will [Ephesians 1:5]. O Lord!
You know, when you think about God’s good purpose for us, in which He has predestinated us to this status that we enjoy in Christ [Ephesians 1:5], you just want to bow and say, “Lord, Lord, Lord, that there were songs to sing, and words to say, and praises to overflow the boundless gratitude by which we praise God for His remembrances of us!”
For example, in the predestinated goodness of God toward me, why wasn’t I born a Hottentot? How is it I was born here in America? I had nothing to do with that at all; it’s just the goodness of God. How is it that I was born into a family that loved Jesus? That godly father of mine, one of the best men who ever lived, one of the sweetest and humblest, and my mother, who had such great aspirations for me, how is it I was born in a family like that? Just the goodness of God—I had nothing to do with it at all. I think of the revival meeting in the little church, in the little tiny town in which I grew up; he [the evangelist] stayed in our home. Every evening he’d talk to me about the Lord. And I gave my heart to Jesus in that revival meeting. How did that come about? Just the goodness of God. And I think of the years that have passed since, wonderful years: going to school, pastoring my little churches, living with the people, and finally to be God’s undershepherd of this dear congregation. My heart overflows. I can’t say it; there are not words to bear the meaning, and the weight, and the depths of my gratitude to God. I had nothing to do with that at all, nothing—predestinated according to the good pleasure of His will [Ephesians 1:5].
My brother, if you want to live in a shouting world and a world of abounding gratitude to God, just think of the Lord’s purposes for us. And we’re not done, my brother, my sister: the best is yet to come. All of this, and heaven beside—just think of it.
Now Paul uses a word here for “adoption” that he manufactured. It’s not in the Greek language, not until he put it together. The word here translated “adoption” is huiothēsia. Huios is the word for “son.” Thēsis is the word “to set forth, to place.” We took that word thēsis and spelled it out exactly in the English language, a “thesis.” Well, Paul manufactured that word. He took the word huios, “son,” and thēsis, “to set forth, to place forth,” and he manufactured the word huiothēsia: we are set forth, we are placed as sons of God, translated here “adoption” [Ephesians 1:5]. Now Paul uses that word in marvelous ways.
For example, in Romans 9:4, he says that Israel is adopted as the preferred nation of God above all the other nations of the world: “Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption.” That’s what he means by that, “Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption” [Romans 9:4]. God chose them above all the other nations of the world. For example, in Exodus 4:22, when He is sending Moses down there to deliver His people, He says, “Israel is My son, My firstborn.”
Do you ever think about things like that when you read the daily newspaper? My brother, there are not as many Jews over there in that little country of Israel as there are people here, of us, in the metroplex, here in this town. Yet, their choices and their decisions and their destiny fill the earth! It isn’t just our newspaper that headlines what’s happening over there in that little, tiny, inconsequential, insignificant nation; it’s every paper in the world. I’ve just come back from Europe. Pick up those papers in the nations of Europe; they are all just like ours: they’re telling about what’s happening over there in Israel. “Israel is My firstborn; he is My son” [Exodus 4:22]. God adopted him, Paul says in chapter 9, verse 4, of Romans, above all the nations of the earth [Romans 9:4]. And they’re like a branch in an olive tree, they’ve been taken out; but God is going to put them back in, he says [Romans 11:17-24]. And when that day comes, it’s going to be the blessing of the whole creation. That’s God.
You don’t have to say, “Well, now that’s just something here in the Bible.” My brother, read it for yourself. If you want to be sensitive to the world and its destiny and its future history, read God’s Book: it’s all in here syllable by syllable, sentence by sentence. So Paul speaks of Israel as being adopted among all the nations of the earth [Romans 9:4].
In the eighth chapter of the Book of Romans he uses that word to refer to us: “We have received not the spirit of bondage; but we have received the Spirit of adoption” [Romans 8:15-16]. God has adopted us into that same wonderful relationship with God. He has done it for us. And if God loves Israel, He loves us. You know, one of the things that I’ve said for the years and years of my life—and that’s why I became a premillenialist and a few other things like that, just reading the Bible—I have come to the conclusion that if God breaks the promises He has made to Israel, how do I know but that the same God will break His promises to me? When I read the Old Covenant, the Old Testament, and I read all of those things that God has promised to Israel, I think He is going to bring every one of them to pass, every one of them. Not one of them will fall to the ground. That’s why I am persuaded God will keep His promises to me: He is going to keep His promises to Israel, and He is going to keep His promises to me. Israel was adopted [Romans 9:4]. We are adopted [Romans 8:15-16]. And we are loved, beloved in His sight [1 John 4:19].
Not only that, but he says that the great ultimate consummation of our adoption lies in the future. “We ourselves who have the Spirit of adoption, we groan within ourselves, waiting for that adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” [Romans 8:23]. The final consummation of all of this doctrine of adoption lies in the future, when the dead in Christ shall rise at the sound of the trumpet, when we who are alive and remain shall be changed—all of us shall be changed [1 Corinthians 15:51-52, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17].
I preached on that yesterday at a funeral service. Dear Lord, what a hope and what a faith! When I stand as I do so often before a sorrowing family, it’s with triumph and victory—my brother, my sister, beyond our tears God has some glorious thing for us! God having provided some better thing for us [Hebrews 11:40]—and he says here that’s the ultimate of our adoption [Romans 8:18-19]: we don’t see it all now, but when Jesus comes personally and all of us are changed, and these who have fallen asleep in Jesus are raised at the sound of the trumpet [1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17], then, Paul says, it will be manifested to the angels and to all creation that we are the sons of God [Romans 8:18-19]. We’re going to enter into heaven in glory [Colossians 3:4]. Dear Lord, what a wonderful thing You have prepared for us! [1 Corinthians 2:9].
Now in the Old Bible, as I read it, there are three times that I come across adoptions in the Old Testament. Moses was the adopted son of Pharaoh. In the second chapter of the Book of Exodus, it says that Pharaoh adopted Moses and counted him as his son, gave him the name of Ramoses, Ramoses [Exodus 2:10]. Ra was the god of the sun, and all Egypt worshiped Ra. And they named this heir apparent to the throne Ramoses. Later on no Jew was going to have a leader dedicated to an idolatrous sun god, so they lopped off the “Ra” and they called him Moses, Moses [Exodus 2:10]. But the Egyptians called him Ramoses, the adopted son of Pharaoh.
In 1 Kings chapter 11 we have the story of Genubath, Genubath; he was the son of Hadad [1 Kings 11:19-20]. And Pharaoh welcomed him when he fled from before David and Solomon [1 Kings 11:14-18]; and he gave him Tahpenes, Tahpenes as his wife. And Genubath was born, and he was the adopted son of the king [1 Kings 11:16-20].
The third adoption we read in the Old Bible is Esther. She was the daughter of the uncle of Mordecai. And in the second chapter of the Book of Esther we are told that Mordecai adopted her as his daughter, and she became his daughter [Esther 2:7].
Now, Paul writes in the third and fourth chapters of the Book of Galatians what are the rights and the privileges of our adoption [Galatians 3-4], and we’re going to look at it for just a moment. He says here in the fifth verse of chapter 4 in Galatians, that we have received the adoption of sons [Galatians 4:5]. Now that’s his premise. We’ve been reading that in the Book of Ephesians [Ephesians 1:4-6]; now he’s going to talk about it in the Book of Galatians. Galatians 4:5, “We have received the adoption of sons.” Now what are its rights and its privileges? First of all, he says in verse 2, we are no longer under tutors and governors, but the time is appointed of the father, and we are now sons” [Galatians 4:2]. Man, what a wonderful thing in the way he describes it! [Galatians 4:1-5]. Up there in the third chapter, verse 24, he says, “The law was our paidagōgos to bring us to Christ” [Galatians 3:24]. And then he says, “For we are all the sons of God by faith, and as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” [Galatians 3:26-27].
Now let me put that together. By Roman law, when the child of a patriarch, a patrician, became of age, they put on him a toga. Whenever you see a statue of those old Roman leaders, why, he will have a long flowing robe; they called it a toga. And when the young fellow reached his majority, they gave him that toga which was a symbol of his citizenship; he was a Roman. Now Paul writes here that until that time, why, there is a paidagōgos who watches over him, takes him to school. Paidagōgos is a Greek word literally for “a child leader,” and the youngster is, as he says in verse 1, that he may be the heir of the family, but as long as he’s a child he differeth nothing from a servant, a slave, though he be the lord of all [Galatians 4:1]. Well, in that Roman household, why, this child is growing up, and he’s just like one of the slaves; he doesn’t have any choice, he doesn’t have any freedom, and there’s a paidagōgos that takes him to school, and watches over him, and brings him back home [Galatians 4:2]. But he says when he reaches his majority [Galatians 3:25], then they give him the toga, and he’s no longer under a paidagōgos, and he’s no longer under tutors and governors, but he’s free, he’s his own, he’s come into his majority. And Paul uses a symbol here such [Galatians 3:24-27] as when you see that young fellow with his toga, he says, “You have, who have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ” [Galatians 3:27]. It’s a sign and a symbol of our adoption, our elevation as sons [Galatians 4:5]. We put on Christ as a symbol in our baptism [Romans 6:3-5], such as they put on the toga when the young fellow becomes the heir of all of the household [Galatians 4:1-2].
Not only that, but he says that we are no longer slaves, but a son; no longer servants, but a son [Galatians 4:7]. My brother, if you believe that you’re going to be saved by works, you’re going to be a slave all of your life; you’re going to strive, going to labor, going to toil, and you never know whether you make it or not. Like a slave, Paul uses the picture, he works all of his life, and at the end of his life he’s still slaving. But a son, no! A son is the heir of all things. And that’s his next word: “Thou art no more a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God” [Galatians 4:7]. As Paul writes it in the eighth chapter of the Book of Romans, “We are joint-heirs with Jesus Christ” [Romans 8:17].
Let me tell you something. In my reading this week, I had a book in my hand of a wonderful preacher. And to my astonishment, as I was reading that book, he told a story about a poor woman in this church, in our church. Guess what that story was? He said, as I read in the book, he said that he came across a poor woman who belonged to the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And he said to that poor woman, “So you belong to the First Baptist Church in Dallas. Don’t you know that church is full of rich people?” And she smiled and replied, according to this preacher, “Yes,” she said, “but I am the richest of them all.” Dear me! What a gospel!
My Father is rich in houses and lands,
He holdeth the wealth of the world in His hands
Of rubies and diamonds, of silver and gold
His coffers are full; He hath riches untold.
I once was an outcast stranger on earth,
A sinner by choice, and an alien by birth;
But I’ve been adopted, I’ve been adopted
I’ve been adopted, my name’s written down,
An heir to a mansion, a robe and a crown.
A tent or a cottage, why should I care?
They’re building a mansion for me over there;
Though exiled from home, yet still I may sing:
All glory to God, I’m a child of the King.
[“A Child of the King,” Harriet E. Buell]
Man, that’s great. That’s God! That’s His wonderful purpose for us.
My people, I’ve just got good and started. Oh, how your heart overflows when you think of the Lord’s gracious goodness to us. But I must close. And we always close with an appeal to your heart.
A family, “I want to belong to that wonderful congregation, want to rear my children in this dear church; and we’re all coming this morning.” A couple you, “This is God’s time for us.” Take hold of the hand of your wife or your friend, and say, “Let’s go.” Or just one somebody you, “God has spoken to my heart, and I’m responding with my life” [Ephesians 2:8]. In a moment we’ll sing our song, and make the decision now in your heart. Then when we stand to sing that song, that first step you take will be one of the most meaningful you’ll ever make in your life. In that balcony, there’s time and to spare, down one of these stairways, on this lower floor, into one of these aisle, down to the front: “I’ve decided, pastor, and here I stand.” Do it, and may the angels welcome you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.