Adopted Into The Family of God
August 29th, 1982 @ 10:50 AM
ADOPTED INTO FAMILY OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
8-29-82 10:50 a.m.
And tonight you that are listening on radio and on – well, we have a delayed broadcast on television – but tonight I am going to preach about the abounding, overflowing life we have in Christ – I hope you can come – on that wonderful God-blessed, meaningful Word of our Lord in John 10:10: "I am come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly"; the overflowing, triumphant, victorious, glad, great, glorious life in the Lord Jesus.
And this morning, the sermon is no different. It is one in a series on soteriology, on the doctrine of salvation, and this time it is entitled Our Adoption Into The Family Of God. If you will turn in your Bible to the first chapter of Ephesians, we shall read verses 4 through 6.
In this presentation of adoption – Paul speaks of it in Ephesians, in Galatians, and in Romans – and we are going to start with what he has to say in Ephesians. Ephesians 1:4: "He hath chosen us in Him," in Christ, "before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love; having predestinated us" – that is a good Bible, New Testament, word: "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of sons." That is the literal word: adoption of children, adoption of sons, "by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He has made us accepted in the Beloved" [Ephesians 1:4-6].
Now we shall first consider our high status, our elevation in the Lord Jesus. In the second chapter of this letter to the church at Ephesus – and by the way, this is an encyclical – it is a general letter to all of the churches of all time. It just happened to be that the text, that the Textus Receptus, had had "Ephesians" there. "Paul, an apostle, to the church, to the saints at Ephesus" [Ephesians 1:1]. But in another one of the letters, it will have "Laodicea" there – "to the saints which are at Laodicea." It is a general epistle, addressed to all the churches of all time.
And in this general epistle, in the second chapter, he says that we were dead in trespasses and in sins [Ephesians 2:1], and in verse three, he says by nature we are the children of wrath [Ephesians 2:3]. Now God hath quickened us in Christ Jesus; He has raised us up [Ephesians 2:5, 6], and we are now born again into the kingdom of our blessed Savior. That is what God has done for us when He saved us, quickened us, raised us up, made us alive to God.
Now Paul says in this first chapter God has done something else for us. He not only has quickened us – raised us up, made us sensitive and alive to God – but He has also adopted us into His dear family [Ephesians 1:5]. We are raised to the status of an heir, of a son.
You know, I have been told that the law reads like this: if you adopt a child, you can never disinherit him. Now you can disinherit a natural-born child, but you cannot by law disinherit an adopted child. He is your child forever. You know, there is a corollary to be found in that in the revelation of God. I would suppose that the reason for the law is, lest a family adopt a child and get angry with it, and disinherit it, then decide to adopt it again, then become displeased and disadopt it, unadopt it, disinherit it, and go back and forth. I suppose that is the reason of the law. You ever adopt a child, he’s adopted child forever.
Now the corollary: that is the way God is with us. If we are adopted, we are adopted forever. If we are saved, we are saved forever. If you are really saved, you are saved eternally [John 10:28]. There is no such thing in the Bible – it is a strange doctrine, alien to the mind of God – that one is saved, and then lost, and then saved, and then lost, and then saved, and lost, and back and forth. No! God teaches us that if we are ever saved, we are saved forever, and if we are adopted, we are adopted forever. So we belong to the family of God, and we are raised to the status of an heir, of a son [Romans 8:16-17].
Not only that, but the apostle avows that we have been predestinated to this high elevation in Christ [Ephesians 1:5; Romans 8:29-30]. When you think of that – predestinated to this unusual height in the presence of God – we are sons, joint heirs with Jesus Christ. We are going to be set on thrones judging angels [1 Corinthians 6:3]. We are in the very image of God [Genesis 1:27]. Dear me, what God has done for us!
In the Fall [Genesis 3:1-6], in the sin of our first parents, why didn’t God destroy them? And why didn’t God destroy the race? Why did God in His grace and mercy allow the first parents to live, to be fathers and mothers and for the race to continue? The answer is found in this passage. God predestinated, He elected, as Paul says in the verse before, "before the foundation of the world" [Ephesians 1:4], God elected us that we be like Him. And beyond our physical creation, out of the wreckage and ruin of the Fall, our sin disgrace, God brought us in His predestinated purpose to this high estate where we are fellow heirs with God’s own Son [Romans 8:17]. Dear me, what God hath purposed for us!
Then He says He has done that, "He has predestinated us according to the good pleasure of His will" [Ephesians 1:5]. It is something good that God has done for us by election, by predestination. When I begin thinking of that, my heart overflows in gratitude to God beyond any way that I could ever express it, "predestined according to the good pleasure of His will."
Why wasn’t I born a Hottentot? Why wasn’t I born a Zulu? Why wasn’t I born an Australian aborigine? How is it that I was born in this country of America? That is a predestination of God "according to the good pleasure of His will," and I can just thank Him. How is it that I was born in a Christian home?
My father was one of the best men who ever lived, quiet and humble, but a godly man, and my mother had such great aspirations for me, and I grew up in that Christian home. I never knew what it was but to go to prayer meeting on Wednesday night, Sunday school, training union, church services. I grew up in that Christian home. How is it? I had nothing to do with that. I was born into that according to the elected, predestined pleasure of God. It was something God did for me.
When we had our revival meeting in that little town, in that little white crackerbox of a church house, the preacher stayed in our home. Every night he would talk to me about Jesus. And in that meeting, I found the Lord as my Savior, a boy ten years old. How is it God did that? Ah, the good pleasure of His will [Ephesians 1:5]. And in those years that followed, my little country churches and my little village churches, and then finally asked to be undershepherd of this wonderful church here in Dallas – Lord, Lord, I could just stay on my face forever and thank Him, and praise Him for the election, the predestination according to the good pleasure of His will.
With none of that did I have anything to do. God did it. And as I stand here, I am but a spokesman for all of you thousands in divine presence; predestined, elected, chosen according to the good pleasure of His will. And your life is so aboundingly, abundantly blessed. Even the tears and the sorrows of our lives but humble us in His presence and make us draw the nearer and the closer and the dearer and the sweeter to our Lord. That is what God says.
He uses this word, "adoption." Now, that is a word in this Greek text coined by the apostle Paul. It is huiothesia, huiothesia. There is no Greek word like that. Paul coined it. The word for son is huios, huios, and the word for "a placing, a setting forth" is thesis. We took that Greek word and just spelled it out in English, "thesis." In college, you will present a thesis, or a man can stand in a forensic situation and present a thesis; and present a thesis, a setting forth, a placing forth. Well, Paul, Paul invented, he put together that word – huios, "son," [and] thesis – Huiothesia, "setting forth as a son," "placing as a son," a word peculiar to the New Testament, not found anywhere else in Greek literature, and peculiar to Paul. Only Paul uses it, huiothesia, "putting forth, setting forth as a son," and it is translated here "adoption" [Ephesians 1:5]. We are adopted, we are set forth as sons in the kingdom of God.
Now, the apostle uses that word I say in these three books: in Ephesians, in Galatians, and in Romans. Now let us see how he will use it. In the Book of Romans, chapter 9, verse 4, he says that his brethren, he being one of them, are Israelites "to whom pertaineth the adoption." That is a way strange to write, isn’t it? "to whom pertaineth the adoption"? He says that Israel is adopted. What does he mean by that? Well, this is what he means. Out of all of the nations of the world, God chose Israel to be His special son. In Exodus 4:22, when the Lord is talking to Moses about delivering His people out of Egypt, God says to him, "Israel is My son, My first-born" [Exodus 4:22]. Out of all of the nations of the Earth, Israel is chosen, elected, adopted by the Lord to be His firstborn.
Now, you don’t have to think, "Well, that is just a figment of an ancient piece of literature called the Bible, a piece of antique writing." No. No. All you have to do is to pick up your newspaper and read it. And I am not talking about just in Dallas or just in America. I’ve just been over there in Europe. It is the same thing over there in Europe. Pick up the newspaper and read it.
My dear people, Israel: there are no more Jews in Israel than there are – there are not as many Jews in Israel as there are people right here in this town. Yet everything that they do, every decision they make, is headlined in every newspaper of the earth. And not only that, but according to the Word of God, Israel has a great destiny in the consummation, in the denouement, of the age.
That is a comfort to me. I will tell you why. That’s how I came to be a premillennialist. I never had a premillennial teacher in my life. I was never introduced to premillennialism in my life. But I began preaching the Bible, and as I turned those pages, I began speaking of the great promises of God to His people, and I came to a great deduction. If God does not keep His promises to Israel, how can I know that He will keep His promises to me? If God breaks His promises to Israel, how do I know but that He will break His promises to me? Every covenant God has ever made with those people, and every promise He has ever given them, He will faithfully perform.
And that same way with me: every promise that He has made to me, He will faithfully keep. I can build on it, I can live by it, I can die with it, and I can look forward to the glory that is yet to come. That is what Paul says. Israel is adopted of all of the nations of the world. "He is My first-born. He is My son" [Exodus 4:22].
Now, he is in disobedience now, the Bible says, like the branch of an olive tree that has been taken out. But some day, Paul says in this same passage in Romans, God is going to put that branch back, and when He does, it is going to be the glory of the world. It will be the millennial kingdom. Christ the Lord will be their King and ours [Romans 11:23-26]. And we shall sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of God, and there will be one fold, they and we. And we will be together, brothers in the patience and love and grace of our wonderful Lord. Well, that is one way Paul is using the word huiothesia, "adopted": he applies it to Israel.
Now in the eighth chapter of the Book of Romans, he applies it to us. In Romans the eighth chapter, in Romans 8, verse 15, he says, "we have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; not cringing slaves, not we, but we have received the Spirit of adoption . . . ." That is all of us who have received the Holy Spirit in our hearts; we have opened our hearts heavenward, and God-ward, and Christ-ward.
We are also in a new relationship with God our Father. He is our Father, and we are elevated to the status of a son, a fellow heir with Jesus Christ; verse 17 of Romans 8: "Children, sons, then heirs; heirs of God, joint-heirs with Christ." What a wonderful thing. I’m a child of the King.
Then he has a third thing about adoption: in verse 23 of the eighth chapter of the Book of Romans, he says – verse 22 – "We know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now." Even the animals, they cry in birth. The whole creation – trees die; the Earth is blasted with deserts, tornadoes, hurricanes, storms – the whole creation groans. "And not only does the creation, but we ourselves who have found Christ as our Savior, we ourselves groan within ourselves waiting for" – and there’s that word again – "waiting for the adoption; to wit, mainly, the redemption of our body" [verse 23].
Well, what does Paul mean when he says that? It is this: the final consummation of our adoption, our elevation to sons of God, will not be seen until Jesus comes again. But in the personal appearing of our Lord, when these who sleep in Jesus are raised from the dead, and when we are all changed in the likeness of His glorious image, then, Paul avows in this passage, our adoption will be seen [1 Corinthians 15:51-53]. It will be exhibited to the whole creation of God. The angels above will rejoice with us in it. All the hosts of heaven will sing with us because of it, and we shall rejoice forever; presented adopted, presented glorified, elevated. O Lord, what a hope and what a promise!
I live, as you know, in a world of sorrow and tears and death. Yesterday afternoon, conducted a memorial service for a godly man in this dear church whose little family remains in our midst. I don’t come to a service like that – even though I weep with the people – I don’t come to a service like that defeated. I stand there before them and their friends, and I speak of the triumph that awaits us. This isn’t all: the darkness of the grave, and the gloom of the tomb, and the tears that water the very grass that grows above those silent forms. No, God hath purposed some better thing for us; mainly, to wit, the adoption, when there shall be manifest, as Paul says, the sons of God. And the whole creation is remade in the likeness of His image, and grace, and will, and we are presented as the sons of God. Lord, what a destiny God hath prepared for us who love Him!
As I read the Bible, there are three instances in the Old Testament, in the Bible, of adoption. One of them is Moses. Moses, in the second chapter of the Book of Exodus, Moses is described as one who was adopted by the daughter of Pharaoh, and he became a son of Pharaoh. She gave him the name of Ramoses – "Ramoses." Well, the Egyptians worship Ra, the sun God, an idol. And as the years passed, the Jewish monotheists wouldn’t have a leader named Ramoses, so they cut off that "Ra," and they made his name "Moses," Moses. He was the son of the Pharaoh, adopted. That’s one of the stories of adoption in the Old Testament [Exodus 2:5-10].
A second adoption is in 1 Kings chapter 11. Hadad was an enemy of David, he was an Edomite, an enemy of David and then of Solomon. And when David destroyed the Edomites, Hadad escaped to Egypt, and the king of Egypt greatly honored him, and gave him for his wife, the sister of the queen, Tahpenes. And he had a child by Tahpenes, and called him Genubath, Genubath. And it says in there in the Bible that Genubath was adopted by the king – he was counted as a son of the king [1 Kings 11:20].
The third story of adoption in the Bible is Esther, Esther the queen; Hadassah, her name. Hadassah was the daughter of the uncle of Mordecai, and the Bible says that Mordecai took Hadassah, Esther, and adopted her and she became his daughter [Esther 2:7].
Now, there are some marvelous rights and privileges that attend adoptions, and Paul speaks of them in the third and fourth chapters of the Book of Galatians, and just for a moment remaining, let us look at that. Galatians chapter 4: he says that God sent forth His Son, in verse 4, made of a woman, born of a virgin, made under the law. He came as a Jewish child to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons [verses 4-5].
Paul writes here, in this Book of Galatians, two or three things about that pertaining to our status, and our rights, and our privileges. First of all, he says – now look at it – chapter 4, verses 1 and 2:
This I say, that the heir, even though he is the child of the king, and the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a slave, though he be lord of all; but is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.
This child is just like one of the servants in the house. He’s under tutors; he’s under governors. In verse 24 above of the third chapter, he speaks of our paidagogos, our paidagogos: paidia, a child, and gogos, to lead. The child is lead by a slave, a paidagogos, to school, and is watched over in the school, and then is brought back home. And so the little child is under surveillance, and all of his life as a child he’s just like one of the hired hands. He comes and goes at the directions of others. But Paul says when we come of age, we are no longer under tutors and governors and paidagogia, but we are the sons of God. "For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ." [Galatians 3:27].
Now let’s put all that together. In Rome, and in Roman law, and in the Roman Empire in which Paul was living and writing these letters, when a child came of age, they put on him the toga. The Jewish people still have a right and ritual they call a bar mitzvah, when a lad becomes, they think, the beginning of a man.
Well, the Romans – it is later in life for them – but a child, when he reached the age of what they thought as having reached his majority, manhood, he was given a toga. If you ever see a statue of a Roman patrician, a Roman nobleman, he will always be clothed in a toga, a flowing robe. That was given to him as a sign of his citizenship, and Paul says that our baptism is like that. As they put on the toga, and now he is no longer a child under slaves, but he has reached his majority – he’s a citizen now; he’s an heir now, and he wears the toga – so we, as a sign of our acceptance and elevation in Christ, we are baptized. We put on Christ in our baptism. We’re a child of the Lord. Isn’t that a wonderful thing?
Then he says a second thing down here:
To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
And because you are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son in our hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
Wherefore thou art no more a slave, but a son,
No more a slave, but a son! Paul is talking about keeping all of those ceremonies, and rituals, and commandments, and works in order to be saved. And if you believe that doctrine, all your life you’ll be a slave. You’ll strive, you’ll labor, you’ll toil, and you’ll die never knowing whether you were good enough to inherit the kingdom of God. It is a devastating, despairing doctrine! No. If a slave is in a house at the end of his life, he’s still a slave, toiling, working! We’re no longer slaves. Paul says: "Striving to work out our own salvation, trying to be good enough in order to inherit the kingdom of God, we are sons." We are fellow heirs. God has raised us to a great status.
And what we do is no longer in order to be saved. What we do is in the love of the Father whom we call, "Abba," our Father [Galatians 4:6]. We do what we do out of the love of God, going to church because we love to go to church, being with God’s people because we love to be with God’s people, serving the Lord because we love to serve God; absolutely unhappy out there in the world.
My dear people, I don’t exaggerate it when I say to you, if ever I am maneuvered into a worldly place where they’re getting drunk, or where they’re whoremongering, or where they’re gambling – and once in a while, I have been maneuvered into those places – it isn’t anything that I choose or think through and decide. By nature, I’m uncomfortable, and I’m unhappy, and I don’t like it.
But you put me in a church like this church, and the choir sings, and these godly men pray, and our people listen to the exposition of the Word of God – I just feel I’m in heaven, just feel that way, just made that way; that’s what he’s talking about.
We’re not slaves trying to work ourselves, toil and labor, in order to be worthy of the kingdom. We’re sons! We’re sons, adopted, elevated. And now this last, he says: "Wherefore, thou art no more a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ, a joint heir with Him."
Oh, dear! In my reading this week, I was following a pastor, a preacher as he’s writing and published in the book. And to my amazement – you can’t imagine, what a happy amazement – to my amazement he told a story about a poor woman in the First Baptist Church of Dallas. I wish I knew that woman. I have no idea who she is. I just read in his book that he was talking to a poor woman in our wonderful church. And as they talked, why, he made the remark to that poor woman, he made the remark, "There are many rich people in that church." And that poor woman replied, "Yes, and I am the richest of them all!" Dear me, oh, what a thing!
My Father is rich in houses and lands,
He holdeth the realm of the world in His hands!
Of rubies and diamonds, and silver and gold,
His coffers are full; He has riches untold.
– Look at this –
I once was an outcast stranger on earth,
A sinner by choice, and an alien by birth,
But 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 a King.
["A Child of the King"; Harriet E. Buell]
Brother, that’s what God has done for us! Not only has He quickened us, saved us, born us anew, but He has elevated us into the status of a fellow heir-with Christ. We are His adopted children. May we stand together?
Wonderful, wonderful Savior, would that God I had the eloquence of a Paul, the soul-singing love of a David. Would to God I could say what I feel in my heart. Inexpressible, O wonderful, wonderful Lord, what glory You have placed in common clay. Thank Thee, Lord, for ordaining to bow down and to touch more lives like mine, saving us, lifting us up, quickening our souls, raising our vision beyond age, death, and the grave, to see the city celestial, to see God in His glory. And we shall be like Him, O Savior, O Jesus the Lord, O Christ the King, O blessed fellowship.
In this moment as our people pray, as we sing our hymn of appeal, a family you: "This God has placed in my heart: we are going to worship God and grow in grace in the circle and the fellowship of that dear church." And a couple you: "God has spoken to us, and we are coming forward this morning." Or just you, one somebody you: "Today I am accepting Christ as my Savior," or "I am following the Lord in baptism," or "I am putting my life in this wonderful church."
And dear Jesus, thank Thee for the harvest You bestow upon us, an affirmation, a confirmation from heaven of the truth of the Word of the Holy Scriptures. Thank Thee for the harvest. In Thy precious name, amen.
While we sing, welcome, welcome.