Summary: What it means to be adopted as a child of God. The importance of inheritance
Over the last couple of weeks we have been looking at the first chapter of Ephesians and have seen how Christ has won for his believers, and his believers only, some tremendous blessings. We have looked in some detail at the great blessings he gives us of making us both holy and blameless, to stand in heaven before his throne holy and blameless. This week we are moving onto verse five. Here we see that although these two blessings would have been more than enough to make us tremendously privileged, there’s even more. Not only does he make us holy and blameless, he also adopts us into his family. We become his children, and he becomes our father. He makes us sons of God, with all the rights and privileges that that brings. Much of our worship, many of our prayers, songs and in fact our whole identity as Christians revolves around the fact that God is our father. Here Paul is stating that he becomes our father by adoption. It is therefore important that we look at what exactly it means to be adopted as children by God, then we will have a clear view of who we are, who we can be, the privileges that we have and what our final destiny will be. So that is what we will look at this morning.
Nowadays, when we think of adoption, we think primarily of children. Adoption to us is all about children; it is children who get adopted and adults who do the adopting. The role of adults is to become the parents of children who were not biologically theirs. In our society adoption is a means by which children, who for one reason or another are not able to be brought up in the family into which they were born, having a new family and being brought up by people other than their biological father and mother. An adult cannot be legally adopted in the same way that a child can. However, in the time of the writing of the letter to the Ephesians, the situation was quite different: In the Greek and Roman world adoption was not primarily about who brought up a child. It was not devised or set-up primarily as a means for children to be brought-up in new families. Instead it was all about inheritance and family rights. Indeed adults could be adopted just as much as children. An adult man would often be adopted as a son by someone other than his natural father, getting all the privileges that he would have had if he had been naturally born to that Father. He would have a full share in the inheritance and the estate of the Father, alongside any sons who were born into the family. Sons adopted into the family would have exactly the same status as those who were born into it. Wealthy or powerful men would sometimes adopt younger men, often unrelated, who they wished to inherit their wealth or their power. Indeed, several Roman emperors were succeeded by their adopted sons, who they had adopted just so that they could succeed to the throne. As well as joining a new family, they would also be cut off from their old family. These adopted sons received all their inheritance from their adopted fathers, receiving nothing at all from their original fathers, who ceased to have any role in their lives.
Therefore the blessing of adoption as children of God that we get as believers because of what Christ has done has means two different things.
The first thing that the use of the word ‘adoption’ for us becoming God’s children is that we were not naturally children of God. Human beings are not born into the family of God; it is not our natural state to be in his family. Our natural state, as members of a fallen race, is to be totally separated from him, indeed to be in the family of Satan. While we remain as children of Satan, the inheritance that we get is from our father, Satan, not from God. We will get what he gets.
The second thing is that, although we were not born as children of God, after our adoption we become his children just as if we had been. After our adoption we have all the privileges of his children, including inheritance, that includes sharing with Christ in his eternal kingdom, we become princes and princesses of the kingdom of heaven. Not just distant subjects remote from the source of power in the Kingdom. When we think of privileged beings in the kingdom of God, we sometimes think of angels. However what we get is far more than the angels get: Their role, although close to God, is not of being children, but of being servants. They are not part of the family and do not share in the inheritance. Our inheritance becomes no longer that of the kingdom of Satan, but if the kingdom of God. We get eternal life in the kingdom of God, we get the riches and the joys that Jesus gets. We share with Jesus in his eternal and everlasting glory. Nearly everything that he gets, we get as well.