In a world of litigation, of child abuse and abandonment, the opening words of Ephesians shows a picture of Fatherhood that is a breath of fresh air. You can’t read the words without feeling the excitement, the enthusiasm, the intensity of building joy. Just listen to the contagious expectancy of the Father.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ … He chose us in Him before the creation of the world … in love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance to His pleasure and will … in order that we might be for the praise of His glory.”
Love was on the move, before the beginning of beginnings, and it was looking for you, looking for me. Love refusing to be contained. Like a grain of yeast in dough, love simply produced more love, growing more and more and more. The Father loved the Son, the Son loved the Father, and their mutual love grew and grew, spilling over, seeking others to share in that love.
They had family. They were family. They hungered to expand family. So, the Father put into operation a plan ... adoption. Adoption flowing from a mutual love, a mutual decision, a mutual willingness.
In describing our new position in the family of God, it never fails to fascinate me that God led Paul to use the adoption image at a time in history when adoption meant so much … communicated so much about God to Paul’s audience. In this ancient world, adoption was permanent. You could disown a natural child. In fact, it occurred on a regular basis in the Roman world. However, it was unlawful to disown an adopted child … it couldn’t be done. As part of the adoption process, the father established an inheritance by the writing of a will. The permanence of the documents, and the commitment entered into through them, was then signified by stamping them with the family seal.
As common place as adoption was, it was also a serious decision, with permanent consequences. Paul’s audience was fully aware of just what God was committing Himself to when He chose to adopt them. In adoption, the child now had a security that was sure.
What does Paul say about this? Much, just listen.
“… he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ … in Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins … in Him we were also chosen … having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance … that you may know … the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe … which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead.”
Every element stands present. The choosing … before the creation of the world. The establishment of an inheritance through the writing of a will, and allocated upon death … Jesus’ death. The seal declaring the new family membership … with the gifting of the Holy Spirit. It’s all there.
Just think of it. Paul, after saying we are adopted, then references the death of Jesus that made certain both our adoption and our inheritance. Our standing in God’s family isn’t begrudged or imperfect. Paul assures us that we are adopted because of the pleasure it brings God, and that God chooses to see us as ‘holy and blameless.’
Then can anything we do cause Him to regret adopting us? No. Hurt Him? Yes, because to love someone mean’s opening one’s self to the risk of pain! The deeper your love, the greater the risk, and the deeper the potential pain.
But before the creation of the world, my Father already knew the cost, the horror of it, the agony of it. He already committed to ‘whatever it took’ for me to be spotless. It was a mutual love, the Father’s and the Son’s. A mutual decision. A mutual willingness to undergo the agony for them both … a Son who dies … a Father who must endure the dying. And, they do all this joyously that they might acquire me into their family.
As the Father’s adopted child, nothing I do will push Him away, will cause Him to cast me away. I am ever His, even when He must run with arms outstretched to fall with love upon this returning prodigal.
Such is the story of adoption. Such is the message of God’s heart written in an ancient language with an ancient understanding remaining the same today as it was then. For such is our Father’s love … yesterday, today, and forever … unchanging.