PREDESTINED TO THE ADOPTION OF SONS
FIRST REVEALED TO PAUL THE APOSTLE
There are many things called ‘mysteries’ in the New Testament and one of these is the mystery of adoption. God purposed in His eternal plan to appoint men to the place of sons before Him and this part of the gospel of God was first revealed to the Apostle Paul, who in turn made it known to us through his letters to the various churches. He writes to the church in Ephesus, “Having predestined us to adoption of sons by Jesus Christ to Himself according to the pleasure of His will” (Eph. 1:5). It was settled in the Godhead in Their Eternal Being that the Father would give the position of sons not to angels or any other of His creatures but to men whom He foreknew and elected before the world began, crowning them with glory before Him. As we have seen in the previous article, God’s purpose was not to be fulfilled in Adam, he had fallen and sin had entered into the world through him. Yet God, knowing all things, ordained that the promise would find its fulfillment in the man Jesus, Who, through obedience to His Father in all things attained to this high and honorable position before God. Paul tells us, “through the resurrection from the dead He was publicly declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness” (Romans 1v4).
In another one of his letters Paul specifically informs us that there is a day in which all those destined by God to be His sons shall be manifested and that the whole of creation waits earnestly for this particular day, (Rom.8v19). When that takes place the work that God began in us shall be completed and His great salvation in Christ Jesus shall be manifested in all its glory and splendor. When these sons are manifested each one shall be like Jesus.
A LITTLE GREEK
The Greek word for adoption is yiothesia and consists of two words, son (yios) and position (thesis) meaning that the one adopted, is given the position of a son. It was God’s good pleasure to give this honorable position to men and women He had elected beforehand in His foreknowledge and their destiny was settled by God in Christ Jesus through faith in Him. “For you are all sons of God through the faith in Jesus Christ” (Gal. 3v16). There is no greater honor, privilege and glory given to man by God than this high and heavenly calling. The most High, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has destined us unto adoption. It is in light of this, our final destiny, that we must view our salvation. God is saving us and wants to save us to the perfection because He destined us in His love to be His sons in the ages to come. His will and purpose therefore is to lift us by His grace out of the pit of degradation and depravity up to the breathless heights of glory that are in the life of His Son Jesus Christ. How great is His love; how precious are His thoughts towards the man that He made!
These truths are very precious to us and as Jesus did, so we, praise the Father, the Lord of heaven and earth, who hid them from the wise and the prudent and revealed them unto babes, for this was all His pleasure (Matthew 11v25&26). Only those who are called by God and in whom the Spirit of His Son witnesses within can comprehend the depth of these words. To them the narrow horizons of human understanding cease to exist because they enter by faith beyond the limits of the visible realms into the invisible eternal purposes of God. The Holy Spirit has been given to us that we may have an understanding of these things. As we rejoice in God’s purpose we will be enabled to respond fully to His promises and without hesitation leave all else behind in order to embrace them. Paul’s desire and prayer for the saints at Ephesus was that they might, “Know the breath and length and depth and height of the love of Christ which passes knowledge that they be filled into all the fullness Of God” (Eph. 3v18&19).
Those who know this high call in their hearts are privileged indeed, they not only rejoice in the prospect of that which awaits them in eternity, but also, during their life span on earth partake of the things of Heaven. The taste of the powers to come is not unfamiliar to those who walk with God for they have entry to the Throne of God through the Lord Jesus and by the ministry of the Holy Spirit in their hearts.
REDEMPTION WAS ESSENTIAL
There is no escaping the fact that both Jews and Gentiles too have inherited a sinful and corrupt nature that came down to us from our forefather Adam through our natural parents. However, we are not only those who come from Adam but through him we have a more sinister association, namely with the one who provoked him to sin, the devil. How can it therefore be possible for any one of us born with such an evil nature linked so terribly with the ancient serpent, God’s enemy, be destined for such a position? Through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ is the glorious answer! God had to redeem us first, by sending forth His own Son, “God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, subject to the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Gal. 4v4&5). He of Whom it was written that “He hung the earth upon nothing,” (Job 26v7) had to be Himself hung upon the cross between the heaven and the earth to experience the extremities of humiliation and suffering, pain and death for the redemption of those His Father destined to be His sons. These sons needed to be redeemed not only from their cruel master the devil unto whom Adam had sold them, but even more importantly, from the evil nature which they inherited from him through their natural fathers (1 Peter 1v18). It is absolutely impossible for any one to be an adopted son to God unless first he or she is redeemed from their former manner of life inherited through their first birth. The fallen sinful old man rooted in Adam cannot inherit one square foot of the kingdom of God. There must be a radical redemption.
TREES AND THEIR FRUIT
The issue of salvation was vital to the disciples and should be to us also. When they asked Jesus who was eligible, who could be saved, He answered that salvation was impossible except for God. Man could not save himself; God must accomplish it. On another occasion He told them that a good tree cannot bring forth bad fruit or a bad tree bring forth good. We must take this to mean that our inherited nature determines whom we are and what we do is inherited by birth. Not one of us can escape the limitations and the possibilities that this spiritual law sets upon us. The conduct and the works of a human being reveal their inward nature, the hidden fountain of their life. If the fountain is pure then the works will be pure and holy. Jesus told His disciples when teaching them to pray, “IF you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children,” (Luke 11v13). He did not say “we” but “you.” This distinction is important for our old man is evil whilst His nature as a man was good, Jesus ever lived in fellowship with His Father and for this reason Satan had nothing in Him, whilst His Father had everything in Him! Contrast our states; Satan has something in us all, we have inherited the self-love and rebellion of Adam and like a bad tree we can do nothing else but bring forth fruit that is displeasing to God. Only the Almighty God can do the work that transforms a sinful man or woman into someone bringing forth fruit unto God. All human effort is fatally flawed, by its very nature it partakes of corruption. It is in His great grace that God has worked on our behalf and it is by the mighty power of His Spirit through regeneration that He accomplishes the change in our inward parts, at the fountainhead of our beings. When with all our heart, we believe into the Lord Jesus Christ and rest in Him the effects of the redeeming work of Jesus will be given to us by our Heavenly Father. At Calvary, our Lord brought to death the old man of sin forever burying him in the tomb. Adam died and was buried never to rise again. On the third day Jesus was raised, the New Man Who gives a new life to those who come to Him. In vivid pictorial terms John the Baptist referred to this when he said, “even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” and “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (John 3v20&21).
BAPTISM IN THE SPIRIT AND SPIRITUAL BIRTH
The word of God is completely consistent although it employs differing sets of terms to describe the various aspects of what God does in the immeasurably great work of salvation. For instance when Paul writes about baptism in Romans chapter six it is of necessity the baptism of the Spirit of which he is speaking. He refers to it as an experience through which we were baptized into the death of Christ, buried with Him in His death, so as He was raised from the dead even so we should walk in newness of life (Romans 6v3&4). It is through this Spirit baptism (Of which water baptism is the symbol) that the tree of the life even Jesus Christ is planted in us making us thus partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1v4). This nature is without spot, there is no sin in it and it is a nature of power unto holiness and so the ancient questions as to whether a sinner can become righteous, the unclean become clean and holy, a bad tree become good and the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots can all be answered with a repeated and resounding yes, through the faith in Christ Jesus!
Jesus spoke to Nicodemus concerning this but did not speak of a baptism but a birth, “except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3v5). This is the birth by which God brings forth His children and like every birth cannot be accomplished without travail. God the Father underwent birth pains beyond the comprehension of men and angels as His dear Son hung on the cross. All this was in order that He might have a family of sons in and through His Son Jesus. The word usually translated “born again’ is better rendered in English ‘born from above’; this phrase conveys the true meaning more exactly. To be born from above is to be born of God the Father of spirits. It is not a change in lifestyle involving the suppression of sinful tendencies or the renunciation of bad habits, neither is it some kind of traumatic experience involving some emotional or sensual happening. Birth from above is nothing short of a radical change in our very nature through the power of His Spirit who imparts in us His kind of life. It truly is life from above! Jesus said “Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the s (S) irit is spirit” (John 3v6).
Paul, when writing to the Galatians Christians reminds them that it was because they were sons and destined to sonship that God sent His Son into their hearts. “Because you are sons God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba Father” (Galatians 4v6). Again, in his letter to the Roman Christians Paul refers to the Spirit of His Son in a different way calling Him the “Spirit of adoption,” “For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but you have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God” (Romans 8v15&16).
THE SPIRIT OF ADOPTION
To receive the Holy Spirit is not something cheaply obtained nor is it the result of a casual response. An emotional ‘decision for Jesus’ is utterly inadequate for us to obtain true conversion and authentic salvation. Rather, it is God the Father giving us the Spirit of His Son, the Spirit of adoption Who brings into the heart the assurance of our destiny and the witness that we are now children of God. Our newborn spirit is regenerated from the Heavenly Father by the Holy Spirit and through our Lord Jesus and is immediately alive, united and in harmony with Him. This is a thorough going work of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The implications of this are immense for it means that our connection with the genealogy of Adam has been broken once for all and we are now members of the family of God with a new genealogy, that of Jesus Christ, we are a new creation in Him. Do not stretch this too far though, for it does not imply that there will be no failures or struggles! As long as we remain in this world living in our mortal body the enemy of our souls will seek to bring the old man to life again through what Paul calls ‘the natural man’ (1 Corinthians 2v14). The apostles teach us that the old man is dead and buried with Christ but the natural man was crucified with Him. In order for us to live in daily victory through Christ we must be sure to abide in the state of being ‘crucified with Him,’ we shall not become carnal but truly moral, spiritual and heavenly through the indwelling Spirit as we embrace the way of the cross (1 Corinthians 1&2 and Romans 6).
The Spirit of adoption is the earnest and the foretaste of the glorious destiny that shall be ours when our mortal bodies shall be changed at the coming of Jesus in glory. “We also who have the first fruits of the Spirit even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption the redemption of our body” (Romans 8v23). We can experience some foretaste of this even now though the fullness shall come only when Jesus is revealed from heaven bringing to an end the reign of sin and death, “But if the Spirit of Him who raise Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit that dwells in you” (Romans 8v11).
THE HOLY SPIRIT GUARANTEE
The presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts guarantees to us the certainty of the resurrection of the saints in the last day. The gift of the Holy Spirit, Paul tells us, is the seal of God’s promise to us. He is the earnest of our inheritance, assuring us that we will be utterly like Jesus, having a glorified body like unto His. “In whom also after that you believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise Who is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1v13&14). God promised the children of Israel a land flowing with milk and honey but to us He promises the adoption of sons in the glory of the new heavens and the new earth. The Holy Spirit is the surety that He who is faithful, shall finish what He began in us. It is His signature upon our hearts assuring us that He will not leave us nor forsake us. Our Father’s immutable will and determination is that no hindrance nor power in heaven or on earth shall divert Him from bringing ALL His sons into their inheritance .
Many believers seem to misunderstand both the Person and the mission of the Holy Spirit, for He is not simply a ‘power’ as many think but is God Himself committing Himself both to us and in us. The Spirit of God is none other than the infusion of the life that is in Jesus indwelling the Father’s other sons now, this is birth from above. In the gift of the Holy Spirit we have power from on high and are set on the course of our ultimate destiny as sons. Therefore joy rises within us as we contemplate our glorious hope in Christ and we should not lose heart but hold firm to the full assurance of hope until the end “for God, willing more abundantly to show to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it with an oath: That by two immutable things in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us” (Hebrews 6v17&18).
The glory is God’s alone for when we first responded to His call our understanding concerning these things was so very limited, but by His grace we did respond, we did turn from our ways and set our hearts to follow Him. We now bow before Him and worship and whether we look back to the past or look ahead in the future, our way is full of light. We know and are sure that the Father of our Lord Jesus is now our Father and our hope is fixed upon Him as we look forward to that day when He shall acknowledge us as His sons publicly before all the watching hosts of men and angels. We must separate ourselves unto this purpose and run the race set before us for His glory and so show ourselves to be His sons indeed. We are aliens and have no lasting inheritance here in this world for our home is in heaven. We must be vitally awake to our pedigree, identity and destiny, fully persuaded in our hearts, “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate conformed to the image of His son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He did predestinated, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, then He also glorified (Romans 8v29&30).