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Description: God’s Adopted Children Before Time
God’s Adopted Children Before Time
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Ephesians 1:5, “He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose
of his will.” You can see that there’s a little footnote “b” after the word love, and if you go
down to the bottom of that column you can see that “in love” can be translated, “before him in love
having destined us.” So it’s quite interesting when you go to the Greek because, you can see there
some of the reasons why it’s good to be careful about the Bible translations. And I’d encourage you
especially, now that they are proliferating and there are so many of them, it’s very easy for God’s
word to be trivialized. So it is good to be careful of the translation you’re using and to try to
have two or three reliable ones.
It’s interesting for instance, the RSV which is usually very good, leaves one word out completely,
and it’s this word “huiosthesia”, the word for adoption. It would go “huios” which is “son” in
Greek, and then “thesia” is “placed”; placed as a son, and it means adoption as sons. And strange
enough the RSV doesn’t even mention it. “He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus
Christ,” but doesn’t mention adoption at all.
The King James Version reads like this, “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by
Jesus Christ himself.” And children isn’t in the Greek at all. “Huios” is the word for Son as we
see in Jesus Christ Son of God Savior, (ichtheous or ‘fish’ is the Greek for Jesus Christ Son of God
Saviour). And this is Jesus Christ of God the Son Savior and so it’s this word that is the first
word in son here. So it means placed as a son literally, or an adoption of sons. But it doesn’t
mean children at all.
So the King James version is not quite right in it’s translation as children, and the RSV leaves the
word adoption out completely. The American Standard Version reads like this, “Having foreordained
us unto adoption as sons, through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his
will.” So it translates it according to the Greek.
And the New American Standard translates it, “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus
Christ himself, according to the kind intention of his will.” So it is just interesting to be
careful and realize the versions do vary. For instance the RSV, as Martin Lloyd Jones points out,
does translate adoption in another place in Galatians. It actually translates the word there, but
for some strange reason it just leaves it out completely in this translation.
So adoption as sons, that’s one word that is worth thinking about. Adoption as sons is a term that
Paul took really from Roman law. Roman law had this concept that you could adopt a child who was
not your own blood son or daughter, and if you adopted them then they had all the rights and
privileges that you yourself had. So they had a right to all your property. They had a right and a
privilege to all the things you had. So adoption was a very clear, simple, and well defined
forensic term in Roman law. And you can see that it wasn’t concerned with your blood relationship
to the father or the mother. It was all concerned with your rank, or your position, or your
privilege. So adoption as sons refers to that. It refers to the rights, ranks, and privileges that
we have. And of course what this verse is saying is that we have the same right, rank, and
privilege as Christ.
It is an unbelievable thing for God to do, to adopt us as his own children. And actually in the
Greek there is the term eis auton. “Eis” means into and “auton” means himself. So he adoped us as
sons into himself. The term is through (dia) Jesu Christos which means through Jesus Christ. So he
adopted us as sons to himself through Jesus Christ.
It’s remarkable that God has given us all the privileges, rank, and the relationship to himself that
Christ himself has. That’s what we all have. That’s the position that we have with God, and
nothing less than that. It’s the rights, the privileges, and the rank that Jesus himself has. And
then the other word that is important in the verse is this word a “proorizo” and it means “to
In a way the RSV translation is quite good in verse 5, “He destined us in love,” in a way that gets
over the meaning a little better in these days. Because predestination has in all our minds such a
strength of meaning as to make us robots, or forcing us to do it. We will think of predestinate as,
“Well we’re made to do this and there’s no way we can change it, that’s it.” Well really that’s not
the strength of the word. The strength of the word is that God determined beforehand. Sometimes I
think this would be a better translation, predesigned, he predesigned us. He predesigned us through
Jesus Christ, he predesigned us in Christ to be his sons. But that certainly is the literal meaning
of it, that Christ determined beforehand.
If you have seen the musical, Fiddler on the Roof, you know that the life of the little Jewish
village under the Czar was very uncertain, and unstable. That’s the whole theme of the musical that
life there in their little village was very uncertain, and very unsure. It was like a fiddler on
the roof. Some of the musicals show the guy on the roof playing his fiddle right on the eave where
you could slip either way in a moment. And of course the truth of it comes home to you as the
musical ends. They are all wheeling their hand cards out of Anatevka to a new place because the Czar
had come in and thrown them out.
Many of us are like fiddlers on the roof in regard to our eternal destiny, and our relationship with
God. That is we’re a bit jittery, we’re a bit uncertain, and the reason is that we depend on our
feelings that God has accepted us. And if we feel he has accepted us then we’re steady. But as soon
as our feelings begin to feel that we’re not accepted by God then we’re unsteady. And our problem
is that it’s not just that we’re depending on feelings instead of faith, but it’s that our faith is
in our feelings. Faith itself is nothing. You probably realize that, faith is nothing itself. I
mean, if this chair does not hold me, and is not solid enough to hold me than it doesn’t matter what
faith I have in it. My faith is only as good as the chair.
In other words you could say that your faith is only as good as the object it’s placed in. So often
the object of our faith is our feelings. We look inside and think, “Do I feel that God approves of
me? Do I feel the way I would feel if God approved of me?” And of course it’s hopeless, because
the feelings are dependent on your physical condition, your physical environment, and very often on
the general emotional atmosphere in the room or in society in which you live. So putting your faith
in your feelings is putting your faith in a “fiddler on the roof”.
Now faith has a solid object. Its solid objects are the solid historical facts of how God has dealt
with man down through the years. We have the solid historical facts of his own statements to us.
Our faith has that as its object. And here’s one of those historical facts or those statements.
It’s in verse Ephesians 1:4, “Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we
should be holy and blameless before him.” That was last week’s verse. “Even as he chose us in him
before the foundation of the world,” that is before the foundation of the world God chose us in
Christ. Before the foundation of the world is before we had any feelings, before our feelings were
even alive, God chose us.
Now that is the object of our faith, that God says he, “Chose us in Christ before the foundation of
the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” And then verse 5 says, he did it even
before that. He did it even before that, even before he chose us before the foundation of the
world. Even before that, “He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ.”
He planned beforehand, or determined beforehand, in love that he would adopt us as his sons through
Jesus Christ. That was settled before you and I were born here on earth. Each of us was made in
Jesus. The very moment God made us in Jesus as part of his Son (whom he had already designated as
the first human being), he chose us in him, and predetermined that we would be his sons and his
daughters in Jesus. He did this long before he chose us from before the foundation of the world.
So this is what God did way before the creation of the world, way in the depths of eternity. It’s
here (pointing to a timeline) that God chose us in Christ. Here he predetermined that he would
choose us. Here Christ was begotten by the Father. And it’s back there that it all happened.
Karl Barth actually says, “There is one human being that has been predestinated. God predestinated
Christ, and then God made us in Christ, and so we are predestinated.” It seems that this is what
God is trying to make plain to us in this verse. It’s that he determined long ago, (before the
foundation of the world, long before even he chose us in Christ), that he would adopt us as his sons
and daughter in Christ Jesus. And adoption means that we have all the rights, and the privileges of
We don’t have his nature. And I think it’s important to see that. His nature comes to us through
the new birth. We are born of God and then God sends the Spirit of his Son into us and changes us.
He changes our nature from being children of wrath into children of God. So God changes our nature
through the new birth, but he adopts us as his sons and daughter independent of that. And that’s
important to see. Hitler died as an adopted son of God that would not believe. Hitler did not die
because Jesus had not borne his sins. Hitler did not die because Christ was not all around and with
him. He died because he would not believe that.
But all of us have been adopted as God’s sons and daughters and so every right and privilege that
Jesus has, we have, and God yearns for us to exercise that in Christ Jesus. That’s the significance
of Galatians 4:1, if you’d like to look at. It’s quite interesting, “I mean that the heir,” (that is
the adopted one, the one who has been adopted and has been given all the rights and privileges to
all the property of the owner and the father), “I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is
no better than a slave, though he is the owner of all the estate.”
And so you can be the adopted child and yet if you don’t come into a belief in that or a confidence
in it, it’s just sitting there unused. “But he is under guardians and trustees until the date set
by the father. So with us; when we were children, we were slaves to the elemental spirits of the
universe. But when the time had fully come, God sent forth a Son, born in woman, born under the
law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” And so
when Jesus was born, it became clear to us, that in him we were God’s own sons and daughters.
So it would be good to think that over in regard to your own position in God. And especially, if
you get caught up in the confusion about, “Do I feel as if I’m born of God? Have I behaved like a
child of God today?” It isn’t how you have behaved, it isn’t how you feel, it is what God has done.
The fact is, that God has determined beforehand, that you would be adopted as his child in his Son
Jesus Christ. He has acted and executed that, and that is your position this morning. You are the
adopted son, or daughter, of God and you have all the rights, the privileges, and the rank of Jesus
Christ himself. It take your breath away but that is our position.
You can see yourself why it’s not a matter of keeping up appearances or not letting your mom and dad
down — it’s far beyond that, it’s our God. He has given himself to us as our Father, and that’s
the other part of the Roman law. The child has all the privileges, rank, and responsibility of a
child, but the father, the person who adopts, has all the rights, responsibilities, and privileges
of a father. That’s our position. Sure we should not let our moms or dads down, but our moms and
dads are like us in that they will die, and leave the earth. But you are the adopted children of
our God, of our Father himself, and he has given you all the position of his Son Jesus. Let’s pray.
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