“Adopted as Sons” (Ephesians 1:3-14)

Second Sunday after Christmas
January 2, 2011

“Adopted as Sons” (Ephesians 1:3-14)

It is a terrible thing to be rootless, family-less, fatherless, not having a father. I can tell you from personal experience. My father died when I was one year old, and I can tell you that growing up without a father was no fun. All the other kids had dads; why didn’t I? There was this big gap in my life. This state of fatherlessness always weighed on my mind, and I’m pretty sure it held me back in life.

On the other hand, one of the greatest joys I’ve had in life is being a father. I love having a child to love and take care of. And I hope I’m building a solid foundation for my daughter in her life, by being her father.

The relationship of a father with his children is one of the most wonderful things in human experience. And when it’s not there, there is a terrible void.

Now multiply both sides of that equation by a thousandfold, and you begin to get the import and the blessing of having God as our Father–or the lack thereof. The good news for us today is that you and I are not fatherless. For we have been “Adopted as Sons.”

St. Paul says as much in our Epistle for today, from Ephesians 1. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing,” Paul begins. And he goes on to say, “In love he predestined us for adoption as sons.”

“Adoption as sons.” This is nothing unique to Ephesians for the apostle to say. St. Paul speaks this way in several of his epistles. Last week we heard from Galatians 4: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”

Likewise, in Romans 8, Paul writes: “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.”

Now on the basis of this “adopted as sons” theology we see in the New Testament, I want to say three things about our status as sons. There are many things I could say. The New Testament is replete with passages about the blessing of having God as our Father–it was a major theme in Jesus’ teaching. But for right now, let’s focus on these three points: 1) God has acted to make us his sons. 2) As sons, we want to be in our Father’s house. 3) As sons, we have an inheritance waiting for us.

But before I go on, I should say I notice some of you ladies squirming a bit when I say we all have been adopted as “sons.” Yes, that term does include you. As we read in Galatians 3: “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” So don’t let the term “sons” put you off. It includes all of us baptized believers, men and women alike.

And with that, let’s go to our first point: God has acted to make us his sons. To say that we have been adopted as sons means that, before that happened, we were not God’s sons. We had no heavenly Father. We were drifting, rootless, outside the family. That is our natural state as born-dead sinners. You and I followed in the footsteps of our father Adam, who had fallen into sin and dragged the whole human race along with him. We did what was within our fleshly nature, and that is, to sin, to go against God. And so we were cut off from God’s family, by our own willful disobedience. We did not want to know God as our Father. We ran away from home. And like the rest of the world, we were flailing around in our own stupidity, hurting one another, hurting ourselves, hurtling toward death.

Can you sense, have you experienced, those stupid tendencies in your own life, wanting to be your own boss, having no need for God, and, as a result, doing damage to yourself and to others? Yes? Then you are only agreeing with God’s evaluation of our condition. This calls for us to confess our sins and repent and realize our folly.

But know also that God has done something about it, to remedy our condition. God has acted to make us sinners his sons. Out of his great love for sinful humanity, God has purposed to bring us home. God, being God, knew ahead of time that we his creatures would rebel against him. And so he decided, before the foundation of the world, to put in place the plan that would save us. As Ephesians has it: “He chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.”

God made a settled decision to act. He had it in mind from the beginning. The rescue mission would be carried out by his own Son, Jesus Christ. And so, Christmas: The eternal Son of God coming into the world, in the flesh, as our brother. Into the world, in the flesh, as our brother, so that he could live and die in our place, shed his blood for the sins of the world, and bring us back into the family. This is what Christ has done, and Paul recounts the benefit that is ours: “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us.”

And God lets us know it, our new status as sons of God. This is the work of the Spirit, who preaches Christ to us and brings us to faith. Loved by God, redeemed by Christ, sealed with the Spirit, now we know we have been adopted as sons. Do you realize this is your truest family, this church here, God’s family, here and around the world, brothers and sisters all of us? This is your Father’s house here, the church is. This is where we are at home.

And so it should come as a shock and an incongruity when people who are children of God absent themselves from their Father’s house. It doesn’t make sense. And I have to tell you, as your pastor, it is a cause for concern when we don’t have most of our members here on a given Sunday. There is nothing, short of being sick or snowed in, that should keep us away. This is our Father’s house. There is nowhere on earth better to be. This is where God is blessing us with his love. This is where he is forgiving our sins. Where is he is restoring our spirits and giving us direction for our lives and hope for our future. It baffles me, frankly, why anybody would ever want to miss out on those great things you cannot find anywhere else. You know, Jesus’ earthly parents made sure to take their child to church, “according to custom,” it says. In other words, that was their regular habit, that’s what they regularly did. And Jesus couldn’t pull himself away. He says, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Would that all of us would have the same zeal and attitude and love for God’s house!

So that’s the second point: As sons, we want to be in our Father’s house. And finally, third: As sons, we have an inheritance waiting for us. “In him we have obtained an inheritance,” Ephesians says. “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it.” As sons, we have already obtained an inheritance; we just haven’t taken possession of it yet.

In 1902, my grandfather Karl came over to America from Sweden, along with his older brother Johan. They both settled in Chicago and got to work starting their lives here. After nine years, in 1911, they received word that their father had died. And so Johan, as the oldest son, moved back to Sweden to take possession of his inheritance and take over the family farm.

That, friends, is the significance of the Bible calling us “sons.” The son receives the inheritance. And Jesus is our older brother. Only, the neat thing is–the wonderful thing is, the most glorious thing is–he shares his inheritance with us! We come to the Father, and into the Father’s eternal mansions, by way of Christ. We are co-heirs with Christ. What he has won for us, we get to share in! That means righteousness, resurrection from the dead, the redemption of our bodies, and everlasting life in heaven! That is what we will take possession of when Christ returns to take us home.

This inheritance is yours even now, in that your name is on the will, written there in the blood of Christ. And you have been sealed with the Spirit, who will keep you strong in the faith until that day. Dear friends, the Father loves you with an everlasting love and is waiting to welcome you home.

Adopted as sons. That is what and who we are. We have a name now, the name of the triune God. We are children of the heavenly Father, redeemed by Christ, sealed with the Spirit. We have a home now, the church. This is our Father’s house. We belong here, along with our brothers and sisters. And we have an inheritance, won by Christ and waiting for us in heaven. All this, brothers and sisters, to the praise of God’s glorious grace!

Published in: on January 1, 2011 at 9:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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