This article continues an ongoing blog series, called “Identity Matters” which is taking us expositionally through the book of Ephesians.
Last week we began to focus on Ephesians chapter 1 which contains weighty, paradigm-shifting truths about the true identity of a Christian. In my prior post, we reveled in the mind-blowing reality that before the foundation of the world, God chose you.
In this article, I want to expand on that concept a bit. God chose you for salvation, but the problem is that when we think of “salvation” we tend to think of simply “going to heaven.” While salvation is not less than that, it actually entails much more. Yes, you get heaven, but with it you get a new identity.
You are adopted
The Apostle Paul is telling us that we’ve been more than simply saved from Hell. He writes in Ephesians 1, verse 5 that God predestined us for adoption as sons. We’ve been welcomed into God’s family. We are considered sons of God.
Now lest any ladies think that this talk of “sons” smacks of male chauvinism, recognize that Paul is doing something remarkable here in writing this way. It’s not chauvinism. Instead, he’s actually blowing the hinges off of chauvinism.
Anyone in the ancient Greco-Roman world that Paul was writing to would have known that when you’re adopted into a family as a son, you receive a full share in the inheritance of the father of that family. You would be treated just like the natural son.
That was true of adopted sons, but not of adopted daughters.
And yet here in Ephesians we have Paul doing something that would have blown the minds of people in that culture. Paul is boldly declaring, “Sisters in Christ, you have a full share in the inheritance of your elder brother, the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. You are all counted as sons and receive a full share in all the blessings which belong to the Son. You enjoy all of the blessings and benefits of Jesus Christ.”
Paul says to both brothers and sisters in Christ that God predestined us for adoption as sons.
In other words God had a pre-planned destination already in His mind when he determined to save you, and that plan was for you to be adopted into His family. God determined that He was going to be your Father and that you were going to be His child. What does that mean? What are the ramifications of that?
We may lose the point of sonship in our culture today, compared to the times in which Paul wrote this letter. In the ancient world, sonship was bound up with a lot of functional things.
99.9% of the time sons in the ancient world did exactly what their father did.
That’s not always the case in today, especially in the urbanized west. Many times, in America, sons often do something completely different than what their fathers do. That wasn’t the case in the ancient world. If your father was shepherd, you were a shepherd. If your father was a carpenter, you were a carpenter. No one gave it a 2nd thought. It was expected you’d take that path and follow in your father’s footsteps and do what he did.
Out of this cultural context comes biblical idioms that reflect functionality. This is why Jesus says things like, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matt 5:9) Why? Because God Himself is a peacemaker. He restores peace between Himself and sinners. Therefore, if you are really a child of God, you will do exactly what your Father does.
Of course, Jesus Christ is the son par excellence.
So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you…whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. (John 5:19,)
Now, of course, Jesus is God. He’s equal with God. There will be some ways that He can imitate the Father that we will never be able to. None of us have ever created a universe lately. None of us are all powerful. But to the degree that it’s in our nature as finite humans, God’s purpose for you is to do what the Father does because you are His child.
You are not just people who God saved from sin, you are instead considered as sons, and sonship implies not just privilege but responsibility, and part of your responsibility is to show a family resemblance in how you live and act and think. And ultimately God’s goal in your adoption is for you to increasingly take on the resemblance of Jesus, your elder brother in God’s household.
Romans 8:28 is probably one of the most beloved verses in all of Scripture. This powerful verse reminds believers that God works all things together for the good of His people. That’s great, but the problem is that many of us tend to isolate that verse and just use it as kind of a catch-all panacea to make us feel ok when things are going bad in life. But the point of verse 28 is not simply, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” To get the point we need to look at verse 28 but not stop there.
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:28-29)
The ultimate good that God is seeking for you is that as a child of God you will be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. For that reason, you have the assurance that God is working in all of the things that are happening in your life, both the good things, and the bad things. God is working all of these things to serve His purpose of bringing you into conformity with the image of Jesus who is a perfect reflection of God your Father. Paul goes on to say in verse 30,
And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30)
If God has predestined you to this, that means you don’t have to be fearful that it won’t come to past. If God’s choice of you is unconditional, that means you don’t have to worry about messing it up and losing your salvation. God already knew all the bad stuff you would do before you were born and He chose you anyway. If you are an adopted child of God, that means you will never be rejected because a perfect Father does not kick His kids out of the family. Instead, a perfect Father trains and disciplines His children, and sometimes that discipline can be painful but even when God disciplines us it is meant to work towards that end of resembling Christ.
The author of Hebrews says that when we are disciplined by God it is a sign that we are children of God and that discipline is for the good of His children.
Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:9-11)
Our discipline is not coming to us because God is mean. Our discipline is not coming from the hands of an abusive Father out to destroy us. Instead, the discipline will result in us sharing in God’s holiness. It will result in yielding a peaceful fruit of righteousness. It will result in further conformity to the image of Christ and there is not a single thing that happens in your life that does not fall into God’s predestined purpose for you because God the Father works all things together for the good of you His child.
If you see the core of your identity as a mom, as a career person, as your sexual orientation, or as your possessions, that will have a radical influence on how you live your life and it will influence it for the worse.
But if you see the core of your identity as a son or daughter of God, one who has been chosen by God before the foundation of the world, one who has been adopted into God’s family, one whose life is meant to be geared towards imaging your Father, towards holiness and towards Christ conformity, then everything in your life will be impacted.
Understanding your true identity in Christ will positively impact your choices, it will affect how you deal with your spouse when they let you down, it will influence how you handle disappointment, or anger, or temptation or fear.
If you understand your identity in Christ you’re gong to start asking yourself, “How is how I’m living imaging my Father? Am I bearing a family resemblance or not?”
A lot of people argue over the doctrine of election and predestination. They analyze and scrutinize and debate with people over what this notion of God choosing us actually means. But as Paul is writing this opening section of Ephesians, he’s not telling us that God chose us and predestined us so that we could have theological fights about it. Instead, Paul is telling us these things so that we will be tremendously encouraged!
The doctrine of Predestination is not something to argue about! It’s something that should lead us to fall down on our faces and praise God for! It’s a truth that we should revel in! Paul says we are chosen and predestined. Why? Look at verse 6. These truths are not to lead to arguing but to the praise of his glorious grace!
He has chosen you, an unworthy and undeserving sinner! And because He has chosen you and predestined you to glory, be assured that even when you do fail, even when you don’t bear that family resemblance, even on your worst day, you will never be cast out by God. Being a son or daughter means you will always have a seat at the table with your Father. He is ever patient, ever kind, ever loving, and He has forever had his heart set on you, even before the universe was made. He knew about every bad thing you’d ever do and He chose you anyway and He is totally committed to your good, which is why Paul says in Philippians 1,
…..that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6)
To God alone be the glory!
Grace and Peace,