He predestined us for adoption as His sons through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will,
I. THAT ADOPTION ORIGINATES IN THE FREE GRACE OF GOD; for we are predestinated thereunto. By nature we have no claim to it. "It is not a natural but a constituted relationship." The idea is not of sonship merely, but of sonship by adoption. None can adopt into the family of God but God himself, and therefore it may be regarded as an act of pure grace and love. "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!" (1 John 3:1). He may ask the question, "How shall I put thee among the children?" but he has answered it graciously in the line of covenant promise: "I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord" (2 Corinthians 6:18).
II. THAT ADOPTION IS IN CONNECTION WITH THE PERSON AND MEDIATION OF CHRIST. He is not merely the Pattern of sonship to which we are to be conformed, but the adoption is "by Jesus Christ." The apostle declares elsewhere that "we are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:26), and that "God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the Law, to redeem them that were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption of sons" (Galatians 4:4, 5). It is evident from these passages that we do not receive the adoption merely in virtue of Christ's incarnation. Some modern divines hold that the adoption springs, not from the death, but from the birth of Christ; that its benefits are conferred upon every member of the human race by virtue of the Incarnation; that Christ being one with every man, the Root and Archetype of humanity, all men are in him adopted and saved, and that nothing remains for faith but to discern this oneness and his salvation as already belonging to us.
1. This theory makes Christ, and not Adam, the Head of humanity. Yet Scripture makes Adam the true head of humanity, and Christ the Head of the redeemed. Christ is no doubt called "the Head of every man" (1 Corinthians 11:9), in so far as he is "the Firstborn of every creature," and as "all things were created" by him and for him; but the allusion is not to the Incarnation at all, but to the pre-existent state of the Son, and to the fact that, according to the original state of things, the world was constituted in him. But the whole race of man is represented as in Adam (Romans 5:12). How else can we understand the parallel between the two Adams? "That was not first which was spiritual, but that which was natural." "The first man was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit." Is it proper to regard Christ as the Archetype of fallen humanity alienated from God, and needing to be created anew in the Divine image (Colossians 3:10; Ephesians 4:24)?
2. This theory is inconsistent with Scripture, which makes the Incarnation and the cross inseparable. They are both means to an end: the expiation of sin, the vindication of Divine justice - the meritorious obedience to be rendered to the Law. Jesus was born that he might die. The event of Golgotha not only explains but completes the event of Bethlehem. Our Savior came to save the lost (Matthew 18:11); he came to give his life a ransom (Matthew 20:28); he came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15); he took part of flesh and blood to destroy death (Hebrews 2:14); he was manifested to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8); it was on the cross he triumphed over principalities and powers (Colossians 2:15). There are a hundred passages in Scripture which ascribe our salvation to his death to one passage ascribing it to his birth. It is a suggestive circumstance that he should have appointed a festival to commemorate his death - the Lord's Supper - and should have appointed no similar festival to commemorate his birth. The effect, if not the design, of this theory is to destroy the necessity for the atonement, and thus to avoid the offence of the cross. The Incarnation is presented to us as a remedial arrangement by virtue of its connection with the cross, and the connection of man with Christ is represented as corrective of his connection with Adam. Our primary connection is with the first Adam, and we only attain to connection with Christ by regeneration.
III. THAT ADOPTION IS FOR THOSE WHO ARE UNITED TO CHRIST BY FAITH. Scripture is exceedingly plain in its testimony upon this point. "Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:26); "As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his Name" (John 1:12); "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" (Romans 8:14). Yet it is said that faith does not make the sonship, but discerns it as already ours. The proper office of faith, however, is not to recognize the blessing of adoption as ours, but "to receive and rest upon Christ alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel." The blessings of salvation are not conferred on all men prior to their faith or without their faith. The union between Christ and believers, of which the Scripture is so full, is not accomplished by our Lord's assumption of our common nature, but is only realized through an appropriating faith wrought in each of us by the grace of God.
IV. THAT THE ISSUE OF THE ADOPTION' IS TO BRING BELIEVERS AT LAST INTO COMMUNION WITH GOD HIMSELF. "Ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's." We are brought into the Divine family - "the family in heaven and in earth" (Ephesians 3:15) - of which God is the Father; for "adoption finds its ultimate enjoyment and blessing in God." If we are thus brought to God and belong to God in virtue of our adoption, ought we not with a profound earnestness to aim at a high and spiritual tone of living? - T.C.
Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.I. THE BENEFIT ITSELF. "Having predestinated."
1. God first loves us to life before the means bringing us to life are decreed.
2. God has not only chosen some, but ordained effectual means to bring them to the end to which they are chosen.
II. THE PERSONS WHO ARE PREDESTINATED. Those who have believed and are sanctified — of them we may say that they have been predestinated, and shall be glorified. A chain of four links, two of which are kept with God in heaven, and two let down to earth; this chain is so coupled, that whoever are within these mid]inks are within the two others also. How precious then is this faith which purifies the heart, and enables us even to read our names in God's register of life.
III. THE THING TO WHICH GOD HAS PREDESTINATED US. "Unto the adoption of children."
1. The dignity of being sons of God.
2. The inheritance of light, or a Divine nature.
3. All the glory we look for in heaven is included.
IV. THE CAUSE. "Through Jesus Christ."
V. THE MANNER. "To Himself," i.e., "according to the good pleasure of His will."
1. Sending His Word.
2. Working by it with His Spirit.
VI. THE END. "To the praise of the glory of His grace."
I. ADOPTION — THE GRACE OF IT. No man can ever have a right in himself to become adopted. If a king should adopt any into his family, it would likely be the son of one of his lords — at any rate, some child of respectable parentage; he would scarce take the son of some common felon, or some gipsy child, to adopt him into his family; but God, in this case, has taken the very worst to be His children. The saints of God all confess that they are the last persons they should ever have dreamed He would have chosen. Again, let us think not only of our original lineage, but of our personal character. He who knows himself will never think that he had much to recommend him to God. In other cases of adoption there usually is some recommendation. A man, when he adopts a child, sometimes is moved thereto by its extraordinary beauty, or at other times by its intelligent manners and winning disposition. But no; He found a rebellious child, a filthy, frightful, ugly child; He took it to His bosom. I was passing lately by the seat of a nobleman, and someone in the railway carriage observed that he had no children, and he would give any price in the world if he could find someone who would renounce all claim to any son he might have, and the child was never to speak to his parents any more, nor to be acknowledged, and this lord would adopt him as his son, and leave him the whole of his estates, but that he had found great difficulty in procuring any parents who would forswear their relationship, and entirely give up their child. Whether this was correct or not, I cannot tell; but certainly this was not the case with God. His only-begotten and well-beloved Son was quite enough for Him; and, if He had needed a family, there were the angels, and His own omnipotence was adequate enough to have created a race of beings far superior to us; He stood in no need whatever of any to be His darlings. It was then, an act of simple, pure, gratuitous grace, and of nothing else, because He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy, and because He delights to show the marvellous character of His condescension.
II. THE PRIVILEGES WHICH COME TO US THROUGH ADOPTION.
1. We are taken out of the family of Satan. The prince of this world has no more claim upon us.
2. We have God's name put upon us.
3. We have the spirit as well as the name of children.
4. Access to the throne.
5. We are pitied by God. He pities thee, and that pity of God is one of the comforts that flow into thine heart by thine adoption.
6. In the next place, He protects thee. No father will allow his son to die without making some attempt to resist the adversary who would slay him, and God will never allow His children to perish while His omnipotence is able to guard them.
7. Once again, there is provision as well as protection. Every father will take care to the utmost of his ability to provide for his children.
8. And then you shall likewise have education. God will educate all His children till He makes them perfect men in Christ Jesus.
9. There is one thing perhaps you sometimes forget, which you are sure to have in the course of discipline if you are God's sons, and that is, God's rod.
10. Lastly, so sure as we are the children of God by adoption, we must inherit the promise that pertains to it — "If children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ." "If we suffer with Him, we shall also be glorified together."
III. THERE ARE SOME DUTIES WHICH ARE CONNECTED WITH ADOPTION. When the believer is adopted into the Lord's family, there are many relationships which are broken off. The relationship with old Adam and the law ceases at once; but then he is under a new law, the law of grace — under new rules, and under a new covenant. And now I beg to admonish you of duties, children of God. It is this — if God be thy father, and thou art His son, thou art bound to trust Him. Oh! if He were only thy Master, and thou ever so poor a servant, thou wouldst be bound to trust Him. But, when thou knowest that He is thy Father, wilt thou ever doubt Him?
(C. H. Spurgeon.)I. GOD CHOSE AND PREDESTINED THESE EPHESIAN CHRISTIANS BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD.
1. We must not so conceive of God's election, and the influence of His grace, as to set aside our free agency and final accountableness.
2. Nor must we so explain away God's sovereignty and grace as to exalt man to a state of independence.
II. THEY WERE CHOSEN TO BE HOLY AND WITHOUT BLAME, BEFORE HIM, IN LOVE. Holiness consists in the conformity of the soul to the Divine nature and will, and is opposed to all moral evil. In fallen creatures it begins in the renovation of the mind after the image of God. Love is a main branch of holiness.
III. THE ADOPTION TO WHICH BELIEVERS ARE PREDESTINATED.
1. Adoption implies a state of freedom, in opposition to bondage.
2. Adoption brings us under the peculiar care of God's providence.
3. Adoption includes a title to a glorious resurrection from the dead, and to an eternal inheritance in the heavens.
IV. ALL SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS ARE DERIVED TO US THROUGH JESUS CHRIST.
V. THE SEASON OF GOD'S CHOOSING BELIEVERS IN CHRIST, AND PREDESTINATING THEM TO ADOPTION, IS THE GOOD PLEASURE OF HIS WILL. The original plan of salvation is from Him, not from us. The gospel is a Divine gift, not a human discovery; and our being in circumstances to enjoy it is not the effect of our previous choice, but of God's sovereign goodness.
VI. THE GREAT PURPOSE FOR WHICH GOD HAS CHOSEN AND CALLED US IS THE PRAISE OF THE GLORY OF HIS GRACE. Goodness is the glory of the Divine character; grace is the glory of the Divine goodness; the plan of salvation for sinners by Jesus Christ is the glory of Divine grace.
(J. Lathrop, D. D.)I. CHRIST IS THE UNIQUE SON OF GOD. From what we know of our Lord as He lived among men, nothing so perfectly represents the impression which His character, spirit, and history produce upon us as the title which describes Him as the Son of God. Other men had been God's servants; He, too, was "born under the law;" but to speak of Him as a servant does not tell half the truth. He is a servant, and something more. There is an ease, a freedom, a grace about His doing of the will of God, which can belong only to a Son. About the Father's love for Him He has never any doubt; and there is no sign that His perfect faith is the result of discipline, or that it had ever been less secure and tranquil than it was in the maturity of His strength. When He speaks of the glory which is to come to Him after His death and resurrection, He is still a Son anticipating the honour to which the Father has always destined Him, and which indeed had always been His.
II. CHRISTIANS ARE THE ADOPTED SONS OF GOD. If we are "in Christ" we, according to God's eternal purpose, have become God's sons. The eternal relationship between Christ and the Father cannot belong to us; but all who are one with Christ share the blessedness, the security, and the honour of that relationship; and the life of Christ, which has its eternal fountains in the life of God, is theirs.
III. CHRISTIANS ARE MADE SONS OF GOD BY A NEW AND SUPERNATURAL BIRTH. Regeneration is sometimes described as though it were merely a change in a man's principles of conduct, character, taste, habits. If so, we should have to speak of a man as being more or less regenerate according to the extent of his moral reformation, which would be contrary to the idiom of New Testament thought. The simplest and most obvious account of regeneration is the truest. When a man is regenerated he receives a new life, and receives it from God. A higher nature comes to him than that which he inherited from his human parents; he is "begotten of God," "born of the Spirit."
IV. THE INCARNATION OF CHRIST EFFECTS OUR ADOPTION AND REGENERATION. The capacity for receiving the Divine life is native to us, but the actual realization of our sonship is possible only through Christ. Not until the Son of God became Man could men, either in this world or in worlds unseen, become the sons of God. The Incarnation raised human nature to a loftier level, lifted it nearer to God, fulfilled in a new and nobler manner the Divine idea of humanity.
V. THESE BLESSINGS ARE TO BE ASCRIBED SOLELY TO GOD'S INFINITE LOVE. We had no claim upon Him for gifts like these. Nor, in conferring them, did He act under the constraint of any law of His own nature which imposed upon Him either a necessity or an obligation to raise us to the dignity of Divine sonship. It is all the result of His free, unforced, spontaneous kindliness. What He has done for us is "to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed upon us in the Beloved."
(R. W. Dale, LL. D.)1. Wherein does the predestination of the fifth verse differ from the election of the fourth? Election only, and always, refers to the Church; predestination refers to the Church, and the world, and the whole universe. It is a general, all-embracing principle. He elected us that we should be holy, and to accomplish this He predestined us to the adoption of sons. Election is a mere passive preference of some rather than others, while predestination is active, and includes the ideas of ordering, defining, and controlling all things according to a settled purpose and plan. Election is the foundation of a Church, and predestination is the basis of providence.
2. But what is this adoption to which we are predestinated? It is the very first of the privileges which Paul ascribes to the Jewish nation — "To whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever" (Romans 9:4, 5). In a wide sense, the Jews were nationally the children of God, and the principle of adoption was in their polity; for the Son of God, the Messiah, was the hope of the nation. They were His peculiar people (Deuteronomy 14:2). But the adoption is the peculiar privilege and glory of the New Testament Church, in which the incorruptible seed remains, because they are born of God.
3. This adoption into the family of God is by or through Jesus Christ.
4. The two words "unto Himself" has occasioned the commentators some trouble, and their sentiments are very various. But surely, looked at simply, the most common understanding can see no difficulty in this idea — "God has predestinated us unto the adoption of children to or for Himself." Is it not a Scriptural idea that the Church is the peculiar treasure and property of God? (See Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 14:2; Psalm 135:4; Titus 2:14)
5. Note here, also, that this predestination and adoption are according to the good pleasure of His will. This is the mode and the measure of His working.
6. We see here the purpose in which all His working, before time and in time, ends — "That we might be to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved" (ver. 6). The phrase "glory of His grace" is a Hebraism which our translators have rendered literally, but which means "His glorious grace." (For similar forms see Colossians 1:27; 2 Thessalonians 1:9) The purpose of electing and redeeming love is to form from among the sinners of mankind a people to the praise and glory of God. The glorious grace of God shines forth in the struggling, wrestling Church more than anywhere else in the creation; for it is there put to the severest tests, and, like the rainbow in clouds and storms, it is enhanced by the contrast. As sure, and so far as God is the Ruler and Governor of the world, the great end of every creature must be His glory; and as grace is the form in which His glory has shone forth most brightly on this earth, the highest aim of the redeemed creature — in all states and conditions of being — should ever be "to the praise of His glorious grace."
(W. Graham, D. D.)I. THE ADOPTION OF CHILDREN TO HIMSELF, unto which we are said to be predestinated. The adoption of children necessarily implies that those admitted or chosen to this honour are not naturally or legally children, but become so only by the will and act of Him who adopts them.
1. The "adoption of children" is the permanent restitution of sinners unto the favour, love, and enjoyment of God.
2. There is implied or included in this a participation in the Divine Glory, through the gift of the Holy Spirit. The third person in the Trinity receives the peculiar name of the "Spirit of Adoption."
3. In "the adoption of children," all is included whatsoever is embraced in the "inheritance of the saints in light." "It doth not yet appear what we shall be." "The half hath not yet been told us" concerning the dignity and blessedness of heaven.
II. God hath PREDESTINATED US UNTO THE ADOPTION OF CHILDREN. Now this predestination stands connected with the election spoken of in the previous verse. In respect of the purpose or design of God, it is not to be distinguished from that election — as if the one preceded the other in the order of time. When He elected or chose us in His love, He also predestinated us in His wisdom and power, and when He predestinated us He also in love chose us. But the term election has respect more to the affection of the Divine Heart, so to speak; whereas the term predestination has respect more to the plan and purpose of the Divine Mind. It leads us to consider a certain definite end, purposed, determined, and secured — which in the present case is the adoption of children to Himself. Infinite wisdom, and infinite power, can infallibly carry out the designs of infinite sovereignty; and He who hath chosen us out of love can easily, in His sovereign wisdom and power, bring us into the possession of all that infinite love would have us to enjoy.
III. THE GROUND OF THIS PREDESTINATION, viz., "According to the good pleasure of His will." The expression is to be understood of that sovereign will of God which acknowledges no superior beyond itself, and no cause whatsoever moving it from without.
IV. THAT GOD'S PREDESTINATION AND THE GOOD PLEASURE OF HIS WILL ARE CARRIED OUT BY JESUS CHRIST — the Beloved — in whom we are accepted. The mystery of salvation is not perceived at all until we bring into account the necessity of such an atonement as could be effected only by the Son of God Himself.
V. THE FINAL END WHICH GOD HATH PROPOSED IN THE SALVATION OF THE CHURCH IS "the praise of the glory of His grace." "He hath predestinated us unto the adoption of children...to the praise of the glory of His grace." God can accomplish no higher or better end than the manifestation of His own glory. Since, in and of Himself, He is infinitely and eternally blessed, therefore it was an act of pure goodness on the part of God to create a race of intelligent beings, who being endowed with freedom of will, might, in the right exercise of their powers and faculties, find their happiness in contemplating His glory and sharing His favour. This freedom having been abused by all, in departing from the true object of delight and satisfaction, it becomes an act of grace on the part of God to renew to any the favours of His love and friendship. Contemplating sinners lying in their guilt and pollution and misery, God found the highest motive for extending to them His goodness entirely in Himself. "I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for Mine own name's sake."
(W. Alves, M. A.)Deus vult; God wills it; God wills it"; and every man plucked his sword from its scabbard, and set out to reach the holy sepulchre, for God willed it. So come and drink, sinner; God wills it. Trust Jesus; God wills it. "Father, Thy will be done on earth even as it is in heaven."
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
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