Predestined for Adoption to the Praise of His Glory
Reflections on Being Adopted by God and Adopting Children
Adoption is one of the most profound realities in the universe. I say “universe” and not “world” because adoption goes beyond the world. It is greater than the world, and it is before the world in the plan of God, and it will outlast the world as we know it. Indeed it is greater than the “universe” and is rooted in God’s own nature.
I have three aims this morning: (1) that all of us would consider and embrace the wonder of our adoption into God’s family through Jesus Christ, and (2) that all of us would support the ministry of adoption through the Micah and Lydia Funds financially, and (3) that many of you married couples would consider adopting children into your family as an overflow of the inheritance that you have in Christ from God, your Father. My assumption is that we need to understand and enjoy our own adoption by God before we can properly understand and enjoy what it should mean to adopt a child into our family.
Adoption is mentioned in Ephesians 1:5. “In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace.” There are three things I want to point out from this passage about God’s adopting us. These three things are just what you would expect if you completed Romans 11 with us, or if you read Romans 11:36 which closes the first section of the book, “From him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” All things, including adoption, are from God and through God and to God. That is what I see in Ephesians 1:5-6.
Let’s read it again: “In love 5he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace.”
1. Adoption Is from God
First, adoption is “from him” — from God. “In love he predestined us for adoption.” So adoption was part of a God’s plan. It was his idea, his purpose. It was not an afterthought. He didn’t discover one day that against his plan and foreknowledge humans had sinned and orphaned themselves in the world, and then come up with the idea of adopting them into his family. No, Paul says, he predestined adoption. He planned it.
“Adoption was part of a God’s plan. It was his idea, his purpose. It was not an afterthought.”
And if we ask when this predestination happened, verse 4 makes that plain: “He chose us in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” Before the creation of the world, and before we existed, God looked on us in our need, and he looked upon his Son crucified and risen as the all-sufficient atonement for our sin, and because of that he chose us to be holy and blameless. And to that end he “predestined us for adoption.” It happened before the creation of the world.
So the first thing you need to know about your adoption into God’s family through Christ is that God chose you and predestined you in love for adoption before the foundation of the world. God’s love for you and its expression in your adoption into his eternal family of joy did not start in this world. It reaches back to eternity. So when Paul says, “From him are all things” (Romans 11:36), he includes our adoption, and means that before the foundation of the world he predestined you to be his child.
Therefore, your adoption is not based on your fitness, your worth, or your distinctives. It is rooted in God’s eternal purpose and grace. And that means that your adoption is not fragile or tenuous or uncertain. God will not adopt and then find out that you are not worthy and unadopt. He knows we are unworthy. And he chose us and predestined us for adoption. This is firm and sure and unshakable.
2. Adoption Is Through Jesus Christ
Second, “All things are from him and through him.” This is true of adoption and you can see it in Ephesians 1:5. “In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace.”
We are adopted through Jesus Christ. What does that mean? It means that to be adopted by God we had to be died for. Verse 7: “In him [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.”
Before the foundation of the world, God saw that we would be sinners and planned the death of his Son so that our sins could be forgiven and God’s wrath removed. Through that, we were adopted. Note two clear implications of this.
Not all people are God’s adopted children.
The blood of Christ covers the sins of all who believe (Romans 3:25). Therefore believers in Jesus are adopted, and no others. If we talk about God being the Father of all mankind, we speak very loosely and are not talking truly about those who are saved.
We were not cute orphans, but enemies in rebellion against God.
That is who God decided before the foundation of the world to adopt. Romans 5:6: “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” Romans 5:10: “While we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.”
So our adoption is not based on our being worthy or cute or attractive. It is based on the free and sovereign grace of God planned before the world and bought for us by the blood of Christ.
3. Adoption Is for God’s Glory
Third, “All things are from him and through him and to him.” Adoption, therefore, is “to him.” That is, it is for his glory. You see that in Ephesians 1:5-6: “He predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace.” The goal of your adoption is that the glory of God’s grace would be praised.
God adopted us in our unworthiness to make his grace look great. You were adopted for the praise of the glory of his grace. God’s action in adopting us is radically God-centered and God-exalting. I know that many hear this and think it is not loving. How can God’s seeking to exalt himself be loving? The answer is that the glory of God is what we were made to see and enjoy for all eternity. Nothing else will satisfy our souls. Therefore if God does not exalt himself for us to admire and enjoy, then he is unloving. That is, he does not give us what we need.
“The goal of your adoption is that the glory of God’s grace would be praised.”
We are adopted by God not so that we will rejoice that God made much of us. We are adopted by God so that we will enjoy making much of God’s grace as our Father forever. We are adopted so that in this family the Father and the unique elder Son, Jesus Christ, will be the source and focus of all our joy. We are adopted “to the praise of the glory of his grace.” It will take an eternity for the glory of that grace to be fully displayed for finite people. Therefore, we will be increasingly happy in God forever and ever. That is the final meaning of adoption.
Now, consider five implications of this for adopting children and for supporting those who adopt by contributing to the Micah Fund and the Lydia Fund.
1. Not for our own Glory but for God’s Glory
God adopted us for the praise of the glory of his grace. Therefore we adopt for the praise of the glory of his grace. The questions you ask as you ponder adopting a child who needs a family are not first questions of feasibility or affordability. The questions you ask first are: Is my heart fixed on glorifying the grace of God? Is my aim in this to make the grace of God look glorious? Is Christ the center and goal of this decision? Are all the factors being weighed in relation to Christ? We adopt a child not for our own glory but for the glory of God’s grace.
2. To Make Much of God
Our aim is not to take a child’s low views of self and replace them with high views of self. Rather our aim is to take a child’s low views of God and replace them with high views of God. Our aim is not take a child with little sense of worth and fill him with a great sense of worth. Rather our aim is to take a child who by nature makes himself the center of the universe and show him that he was made to put God at the center of the universe and get joy not from seeing his own tiny worth, but from knowing Christ who is of infinite worth. We adopt to lead a child to the everlasting joy of making much of the glory of the grace of God.
3. We Model God’s Mercy and Justice
We model mercy because we freely choose to love this child, no matter what. Many adoptions happen sight unseen. The child passes no test. He is loved freely without meeting conditions. We don’t base our choice on what we see. We love because we have been loved. This is mercy.
And when the child comes, chosen freely by mercy, we now fold that child into a pattern of firm and sweet discipline. We fold him into the mercy of justice. From the very beginning, within weeks, there are expectations and consequences when these expectations are not met.
We raise the child in “the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (paideia kai nouthesia kyriou). And we know from Hebrews 12 that the discipline of the Lord is often painful because without discipline there will be no “peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11). So we see in adoption the mercy and the justice of God mingled in wise and loving proportion.
4. There Will be Cost
Adopting will almost certainly bring heartache and stress and suffering, just like adoption cost God the life of his Son. We are adopted “through Jesus Christ” — through his suffering. I have letters from parents in my files describing the agony of adoptions that didn’t work or almost didn’t work. Cases of mental illness and profound physical disability and bizarre and inexplicable behavior. Of course, this is not unique to adoption. It can happen — it does happen — with our biological children. The implication is this: we adopt with our eyes wide open. This will bring pain. And this may bring tragedy. We embraced it. And, if we are faithful, in the end, it will certainly bring joy. Because of the fifth implication.
5. Faith in an All-Sufficient God of Grace
We dare only adopt children if we have a firm faith in the all-sufficiency of God’s future grace. The pain of adopting and rearing children is sure. It will come in one form or the other. Should that stop us from having children or adopting children? No. The self-centered world “cuts their losses” by having few or no children. (And there is way too much of that thinking in the church.)
In one sense we may be very glad that such people don’t tend to have children or at least not many children. Because it means that breed of selfish person will die out more quickly since they don’t replace themselves. But on the other hand, we grieve, hoping that they will see that the grace of God is sufficient for every new day no matter how difficult, and that there is more true joy in walking with God through fire, than walking on beaches without him.
Letter to Noël
Perhaps the best way to illustrate this role of faith in future grace would be to read some of the letter I wrote to Noël on November 6, 1995, at 11:12 PM when God had brought me to the place of saying yes, at age 50, to the adoption of Talitha.
With confidence in the all-sufficient future grace of God, I am ready and eager to move ahead with the adoption of Talitha Ruth. I want to thank you that during these years, when your heart has yearned to adopt a daughter, you have not badgered me or coerced me. You have been wonderfully patient. You have modeled faith in the sufficiency of prayer. You have always expressed support of me and my ministry even if we should never adopt. You have been reasonable in all our discussions and have come forth with your rationale only when asked. You have honored my misgivings as worthy of serious consideration. . . .
. . . To my perspective it seems to be the path that will “spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples.” . . . I believe it is the path of greatest love . . . And therefore I have confidence that God is pleased with it.
“We adopt for the praise of the glory of his grace.”
. . . I believe our eyes are open. . . . We have come through enough to believe that God’s future grace will be sufficient. His mercies are new every morning and there will be mercies for every weight and wonder on this new path of our lives.
I thank God for you. I enter with you gladly on this path. Whether we live to see our daughter grown or not, we will have done well to take her in. Life is very short, whether 12 hours, like Ashley Hope, or 50 years like me, or 76 years like my father, or 94 years like Crystal Anderson. What matters is not that we do all we might have done or all we dreamed of doing, but that, while we live, we live by faith in future grace and walk in the path of love. The times are in God’s hands, not ours.
With this common conviction we will, God willing, embrace our new daughter and give ourselves, with all the might that God inspires in us, to love her into the kingdom. May the Lord establish the plans of our hearts, and bring Talitha Ruth (and the future husband God already knows) into deep and lasting fellowship with Christ. May she be an ebony broach of beauty around your aging neck, and a crown of purity and joy on your graying head.
I love you,
Three Closing Exhortations
Consider and embrace the wonder of our adoption into God’s family through Jesus Christ.
Support financially the ministry of adoption through the Micah Fund and Lydia Fund.
Married couples: consider adopting children into your family as an overflow of the inheritance that you have in Christ from God, your Father.