January 22, 2018 • Life for Leaders
[In love] he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.
I’ll never forget how I felt when, as an eight-year-old, I was a member of a tee-ball baseball team. As my teammates and I put on our uniforms for the first time and stood together on the field, I felt elated, proud to be a member of the Athletics. Even though I wasn’t a particularly effective player, I knew that I belonged.
You and I need to belong. We need to know that we matter to others, that we are connected to them and they to us. We need to know that we are not alone in this world, that we fit in, that we are part of a group.
According to Ephesians 1:5-6, we belong, not only to other people, but to God. Verse 5 says that God “predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ.” Paul uses language that would be familiar to the recipients of his letter. Adoption was familiar in the Roman world as a means for men who lacked natural sons to have a male heir. (Hence the Greek noun which literally means “adoption to sonship.”) Moreover, from his Jewish perspective, Paul understood that Israel had been adopted as God’s son (see Rom 9:4). Now, through Jesus Christ, Christians receive this privilege. The unique Son of God makes it possible for us to become God’s own children, his sons and his daughters.
The original language of verse 5 emphasizes our belonging to God as his children. In my commentary on Ephesians, I explain: “The relational nature of our election and predestination is underscored by a phrase in the Greek original of Ephesians 1: 5 that is not translated by the NIV. Where the NIV has ‘predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ,’ the Greek reads more literally, ‘he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ into him [eis auton].’ This additional phrase, in which “him” probably refers to God, accentuates that fact that our adoption by God brings us into an intimate relationship with him.
Thus, this verse reveals that God has predestined us not merely for salvation in some general or impersonal sense but for an intimate relationship with God, a relationship in which we are his beloved sons and daughters. God wants more than to deliver us from eternal death, as important as this is. God has adopted us into his family so that we might know him and his love, and so that we might share his love with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Because of Jesus Christ, you do belong in the way that matters most of all.
Something to Think About:
Do you think of yourself as adopted by God? Why or why not?
How does the word “adoption” impress you?
Something to Do:
Within the next couple of days, ask a brother or sister in Christ the questions I’ve just presented. Talk together about what it means to belong to God.
Gracious God, how wonderful that you chose to adopt me as your beloved child. I must admit that I can only begin to grasp the significance of this. How amazing that you desire relationship with me. With me!
Heavenly Father, help me to live today as your child, to know that I am loved, to know that I belong to you now and forever. May my belonging to you make a difference in how I think, feel, and act this day. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary:
God’s Character Is to Have Mercy on Everyone (Romans 9–11)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.