Ephesians – Wayne Barber/Part 8
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1999|
|Dr. Barber continues his look at God’s love as he continues the study of Ephesians 1:5. How has God displayed His love for us? How should we respond?|
The Love of God – Part 2
Would you turn with me to Ephesians 1:5? We’ll try to finish up the verse this time. The subject again is the love of God. We could just go on and on because His love is unsearchable. How do we ever understand it? Let’s read the verse together beginning with the last two words in verse 4: “In love, He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself according to the kind intention of His will.”
I want you to do something with me as we begin. I want you to say John 3:16 with me. Then we’re going to do it a different way. Alright? Let’s just say it together. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Now I want you to say it again out loud, and I want you to put your first name in there instead of “world” and instead of “whosoever.” This is a wonderful truth, but it’s an individual truth. God loves us all, but also God loves me, and you need to see that. I’m just praying God is going to turn that light on inside many of us and let us comprehend the love He has for us. Let’s try it again. Put your first name instead of “world” and “whosoever.” For God so loved _____, that He gave His only begotten Son, that if ____ believes in Him he should not perish but have everlasting life.
God loves you. You may not feel loved, but that’s what His Word says: “In love, He predestined us to adoption as sons.1/4” The word “predestine” comes from two words, one meaning before and one meaning to determine, to determine something beforehand. It is also based on knowledge that one already has. Before the foundations of the world, God knew something. He knew that His creation would be made of dust and would rebel against Him. Now can you fathom this? And in the counsel of the Trinity they came up with a predetermined plan so that God’s creation could once again be brought back into His family.
The term “adoption as sons” should not be pushed too far. Sometimes if you take an illustration from the secular world it falls short of understanding what God is saying. However, Paul does use a Roman word. When he uses the word “adoption as sons,” he refers to an act of grace, not of right. In other words, man lost his right to be a part of God’s family when Adam sinned. That curse was passed on to every man born of woman. Every individual ever born is born with the nature of Adam and, therefore, cannot be a part of God’s family unless by God’s grace and mercy He brings him to Himself through the process of adoption through Jesus His Son. It’s a beautiful picture. God knew that man would sin. He knew the consequences, and God made a plan so that we could be brought back into His family.
Now we’ve talked about the total depravity of man. Many people debate that as if it is an issue. It is not an issue. It’s God’s Word. We talked about the Auschwitz death camp outside of Krakow which we had the opportunity to visit. I want to make sure you understand how depraved man really is. In that death camp were gas chambers where 330 people per day were put to death. They were told they were going to be taking a bath. They were led into an area, a shower area, and the gas was turned on. There were incinerators where they took the dead bodies and burned them to ashes and just blew them to the wind somewhere. There were also these small cells, about four feet square, made of brick. There was a little hole in the bottom. And they would take four men, make them strip and then crawl up through that hole and stand inside that four by four cell. Then they would close off the bottom. It was known as the suffocation chamber.
Now I am telling you this was for a reason. Man did not just put other men to death. They brutally tortured them to death. You see, this is the depraved nature of man. It’s not enough just to kill someone. You have to go even further and torture them brutally. They had a place where they would take them out with a pistol and kill them there in the yard. Blood from those precious people still stains the walls.
In one room at least 30 feet long and about 30 feet deep there was over 2 tons of human hair that was still there, shaved off the heads of the bodies there. They would take the hair and make rugs and sell them on the street in Germany. This is the total depravity of man.
You may know somebody that doesn’t know Jesus Christ, and you may say, “Well, Brother Wayne, they’re fine people. They’re moral people. They’re good people.” Let me tell you something. Their morals may have been trained, but inside their nature is as depraved as the nature of those who put people in those torture chambers in the Auschwitz death camp. It’s no different. A man’s nature has got to be changed by the cleansing blood and power of God through Jesus Christ. That is something God predetermined to do before the foundation of the world.
You can’t push the phrase “adoption” too far because when I adopt a child into my family he is a child by adoption, but not by nature, not by birth. We are reborn into the kingdom of God. I believe Paul uses the term “adoption” to stress the fact that it’s not an act of right. It’s an act of grace. It’s only by grace. When you adopt someone you don’t have to do that. You choose to do that. Love is your motive, and it’s an action and a work of grace.
So we see in the verse that He has predestined us to adoption as sons. Now we come to the next part of that: “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ…” This is the phrase that helps us put everything into perspective. How could a holy God bring sinful man back into His family? He created man innocent, but man sinned. How could He bring him back into His family?
Well, before the foundation of the world in the counsel of the Trinity there was a plan predetermined. I love this. This is not something that came up on the spot. It wasn’t as if God was caught off guard. This was the eternal plan of the ages. There had to be a sacrifice. There had to be someone to pay the penalty for man’s sin. It could not just be an innocent sacrifice. An innocent sacrifice whose blood was shed didn’t do anything to remove sin. It had to be a perfect sacrifice, and it had to be a representation of the creation God had put on this earth. And so Jesus said, “I’ll go down. I’ll become a man, and I’ll be the perfect man that lives on this earth.” And when Satan put his magnet of temptation over Jesus, something happened inside of Him, I’m sure, that caused Him to say, “Uh Oh, there’s something wrong here.” When he held the magnet of temptation over other men, something responded in that man just like you and I today respond to temptation. Why? Because we still live in bodies of flesh. But when Satan put that magnet over the Lord Jesus Christ, nothing responded, and Satan said, “Uh Oh,” because God had become a man. Why? So that He could be the perfect sacrifice for you and I.
The name “Jesus Christ” tells us everything. “Christ” is His resurrected name, and “Jesus” is His earthly name. You know there is no other way of salvation. There was only one man sent from heaven to this earth, the God-man. And only through Him can we be adopted, which is an act of grace, back into the family of God. Many people misunderstood why Jesus came, especially the Jews. But John the Baptist understood. In John 1:29 he looked up and saw the Lord Jesus coming, and he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” You see there had to be a sacrifice. The Hebrew mind understood sacrifices. The Hebrews knew a lamb without blemish was always sacrificed. But when he saw Jesus, he saw the perfect sacrifice, and he said, “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
Perhaps the attitude in the Trinity can best be explained by Philippians 2:5-9. You see there’s one God: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. And in the counsel of the Trinity, there was an attitude of oneness as the plan was predetermined. In the context of treating others and loving others and esteeming them as higher than yourself, he says, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped.” He was equal to His father. It was not something He had to make happen. It was already done. Jesus is God. And then it says in verse 7, “…but emptied Himself [or “laid aside His privileges”], taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name.”
You see, in the counsel of the Trinity, God the Father sent Jesus, but Jesus came of His own accord. There was no problem. There was no friction. It was the divine plan of God that Jesus would come to this earth to be the means through which a man might be adopted by grace back into the eternal family of God. You know, I was thinking about this. Do you ever think sometimes the Father didn’t love His son? Why would God the Father send His only Son into this world to die on a cross? I came across a phrase in John 17:22- 24. This is the prayer of the Lord Jesus Christ to His Father. It’s a beautiful prayer, and I want you to see what He said to show you this was the divine plan. Everyone in the Trinity, the three persons of the Trinity, fully agreed as to what needed to take place before the foundation of the world. It says in verse 22, “And the glory which Thou hast given Me I have given to them; that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them, and Thou in me, that they may be perfected in unity, that the world may know that Thou didst send Me and didst love them even as Thou didst love Me. Father, I desire that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am, in order that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me; for Thou didst love Me before the foundation of the world.”
You see, way back there when the plan was made, it was out of love. In love, God the Father predestined us unto adoption as sons. No wonder Paul says, “Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” One of the things over the years that’s bored me was when people talked about the gospel because I thought I was already saved. I thought I needed to grow. You know that’s a callused way of living whenever you get a little hardened to what God has done for you, whenever you get a little hardened to the fact that we’re nobody and deserve nothing. God predetermined before the foundation of the world that He would have a plan for us. Folks, that’s when you grow hard, and you lose your joy in your Christian walk. But get up in the morning and say, “God, I don’t deserve anything. I am nothing. I came from dust. But God, somehow in your mercy and your love, you planned before the foundation of the world that I could be a part of your family.” Folks, that will begin a day that you haven’t experienced in quite a while. Thank your Father. Love Him for what He’s done for you.
The word “through” there in our text in Ephesians 1:5, “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ…,” is the word dia. It can be translated “by the means of.” There is no other way to salvation. There is no other way to be back into the family of God. Man had lost his right to be a part of God’s family when Adam sinned. Now by an act of grace and a predetermined plan, we have a way to be adopted back into His family.
We sing a chorus sometimes, “I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God.” We lose a little bit of the significance of it if we don’t listen to what we’re singing. Do you realize you can be an orphan, or you may not be married, but you’re a part of the family of God because you’ve been adopted by the grace shown to you through the Lord Jesus Christ? Maybe somebody’s rejected you to the point that you’ve been hurting for years, but you’ve received the Lord Jesus Christ because of His predetermined plan. Now you’re a part of His heavenly family.
In the trips that I’ve taken overseas there is no north or south, east or west of God’s family. When you find a person that is a believer, you see it immediately. I remember in Chernovtsky, Russia, when we finally got there. We had two and a half days on a Russian permit to be in the country. We were looking for some believers. We found a lady selling soap in the parking lot of the hotel we were in. She told us where some believers, they called them repenters, were meeting. We went out to that little farm house, and we came up to the door, and a man opened the door. We looked at his face, and every one of us in the van, tired and weary from traveling, rejoiced because you could see: he’s a part of the family of God. And something inside of him leaped up, and something inside of us leaped up, and we immediately identified the fact that we’ve been adopted into the family of God. It’s like that all over the world.
In Poland we would see those precious believers that had come to know Christ. They’re our brothers in Jesus. The people in Africa, in Zimbabwe, wherever you go, we’re the family of God, the spiritual eternal family of God, by a process of adoption, an act of grace, through and by the means of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, folks, if you don’t have anything to praise God for in the morning just go back to Ephesians and read chapter 1, and it might just make a difference before the day is over. We’re part of a divine family.
One Sunday while I was looking around at the crowd, I saw that some, before the service started, were talking to each other, laughing, slapping each other on the back, hugging one another. And I thought, you know, what goes on inside these walls, the pagan world out there would give anything they had if they could just understand and sense it. Let’s don’t take this for granted. We’re a part of a family.
Well, there is another phrase we need to look at: “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself.” “To Himself” is the Greek phrase eis auton. The word eis there has the primary meaning of motion into or toward a place or a thing. What I picture in this is a Father yearning for His creation. He puts His arms out, and He says, “I want to draw you to myself.” And the way He does that is by sending His Son to die on a cross to open the door and give the opportunity of adopting people back into His family. And the Father says, “Bring them to me. Bring them to me.” We hear people in the world say, “Men are looking for their God.” Oh no, man’s not looking for his God. But I guarantee you one thing, man’s God is looking for His men. He’s out looking, trying to find one.
As I was thinking about this, I was thinking about the heart of the Father. The thought came to me that He’s there in glory looking down at all of His children that have not yet heard that He’s provided a way that they might once again be brought into His family. You see, He’s the eternal Father of all creation. He’s our heavenly Father because of Jesus Christ. And He is Father to every person created on this earth, even though one day He has to judge them. He’s still, in a sense, their Father, and He wants His children to come back to Him. I see Him with His arms open, saying, “Bring them. Bring them to me. Go find them. Tell them of the good news.” The word “gospel” means the good news of salvation.
Oh folks, how many people do you work with all week long that are lost children of the family? They haven’t heard that they can be adopted once again into the eternal family of God, even though separated now by sin in their life. You have not yet shared that. I’m wondering where the burden has gone. Where has the compulsion gone to think of a lost world that doesn’t know the Lord Jesus Christ? This is why we have missions. This is why we have evangelism. We become ambassadors for Christ Who came to provide a way. We need to get the word out to people that they have a way through which they can once again be a part of the eternal family of God.
“He has predestined us to adoptions as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself.” I just see a beautiful picture of the Father saying, “I want my children back in the fold.” No wonder the Lord Jesus wept when He looked down at Jerusalem. He didn’t weep when Lazarus died except to shed a single tear. But when He looked over Jerusalem He realized they had rejected Him. And to think that before the foundation of the world they were a part of the whole plan. Israel was the nation through which the seed would come. He knew that. And when He saw Israel reject Him, the weeping came in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Have you spent any time lately weeping for one who is lost, people of the flock who have not yet been adopted and brought back into the spiritual, eternal family of God? Has it ever broken your heart to see things like that?
Well, finally “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself according to the kind intention of His will.” The word for the kind intention is eudokia. It’s a word that could be translated “His good pleasure.” You see, the very essence of the character of God comes out in this word. And what it’s saying is God, with every fiber of His loving being, before the foundation of the world, predetermined that there might be an opportunity for all men to come into the kingdom of God and to the family of God for all of eternity. It was His good pleasure to do what He did. Why would a holy, righteous God ever have anything to do with fallen man?
You know, there’s a verse in Scripture that says, “What is man that thou are mindful of him?” Why? Because He’s a loving God. If I can say that a hundred times, if I can bore you with it, I want to bore you with it, so you can realize God is not some kind of tyrant out to get people. Friend, He’s a loving God that’s done everything in His power to give man an opportunity to be reborn, to be adopted back by grace through Christ into His family.
Look back with me in Revelation 15:5-8. A loving God does not want to see anyone perish. Peter said the reason He’s so slow, not as humans count slowness, is because He has a heart not to see anybody perish. The Father wants the whole creation to be brought in. But the sad thing is Jesus said, “few there be that find it.” Now comes the day where God, as a righteous judge, must do what He must do. “After these things I looked, and the temple of the tabernacle of testimony in heaven was opened, and the seven angels who had the seven plagues, came out of the temple clothed in linen, clean and bright, and girded about their breasts with golden girdles. And one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God, who lives for ever and ever.” Full, it says, of the wrath of God. Whereas wrath had fallen before, there was mercy mixed with wrath. But now it’s just wrath with no mercy. And verse 8 says, “And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power; and no one was able to enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished.” Now what’s going on inside that place? We don’t know, but I would like to suggest a thought to you. Could it be that God is doing what He has to do? He is God. He is also judge. But in His doing what He has to do, could it be that it’s breaking His heart to have to judge people when He’s done everything for them to have the opportunity to be brought back into His family for all of eternity?
We’re all about the business of our Father, and the business of our Father is seeking to save the lost and to get all of His creation back into His kingdom by the means of Jesus Christ forever and ever. God took great delight before the foundation of the world in predetermining a plan based on what He knew about His intended creation in order that we, once fallen, could be adopted back into His eternal family. And folks, as we go out, let’s help find those who haven’t heard yet that there’s a way to be a part of God’s eternal family. God loves them and He loves us.