This week, I’m continuing my series on a study I’ve been doing in the book of Ephesians that I’m calling “The Glory of Christ and His Church”. So much of this book is saturated with the theme of believers being adopted into God’s family.
Rejection and abandonment are powerful emotions that cause deep pain in the human heart. If we measure an earthquake, the higher the number on the Richter Scale, the more severe the quake. If we had a similar scale to measure human pain and suffering, rejection and abandonment would be at the top of the scale. Rejection and abandonment can occur through the relationships we have with parents, family, friends, associates, a spouse, or others.
Commenting about the intense human need for love and acceptance, Mother Teresa said, “There is more hunger in the world for love and appreciation than for bread.” Humanity avoids rejection and strives for acceptance.
Here is the good news: as a follower of Jesus, the Father can eternally accept you. You never have to experience the Father’s rejection; rather, you experience the benefits of His adoption and the privilege of a relationship with the Creator. Through your relationship with Jesus, you will never be separated from God’s love and presence; this truth must become foundational in your heart as you walk with Christ.
If you live as a fearful slave—not knowing you are an adopted son or daughter—you will fear God whenever you do not measure up or perform well. As a Christian, you never need to fear judgment or rejection again, no matter the circumstances. Jesus Christ has eternally reconciled you to the Father. His unconditional love and acceptance are not based on what you have done or will do; rather, it is based on what Jesus did for you. Pursue holy living, but rest confidently in the finished work of Christ.
Jesus took the initiative, broke down the wall that separated you from Him, and loved you unconditionally. When you have completely received His love and walk in this truth, fear of rejection leaves. What a revelation this is—not from an intellectual understanding in your mind, but as a revelation to your heart and spirit. You love God because He first loved you. Your motivation to live for God flows from understanding His unconditional love.
Today, I want to talk to you more in-depth from Ephesians about what it means to be Adopted by God. First, I’ll recap a little from last week.
The Believer’s Blessing in Christ
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So, we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son.” (Eph. 1:3-6 NLT)
This prayer of thanksgiving reveals God’s plan and the hope we have in Christ. It reveals our blessing and inheritance in Christ (Eph. 1:3-14).
Think for a moment about verse three, “How much blessing is ‘every spiritual blessing’”? Christ is the fullness of God in bodily form (Col. 1:19), and we—the Church—are the fullness of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23). In other words, all that pertains to life and godliness are found in Christ, and Christ is in us, and He is the fullness of every spiritual blessing.
God put everything under Christ’s feet and made him head of everything in the church, which is his body. His body, the church, is the fullness of Christ, who fills everything in every way.” (Eph. 1:22-23 CEB)
Notice how, also in verse three, it says “in the heavenly realms.” Paul is contrasting the powers who had enslaved them versus Jesus who is “in the heavenlies” as “head over” all spiritual powers for His Church (Eph. 1:20-23).
Paul was referencing Psalm 23:5 which says, “you prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies…” The shepherd would go through the pasture and remove all poisonous weeds placing them on a rock too high to reach. Jesus has gone before us, preparing our way, and is seated at the right hand of the Father (Col. 2:15). Christ has triumphed over all principalities and powers and has broken the power of the enemy over our lives.
Know this as truth: God cares for your needs amid the evil forces attempting to destroy your life and soul. In Christ, you and I can walk confidently amid the attacks and circumstances of life because Jesus is with us always!
Theologian Gordon Fee comments on this passage,
By seating us in the heavenly realm as redeemed, adopted, and forgiven, God by His Spirit has made us the recipients of his lavish grace manifested in Christ as well as the certain victors in our ‘warfare’ against the powers.” 
The Holy Spirit is the agent to release the blessings—they are appropriated by our faith. Faith is the currency of heaven. Many want God’s blessings but haven’t responded in faith to appropriate what God has freely given to us through Christ.
For example, salvation, healing, deliverance, provision, breakthrough, etc. are available as our blessings in Christ and appropriated by faith. We must live from heaven toward earth, from our standing in Christ.
Chosen in Christ to be part of God’s Family (Church)
Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So, we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son.” (Eph. 1:4-6 NLT)
Before God created the world, man—who was in the heart and mind of God—was chosen to be part of God’s family and to be like Him, holy and without fault. Notice verse five, “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family,” God, through Jesus, brings us into His family, and it gives Him pleasure!
Everything we have in Christ is a gift of God’s grace, and we praise Him for this glorious grace poured out! In chapter 2, Paul reminds the reader that we were dead in sins, but God reached down through Christ in grace and made us alive.
Through Christ, all of humanity can receive this grace—not restricted to a certain few predestined to salvation.
Mark Holmes, pastor and author, writes of this Ephesians passage,
The plan was determined by the Father before the creation of the world, and yet its fulfillment came through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. His cry from the cross, “It is finished!” (John 19:30), was a statement revealing the completion of the events necessary to satisfy God’s great provision.” 
Holmes continues, “God’s predetermination emphasizes the plan of salvation, and not the individual. In this sense, God’s plan is understood by Paul as being “predetermined” or designed prior to its being carried out in history.” 
God’s plan for all humanity is to know of Him. We aren’t merely chosen for our own sake, but for a much larger plan that God wants to accomplish through us. This is true for us individually and for the Church. Sure, God knows the end from the beginning, and He knows those who will be saved. But God allows humanity free will to choose Christ or to deny Him. Therefore, this great plan of salvation was predetermined by God for all to be adopted and come into His family—should they choose to follow Jesus.
God cares deeply for each of us, but He is working through us to help redeem humanity!
The hidden story here is that of the Exodus from Egypt. God’s plan, to which Paul alludes in verse ten of Ephesians 1, is to “gather together in one…” both Jews and Gentiles.
Tom Wright, author, theologian, and Anglican Church leader, says of this passage,
God chose Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to be the bearers of his promised salvation for the world—the rescue of the whole cosmos, humankind especially, from the sin and death that had come about through human rebellion. When Paul says that God chose us ‘in Christ’—the ‘us’ here being the whole company of Christians, Jews and Gentiles alike—he is saying that those who believe in Jesus are now part of the fulfillment of that ancient purpose.” 
Wright says the “us” is the entire company of believers—Jews and Gentiles—as fulfillment of God’s ancient purpose, or plan of salvation.
Your adoption liberates you from bondage to and fear of the law. Notice Ephesians 1:5, “God decided in advance to adopt us…”
Paul explains in Romans that you do not need to be afraid of God as if he were a slave master:
So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children (Greek means “a spirit of sonship”). Now we call him, ‘Abba, Father.’” (Rom. 8:15 NLT)
Placed in God’s family, you have the full rights of His family, complete with His unconditional love.
In Christ, you are no longer an orphan, an outcast, or from a broken family lineage. Rather, you are a loved, adopted, and empowered child of God.
Under Roman law, an adopted child received all legal rights to the father’s property, even if he or she were formerly a slave. The adopted child was not second class; they were equal to all other children in their father’s family and had all the same rights and privileges.
Furthermore, the Roman law specified that an adopted child could never be disowned or disinherited from the family. Oddly, in Roman society, a biological child could be removed from the household and inheritance, but not the adopted child. The adopted child was secure in their new family. Likewise, when we become a Christian, we gain all the privileges of being a child in God’s family.
You are legitimate, no longer a slave or an orphan! There is no need to try and earn God’s love and acceptance! In Christ, you are completely loved, accepted, and forgiven!
I’ve had the opportunity to visit orphanages around the world. Most of these children were abandoned at an early age. Many were never properly nurtured as infants. As a result, many of them have a deep need to feel loved and accepted by others. They often strive for attention and to gain love.
The same can be true for many, even in the body of Christ. Until one knows at a heart level that they are completely loved, accepted, and forgiven by the Father through their faith in Christ, they strive for acceptance and recognition. God wants to heal His Church of an orphan spirit that is linked to rejection and abandonment. We are then more capable to work with others in the body of Christ and become more effective in reaching humanity that is consumed with orphan thinking and behavior.
Your adoption into God’s family has given you the privilege to live as an heir of God, and as a joint heir with Christ in the inheritance of the Father’s house. Through your union with Jesus, you can claim, with confidence, your inheritance as His child and the rights to God’s promises and resources.
God’s love for you is complete; nothing will separate you from His love and you can find security in it. You do not have to strive to earn His love or acceptance. You need to love yourself as much as God loves you. Consider Paul’s words to the Roman believers:
Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? … No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:35, 37-39 NLT)
One of the many benefits of your adoption by God is that you can be free from the fear of judgment.
If you believe God is angry with you, you have not yet matured in your understanding of His love toward you or in your relationship with Him. Nothing can separate you from His perfect love.
This is how love has been perfected in us, so that we can have confidence on the Judgment Day, because we are exactly the same as God is in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear expects punishment. The person who is afraid has not been made perfect in love. We love because God first loved us.” (1 John 4:17-19 CEB)
God’s complete acceptance provides confidence that, in the presence of God, you are free from the fear of judgment due to your past or present mistakes. As believers, we are disciplined, but it is parental, fatherly discipline (Heb. 12:5-11).
The shaping of your life by God so that you mature as a son or daughter shows you are genuinely born of God—He is your Father. God’s grace is limitless, but the transformative nature of His grace spurns you to live a holy life.
This passage in John does not relate to a fear of judgment for sin; Christ removed the eternal consequences of sin. Nor is it about character development; it refers to your position as a child in God’s kingdom.
In the NKJV, the translation of verse seventeen reads, “…as He is, so are we in this world.” Jesus is completely loved and accepted by the Father—and so are you and I!
In verse eighteen, the English word “fear” is translated from the Greek word phóbos, which denotes both the fear of terror and the reverential fear of God. We are to reverentially fear and honor God, but not fear the terror of punishment, which was removed in Christ.
We were created for family, specifically to be part of God’s family.
Personally knowing God as Father and belonging to family are not incidentals in God’s Kingdom—these are the reasons Jesus died for us!
We have a void in our hearts apart from Christ and adoption into God’s family. We try to find counterfeits to fill the void, but only Jesus can. But our new life in Christ doesn’t end with an individual salvation experience. Rather, the fullness of salvation is realized in God’s family, with other members. Real life and real joy are found in God and family!
Following Jesus means more than just believing, it means belonging. It means participating in the local church body and being a contributing member of God’s family.
Now you are no longer strangers to God and foreigners to heaven, but you are members of God’s very own family, citizens of God’s country, and you belong in God’s household with every other Christian.” (Eph. 2:19 TLB)
Our relationship with Christ is personal and unique, but God never intended it to be private. The New Testament assumes participation with other believers in a local congregation.
However, in today’s culture, individualism prevents many believers from being committed to local church communities. As a result, many miss out on the benefits of discipleship and accountability that happen in community.
Hybrid forms of church have emerged where people are connected and involved via online avenues, but consistent commitment and interaction with others are needed to glean the benefits of Christian community.
God predestined a plan of salvation for all of humanity. All who are in Christ are loved, accepted, and forgiven through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Allow Jesus to be the Lord and center of your life. Allow God to adopt you into His family. We belong in family—in God’s family—with each other!
For a deeper look at this topic, watch the Passion Church message “The Glory of Christ and His Church: Adopted by God”:
 Gordon D. Fee, God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1994), 668.
 Mark A. Holmes, Ephesians: A Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition (Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House, 1997), 35.
 Ibid., 37.
 Tom Wright, Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2004), 9.