Talks of “destiny” have almost become pulpit lingua franca in most Christian circles today. “Steps to maximising destiny”, “contending with ‘forces’ militating against one’s destiny” etc are common topics of sermons and prayer meetings. The golden question is, what is the believer’s destiny?
Paul in the Ephesians 1:5 makes a very profound statement that is worthy of every Christian’s contemplation.
he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will
God has a destiny for every one of His children. In the previous verse, Paul alludes to the fact that God chose all who will come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ before the foundation of the world with one goal in mind – to make them holy and blameless so they can enjoy fellowship with Him in love. This verse makes us know why – so He could adopt them as sons through the redemptive work of Christ.
He predestined, Greek proorizo (pro, before; orizo, horizon) meaning, to determine beforehand, to ordain; in other words God set their limits or horizon prior to choosing them. He predetermined their destiny; not when they were born, not when they came to saving faith in the Lord Jesus, but before the foundation of the world – that they would be adopted as sons. In a parallel verse, Paul teaches that “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”¹– Again, expressing the idea of separation unto holiness, in order to be joined to God’s holy family.
A false dichotomy
Notice how Paul refers to both he and the recipients of his letter as equally sharing in this destiny. There are some who would have us believe that adoption as sons is reserved for a ‘special’ class of Christians, who have attained to a position of exceptional holiness and obedience to God. These would enjoy a special closeness to the Lord in heaven, we are told. The rest, being children in Christ, would not enjoy this privileged position. However, this false dichotomy is not supported by the Scriptural teaching in any shape or form. It is important to note that Christians derive their new nature from regeneration (the new birth) – by which we all become partakers of the divine life. John records, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.² (See also 2Corinthians 5:17).
Interestingly, John never once uses the term “son” in his gospel or epistles. Clearly, he understood that all who have come to saving faith in the Lord Jesus are children of God. However, Paul introduces this term adoption, which means ‘the placing of a son’ to emphasise the special relationship that every Christian has with God as a result of being born again.
Adoption is a forensic term. It denotes an adopted child’s right to the name and property of their adopted parent. Similarly, by adoption, an adopted parent enjoys all the rights and privileges of a parent. In Romans 8 and Galatians 4, Paul uses the terms “sons” and “children” interchangeably when referring to Christians, to show that these are one and the same people. Any false division that connotes the idea of inferior versus superior Christians is not biblical and must be rejected strenuously. Paul in Galatians 3: 26 and 28 lays the fact that all God’s children are sons by adoption to rest when he says, “for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
All Christians will one day stand before God perfect and complete. God gives us His Holy Spirit as a guarantee of the inheritance that awaits us in heaven. We will inherit God — we shall enjoy Him and spend eternity in His presence where there is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore¹.
Through Christ Alone
Consider the phrase, ‘through Christ Jesus’. This is the seventh time Paul is mentioning the name of Jesus since beginning of his letter– as if to remind his recipients that everything the Christian is and has is in and through the Lord Jesus. Peter declared in Acts 4:12, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” One commentator has suggested that this verse should be translated “There is no second name (beside the name of Jesus) by which anyone can be saved.” We don’t become sons by our own righteousness or holiness, or by anything we have or ever will do. In the verses preceding this statement, Peter flatly refused to take any credit for a miracle he performed in Christ’s name, crediting both it and the glory to God alone. He remonstrated with the Jewish spectators, “why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk?”³ The true Christian, who by adoption has been named by the name of Christ, and enjoys the privileges therein, is careful to ascribe the greatness to the one who in spite of us and out of His great love chose him to this position.
According to the Purpose of His will
What profound truths are embedded in this short phrase! Christian, consider this in awe and wonder of our security in Christ Jesus as God’s adopted sons.
Paul says, it is the purpose of the Father’s will that we attain to this blessed position. Not by our will, nor our continuous faithfulness, or by our own holiness or ability to hold on to him. No, not by anything in us. It is the Father’s purpose and will that we inherit Him; that we enjoy Him forever; that we stand before Him holy and blameless, and by God we will! If this is God’s purpose, then it cannot fail! And if He wills that we be thus, then neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation – ourselves included — will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In Romans 8:23 Paul alludes to the fact that the full import of our adoption has not come to bear until our very bodies have been redeemed, and this perishable body has been clothed with immortality.
And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
This is what he refers to as “glorification” few verses later (see verse 30). This is the final stage of our salvation, which will take place at the last day. However, because of the certainty of God’s purpose and the full assurance that all whom He has chosen and predestined to this position will attain to it as a matter of necessity, the Holy Spirit leads Paul to write of this in the past tense (He glorified). To God, it is already done, Amen! Oh what comforting truth!
1. Romans 8:28
2. John 1:12
3. Acts 3:12
3. 1Corinthians 15 and 1John 3:2