Monday, June 18, 2007

Inheritance for Descendants of Abraham by Adoption

For almost a year, the English Bible Study group of the Starkville Chinese Christian Church has been studying the letter of the Apostle Paul to the church at Ephesus.

One of the major topics in the first two chapters of Ephesians is the concept of adoption. Paul appears to be answering the question of a predominantly gentile audience as to how gentiles can be part of the church.

Adoption is a way that a family grows by adding an unrelated person as a member of the family. Adoption is normally an act of love. It is often a way a family who is not able to have their own children is enabled to show love to a child by adding the child as a family member. Sometimes, families who have their own natural children also adopt children. These people are often motivated by love. They adopt children who have been abandoned by their birth parents, or whose birth parents do not feel they are able to raise a child, for whatever reason.

The way the Christian church had its beginning in the Old Testament was that God called people to serve Him. One of the major characters in the Old Testament was a man called Abraham. God called Abraham out of the Chaldean city of Ur, and told him to go to the area called Caanan, now known as Israel. God made a promise to Abraham.

“Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:1-3

The focus of the Old Testament from that time forward was on Abraham and his descendants. Isaac was the son of Abraham upon which the focus continued, and then Isaac’s son, Jacob (and his twelve sons), was the major figure in the Old Testament, through the end of the Book of Genesis. God changed Jacob’s name to Israel, and the rest of the Old Testament is the story of Israel and his descendents.

Being a member of the family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob meant that a person was a part of the family of God, and also, a recipient of the benefits of the promise God had made to Abraham.

It was a natural question for the people of Ephesus to be asking, “What am I, a Greek, doing in the church of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?” Paul’s answer was that they had been adopted. The same answer goes for Chinese and Americans. How can we become a part of the church of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? By adoption. We become part of the continuing Old Testament church by being adopted into the family of Abraham.

“[God] predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 1:5

One of the benefits of being in a family is that family members are blessed with an inheritance. Paul continues in Ephesians 1, describing more about our adoption and inheritance.

“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of his glory.” Ephesians 1:13-14

Paul describes that their adoption was marked by their hearing the gospel and believing it. When they believed in Christ, they received the Holy Spirit who changed their lives. The Spirit is a guarantee that we have been adopted and that we will receive the inheritance promised to all the descendants of Abraham.

When a person becomes a Christian, he or she receives the current blessing of God’s Spirit, and the future inheritance that goes with being a part of the family of God.

The remainder of chapter one is a prayer of Paul that the Ephesians would grow in their understanding of what God was doing in their lives. Verse 19 repeats the promise about the inheritance, “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.”

Being a Christian means being adopted into the family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Being in that family guarantees that we will receive an inheritance from God.

As we continued through the letter to the Ephesians, our English Bible study group studied about living as a Christian and about marriage and family life, and trying to please God in everything we do.

Thank God for the wonderful message from God to us!

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