Friday, February 20, 2015

Adopted for Worship


One of the truths that reliably sets me free from feelings of ineffectiveness is the beautiful doctrine of adoption. We as Christians know we are born again, so that we are alive to God. But as if this weren't intimate enough, God went beyond the miracle of new birth and chose us to be adopted into the family of God. 

Adoption in Roman Culture
While adoption speaks of affection, there is also a legal status of adoption. The legalities of adoption would have been meaningful to men and women in the Hellenistic world, since Roman citizens often practiced adoption. Adoption would cause children to lose all legal rights of their former family, especially inheritance rights, but gain all legal and inheritance rights of their new family. The children would become heirs. This status was even true for Caesar Augustus; he was an adopted son of his uncle Julius Caesar.

Jesus Was Adopted
What about the Son of God? Was Jesus really an adopted Son? Why would He be since He is the eternal Son? Perhaps it is important that Jesus is both eternal and adopted Son.

The writer of Hebrews says this about the Son, For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”? (Hebrews 1:5 ESV) In this passage, either the Messiah's adoption or perhaps His incarnation seems to be predicted. The two OT quotations used here are from Psalm 2 (“You are my Son, today I have begotten you”) and 2 Samuel 7 (“I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”) This later passage is where David is told that instead of the King himself it will be his offspring (Solomon) who will build a "house for my Name." But it is here in 2 Samuel that something else besides the physical Solomonic temple seems to be in view. The passage indicates that David's future offspring (Jesus) will build a house and establish a "throne forever." In the beautiful worship of the first chapter of Hebrews, the writer firmly applies this to the Lord Jesus, I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.

In fact the context in Hebrews suggests why the eternal Son had to become an adopted Son, and also why it is adoption rather than incarnation that is in view. It was through adoption that Jesus was appointed as heir. As Hebrews says, But in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things.. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs. (Hebrews 1:2, 4 NIV) So Jesus was always the eternal Son, but He became the adopted Son and Heir of all things. But when did this appointment happen? In Bethlehem? At the ascension? Paul writes that Jesus was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead. (‭Romans‬ ‭1‬:‭4‬ ESV) Showing that this declaration established a new legal reality, Hebrews reads, After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. (‭Hebrews‬ ‭1‬:‭3-4‬ ESV) The NT indicates that Jesus was adopted by the Father at his resurrection, and this adoption made Jesus Heir of all things, a profoundly impressive succession of events.

We Are Adopted
But the NT also treats as important the truth that we are adopted. What gives us the right to become children of God? A better question might be Who gives us this right. Adoption is frequently linked with being 'in Christ' a status theologians call our union with Christ. We see strong indication that we as individuals are lovingly adopted simply through our union with Christ in the first chapter of Ephesians, In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:4-5 ESV) We see this also suggested in Hebrews where the Father is seen as having given us to Christ, Behold, I and the children God has given me. (‭Hebrews‬ ‭2‬:‭13‬ ESV) This would mean in the same way that we are crucified with Christ we are also adopted with Him. Having been co-crucified, we are then co-resurrected and co-adopted with Jesus Christ. But for what end?

Intriguingly, the 2 Samuel 7 passage doesn't make definite what the "house" is. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. (2 Samuel 7:12-13 ESV) In quoting this passage the writer of Hebrews emphasizes the meaning of "house" as household, or family, instead of physical temple, a royal family, with Christians as co-adopted sons and daughters. The writer says, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope. (Hebrews 3:6 ESV) This exhortation, with its conditional "if" statement, would seem to indicate that for full inheritance we must continue to faithfully fix our eyes on our elder brother and forerunner in inheritance. 

House for Worship
So we have been given to Christ by the Father, so that in Christ we are adopted into the family of God. We can call God our Father because we are in Christ. We are a royal house, made for worship. Regarding NT worship, Hebrews reveals something artful about the meeting place tabernacle and its meticulous builder, Moses. It says that Moses was faithful in building the tent of meeting. Remember that God showed Moses a pattern of the tent of meeting in a heavenly vision, and told Moses to be faithful to that pattern. Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it. (Exodus 25:8-9 NASB) God would later tell Aaron and Miriam,  Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. (‭Numbers‬ ‭12‬:‭7‬ ESV) But the writer of Hebrews teaches that Jesus is even more faithful than Moses. The Heir of all reality is building a great family of adopted children, who look to their elder brother and collectively exist as a new meeting place where God intimately dwells with men. 

Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope. (‭Hebrews‬ ‭3‬:‭1-6‬ ESV)

© Jodie Sawyer, 2015

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