A New Family (thoughts about adoption)

As I was studying for my message last week, there was a section of my research that had to be edited for time but I found entirely fascinating. It is worth sharing and tucking into your hearts as you finish out your week. 

Here are William Barclay's notes about Ephesians 1:5-6 in his book "The Daily Bible Study: The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians".


Ephesians 1:5-6

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.

In this passage Paul speaks to us of the plan of God. One of the pictures that he more than once uses of what God does for men is that of adoption (cf. Romans 8:23; Galatians 4:5). God adopted us as sons into his family.

In the ancient world, where Roman law prevailed, this would be an even more meaningful picture than it is to us. For there the family was based on what was called the patria potestas, the father's power. A father had absolute power over his children so long as he and they lived. He could sell his child as a slave or even kill him. Dion Cassius tells us that "the law of the Romans gives a father absolute authority over his son, and that for the son's whole life. It give him authority, if he so chooses, to imprison him, to scourge him, to make him work on his estate as a slave in fetters, even to kill him. That right still continues to exist even if the son is old enough to play an active part in political affairs, even if he has been judged worthy to occupy the magistrate's office, and even if he is held in honour by all men." [...]

Under Roman law a child could not possess anything; and any inheritance willed to him, or any gift given to him, became the property of his father. It did not matter how old the son was, or to what honours and responsibility he had rise, he was absolutely in his father's power.

In circumstances like that it is obvious that adoption was a very serious step. It was, however, not uncommon, for children were often adopted to ensure that some family should not become extinct. The ritual of adoption must have been very impressive. It was carried out by a symbolic sale in which copper and scales were used. Twice the real father sold his son, and twice he symbolically bought him back; finally he sold him a third time, and at the third sale he did not buy him back. After this the adopting father had to go to the praetor, one of the principal Roman magistrates, and plead the case for the adoption. Only after all this had been gone through was the adoption complete.

When the adoption was complete it was complete indeed. The person who had been adopted had all the rights of a legitimate son in his new family and completely lost all rights in his old family. In the eyes of the law he was a new person. So new was he that even all debts and obligations connected with his previous family were abolished as if they had never existed. 

That is what Paul says that God has done for us. We were absolutely in the power of sin and of the world; God, through Jesus, took us out of that power into his; and that adoption wipes out the past and makes us new.


Words kind of escaped me when I read that - just, wow.

From one adoptee to another,
Pastor Tracy

This Sunday...

While we laid the foundation of the house last week with our messaged "Called", this week we will build the main floor. What we do with this belief, with our new-found life and hope in Christ, is what it is to be "Commissioned". We will take some time to get honest about what this looks like in our lives. We're also going to find encouragement and strength in the promises that are ours in Christ! 

You can also follow along with the message on YouVersion. Here's the link.