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Ephesians chapter 1 verse 5 - Adoption - JS Gillespie  


Adoption is not only a New Testament truth but we see it pictured book ending the Old Testament festivals and story of redemption. This is the story of adoption in the Old Testament and its meaning for Christians today. 

“Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will”

It is interesting to reflect on the Old Testament: 

  1. Annual calendar 
  2. Annual cycle of feasts 
  3. Story of redemption

It is interesting to note that the annual cycle of feasts begins and ends with:

A deliverance:

  • Passover at the beginning – 14 th day of the 1st month – Abib / Nissan 
  • Purim marks the end of the year of feasts – 14th day of the final month Adar 

With both of these festivals, at the beginning and at the end of the year are marked by 2 noteable individuals:

  • Moses
  • Esther 

It is remarkable, that whilst in the Old Testament story, adoption is unusual, that both Moses and Esther are adopted.

  • Moses adopted by Pharoah’s daughter (Exodus 2:10)
  • Esther adopted by her cousin Mordecai (Esther 2:7); “And he brought up -- Hadassah, that is, Esther, his uncle’s daughter: for she had neither father nor mother, and the maid was fair and beautiful; whom Mordecai, when her father and mother were dead, took for his own daughter.”

The whole of the Old Testament calendar, annual cycle of religious feasts and the whole of the old testament story of redemption are thus bookended by the theme of adoption.

It is interesting to note that:

  • Moses delivered from a place – from Egypt 
  • Esther delivered from a person – Haman, recall what the book of Esther says about  “And Esther said, The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman” (Esther 7:6). It was that Haman who devised a plan for the genocide of the Jews and who particulary constructed the “gallows” or “tree” (Heb) for the destruction of righteous Mordecai. By a twist of providence it was by his own designed means of death that he died! "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;” (Heb 2:14)

Perhaps we need not reflect too hard on these to see a picture of our own adoption: 

  • From a PLACE – the world
  • From a PERSON – Satan 

To complete the picture, perhaps we can note a third individual in the Old Testament system who was adopted: Samuel. It was the task of Samuel not to deliver from a:

  • Place – Egypt
  • Person – Haman 

But rather from a:

  • Principle – Flesh (1 Samuel 2:13ff) – consider the condition of the nation in those days, even amongst those who ought to be leading God’s people, they were very much controlled by the flesh.

It is from these 3 that God’s people are delivered in New Testament days too:

"And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” (Ephesians 2:1-3)

It is interesting to see that in the OT with adoption, with the privilege there came great responsibility.

  1. Moses – Dignity of Sonship – as the son of Pharoah’s daughter he no longer spent his days in the dirt making bricks and behaving as a slave! 
  2. Samuel – Service marked his adoption in the temple 
  3. Esther – Responsibility was integral to her adoption! Esther had opportunity of access to the King and grasped it for the salvation of her people! 

Old Testament adoption is a picture of what God has for His people here in Ephesians 1:5. 

Even in the Old Testament days, the entire workings of God were under the umbrella of grace and adoption. God did not have to deliver fallen humanity, an enslaved people nor the Jews from Haman in Babylon, but He did. 

In the principle of adoption we have to the fore the thoughts of:

  1. Grace as the motive behind salvation 
  2. Gratitude as the response to that salvation

In response to God’s salvation the challenge is to live to make our Father proud, to live to the “praise of the Glory of His Grace.”

In the spiritual reality of adoption we have something that goes beyond the human equivalent of adoption. In the case of human adoption the issue is one of NURTURE, ie one fallen human being adopts and cares for another fallen human being. When God adopts us it is the Divine adopting one who was fallen and sinful. For this adoption there must be a change in our NATURE. Christian adoption is a matter of:

  1. Nurture
  2. Nature

Adoption forms a major sub theme in the Ephesian epistle:

  1. Chapters 1 to 2 – God’s PLAN of adoption / salvation 
  2. Chapters 2 to 3 – The PRIVELAGES of adoption / salvation 
  3. Chapters 4 to 6 – The PRACTICE of adoption


In each and every step it is to the “praise of His Glory”


Dr J Stewart Gillespie

What God will do with a Handful of Dust - Ephesians chapter 1 verse 4  


The Christian is "chosen in Him before the foundation of the world" with a Divine sovereign, personal and particular election which infuses purpose and meaning into the Christian life.

 Just as God's choice and election is personal and particular of each believer so too His purpose is personal and particular. God's electing Grace is not corporate, God not only chooses the means of salvation, but just as God personally chose Jeremiah, John the baptist and the apostle Paul in Acts 9, by His sovereign will so too God choses the believer today. This infuses meaning and purpose into the Christian life. 

Allow me to remind you of what God can do with a handful of dust! 

From a handful of dust God brought:

  • Abraham – the father of the faithful 
  • Solomon – the wisest man on the earth 
  • Samson – the mightiest man 
  • Kings, prophets, poets
  • Men of science and understanding 

From that handful of dust emerged a:

  • Saviour – Joseph
  • Deliverer – Moses 
  • Wise man – Solomon 
  • King – David 

Men who turned the world upside down! 

In the secular sphere from that handful of dust came men whose mind penetrated the depths of the universe – Einstein and the details of the cell – Kreb, the miracle of life - Watson and Crick, the physics of the creation – Newton, Farraday.

A flavour of what God can do with a handful of dust! 

Yet all of that pales into relative insignificance with what God WILL do with a handful of dust!

“According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:” Ephesians 1:4

What God has done with a handful of dust is nothing compared to what God will do with a handful of dust! 

In Ephesians chapter 1 verse 4 we see that for the believer the Christian life comes with purpose built it! The Christian life is better by design! The Christian life has destiny built in! 

It is today part of secular ideology to encourage men and women to find a purpose or a meaning for their life, to set out a route to get there. It is different for the believer! 

Ephesians 1:4 “chosen … that

Chosen with a purpose. The purpose of the believer precedes their conscience, life and capacity. The believer is not a life looking for a purpose, the believer is a purpose looking for a life! As believers we come with purpose built in! 

Believers are men and women with a sense of purpose, we see this so often in the pages of scripture; people who fit like a jigsaw piece into the great:

  • Drama of redemption 
  • Story of the bible 
  • Pages of history

Men and women like:

  • Abraham
  • Sarah
  • Isaac
  • Rebekah
  • Joseph
  • Moses 
  • Rahab
  • Ruth 
  • Esther
  • Joshua
  • David
  • Samuel
  • Mary 
  • John baptist
  • Paul 
  • Apostles 

He hath chosen us in Him” (Ephesians 1:4

A text misunderstood or perhaps misrepresented! 

Misunderstood to perhaps indicate that as believers we were not actually personally chosen at all! Some have used a text like this to teach ‘corporate election’ that God appoints merely the means of salvation ie the Lord Jesus and we find our way to Christ! 

This idea of group or corporate election, or election of the means of salvation rather than personal, individual and sovereign election to salvation is quite false and of course fails to resolve the problem which it sets out to tackle ie the perceived unfairness of God sovereignly choosing men to salvation, instead it abandons men to the luck of the draw, the capriciousness of circumstances, the opportunities of life and temperament. 

We don’t need the whole of the bible to see the fallacy of this idea, we only need:

  • One book – Ephesians

No only

  • One chapter – chapter 1

No infact only

  • One verse Ephesians chapter 1 verse 1 

“Paul an apostle of Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:1) 

Did Paul find his own way to the means of salvation?

Is that seriously your understanding of Acts chapter 9? 

What is your testimony Paul? 

“Paul an apostle of Jesus Christ by the WILL of God” (Ephesians 1:4)

Paul’s conversion to Christ was whilst he was spiritually going in the opposite direction, actively attacking persecuting Christ and Christians, attacking the gospel and the church! His conversion was Divine, sovereign, and personal!

Consider also the sovereign hand of God on:

  • John the Baptist (Luke 1:15) 
  • Jeremiah (Jer 1:5) 
  • Esau and Jacob (Rom 9:11) 

What does it mean to be “chosen in Him” (Eph 1:4)?

This is the only way God could chose you or I. How else would God make that choice? Would it be the same way that you and I make choices in life? 

Is that the way God chooses? Does He choose the better option? 

9 What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;
10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one” Romans 3:9-10

God choses us for the only reason He can choose us, not because of the raw material but because of the finished product! It wasn’t that the handful of dust from which God formed Adam was any less dirty than any other handful of dirt! 

It is not because of what we are but rather it is because of what God can do with us! It is not that one handful of dust is any better than any other handful of dust!

We are chosen with a purpose (Ephesians 1:4).

It is important to appreciate that God’s choice is personal in the first half of this verse, so that we might appreciate that God’s purpose in the second half of this verse is also personal! If His choice is personal, then His purpose is personal! Holiness, blamelessness, and love are not simply general aspirations for all believers. These are personal, particular and tailored destinies. The path for my life is different from the path which another believer will travel, that path is different by design! That path to:

  • Holiness
  • Blamelessness
  • Love 

Is particular, tailored and personal for you and I. It is not valid for me to look at the life of another believer and ask the question, why is my life, my path not easier? Why can I not have fewer problems, less of a challenge and lighter burdens? We cannot compare and we cannot complain! To achieve these goals of:

  • Holiness
  • Harmlessness 
  • Love 

God has a path uniquely tailored for my life and yours. That path may not be easy but it is designed to bring us to the intended destination, wither that be by means of:

  • 40 days in the ark
  • 40 years in the wilderness
  • 400 years in captivity
  • 40 chapters of suffering  for Job 

Love isn’t easy, love grows in adversity!

Love is that ‘together glue of perfectness’ (Col 3:14) – the most succinct description of love in bible. 

For the disciples that love grows in adversity (John 6:66ff), Peter and the disciples stay with the Lord!


Bible teaching from the book of Ephesians Ephesians chapter 1 verse 4. 

Dr J Stewart Gillespie