Ephesians 1:3-5—3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself.
The term conjures up various images in different people depending on their own experiences, the experiences of others, or simply the way foster parents are portrayed in the various media. And the many who do foster do indeed come at it from various angles and for varied reasons. Some do it out of a desire to give hope and a chance to kids that come from broken, crime-riddled, and abusive homes. Some do it (as in our case) in the midst of an emergency when no other family member is suitable to care for the children. And, yes, some do indeed do it for the money. Depending on the ages of the children, the number you take, and so forth, one can come out ahead financially.
But no matter what the reason is that someone decides to be a foster parent, they all have one thing in common. If the burden is too much, or if the children are too much for them to handle, or if they just tire of the children, they can call the agency and the children will be placed with another family. In other words, the family fostering the children can simply send them back.
Most Arminians think of God as being a foster parent, rather than being the adoptive Father that He is. If we are smart enough (so the thinking goes) to take advantage of the opportunity that God has placed before us, and our “free” will makes the right decision, then God will gladly adopt us into His family. But, if we act up too much, or we get on His nerves one too many times, then He will just as quickly send us back to our old master, Satan. One Arminian author, writing on the Synod of Dordt, said the following:
True believers can fall from true faith and can fall into such sins as cannot be consistent with true and justifying faith; not only is it possible for this to happen, but it even happens frequently. True believers are able to fall through their own fault into shameful and atrocious deeds, to persevere and to die in them; and therefore finally to fall and to perish. (Peter Y. DeJong, Crisis in the Reformed Churches: Essays in Commemoration of the Great Synod of Dordt, 1618-1619, 220ff).
In other words, we are foster children who can bug our Foster Father to the point He pushes us out the door. To the Arminian, when we become children of God, it is only a probationary relationship. At any point in time, God may, in His (supposed) capriciousness, end the relationship. “Yes, you have believed, and according to My word I have given you the right to be My child (John 1:12). But at this point I just don’t think this is working out. So I think it’s best if we just part ways. Sorry.”
Friends, there is an old saying that goes something like this: “God does not have grandchildren.” This is true. Someone also said “God does not have stepchildren.” But there is another thing we should remember. Just as He does not have grandchildren or stepchildren, it is also most certainly true that God does not have any foster children. He does not bring anyone into His family on a temporary basis. He does not bring someone in and say “OK, now that you are here, you need to understand something. If you don’t live up to My expectations, I reserve the right to send you back to Satan. Do you want that? I didn’t think so.” What are the promises of God in Christ? “Yes.” And in Christ? “Amen.” (See 2nd Corinthians 1:20). So when Christ gives us the right to become sons of God, it is not as foster children who serve at he whim of a tyrannical despot who can just up and toss us back into the service of the master He rescued us from. To do so would violate the command He gave in His own Law. Deuteronomy 23:15-16—“You shall not give back to his master the slave who has escaped from his master to you. He may dwell with you in your midst, in the place where he chooses.” Once we have, by the grace of God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit, escaped from our old master–and if you do not believe we had a master before we came to Christ, read Romans 6:15-23–once God has caused us to escape from that old master, He will never, ever send us back to him again.
“OK, you’ve said all this about slaves and masters. You haven’t said one word about adoption.” Simple: I was saving the best for last. As I said before, when God calls a person into His family, He doesn’t do so on a probationary status. When He adopts, He adopts for life. Or do you think God does not know those who will, for a while, claim the name of Christ and then fall back into the arms of their old master? Doesn’t Peter talk about this? Doesn’t the blessed apostle say that there are those who believe for a while and yet return as a sow to the mire? And does he not warn us that it is they who will receive the greatest condemnation of all? 2nd Peter 2:19-21—19 By whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage. 20 For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. 21 For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. Those are they whom we could call “God’s foster children” (if there ever were such a term). They entered the house of God’s children, sat at dinner with them for a while, lounged around and played a while–but were never truly God’s children. For if they were, they would have remained God’s children.
But God has chosen who will be His children. Not based on anything we do, not based on any potential “good” we could do (again, if that were even a possibility). But simply based on His decision. And we need turn no further than that familiar passage in Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus. Chapter 1, verse 4–He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him. Do you see the first three words at the outset?
If it is not clear to you, perhaps this will unmuddy things: He chose us…
Still not clear. Then try it this way–
Better? It was God’s choice that we should come to know the truth of the gospel, and not just know it mentally, but take it into the deepest part of our being and live it and breathe it and proclaim it. We are God’s children because He chose us.
But when did He choose us? Did He choose us when we professed faith in Christ? Did He choose us when we had earned enough gold stars and smiley faces to merit Him noticing us and pulling us out of a crowd? No, that is the human method of adoption. When God decrees a thing, it is based simply in His will. For He chose us, not when we chose Him, but long before we were ever born, as Paul says immediately after he says He chose us, that God chose us before the foundation of the world. Before He laid the first brick in the foundation of this planet, He knew us, He knew that we would rebel against Him and curse Him to His face. And yet before the first molecule came into existence, God said “I will have for Myself a people. Son, write their names in a book (Revelation 13:8), for they shall be Yours. Your blood shall appease My wrath, and they shall all be Yours, and You shall never lose one of them (John 10:27-29). They will be My children, for I shall adopt them as My children.”
And it is this adoption we see in Paul’s very next words in Ephesians 1:5—In love having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself. (NOTE–Yes, the words “in love” always appear in verse 4. But remember, the chapter and verse divisions were added later by men who were not necessarily under the direction of the Holy Spirit, and they did their best. But having studied this letter, I believe these words belong with verse 5–4*P). He predestined that He would make us His sons. The Greek is υíοθεσία (huiothesia). It is made up of two Greek words which, when combined, mean (literally) “To make one a son.” Now, if God made us His children before the world ever began, to be His sons and daughters by faith in Christ, then does it make sense to say “Well, yes, God chose us to be His children before the world was formed–but we can unbecome His children.” That is nonsense! If God chose to make us His child, and if He decreed before He made the first thread of creation that we would be His children–then we will be His children.
Why? Why can I be so sure in stating this? Because God is a God of promise. Look at what Paul says–He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, and decreed that He would adopt us as sons and daughters. Or what? You became His child, as was decreed by the sovereign God before the world began, but you, insignificant you, can foil the eternal plans of the eternal God by your capricious decision that you just don’t want to be His child anymore? That God–Almighty God, sitting eternally ensconced in His eternal throne, clothed in a robe of pure light, the train of which fills His holy temple–yes, that God, sits on His throne, hands quivering and sweat beading on His brow, thinking, “Oh dear, I chose those people to be My children! My Son has written their names eternally in His Book. I do hope they don’t change their mind!” How silly! Or that you, with all the sin and rebellion that you already bring to the relationship, can stress the eternal God of infinite patience to the point where He says “Yes, Son, I know I promised that that child would be Yours for all eternity. I know I told You to write that one’s name in Your Book. I guess I must have misjudged that one. I sure didn’t see them doing all the things they are doing. And with all their backsliding I’m afraid I can’t let You have that one. Sorry!”
That is utter rubbish! God promised His Son a people. And if that God decreed that you, insignificant you, would be one of those people He promised to His Son, then you will belong to that Son for all eternity. “But…but…but!!!” Don’t bother! Put it away!!! God has already answered yo. As the Spirit led John to write in 1st John 5:4—Whatever is born of God overcomes the world. Were you born of God? Yes? Then you WILL overcome. Or do you wish to call the apostle whom Jesus loved a liar? Or do you neither trust the words of our Lord in John 6:44-45—“44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him…everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.” If you have heard from the Father, you will come to Christ, and you will be eternally in the iron-clad grasp of that Great Shepherd who promised that “No one can snatch them from My grasp” (John 10:28). God is not a foster parent. He is a Father who adopts rebelious cretins into His family for all eternity, for He has promised them to the Son of His love, that they shall be His forever.