Among the many wonderful benefits of our salvation, none is more uplifting and assuring than the doctrine of adoption. It brings comfort to the most troubled and distressed soul.
Adoption is the gracious and loving act of God where he takes children of Adam – those who are sinners by nature and by choice, and He brings them into His household, into his family, and grants to them all the legal entitlements of being a child of God.
There are a number of passages in the Scripture that teach adoption; one of the clearest is in Galatians chapter 4 verses 4-7:
“When the time came to completion, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then God has made you an heir.”
Notice how the entire Godhead is at work here. The Father chooses us for adoption. Ephesians 1:5 tells us that, “He predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ for himself, according to the good pleasure of his will”. The Son goes to the cross and redeems us and secures our adoption legally. And then the Spirit comes and indwells us and assures us that we are God’s children, so that we cry out “Abba Father.” The result is we are no longer slaves but sons.
It all seems too good to be true doesn’t it? Like a fairy-tale. But it’s not a fairy-tale. It’s the story of every Christian in every age. From slavery to Sonship through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Every Christian is a rags to riches story.
Don’t you find this truth to be absolutely marvellous? John the Apostle thought it was. He exclaims in 1 John 3:1:
“See what great love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children—and we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it didn’t know him.”
Notice his astonishment – “See what great love!” (or “Behold, what manner of love”). He’s amazed, astounded, and stunned over the fact that God’s love would be so great as to make him – a rebellious sinner, a son in God’s own family.
Charles Spurgeon preached a sermon on adoption and this is what he says:
“A man, when he adopts a child sometimes is moved by its extraordinary beauty, or at other times by its intelligent manners and winning disposition. But, beloved, when God passed by the field in which we were lying, he saw no tears in our eyes till he put them there himself; he saw no contrition in us until he had given us repentance; and there was no beauty in us that could induce him to adopt us — on the contrary, we were everything that was repulsive; and if he had said, when he passed by, ‘You are cursed, be lost forever,‘ it would have been nothing but what we might have expected from a God who had been so long provoked, and whose majesty had been so terribly insulted.
But no; he found a rebellious child, a filthy, frightful, ugly child; he took it to his bosom, and said, ‘You who are dirty, you are comely in my eyes through my son Jesus; unworthy though you are, yet I cover you with his robe, and in thy brother’s garments I accept you;’ and taking us, all unholy and unclean, just as we were, he took us to be his—his children, his forever.”
Christian, do you grasp the astonishing and astounding reality of your adoption?
Adoption is not a recent or modern invention. It has been around for centuries. Paul’s readers would have been very familiar with it. Adoption was a legal act in Roman times and it was taken very seriously. The adopted sons enjoyed the same privileges as natural born sons. According to the Roman law the adopted person lost all rights in his old family and gained all the rights of a legitimate son in his new family. He got a new father and he became the heir of his new father’s estate. He became co-heir with the other sons in the family. The old life was completely wiped out. All debts were cancelled, and he was absolutely the son of his new father.
Paul tells us that this is what God has done for us. We were sons and daughters of Adam. We inherited his sin and guilt. God took us out of that family and adopted us into His new family. We have been completely released of all responsibility and debts of sin because Jesus paid the debt in full. And we inherit everything that Jesus inherits. All that is his is now ours.
The implications of this doctrine of adoption in our Christian lives are rich and profound. I would like to offer three of them.
1. Intimacy with the Father
Intimacy is what we experience when we feel when we really know and are known by another person. An intimate friend is someone we feel very close to; they know us at a deep level. When intimacy is damaged or broken, there is a feeling of distancing with that person.
That’s what children of God experience in their relationship with God the Father. They are intimate with him and he with them. There is a deep sense of closeness, of being known, and of love for each other.
I am a father of four children. I have very fond memories of going into their rooms when they were asleep. I would look down upon them, as see them sleeping peacefully. I would look at their faces and a great sense of love and affection for that child would well up in my heart. Well, I am certain the Father looks down upon his children and experiences that same kind of affection for us. He loves us. He adores us. We are his children.
2. Trust in the Father
Children are very trusting – have you noticed that? Sometimes they are too trusting! Sadly, as they grow older, they grow less and less trusting of their parents and anyone else for that matter. Your heavenly father wants you to be like a child, trusting him with everything. I know that’s hard. We want to be in control. We struggle handing over the wheel of our lives to someone else.
Your heavenly father can be trusted with every detail of your life – no matter how insignificant or small. “Look at the birds,” Jesus said, “they don’t sow or reap or gather into barns (like you do), yet your heavenly father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they?” He cares for birds. Dum birds. You are more important to him than a dumb bird. So trust him. Stop fretting and trust him. Don’t lose sleep over a bill you can’t pay, or someone you can’t change or a problem you can’t fix. Trust him. He’s got the whole world in his hands. He can handle your problems. Trust him.
3. Love for the Father’s family
Not only do we become sons and daughters of the living God. We become brothers and sisters of each other. You know how it is with your earthly brothers and sisters. They can be a bit of a pain at times, can’t they? But you still love them. You love them because they are family. And so, it is in the family of God.
The Christians that are in your life – the one’s you sit beside in church on Sunday or work alongside – they are not simply friends and acquaintances. They are your family. Jesus calls you to love them and serve them and encourage them. He calls you to pray for them and watch out for them. And that means each and every one of them; not just the ones you like! When you care for them and serve them and show kindness towards them and forgive them when they wrong us, your heavenly Father smiles down upon you. For in the same way you show love to them, you show love to him also.
The Father loves you. It can sound so trite, can’t it? But it’s not. He loves you. He has proven his love by sending his own Son to redeem you. He has doubly proved it by then sending his Spirit to indwell you and place his stamp on you.
Who am I? I am a child of God. I have been adopted into God’s family. He says to me, “I have redeemed you; I have called you by name and you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1).
This is my identity. And this is my destiny.
This post was based on a sermon called I am a Child of God. It is part of a series on the Christian’s identity that we are working through at our church. You can listen to the full audio on our website here.