But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son born of a woman…..so that we might receive adoption as sons. Galatians 4:4
Musa aged 18 was the biological father. He had disappeared without trace. The mother Nomsa was a teenager and without work. She was 6 weeks pregnant. Nomsa out of sheer desperation planned to abort the baby. The human remains were to be discarded or burnt. It seemed totally hopeless. But God. God sent Martha a Christian lady, who after many hours persuaded the mother not to abort the baby.
The baby called Charis, was given for adoption to the Kobedi’s, an overjoyed Christian family. The process of adoption in this African country required a full legal adoption process. The final legal documents were signed and sealed before a judge in the Supreme Court. Only after this legal process was completed, was the baby allowed to become a member of this warm and loving Kobedi family.
Grace and Adoption
According to Paul, the doctrine of justification is a judicial act by God, whereby God legally pronounces a sinner righteous for all eternity (Romans 3: 21 – 26). This legal pronouncement in the eternal court of heaven is an act of God’s free grace, because we neither earn it nor deserve it. It is not dissimilar to Charis being legally pronounced a member of the Kobedi family.
This legal pronouncement in the eternal court of heaven is an act of God’s free grace
Justification is in some ways similar to the president of a country giving amnesty to a certain class of prisoners. A certain prisoner was clearly guilty, but his crime is no longer legally held against him. He has been granted amnesty, which means that though he is guilty of the crime, it is no longer held against him. In the same way, though we are clearly guilty, Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross gives us amnesty from God’s judgement. Justification means that my sin is no longer held to my account.
Having been justified by God’s grace, we are now adopted into the warmth of God’s family. We have become children of God. As with Charis, it is not only the legal judgement of the judge of the Supreme Court, but Charis is now relationally adopted into the warmth and love of her new family. Justification is a legal idea, viewing God as Judge. Adoption is a family idea, surrounded by the love and intimacy with God as our Father. To be right with God the Judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father is greater.
The Bible has revealed God as “the great I Am”, the source of all reality. He is the Sovereign Creator of the universe, both the seen and unseen. He will be the ultimate Judge of all. He is clothed in majesty and holiness. And yet, for the believer, He has become your Father. You can sum up the message of the Gospel, as knowing God as your Father. Everything that is distinctly Christian as opposed to merely Jewish, is summed up in the Fatherhood of God. “Father” is the Christian name for God. It is therefore no surprise that Jesus teaches us to pray by addressing God as “Our Father”.
The gift of sonship to God, becomes ours not through being born, but being born again.
The gift of sonship to God, becomes ours not through being born, but being born again. (John 1:12). As J.I Packer said, justification is the primary blessing of the Gospel, but adoption is the highest blessing of the Gospel.
The Hope of Adoption
Firstly, adoption shows us the greatness of God’s love. In the ancient world, adoption was a practice normally confined to a childless wealthy couple. The subjects were not normally babies, but young men who had showed themselves to be fit and worthy of taking on the family name. In total contrast, God adopts us out of free love. Despite the fact that we are sinners and enemies of God; despite the fact that we are totally unfit for a place in God’s family, God and His extraordinary, wild love has adopted the unlovable. People like you and me!!
God and His extraordinary, wild love has adopted the unlovable. People like you and me!!
Secondly, adoption shows us the hope of heaven. For the Christian, the best is always yet to be. The reason for adopting in the ancient world, was specifically to have an heir to whom one would leave your inheritance. So too, God’s adoption of us make us his heirs, so guarantees us the inheritance that he has in store for us, which is to share in the glory of Christ (Galatians 4:7). Our Father’s wealth is immeasurable, and we are to inherit the entire estate.
Thirdly, adoption reassures us that we have received the fullness of the Holy Spirit. When you are born again, you receive the Holy Spirit. In fact, you cannot be a Christian without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The key truth is that believers receive the Spirit of adoption, “…you received the Spirit of adoption as sons…” Romans 8:15.
Adoption shows us the hope of heaven. For the Christian, the best is always yet to be.
Fourthly, if we are children of God, then we have to take on the family likeness, which is holiness. In this world, royal children have to undergo extra training and discipline, which other children escape, in order to prepare them for their royal duties. It is the same for the children of the King of Kings. He is training His children for their duties as members of the royal family. He is chiselling them into the image of Christ. “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” Hebrews 12: 6 -7.
Lastly, adoption gives us absolute assurance, that we are children of God and can be totally assured of being with our heavenly Father in heaven. “..…you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry “Abba! Father! The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God”, Romans 8: 16. Because of the doctrines of justification and adoption we can be totally sure that we will one day be with God in heaven, because of what Jesus has done for us.
adoption gives us absolute assurance, that we are children of God and can be totally assured of being with our heavenly Father in heaven.
The Love of Adoption
The human father of Charis was dysfunctional and disappointed her. But her heavenly father, Abba, Father is perfect. What an unbelievable privilege, like Charis, not to be discarded, burnt or abandoned, but to be adopted into the royal family; to be called the “children of God”, “ See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called the children of God: and so we are” 1 John 3:1. What a privilege to even call Jesus our older brother “For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother” Mark 3:35.
- Do I understand my adoption? Do I value it?
- Do I daily remind myself of my privilege as a child of God?
- Have I sought full assurance of my adoption?
- Do I daily dwell on the love of God for me?
- Do I daily think of how close Jesus, my Saviour and my Lord is to me? How completely He understand me? How much as my older brother he cares for me?
- Have I learnt to hate what displeases my Father? Do I make a point to avoid them, lest I grieve Him?
Names and details have been altered to protect the identity of individual people. Unashamedly, J.I.Packer has influenced certain portions of this article.