Serving Christians Seeking to Live a Holy Life

God's Children by Adoption

Leon L. Combs, Ph.D.
August 26, 1996

First I want to give a lot of credit for the inspiration of this topic to J.I. Packer's book, "Knowing God" and to the book, "Romans: The Sons of God' by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. These books initiated my thoughts in this area of God's adoption of us and both were very stimulating to me.

God created man for perfect fellowship with Him, and we are told in Genesis about the fellowship and how it was lost when man sinned. After the Fall, in order for man to coexist in the universe with God, God had to provide for the justification of man, for God is All Holy and man became all sinful. Thus we are told:

Rom 3:24 - 25a "being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. Thus God provided for the forgiveness of man's sins with the death of His only Son, Jesus Christ. Therefore in the only possible way, in our retrospect, God has provided for the justification of man. Now any who will accept the plan may enter into complete justification and then can have life everlasting in the same universe as God. God could have stopped at that point and man could have been the slave of God in the universe forever, or just even coexisted somehow in the universe together since now the accepting man is also holy with God's holiness.

But God did not stop at that point. Instead He did a truly remarkable thing. He adopted us! Look at Eph 1:5

"He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will."

He took a totally unacceptable person, made him acceptable in His sight, and then adopted him into the family of God so that this person now is a joint heir with Christ in the whole universe! We also see from this verse that the adoption was predestined as occurring through Jesus. This means that the adoption was the end result, not the justification of man, and it was all planned from the beginning by God! Why did God do this? To satisfy the absolute holiness nature of God He had to either annihilate us (which we deserve, all of us) or He could provide for our justification. He chose to provide for our justification by the death and resurrection of His only son. It is hard enough to believe that God would choose that solution, but God went even further and adopted us. That extra step is really hard to understand and it is central to our life after the event of justification, so let's think about it some.

I am going to answer this first question quickly for it is easy. What is the first question? It is "why did God choose to adopt us?" Turn to 1 John 3:1 and see the answer:

"See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him."

The adoption is a demonstration to the universe of the great love of God. The Greek word used for love in this verse is "agape" and is that characteristic of God which reaches out to all regardless of the return from the recipient. Thus even though adoption of us by God is a difficult concept for us to try to understand, it is a natural consequence for God because "He is love".

So now that we see why God adopted us let us see what it means in our life now.

First we need to understand that adoption is the highest privilege the gospel offers us. We noted above that the adoption was the ultimate goal of God from the beginning. Our primary need is for justification and the gospel affords us that freely. But a higher blessing is adoption because that puts us in a closer relationship with God. First we need to be right before God and then we can have the close relationship with Him because He chooses to adopt us. Now we can understand John 1:12 which says:

"But as many as received Him (Jesus), to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name." We do not have the right to become children of God until we have been justified in His sight. So first comes justification, our primary need, and then comes the added blessing of adoption.

If we don't understand this point then we will spend a lot of our Christian walk unfulfilled and may even be led into some strange cults because we know that we are missing something. People are led into searching for a "second blessing" which might be a bad perturbation of Christian living as happened two thousand years ago at the church at Corinth. Paul had to instruct them that they had put too much emphasis on speaking in strange tongues. Throughout church history we see many such occurrences as people seek a deeper relationship with God without realizing that God has Himself provided the way for such a deeper walk with the adoption process.

Second we need to see that adoption affords us the proper insight to living the Christian life now. This point is the reason that I said earlier that the concept of adoption by God is central to our life after the event of justification. Before proceeding in this second point I need to point out that in all areas of Christianity a proper balance is essential. The balance point in this concept of adoption is to remember that even though we are adopted sons, we must not forget that our elder brother, Jesus, is King. We are princes and princesses in the eternal kingdom which is an incredible thought, but Jesus is Lord.

I said above that Jesus is our elder brother! Did that really sink in? If we are adopted sons and Jesus is the only begotten Son then we are His brothers! The Greek word for brother is "adelphos" coming from the word "delphos" which means womb. So "adelphos" means from the same womb. The Greek word for adoption is "whyothesia" and is a legal word meaning to legally become as if from the same womb. This was a process the Romans introduced primarily so that someone would have a heir when they had no biological children. So Paul used this word to say that God made us acceptable and then made us His joint heirs with Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself used the word brother many times in Scripture and several times in this context as well. Matt 13:50 says "For whoever shall do the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother." In Matt 28:10 Jesus said "Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they shall see Me." Also note carefully the disciples' prayer in Matt 6:8-13 which begins "Our Father". There are two points here; one is that Jesus said "our" meaning His and ours, and point two is the use of the word "Father". Also note that I called this the disciples' prayer and not the Lord's prayer, for this prayer was given by Jesus for the disciples to pray. The great prayer of Jesus is in John 17 which is remarkable but is the topic of another study. It was a firm thought in the mind of Jesus that those who accept Him become His brothers.

So how does this fact of adoption affect our daily living? In several ways that we will look at now:

A. Adoption gives reason to the Law in our lives.

Oh me, are we going back to the Law? Well, let us be very careful with this point. The death and resurrection of Christ freed us from having to try to obey the law for the purpose of being right before God. That is settled. At the Cross and Resurrection, God provided for our justification and our righteousness before Him. But, to us Christians the law becomes a way of living now that we are children of God. We have used this logic before in dealing with our children. Our child wants to do something and he says that all the other children are doing it. Then we say, "Those other children are not our children. Our children will live by a different code of ethics." Well the Law is the code of ethics that we have to live by now that we are in the family of God. So the Law has no part in our justification but a great part in our life as an adopted son. God wants us to walk in this world like His children and He has made it very clear what that means. We are told in 1 John 3:24

"And the one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And we know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit which He has given us." This walk is also clearly discussed in Heb 12 and verse 7 which says

"God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?"

So God expects us to have a holy walk and when we fail, as we all will, there will be discipline. Praise God that He also shows mercy at this point! We read in 1 John 1:9

"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Also it is quite important that we do think seriously about our actions and judge them correctly ourselves. 1 Cor 11:31 says

"But if we judged ourselves rightly, we should not be judged."

So we see that our adoption as children of God gives us an infinite amount of rewards and some obligations as well. We are not freed from the Law, but completed in the Law. This is the process we term sanctification and, from our perspective, is only completed when we leave this world.

B. Adoption gives us assurance of our salvation.

God is perfect. We are His adopted children. He has made us acceptable by the death and resurrection of His only begotten Son so that He could adopt us as His children. He would not have put His Son through all that if He did not intend to keep us in the family. A perfect parent will not throw His children out of the family if they don't behave. A perfect parent will give the adopted children extra assurance of His love and concern for their well being. Rom 8:15-17 says "For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out 'Abba! Father!'. The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow-heirs with Christ,.."

You see a lot from this scripture but just touching on it a little we see that we can call God Daddy which is the meaning of Abba, and Father. We can address Him in the familiar form, Daddy, and in the more formal form, Father. The Greek word translated Father is pateer and is used many times in the Bible. For example, it is the word used in the disciples' prayer, "Our Father ...". The word Abba is Aramaic and is used only three times in the Bible. As well as the above, it is used in Mark 14:36 and in Gal 4:6. In Mark Christ is quoted as crying "Abba, Father" just as Rom 8:15 says we can. Gal 4:6 says

"And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba, Father'." This, again, is the witness within us of this close relationship which now exists between us and God. Thus there is a very close feeling between us and God and it is a feeling that grows as we know that we know that He loves us individually and collectively. His spirit also helps us in this identification process as we begin to reckon that we are indeed children of God forever.

As we begin to understand the vast implications of being the adopted children of God, we begin to understand how Paul could write Rom 8:38-39 about how convinced he was that nothing could separate him from the love of God. In this great chapter 8 of Romans we also read in verse 30 about how the ones He called He also glorified. This is past tense and is the end result of our walk in that we receive our glorified bodies. But in God's mind it is fact, it is already accomplished and nothing can interfere with what God has done.

C. Adoption gives us a clear goal in our walk here.

Look at 1 John 3:2 "Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is." This shows us where we are going. Our vision of heaven is not clear but it doesn't have to be. We have God's word that it is going to be a place of no tears, no sickness, and no death. Now also we know that we will appear as Christ when we shall see Him exactly as He is. Romans 8:17 told us that we are fellow-heirs with Christ so we will not just be workers in the universe, as adopted children we will be co-owners of the universe! As God's children, we shall see Him as Matt 5:8 tells us:

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."

And in Jesus' prayer, we see in verse 24 of John 17 :

"Father, I desire that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am, in order that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me; for Thou didst love Me before the foundation of the world."

We will be with Jesus, we will appear as Jesus, and we will see God the Father in all His glory. We see in 1 Cor 13:12 that we also will know all fully. We will be His children forever in a universe of no negatives which we can truly appreciate because of the negatives we have been through here as Jesus also experienced. The positive can not be truly seen as the positive unless negatives have been seen. It will be glorious and as we reckon that we are His children already then (Rom 8:18):

"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us." A quote from Paul Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress" is appropriate. His Mr. Stand-fast is halfway into Jordan's water and says:

"I see myself now at the end of my journey, my toilsome days are ended, the thoughts of what I am going to, and of the conduct that waits for me on the other side, doth lie as a glowing coal at my heart...I have formerly lived by hearsay, and faith, but now I go where I shall live by sight, and shall be with Him, in whose company I delight myself."

Every morning we should start the day reminding ourselves that we are adopted children of God, that God Almighty is our Father, and that we are one day closer to the glorious time of being with the Family of God forever.

Amen.


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