The Glory of Our Adoption

Today Donald Trump will be inaugurated as the 45th President. Whether you’re rejoicing in triumph, wailing out in misery, or somewhere in between every new President brings with him certain things he thinks will benefit the nation. These benefits are largely agenda driven and often time only benefit a certain group of people. Did you know there are far greater benefits we can receive in this life AND in the life to come? I’ll speak of one today.

Last week we covered the doctrine of justification, now we can speak of the benefits of justification. These benefits are the doctrines of: adoption, union with Christ (mystical union), sanctification, and glorification. It speaks against us that we do not give as much energy to understanding and teaching these benefits of justification as much as we give toward understanding and teaching justification. John Frame says we don’t give adequate attention to these benefits because of our emphasis on the Reformation.[1] I disagree. Now I do agree when Frame says we do not give these benefits as much attention as we ought to. But I don’t think it’s because we’re too focused on the Reformation, it’s because too often we don’t apply the glorious doctrines that were recovered during the Reformation. When we apply the five great solas and the doctrine of justification by faith alone the destination we end up at is these benefits. So to truly and whole heartedly embrace the doctrines recovered in the Reformation will lead us to a deep and rich study and appreciation of these great benefits. So our attention now turns to them.

Adoption is described for us in the Westminster Shorter Catechism clearly and plainly. In answering the 34th question, “What is adoption?” the catechism responds with this for an answer: “Adoption is an act of God’s free grace, whereby we are received into the number, and have a right to all the privileges, of the sons of God.”

A number of places in Scripture speak to this reality. John 1:11-12 says, “He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God…” So all those who received Jesus or all those who believed in His name God made them His children.

Galatians 3:23-26 says, “Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” And one chapter later Paul expands on this in Galatians 4:4-7 saying, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has 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 an heir through God.” This is a Christmas time reality, that the Son of God came to earth at the fullness of the times. Born like us, so that we would become like Him, and once we believe in Him we receive adoption as sons, are given His Spirit, given to heart and new desire to cry out to God as Father, and gain an inheritance.

In Ephesians Paul brings the sovereignty of God into adoption when he says in 1:5, “In love He (God) predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ.” Lastly one of the highest moments in 1 John is when John exclaims in 3:1 saying, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”

Think of like this.

In regeneration God awakens us, in justification God legally declares us to be righteous, and in adoption God brings us into His family. Adoption comes after these things because it is the result and the great benefit of all that has come before in the ordo salutis. Because of this we can say it is in truth an apex in the ordo salutis. But do not confuse these doctrines. Regeneration is all about birth, that though we were born sinners God gave us a new birth and made us alive. Justification is all about declaring us to be righteous when we’re not. Regeneration grants us new life and justification clothes us in an alien righteousness. The glory of the doctrine of adoption is that once we’ve been made alive by God and declared righteous by Him He then brings us into a family we were not naturally born into. So when, through faith, we receive and rest on Jesus Christ as He is offered to us in the gospel, God then receives us, brings us into the number of His children, and gives us all the rights, blessings, and privileges belonging to the sons of God.

A proper question would then be: what are the privileges of the sons of God? Or to ask it another way we say: what are the privileges of adoption? It can all be summed up in one phrase. Because of God’s work within us, we now relate to God as Father.

What does relating to God as Father mean for us?

We are Now Sons and Daughters of One Family

Perhaps some of you recall how Jesus begins the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9, “Our Father in heaven…” not “my Father in heaven…” There is now not only a new relating to God as Father, but a communal relating to Him as our Father. This means at the moment of conversion we were brought into a new and vast family. This new family is so integral to who we now are as Christians that it’s ties are closer than blood relations. Yes value your earthly mother and father, your brothers and sisters, love them deeply, and enjoy them richly. But recognize there is a greater bond between two believers than two unbelieving blood relatives. We may not have anything else in common in the whole world, but if we both believe in Jesus Christ, we have an entire eternity to get to know one another and praise God together over the reality that as His children we cannot be more loved by God in Christ than we are right now. We are His children. Even in His Fatherly discipline toward us is filled with His love and compassion toward us. It is an immense privilege to have been brought into such a vast and diverse family.

We are Now Led by His Spirit

Romans 8 is one of those places in the Bible that you need to know well. When I say ‘know it well’ I mean it should be one of those places that you continuously return to at moments of suffering, sin, weakness, despair, and even joy. Beginning with no condemnation and ending with no separation, the whole chapter is a catalogue of the benefits of being a child of God. Specifically 8:14-16 says, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but 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…” Here Paul says we have received the Spirit of adoption, and as he does in Galatians 4 he says here again that this Spirit of adoption cries out within us “Abba! Father!” Than this Spirit gives us an internal testimony that we are children of God. Think about that. Before God saved me the only thing being confirmed within my soul was that I not only hadn’t done enough to earn grace from God but that I couldn’t do enough to earn God’s grace. Everything in my natural state pleads for my condemnation, yet now, by faith and by the internal testimony and leading of the Holy Spirit I know that I am a child of God. This gives every Christian great assurance.

We are Now Given an Inheritance

One verse later in Romans 8 Paul says this in v17, “…and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.” Also 1 Peter 1:3-4 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you…” Among wealthy communities you usually find two kinds of people: those who’ve worked hard for great wealth, and those who’ve been given great wealth. Those who’ve been given great wealth usually are not those who win the lottery but those who’ve received a large inheritance. As a child of God we too have an inheritance, but our inheritance is unlike a worldly wealth passed down from one generation to the next. Our inheritance is kept in heaven for us, it is imperishable (it will last forever), undefiled (pure), and it is unfading (it never runs out). I often tell my own son that everything I have is already his. How much greater is the reality that everything that is God’s is already ours? This promise of future inheritance leads to a present thankfulness. Paul speaks of this further when he mentions the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, calling Him a “down payment” and “deposit” of our future inheritance. Therefore, the spiritual vibrancy we taste now in this life is but a glimpse of what we shall one day enjoy!

We are Now Driven towards Sanctification

Recall earlier when I spoke of the exclamation in 1 John 3:1? Where John rejoices in the fact that we are children of God? Now see what the next two verses say. 1 John 3:2-3 says, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure.” If we understand the doctrine of adoption it should move us toward sanctification. As God is pure, so too, all those adopted by God strive to be like Him, pure. Kevin DeYoung helpfully states it like this, “Those most passionate about the gospel of God’s free grace should also be the most passionate about the pursuit of holiness.” This holiness is simple: it is a family resemblance. God is holy, thus, His children must be as well.

We are Now Adopted – We Will be Adopted

You have heard me say it before, so now you’ll hear me say it again. All of our doctrine relates to all of our doctrine. We cannot isolate each individual doctrine thinking it will be a stand alone kind of object. They aren’t, theology doesn’t work like that. So, when speaking of the doctrine of adoption we began today by clarifying the difference between it and regeneration and justification. We’ll finish by speaking of how adoption relates to the doctrine of eschatology. It’s simple, brief, but very promising. At the moment of conversion, God brings us into His family and gave us the blessings and benefits of being His children. Now we are waiting for that moment when God will call us home, to our true family, to Him. So we are adopted, and we will be adopted. The adoption we’ve experienced in conversion is but a foretaste of the greater adoption to come.

[1] John Frame, Systematic Theology, page 980.

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