When we speak about adoption we often think of this on a horizontal level, through this or that adoption agency.
What I would like to posit is that the Grand Story of Scripture, the story of redemption, is God creating His family. The purpose of redemption can be summed up in one word, adoption. This sort of adoption is on a vertical plane. In fact, to truly and fully understand on the horizontal level, we must understand adoption on the vertical level. After all, when parents adopt a child they are imitating God the Father.
The ultimate goal of salvation is adoption. God the Father is calling rebels to be His sons and daughters. All other titles perish when we die, but the title of being a son or daughter of God will not cease at the mouth of the grave.
Listen to the words of Wilhelmus á Brakel, “From being a child of the devil to becoming a child of God, from being a child of wrath to becoming the object of God’s favor, from being a child of condemnation to becoming an heir of all the promises and a possessor of all the blessings, and to be exalted from the greatest misery to the highest felicity—this is something which exceeds all comprehension and all adoration.” Why does Brakel speak so highly of adoption into God’s family? One reason: He knows the depths of his own depravity and he knows he deserves the just judgment of a holy God, not the grace of a loving Father.
We receive the adoption of God into Christ’s kingdom provided for us by the testament of Christ’s blood. How many of you know the adoption process in America? They test your character and ableness to care for children. They check your income and history and extended family. Christ is more than capable to carry us into his Father’s kingdom, isn’t he?
What is important to know about adoption? It is our status in life and in death. It is a not a process but an act. Either you are a child of so-and-so, or you are not. What does a child do in adoption? Nothing. Everything in adoption is acted on the child. One day a child is without parents, the next day she is declared to be a daughter of so-and-so. The same is true for Christians.
One day we were children of wrath. One day we were without a Father, except the devil. The next day we have our Father in heaven, because He has brought us into His fold by the work of His Son and the power of the Holy Spirit. One day we are lost, the next day we are secured. It is a status change acted upon us.
By faith two things happen. One is justification, we are legally declared not-guilty before God. Another thing that happens is that we are declared a child of God. We are legally and personally cared for by our Father (Matthew 6:32-33).
This is why Christians, God’s children, live a godly life. We want to please our Father. We live for Him, because there is nothing else for us to do but to say thanks with our life (Romans 12:1-2). Living a godly life, therefore, is the expression of your status, the expression of who you are: a child of God.
How does the Trinity fit into this?
God the Father chose us, calls us to Himself, and gives us the privileges and blessings of being His children. God the Son earned those blessings for us through his propitiatory death and sacrifice, by which we become children of God and applies them to us as our Elder Brother. God the Spirit changes us from children of wrath, which we are by nature, into children of God by means of regeneration (giving us a new heart), unites us to Christ, works in us a suitable disposition (we live to please our Father) towards God the Father and Christ, and seals our sonship as the Spirit of adoption, witnessing with our spirits that we are the sons of God.
Every relationship we have, horizontally, is changed because of the reality of our adoption vertically. Everything changes, therefore everything matters.
Reading 1 John 3 we see that our adoption affects our entire lives.
1) Heavenly adoption affects our relationship with God (1 John 3:1a).
2) Heavenly adoption affects our relationship with the world (1 John 3:1b). Adoption into God’s family means that we must be willing for Christ’s sake to endure being misunderstood, unwanted, despised, even hated, by the world, all the while striving to give no unnecessary offense to the world.
3) Heavenly adoption affects our relationship with the future (1 John 3:2).
4) Heavenly adoption affects our relationship with ourselves (1 John 3:3). We are to purify ourselves daily using Christ as our pattern. Read Colossians 3.
5) Heavenly adoption affects our relationship with the church (1 John 3:14-18). We have not been adopted to live apart from the church, this is our heavenly family. When all has passed away we will reside with our Father together, as a family.
Adoption: Romans 8:15-16, 23; Galatian 4:4-6; Ephesians 1:4-5; 1 John 3:1-2
Adoption before time—Ephesians 1:4-5
“4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,”
God’s first work of adoption occurred before the universe is created. In what way did He do this? “In love”. Think of the incomparable care God has used to bring you to the knowledge of the cross by which He has adopted you as His child. Adoption, in the mind of the Triune God predates history.
Adoption in Israel—Romans 9:4
“4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises.”
At Mount Sinai God declared Israel, the nation, as His corporate son. This occurred three months after the Exodus from Egypt. This means that God redeemed His people before He adopted them. In other words, He redeemed them from bondage to adopt them as sons.
Jesus and adoption—Galatians 4:4-6
“4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’”
Paul says here that God’s grand goal of redemption is to adopt us as children. Just as God redeemed Israel before He adopted them, so too He redeems us so that we may be adopted as His children. Redemption, therefore is not the end of God’s work, but making you His child is.
Adoption in the New Heavens and the New Earth—Romans 8:15, 22-23
“15 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!’”
“22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”
Adoption is also seen as the end of the plan of redemption. In verse 23 we see that what we truly are waiting for, the glorification of our bodies, is actually the adoption as sons. So, when the story of redemption reaches its goal, the Bible calls it adoption.When the earth is recreated it will be established as our Father’s house where we will dwell with Him forever more.
Family of God: Matthew 12:49-50; 2 Corinthians 6:18; Ephesians 2:19; Galatians 6:10; and 1 Timothy 3:15, 5:1.
House of God: Hebrews 3:6; 1 Timothy 3:14-15; and 1 Peter 4:17.
Material above has been supported and adapted by these authors:
A Christian’s Reasonable Service—Wilhelmus a’Brakel.
Reclaiming Adoption—edited by Dan Cruver.
Heirs with Christ: The Puritans on Adoption—by Joel Beeke.