JPBC November 25, 2007
Q 33: What is adoption?
A: 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.
Part of salvation is attaining a status of sonship. We are made part of God’s family. We are co-heirs of Christ.
The Biblical word for "adoption" is huiothesia, literally "to be placed into sonship [the status of son]."
II. Key Biblical examples with explicit use of "adoption" language:
1. Galatians 4:4-7:
2. Ephesians 1:3-6:
a. Romans 8:15:
For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father."
b. Romans 8:23:
Note: Here adoption is linked with the ultimate redemption of the body at the final resurrection. This implies that adoption, like sanctification, is something that begins in the here and now but is not completed until the end of the ages in our final glorification.
c. Romans 9:3-4:
3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises;
Note: Here adoption refers to ethnic Israel’s relationship with God. Now Christians—Jews and Gentiles—share in this sonship status.
III. Passages that do not explicitly use "adoption" language but where the concept is implied:
1. John 1:12-13:
12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
2. Romans 8:16-17:
16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs -- heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.
3. 1 John 3:1:
Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.
IV. Some implications of this doctrine:
1. Before we are saved, we are not "children of God."
One of the chief conceits of human nature is to think more highly of ourselves than we ought. Liberal Christianity spoke of "the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man." Even today you will hear someone say, "We are all God’s children."
The Bible rejects this concept. We only become God’s children when we are saved. Before that, we are sons of the devil who deserve God’s wrath (see John 8:39-47 "You are of your father the devil" (v. 44); Eph 1:3 "by nature children of wrath").
2. Christians hold a distinct status of privilege given us by God.
As with our discussion of definitive sanctification, we see that it will not do to speak disparagingly of the one who is saved. He is no longer a wretch, an orphan, but he has been made a child of God.
3. The concept of adoption is linked with the theology of the church.
To be saved is to be made part of a family. It is to receive brothers and sisters who have also been adopted into this family. We have an elder brother, Christ, who is a child by nature. We join with our adopted siblings into God’s family.
In Charlottesville when a child is adopted the Judge has him stand with his family in the courtroom and he declares the legally binding status of family. A bell is wrung. When you hear that bell ringing you know that a new "forever family" has been formed. So, when a person is saved we might say that a bell is rung in heaven. An adoption is finalized and formalized. You become part of God’s family. You become his child. You become heir to a vast fortune and wealth that you did not earn but that was given to you by grace.