God has a plan.
In eternity past God not only chose a people for himself but has determined in love to include and gather them into his close family. This truth should take our breath away, the wonderful doctrine of adoption.
Even before the earth was formed, his desire to place sinners in his family through the work of his Son was uppermost in his mind. We can only marvel at the loving-kindness of God who would call us to be His own adopted sons and daughters.
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now ” (1 John 3:1-2)
Our own adoption is integral to the whole message of the gospel. However, in recent years, the discussion has perhaps been more focused on justification than adoption. As a result, many Christians have never considered the rich implications and assurance that accompanies this truth.
We all know what the term adoption means and how it works in practice. When a baby is born naturally, you just get what turns up! However, through adoption, a child is specifically chosen from another family. There are no blood ties. It is done because there is a strong loving desire to have children which cannot occur by any other means. In addition, by law, they have the same rights as natural-born children and are brought up as if naturally born. It is the same with our heavenly parents; "But to all who did receive him (Jesus), who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." (John 1:12). Furthermore, there is no upper age limit or background checks for our suitability! We are accepted through faith in Jesus Christ.
Amazingly God did not have to use the concept of adoption to explain how he saved us, or even how we become part of his family. He could have kept with the language of new birth so that all his children were described as children by natural means only. But he deliberately chose to speak of us as adopted as well as being children by the new birth.
Some children come to question their adoption and wonder why they were given up in the first place by their natural parents. They don't feel at ease with their circumstances and lot in life. They may wonder if they really belong to their adopted family and if their home really belongs to them. But when it comes to God’s adoption of His people, there can be no doubt or uncertainty. He is forever their loving heavenly Father. It is, after all, the will of God that makes justified sinners his children. God’s will is perfect, and it cannot be broken.
Furthermore, the whole Trinity is involved! In the verse we are considering, we first see the love of our Father towards us that comes only through Jesus Christ. The Son is involved by laying aside his glory in order to purchase our salvation by his suffering on the cross:
"For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers" (Hebrews 2:10-11)
Not only have we a loving Father, but an elder brother we can look to and trust, for he is just like us, he knows us, there is a close family bond. Furthermore, it was a costly exercise, Christ suffered, died, redeemed us – paid the price! There can be huge costs in adopting children. Some are financial; some are deeply emotional. There are costs in time and stress for the rest of your life. You never stop being a parent until you die and the stresses of caring about adult children can be as great, or greater, than the stresses of caring for young children!
The Holy Spirit is also deeply involved. The fundamental aim is to produce sons of God who have a family resemblance, who are like their Father, and their brother Jesus Christ. All those who have “received the Spirit of adoption” have God’s Spirit testifying within them that they are indeed “children of God.”
“For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God, 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 testifies with our spirit that we are the children of God. and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ ” (Romans 8:14-17)
God does not leave us alone when he adopts us. He does not leave us with no feelings of acceptance and love. Rather, he pours his Spirit into us to give us the experiential reality of knowing we are being embraced. Like a son who injures himself and the first instinct is to run to father for comfort. Calling him "Abba" is a very personal cry from the heart. In addition, we have been given the legal status as sons, joint-heirs with Christ Jesus! Our finite minds can only vaguely imagine what this fully entails, what wonders await us in glory!
The doctrine of assurance is as wonderful and as mysterious as a father’s undying love for his wayward sons. As earthly parents, we can sometimes be exasperated by our sons and daughters behavior at times, but we still love them despite all their flaws. Jesus himself gave us a vivid picture of the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) who wandered away from his Father, to spend his inheritance in a far country. He was rebellious, independent, just like us without a thought for his Father. Finally, he ran out of money. He was hungry, destitute, and he realised what a fool he had been and he returned home hopeful of being accepted as a hired servant. What a welcome he received! His father received him back as a son with joy! So it is with us when we repent of our sin and turn to our heavenly Father.
If you ever struggle with the assurance of your own salvation, then run back to the God who adopted you! His arms are always wide open to receive and embrace you! The blood of Christ did more than justify you, it also made God your heavenly Father. His love and mercy towards you cannot cease, or let you go.
The doctrine of adoption helps us to better understand and appreciate our church family. You may be the only believer in your family, and in the street where you live. Yes, the Christian life can be hard, but it comes with a loving home, a local church full of brothers and sisters just like you who love God. We may have no natural brothers and sisters. We may no longer have our parents around. We may live a single life alone for various reasons, but we all have like-minded brothers and sisters in Christ who love us! We are not alone! We have others we can turn to and share our problems and joys, and through prayer, we can join together and say Amen.
What comfort and joy mutual fellowship brings to our aching souls! A sense of belonging, and a close bond of love one with another. Tied in with this I believe is the command Jesus gave and left us, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another." (John 13:34) This should be the natural response of any child of God because he first loved us and gave himself for us whilst we were yet still sinners.
In closing, what of our future hope as adopted children of God? It is appointed that we will all die one day, we know our final destination, and what changes that will completely transform us! The letter to the Romans says the following:
"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 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. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience." (Romans 8:18-25)
Yes, we are already legally adopted, we are legally and permanently in the family. But we are not yet what we shall become, and eagerly look forward to glory and new, resurrected, transformed bodies.
It is my prayer that this bright future and hope dwells in myself more fully each day and in us all in ever-increasing measure. Until that day when we shall be like him, and see him face to face. To be made as Holy as he is, free from sin, without fault. God has committed himself with all his strength and resources to this one tremendous goal, newborn humanity. "For those whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers." (Romans 8:29)
We will take on the family resemblance, one happy family! What a bright future we have as believers! Have you been touched by God's bountiful, wonderous grace? Can you say I'm a child of God?