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Doctrines of Grace - Adoption


"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" (Westminster Shorter Catechism)

Dr. Packer calls adoption "the highest privilege the gospel offers". A little thought will confirm this statement. It is one thing to be forgiven of our sins and acquitted at the bar of the Great Judge, that is wonderful in itself; but it is even more wonderful to be made a member of God's family, established as a son or daughter and given all the privileges of God's children.

The cause of our adoption from the Divine perspective

The predestinating purpose of God                     Ephesians 1:5
It is by Jesus Christ                                                                                                                          It is according to the good pleasure of His will                                                                               It is to the praise of the glory of His grace          (v6a)

The wonderful love of God                                 1 John 3:1,2

The cause of our adoption from the human perspective

Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ                              John 1:12,13; Galatians 3:26

The great initial blessing of adoption

The gift of the Holy Spirit                                   Galatians 4:6; Romans 8:15

Note that the Holy Spirit produces in the Christian the consciousness of God as Father. This is the great revelation that Christ and the New Testament gives us. In the Old Testament the emphasis is on God as Creator, the Sovereign Lord, the Holy and Just One. These emphases remain in the New Testament but to them is added the new and wonderful dimension that God is the Father of His people (Matthew 6:9). This was the name most frequently on the lips of our Lord; it is the distinctive Christian name for God.

All that the name "Father" implies in the way of love, affection, tenderness, care, provision, fellowship and guidance is to be understood in that wonderful name.

Further Blessings of Adoption

a. Adopted sons are led by the Spirit                                                Romans 8:14
b. They are free from bondage and fear                                            Romans 8:15
c. They are assured of ultimate complete conformity to Christ        1 John 3:2; Romans 8:29

Ramifications of our adoption

a. We must seek to imitate the Heavenly Father                             Matthew 5:43-48
b. We must be over comers                                                             Revelation 21:7
c. We must not partake of the world's defilement                           2 Corinthians 6:14-18
d. We must expect the Father's discipline                                       Hebrews 12:4-11

The extraordinary privilege of our adoption

a. We are made heirs of God!      Romans 8:17. Compare Hebrews 1:2 and 1 Corinthians 3:21-23
b. We are given an inheritance    Ephesians 1:11 Compare 1 Peter 1:3f

The practical effects of this doctrine of adoption

a. It gives us a powerful view of the depths of God's love and grace and should therefore produce love, praise and gratitude in us.
b. It should challenge us to live as children of the King.
c. It should give us confidence in our dealings with God.
d. It gives us encouragement in times of suffering.
e. It breaks down barriers among Christians.
f. It gives us hope and assurance for the future.

Once we are members of God's family by grace we can never cease to be members of that family. We may lose the Father's favour through our sin and unfaithfulness, and we may lose the joy and blessing of fellowship with Him, but we remain children of God in Christ. He will chastise us for our sins in order to renew us to fellowship, but He will not disown His children. But it should ever be the aim of God's children to please the Father and to know the blessing of unbroken fellowship with Him.

A closing word on adoption

"For the sake of His only Son, Jesus Christ, God has been pleased to make all justified persons sharers in the grace of adoption, by means of which they are numbered with, and enjoy the liberties and privileges of children of God. Furthermore God's name is put upon them, they receive the Spirit of adoption, and they are enabled to come boldly to the throne of grace and cry "Abba Father". They are pitied, protected, provided for, and chastened by God as by a Father. He never casts them off, but as they remain sealed to the day of redemption, they inherit the promises as heirs of everlasting salvation."

(A Faith to Confess: the 1689 Confession in Modern English)