MEDITATIONS ON SPIRITUAL ADOPTION #1
December 2, 2009
: Ephesians 1:1-6 Reading
"Having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will" Ephesians 1:5
Today I would like to begin a series of thoughts on Spiritual Adoption, a subject that over the past several years has become very dear to my heart.
In these days of so many brands of Christianity-hundreds of denominations and hundreds of divisions within denominations, sects and cults-the world has a genuine right to ask, "What is a Christian?" A Christian is not defined by what he believes but by who he is. A Christian, as defined by one of today's leading theologians, is "One who has God as his Father" J.I. Packer, Knowing God, Ch 19.
The concept of knowing God as a Father was new when Jesus preached His
Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:3 - 7:27. During this sermon Jesus referred to
God as "Your Father" 12 times, "My Father" once and "Our Father" once. The Fatherhood of God was implied in the Old
Testament (Hosea 11:1; Malachi 1:6) but the intimacy of the Father/son
relationship was limited to His own people, the "seed of Abraham" Exodus
4:22-23. The nation of
There are 250 references in the New Testament speaking of Christians having
a Heavenly Father and that they have a unique Older Brother. The New Testament
concept of the Fatherhood of God broadens it to those who "are Christ's," not
to the entire world population nor limited to the children of
Another analogy by which we are made sons of God is adoption:
"For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 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'" Romans 8:14-15.
For a childless man to insure himself an heir to his estate and carry on his family name he would often adopt an adult male as his son. This was a common practice during the time of Jesus and the establishment of the church. As is the custom of adoption today a legally adopted child assumes every right and privilege of a naturally born son, the primary difference being that the blood of his adoptive father does not flow through his veins.
"When the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, 'Abba, Father!' Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ" Galatians 4:4-7.
As sons of God we have unique privileges with family responsibilities and are subject to family discipline. Until the reformation a Christian's relationship to God was, for the most part, based on fear and bondage with a slave like association with Him rather than that of a Father/son. This concept still pervades in some arms of the church today. Over the next few weeks we will, with God's help, look into these and other aspects of the believer's adoption into the family of God.
The first necessary understanding is that before we can be sons we must have a Father, and this is exactly how the New Testament introduces this most wonderful concept of the intimacy between God and His children. Intimacy is what the Christian faith is all about and is made possible by the miraculous birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of the "Only begotten Son of God" Jesus Christ.
"If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes (understands) of the thought of being God's child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means he does not understand Christianity very well at all." J.I. Packer, Knowing God, chapter 19, Sons of God.
The relationship between God and His elect are described in several ways throughout scripture but we will defer these thought to a future series of thoughts. Suffice it to say at this juncture that the relationship of Father and son exposes not only the intimacy between the two but also the rights and privileges of the Father's children.
"For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 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.' The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs -- heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ" Romans -17.
Another aspect we will be considering of our adoption into the family of God is the permanence of it. We all know families in which the parent/child relationship has been severely severed or at least is strained beyond recognition and sometimes reconciliation seems impossible. This is not so in the relationship between our Heavenly Father and His redeemed children. Our conduct as Christians must be strongly influenced by the recognition and acceptance of our spiritual adoption. One who truly loves his human father does everything in his power to please him and make him proud of him. If our behavior brings the father we love sorrow and disappointment we will do all we can to restore the pride he once had in us.
As we study this magnificent theme over the next few weeks my prayer is that together we will be granted a greater and fresher appreciation of what it means to be adopted into the family of God.
"Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God's wise and fatherly disposal in every condition" Jeremiah Burroughs, 1599 - 1646.
"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing"