Adoption

  Several years ago I was invited by a couple to witness the adoption of their son. Together we sat around the table with the judge, a lawyer representing the child’s birth parents, and a lawyer representing the couple adopting the child. What impressed me, was the questions directed at the adopting couple by the judge. This was a Christian couple that was committed to one another. They had been caring for the child for some months now and were very excited about the adoption. The birth mother had not had any contact with the child since shortly after birth, and was anxious to be absolved of any further ties or responsibilities. To me, it seemed like a “slam dunk.” But the judge was obviously not on “auto pilot” and was taking nothing for granted. He repeatedly pointed out that adoption was a legal agreement and wanted to make sure the couple understood. They did. But the judge wasn’t satisfied. He questioned, rephrased, and questioned some more. One statement he made has stuck with me. “Young man,” he said, “Once you adopt this child, it becomes your responsibility. If you and your wife separate or divorce, you will still be responsible to support and raise your child. Do you understand?” He then proceeded to reword those sentiments and ask again, “Do you understand? Do you agree?”

Christians have been adopted into the family of God. There is a richness – and a security in this. Barclay says, “by a deliberate act of adoption on the part of God the Christian enters into his family.” MacArthur notes,

The term adoption is filled with the ideas of love, grace, compassion, and intimate relationship. It is the action by which a husband and wife decide to take a boy or girl who is not their physical offspring into their family as their own child. When that action is taken by the proper legal means, the adopted child attains all the rights and privileges of a member of the family.

Wiersbe adds that

The word adoption in the New Testament means “being placed as an adult son.” We come into God’s family by birth. But the instant we are born into the family, God adopts us and gives us the position of an adult son. A baby cannot walk, speak, make decisions, or draw on the family wealth. But the believer can do all of these the instant he is born again.

Philip Comfort reminds us that our significance is no longer found in our pedigree or familial heritage, saying “Our fundamental identity is defined no longer by our ethnicity, gender, or social status but by our adoption into the family of Christ—we are Christians.” Noting the focus of our glorying has been redirected, he adds, “And in this new Christian family, it is not our ethnic diversity that we celebrate but our oneness in Christ.
We need to understand that God used men to record His Word. We know that “… holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Pet. 1:21). These “holy men” that God used, however, did not write in a vacuum. Thus we see Luke, the doctor, writing with a different style than Peter, the fisherman, or Paul, the scholar. As we study Scripture, we understand that God inspired the very words – not merely the thoughts or ideas. And so, as we understand the flavors and nuances of the very words of the Bible, we enjoy a depth we might otherwise overlook. With that in mind, Barclay points out some profound truths concerning the use of the term “adoption.” He says,

But it is the consequences of adoption which are most significant for the picture that is in Paul’s mind. There were four main ones.

  1. The adopted person lost all rights in his old family and gained all the rights of a legitimate son in his new family. In the most binding legal way, he got a new father.

  2. It followed that he became heir to his new father’s estate. Even if other sons were afterwards born, it did not affect his rights. He was inalienably co-heir with them.

  3. In law, the old life of the adopted person was completely wiped out; for instance, all debts were canceled. He was regarded as a new person entering into a new life with which the past had nothing to do.

  4. In the eyes of the law he was absolutely the son of his new father. Roman history provides an outstanding case of how completely this was held to be true. The Emperor Claudius adopted Nero in order that he might succeed him on the throne; they were not in any sense blood relations. Claudius already had a daughter, Octavia. To cement the alliance Nero wished to marry her. Nero and Octavia were in no sense blood relations; yet, in the eyes of the law, they were brother and sister; and before they could marry, the Roman senate had to pass special legislation.

Barclay concludes, by pointing out another rich insight. He continues,

That is what Paul is thinking of. He uses still another picture from Roman adoption. He says that God’s spirit witnesses with our spirit that we really are his children. The adoption ceremony was carried out in the presence of seven witnesses. Now, suppose the adopting father died and there was some dispute about the right of the adopted son to inherit, one or more of the seven witnesses stepped forward and swore that the adoption was genuine. Thus the right of the adopted person was guaranteed and he entered into his inheritance. So, Paul is saying, it is the Holy Spirit himself who is the witness to our adoption into the family of God.

The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible says, “The Bible says several things about the believer’s adoption as a son of God.” It then lists,

1.  The believer’s adoption establishes a new relationship with God—forever. He is eternally secure as a child of God. But the new relationship is established only when a person comes to Christ through faith (Gal. 3:26; 4:4-5).

2.  The believer’s adoption establishes a new relationship with God as father. The believer has all the rights and privileges of a genuine son of God (Rom. 8:16-17; 1 John 3:1-2).

3.  The believer’s adoption establishes a new dynamic experience with God as father, a moment by moment access into His very presence (Rom. 8:14, 16; Gal. 4:6).

4.  The believer’s adoption gives him a very special relationship with other children of God—a family relationship that binds him with others in an unparalleled spiritual union (Eph. 2:11-22; 3:6; 4:4-6, 17-19).
5.  The believer’s adoption makes him a new person. The believer has been taken out from under the authority and power of the world and its sin. The believer is placed as a son into the family and authority of God. The old life with all of its debts and obligations are canceled and wiped out (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 3:23-27; 2 Pet. 1:4).

6.  The believer’s adoption is to be fully realized in the future at the return of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:19; Eph. 1:14; 1 Thess. 4:14-17; 1 John 3:2).

7.  The believer’s adoption and its joy will be shared by all creation on a cosmic scale (Rom. 8:21). There is to be a new heavens and earth (2 Pet. 3:12-14; Rev. 21:1-7).

Adoption into the family of God ought to be the cause of great rejoicing for the child of God. And from our hearts may we sing:

From the door of an orphanage to the house of the King,

No longer an outcast, a new song I sing;

From rags unto riches, from the weak to the strong,

I’m not worthy to be here, but PRAISE GOD! I belong!

I’m so glad I’m a part of the Family of God,

I’ve been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His Blood!

Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod,

For I’m part of the family, The Family of God.

 

REFERENCES

Barclay, William, Barclay’s Daily Study Bible (NT), WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

 

Comfort, Philip, ed., Cornerstone Biblical Commentary – Volume 14: Romans and Galatians, (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2007), WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

 

Gaither, William, “The Family of God.” Gospel Songs, <http://www.traditionalmusic.co.uk/gospel-songs-chords/family_of_god_the.htm>.

MacArthur, John, MacArthur New Testament Commentary – Romans 1-8, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1991), WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

 

Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible, The – Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, (Chattanooga: Leadership Ministries Worldwide, 1991), WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

 

Wiersbe, Warren, The Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament, Volume 1, (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor, 2001), WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

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