The Doctrine of Adoption

“If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his father.”

-J. I. Packer, Knowing God

Editor’s Note: This article was submitted by one of our Executive Producers, David Skinner. Skinner has been on the show a handful of times now and, upon finishing recording of Episode 135, took it upon himself to write this article. While it would show that I (Logan) am publishing this article, I wanted to explicitly point out that it is David Skinner who has penned this article. I pray it is an encouragement and challenge to you in your walk with Christ.

“Adoption”. Just hearing the word creates strong emotions for people; and well it should.  Stop for a second and ponder just how much is wrapped up in this word.  The hope, the pain, the fear, the joy; if ever a word could be called bittersweet; it is this one…at least from a secular point of view.

Then there is the word “doctrine”.  Also 8 letters long and packed with meaning but infinitely more divisive, even among the family of God, carrying with it comfort for some and pain to others.

So to take these deep words and bring them together seems almost a fool’s errand; yet that is what must be done to grasp exactly what it is that God has done for His elect.  We are like foster children removed from a horrible home where only pain, suffering, and death await.  Like many of these children, all we long for is to go back.  And while for a child to want their parent, even a poor one, is understandable and not wrong, our desire to return to our worldly parents, Satan and his lies, is not only sinful, but, as Sproul put it, “cosmic treason.”

We, His elect, have been adopted into the royal, priestly, and holy family.  This means that each time we return to our sin we are traitors not only to the sovereign creator of the universe, but we are slapping our own adoptive father in the face, expressing our lack of love for Him and the rich blessings, protections, and, most of all, salvation that He, in His sovereignty, chose to lavish upon us.  Don’t worry if this has hurt to read:  it should.  It was equally painful to write.  Now that it’s established that this is not a subject to be taken lightly, let’s dig in.

“If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his father.” -J. I. Packer, Knowing God

Ok, time to put it together:  the DOCTRINE of ADOPTION. 

To start, let’s let the Westminster divines have their say:

Chapter 12: Adoption

God guarantees the adoption of all those who are justified in and for the sake of his only son, Jesus Christ.(1) Those adopted enjoy the liberties and privileges of God’s children,(2) have his name put on them,(3) receive the Spirit of adoption,(4) have access to the throne of grace with boldness,(5) and are enabled to cry, Abba, Father.(6) They are pitied,(7) protected,(8) provided for,(9) and disciplined by him as a father.(10) They are never cast off, however,(11) and are sealed until the day of redemption(12) and inherit the promises(13) as heirs of everlasting salvation.(14)

These men spent more time in faithful study of scripture and prayer than I can ever imagine, so we can take this statement as a good description of things, especially if you consider the scripture that backs this up (Listed at the end of the article).  Having this foundation of scripture, we can see that there is so much more than we often consider.  He is our Father, Jesus our brother, and the Spirit our guide and comforter.  We are full heirs in the family and dearly loved.  This is the greatest relationship and the one ordained by God from time eternal.  When we are finally united in Heaven with the one who first loved us, it will be as if we were given our deepest and most unrequited desire; because He has put that longing in our souls and, once satisfied, we will want for nothing.

As if that were not enough, there is more promised:

  • We have His name upon us.
  • We can boldly approach His throne.
  • We can call him ABBA, father.
  • We are protected.
  • We are disciplined as by a good father.
  • We will not be abandoned.
  • We have inherited salvation.

What joy we should have!  What confidence!  And yet, we often miss just how deep the relationship is.  This doctrine, that we have the full legal status of a son of the most high, is why we can be assured of our salvation.  It is why we can fail and yet not lose all hope.  Why we can come to God with our needs and know we will not come away lacking.  Why we should be able to confidently and proudly proclaim our lord and Savior Christ Jesus.  Why we are to lift our voices in adoration to the most Holy God.  I’ll end with this scripture from 1 John 3:1.*

“Behold what manner of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are!*”

Soii Deo Gloria, 

GG and amen.

*exclamation point mine

1. Eph 1.5, Gal 4.4-5. 2. Rom 8.17, Jn 1.12. 3. Jer 14.9, 2 Cor 6.18, Rv 3.12. 4. Rom 8.15. 5. Eph 3.12, Rom 5.2, Heb 4.16. 6. Gal 4.6. 7. Ps 103.13. 8. Prv 14.26, Ps 27.1-3. 9. Mt 6.30,32, 1 Pt 5.7. 10. Heb 12.6. 11. Lam 3.31-32, Heb 13.5. 12. Eph 4.30. 13. Heb 6.12. 14. 1 Pt 1.3-4, Heb 1.14.

20 thoughts on “The Doctrine of Adoption

  1. This has got to be one of the most ignorant articles I’ve read about adoption.. take some time to talk to adoptees, the people who have experienced and lived it.. not every foster kid had a horrible situation, it’s not about returning to our “worldly” parents. It’s about love and family.

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    1. Brooke,

      I can tell you are passionate about adoption (as evidenced on your personal blog). However, it appears that you are reading something into the article that does not fit the context. Within the Biblical context that this article is written in (by someone who is currently fostering and adopting children nonetheless), this article is speaking specifically to a Christian’s relationship with God. Primarily, in what it means to be adopted into God’s family the moment someone comes to faith in Christ.

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      1. Yep. Totally understand that, Logan. What I have a problem with is the analogy that our lives are doomed before adoption, that is so clearly stated in the article. It signifies that things are bad before they can be good. This isn’t always the case, and it’s frustrating that the word adoption in the Christian world is used so greatly like this.

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      2. The Bible does make it clear that prior to faith in Christ, we are doomed to an eternity separated from God. It is only in that moment upon which our faith is put onto Christ we are adopted into God’s family, essentially being redeemed and restored. As someone who has also been adopted (out of a home with a very violent, murderous biological father and into one with a strong and loving father), this takes on a whole new level of experience and understanding for my own life. Adoption, within Christianity, is a word of hope and love and family; something I believe we agree on. I’m still confused as to what the issue is, specifically, that you have with this article.

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      3. From what articles I’ve read on your blog, I understand that, for you, there’s this incredible sense of abandonment that comes along with that word. What perplexes me is your initial comment that stated adoption is about love and family. Perhaps you can elaborate more on why you believe adoption is not something to be exalted/praised.

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      4. Then it appears we disagree. Adoption is about love, and it is about family; two things you stated in your initial comment. I could focus on the fact my biological father hasn’t bothered to reach out to me in 30 years and resent him because of it. But to be honest, that’d do more damage to myself. My identity, my worth as a human is not wrapped up in that at all. If it weren’t for adoption, I wouldn’t have a dad growing up. While parents should not abandon their children, as some do, adoption can be a powerful reminder of a person’s value and the fact that they are, indeed, loved.

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      5. You are a great case of adoption, and I’m glad you had that experience, unfortunately that is not the case.. in many many instances. You still experienced abandonment though (as you say you resent your father) and that is the part where Christianity and adoption refuses to acknowledge… there is pain involved and this ignored.

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      6. Saying I “could” resent my father is not the same as saying that I “do” resent him. The only abandonment I’ve experienced is the abandonment of holding a grudge against him. You assume your point with little to no evidence that Christianity ignores the pain people feel in reconciling their identity in relation to this topic. If that’s what happened at a church you went to, I’m sorry for that but that is not indicative of the rest of us. You’ve stated on your blog that you tend to lean more negative than positive; is that what’s occurring now?

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      7. It is ironic that you are doing the very thing you accused the article of doing in regards to the generalizing of the experience. Also note that the author took care in stating that the word “adoption” does bring with it a variety of emotions and hurt. As I was typing this, I got the notification of your other comment. If you would like to email me the articles you have read regarding this, I’ll give them a read.

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      8. I am not generalizing. I have done years of living an experience as well as talk to hundreds of adoptees. It’s not a generalization.

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      9. “Adoption is abandonment” is a generalization. You have continuously avoided elaborating on the contradiction between that and your initial comment (about adoption being about love and family) on this post; because of that, your statements are not making any sense. If we want to continue comparing our experiences, we will consistently find ourselves at an impasse because that is what you are holding as your generalized truth. At this point, it sounds like you believe adoption is a horrible thing. If that’s the case, then, according to your view, adoption shouldn’t happen at all.

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      10. And, no, I don’t think adoption is a horrible thing. Is the system corrupt? Most certainly, but I do not view it as a black and white issue by any means.

        That is so far from my initial point though, being that the word adoption is used lightly and to many (not all) adoptees this is hard to hear and stomach.

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      11. Well, I look forward to reading the articles you have read. I disagree with the notion that the word is used lightly. However it appears that we will not make much progress with further discussion.

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  2. Hi Brooke, I’m the guy that wrote this article. I understand your issues. I was using and analogy that I have firsthand experience with as a foster/adoptive parent. No analogy is perfect, however I was trying to be specific about the type of removal I was discussing, specifically those in bad situations. We have participated in reunification, and soon look to be doing so again, so I know that “not every foster kid had a horrible situation”. Sadly there are numerous instances that are and yet as the information shows the children still wish to return home, regardless of the situation. This is what I was referencing and nothing more.

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