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.

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