“In love 5He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will.’” Ephesians 1:4b-5
Not a few Christians will often give you a blank look when inquired about adoption. The theological doctrine of adoption has often received little to no attention in theology text books and in the church’s confessions. Yet adoption is one of the most valuable, heartwarming, and practical of all of our theological beliefs. It invites us to consider the amazing blessing that we should be called the children of God (1 John 3:1).
One reason that we fail to appreciate adoption as God’s children is that we do not consider ourselves to be orphans. We tend to think that everybody is a child of God. The biblical doctrine of adoption begins with Adam and Eve. Created in the image of God, they were God’s children, and enjoyed close fellowship with their heavenly Father in the garden of Eden. Yet with their fall, the image of God in them was marred and their relationship as children of God was lost. They were driven from the garden, separated from God’s presence, children of His wrath. This is the condition into which all human beings are now born: aliens and strangers with respect to God (Eph. 2:3). But God had chosen from beginning of time to have a family for Himself (Eph. 1:5), He acted in history to make their salvation a reality. Whereas Adam was God’s son by virtue of creation, Israel became God’s son through adoption (Ex. 4:22). Adoption highlights clearly the element of grace in their relationship. Though Israel constantly turned away from Him, God still would not abandon her; her election as His adopted child was irrevocable (Rom. 11:29).
Our adoption as sons of God comes through union with Christ and cannot be experienced apart from it. When we are united to Christ by faith, in Christ, and in Him alone, we receive the adoption that gives us an undeserved share in the promises that were made to Him and the privileges that He has earned as God’s Son (Gal. 3:29). Indeed, the reason that Christ came to this earth was so that He might give us adoption as God’s sons (Gal. 4:5).
What are the blessings that flow to us as God’s adopted children in Christ? The first blessing that we have is fellowship with our heavenly Father, a fellowship that our first parents forfeited through their sin. Second, because we share a common Father in God, we have the basis for true spiritual unity with one another, we are all brothers and sisters in the one family of God. The third great blessing that comes to us in our adoption is the gift of the Spirit of God, whom Paul calls “the Spirit of adoption” in Romans 8:15. The final great blessing of adoption is the prospect of a glorious family inheritance — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, as Romans 8:17 puts it.
The day will come when God’s work in us will be finished and we will be free from corruption and sin, truly bearing the family likeness. On that day, however, we will grasp more fully how great and awesome is God’s grace and mercy to us in Christ, that has redeemed us from Satan’s family and granted us membership in His own family as His treasured sons and daughters.