2004-09-14 - Adoption
Ephesians 1:5, "He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,"
I thought I would begin by giving a simple definition of what Adoption is in Scripture. There are lots of ways to put it, but this 17th century definition has stood the test of time, and there are few that can compare to it.
"Adoption is an act of the free grace of God (1 John 3:1), in and for his only Son Jesus Christ, (Ephesians 1:5, Galatians 4:4, 5), whereby all those that are justified are received into the number of his children (John 1:12), have his name put upon them (Revelation 3:12, 2 Corinthians 6:18), the Spirit of his Son given to them (Galatians 4:6), are under his fatherly care and dispensations (Psalm 103:13, Proverbs 14:26, Matthew 6:32), admitted to all the liberties and privileges of the sons of God, made heirs of all the promises, and fellow-heirs with Christ in glory (Romans 8:17, Hebrews 6:12)."
When we start to ponder being adopted into the family of God, we should start with considering God Himself. God did not create us because He was all alone and tired of spending centuries watching TV without anyone to share the experience with. He did not lack anything. If He wanted a family, He did not need us, He had the angels. He created us as an act of pure grace to us and simple pleasure for Himself. He willed to create us and show us mercy by making us His family. It is the highest honor to be adopted into the family of God. It is a wonder that He condescended to call us, those who have constantly rebelled against Him in our sin, His sons and daughters.
Suppose a judge had before Him a criminal who was guilty of crimes that would lead to his execution. It is an old old illustration, but the judge says, "You are pardoned." Imagine the joy of the criminal. The judge continues, "Criminal, you are also very rich. Look here at this inheritance I am passing on to you." The man stands before the judge in amazement. The judge continues, "I am also going to give you power over all your enemies, power that only I have to give to anyone." The criminal stands silent....amazed. The judge goes on, "I have also made you a prince. You are adopted into the royal family and will have all the rights that they have. In fact they are no longer 'they' to you, for you are one of them." It is a good illustration on adoption, but, in truth, it really isn't all that good. There is no illustration that can come close to showing the true nature of how staggering it is to be called the son or the daughter of God. The application is for us to be ever thanking God for having such mercy upon us that we have been adopted into His family.
Lastly, I would like to make a short comment on some historical and textual aspects of this passage. The Apostle Paul is the only New Testament writer to mention adoption. This makes a lot of sense and lends further authority to the credibility of the Bible. There is no concept of adoption in Jewish law. They would have known nothing of it. But, Paul was a Roman citizen and it was a concept very familiar in Roman law. In Roman law adoption gave the person adopted a right to the name and property of the person doing the adopting. As soon as the person was adopted he could make those claims. In addition, adoption in Roman law gave the parent all the parental rights of a parent on the child. It works both ways. Paul was using a concept that would have been unfamiliar to Jews, but made total sense to Gentiles.
Soli Deo Gloria,