Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:00

The Adoption of the Children of God

Written by Rev. G.R. Procee
We will now consider some Scriptural and practical aspects of the adoption of the children of God. Adoption is an act of God whereby He adopts sinners to be His children. This adoption takes place in the way of regeneration, and justification by the blood and Holy Spirit of Christ. It is an inestimable privilege to be adopted as a child of God, to be an heir of God, to have heaven as your home and to be under God's Fatherly care.

What is the adoption of children of God? This term is used in Scripture in various ways. Adoption is used in Scripture to describe a future blessing of God's children. In Romans 8:23 we read, "we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body." We find the same in 1 John 3:2, "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." Here adoption is explained as something for the future. When the Lord Jesus returns, God's people shall be fully manifested as children of God. Then they shall enter the glory that is beyond compare. There they shall see their Lord and Saviour as He is and they themselves shall be made perfect, filled with love and perfect happiness. Then they will be fully children of God.

Besides the use of adoption in a future sense, Scripture also refers to adoption as a privilege that is already experienced in this present life. For instance, we read in Romans 8:15, "but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God;" and in Galatians 4:4,5 we read, "God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons." In 2 Corinthians 8:18, where the Lord gives His response to genuine repentance, we read: "And I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty."

When we speak about adoption we have to be very clear what we actually mean. There is a general fatherhood of God in the sense that He is the Maker of all and therefore also the Father of all. All men and all angels are, in this sense, children of God. Job speaks of the angels as sons of God shouting for joy at the creation of the world. ÒWhen the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy" (Job 38:7). In Malachi 2:10 we read, "Have we not all one Father? hath not one God created us?" When, in this article, we deal with adoption we are not referring to the general fatherhood of God by virtue of Him being the Creator of all beings.

Scripture also refers to God as Father in the sense of the covenant of grace. There is a general adoption in the covenant of grace whereby GodÕs promise is laid on all covenant children. But that does not mean that they are therefore adopted as children of God in a saving sense and that they belong to Christ's flock. We know that there are two kinds of covenant children. By baptism and the covenant we are adopted in a covenantal sense as a child of God, but by regeneration we become a child of God in a saving sense.

When we speak of adoption as children of God, we mean the grace of God whereby He adopts sinners and makes them His children by means of personal regeneration. This is reflected in a life of repentance and faith.

In the original Greek the word adoption means to be regarded as a son. The background to this is that a wealthy Greek could adopt a young man and consider him to be his own son. He would give this young man a title to his goods and would confer his family name upon him. This was a judicial matter. Adoption was established by a legal act, so that the young man was considered to be part of this Greek family. This judicial act had to be accompanied by the actual deed. The wealthy Greek had to take this young man into his family and behave towards him as if he were his natural-born son.

Similarly, but in a much greater sense, the Lord does this. The young man who was adopted into the rich Greek family had to be instructed and had to be taught how to behave himself. He had to know what was expected from him. Similarly, the Lord, in a far better manner, educates His children and prepares them so that they completely fit into the family of God. The Holy Spirit gives such an adoptee a new principle of life within, a new heart and a new spirit.

This new nature is given in the way of regeneration. That is what Peter refers to when he says, "Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4). The same is stated in John 1:12,13, "But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."

Who are God's children? Those who believe in the Son. Who are the ones who believe in the Son? Those who are regenerated. They are the ones who are adopted to be children of God, based on the free and sovereign grace of God.

Various Confessions speak about adoption. The Westminster Shorter Catechism does that in question 34, where it asks, "What is adoption?Ó The answer is: ÒAdoption is an act of God's free grace, whereby we are received into the number and have a right to all the privileges of the sons of God."

The Westminster Confession states that,

All those that are justified, God vouchsafeth, in and for his
only Son Jesus Christ, to make partakers of the grace of
adoption: by which they are taken into the number, and enjoy the
liberties and privileges of the children of God; have his name
put upon them; receive the Spirit of adoption; have access to the
throne of grace with boldness; are enabled to cry, Abba, Father;
are pitied, protected, provided for, and chastened by his as by a
father; yet never cast off, but sealed to the day of redemption,
and inherit the promises, as heirs of everlasting salvation.

In the Heidelberg Catechism we find the following:

Lord's Day 1: ÒHe also preserves me in such a way, that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head. Ò

Lord's Day 9: ÒThat the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who out of nothing created heaven and earth and all that is in them, and who still upholds and governs them by His eternal counsel and providence, is, for the sake of Christ His Son, my God and my Father.Ó

Lord's Day 13: ÒWhy is He called God's only begotten Son, since we also are children of God? Because Christ alone is the eternal, natural Son of God. We, however, are children of God by adoption, through grace, for Christ's sake. Ò

The Belgic Confession speaks about adoption in an implicit sense. Article 13 speaks of Òour most gracious and heavenly Father; who watches over us with a paternal care.Ó Article 26 states: ÒTherefore according to the command of Christ, we call upon the Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ our own Mediator. Ò

The same is also to be found in the liturgical forms in the back of our Psalters. There again we find the child-Father relationship used to describe the relationship between God and His people. For instance, in the Form for Baptism it is stated that ÒGod the Father adopts us for his children and heirs.Ò This is especially clear in the Form for the Lord's Supper: ÒThat we may not doubt but Thou wilt forever be our gracious Father, nevermore imputing our sins unto us and providing us with all things necessary, as well for the body as the soul, as Thy beloved children and heirs. Ò

Adoption is a most gracious work of God whereby He draws sinners to Himself and makes them His children. The most high God has a special care for and bestows great privileges on unworthy sinners. Brakel writes in this connection:

I, who like other men lay in my sins; who was subject to the
wrath of God; who was hateful, abominable, and intolerableÑI have
been known of God from eternity, have been ordained in His decree
to be His child, and in time have been snatched from hell, and
have been adopted as a child, as a child of that great God! I,
who am but despised and maimed, have been betrothed to the Son of
GodÑand this with the approbation of His Father and by reason of
the incomprehensible love of the Son! I, who was dead in sins and
trespasses, have been quickened by the omnipotent power of the
Holy Spirit! I have been born of God! This is incomprehensible
and transcends all adoration. However, even though it is
marvellous in my eyes, it nevertheless is the LordÕs doing.
Therefore I ought to rejoice over all this honor and glory, over
such love and benevolence. I shall therefore love Him in return
and magnify His Name to all eternity.
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