Initiative, Blessings, and Intimacy in God's Adoption

by J. Randal Matheny, editor
Adoption is an act of love and mercy. Parents who adopt often go through great effort to express their compassion in order to take on the responsibility of welcoming a child into the family. Laws are becoming tougher, the financial expenses are high, and social workers probe deeply into the marital relationship. Still, people are willing to submit themselves to such rigors to be able to show love to a child that otherwise would be destined to a life bereft of love and joy.
Among the figures used to express God’s act of redemption is adoption. Though the social process and significance of adoption today is far different than that of ancient cultures, the Bible calls adoption that loving act of God to welcome us into his family.
Adoption speaks of God’s initiative, in whose mind the design and plan was formed. The idea was his. The execution depended entirely upon him. He bore its full cost.
So Paul (who is the only on in the New Testament to speak of redemption in terms of adoption) indicates in Ephesians 1:4-5,

“For he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love. He did this by predestining us to adoption as his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the pleasure of his will” (NET).

A child does not get himself adopted; parents adopt. Just so, God decided long before that he would bring needy and lonely mankind into his home.
Adoption also speaks of privileges and blessings. “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery leading again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, ‘Abba, Father'” (Romans 8:15).
By mention of the Spirit, Paul indicates all God’s good gifts to his children (compare Luke 11:13; Matthew 7:11). Through the Spirit come the blessings of salvation, sanctification, revelation, and empowerment to do the Father’s will. By the Spirit, we may appeal to God and relate to him as Father.
Paul indicates much the same idea in Galatians 4:4-6,

“But when the appropriate time had come, God sent out his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we may be adopted as sons with full rights. And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, who calls ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if you are a son, then you are also an heir through God.”

Being a child of God means hope of inheritance and enjoying even now the rights and privileges of sonship.
Adoption also indicates love and intimacy, as the Romans 8 passage above indicates, in the contrast it makes with the “spirit of slavery leading again to fear.” The Spirit we have received is far different. He acts in our benefit, on our behalf. “Abba” is an intimate term. In Christ, God is close to us, and we to God. We have him in our hearts. This Spirit is not imposed or forced upon us, but we “receive” him, welcoming him with joy for all he brings from the Father.
To appreciate better the gift of God in Christ, Scripture uses a number of metaphors to describe what our Lord accomplished on the cross. Adoption is an endearing term that speaks strongly of God’s initiative, blessing, and love.

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