4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (Galatians 4:4-7, ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV.)
Adoption is an act of God in which He makes us members of His family. In the past few days my family and I have been considering in our after-breakfast Bible reading what Wayne Grudem says about it in his Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994). Here I’ll share some of what we read.
Some passages in the Bible referring to adoption besides the passage with which I opened this post, Galatians 4:4-7, are:
– “But to all who did receive him [the true light, Jesus Christ], who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12).
– “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:14-17).
– “In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith” (Galatians 3:26).
– “See what kind of love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1).
Although we are God’s children now (“Beloved, we are God’s children now,” John 3:2), there is a sense in which we do not receive all the benefits of adoption until Christ returns and we receive our resurrection bodies, as Paul observes in Romans 8:23, “Not only creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption of sons, the redemption of our bodies.”
After considering the Biblical evidence for adoption, Grudem explains how adoption follows conversion and is distinct from regeneration and justification. He affirms that John 1:12 and Galatians 3:26, both of which I’ve quoted above, “make it clear that adoption follows conversion and is God’s response to our faith” (page 738). And he observes that God could have made us spiritually alive (regeneration) and forgiven our sins and made us legally righteous before Him (justification) without making us His children, concluding, “It is important to realize this because it helps us to recognize how great are our privileges in adoption” (page 739).
What are our privileges in adoption? Grudem identifies the following:
– We are able to speak to God and to relate to Him as a Father.
– As our Father God not only takes care of our needs but also gives us good gifts, including the Holy Spirit, and an inheritance in Heaven. “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him?” (Matthew 7:11; see also Luke 11:13) and “He has caused us to be born again … to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3-4).
– As His children we can receive daily forgiveness for our sins which disrupt our relationship with Him. “Our Father in heaven … forgive us our debts” (Matthew 6:9,12).
– We can be led by the Holy Spirit. See Romans 8:14, quoted above.
– God disciplines us as His children. “[When He disciplines you] God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? … he disciplines us for our own good, that we may share his holiness” (Hebrews 12:7,10).
– God allows us to share in Christ’s suffering and glory. See Romans 8:17, quoted above.
– We have a family relationship with other Christians. They are our “brothers” and “sisters.”
As usual we discussed the questions for personal application provided at the end of the chapter by Grudem. This time there were six of us taking part in the discussion, my daughter and son-in-law (Allison and Andy) being with us on their annual visit from Nebraska. Here I’ll refer to just one thing that came out in our discussion of those questions. Before reading the chapter, we’d associated with our being born again (regeneration) some of the privileges that Grudem associates with adoption. However we now can see how they, except possibly sharing in Christ’s suffering and glory, come with our becoming children of God rather than automatically being ours because of our being born again.