Justification by faith or God’s declaration of believers as righteous on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice is accompanied by adoption. That is, believers become children of the heavenly Father. Justification, adoption, regeneration and sanctification are God’s gifts given to the elect. Adoption is founded on justification. In other words, before one is adopted into God’s family, one must be pardoned and accepted as righteous for Christ’s sake by God, the judge of the world. Justification clears the way for adoption, which is the crowning blessing. By virtue of Jesus’ incomparable son-ship, we come to have the same Father as He and so Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers, (Hebrews 2:11). As newly adopted members of God’s family, we have the honour and privilege to be called ‘children of God’. We have Him as our heavenly Father, Jesus as our Lord and Saviour and the Holy Spirit as our helper who also lives in us. This means that we become the special objects of God loving care and protection. The members of the Trinity each play a vital role, not only in the salvation of each child of God but also in their preservation. The blessings of adoption which accrue to God’s children are great and numerous. Here are some:

  1. A new spiritual family relationship with God: Human beings are alienated from God as a result of the fall. God created us for Himself. We were meant to be in close fellowship with Him. As Augustine of Hippo put it, “Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless ‘til they find rest in Thee.” When God saves us, He deals with this great problem of alienation from Himself by adopting us into His family. By adoption, Christians become sons and daughters of God. Galatians 4:6, “And because you are sons, God has sent forth the spirit of his son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’” John 20:17, “Do not cling to me for I have not yet ascended to my father, but go to my brethren and say to them, I’m ascending to my father and your father and to my God and your God.’” In these words, uttered by Christ, there is a distinction and a closeness of fellowship between Jesus, His Father and the disciples. The point here is that, the same God who is the Father of Jesus is also the Father of Christians. In this new spiritual family relationship, Jesus calls His disciples ‘brothers’ for both He, “who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason he is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Heb. 2:11). Brothers are members of one and the same family. They share in the same inheritance hence every child of God is a joint-heir with Christ. Dear friend, nothing can compare to being a Christian. Perish every ambition, we are children of God! No wonder John exclaims, “Behold what manner of love the father has bestowed on us that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1). Nothing is more important than our relationship with God. He has a special love and attitude towards His sons. Not only that, Christians are in a new relationship with God, they are also in a relationship with one another as a result of adoption. We are brothers and sisters in our Lord Jesus Christ. We are members of the household of faith (see Eph. 2:9). Therefore we are to love, pray and care for each other as members of the same family of God. The puritans would say, “We are of the same royal blood of heaven.” This new relationship to God also entails privileges which are ours in Christ. One such privilege is prayer. We are able to address God as, “Our Father, who art in heaven” (Matt. 5:9). And as our Father, God hears our prayers. God is more ready to give us His blessings, than we are to receive. We should have great assurance when we pray. God is ready to listen to us. He loves to hear His children pray to Him. What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer! By the spirit of adoption, we cry out to Him, ‘Abba, Father!’
  2. We lose the spirit of bondage: “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father!’” (Rom. 8:15-16). Christians are not slaves of sin but children of God. Since God has adopted them, they are no longer filled with the spirit of slaves, that is, the spirit of dread. It is implied in these words of the apostle that before a person becomes a Christian, he or she is oppressed with fear due to the emphasis on the rules one has to keep in order to be saved. Through adoption, we are set free from all kinds of fear such as the fear of death, our own death and that of loved ones or the fear of an uncertain future. Fear brings mental bondage and robs us of peace and joy. The spirit of dread is lost when we are adopted and replaced with the spirit of adoption by whom we cry out ‘Abba, Father!’
  3. We receive the gift of the Holy Spirit: God seals the adoption of His children by giving them the Spirit of His Son, “And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out ‘Abba, Father!’” (Gal. 4:6). The Spirit of His Son is the Holy Spirit. He is called the Spirit of His Son because He proceeds from God the Son as well as God the Father. He is also called the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9), the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 8:10), the Spirit of God (Romans 8:14), the Spirit of adoption (Romans 8:15). All these refer to the same and one person, the blessed Holy Spirit. By the Spirit of adoption, we cry out, ‘Abba, Father!’ The word ‘Abba’ is a colloquial Aramaic word for ‘father’. In Antioch, where Aramaic was spoken, the early church fathers, Chrysostom, Theodore of Mopsuestia and Theodoret of Cyrrhus testify unanimously that small children used the word, ‘Abba!’ to address their fathers. Jesus use of the word in Mark 14: 36, “Abba Father, all things are possible for you. Take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, not what I will but what you will”, expresses His close relationship with His Father. The Spirit enables us to address God as ‘Abba, Father,’ because we are adopted in Christ. Mark who wrote his gospel to a Greek speaking audience, used the word ‘Abba,’ which is Aramaic and quickly added the Greek equivalent for ‘father’. Probably, Paul wrote ‘Abba, Father,’ in Romans and Galatians for a similar reason. Believers can address God as, ‘Abba, Father’, individually and collectively when they are gathered for worship. There is a joint witness of our own spirit and the Holy Spirit in the cry, ‘Abba, Father’. The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:16). The Spirit bears direct witness with our spirit that we are God’s children as the phrase, ‘the Spirit Himself’ suggests. How the Spirit does this, Paul does not say. Some have suggested that the Spirit testifies along with our regenerated consciousness by exerting a direct influence on heart and mind (Galatians 4:6), while others insist that He works by applying the word to heart and mind of individual believers and also of the church viewed as a unit, (John 8:47, John 16:3). Perhaps both views could be true. The point however is that the Spirit assures us that we are Gods children. God’s love is indeed amazing. He has not only saved and adopted us, but he has sent the Spirit of adoption into our hearts to assure us that we are his children. We must stress the point that the Lord wants us to know that these blessings are ours in Christ Jesus. By means of the joint witness, he gives us assurance that we are his. Assurance is not the only work of the Spirit. As he dwells in our hearts, he also transforms us into the image of Christ and fills our hearts with joy unspeakable and full of glory. He illumines our minds as we study the word of God. His works are manifold.
  4. A new inheritance: “And if children then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. If indeed we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified together” (Romans 8:17). The apostle Paul, logically argues that son-ship leads to heir-ship. If we are children of God, the apostle argues that we are heirs. The one who bequeaths the inheritance is God. Thus we are heirs of God along with Christ the Son of God. If we are heirs then there is an inheritance. What do we mean by inheritance? The future privileges and blessings of soul and body which we will enjoy in heaven are described as inheritance. It is true that even now believers enjoy certain privileges but much more is reserved for the future when Christ comes and saints are glorified. God is rich beyond measure. He owns all the silver and gold, cattle on a thousand hills. His riches cannot be diminished. He is a generous Father who will give all these riches to His heirs along with His beloved son the Lord Jesus. The inheritance belongs to God’s children by right so it’s more than just a gift. Christ’s sacrifice established the right to the inheritance and so it cannot be denied them. Peter says it is an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you. What can we say to these things? Soli Deo Gloria!
  5. A new spiritual freedom: Those who have never experienced deliverance from sin are slaves of sin. They cannot free themselves from the chains of sin. Their master is sin. This kind of slavery is the worst form of slavery according to the scriptures. There are serious consequences if one continues being a slave of sin. Jesus warns that, ‘a slave does not abide in the house forever.’ slaves will not partake of the privileges of the sons of God. The sons of God have experienced deliverance from sin. One should not claim to be a child of God while continuing to live a habitual sinful life. A child of God has experienced freedom from sin. John Murray writes that, ‘there is a close relationship between adoption and regeneration.’ ‘Regeneration emphasizes the newness of life while adoption emphasizes the new family relationship which is ours in Christ. In Christian experience regeneration and adoption take place simultaneously,’ and so Christians can rejoice in the glorious freedom of son-ship. The Spirit who indwells them sets them free from sin and hopeless efforts to obey the law by their own power and ushers them into freedom. For where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty, (2 Corinthians 3:17).
  6. A new people: Christians by virtue of their adoption are a people who belong to God. God has elected them for Himself. The Gentiles who were once excluded from Gods covenant community are now the people of God. Acts 15:14, “God at the first visited the gentiles to take out of them a people for his name.” In a world populated with billions of people, God has his own. He has extended His mercy to the undeserving Jews and Gentiles alike. Those who were not useful to Him are now the people of God. Those who had not obtained mercy have now obtained mercy, (1 Peter 2:9-10). Before conversion, we are considered as ‘not a people’, meaning not useful to God. When we get saved and adopted, we become God’s prized possession.
  7. A new security: If God is our Father, then we are in a secure relationship with Him. He will care for us. He will supply all our needs and bless us abundantly. Fathers at a human level, care for their own children, provide for them and guide them. They protect them from harm whenever possible. If earthly Fathers who are sinful can do these things for their own children, will not God do much more for his children? If we who are sinful know how to give good things to our children, surely God will do much more. He has said in his word, 2 Corinthians 12:14 “children ought not to lay up for their parents, but the parents for the children.” This means that God is obliged as our father to care for his adopted children. He will never forsake us. He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” Hebrews 13:5. We have a right to all the promises God has given us. Believers should not be anxious about anything. God has told them not to worry saying, “What shall eat?” or “what shall we drink?” or “what shall we wear?” For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. He knows about our needs whatever they may be and he will provide. Adoption should cause us to put our confidence in God as we face challenging and difficult situations. He will always be there for us. If you are in a difficult situation, if life seems hard and unbearable, be encouraged and comforted that your Father is concerned about you. He will see you through it all. All things will work together for good for you.
  8. A new discipline: Adopted sons of God undergo painful discipline as they live in this world. Discipline can take various forms. It certainly includes suffering in different ways. Many times when we suffer we become discouraged, feel that God is removed from us and think that God has forgotten about us. The writer to the Hebrews however argues that being disciplined is a sign of God’s love towards us. As sons, discipline is expected so you should never despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by him. Why should we not despise or be discouraged when we are chastened? Hebrews 12:6 gives an apt answer: “For whom the Lord loves, He chastens and scourges every son whom He receives.” There has been moral collapse in our communities today which can be traced largely to parental failure. God will not allow his children to be spoilt. We cannot misbehave with impunity, He will certainly chastise. If you go without discipline, then you are illegitimate and not sons of God. He chastens us for our profit that we may be partakers of His holiness. Son-ship brings great and glorious privileges but it also brings awesome responsibilities on our part as sons. We should always live as sons of God and never forget the exhortation that speaks to us as sons. This spiritual Fatherhood far transcends the physical fatherhood of our human progenitors. Therefore, we should do, “all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:14, 15).

Let me close with a quote from Dr Martin Lloyd-Jones on the subject of adoption, “the humblest Christian in the world is a ‘son of God’. Lift up your head, as you look around and see the world as is it, remember to look at it as a child of God, as one who belongs to the family of God. Then you will never know despair, you will never know panic, or terror or alarm. You will be able to look at it all and see through it all and say, ‘this is the victory that overcometh the world,’ in every sense, ‘even our faith.’ And it is this faith, which brings us to this knowledge that we are sons of God.

Bibliography

William Hendricksen, Romans 1999, Edinburgh, Banner of Truth

William Hendricksen, John, 1998, Edinburgh, Banner of Truth

Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity, 2003, Edinburgh, Banner of Truth

James Montgomery Boyce, Foundations of the Christian Faith, 1986, Illinois, Intervarsity Press

Edgar Andrews, A Glorious High Throne, 2003, New York, Evangelical Press

New Geneva Study Bible NKJV, 1995, USA, Thomas Nelson

  1. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans- The Sons of God, 2002, Edinburgh, Banner of Truth