Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Adoption! God's Greatest Blessing

Mihaela was raised in an orphanage in Romania
and her mission is to reach out and help her
fellow orphans know the love of their Father
in heaven who wants to adopt them as his children
What would you consider to be the highest blessing of the gospel? J.I. Packer, author of Knowing God, writes, “Adoption is the highest blessing of the Gospel, higher even than the gift of justification because of the richer relationship with God that it involves.” He continues, “Justification is a forensic idea, conceived in terms of law, and viewing God as judge. Adoption is a family idea, conceived in terms of love, and viewing God as father. In adoption, God takes us into His family and fellowship,and establishes us as His children and heirs. Closeness, affection and generosity are at the heart of the relationship. To be right with God as judge is a great thing; but to be loved and cared for by God my father is greater,” (Knowing God, 186-188).

I agree with Packer. Adoption is the highest blessing of the gospel, but it’s also more than that. If you read the five Pauline texts where adoption occurs, you will observe that God’s work of adoption has a clear “marking” function in the overarching story of redemption. It bookends the story of salvation. God planned for us to be adopted children from before the foundation of the world, "He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will" (Ephesians 1:5). At the end of the age, the final adoption proceedings will be completed with the resurrection of our bodies. “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, Abba! Father!" The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, …the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8: 14-23)

This predestined plan of adoption shows up at climactic junctures within the outworking of redemption within human history, " But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons," (Galatians 4:4-5). In other words, adoption plays a key role from the beginning of the unfolding story of redemption (before God even created the world) all the way to the end when all of God’s adopted children enjoy the full privileges of their adoption in the new heaven and new earth in resurrected and glorified bodies.

The Apostle Paul’s use of the term “adoption” in his epistles transports us to four events within the grand story of redemption. Yes, adoption is the highest blessing of the gospel, but it also serves as a lens through which we can look at the entire story of redemption. One of the most wonderful truths we learn is that God’s gift of adoption means that he does not merely redeem us, but he also brings us into the warmth and love and gladness of his own family. He redeems us so that he might treat us and delight in us just the same as he treats and delights in his eternal Son. As abandoned fatherless children orphaned by sin, God lovingly visited the orphanage of the world. We who eagerly accepted his offer to adopt us as his very own, were then purchased and made his very own children and given his Spirit as our family seal and identity. And by that Spirit we cry out "Abba - Daddy! This is the story of adoption.

Event One- The Deliberate Plan

In Ephesians 1:4-5, Paul states that in love God the Father “predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.” This is really quite amazing - adoption’s first epoch-making event happened even before God created the universe. Paul takes us all the way back before the dawning of human history, before God even spoke His all-powerful, life-giving words, “Let there be!”, and says that God chose us to be His sons through adoption. And God did this, Paul adds, “in love” (v. 4). In the same way loving families visit an orphanage or adoption agency to adopt a child, God's only motivation in the process was love. A natural child may be conceived by accident, however there is no such thing as an accidental adoption! God deliberately planned our adoption and it was prompted only by his desire to lavish his unfathomable love and favor upon us.

Even before the earth existed God marked us out (i.e., predestined us) for the great privilege of being His children through adoption. Adoption was not a divine afterthought. It was in God’s mind even before the first second of human history had even begun. One amazing truth we learn from Paul’s words here is that God's adoptive love is higher, deeper, wider, and longer than the universe itself.

Event Two - Israel's Destiny

Given Israel’s central role in the unfolding story of God’s work of redemption, adoption’s importance within the story of Israel is seen in Romans 9:4 where Paul identifies adoption as one of the great privileges intended for Israel as God’s chosen people. Paul writes, “They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises.” It is very significant that adoption shows up at this key moment within the unfolding story of redemption. God’s adoption of Israel was the intention of His redemption of Israel. He redeemed them so that they might receive adoption. However, just as a child in an orphanage may choose to not want to be adopted, Israel rejected God's gracious and loving intentions.

 Event Three - Children of Promise

In Galatians 4:4-5, referring to the wonderful climax of the story of redemption, Paul writes, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”

Adoption was promised to the children of Abraham according to their genealogy (Romans 9:4). The promise of sonship is given not to those who are sons "according to the flesh" but those who are children "according to the promise" which is fulfilled in Christ (Galatians 4). When we are baptized into Christ, we are clothed in Christ and thereby become heirs of the promise given to Abraham and receive the Spirit of adoption. "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise" (Galatians 3:26-29).

Paul identifies adoption as the grand purpose or objective of redemption. He could not have written it any more clearly. God sent His Son to redeem us so that we might be adopted! God the Father sent His eternal and natural Son so that we could become His adopted sons. Once again, adoption shows up at a key time—the climactic time—within the unfolding story of redemption. Just as God redeemed Israel in order that He might adopt them, so also has God redeemed us in order that He might adopt us! The difference between the covenant of adoption with Israel and with us is this - God made a covenant through Abraham to the nation of Israel.  However when we are united with Christ and clothed in him, his relationship becomes individually personal.  He adopted me as an individual and not me as part of a nation!  That's why he gives us his Spirit by which we call him Abba meaning "Daddy!"

Event Four- Final Proceedings

Adoption plays a leading role from before the beginning of the story of redemption (Ephesians 1:4-5) all the way to the consummation of redemption’s story when all of God’s adopted children enjoy the full privileges of their adoption on the new heaven and new earth with new bodies. In Romans 8:23, Paul writes, “And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” Paul identifies the glorification of our bodies as the consummation of our adoption. God, as it were, finalizes our adoption as sons when the story of redemption reaches its intended goal.

When you consider the central role that adoption plays within the overall story of redemption, you realize that it reveals the unfathomable! God actually cherishes and delights in us, His children—and he does so just as much as he cherishes and delights in his eternal Son! God is, as it were, moving heaven and earth to bring us to Himself for our eternal joy!

If any group of people should be easily mobilized to care for orphans, it should be those whom God has already adopted, those who were at one time without home and hope in this world. No community of people in this world should be more attuned to the cries and groans of orphans than the dearly loved, adopted children of God. Therefore, we, of all people on earth, should lead the way in caring for orphans in their affliction.

We are never closer to the loving heart of God than when we are engaged in the deliberate mission of insuring that orphans are cared for and as many as possible are adopted. That is the heart of God!
e heart of God!