Promise of Adoption
It is true that the Bible presents a prosperity gospel. But it’s not about the sensual health and wealth message that is drawing many souls to destruction in places like Africa, Latin America and right here in the Caribbean. Rather, the prosperity of the Biblical gospel is found in the lavish or abounding grace of God in His adopting us as sons. It’s an exceedingly great and precious promise for we are assured that we are already, now, sons of God.
An Exceedingly Great And Precious Promise
There are some things in the Bible that just make you want to go ‘wow’ If you pause to meditate on them long enough . I am referring specifically to the many promises of God that are wrapped up in the Biblical gospel. Apostle Peter calls them “exceedingly great and precious promises” because by them we become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). This Scripture verse is not saying that we will become divine or transition into deity. It is saying that we become partakers of the divine nature when we receive the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of adoption, by whom we are able to say “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15). The promise of God that really stirs up my emotions is found in this Biblical doctrine of adoption.
- I. Packer says in his book, Knowing God, that adoption is the highest privilege the gospel offers; higher even than justification. “In adoption, God takes us into his family and fellowship—he establishes us as his children and heirs. Closeness, affection and generosity are at the heart of the relationship. To be right with God the Judge [justification] is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father [adoption] is a greater” (J. I. Packer, Knowing God, p.207). The promise of adoption almost seems too good to be true, so I find that I need to check the Scriptures to reassure myself about what it really encompasses. Apostle Paul lays it out for us in his introduction to the Ephesians on the spiritual blessings from God the Father to those who are in Christ: “…having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will” (ESV, Ephesians 1:5).
Let me try to break this down because that is saying a lot. The Scripture is actually telling me that even before anything was created, way back in eternity, God was pleased to choose me and position me, through Christ, into the family of God. But that was just the beginning of His plans for me. God had to send forth His Son in the fullness of time to accomplish my redemption from the slavery of sin. Then the Holy Spirit had to regenerate my heart and raise me up with Christ unto eternal life.
It would have been just great if that was all there is to salvation. Then I could be assured of the forgiveness of my sins and that I was no longer under God’s wrath. But there is more; much more. This was the point J. I. Packer was making in his statement on believers’ adoption as sons of God. The Lord Jesus gives us an idea of this overflowing grace in His parable of the lost son (Luke 15:11-32). The hungry and impoverished son had returned and was welcomed and forgiven by his father. The son was merely asking to be forgiven by his father and to be numbered among his hired servants. But the father went beyond that expectation. After an emotional reconciliation, the father dressed his son in the best robe, put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. He then proceeded to heap more love upon his son by bringing out the fattened calf for a grand celebration of his son’s return.
My first reaction to the doctrine of adoption is to say Hallelujah! Thank you God! But I still want to research the original Greek used by Apostle Paul in Ephesians 1:5. It’s not that I don’t trust the Bible translators. It is just that I remember someone once said that reading the Bible in its translation is like kissing your bride through the veil on her face. That may be close enough but it’s still not the real thing.
In my quest, I found W. E. Vine’s New Testament Word Pictures to be very helpful. For example, I learnt that Apostle Paul is the only New Testament writer to use the Greek, huiothesia, which is translated “adoption as sons” in Ephesians 1:5. This Greek word “signifies the place and condition of a son given to one to whom it does not naturally belong” (Vine’s N. T. Word Pictures). Take note Christian; our position as sons of God does not come naturally. It requires that the sinner be reborn. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). That is the lesson the Lord Jesus was careful to explain to the Pharisee Nicodemus: “You must be born again” (John 3:7). Spiritual rebirth or regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit. It comes at a high price to those who are “…called to belong to Jesus Christ” (ESV, Romans 1:6).
It’s no wonder, then, that Apostle Peter uses the word “precious” (meaning ‘of a great price’ or ‘most costly’) to describe such promises in the Bible! The Apostle also reserves this same word (precious) for his description of the saving blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:19). The overflowing, abundant grace is captured in 1 John 3:1, KJV: “Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God”. Indeed, what manner of love! Vine’s goes further to describe adoption as “a term involving the dignity of the relationship of believers as sons”. The dignity of the sons of God is evident in ESV, Romans 8:17: “…and if children, then heirs - heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ”. We are heirs in Christ and heirs with Christ! This is an awesome reality for the believer.
Heirs have an inheritance. A question that may be asked is, “What is our inheritance as sons of God?” There are several references in the Bible to the believer’s inheritance (e.g., Ephesians 1:11; 14). We can know it by faith but we don’t get to know the full details just yet. Simply put, our inheritance is the sum total of “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). It is “the prospective condition and possessions of the believer in the new order of things to be ushered in at the return of Christ” (Vine’s N. T. Word Pictures).
This glorious inheritance of the sons of God will impact the whole creation, which will be “set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (ESV, Romans 8:21). So we wait patiently with great anticipation for the revelation of the sons of God at the return of our Lord. Then our eyes shall see in full, and our ears hear clearly, and our hearts understand the fulfilling of the gospel in the doctrine of adoption.
That is what the Scriptures mean when they say,
“No eye has seen, nor ear has heard,and no mind has imagined,what God has prepared for those who love him.” (NLT, 1 Corinthians 2:9)