Our Adoption as Sons

This past Sunday was “Orphan Sunday.” My small group tuned in for the webcast live from Nashville. It was great. In fact, I would encourage anyone reading this to watch the archive from the broadcast at www.gospelmusicchannel.com. Over this blog post and the next, I want to look at a theology of adoption and then the resulting call upon all believers to care for the fatherless, as orphans are often called in the Scriptures.

When I was in seminary, as part of my ministry to college students, I led a trip with students from the University of Central Florida to a conference in North Carolina. While driving the van back from the conference, one of the college girls and I were talking about her adoption. She and her sister had both been adopted as young girls.  She shared what I thought a powerful statement that her parents told her all growing up: “Other parents get stuck with their kids. We chose you to be our daughter.” Now, obviously, other parents don’t get “stuck” with their kids. But the picture is powerful: Her parents picked her, chose her, to be their child.

That is precisely the picture of God’s sovereign election f those whom he would save. He picked us to be his children. In the study of salvation, we often speak of the ordo salutis, that is, the order of salvation. In the evangelical church in America today, we have missed out on crucial part of that process: adoption. Consider the following passages…

“But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir” (Galatians 4:4-7).

“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory… Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:15-17, 23).

“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:12-13).

“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely give us in the One he loves” (Ephesians 1:4-6).

The Scriptures tell us that those who are outside of Christ are children of Satan. “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire” (John 8:44). We were born to an evil father – one who wanted only our destruction and for us to share in his judgment and death. Yet, in Christ, we have been adopted as his children so that we can pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven…” (Matthew 6:9). Instead of being children of the one who wanted our judgment, destruction and death, we have been “made children” of the God who is the author of life and hope and joy.

In summary, we have been adopted into the family of God. The Greek word “adoption” (huiothesia) is actually the putting together of two words: “to make/appoint” and “son/child.” We have been appointed to be children of God. And given all the rights as a full member of the family. To God be the glory.

Now, the challenge is what does this mean for us as we consider the world’s 143 million orphans? That is will be the topic for the next post.


2 Responses

  1. Hi Mr. Jeantet. I just stumbled onto your blog from the glasgow website. I visited there a couple of weeks ago with relatives from your area.

    I do agree with you about the importance and opportunity that the church has to minister via adoption. In fact, I would go a little further and assert that apart from a Christian worldview, adoption does not even make complete sense. Only the Christian worldview among religions promotes ingrafting of various races, nations and ethnicities, and only the Christian worldview provides an example of higher level of love than birth parents or other relatives, as opposed to the deficient love of orphan care.

    Now, a few thoughts on the other side:
    I fear that much of the excitement being exhibited in evangelical churches of late over orphans and adoption might be more deeply influenced by the popular culture (ie, “Brangeline,” Madonna, etc..) than by any biblical foundation. In order to jump on the bandwagon of the latest trend that unchurched people might be attracted to, “adopting” an adoption strategy seems perhaps too en vogue and potentially worrisome. Let’s pray that 10 years from now, the babies that we bring here to the U.S. do not become less desirable than, say, the proverbial “red-headed step-child.”

    Finally, I would seriously caution those of the presbyterian and/or covenantal pursuasion about their prospective positions as adoptive parents. Covenantalism seems to have bred a large degree of nepatism in those denominations, or at least some of the churches in those denomination, that your bloodline directly impacts your standing in the covenant community. The thinking that is present in some of these churches would seem to be counterproductive to creating “an adoption friendly” environment. Here’s a litmus: do most of the heavy contributors in your church who are not related to the pastor feel that they are equally embraced by your church when comparied to the senior pastor’s immediate family? Or do nearly all of the other ministers/servants feel like they still outsiders, not part of that special inner circle?? That would be one pretty tell-tale way of assessing adoption-readiness of a given church, I would think.

    Thanks, Mr. Jeantet. I’ll have to try to find you and say hi next time my wife and visit her family in Bear. God bless,

    • Jay–

      Thank you for your thoughts and certainly appreciate your concern. While adoption may be culturally en vogue, as Christians, our concern should go deeper, both historically and in degree of concern for the fatherless. Julian the Apostate, emperor of Rome in the 4th century, famously said that the “problem with those Galileans [Christians] is that they care not only for their own poor, but ours as well.” His accusation against Christians is that they cared for the poor!

      Unfortunately, the same cannot often be fairly said of us. While I do think there is a cultural relevance in this time, I really do believe that what is happening in the evangelical church right now is a Renaissance of sorts, rediscovering God’s heart for the orphan. I, like you, pray that it will not be a passing fad, but a recovery of the way God longs for us to live.

      Additionally, while adoption is the “easy” answer in that it is obvious, I hope that we are looking for more ways to care for the orphan than just adoption. Not everyone can do that. But everyone can use their giftedness to care for the orphan somehow. Part of the challenge will be to get creative in how to respond to the cry of the orphan.

      Finally, to your point about covenantal theology, I understand your concern but would suggest that to be a distortion of what true covenental theology should actually look like. Covenant theology teaches from beginning to end that God is calling people to be his own. “Once your were not a people, but now you are the people of God” (1 Peter 2:10). If we really grasp the heart of the covenants, we should all be humbled, eager to see the inclusion and ingrafting of others into the family. If we fail to grasp the heart of the covenants, well, that is a different matter…

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