Friday, January 9, 2015

Believers Belong

Adopted by God
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God . . . . (John 1:12 ESV)
When you believed the gospel, you were adopted by God. He became your father and you became his child. Before you believed, you were estranged from God, but with adoption, you come into a loving father/child relationship with him. J. I. Packer explains that our "adopted status means that in and through Christ God loves [us] as he loves his only begotten Son and will share with [us] all the glory that is Christ's now."1

Adoption is one of the saving benefits that comes to us through Christ's work. The believer's sins have been forgiven and they have been given right standing with God, so they can be adopted by him. Or to think of it another way, believers have been united with Christ, and the relationship they have with God the Father is in many ways similar to his. He is the unique Son of God, but those united to him, as his siblings, are also God's sons and daughters—sons and daughters by adoption.

A Comforting Truth

Adoption is—or should be—and extremely comforting truth, but  I know women for whom the idea of God as a father is more uncomfortable than comforting because of their own father's abuse. God's fatherhood, however, is the perfect fatherhood prototype, and our earthly fathers are either imperfect copies or shameless perversions of it. If your father loved and cared for you well, you are one step ahead in understanding what it is to relate to God as a father. Thinking of God as your father will naturally reassure that you are secure in his love.

On the other hand, if your own father was abusive or neglectful, you may need to reshape your idea of fatherhood starting from the fatherhood of God as described in scripture. You will need to think of God as father as fundamentally different than your earthly father. In God's family, writes J. I. Packer, "you have absolute stability and security; the parent is entirely wise and good, and the child's position is permanently assured."2 God, as the ultimate father, will always love you, care for you, and never abandon you.

Benefits of Adoption

There are many benefits that come with our adoption. First, adoption gives us an intimate relationship with God. We can come to him as a child comes to their parent, telling him our deepest wishes and fears, and asking him for his help with everything in our lives. Second, it means that we are led by the Holy Spirit to be obedient to him (Romans 8:14). Third, our status as adopted children means we receive his discipline (Hebrews 12:7). This may not always seem like a benefit, but it is, because God's discipline is for our good, causing us to grow in holiness. Fourth, as adopted sons and daughters, we have an inheritance. We are, says scripture, fellow heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). As heirs, writes Wayne Grudem, 
[a]ll the great privileges and blessings of heaven are laid up for us and put at our disposal because we are children of the King, members of the royal family, prince and princesses who will reign with Christ over the new heavens and new earth. 3
Put in a Family

The family we join when we are adopted includes all the other adopted sons and daughters of God. All believers are our brothers and sisters. Another name for God's family is the church. The church as God's family exists at two levels: the family that includes all believers world-wide throughout history, and the smaller family that includes all the members of a local church.

There are no only children in God's adopted family—although I admit to sometimes feeling that it would be easier if there were! Everywhere in the New Testament it is assumed that all believers will participate in a local church, for the local church as the family of God is the soil in which believers grow best. It's here, primarily, that members of God's family fellowship with their brothers and sisters, worship with them, serve them and serve with them, and are spiritually nourished and trained by them.  
And just as in our physical families, where we are shaped by our relationships with our brother and sisters, we are shaped by our relationships with the members of our spiritual family, even the relationships containing conflict. From our more difficult siblings, we learn, at the very least, patience and self-sacrifice
This afternoon I'll attend a memorial service for a very elderly woman who began attending our church ten years ago or so. In a local paper piece marking her death, someone described her as "crotchety," and that's the perfect word to use—and a label I think she'd accept. Despite her frequent expressions of concern for the well-being of others, she was not always easy to get along with! Her crotchetiness either resulted from or resulted in estrangement from all of her physical family, but in God's family she found people who loved her well in spite of herself, helping her with many of her needs as she grew more feeble and even more irritable.

This is the way it should be in God's family. As members of our adopted family—a family whose bonds are stronger than the bonds of an earthly family—we keep loving and serving each other even when it's not easy, and God uses the messiness of our experiences with each other to sanctify us.

Are you thankful for God's gift of adoption? That God is your father forever? Are you thankful you have been placed into a family that is, at it's best, a little foretaste of the family gathering that heaven will be?

Learn More 
  1. Memorize Romans 8:14-17. 
  2. Read up on adoption and the church (our adopted family) in your favorite systematic theology. In Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, chapter 37 is on adoption and chapter 44 is about the nature of the church. 
  3. Read chapter 19, Sons of God, in J. I. Packer's Knowing God, or the entries on adoption and church in his Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs.
  4. Listen to Wayne Grudem teach about adoption.
1] Concise Theology by J. I. Packer, page 167.

2] Knowing God by J. I. Packer, page 209.

3] Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem, page 740.

This post is the latest in a series of posts on truths every Christian woman should know. Here are the previous posts: 

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