by Jacob Hudgins
“In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will”(Eph 1:4-5).
When God wants to explain the incredible blessing he has given to us, he often uses metaphors that carry heavy emotional weight. We are blind but he opens our eyes. We are lost but he saves us. We are in debt but he forgives us. Yet few of the Bible pictures resonate quite like the image of the adopted child, a member of a new family, newly welcomed and beloved. What changes when we are adopted into the family of God?
1) Adoption changes the past: I am no longer a slave
Paul speaks to Christians who had previously lived under the Law of Moses, which enslaved them because they could not keep it perfectly. “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons”(Rom 8:15). Adoption is the opposite of slavery. Rather than being kept somewhere against my will, I have a place in a new family where I want to be. “So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God”(Gal 4:7). A tremendous change in status has occurred. I am now a son. Adoption changes the past by making the past the past—I am no longer a slave, thanks to the grace of my God.
2) Adoption changes the present: I now call God “Abba, Father”
I used to be an enemy of God, living in my sin and for my own pleasure. Thanks to God’s redemption, I am adopted into his family. “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’”(Gal 4:6). God has given us the Spirit of his Son—a Spirit that causes us to cry out, with Jesus, “Abba! Father!” “Abba” is the familiar Aramaic word for “my dad” used in the homes of Israel during Jesus’ time. It is so familiar as to sound disrespectful, yet it is my relationship with my Father. He repeats it in Romans: “you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’”(Rom 8:15).
God has adopted me and wants me to enjoy this particularly intimate relationship in the present. He has put away the evil I have done to put distance between us. He wants me to ask him for what I need (Matt 7:7-11), to cast my cares on him (1 Pet 5:6-7), and to trust him even when he disciplines me (Heb 12:7). In all of this, there is the tremendous sense of security, joy, and love that comes from having the perfect father.
3) Adoption changes the future: I have an inheritance
When I was a slave, I had no prospects and no hope; now I look forward to what I will inherit as a son. “So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God”(Gal 4:7). There is more. “And if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him”(Rom 8:17). All of this is connected to Jesus, who becomes our brother. We inherit with him—being glorified—if we are willing to suffer with him. This makes present circumstances much more palatable because we have a brother who has already led the way and we stand to inherit with him. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us”(Rom 8:18).
Adoption is a rich emotional lens through which to view God’s redemption. I am the child with no hope, no home, no prospects. God has adopted me, welcomed me, listened to me, comforted me, and promised things to me. Praise God!