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Archive for November 27th, 2007

Glory Be to God

(free download from Sovereign Grace Music)

Glory Be to God

Words and music by Bob Kauflin
As recorded on Savior: Celebrating the Mystery of God Become Man

Lyrics

Glory be to God on high
Let peace on earth descend
God comes down before our eyes
To Bethlehem
God invisible appears
Endless ages wrapped in years
He has come who cannot change
And Jesus is His name

Emptied of His majesty
He comes in human form
Being’s source begins to be
And God is born
All our griefs He’ll gladly share
All our sins He’ll fully bear
He will cover our disgrace
And suffer in our place

Let the joyful news ring out
The Prince of Peace proclaim
Lift your heart and voice to shout
Immanuel’s name
God has kept His promises
What a work of grace this is
Son of Mary, chosen One
The Lamb of God has come

Hosanna, hosanna
The Lamb of God has come
Hosanna, hosanna
He is the promised One

Glory be to God on high
Let peace on earth descend
God comes down before our eyes
To Bethlehem

© 2006 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI).

  • Format: MP3 download
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The Brotherhood of Sons

What Some Rude Questions About Adoption Taught Me About the Gospel of Christ

by Russell D. Moore

“So, are they brothers?” the woman asked. My wife Maria and I, jet-lagged from just returning from Russia, looked at each other wearily. This was the twelfth time since we returned that we’d been asked this question. This lady was looking at the grainy pictures, printed off a computer from some digital photographs, of two one-year-old boys in a Russian orphanage, boys who had only days earlier been pronounced by a Russian court to be our children, after the legally mandated waiting period had elapsed for the paperwork to be filed.

Maria and I had returned to Kentucky to wait for the call to return to pick up our children, and had only these pictures of young Maxim and Sergei, our equivalent of a prenatal sonogram, to show to our friends and relatives back home. But people kept asking: “Are they brothers?”

Now Brothers

“They are now,” I replied. “Yes,” the lady snapped, “I know. But are they really brothers?” Clenching my jaw, I coolly responded, “Yes, now they are both our children so they are now really brothers.” The woman sighed, rolled her eyes, and said, “Well, you know what I mean.”

Of course, we did know what she meant. She meant did these two boys—born three weeks apart—share a common biological ancestry, a common bloodline, some common DNA. It struck me that this question betrayed what most of us tend to view as really important when it comes to sonship: traceable genetic material.

This is the reason people would also ask us, “So do you also have any children of your own?” And it is the reason newspaper obituaries will often refer to the deceased’s “adopted child,” as though this were the equivalent of a stepchild or a protégé, rather than a real offspring.

During the weeks that Maria and I waited anxiously for the call to return to Russia to receive our children, I pondered this series of questions. As I read through the Books of Ephesians and Galatians and Romans, it occurred to me that this is precisely the question that was faced by the Apostle Paul and the first-century Christian churches.

As pig-flesh-eating Gentile believers—formerly goddess-worshipers and Caesar-magnifiers and all the rest—began confessing Jesus as Messiah, some Jewish Christians demanded to know, “Are they circumcised?” The Gentile believers would respond, “Yes, with the circumcision made without hands, the circumcision of Christ.” From the heated letters of the New Testament, it is evident that the response was along the lines of, “Yes, but are you really circumcised, and you know what I mean.”

This was no peripheral issue. For the Apostle Paul, the unity of the Church as a household had everything to do with the gospel itself. And where the tribal fracturing of the Church was most threatening, Paul laid out a key insight into the Church’s union with Christ, the spirit of adoption.

We went to Russia and back to accomplish a task, to complete a long paper trail that would help bring us to the legal custody of our sons. Along with that, however, it jolted us with the truth of an adoption more ancient, more veiled, but just as real: our own.

It is one thing when the culture doesn’t “get” adoption, and so speaks, for instance, of buying an animal as “adopting” a pet. When Christians, however, think the same way, we betray that we miss something crucial about our own salvation.

Perhaps if we understood the gospel more clearly, we would then see it more clearly in the icon of adoption. And perhaps if we were more involved—as families and churches—in adopting unwanted children, we would foster a next generation better able to recognize the gospel message when they hear it.

Adopted Identity

Before the apostle begins his discourse on adoption to the Roman church, he addresses them as “brothers” (Rom. 8:12), a word that has lost meaning in our churches because we tend to view it as a more spiritual metaphor for “friend” or “neighbor.” In many Evangelical churches, “brother” is a safe word one uses when one has forgotten someone’s name (“Hey, brother, how are you?”) or when one wishes to soften spiritually a harsh statement (“Johnny, I love you as a brother in Christ, but I just can’t marry you”).

The churches emerging out of the Judaism of the Roman Empire, however, would have understood precisely how radical such language is. The “sons of Israel” started out, after all, not as a government entity, but as twelve brothers. Moses speaks of the Israelite king obeying the Word of God “that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers” (Deut. 17:20). The Mosaic Law speaks of Israelites as “brothers” as opposed to “strangers” and “sojourners” (Lev. 25:35–46).

To a Gentile church in Ephesus, Paul employs this precise language as he tells them they are no longer to be considered “the uncircumcised.” Instead, he tells them, “you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Eph. 2:11, 19).

Within this household—the tribal family of Abraham—all those who are in Christ have found a home through the adopting power of God. It is not simply that they have found a refuge, a safe place, or a foster home. All those in Christ, Paul argues, have received sonship—they are now the “offspring of Abraham” (Gal. 3:29).

Paul speaks of this new household in terms of a liberating rescue, for both Jews and Gentiles. We have a unity in that we were liberated from the tutorship of the Law in the old order (Gal. 4:1–5) and from the “spirit of slavery to fall back into fear” (Rom. 8:15). Instead, as sons, we now come before God as sons, bearing the very same Spirit as was poured out on the Lord Jesus at the Jordan River, a Spirit through which we cry “Abba!”

There is a new identity found in this adoption, an identity forged in the relationship of father and son. This filial identity was easily seen by the first-century Christians. They were accustomed to seeing sons who followed in the vocational patterns of their fathers, men who were called “son of” all their lives (for instance, “Simon Bar Jonah”).

Of Israel, God once said, “Your origin and your birth are of the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite” (Ezek. 16:3). But this was not Israel’s identity. Through God’s adoption, they did not consider themselves sons of the pagan Terah or even sons of Abram. They were sons of Abraham; the nation was the son of the living God (Ex. 4:22–23).

In Christ, this is now true of all of those who are grafted onto the vine of the faithful Israel, Jesus of Nazareth.

All Moores Now

I suppose the root of my annoyance with the question “Are they brothers?” really lay here. It seemed that the good-intentioned conversationalists saw these children as somehow not quite part of our family, as though, if they were “really brothers,” then “at least they’ll have each other.” The same is true of other questions people asked us: “Have you ever seen their mother?” (“Why, yes, and you’ve seen her too. Have you met my wife Maria?”) or “Do you worry that their real parents will ever show up?”

This wasn’t at all the way that we saw it. It didn’t matter to us that the nurses in the orphanage across the seas still called these boys “Maxim” and “Sergei”; we had on their walls nameplates reading “Benjamin” and “Timothy.” It didn’t matter what their current birth certificates read; they would soon be Moores.

This newness of identity also informed the way we responded to questions, whether from social workers or friends, about whether we planned to “teach the children about their cultural heritage.” We assured everyone we would, and we have.

Now, what most people meant by this question is whether we would teach our boys Russian folk-tales and Russian songs, observing Russian holidays, and so forth. But as we see it, that’s not their heritage anymore, and we hardly want to signal to them that they are strangers and aliens, even welcome ones, in our home.

We teach them about their heritage, but their heritage as Mississippians. They learn about their great-grandfather, the faithful Baptist pastor, about their countrymen before them in the Confederate army and the civil rights movement. They wouldn’t know “Peter and the Wolf” if they heard it, but they do know Charley Pride and Hank Williams and “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder.” They are Moores now, with all that entails.

I suppose this is why the New Testament points all of us toward the Old Testament narratives repeatedly, which are given, as Paul told the church at Corinth, “as examples for us” (1 Cor. 10:6). It is not just that these accounts show us something universal about human nature and God’s workings. It is that they are our story, our heritage, our identity.

Those are our ancestors rescued from Egypt, wandering in the wilderness, led back from exile. They are our forefathers and this is our family. Whether our background is Norwegian or Haitian or Indonesian, if we are united to Christ, our family genealogy is found not primarily in the front pages of our dusty old family Bible but inside its pages, in the first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew.

No Longer Orphans

When Maria and I first walked into the orphanage, where we were led to the boys the Russian courts had picked out for us to adopt, we almost vomited, in reaction to the stench and the squalor of the place. The boys were in cribs in the dark, lying in their own waste.

Leaving them at the end of each day was painful, but leaving them the final day, before going home to wait for the paperwork to go through, was the hardest thing either of us had ever done. Walking out of the room to prepare for the plane ride home, Maria and I could hear Maxim calling out for us, and falling down in his crib, convulsing in tears. Maria shook with tears, and I turned around to walk back into their room, just for a minute.

I placed my hand on both of their heads and said, knowing they couldn’t understand a word of my English, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” I don’t think I consciously intended to cite Jesus’ words to his disciples in John 14:18; it just seemed like the only thing worth saying at the time.

When Maria and I at long last received the call that the legal process was over, and we returned to Russia to pick up our new sons, we found that their transition from orphanage to family was more difficult than we had supposed. We dressed the boys in outfits our parents had bought for them. My mother-in-law gathered some wildflowers growing between cracks in the pavement outside the orphanage.

We nodded our thanks to the orphanage personnel and walked out into the sunlight, to the terror of the two boys. They’d never seen the sun, and they’d never felt the wind. They had never heard the sound of a car door slamming or had the sensation of being carried along at 100 miles an hour down a Russian road. I noticed that they were shaking, and reaching back to the orphanage in the distance.

I whispered to Sergei, now Timothy, “That place is a pit! If only you knew what’s waiting for you: a home with a Mommy and a Daddy who love you, grandparents, and great-grandparents and cousins and playmates . . . and McDonald’s Happy Meals!” But all they knew was the orphanage. It was squalid, but they had no other reference point, and it was home.

We knew the boys had acclimated to our home, that they trusted us, when they stopped hiding food in their high-chairs. They knew there would be another meal coming, and they wouldn’t have to fight for the scraps. This was the new normal.

They are now thoroughly Americanized, perhaps too much so, able to recognize the sound of a microwave ding from forty yards away. I still remember, though, those little hands reaching for the orphanage, and I see myself there.

The Sons’ Glory

The New Testament teaching on the adoption of believers in Christ isn’t a reassuring metaphor for the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. Adoption does not simply tell us we belong to God. It is a legal entitlement, one we are prone to forget.

Paul warns the congregation at Rome that sharing the spirit of Christ means that we will suffer with him (Rom. 8:17). It means that we will groan right along with the rest of the creation for the “sons of God to be revealed,” for our “adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23).

But he fits this within the context of a legal inheritance. If we are adopted by God, if we are his children, then we are “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17). If we live through the “sufferings of this present time,” it is only so that we can be conformed to the image of our Christ, “in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Rom. 8:29).

Paul identifies Jesus as the One who inherits the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. He is the One of whom it is said, “You are my Son” (Psalm 2:7), who is given “the nations as your heritage, and the ends of the earth as your possession” (Psalm 2:8).

Thus, the Jewish believers in the early Church weren’t to look to their biological ancestry for their inheritance. They were law-breakers (Rom. 2–3). This is why the insistence on circumcision in the Galatian church was anathema to the apostle. They were to look to the One in whom all the promises of God find their Yes: the Lord Jesus (2 Cor. 1:20).

The Jewish and Gentile congregations were to find their identity in Christ, not in the social and economic hierarchies of the Roman Empire. The churches were to long for the inheritance to come, a cosmos flowing with milk and honey, not, as their fathers before them, for the slavery from which they came (Deut. 8; Rom. 8:15).

My whispering to my boys, “You won’t miss that orphanage,” is only a shadow of something I should have known. God pronounces Israel his “son,” brings the Israelites through the baptismal waters of judgment, promises to give them an inheritance, and they long for the fleshpots of Egypt (Ex. 16:1–3).

Jesus is pronounced the “beloved Son” of God, is likewise brought through the waters of baptism, and is then tempted by the Evil One to believe that a Father who promises him bread would give him only stones. Listening to his Father’s voice, even to the point of crucifixion and apparent abandonment by God, he “learned obedience through what he suffered,” and he was heard (Heb. 5:7–8).

As he disciplines us—as sons, not as illegitimate children—our Father warns us not to sell our inheritance for a mess of pottage, as our great-great-great-great-great-uncle did a long time ago (Heb. 12:3–17). Why would we covet what seems important to MTV or Wall Street, when we have waiting for us mountain ranges and waterfalls and distant galaxies to rule with our Christ as the resurrected sons of the new creation?

“I know you think this terrestrial orphanage is home,” our Father whispers through prophets and apostles and our consciences and imaginations, “but it’s a pit compared to home.” Or, as the Spirit says through the Apostle Paul’s adoption teaching: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18).

Not Ashamed

A few years after we adopted Benjamin and Timothy, the infertility that had plagued Maria and me for years was suddenly lifted, and we gave birth to a son, and then another, in the more typical way. And it was time for the “Are they brothers” business again, this time from an elderly lady who approached Maria and said, in the hearing of my sons, “I’ll bet Dr. Moore is really proud of Samuel.”

Maria replied, “Yes, he is proud of all of his sons.” The lady smiled and retorted, “Yes, but I’ll bet he’s especially proud of Samuel, since he’s his.” In this woman’s mind, there was something admirable but almost shameful about adoption; the adopted children were just not quite as worthy of joy as the “real” son, the biological one.

I was angered when I heard about this, angered because, while I love Samuel and now Jonah, I don’t love them any more than Benjamin and Timothy. As a matter of fact, I don’t think of them as “biological” children, as though they are part of some different classification. Days go by when I never think about the adoption, and when I do think of the boys as “adopted,” it is always as a past-tense verb, not an adjective.

But this lady’s question—like the ones before it—reminds me of our tendency to prize our carnality. We don’t think we were adopted. In our persistent Pelagianism, we assume we’re natural-born children, with a right to all of this grace, to all of this glory.

We think, Paul warns us right before he tells us of our adoption, that we are debtors to the flesh, so we live according to the flesh (Rom. 8:12). We’re ashamed to think of ourselves as adopted, because to do so would focus our minds on the bloody truth that all of us in Christ, like my sons, once were lost but now we’re found, once were strangers and now we’re children, once were slaves and now we’re heirs.

And yet even the flesh and blood we share—not just with our children but with all of humanity—have everything to do with our adoption. Jesus, after all, shares in human “flesh and blood” so that he might deliver those “who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Heb. 2:15).

This is because he “had to be made like his brothers in every respect” (Heb. 2:17). And, speaking of us, our Lord Jesus—the only One with the natural-born right to cry “Abba”—is “not ashamed to call them brothers” (Heb. 2:11).

According to the Apostle John, the religious leaders of Jesus’ day were quite sure of their biological pedigree. They could trace it back to Abraham, and had no shady parental background as they thought Jesus to have (John 8:39–41). Jesus shockingly identified their birth father as Satan and their inheritance as that of a slave (John 8:34–38).

But John ends his Gospel with a more hopeful sound. When Jesus is raised from the dead, his message to Mary is to go “to my brothers” and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (John 20:17). John isn’t “really” Jesus’ brother, but he shares a mother with him, when Jesus “adopts” him into the family at the Cross (John 19:26–27).

And these unfaithful and fearful disciples, quick to go back to the fisherman’s nets they had when he found them, have no reason to approach a holy “God.” But they—and we—are Jesus’ brothers, and so the Father is our God. He is not ashamed.

One More Time

We fall for all our ideological idolatries—from white supremacy to genocidal warfare and beyond—because we see our “brotherhood” only in our DNA. We engineer radical reproductive technologies that sever procreation from fatherhood and motherhood, precisely because we don’t want children so much as we want ourselves, our own genetic material living on before us. We identify more with our corporate brands and with our political parties than with our churches because we don’t understand the household into which we’ve come.

We dye our hair and Botox our wrinkles, fearing the Reaper, because we don’t really believe that a Father waits for us with a feast on the other side of the Jordan. And we live prayerless lives, paralyzed by our guilty consciences, because someone says to us, as to our Brother before us, “ If you are the son of God . . .” (Luke 4:3).

I don’t think about the adoption of my boys every day. But, when I do, I try to remember the rude questions I once answered—and sometimes still answer—about them. And I remind myself that I’ve been just as far from “getting it” as the good-natured questioners I have resented.

It is difficult to see before us the day when the graves of this planet are emptied, when the great assembly of Christ’s Church is gathered before the Judgment Seat. On that day, the accusing principalities and powers will probably look once more at us—former murderers and fornicators and idolaters, formerly uncircumcised in flesh or in heart—and they may ask one more time, “So are they brothers?”

The hope of adopted children like my sons—and like me—is that the voice that once thundered over the Jordan will respond: “They are now.”

All His Sons

The aspect of adoption in Christ as an inheritance is precisely why “gender-neutral” attempts to translate Galatians 3:26 as, “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons and daughters of God, through faith,” is so wrongheaded. Yes, this sonship applies to both men and women, slaves and free, Jew and Greek (Gal. 3:28), but why?

Because we have “put on Christ,” and thus share his identity as Abraham’s offspring and his inheritance; we are “heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3:29). The Galatians—and all of us in Christ—have received adoption not as sons and daughters but as sons. The inheritance, after all, in the ancient Near East went not to the daughter of the patriarch, but to the firstborn son. The daughter received her inheritance through her husband.

If Paul had told the Galatian congregation that they were sons and daughters of God (which in one sense is true), the Jews could have claimed the inheritance promises of the Old Testament covenants, even as they conceded that the God-fearing Gentiles could have a “relationship” with God through Jesus. Perhaps the men could have conceded that women could pray and commune with God, but they were the sons, those who inherit the promises.

— Russell D. Moore

Russell D. Moore is Dean of the School of Theology and Senior Vice President for Academic Administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He is the author of The Kingdom of Christ: The New Evangelical Perspective (Crossway). He is a senior editor of Touchstone.

This article taken from Touch Stone Magazine.

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One of our great desires at Carolina Hope is to help Christians increasingly think about orphan ministry and adoption from a theological perspective. Carolina Hope has commissioned me to explore and articulate the beautiful gospel-connection between uppercase Adoption (i.e. God’s gracious adoption of us) and lowercase adoption (i.e. our adoption of a child) so that Christians become more firmly grounded in the gospel and grow in nelson_lores-cropped.jpgtheir understanding of its profound implications for all of life. We are committed to helping Christians in general and both prospective and adoptive families in particular think theologically about all things adoption. This is one of the main reasons for this interview series.

Today’s interview is with Chris Nelson. He and his wife are members of Bethlehem Baptist Church of Minneapolis. God has created a culture of adoption at Bethlehem. It is a church that embraces the truth that adoption is the heart of the gospel. Bethlehem sees the earthly practice of adoption as a beautiful reflection of what God has done in the gospel.

1. Chris, tell us a little about your family.

img_2423jpg-copy.jpgMy wife Katie and I have been married for 9 years and live in Hopkins, MN. We have a 6 year old adopted son, Andrew, and an 8 month old adopted son, Joseph. Both are from Korea. Andrew has a chromosome abnormality called partial trisomy 18, and Joseph is typically developing. Finding out about Andrew’s chromosome abnormality when he was 2 shook our world…and has been the biggest blessing we’ve received in making us get serious about faith in Christ, and growing to understand what we are truly here for in this world – and it’s not little league and soccer practice.

2. What initially motivated you to adopt?

Primarily the desire to have children and expand our family and the “feeling” that the time was right. My wife has an adopted brother and from the time we married we had always talked about adopting – it felt very natural and “right” to both of us. I guess you could say we felt it as a calling, although we didn’t articulate it as that at the time.

3. What kind of responses have you received from extended family and friends about your decision to adopt?

Most family and friends were very supportive of our first adoption 6 years ago, although there were some who seemed to falsely assume that adoption was necessarily a second choice. It wasn’t. Our oldest son has some special needs and when we started telling people of our plan to adopt a second child there was significantly less support, along with the implicit and explicit “are you nuts?”

4. How do you think the gospel should influence the decision to pursue adoption?

The gospel should be the thread that binds the adoption decision together. We are God’s adopted children through Christ, and what a powerful metaphor to adopt little ones in this age and to raise them up in truth to understand that Christ loved us first and gave himself up for us that we might be reconciled to him…he loved us first that we could love him by giving ourselves away that others might see and savor Jesus.

5. How is the gospel shaping your relationship with your adopted children?

Powerfully. My wife and I often reflect on how God has grown us in Him through having a special needs child and through adoption in general. One example is that having a child in general, and particularly one with special needs that can sometimes seem extra frustrating, has helped us to see justimg_2393-cropped.JPG how sinful our hearts really are and has made Jesus’ finished work even sweeter. When we are wrong in a situation we humbly apologize to our oldest son and ask his forgiveness…and he is so quick to give hugs and kisses in return.

It’s also been powerfully humbling to me to read the bible and pray with our oldest son, as in the past I had often used his developmental and cognitive lack as an excuse not to do these things…yet by God’s grace I’ve learned those things aren’t just for him, but to humble and shape me too.

6. How have you sought to help your adopted children understand the gospel better through their adoption?

We have not directly talked about adoption with either of our children yet, although I expect we will as they get older and talk about the great gift of being adopted by God through Jesus.

7. Did you or do you have any fears related to your adopted children’s future as a members of your family? If so, what were/are they and how have you sought to apply the gospel to those fears?

We’ve seen the struggles of some adopted children who are now adults…even leading in one case to suicide. So the reality of the internal identity struggles that some adoptees face is very real and needs to be taken seriously. We’ve also seen other adoptees who are very well adjusted and seem to deeply love the Lord. Our oldest son is pretty significantly developmentally and cognitively disabled, so we sometimes wonder if he will ever even understand what adoption is, and if he will live in a group home when he reaches legal age, or if he will live with us until God takes us home. What will happen to him then? We will make plans accordingly for someone to care for him, and entrust themimg_2611.JPG to the Lord. In all this I’ve found myself not worrying about such things but just seeking to grow in Christ myself, and to grow in being faithful to sharing Christ with our boys, praying with and for them, and trusting in the sovereignty and supremacy of God over all things.

I want Andrew and Joseph to grow up knowing that adoption is a beautiful thing, a picture of the grace of God, and that God doesn’t make mistakes. That they are our sons, and we are their parents, and it is so for a reason – that God may be glorified and that He would be our joy.

Interviewed by Dan Cruver.

 

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Jason Kovacs is an adoptive father of a multi-ethnic family. He’s also one of the bloggers at AdoptiveDads.org. We met in the blogosphere a few years ago. His love for the gospel and passion for adoption has been a great encouragement to me. I’m looking forward to actually meeting him this next week.

I’m also very pleased to announce that Jason was recently hired as the Director of Ministry Development for the ABBA Fund, a ministry that provides no-interest loans to Christian couples who are pursuing adoption. It also helps churches start adoption assistance funds.

If any of you know of any couples who need financial assistance to adopt, donors who want to give to a great ministry, or a church that would be interested in starting an adoption fund, please contact them.

1. Jason, tell us a little about your family.

My wife and I have been married just over 4 years now. We have three children: Samuel is 4 and the most energetic, tenderhearted kid I know; Keziah is almost 3 and is one of the most spirited little girls I’ve ever met; and Karis just turned 1 and is a little sweetheart. We adopted Samuel and Keziah just over two years ago. Samuel was 23mos old and Keziah was 8 months old. We heard story after story about couples who previously had a hard time getting pregnant after they adopted and we joined the club!

2. What initially motivated you to adopt?

My wife had desired to adopt since she was young. I’m not sure I ever thought seriously about adoption until my time at Bethlehem Baptist Church where John Piper serves as Pastor. It was there that I met family after family that had adopted. Two things especially struck me. One was that many of these couples chose to adopt trans-racially, and second, many adopted not because they couldn’t get pregnant but because they saw it as a way to live out the gospel in a practical way. That had a profound impact on me.

3. What kind of responses have you received from extended family and friends about your decision to adopt?

Both our families responded well to our decision. Shawnda’s family is from a small ranch town in Texas and we weren’t sure what her dad in particular would think. He did wonder why we’d choose to adopt black children, but once he met them he melted. Our friends have been equally as supportive and excited.

4. How do you think the gospel should influence the decision to pursue adoption?

I have become increasingly convinced that there is no greater influence on the decision to adopt than the Gospel. The book of James speaks much about the practical implications of the Gospel on the believer’s life. We cannot have faithchristmaspic2006-cropped.jpg that does not result in works. One of the most powerful verses is 1:27: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, and the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” I believe that “visiting orphans” includes adoption and may even refer mainly to adoption. The thing that amazes me is that here James defines the Gospel-transformed life by three specific fruits – one of which is adoption!

This fits when I remember that adoption was God’s means of growing His family. John Murray wrote that adoption was the “apex of God’s grace.” It is an incredible thing that God would justify and sanctify sinners such as I, but it is beyond incredible that he would adopt sinners as his very children. When a couple adopts a child, it is a powerful picture of the Gospel, reflecting and displaying the electing love of God.

5. How is the gospel shaping your relationship with your adopted children?

This hit home recently when my son said to my wife, “Remember when I was in your tummy?” My wife responded that she didn’t remember and they had a conversation that led again to the fact that he was adopted. It was one of the first times that he understood what adoption meant and he thought that was pretty cool and wanted to do it again! But it left my wife and me feeling that we wish we hadn’t missed those first two years of his life. Then we were blessed with some Gospel-perspective from a good friend who reminded us that the two years that he was living with his birth-mom were ordained by God and shaped who he is. Further, if he was placed for adoption at birth we would not have him today. God is sovereign over all the details of our adoption and the Gospel teaches us that our joy and our hope is to be found in Him and this frees us up to be truly thankful for our son and rejoice in the ways that God ordained his adoption! This enables us to celebrate with him and our adopted daughter the joy of sharing in God’s sovereign work.

6. How have you sought to help your adopted children understand the gospel better through their adoption?

We have tried to convey to our children an understanding of the amazing grace of God through their adoption. At their age they are just starting to understand that it is a good thing that we adopted and chose them to be our children. We want them to be amazed that God would do that spiritually for sinners; that we were born as enemies, separated from the Father, and he chose us and adopted us as His very own sons and daughters to live with Him forever. I am thankful for the ways we can help them now and look forward to the ways they will be able to understand the Gospel more fully as they get older.

7. Did you or do you have any fears related to your adopted children’s future as a member of your family? If so, what were/are they and how have you sought to apply the gospel to those fears?

The only fears we have that are unique to adoption have to do with how we will deal with race and racism in our culture. I have been reminded of this over the past months with the news of the Jena Six case. It amazes me (and I know it shouldn’t) that racism still exists, but it does and I have to be aware of it. I want to raise our children so that they will be prepared for racism and prepared to know how to deal with the fact that they are black and their parents are white. It is here that I desperately need the Gospel to help me remember that our identity is in Christ. He is the one who shapes who we are. I rest in the Gospel that when/if they go through a crisis of identity that they will fall back on the foundation that my wife and I have laid through the Gospel. Also, because of the Gospel I look forward with faith to all the opportunities that we will have as a family in our culture to address issues of race, racism, and reconciliation. My prayer is that through it all our family will magnify the beauty and glory of Christ and be drawn all the more closer to Him.

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Interviewed by Dan Cruver.

 

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As part of our blog’s adoption interview series, I’m interviewing several theologians about the doctrine of spiritual adoption and its implications for earthly adoption. I believe that the practice of earthly adoption will be significantly enriched as we grow in our understanding of what it means to be adopted by God.

Our second interview with a theologian (you can read the first interview here) is with Dr. R. Scott Clark, Associate Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Westminster Seminary California since 1997. Dr. Clark has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary (Jackson), and Concordia University (Irvine). He is also presently Associate Pastor of the Oceanside United Reformed Church, where he preaches and teaches regularly.

Dr. Clark’s blog.

1. What do you cherish most about the doctrine of adoption?

There are three things that should be mentioned. First it is the God by whom we have been adopted that makes adoption significant. The God who adopted us is the God who made all that is (Gen 1:1-3; John 1:1-3) and who, by the power of his will and grace, redeemed his people out of sin and bondage (Exod 20:2).

Second, we should remember that spiritual adoption is a significant truth embraced and confessed by the Reformed churches. It is expressed either implicitly or explicitly in our Reformed confessions and it underlies much of what is confessed by the Reformed churches even if the language of adoption is not used explicitly.

For example, the Heidelberg Catechism (1563) uses the truth that we are “also the children of God” as the basis for a question about Christ’s sonship. Though Christ “alone is the eternal, natural Son of God” we are “children of God by adoption, through grace, for his sake” (Q. 33). The Belgic Confession, (1561), speaks the same way (Art. 34). This doctrine is significant enough to the Reformed Churches that it merited an entire, albeit brief, chapter in the Westminster Confession of Faith (1647) where we confess that those who are justified by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone (WCF ch. 11) are to rest in the fact that we are also “partakers of the grace of adoption.” As a consequence of this free gift we, who are not God’s children by nature, are treated as if we are natural children, as it were. We have the “liberties” that belong to God’s children, we have his name, we have his Spirit, and we have free access to the Father. We are “pitied, protected, provided for, and chastened by him as a Father, yet never cast off, but sealed to the day of redemption.” In Christ it is as if we have done all that Christ did for us and, on that basis, we are heirs of all his promises.

Finally, the doctrine of adoption is a biblical doctrine. The Apostle Paul teaches explicitly that those who have true faith (and by that faith) are united to Christ (Gal 2:20; WCF ch. 12). By virtue of that union we have “received the Spirit of adoption as sons.” Therefore, we have the privilege of intimate, personal communion with the Creator and Redeemer God. The Spirit of God testifies to us that we, who believe, are God’s children (Rom 8:15-17). Paul teaches that we have been redeemed by grace alone, through faith alone “so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Gal 4:5). Indeed, we who believe have been “predestined…for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will….” (Eph 1:5).

2. Do you believe that the doctrine of adoption has received its due attention within the history of the church?

Probably not, but I worry a little, in reaction to that neglect, that, in our time, we tend to overemphasize the relational aspects of the faith. We live in a time when “legal” ideas and categories are not in favor whereas “relational” categories are very much in vogue. There is a strong tendency in our culture and in our churches to set the one against the other. The problem is that the turn to relational categories (over against the legal) defies reality and Scripture. There is no good reason to set one against the other.

Those who are adopted are those who have been justified. God’s declaration of our righteousness in Christ is the legal basis for our adoption. Think of how husbands and wives relate. This is a most intimate or personal relationship that is based on a prior legal relationship. The words “husband” and “wife” imply a binding, legal relationship between persons that can only be broken by the gravest of sins and by legal action. That fact doesn’t make the marriage less relational, personal, and intimate.

The same is true with adoption. It is an eminently legal and personal, relational act. In adoption, someone chooses to incorporate someone else who, by nature, is not part of one’s family, into one’s family. Because adoption is a legal act, it has standing, it has permanence, and it has a firm basis. Because it is a personal act, it is not a mere “transaction.” By definition, a personal act entails a person coming to know and entering into deeper relations with another person. Adoption is a wonderful metaphor for God’s gracious relations toward us and more than a metaphor, it is a fact of the Christian faith.

3. Do you see a difference between the apostle John’s model of entrance into God’s family and Paul’s?

Each Biblical writer has his own favorite ways of speaking. Nevertheless, there is a strong affinity with John 1:12 where John uses the same sort of language as Paul. John’s “sphere of discourse,” as Prof. Murray used to say, is strikingly similar to Paul’s in Romans 8 and Ephesians 2. We see the same ways of speaking about our being Christ’s children in 1 John 3:1-2.

4. Paul’s references to adoption (Eph. 1:4-5; Rom. 9:4; Gal. 4:4-5; Rom. 8:15-16; 8:22-23) seem to serve as markers along the path of redemptive history. Would it be a fruitful exercise to view redemptive history (i.e. creation, fall, redemption, consummation) through the lens of the doctrine of adoption?

Yes, certainly. Scripture certainly uses this sort of language about Israel’s temporary adoption as the national people of God. Think of Deuteronomy 7:6-11. The covenant Lord, Yahweh, has adopted, as his peculiar people, Israel. He redeemed them out of Egypt and has delivered them into the Promised Land. There is one caveat about this analogy. The Lord entered into a special, temporary relationship with national Israel as the visible, institutional people of God. Not every one of those who were in that national people, who were part of this outward adoption, enjoyed all the benefits of that adoption. Paul makes this distinction quite clear in Romans 2:28 and Romans 9:6. Not all Israel is Israel. There is an “inward” Israel, united to Christ by grace alone, through faith alone and an “outward” Israel, who are members of the national covenant, who nevertheless, did not receive all the benefits of Christ because they were “were not united by faith with those who listened” (Heb 4:2).

5. What difference should the doctrine of adoption make in a Christian’s spiritual life on a daily basis?

Like all gospel truths, this one should form the basis for our Christian life. In Christ we are to die daily, moment-by-moment to sin and live daily, moment-by-moment to Christ. This touches on the choices we make, the things we love, the things that occupy our minds and energies. Because our gracious Father, in Christ, by the Spirit, adopts us we can and ought to live in that grace. If we had the consciousness of having once been orphans and having been brought into the household of the King, I think we would, to that same degree, lives worthy of the grace (Eph 4:1) that we have received.

6. More and more couples are considering adopting transracially adoption. What might the doctrine of adoption contribute to our thinking on the issue of transracial adoption?

At the risk of being trite and obvious, what matters in adoption is that we are adopted! It is true that those who are adopted may come from different backgrounds, and that is not an insignificant fact. The importance of our background, however, pales before the fact that we, who were once strangers and aliens (Eph 2:19), have now been included into the royal household. It was in view of these profound truths that Paul declared that in Christ, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). This glorious truth does not obliterate our humanity. We all have a history but that history does not trump God’s unmerited favor. The fact that we are “in Christ” is the first and most important fact that defines our identity. Our adoption practices ought to reflect this fact. Just as Christ has adopted us from every nation, tribe, and tongue (Rev 5:9) and therefore, having made a wise decision, ought to reflect that sort of love. Our children are members of the covenant of grace, not by solely in virtue of our birth, but by virtue of the fact that we are included in the house. In this regard, we should probably pay closer attention to the way Scripture regards the members of “households.” It was not only children who received the sign and seal of covenant initiation, but also those who were in the household and this was done without regard of national or racial origin.

7. Most people who read this blog have adopted children, are considering adopting a child, or are just interested in adoption. What implications might the doctrine of adoption have for couples who have adopted or are interested in adopting a child?

Though there are great analogies between adoption in this life and the adoption that we enjoy in Christ, there are differences. Human adoption is an act of love but it means inclusion of sinners into a fallen human family. We sin against our adopted children and they sin against us. We are joint heirs of grace. Thus, human adoption, as distinct from divine adoption, is not a panacea. It is a starting point, a way of thinking about our children and us. Those Christian parents who adopt children do so as those who themselves have been adopted. In other words, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8). All parents, whether adoptive or natural parents, need to remind themselves of the fact that they were are recipients of grace with their children. This consciousness of our own sin and of the grace of Christ should color our relationships with our spouses and our children.

Interviewed by Dan Cruver.

 

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Dr. Dave Garner is the Vice President for Alumni Relations & Educational Advancement at Westminster Theological Seminary. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on the doctrine of adoption. It’s entitled “Adoption in Christ” (Westminster Theological Seminary, 2002). He graciously agreed to allow me to interview him about Scripture’s teaching on the theology of adoption and its implications for the earthly practice of adoption. You will find his answers very illuminating.1. What do you cherish most about the doctrine of adoption?

The doctrine of adoption, in its full biblical scope, is vast and rich. To answer this question about what I cherish most is like asking me to choose one thing I love most about my wife… not an easy task. However, you asked the question, so I guess I’ll try to answer it. If forced to isolate the most cherished aspect of adoption, it would be how it divulges the extent to which God cherishes his children. The love of God for me is not abstraction; it is not intangible or unreachable. God’s adoption love is real – determined in the infinite counsel of God’s wisdom and incarnated in his own Son. His love for me is eternally determined, historically demonstrated, personally accomplished, and irrevocably certain. I cherish adoption as a doctrine, because it reveals the unfathomable: God actually cherishes us, his children. He has revealed this love over the course of history, and ultimately and most cogently, in his Son. My adoption is secure and binding in the Sonship of Jesus Christ.

2. Do you believe that the doctrine of adoption has received its due attention within the history of the church?

While it is safe to say that adoption has suffered neglect in the history of the church, the answer must be nuanced a bit, because attention to adoption has varied throughout church history. We find an initial grasp of adoption in the writing of 2nd century church father, Irenaeus, who as the first biblical theologian, views adoption as a synonym for salvation. After Irenaeus, with negligible smatterings here and there, adoption endures an astonishing drought. This remains essentially true until the mid-17th century, when we find it for the first time in history set apart in the Westminster Confession of Faith.

This unprecedented expression of adoption by the Westminster divines served two discernible functions – first, to elevate the doctrine in the life of the church, but second, ironically (and unintentionally, I might add), to diminish it. As attested in the Puritan tradition, Chapter 12 of the Westminster Confession of Faith, entitled, “On Adoption,” launched this doctrine into common pastoral consideration. Puritan pastors frequently included adoption in their writings, and preached the doctrine as the crowning component of redemptive benefits.

However, while the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Puritans wonderfully explored and applied the familial privileges of adoption, the result of isolating adoption as an element of the ordo salutis (the application of salvation) was unwittingly to truncate the doctrine from its fuller redemptive-historical scope. Adoption found its home as a doctrine of redemptive benefit with marvelous privileges and assurances. But, by taking status as an element of redemptive privilege, its fuller character was eclipsed. Essentially we can say that adoption has been ignored both by its absence in theological discourse and by its pruned existence in theological discourse. To bring light on to the riches of adoption, the church is now beginning to carry out more careful analysis of adoption in Pauline literature; this growing attention divulges adoption’s more expansive reaches, as it unfolds the loving purpose of God in salvation – from its pre-temporal foundation to its climactic consummation.

3. Do you see a difference between the apostle John’s model of entrance into God’s family and Paul’s?

As we consider both our finiteness and fallenness, and recognize our epistemological and psychological limitations for understanding the mind of God, we accept the fact that we only know “in part,” as the apostle Paul puts it. This limitation doesn’t mean that we don’t understand truly, as some would assess the Creator/creature distinction (a perspective destined for unbounded cynicism), but it does mean that we cannot understand wholly. God alone possesses exhaustive knowledge, and this fact drives us to humility and gratitude for his self-revelation. A critical element of such posture is recognition that God has spoken decisively in his Word, and by using human language as his means of self-revelation, he has accommodated himself to us. Accordingly, the task of the disciple is to pursue the mind of God, to study his Word, and to live in obedience to his revelation by the power of the Holy Spirit. We know God truly because he has condescended, and revealed himself in human language; Law, prophets, history, narrative, and other literary forms in Scripture serve God’s gracious purpose of self-revelation.

All of these background comments drive us to the question of how Paul and John perceive the filial character of our relationship with God in Christ. Neither author speaks exhaustively of the character of the Gospel, of the scope of God’s love to us in Christ. But both authors assert the grace of God revealed in Christ as relational, indeed as familial. God’s work in and through his Son accomplishes his sovereign and loving purposes: the securing of a people, a family for himself. The authors of Scripture convey this blessing, using differing terms, themes, metaphors, and models. However, Paul is the only biblical author to use the Greek word for adoption (huiothesia), and his use of this term communicates with extraordinary richness the redemptive-historical purposes of God in loving his people in and through his only Son. We are the sons and daughters of God, the select children of God, because we are Spiritually (yes, the capital “S” is intentional) united to the unique Son of God. Adoption brings us before the face of the Triune God – from before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4-5), in his elective grace when he chose Israel as his Son (Rom 9:4), in the historic work of Christ as messianic Son (Gal 4:4-5), in the Spirit’s work of sanctification (Rom 8:15-17), and in the consummation of the ages when Christ returns (Rom 8:22-23). Paul uses the language of adoption to portray the full scope of God’s familial grace to his chosen children.

The apostle John uses a different model of sonship, that of rebirth. We are born into the family of God by receiving the Son of God in faith (John 1:12, 3:1ff), a reality that is nothing short of staggering to John himself (1 John 3:1-3). John presents the critical need for new birth (John 3), a Holy Spirit wrought birth that grants us access to the Father. This regenerative work, creating our new life in Christ, launches us onto the pathway of transforming obedience and then, ultimately, brings us face to face with our Savior.

Despite the persistent use of John 1:12 and 1 John 3:1-3 as proof texts for adoption in systematic theologies, it is far from self-evident that John shares identical concerns with Paul. To force John into an adoptive sonship model blurs the richness of Johannine concept in its own right, and obviates the unique Pauline perspective of Gospel reality in adoption. Scriptural unity is not compromised by suggesting differing familial ideas between these two authors; on the contrary, we only begin to understand the fullness of God’s familial grace to us as we consider the nuanced ideas among biblical authors, as they rejoice in the astounding revelation of God in Christ: his life, death, resurrection, and ascension.

4. Paul’s references to adoption (Eph. 1:4-5; Rom. 9:4; Gal. 4:4-5; Rom. 8:15-16; 8:22-23) seem to serve as markers along the path of redemptive history. Would it be a fruitful exercise to view redemptive history (i.e. creation, fall, redemption, consummation) through the lens of the doctrine of adoption?

You have hit the nail on the head. Not only is it fruitful, but it is essential. This is precisely the way Paul puts the term to work. As I responded to question #3, adoption is not a static notion of redemptive benefit (though it indeed embraces the elements expressed in a statement like that in the Westminster Confession), but a richer, more dynamic term that unfolds the character of God’s love from before time to the end of time and beyond. Only when adoption is grappled with in these more expansive terms will we capture the essence of God’s adoptive love.

5. What difference should the doctrine of adoption make in a Christian’s spiritual life on a daily basis?

Love of a parent for a child is mysterious, powerful; it is edifying and restorative; it is securing and enabling. Likewise but in divine splendor, grasping God’s love is always invigorating and encouraging. When we begin to ponder the fact that God’s adoptive grace is rooted in his pre-temporal decision to love us, typified in his elective love of Israel in the Old Covenant, brought to us fully in the loving obedience of his Son, applied to us in the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and consummated in us at the consummation of the ages, we can only be drawn to worship, gratitude, and awe.

God’s adoptive love then is motivation for us to love Him, serve Him, and to emulate Him. As hymn writer Isaac Watts put it, “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”

6. More and more couples are considering adopting transracially adoption. What might the doctrine of adoption contribute to our thinking on the issue of transracial adoption?

I would actually like to answer this question two ways. First, because all of us are descendants of Adam, we are actually all one race. Language, cultural, or ethnic distinctions do not trump the central truth of our common heritage. The sons of Adam are alone those who become the sons of God in Christ.

Scripture attests, however, that the ethnic divide between Jew and Gentile dominated the historical landscape. Many became convinced that biological connection with Abraham sealed divine favor. Jesus’ ministry and the book of Acts confirm the work of the Gospel in clarifying the blessing of Jewishness, and then proclaim this Gospel reality: God’s promise – not genetics – serves the evangelical purposes of God.

It is not surprising then that the relationship between Jews and Gentiles plays a central role in Paul’s thought. In keeping with the promise made to Abraham in Genesis 12, Paul recognizes that God’s purposes for blessing the world are realized in Jesus Christ, the eternal and messianic Son of God. All those who are in Christ are Abraham’s children (Gal 3) and are true Israel (Rom 9). God’s elective grace is manifest across ethnic lines.

With this in mind, trans-ethnic adoption is reflective of the heart of God, who has set aside for himself people from every tribe, tongue and nation (Acts 2; Rev 5-6). From the promise to Abraham (Gen 12), to the commission of Jesus (Mt 28:18-20), to the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2), and then to the consummation of God’s purposes (Rev 4-7), we discover that God’s people are extraordinarily diverse. The singular voice of God’s people in Rev 7:10 divulges how the glorious diversity of God’s people finds powerful unity in the worship of the Lamb. International and/or trans-ethnic adoption provide a visible, tangible representation of Christ’s Church in action. Trans-ethnic adoption is, in this way, a living, Gospel sermon.

7. Most people who read this blog have adopted children, are considering adopting a child, or are just interested in adoption. What implications might the doctrine of adoption have for couples who have adopted or are interested in adopting a child?

Created in God’s image and restored to that image by the redemptive work of the Son of God, we, as God’s children, are privileged to emulate our Father. Imitating our Father is truly a form of worship, and the decision to adopt a child is a crisp Xerox of our Father’s love for us. What a great blessing to seek out a child, whose life is charted for misery, and to bring that child into the warmth, security, and discipline of a Christian home. What a privilege to intervene – to reverse inevitable circumstances of abuse, neglect, or worse – and to transfer a child from darkness to light. What a clear picture of God’s adoptive grace to us: to propel our own adopted child on the pathway of holiness, to bring blessing to our own heavenly Father!

A further reflection might also prove helpful. I have heard through the years, and indeed witnessed at times, how married couples begin to look like each other the longer they are together. The force of love produces features of likeness. It is noteworthy that the apostle describes the goal of our adoption in Christ to be holiness (Eph 1); divine elective love has as its goal God-likeness. This fact is further developed in Rom 8:29, where Paul uses the same verb of “predestined” in terms of the believers’ conformity into the image of the Son.

In a mysterious way, human adoption is similar. The adopted child never receives new genetics, but his life is so impacted, so directed, so influenced by his adoptive parents that he assumes parental and sibling likeness. When he takes on his new name, he takes on new love. When he takes on new love, he never looks the same because he never is the same. Adoption is not merely a legal contract; it possesses irreversible conforming impact.

Interviewed by Dan Cruver.

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It is not unusual for adopted children to struggle with a sense of past rejection, particularly if they do not know their birth mother’s story. As a result, some adopted children will wrestle, sometimes intensely, with the thought that they were rejected by their birth parents. This can potentially result in a haunting fear that deep down their adoptive family really hasn’t accepted them either.

If your adoptive family is anything like mine, your adopted children are probably too young to be struggling with this issue, at least as intensely as a young teenager would (my adopted children are 5 and 4). As a result, it may be hard for you to picture your children having this particular inner-struggle. But if you are wise, you will think through this issue now and consider how you might be proactive in addressing it.

If you have read this blog for any length of time, you know that I believe the Bible’s doctrine of adoption has much to contribute to our understanding of the earthly practice of adoption. Nothing can enrich an adoptive family’s experience like Scripture’s teaching on this great doctrine. As you might expect, it even addresses the problem mentioned above in Galatians 4:4-6.

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. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

In Galatians 4:4-6, Paul not only informs us that God sent His Son into the world to give us the status of sonship, he also tells us that God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts to give us the experience of sonship as He cries, “Abba! Father!” Have you ever wondered why it is we need the Spirit to cry “Abba! Father!” in our hearts? We might think that it would have been enough just to be told that we have received the Spirit. That seems like blessing enough! We probably would not have thought twice about it if Paul had only written, “And because you are sons ( i.e., because you have been adopted), God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts” (emphasis mine). After all, Paul says elsewhere that the indwelling Spirit is the firstfruits of the consummation of our adoption , which is the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23). But Paul wants us to know that the Spirit who indwells us cries something within us.

So why did God send the Spirit of His Son into our hearts to cry “Abba! Father!”? I think Sinclair Ferguson touches on one of the reasons for this activity of the Spirit in his book, Children of the Living God. In his discussion on the parable of the prodigal son, he writes:

Jesus was underlining the fact that—despite assumptions to the contrary —the reality of the love of God for us is often the last thing in the world to dawn upon us. As we fix our eyes upon ourselves, our past failures, our present guilt, it seems impossible to us that the Father could love us.

Many Christians go through much of their life with the prodigal’s suspicion. Their concentration is upon their sin and failure; all their thoughts are introspective. That is why (in the Greek text) John’s statement about the Father’s love begins with a word calling us to lift up our eyes from ourselves and take a long look at what God has done: Behold!—look and see—the love the Father has lavished upon us (p. 27)!

He continues:

Christians often find it difficult to believe that God’s unfailing love is real. This is where the knowledge and increasing assurance that we are children of God is a refuge and shield against the attacks of Satan. Just as part of his plan of action in his temptation of Jesus included the issue of whether he was really the Son of God (compare Matt. 4:3, 6), so a parallel issue arises with us. Satan will cast up to us the sins of both the past and the present; he will allure us with temptations to sin to which we may fall in the future, and then lead us to question, the reality of our relationship to God. Can we be God’s children after all when such thoughts lurk in our minds and such deeds lie in our past (p. 30)?

I believe that our propensity not to believe that God is really committed to us as our Father because of our own sin and Satan’s accusations is one reason why God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts to cry, “Abba! Father!” We need the assurance of our adoption as sons, and God has gone to great lengths to provide us with this needed assurance. Because of the self-sacrificial, self-donating work of God’s Son at the cross, God has given us none other than the Spirit of His Son to place “Abba! Father!” in our hearts and on our lips. God the Father graciously sent His Son to become a curse for us (Galatians 3:13) that we might not only receive the status of sonship but also be eternally assured by the work of the Spirit that we are His children. God the Father spared no expense to convince us of His unfailing commitment to us as our Father.

Adoptive parents would do well to make it a habit to meditate on God’s commitment to assure them of their sonship. God did not wait to address our struggle until after we began to doubt His unfailing love. He was profoundly proactive. Consider the lengths to which God has gone to assure us of our sonship. First, He demonstrates (notice the tense of the verb – see Romans 5:8) the commitment of His unfailing love for us by sending His Son into the world to become a curse for us (Galatians 3:13) so that we might receive the status of sonship (Galatians 4:4-5). As John Piper has written, “It cost God the price of His Son’s life” to adopt us. If that does not prove God’s unfailing love for His adopted children, nothing else could.

Second, God demonstrates (notice, again, the tense of the verb) His unfailing love for us by giving us the Spirit of Adoption (Romans 8:15). The Spirit that God the Father has given us, the one who is co-eternal, co-equal with the Father and Son, is the Spirit of Adoption; and one of His main responsibilities as the Third Person of the Trinity is to cry “Abba! Father!” in our hearts. The Triune God does not assure us of our sonship from across the universe or even from across the room. He assures us by witnessing with our spirit, from within our hearts, that we are indeed the children of God. God did much more than just come alongside us. God the Father sent His Spirit to actively indwell us that we might be assured that He delights in us as His children.

Now, here’s my question to adoptive parents: Given what God has done to assure us of our sonship, to what lengths can we go to assure our adopted children that our love for them has come to stay, that they are forever in our hearts, that we are committed to love them through thick and thin? What are some practical things that adoptive parents can do to assure their adopted children of their sonship?

If we have good participation in the comment section, I’ll turn the practical suggestions into a regular blog post. Thanks for participating!

Article by Dan Cruver.

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