Chapter 12

Chapter 12

1 God has granted1 that, in and for his only Son Jesus Christ,2 all those who are justified3 share in the grace of adoption. By this they are numbered with and enjoy the liberties and privileges of the children of God.

God predestined us not only to be regenerated, justified and sanctified, but also to be adopted as sons (Eph 1:5). By grace those for whom Christ died are not only declared righteous, they are also brought into the family of God. We who were children of wrath (Eph 2:3), children of darkness (Col 3:6), even children of Satan (Jn 8:44) are made children of God (1 Jn 3:1-2). Where justification speaks of our relationship to God as Lawgiver and Judge, and sanctification speaks to our relationship with him as Lord and Master, adoption deals with our relationship to God as Father. Salvation is more than a legal transaction that sets us free from the condemnation of the law, it is the act of a loving Father who cares for us as his children. This does not mean that adoption is merely about the emotional bonds that exist between God and believers though. Through adoption the Father legally makes us part of his family, with all that entails concerning our rights and privileges as children of God. Paul quotes a pagan philosopher who says we are all the offspring of God (Acts 17:28), but this is not the same as what is taught in this doctrine. God is not the Father of all men, but only of those justified and adopted into his family. Unbelievers may be considered sons of God only in the sense that their relationship with God is a faint shadow of the one Adam had before the Fall. They derive their existence from him and are objects of his general providential care.

They have his name put upon them,4 and receive the Spirit of adoption. They have access to the throne of grace with boldness, and are able to cry, ‘Abba, Father!’5 They are pitied, protected, provided for, and chastened by him as by a father, yet they are never cast off, but are sealed to the day of redemption,6 and inherit the promises as heirs of everlasting salvation.7

Adoption speaks of an intimacy between the believer and God that simply does not exist between God and the unbeliever. Our sonship is different from Jesus’ in that he was begotten, we are adopted. Nevertheless, our adoption brings us privileges as joint-heirs with Christ that do not belong to those outside Christ. To believers alone does the privilege of intimate, powerful, effective prayer belong. We have an intimate access to God that is not available to all men. It is no wonder then that some say that in adoption “we have the ultimate source and the highest privilege brought together” (Murray 2:230). In addition to privilege there is also God’s Fatherly concern manifested in protection and discipline that is ours. While we may be reproved by him, it is for the sake of readying us for our life in eternity with him. We may grieve him and he may discipline us, but we can rest assured that those who are sealed for the day of redemption will never be finally cast off. Once a member of God’s family, there is a certainty that our inheritance is being kept for us in heaven (1 Pt 1:4) and that we are shielded by God’s power until the day we receive it (1 Pt 1:5).

what shall I do

“Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”” (Acts 2:36–37, ESV)

book in his hand

‘The book in his hand,’ teaches us that sinners discover their real state and character by reading and believing the Scriptures; that their first attention is often directed to the denunciations of the wrath to come contained in them, and that such persons cannot but continue to search the word of God, though their grief and alarm be increased by every perusal.

facing away from his own house

His ‘face turned from his own house’ represents the sinner convinced that it is absolutely necessary to subordinate all other concerns to the care of his immortal soul, and to renounce every thing which interferes with that grand object: this makes him lose his former relish for the pleasures of sin, and even for the most lawful temporal satisfactions, while he trembles at the thought of impending destruction (Heb. 11:24-27).


The allegory opens with a description of the principal character to which it relates. The view, which the author in his dream had of him, as ‘clothed in rags,’ implies that all men are sinners, in their dispositions, affections and conduct ; that their supposed virtues are radically defective, and worthless in the sight of God; that the pilgrim has discovered this in his own case, so that he perceives his own righteousnesses to be insufficient for justification, even as sordid rags would be unsuitable raiment for those who stand before kings.


Mr. Bunyan was confined, at, different times, about twelve years in Bedford jail, for exercising his ministry contrary to the statutes then in force. This was ‘the den, in which he slept and dreamed.’  Here he penned this instructive allegory, and many other useful works, which evince that he was neither soured nor disheartened by persecution. The Christian, who understands what usage he ought to expect in this evil world, comparing our present measure of religious liberty with the rigors of that age, will see abundant cause for gratitude; but they, who are disposed to complain, can never be at a loss for topics, while so much is amiss among all ranks and orders of men, and in the conduct of every individual.