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
5 Ro 8:15, Eph 3:12, Ro 5:2, Ga 4:6, Eph 2:18
6 Ps 103:13, Pr 14:26, Mt 6:30-32, 1 Pe 5:7, Heb 12:6, Is 54:8-9, La 3:31-33, Eph 4:30
7 Ro 8:17, Heb 1:14, Heb 9:15
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).