Heirs of the King
The significance of the doctrine of adoption.
One can only wonder how many questions rushed through the minds of the disciples in the days and weeks following Jesus’ resurrection. During his life, Jesus said and did things no one had ever said or done, but through his resurrection Jesus did something no one had ever imagined.
A beaten and brutalized, mocked and crucified, disgraced and rejected Jewish carpenter had risen from the dead. Not only had he risen from the dead, but he rose from the dead as the first fruits of the new creation he himself brought to bear upon the world. He performed miracles, appeared and disappeared, walked through closed doors, and breathed the Holy Spirit upon his apostles. What did this all mean?
We know from the New Testament that the early church spent a great deal of time discerning and understanding the meaning of the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of their Lord Jesus Christ. Through searching the pages of the Old Testament, prayer, discussion, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit the church realized that Jesus was both God and man, God was one God in three persons, the Gentiles had been grafted in as part of God’s family, justification was by faith alone, forgiveness in Jesus’ name meant reconciliation with God, and this good news was to be preached to all the nations of the world. And that’s just to name a few!
We refer to the above realities as doctrines. That is, teachings gleaned from God’s word about himself and what he has created. A doctrine that has often been neglected by the church, but is desperately needed for our lives as Christian men and women, is the doctrine of Sonship and adoption. In Galatians 4:4-7 Paul writes,
“But 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!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”
It is impossible to overstate the depth and delight of this doctrine. For surely we will spend all eternity worshiping in its truth–the truth that our savior is the Son eternally begotten of the Father who left the riches and splendor of heaven, incarnated among us, and revealed to us the true elder brother in seeking after us, long lost younger brothers–when faith becomes sight.
It is by his perfect obedience to the Father and absolute humiliation on the cross that we become sons and therefore heirs, receiving the riches Christ brought with him out of the empty tomb. Because we are united with Christ (Romans 6:5), the Spirit teaches us to cry out “Abba! Father!”
The Son and the Spirit know the glory and goodness of the Father, and they want us Christians to know it too. God’s desire is for us to know that we are no longer orphans, but have an eternal home with the Father; that we are no longer slaves to fear, but sons and daughters of hope; that we can approach the throne of grace with confidence.
Considering the holy majesty of God and marveling at the wonder of adoption John Calvin wrote, “With what confidence would anyone address God as ‘Father’? Who would break forth into such rashness as to claim for himself the honor of a son of God unless we had been adopted as children of grace in Christ.”
The British theologian, now in Heaven with his elder brother, J.I. Packer said that, “adoption is… the highest privilege that the gospel offers.”
As the early church sought to understand the implications of Jesus’ ministry in the world and forevermore, allow yourself time and prayer to better understand the significance and privilege of your sonship through adoption. It is a gift worthy of our all.
Will Stockdale is a Ministry Associate in D.C. and cohost of The Will & Rob Show.