Survey Studies in Reformed Theology
Genevan Institute for Reformed Studies
Bob Burridge ©1996, 2006, 2010, 2012
Subjective Soteriology – Lesson 4: Adoption
by Pastor Bob Burridge ©1998, 2010
The Working of Adoption
Identity of those Adopted
The Blessings of Adoption
Westminster Confession of Faith XII
I. All those that are justified, God vouchsafeth, in and for his only Son Jesus Christ, to make partakers of the grace of adoption, by which they are taken into the number, and enjoy the liberties and privileges of the children of God, have his name put upon them, receive the Spirit of adoption, have access to the throne of grace with boldness, are enabled to cry, Abba, Father, are pitied, protected, provided for, and chastened by him, as by a father: yet never cast off, but sealed to the day of redemption; and inherit the promises, as heirs of everlasting salvation.
The Workings of Adoption
Adoption, as is true of all the workings of God, finds its first cause in the eternal decree.
Ephesians 1:4-6, “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”
The foundation for adoption is the work of justification through the work of Jesus Christ on behalf of his people.
Galatians 4:4-5, “But when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”
Adoption is an act of God’s grace, whereby, for nothing in the sinner but wholly for the merits of the life and death of the Savior, the elect are translated into the family of God forever. It is appropriated by means of the regeneration of faith unto justification
John 1:12-13, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
Identity of those Adopted
Though all humans are created by God and owe their being to him, they are not all sons in the spiritual sense. There are those who are only sons by creation. They enjoy the benefits of this relationship ungratefully. Their rebellious sonship deserves the wrath of God. Their spiritual sonship was forfeited by the alienation of spiritual death in Eden in the representation of Adam. In this lost estate, those not redeemed are properly called sons of Satan and children of God’s wrath.
Ephesians 2:3, “Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”
In John 8:44 Jesus said, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies.”
1 John 3:10, “By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.”
Those who believe in the “universal fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man” deny God’s word, and diminish the work of the Savior as if he was a mere moral example for us. It is a doctrine of cosmic tragedy. This foundation of modern religious humanism is a false gospel. It is the deceptive gospel of Satan which leads the spiritually blind proudly and confidently into the fires of eternal hell.
The elect are made sons of God by grace based upon the atonement of Christ. This foundation provides for reconciliation with an offended holy God by the purchase of us as sons. Adoption is therefore a change in our relationship with the Father. Its origin in his eternal love is manifest in our faith unto justification.
Unlike human adoptions which are common in our own experience, we are adopted when we are born into the family of God. Adoption and birth are separate ways of becoming members of a family among men. In the revelation of the workings of God they come together as joint realities. We who were for the moment aliens from the family of God are given new life by the Holy Spirit. It is a birth that joins us into a new family.
1 John 3:1-2, “See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is.”
A distinction must be made between our sonship with the Father and that eternal sonship of Jesus Christ. He forever shares in the essence of the Trinity, and in all the incommunicable attributes of the other members of the Godhead. Yet we share in his Sonship as joint heirs forever by his merits.
John 20:17, “Jesus said to her, ‘Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren, and say to them, “I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.” ‘ ”
Romans 8:14-17, “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.”
The Blessings of Adoption
forever those liberties and privileges spoken of in the word. As the confession summarizes;
“adopted sons of God have his name upon them, they receive the Spirit of Adoption and access to the throne of grace affording them the boldness of prayer. They cry out to God as their Father and benefit from his fatherly pity, protection, provision and chastisement. They can never be cast off but are sealed as heirs forever until the day of redemption.”
Galatians 4:6-7, “And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.”
(The Bible quotations in this syllabus are from the New American Standard Bible (1988 edition) unless otherwise noted.)