In early 2000, we preached a series of sermons looking at great themes of the Bible. I gave this talk on “Adoption” at Wennington Parish Church on Sunday 27th February 2000.
Romans 8:14 – 23
“14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “”Abba,” Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. 18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”
John 1 vv.10 – 14
“10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
We are continuing our series of talks looking at great themes of the Bible, and today we are dealing with the subject of adoption.
In our society, with the breakdown of traditional family life, there seems less value than ever placed on a person’s place in a family. With increasing numbers, for whatever reason, of one parent families, cohabitation, loose liaisons etc children easily lose their sense of belonging, their sense of identity. So in a way, adoption seems to be less of an option for children who find themselves without a stable home.
In New Testament times, in many societies, it was important for a person to know his/her family roots, especially if matters of property and inheritance were involved. Hence why in the Bible there are often long involved genealogies going back many generations. It was acknowledged that only children conceived in wedlock could inherit and be considered as part of the family. An exception was made in the case of a child or young person who was adopted by the family. This was possible, but virtually unknown under the very strict Jewish law, but was more common under Roman law.
Under Roman law, a father had absolute rights over his son throughout his lifetime, which made his adoption into another family a very serious business, as it put him into the total possession and absolute control of another man. It also gave him a new name, a different legal standing, and all the rights of an heir in his new family.
All this would have been known to the readers of Paul’s letter to the Romans.
Adoption is clearly a major step, and not one to be taken without considerable thought. Whilst the child or young person may have a say in whether he or she wishes to be adopted, it is ultimately a decision of the prospective parents to adopt or not. Even if the child begs them to adopt him, it is still their decision, their choice.
I have some relatives in Canada, who many years ago adopted a boy, Bob and a girl, Nancy. After a few years, they were blessed with a child of their own, Terri. In her early teens Terri decided to be spiteful and pointed out to her brother and sister that they were only adopted. Her sister replied that whilst the parents had had Terri, they choose Nancy and Bob!
And that’s how it is with God. He choose us to be his adopted children. Its part of the “package” we receive when we come to faith in Jesus. Salvation is all of God and none of our doing. When we accept Jesus Christ as our saviour, then he sends his Holy Spirit to be in us, and as St Paul writes in Romans 8 v 15 ‘For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father”. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.’
Isn’t it amazing that the Holy Spirit within us causes us to acknowledge God as our father. Not only that but look at the level of the relationship. Its not a formal austere cold relationship like my father had with his own father. No, the Aramaic word ‘Abba!’ is far more intimate, personal. Indeed it could be translated as ‘Daddy!’ That contrasts with many people’s view of God as an angry old man ready with a big stick to bash them when they do wrong!
Isn’t that amazing; daring to call the Holy Omnipotent God, Daddy. This is exactly what Jesus taught his disciples when they asked him to teach them how to pray, and he gave them “The Lord’s Prayer”. I would suggest at this point, and you are welcome to take it up with me later, that you should only say that prayer if you can acknowledge Jesus as your saviour and hence you are a child of God by adoption.
Its equally amazing to think that we had been in rebellion against God, through our sin, so that we were his enemies. Yet, we can turn to him in repentance and accept Jesus as our saviour and our whole position changes in the twinkling of an eye. We are suddenly transformed into a new person with a new family, not just a forgiven sinner, but adopted into God’s family as a son or daughter!
As a child of God, an adopted son or daughter, you have rights and privileges that others do not have and cannot have unless they too come to faith in Jesus and join the household of faith.
So what do we get as an adopted child of God?
- The Holy Spirit. When a person comes to faith in Jesus, he receives through faith the Holy Spirit who comes to make us more like Jesus and reassure us of our place in God’s kingdom. In Galatians 4:6 we are told: “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out “Abba, Father”. So you are longer a slave but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.”
- A new relationship with God. He is no longer our enemy, our judge, but our own dear father. The Holy Spirit at work in our lives should bring this reality to our thoughts and emotions, and reassure us of our place in God’s heart. We have to remember that every good father wants what is best for his children and has to discipline or train them in the right way to do things. This is not always pleasant for either parent or child, but is necessary. In Hebrews 12:5 we read ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and punishes everyone he accepts as a son.’
- A new name. As part of a new family we get a new family name, which confirms our identity as part of that family. Paul writes in Ephesians 3: 14 -15 ‘For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family of believers in heaven and on earth derives its name’. There has been a tradition that people coming to faith in Jesus have also changed their names in acknowledgement of the new life they have. Ie Saul became Paul. We have to also take on board that with a new family come many relatives. We have countless brothers and sisters both on earth and in heaven. And as a member of God’s family we should take our brothers and sisters seriously and support, encourage and uphold them, whether they be here in Wennington, or in India, China, South America, wherever.
- A life with Jesus as our elder brother. As we grow in our Christian faith, the Holy Spirit enables us to become more like Jesus. Romans 8:29 ‘For those God foreknew, he predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.’ In the Roman world, the adopted son was granted full legal status in the family alongside any other natural children. What a wonder it is then that we are given full status in the family of God along with the natural Son of the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ. As we heard earlier in our reading from Romans, ‘Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share his glory’
- Protection. Many years before Paul wrote the letter to the Romans, the Psalmist wrote: future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able in Psalm 125:2 ‘As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and evermore.’ We as Christians not only have that promise to hold on to, but also have the Holy Spirit himself dwelling in us. As Paul wrote at the end of Romans 8 ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?’ and ‘For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’
To summarise, adoption is an invitation to become part of God’s family. We cannot do it by ourselves, we cannot earn our way into heaven. It is a gift from God. He chooses to offer us this wonderful gift to be not only reconciled with God and at peace with him but to become his adopted son or daughter and a co heir in the kingdom of heaven with Jesus.
There are some Christians who doubt their salvation, who despite all their spiritual experiences, bible studies etc do not know whether they are ‘saved’. Yet the doctrine of adoption makes it perfectly clear that as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ your future is secure and awaits you in heaven as a joint heir with Jesus of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Thank you Father God that you called us through faith in your dear son Jesus to be adopted into your family as your sons and daughters. We ask that your Holy Spirit will continue to reassure us of our place in your family and draw us into a deeper more personal relationship with you and our saviour Jesus. This we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.