Looking through the halls of time,
The Father chose a fallen race
In his good pleasure, redeeming sons
To show the glory of His Grace
Adopted children, thy voices raise,
Praise the Father’s choosing grace.
Some of you may remember the poem I wrote entitled “A Trinitarian Adoption”; it tried to encompass the glorious view of adoption that was contained in some of the more obvious passages of Scripture on the subject. I think we can relate in some small way to being involved in adoption advocacy, but we also know from the ministries we follow and the books that we read (for example Adopted For Life by Dr Russell Moore) that it is impossible to divorce a right approach to horizontal adoption from a biblical view of vertical adoption. As in every other “advocacy” issue, the Gospel is crucially preeminent. With this in mind, I set out to knock on the door of what the Scripture said about adoption: the reason i did this study was that a family with whom I am extremely close was considering adopting, and there youngest son was rather adverse to the thought. I wanted to at least in some measure be equipped to explain to him, as well as other young Children, what was the real root and foundation of why Christians desire to adopt.That work hasn’t yet come to fruition, but looking in some measure at what was the length and breadth and height of God’s love displayed through adoption is something that I know I and any other believer need constantly.
What comes out so clearly through the Scripture, and what Dan Cruver brought out so well in his little book Reclaiming Adoption, is that our Adoption into the family of God is accomplished through and to the glory of, the Trinity. Take away the work of one member of the Holy Godhead, Three in One, and our adoption would not be realized. Were this great act of adoption not planned by the Father (Eph. 1:ff.) accomplished by the Son (Galatians 4) and applied by the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:23), we would still be lost in darkness. We also can’t afford to not look at one aspect of this glorious work: we have to look at the entire work in order to really give God all the glory He’s due and to live fully upon the truths of what we’ve been given.
The work of Adoption is even more glorious when looked at in the entire context of Redemption: to consider ourselves as adopted Children of the heavenly King is blessed: it is even more blessed to remember that we were enemies, and that in order to be acceptable as Children we had to have our entire status as rebels against our Creator changed. The parable of the Prodigal Son is a good illustration, but it is just that: a parable. Truth is, we walked away from God as a race (Romans 5:12ff), and each of us lives our entire lives in foolish excess, dead and trespasses and sins. And when our Father saw us coming down the road, we were children of the world, running a Hell-bound race, and we were not only received but adopted, made sons and daughters of the heavenly King.
So, maybe we can begin in some small measure to obey the heavenly injunction to Behold God’s love in adoption, which to us is given in 1 John 3:1 (I talk about that injunction last: we’ll work on fulfilling it now). Our glorious God spoke Creation into existence, but as Lloyd-Jones has been so clearly explaining, because of His character, He could not just speak our redemption and adoption into accomplishment. Somethings had to be done. A work had to be thought out, and then accomplished, and then brought to bear upon us.
Let inquire into what it means to be made children! Let all of God’s children come around the Scripture, admit that we are not as smart as we think ourselves to be, and ask some questions of God’s word as to this great mystery.I want to do this simplistically, coming mainly from my own old notes, so I’m not claiming I’ll tackle any of the subjects in their full length and breadth, but I hope that we are all driven into further inquiry into our Redemption.
Let us first ask the Scriptures, Why? what is it that makes the despised father run down the road with opened arms to receive the Prodigal? what is it that causes the Eternal, Transcendent, completely self-sufficient God to Pursue worthless sinners and place them into His perfect family? Their are two clear answers, which at a glance seem contradictory, but both ought to stir our hearts to warmth, and then indeed flames of love: our adoption proceeds from the free, boundless, glorious love of God which He has lavished upon us.
1 John 3:1a “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are.”
The words of this simple little verse are more phenomenal then all the tens of thousands of words I’ve ever written combined. John is jumping on a soapbox, he is standing in the streets as a town crier, and he yelling to believers, in the midst of all his warnings and injunctions to righteousness, “Look! Look at the Love of God to sinners!” How can we deny this cry? Our adopted is wholly effected by His benevolence to sinners.
We, with our American mindset, have an extremely easy time believing that God loves us. But when we understand who He is, and and subsequently who we are, the love of God becomes more and more a thing of wonder. Imagine, if you will, a man begin visited by an Isaiah-like vision of the Holiness of God in the face of Christ. There was none of the ridiculous familiarity that we see in our modern approach to God, and certainly none of the “If he moves to the left, i’ll move to the left…” dancing nonsense (on an unrelated note, if you were with me in New Orleans and participated in that flippant absurdity, shame on you). Isaiah was completely undone in himself, seeing His utter lack of cleanness before a righteous and Holy God. Now take that man, and bring him this proclamation of John. That what it would be like to have a proper understanding of God’s love to us. And it is from this free love that our reception springs.
Be honest with your self about your sins: do not hide yourself from the sight of them: those pangs of conscience, the regrets which you still harbor, and the distractions which you wrestle with every single day. “They that are forgiven much love much.” and we are forgiven infinitely more than we even understand. Be honest about yourself, but don’t stop there: the only thing that is more certain than your past sinfulness is God’s love and Christ’s sufficiency for salvation. God’s love is a little thing if we accept the widely embraced heresy that it is an expression of our value: but His love is expressed in this, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Christ’s death is the foundation of our adoption, as I will go on to explain, but Christ’s death on the Cross, as well as His perfect life, we by reason of God’s love.
Do your best to acquaint yourself with unworthiness as far as is necessary to glorify Christ’s work: but whatever you do, let nothing dim the wonder of God’s unmerited love for us, that we should be called the Son’s and daughters of God.
There is more to be said as to reasons: but more later.