Results tagged “adoption” from Reformation21 Blog

Augustine's second homily on the Gospel of John offers one of the richest commentaries on John 1.12 that I have read. His explanation of what it means for God to give us "the right to become children of God" is worth quoting in full:

What did he bestow on them? Great kindness; great mercy. Singly born, he did not wish to remain one and only. Many couples who have had no children adopt some when advanced in years and realize by choice what nature was unable to provide; that is what human beings do. But someone who has an only son rejoices in him all the more, because he alone will take possession of the whole inheritance and not have anyone else to divide it with and thus turn out the poorer. Not so God; he sent the very same one and only Son he had begotten, through whom he had created everything, into this world so that he should not be alone but should have adopted brothers and sisters. You see, we were not born of God in the same way as the only-begotten Son of his, but we were adopted through the Son's grace. For the only-begotten Son came to forgive sins, those sins which had us so tied up that they were an impediment to his adopting us; he forgave those he wished to make his brothers and sisters and made them co-heirs... No, he was not afraid of having co-heirs, because his inheritance is not whittled down if many possess it. They themselves, in fact, become the inheritance which he possesses, and he in turn becomes their inheritance (Homilies on the Gospel of John [New City Press, 2009], pp. 64-65).

The beauty of Augustine's description of adoption speaks for itself. A few observations are nevertheless worth making.

(1) Augustine's homily is a helpful reminder that faithful biblical exposition did not begin in the modern era. Patristic sermons and biblical commentaries will inevitably strike evangelicals as strange territory. Nonetheless, it is territory that repays patient exploration.  

(2) Much of the power of the doctrine of adoption lies in the disanalogy that obtains between human adoption and divine adoption. Human couples often adopt because they lack natural offspring. Human couples with an only child (at least in Augustine's day) often rejoice in the fact that their offspring can be the sole heir of their inheritance (and thus can avoid the poverty that might accompany dividing their inheritance). "Not so God": He sacrificed what he had--his eternally begotten, eternally beloved Son--to enrich his enemies by making them joint-heirs with Christ. 

(3) We cannot appreciate the full depths of the gospel apart from the doctrine of the Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity teaches us about the kind of love that is on display in the gospel. The Father eternally loves the Son, and this love is the measure of what the gospel cost: the Father loved us by sacrificing his beloved Son to forgive those sins that "were an impediment to his adopting us." Moreover, the Father's love for the Son is the measure of what the gospel bought: the Father loved us by bequeathing to us an inexhaustible inheritance, which is nothing other than the right to become an heir of the Father's love in and with Jesus Christ, his beloved Son. Truly this is "great kindness; great mercy."

The rebel and the king

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(I first posted this about two years ago, but it seems germane, so I am going over the ground again.)

Consider the man born into a family of terrorists. The man's father had rebelled against the King of the kingdom in which he lived, and - having so rebelled - all his posterity were brought up to hate and fight the King who ruled in this kingdom. It is to this family that the man belongs. Having been falsely taught all his life that the sovereign is cruel, vindictive, proud and unjust, and hating him as a tyrant accordingly, he has racked up a long list of foul crimes and misdemeanours against the King, all of which bring him under sentence of death. This life of rebellion takes its toll on the terrorist, cut off as he is from all that makes life worth living in the kingdom. His misery and wretchedness increase day by day as he slowly loses his foolish fight. Finally, he receives an overture of peace from the King. The King knows of the rebel's appalling condition, and has had compassion on the man. Together with his son, the Prince, and his Lord Chancellor, the King has devised a way by means of which, without any detriment to the King's justice and glory, the rebel might be entirely forgiven, and - even more - brought into the King's royal family. He publishes this offer by means of his ambassadors. At first, the terrorist cannot believe that such an offer can be true. After all has heard and believed of this king and his character, after all he has done to merit death, can the alleged tyrant really be ready to forgive all his sins and actually adopt him as his own?  Then the Lord Chancellor himself comes to press upon him the reality of the king's free and gracious offer: the Prince himself will take the entire punishment that the law demands and which the rebel deserves. The rebel, finally persuaded, gratefully accepts his merciful terms and embraces all that is bound up in leaving his life of crime. The Lord Chancellor conducts him back to the King's palace, where he is inducted into the life of a true son of the King, dearly beloved of the sovereign, and heir to all that the Prince himself is entitled to receive. Overwhelmed, scarcely believing his mercies, he yet knows that to him now belongs all the freedom of the kingdom. However, it is worth noting that while his relationship to the King has altered radically in some respects, there are some underpinning realities which have not altered. The King has become his father, with all the blessings involved in his adoption. The weight of the law as an instrument of condemnation has ceased to hang over him. But has the father now ceased to be a King? By no means! And is the ex-rebel any less obliged to obedience to the law of the kingdom because he has been delivered from its condemnation? By no means! His obligations to obedience have been by no means reduced, but only heightened. He is all the more obliged - love and gratitude and position all oblige him - to embrace and obey the law of his King and his father. He has all the obligations that belong to him as one under the royal authority, as well as all the obligations that belong to him as an adopted son, overwhelmed by gratitude for the undeserved privileges bestowed upon him. It is the same law that was in place while he was a terrorist, the very same law as condemned him to death for treason. The law has not changed, and he now cheerfully obeys that law both as a subject under its royal authority and as a son in his father's household. The royal law is still in effect, is as potent and extensive as it ever was, except that now it is profoundly, readily, willingly embraced by one who has come to have that law truly impressed upon him as the continuing standard of life in the kingdom of his father, which his father the King, his natural son, the Prince, and the Lord Chancellor have all seen fit to honour in bringing him from the condemnation of death to life and to liberty.

I am that rebel. I have been condemned by God's law. And yet, by grace, I have been redeemed from my sins through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, atoning for my ungodliness, being called by the Father and regenerated by the Holy Spirit. God having justified me through faith, I have been set apart to him, called to a life of holiness, and adopted into his family. I am no longer condemned by the law, but the law still exposes sin in me. I am no longer condemned by the law, but the law still expresses my Father's will for what is right and holy and just. I am no longer condemned by the law, but that law no longer presses upon me from without, rather springs up from within, having been written on my heart. I am no longer condemned by the law, but have come to recognise it as good and just, and embrace it with a willingness and readiness to obey it in all its parts. It is that law that is now written not on tablets of stone, but on the fleshy tablet of my heart. It is as a son, as a redeemed man, that the law becomes my delight as well as my duty.

Behold!

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The apostle John had seen many wonderful things in his life. He had lived alongside the Christ for three years, testifying that if all the things that Jesus did "were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written" (Jn 21.25). He had watched the Lord Jesus perform countless miracles. He had been there on the mountain when the Lord was transfigured, his whole appearance manifesting something of his personal majesty, as he spoke with Moses and Elijah about his exodus. He had laid his head on the chest of his beloved Friend as he ate his last earthly meal, testifying of his coming sacrifice. He had watched as the Son of Man was beaten to a near pulp by his enemies and mocked by his own people. John had stood at a Roman cross as the incarnate God died in darkness, committing his mother to John's filial care as if to a brother. The apostle had sprinted to an empty tomb and looked at the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. He had trembled in a locked room for fear of the Jews and found himself face to face with the risen Lord. He had stood on the deck of a boat on the Sea of Galilee, heard a voice from the shore with questions and suggestions, and recognised it as the Lord of life. He had watched as the man with whom he had walked and talked, on whom he had leant, whom he had watched die and seen alive again, was lifted bodily from the earth and swallowed up in shining clouds as he went to his heavenly throne, there to sit in majesty until he returned again in glory to take his people to be with him.

All this John had been privileged to see and experience, and yet the fact that God has loved sinners in such a way to as to have them called his sons still makes him catch his breath, prompting an outburst of wonder in which he wants the people of Christ to share: "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!" (1Jn 3.1).

The rebel and the king

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Consider the man born into a family of terrorists. The man's father had rebelled against the King of the kingdom in which he lived, and - having so rebelled - all his posterity were brought up to hate and fight the King who ruled in this kingdom. It is to this family that the man belongs. Having been falsely taught all his life that the sovereign is cruel, vindictive, proud and unjust, and hating him as a tyrant accordingly, he has racked up a long list of foul crimes and misdemeanours against the King, all of which bring him under sentence of death. This life of rebellion takes its toll on the terrorist, cut off as he is from all that makes life worth living in the kingdom. His misery and wretchedness increase day by day as he slowly loses his foolish fight. Finally, he receives an overture of peace from the King. The King knows of the rebel's appalling condition, and has had compassion on the man. Together with his son, the Prince, and his Lord Chancellor, the King has devised a way by means of which, without any detriment to the King's justice and glory, the rebel might be entirely forgiven, and - even more - brought into the King's royal family. He publishes this offer by means of his ambassadors. At first, the terrorist cannot believe that such an offer can be true. After all has heard and believed of this king and his character, after all he has done to merit death, can the alleged tyrant really be ready to forgive all his sins and actually adopt him as his own?  Then the Lord Chancellor himself comes to press upon him the reality of the king's free and gracious offer: the Prince himself will take the entire punishment that the law demands and which the rebel deserves. The rebel, finally persuaded, gratefully accepts his merciful terms and embraces all that is bound up in leaving his life of crime. The Lord Chancellor conducts him back to the King's palace, where he is inducted into the life of a true son of the King, dearly beloved of the sovereign, and heir to all that the Prince himself is entitled to receive. Overwhelmed, scarcely believing his mercies, he yet knows that to him now belongs all the freedom of the kingdom. However, it is worth noting that while his relationship to the King has altered radically in some respects, there are some underpinning realities which have not altered. The King has become his father, with all the blessings involved in his adoption. The weight of the law as an instrument of condemnation has ceased to hang over him. But has the father now ceased to be a King? By no means! And is the ex-rebel any less obliged to obedience to the law of the kingdom because he has been delivered from its condemnation? By no means! His obligations to obedience have been by no means reduced, but only heightened. He is all the more obliged - love and gratitude and position all oblige him - to embrace and obey the law of his King and his father. He has all the obligations that belong to him as one under the royal authority, as well as all the obligations that belong to him as an adopted son, overwhelmed by gratitude for the undeserved privileges bestowed upon him. It is the same law that was in place while he was a terrorist, the very same law as condemned him to death for treason. The law has not changed, and he now cheerfully obeys that law both as a subject under its royal authority and as a son in his father's household. The royal law is still in effect, is as potent and extensive as it ever was, except that now it is profoundly, readily, willingly embraced by one who has come to have that law truly impressed upon him as the continuing standard of life in the kingdom of his father, which his father the King, his natural son, the Prince, and the Lord Chancellor have all seen fit to honour in bringing him from the condemnation of death to life and to liberty.

I am that rebel. I have been condemned by God's law. And yet, by grace, I have been redeemed from my sins through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, atoning for my ungodliness, being called by the Father and regenerated by the Holy Spirit. God having justified me through faith, I have been set apart to him, called to a life of holiness, and adopted into his family. I am no longer condemned by the law, but the law still exposes sin in me. I am no longer condemned by the law, but the law still expresses my Father's will for what is right and holy and just. I am no longer condemned by the law, but that law no longer presses upon me from without, rather springs up from within, having been written on my heart. I am no longer condemned by the law, but have come to recognise it as good and just, and embrace it with a willingness and readiness to obey it in all its parts. It is that law that is now written not on tablets of stone, but on the fleshy tablet of my heart. It is as a son, as a redeemed man, that the law becomes my delight as well as my duty.

Christ the Center PCRT Discussion

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Our good friends at Christ the Center very kindly did some broadcasts from PCRT Philadelphia last weekend. Click here to listen to the crew discuss Biblical manhood and womanhood. A great addition to a great event!

There was a Girl. Fifteen Years Old: An Adoption Story

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NOTE: Our guest blogger is Rev. Charlie Abbate, pastor of Cornerstone Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Ambler, Pennsylvania.

"Well what's going to happen to her?" I asked.  "You know what'll happen to her," my wife answered back.  "Then we're going to host this girl."  At that moment, my wife and I took a step in faith that resulted in us adopting a 15 year old girl from Russia.  And the timing couldn't have been worse. 

We had adopted before.  After having three children "the old fashioned way", we prayerfully decided to adopt our youngest daughter, our little redheaded nine month old infant, from Russia.  As a good friend and fellow adoptive father likes to say, "It's easy to pray when you're in the middle of an adoption, especially when you're in Russia." 

But nothing else about it is really easy -- the process is anything but smooth, curveballs come at you from all directions and doubt surrounds you.  Prayer is easy, though, because you need the comfort of the Father!  Philippians 4:6-7 became my go-to verse time and again.  In the end, we came home with our little Mary and life went on.  Sharing the joys of childbirth with your wife is an amazing thing.  Adopting a child is similar in that there's a new mouth to feed, a new personality in the mix and a heightened awareness of God's sovereign love. But it's also different.  Adopting a child made me and Cheryl (my wife) - and others we know who've also adopted - keenly and piercingly aware of God's love in adopting us as his children. 

We adopted Mary when life was simple.  Cheryl and I had been married for thirteen years. I was an independent sales rep for a national direct sales company and was doing well.  My schedule was flexible enough to allow for the traveling the adoption required.  My income was sufficient to cover the significant costs.  Thankfully, the major hurdles of international adoption were not too hard on us, and we had family close by to watch our other three children. 

But this was different.  Two years after adopting Mary, life wasn't so simple.  We had sold our home and moved to the Philadelphia area so that I could study at Westminster Theological Seminary.  God had made it clear to me that he was calling me to a life in the ministry and pursuing my Master of Divinity at Westminster was the first step.  Seminary is a tough season of life: finances are stretched thin, there's never enough time to study, and the balancing of studies, family and work often feels like walking the tight rope over Niagara Falls. In the middle of all this, we got the phone call.

The voice on the other end was a friend of ours.  She and her husband had adopted two children from Russia and were now involved in a hosting program specifically designed to bring older orphans to the U.S., in the hopes that the host family, or someone they knew, would adopt them.  This friend had approached us a few weeks before asking if we would host one of the kids.  We said no. 

No!  I was in seminary, I was still traveling in order to make money, we were barely paying our bills and the thought of hosting a child that we knew we couldn't even consider adopting seemed unfair, even cruel.  No.  We said no and we were OK with recognizing our own limitations.  A week and a half later we got the second call.  This time it was more specific, and more personal. 

There was a girl.  Fifteen years old.  She had been to the U.S. the year before as part of this hosting program.  A woman decided to adopt her.  To make a long story short, this fifteen year old girl was all packed up and ready to go home to be with her new American mother when she was told the woman wasn't coming.  The "why" doesn't really matter, does it? This girl was abandoned.  Again.  Both her parents died a few years earlier and now her new mother wasn't coming.

But now, she was coming to America. Again.  And this time, it was her last chance.  She'd be here in June.  In September, she'd turn sixteen years old.  At sixteen, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) won't allow a person to be adopted.  So what would happen to this girl if she comes here and doesn't find an adoptive family? 

You can look up the statistics for yourself.  Even if you don't, with little effort, your imagination will carry you to the dark and horrific circumstances that are the reality for a sixteen year old girl, with no family and no resources, on the streets of Russia. This is the story that my wife heard from our friend, which she then relayed to me.  What could we do?  We had to make a decision and we didn't have the luxury of time. 

When decisions of significance must be made in our lives, how do we go about deciding which option is best? For example, when we buy a home, we study the finances, the home inspection, the school system - we look at the facts and make a decision.  If you've ever invested in anything from a single stock to an equity position in a business, you do your due diligence.  You don't make a decision until you have all the facts.  The facts tell you what are the odds of success and, if you decide against the facts, well, then you are a fool.  Even buying a car, or a laptop, isn't done without some level of investigation. 

Kids are different, though.  If you have children, do you remember when you decided to have your first child?  I do.  We had a great marriage, I had a decent job, we had a two-bedroom apartment, and we figured we had enough money to pay for food and clothing.  Done.  Let's have a baby!  And everyone we knew said, "Horray!"  And don't get me wrong, I'm not arguing against that.  Children are a blessing from God, no doubt!  But when the sentence changes from "We're going to have a baby" to "We're going to adopt," things change.  All of a sudden the qualifications of good marriage, sufficient income and a home aren't enough.  All of sudden, we need to look at the facts

When you choose to adopt, you don't get asked about baby names, you get questions like, "Who is this child you're thinking of adopting?  What kind of medical information do you have?  What do you know about the birth parents?  What if this and what if that?".  Every adoptive parent asks the same questions.  And most people who know and love a couple who is thinking about adopting ask similar questions. These questions usually come out of a real love and legitimate concern for the couple and the family into which that new, adopted child will come.  The same questions were asked of us when we adopted Mary.  The answer to the questions, again and again, was faith. 

We had faith in the God who loved us enough to adopt us, sins, scars, imperfections and all, into his holy family.  We had faith that just as he knew each of our children before they were born, he knew that Mary was for us, even though she was conceived and born in a different country, by different birth parents.  We had faith.

But Mary was an infant.  We were now talking about adopting a teenager.  We were talking about upsetting the birth order of our children by bringing in a new oldest child.  Our social worker who worked with us when we adopted Mary told us we were crazy.  Was this faith or stupidity?  Were we about to commit, as one person told us, familial suicide?

So we prayed. As all Christians know, prayer is an amazing thing.  We who are finite and frail have the ability to speak directly to the Creator of all things - this is a thought that amazes me!  We prayed and prayed and asked everyone we knew to pray.  The day we got the phone call about Ana, the girl who would become our oldest daughter, our hearts were open to the idea of adopting her. 

Why?  I don't know, except that God had given us such hearts. It was all of him, as all good things are.  We even asked each other, why are we considering this?  Ephesians 4, 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12 and other places in God's Word tell us of the spiritual gifting of the saints.  As one body of Christ, we are made of many parts, each necessary and each different.  Adoption seemed to be one way that we could serve the Lord.

But we are not alone. God has given so many others a heart that is sensitive to the needs of the orphans.  Some satisfy that sensitivity by providing the finances necessary to make adoptions happen, some build orphanages, some give clothing, some pray without ceasing.  We decided to take this teenage girl into our family. 

In the same way that a minister's internal call to ministry must be confirmed by the external call and confirmation of the church, our internal desire to adopt Ana was confirmed by the body of believers around us.  We were continually confirmed through unbelievable, "hand-of-God" financial support, often in stunning ways that can only be explained by the power of God.  We were confirmed by friends who loved us, telling us that they agreed with our decision, even encouraging us to move ahead.  We've since been confirmed by watching our other children embrace their new big sister, loving her, helping her learn English, and taking her in as one of us.

In my opinion, the doctrine of adoption is sorely under-taught in churches across our country.  Reformed congregations usually have a good grasp of justification by faith.  We get the Biblical truth that, in spite of our sin and rebellion against the holy and living God, God acted according the counsel of his own perfect will to provide a means by which we are saved through faith alone in the finished work of the Son, applied by the Spirit.

But we are adopted. Adopted by the Father! Adopted.  Received into the number of and with a right to all the privileges of the sons of God, as the Confession puts it. We will never be turned away, never be forsaken, and never be abandoned.  In other words, because of God's amazing grace, we will never face the prospect of what our oldest daughter faced and so many like her around the world face daily: abandonment. Orphaned. Left alone.

Rather, loved by God and called as his, we are secure in God's electing love.  What a tremendous truth!  What tremendous hope we find in the doctrine of adoption!  And what a blessed opportunity, to live that truth and walk in that hope we have, by adopting children into our own families, children who would otherwise never see in real life what God has done for all of us as Christians.

Three years later, my wife and I sometimes think back to that initial conversation we had. We think about the life of one girl, whom God in his abundant grace, placed in our lives.  We still don't know what the future holds, but we know that we have a daughter.  Our other children have a big sister.  We struggle with all the issues that every parent of a teenage girl struggles with.  But we thank our God that he has allowed us to show forth the love he has for us, by allowing us to adopt children into our family.

What can you do? Pray for the orphans.  Pray that God would continue to raise up couples who love Jesus and who walk in the blessedness of his salvation to adopt children.  And, if that is not you, pray about supporting those in your church who are doing this. If you can't do that, pray for them! Love the children they adopt. I can tell you that six years after adopting Mary, and three years after adopting Ana, none of us would trade our family for another.  We praise the Lord for his grace and the blessing of adoption - first into God's eternal family and then for permitting us the privilege of picturing this in our earthly family. There is no greater joy. Adopt.

The theme for the 2011 Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology is Children of God: Adopted into the Father's Love. You can register here.

 

Beeke.jpg 

Joel Beeke has just published a new book, Heirs with Christ: The Puritans on Adoption. You can also watch a video of Joel talking about the book, here

 

Results tagged “adoption” from Through the Westminster Confession

Chapter 12, part five

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All those that are justified, God vouchsafeth [or graciously grants], 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.

Father and children

When you have fellowship with other believers, you are with those who have been adopted by the living God as his own children. For as we think of God the Father, we must also think of God's family. 

Our most basic alignment in this world is toward our Father which is in heaven. He is the one we adore and worship; it is in him that we trust, and we owe him the loyalty of our hearts. Our second most important relationship is with his children. We are not, most basically, people of one country or another, one race or another denomination. We are God's family, one family, with one elder brother, and one Spirit of adoption. For that reason we ought to do all that we can to foster love and unity in this family, seeking its good, and holding back from criticism of brothers and sisters. 

As we think about our place in God's family, the last line in the first chapter of the book of Hebrews proves to be particularly significant. There we are told that 'all angels' are actually 'ministering spirits'. And incredibly, one of their main tasks is to give themselves to help God's family on earth. They are 'sent' by our Father 'to serve those who will inherit salvation' (Heb. 1:14). If this is the case, if the angels of God that stand before his throne are sent to serve God's people here on earth, how much more ought we to do the same! Surely such service is appropriate thanks for the great salvation that we will inherit. Certainly it is an approved way to praise our Father and live to his glory, when we do all that we can to help our brothers and sisters on their way to our heavenly home.

Dr. Chad Van Dixhoorn is the associate pastor of Grace Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Vienna, Virginia. He is the editor of The Minutes and Papers of the Westminster Assembly, 1643-1653.

Chapter 12, Part Four

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All those that are justified, God vouchsafeth [or graciously grants], 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.

Chastisement

It is just because the Father cares for us that he also sometimes finds need to discipline us. After all, as the writer to the Hebrews says so clearly, it is precisely those that the Lord loves that he disciplines, and it is those who are accepted as Sons that are wisely punished (12:6). Yet it is worth saying, as here it is said, that the Father is never vengeful or vindictive. He does not respond in wrath. Rather, we are chastened by Him as by a Father. Sometimes we may need a severe mercy to bring us back to that straight and narrow road that our Father has prepared for us. But God's discipline is always a mercy - by no means does it indicate that God has deserted us. It is worth remembering that it is right in the middle of Jeremiah's book of Lamentations that we are given the sweet promise that men and women 'are not cast off by the Lord forever' (Lam. 3:31).

On the contrary, one reason why we are given the Spirit of adoption is that the Spirit is God's seal 'to the day of redemption' (Eph. 4:30). God has a plan for his people, and all that he does for us, to us, and with us, is designed to ready us for that day. He is teaching us how to hold heavenly treasures in earthen vessels, because he intends for us, 'through faith and patience' (Heb. 6:12), to inherit all of his promises. God's plan is that we will be 'heirs of everlasting salvation', and that we will be granted 'an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade - kept in heaven for you' and for me (1 Pet. 1:4). 

Dr. Chad Van Dixhoorn is the associate pastor of Grace Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Vienna, Virginia. He is the editor of The Minutes and Papers of the Westminster Assembly, 1643-1653.

Chapter 12, Part Three

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All those that are justified, God vouchsafeth [or graciously grants], 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.

Called by the Father's name

Consider what it means to be called by God's name - to have the Lord God almighty give us his family name (Jer. 14:9; 2 Cor. 6:18; Rev. 3:12). Just think of what it means for us to receive the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of adoption (Rom. 8:15), the one who through faith (Rom. 5:2) gives us 'access to the throne of grace with boldness' and 'confidence', as Paul reminded the Ephesians (3:12). Indeed, even sinners as wayward and weak as the Galatians were reminded that they too were enabled by the Spirit to cry out in simple trust, 'Abba', or in our language, 'Father' (Gal. 4:6).

The focus so far has been on what we receive, but the story can be told just as clearly from the perspective of what God gives. The Psalmist reminds us that when we are pathetic, the Father pities the children who fear him (103:13). The writer of Proverbs tells us that when we need refuge, God's children are protected (14:26). The Lord Jesus tells us that we have no need to worry about our food or drink or clothes for he knows how to provide for us (Matt. 6:30-32). In short, we can cast all our cares on him, for he cares for us (1 Pet. 5:7).

Dr. Chad Van Dixhoorn is the associate pastor of Grace Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Vienna, Virginia. He is the editor of The Minutes and Papers of the Westminster Assembly, 1643-1653.

Chapter 12, Part Two

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All those that are justified, God vouchsafeth [or graciously grants], 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 uniqueness of adoption

Every gift from God is a wonder of grace, but many Christians feel this gift of adoption into God's family most keenly, and treasure it most deeply. Admittedly, there are few greater joys than knowing that one is justified before God, to hear the verdict that we are forgiven and as righteous in the sight of our judge as any man could ever be. Likewise, it is a great thing to be sanctified. To know that the Great Physician is at work, to know that our wounds are healing, the disease is leaving, the mortal illness of sin is mortal no longer. But neither of these pieces of news is fully realized and enjoyed outside the context of adoption.

You see, there is a very different sort of happiness that we can find in a family, than what we find in the courtroom or doctor's office. Those who have been blessed with good parents can testify that there is a qualitative difference between leaving the judge and courtroom without fear, and going home to a father with great joy. There is really nothing like being a child of God, and enjoying all the liberties and privileges of God's own family. What a freedom it is to be able to address God as our Father, even though he is in heaven, and we on earth. What a privilege it is to have brothers and sisters in every corner of the globe. What an honour it is to even have the power to be joint heirs with God's own Son (Rom. 8:17; John 1:12).

Dr. Chad Van Dixhoorn is the associate pastor of Grace Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Vienna, Virginia. He is the editor of The Minutes and Papers of the Westminster Assembly, 1643-1653.

Chapter 12, Part One

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All those that are justified, God vouchsafeth [or graciously grants], 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.

Blessings as a package

The most noteworthy fact about this chapter on adoption is that there is a chapter at all. Biblical sonship is the Cinderella of Christian theology and has only recently been recognized as the royal topic that it really is.

Nonetheless, the second most striking aspect of the chapter is its brevity. This twelfth chapter is the Confession's briefest for at least three reasons. First, there was a limited pool of theological reflection on this subject from which the assembly could draw. Prior to the Westminster assembly, the history of theology had little to say about adoption. Second, and related, the assembly could offer a crisp statement on the doctrine of adoption because it could state the truth without correction of error. Unlike the chapter on justification, for example, chapter twelve tackles no dissent and treats no heterodoxy, for orthodoxy on this subject had no serious competitors. Third, there is considerable thematic overlap between the doctrine of adoption and the doctrine of assurance of faith and salvation, and some aspects of the experience of God's children are related in chapter eighteen, on assurance. This allows the Confession to state a large doctrine in a little space.

This chapter begins by reminding us that the saving blessings and graces that come from Jesus Christ always come as a package. Just as we were justified in Christ, so too, God graciously grants that we will be adopted in Christ. Adoption has always been part of God's plan. In fact, 'God sent forth his Son', as Paul explains in Galatians 4, so that those who 'were under the law . . . might receive the adoption of sons' (Gal 4:4-5). This grace comes to us only in Christ and for Christ, since it was 'the good pleasure' of God's eternal will (Eph. 1:5) that our Saviour should bring many Sons to glory.

Dr. Chad Van Dixhoorn is the associate pastor of Grace Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Vienna, Virginia. He is the editor of
The Minutes and Papers of the Westminster Assembly, 1643-1653.