Chapter 12, Part One

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.