March 16, 2010

Bible Study

“To them gave He the power to become the sons of God.”  John i:12


“Don’t blink or you’ll miss it!”  We’re all familiar with the imperative.  As we drive through Shantyville, we’re brought to a keen awareness of the need to capture something of great value in a moments notice.  Well, maybe not great value.  After all, what can you expect to find in a one horse town?  But, realistically, at least you want to see Shantyville.  You might never be by this way again.

As Christians, to me, it seems as if most of us have been tragically nodding off as we pass by the doctrine of Adoption.  Its suprising how much neglect this important doctrine gets!   How absurd would it be to miss seeing a landmark every day on your drive to work?   We don’t  give Adoption near enough consideration relative to its importance.  Its what we gloss over on our way to Justification.

Read what Thomas Watson wrote in his “Body of Divinity.”  We could literally feast for days and weeks on this doctrine alone.  Afterwards, oh how strong would be our assurance when we understand that as believers we are adopted as sons of the living God!  How much more safe and secure can a person be than to belong to the family of God.  What confidence!  What Peace!  What Security!  And on and on…

The qualification of the people is, “As many as received him.” Receiving is put for believing, as is clear by the last words, “to those who believe in his name.” The specification of the privilege is, “to them gave he power to become the sons of God.” The Greek word for power, exousia, signifies dignity and prerogative: he dignified them to become the sons of God.

Our sonship differs from Christ’s. He was the Son of God by eternal generation, a son before time; but our sonship is,

(1.) By creation. “We are his offspring.” This is no privilege; for men may have God for their Father by creation, and yet have the devil for their father.

(2.) Our sonship is by adoption. “He gave them power to become the sons of God.” Adoption is twofold.

External and federal: as those who live in a visible church, and make a profession of God, are sons. “The children of the kingdom shall be cast out.”

Real and gracious: as they are sons who are God’s favorites, and are heirs of glory. Before I proceed to the questions, I shall lay down three positions.

I. Adoption takes in all nations. A first adoption was confined to the people of the Jews, who alone were grafted into the true olive tree, and were dignified with glorious privileges. “Who are Israelites, to whom pertains the adoption and the glory.” But now, in the time of the gospel, the charter is enlarged, and the believing Gentiles are within the line of communication, and have a right to the privileges of adoption as well as the Jews. “In every nation he who fears God and works righteousness is accepted with him.”

II. Adoption takes in both sexes, females as well as males. “I will be a father unto you, and you shall be my sons and daughters.” I have read, that in some countries, females are excluded from the supreme dignity, as by the Salique law in France, no woman can inherit a crown; but of spiritual privileges, females are as capable as males. Every gracious soul (of whatever gender) lays claim to adoption, and has an interest in God as a father. “You shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”

III. Adoption is an act of pure grace. “He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will.” Ephesians 1:5. Adoption is a mercy spun out of the affections of free grace. All by nature are strangers to God, therefore have no right to sonship. God is pleased to adopt one, and not another; to make one a vessel of glory, another a vessel of wrath. The adopted heir may cry out, “Lord, how is it, that you will show yourself to me, and not unto the world?”

What is this filiation or adoption?

It is taking a stranger into the relation of a son and heir; as Moses was the adopted son of King Pharaoh’s daughter, Exod 2:10, and Esther was the adopted child of her cousin Mordecai. Esth 2:7. Thus God adopts us into the family of heaven, and God in adopting us does two things:

(1.) He ennobles us with his name. He who is adopted bears the name of him who adopts him. “I will write on him the name of my God.

(2.) God consecrates us with his Spirit. All whom he adopts—he anoints. All whom he makes sons, he makes saints. When a man adopts another for his son and heir, he may put his name upon him—but he cannot put his disposition into him; if he is of a morose rugged nature, he cannot alter it. But those whom God adopts, he sanctifies; he not only gives a new name but a new nature. 2 Pet 1:4. He turns the wolf into a lamb; he makes the heart humble and gracious; he works such a change—as if another soul dwelt in the same body.

From what state does God take us when he adopts us?

From a state of sin and misery. Pharaoh’s daughter took Moses out of the ark of bulrushes in the water, and adopted him for her son. God did not take us out of the water—but out of our blood, and adopted us. Ezek 16:6. He adopted us from slavery; it is a mercy to redeem a slave—but it is more to adopt him!

To what does God adopt us?

(1.) God adopts us to a state of excellence. It would be much for God to take a clod of dust, and make it a star. But it is more for him to take a piece of clay and sin, and adopt it for his heir!

(2.) God adopts us to a state of liberty. Adoption is a state of freedom; a slave being adopted, is made a free man. “You are no more a servant, but a son.” How is an adopted son free? Not to do what he wants; but he is free from the dominion of sin, the tyranny of Satan, and the curse of the law. He is free in the manner of worship. He has God’s free Spirit, which makes him free and cheerful in the service of God; he is “joyful in the house of prayer.”

(3.) God adopts us to a state of dignity. He makes us heirs of promise, he installs us into honor. “Since you were precious in my sight, you have been honorable.” The adopted are God’s treasure; Exod 19:5; his jewels; Mal 3:17; his first-born; Heb 12:23. They have angels for their life-guards. Heb 1:14. They are of the royal blood of heaven. I John 3:9. The Scripture has set forth their spiritual heraldry; they have their escutcheon or coat-armor; sometimes the lion for courage; Prov 28:1; sometimes the dove for meekness; Cant 2:14; sometimes the eagle for flight; Isa 40:31. Thus you see their coat of arms displayed.

(4.) God adopts us to a glorious inheritance. God adopts all his sons to an inheritance. “It is your father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom!” Luke 12:32. It is no disparagement to be the sons of God. To reproach the saints, is like when Shimei had reproached David when he was going to be made king. Adoption ends in coronation. The kingdom God gives to his adopted sons and heirs, excels all earthly monarchies.

(1:) In riches. “The gates are of pearl, and the streets of pure gold, as it were transparent glass.”

(2:) In tranquility. It is peaceable, and the white lily of peace is the best flower in a prince’s crown. One peace is better than innumerable triumphs. No divisions at home, or invasions abroad; no more the noise of the drum or cannon; but the voice of harpers harping is the emblem of peace. Rev 14:2.

(3:) In stability. Other kingdoms are corruptible; though they have heads of gold, they have feet of clay; but the kingdom into which the saints are adopted runs parallel with eternity, it is a kingdom that cannot be shaken. Heb 12:28. The heirs of heaven reign forever and ever. Rev 22:5.

As I grow in faith and am able to discern with more clarity the awesome Holiness of God, this concept of Adoption becomes more and more dumbfounding.  But in a good way.  God opens our eyes to the magnificient, wonderful work wrought out for us upon Christ’s cross.

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