Thank God for what He has done for us: Sending Jesus Christ to die for our sins and to save us; and adopting us – placing us – as His fully accepted and established sons! (Eph 1:6) But surely there must be a price for what our heavenly Father has provided for us through our adoption. We were clearly not adopted because we are worthy or deserving.
A. THE PRICE OF THE FREE GIFT
We can be thankful that our adoption does not depend upon our worthiness! For which of us is truly worthy of God’s love and tender mercies? “…For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23; see also verses 10-18).
All of humanity is totally lost in our sins and under the just and righteous condemnation of God’s wrath (Eph 2:3; 5:6; Col 3:6,7). Mankind can do nothing to save himself (Eph 2:8,9; Rom 3:20; Gal 2:16). Who, then, can save us? And if they are able to save us, are they willing to save us?
God’s just condemnation of sin requires that His justice be satisfied before His mercy can be bestowed. God’s judgment on sin is absolutely fixed. “The soul who sins shall surely die” (Ezek 18:4,20). The penalty for our willful choice of sin is death.
Yet God’s heart has also never wavered from His absolute love for humanity, who are made in His image (Gen 1:26,27) and for His glory.
God’s perfect holiness and justice demand the righteous condemnation and punishment of our sin. Yet the Bible makes clear that God’s love and compassion for us are great and everlasting (Jer 31:3; Lam 3:22,23; Rom 8:37-39). What then can God do?
THE FATHER’S ETERNAL PLAN FULFILLED
From the moment of Adam and Eve’s rebellion and fall into sin, God in His omnipotent wisdom and great mercy knew what He would do (see Genesis 3). One of the five New Testament passages that speak of our spiritual adoption also reveals this eternal plan of the Father: “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law [the just condemnation of sin], that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Gal 4:4,5).
John the apostle wrote it this way: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
As pastors and leaders of the Church of God, you know that God did not send His Son to earth for just a visit or to give us some new thoughts about religion. Instead, God sent His Son for the express purpose of dying (Acts 2:23; 3:18; see also Hebrews 2:9). Christ died – gave His very life – in our place. He willingly took onto Himself the just condemnation of our sin – suffering and taking the penalty of death in our place (2Cor 5:21).
The death of Jesus Christ – when we choose to believe on Him and accept that He died for our sin – makes it possible for us to turn to Him in faith for salvation. Christ’s saving work is a free gift of grace that cannot be earned. God sent Jesus because of His love for us (Rom 5:6-10; Eph 2:1-10) and His desire “in bringing many sons to glory” (Heb 2:10). Hallelujah!
YOUR WORTH TO GOD
Our adoption – placing us as mature sons with full privileges – is part of this act of grace that God the Son (Jesus) accomplished for us at the Cross. “Having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself according to the good pleasure of His will” (Eph 1:5). In His one act at the Cross, by suffering and dying for us, Jesus has made it possible for the “children [heirs] of wrath” (Eph 2:3) to become the “children [heirs] of promise” (Rom 8:17; Gal 4:28).
Before Christ shed His sacrificial blood for us at the Cross, we were “enemies” and “aliens” (Rom 5:10; Eph 2:12; 4:18; see also Colossians 1:20). Yet now, by faith in Christ, we are made sons of God (Gal 3:26). Our adoption, like our salvation, does not depend upon, nor can it be gained by, any worthiness or effort of our own. Rather, it depends solely upon the unmerited favor – grace – that God bestows upon any and all who come to Him by faith in Christ.
The price of our adoption is literally, and no less than, the life and blood of Jesus Christ. Peter declares, “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible [perishable] things, like silver or gold, from your aimless [useless, empty, fruitless] conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1Pet 1:18,19; see also 1:23).
Our sonship, our adoption, is based upon the perfect and imperishable blood of Christ. There are times when the devil will condemn you, lie to you or try to discourage you by telling you that you are a failure or that you are unloved or unworthy. But you can tell him that you have absolute proof that the devil is a liar!
Your value as a person – your worth to God – is revealed by what it cost our Father in Heaven to make you a son and place you as a fellow-heir with Christ. The price that was paid for you is nothing less than the priceless and matchless blood of God the Son! That is your worth and value to the King of kings and Lord of lords!
We need no longer struggle with doubts concerning our worthiness; Christ’s blood, forgiveness and love make us worthy. We need not fear for our future; as God’s adopted sons, we are heirs of all that our heavenly Father has promised to those who belong to Christ. We need not wrestle with guilt over our past; for when we repent and are saved and adopted into our Father’s family, we are severed from the past stain and penalty of our failures and sins. Glory to God!
The devil no longer has the power to enslave us (Heb 2:14-16), for he was conquered at the Cross (Col 2:15). But we must rise up to resist him, declaring the truth that we are God’s adopted children in full standing!
Our priceless adoption also has strong implications for us as God’s sons. To be His adopted sons means that God expects us to live life differently than before our adoption.
B. THE IMPLICATIONS OF THE FREE GIFT
When we receive Christ, we are transferred (conveyed) into God’s Kingdom (Col 1:13) and we become members of His household (Eph 2:19) in full standing (Rom 8:17). Because of this, there are some consistent implications as to how we must live our lives each day. As the Father’s adopted sons:
- WE NO LONGER OWE ALLEGIANCE OR LOYALTY TO OUR OLD MASTERS.
Who are these previous masters? In Galatians 4:3, we are told: “Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world.” As we have learned, the word “elements” in this passage refers to the empty religions, philosophies and bondage to legalism that cannot save us.
Before we were saved, we were in bondage to these old masters. But now, in Christ, we are set free from:
- our sin and the judgment upon it (Col 1:11-14; 2:14);
- bondage to our sinful flesh (Romans 6);
- religious legalism, demonic doctrines and self-effort to earn our salvation (Col 2:16-23);
- the fear, intimidation and manipulative lies of the devil (Col 2:15; Heb 2:14-18).
We are to cut off and reject our old allegiances to ungodly masters. Scripture gives us a clear picture of the power we have in Christ to leave ungodly masters behind: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2Cor 5:17).
However, the freedom from sin and bondage that we are given at salvation is not to be used selfishly. We have been set free, not to do whatever we want to do; rather, we have gained the freedom to now do as we ought to do! Thus, another implication of our adoption is that:
- WE OWE ALLEGIANCE AND LOYALTY TO GOD ABOVE ALL ELSE.
The Bible reveals: “And He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” ( 2Cor 5:15).
Our Lord is to command our words and actions not just while we are at church or functioning in ministry. If this is all we allow Him, then we are behaving like the Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus’ day (Matthew 23). We have an outward religious form, but we are not fully serving God from our hearts and with all of our lives (Matt 15:7-9).
Jesus poured out His precious blood and gave His life that He might be the Lord of every part of our life – the Lord over our hearts as well as our habits! His desire, and the desire of the Father, is that they fill up our lives and occupy the “first position” of our heart.
We have an obligation to be more than a prodigal son. In other words, we should not take our grand spiritual inheritance gained for us by Jesus’ death and our adoption, and then selfishly squander all the life, joy, peace, grace, purpose and hope that was provided. (You can read more about the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32.) The gifts and callings of God are for our blessing and for HIS purposes and use, to bring Him glory and to further His Kingdom.
It is true that the prodigal son was forgiven and received back by his father. This does provide a beautiful picture of the mercy and love of God. However, much of what the prodigal son lost in purpose and gifts, and in God-given potential, was never to be recovered. Further, had he not repented, the prodigal’s wayward life would have led to a certain and eternal destruction.
PASTOR TO PASTOR
All of us are aware of spiritual leaders who were called and empowered by God to do His will. He gave them good gifts and abilities. He called them for His use, to serve Him and others for the sake of the eternal purposes of God.
But then they began to allow ungodliness in their hearts. Often pride or fleshly desires crept in and were not dealt with. Soon that led to sin, such as: justifying the stealing of money; committing sexual sin; abandoning their families; or other compromises of the flesh. They came to love their positions, titles of respect, and “the praise of men more than the praise [approval] of God” (John 12:43) – serving those things instead of the Lord.
For a time, it may have appeared that these leaders were getting away with something, fooling others and even God. But God is never fooled (Gal 6:7,8). Nor does God look lightly upon sin and rebellion (Heb 3:12-15; Jude 8-11). Sinful behavior eventually leads to serious consequences, even destruction (Jas 1:13-15); this applies to all people, including church leaders.
Sin also damages the testimony of the pastor and the church in the community. Families suffer, and much pain and grief is experienced by all who become aware of the failures. It is no wonder that Satan works so hard to tempt away and destroy leaders in the Church! (Luke 22:31).
But where does sin begin? It begins in the heart (Matt 12:34,35; 15:19; 2Pet 2). When our hearts are not fully loyal and submitted to God – fearing Him in all godliness and reverence – then other things begin to press out the Lord’s first place in our heart. But if we prepare and give our hearts fully to the Lord, He will go before us and establish our way (1Sam 7:3; Prov 3:5-8).
So pastors, watch over your hearts! (Prov 4:23) Daily submit your heart to the Lord in prayer. Ask Him to reveal any weakness, deception or fleshly desire that may be taking root. We cannot always know our own heart (Jer 17:9,10). But God looks upon our hearts (1Sam 16:7) and He can bring conviction to us by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Be faithful to read your Bible every day as well. For the living Word of God has the power to reveal to you what is in your heart (Heb 4:12). Then obey what you read, becoming one who does the Word! (Jas 1:22)
- ALL THAT WE HAVE – AND ALL THAT WE ARE – BELONG TO THE LORD.
As adopted sons, our lives, relationships, gifts, abilities, potential and earthly possessions all belong to God. Everything about us, including our desires and hopes (Ps 37:4,5), are to be submitted to God and to His wise rulership.
Some people, in their fear or their selfishness, may rationalize or justify withholding their time, talent or treasure from God. But the reality is that whatever is not given to God and is kept back for ourselves is also kept back from His blessing upon it.
We should desire above all else the blessing of God upon everything in our lives! But that requires us to surrender everything to God. This means to give Him charge of even the untransformed areas in our lives. When we do this, it releases God to deal with us, our needs, our sins, our desires, in His all-wise and all-powerful way. As we yield and respond to His convicting work – confessing and repenting of our sin and becoming more obedient to His Word – He will shape us into the image of His Son, which is His will for us (Rom 8:29). Then God can trust us with even more of His blessings and assignments!
Remember, as an adopted son, the goal and effort of our whole life is to bring glory and honor to our Heavenly Father. We are also to bless and honor His household (the Church – Gal 6:10; Eph 2:19), of which we are a vital part.
- AS SONS PLACED IN A MATURE POSITION OF INHERITANCE, WE ARE OBLIGATED TO CONSISTENTLY PURSUE SPIRITUAL MATURITY
Being placed as a son – spiritual adoption – happens when we are born again. In the case of human adoption, the adopted child usually becomes an heir upon the death of the adopting parent. It is assumed that the child will have grown up and matured, and been proved worthy of receiving his inheritance.
However, God’s ways are not always man’s ways (Isa 55:8,9). We do not have to prove ourselves worthy of our inheritance as God’s sons and saints. This is important, since no one is worthy of the wonderful gifts and blessings that are given to us as a spiritual inheritance. Instead, our son-placement (adoption) and our inheritance are received freely by faith, just as we receive our salvation. We must believe what God has promised in His Word and receive what He has freely provided.
It is important to emphasize, however, that the Scriptures reveal that we must also mature spiritually. We all begin as babes in Christ who need to grow (1Cor 3:1-3). Though our adoption places us in a mature position – qualified to receive all of God’s provision – we must still grow up in the things of our faith, away from carnality and toward true spirituality.
This spiritual growth does not earn us more inheritance. We cannot become more worthy than Christ has already made us through His work at the Cross. But we must learn to function more faithfully and fruitfully in the sonship and inheritance God has given to us.
THE NECESSITY OF GROWTH
As we are faithful to obey God and be transformed from within, we become more and more capable of handling the privileges our Father wants us to have (see Matthew 25:14-29).
There are many biblical passages of exhortation regarding our maturing as God’s sons. For example, we are to grow:
- in faith (2Cor 10:15);
- in the knowledge of God (Col 1:10; 2Pet 1:1-4);
- in grace (2Pet 3:18);
- in spiritual wisdom (Eph 1:17-19);
- in knowing Christ and His work (Phil 3:7-11);
- in understanding our calling (Phil 3:12-16);
- in righteous priorities (Col 3:1-4);
- in sanctification (2Pet 1:5-8).
These examples represent just a few of the many ways in which we are to be continually growing and being transformed after our salvation. Take time to search the Scriptures for even more ways you can spiritually grow as a son of God.
THE PATHWAY OF GROWTH
It must be stated that spiritual growth and maturity in Christ is not automatic. God, by the Holy Spirit, will always be faithful to meet us and help to transform us. But this process must have our full cooperation – including a willingness to repent, change, deny our flesh, obey the Word of God, and more.
The Bible is clear that in order to grow and mature spiritually, there are things we must do. We must:
- feed on the Word of God (1Pet 2:2; Heb 5:11-14);
- be devoted to the systematic study of God’s Word (1Tim 4:13; 2Tim 2:15), especially as church leaders;
- strive to make the kind of choices in life that will help you to mature spiritually (1Tim 4:8-16; 6:11,12,20; Heb 5:14; 1John 3:1-3);
- be continually filled, again and again, with God’s Spirit (Eph 5:18).
Our Father wants us to grow up in Him. He has given us all that we need to be partakers of His divine nature (2Pet 1:2-4). He has committed Himself and all of heaven’s resources to the process of our growth and spiritual maturity. And He has given us the privilege of partnering with Him as He works in us (Phil 2:12,13).
God desires for us, as His sons, to do great things in His Kingdom. Because this is true, we must give ourselves to being mature and trustworthy heirs. (See 1 Corinthians 2:6; 14:20; Philippians 1:6; 3:15; Hebrews 5:12-14).
As we have learned, there are both responsibilities and privileges for the adopted son or daughter. Let us now examine some of the wonderful privileges we have been given as the adopted children of God.