Our adoption – being placed as sons – puts us into a new kind of relationship. Both the adopted son and the adopting parent are committed by the act of adoption to support, help and maintain the other. We have just studied the implications and obligations that are to be fulfilled by the one being adopted.
But there are also great privileges given to one who has been placed as a son. This is true even in human adoption. But those who have become sons of God are given priceless and eternal privileges. Let us study those now.
A. THE GREATEST PRIVILEGE OF ADOPTION IS TO NOW HAVE GOD AS YOUR FATHER (Rom 8:15; Gal 4:5).
Every living thing owes its existence to God, especially mankind (Acts 17:25,28). All men have God as their Father, but only in the sense that He is the Creator of all (John 1:3). We have no relation to God as our Father before we are born again and enter into adoption as sons of God. The unbeliever can call God “Judge”, but not Father.
Now for us who are truly made sons of God by the new birth through faith in Christ, we have been given the greatest privilege of all. We are brought into God’s family, and He has bestowed upon us all of the love, privileges and rights of a son.
Our Father is not ashamed to call us His sons and daughters (2Cor 6:18; Heb 2:11). We are not an abandoned child that God was obligated to take in. The Bible teaches us that God “chose us in Him [Christ] before the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:4). All humanity was wanted and chosen by God before our world even existed!
God also “predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will” (Eph 1:5). God has willed many things; but our adoption is according to the good pleasure of His will. He has always wanted us, providing the way through Christ for us to choose to come to Him as His children. What a great honor and glory to be God’s wanted son!
Perhaps you (or someone in your church) were not wanted as a child by your earthly parents. Or perhaps you felt unloved, more like a burden or a nuisance than someone who was cherished or desired.
Please know that God, your heavenly Father, has always wanted you! He has laid precious and magnificent plans for your life, and for the life of every member of your church and family (Jer 29:11-13; Esth 4:14; 1Cor 2:9). God has set aside provision and resource for you (Matt 6:33; Phil 4:19). And He is actively working in you and for your good (Rom 8:28-30). Praise His holy name!
PASTOR TO PASTOR
It is often parental neglect, rejection or abandonment that causes a person to feel unwanted or unloved by others and by God. Thus, let me exhort you, dear pastor, to never allow the busy activities of ministry to cause you to fail to fulfill your first responsibilities to your wife and children in this regard.
The Bible is clear that your marriage and family are a higher priority than ministry (Eph 5:22-33). Your personal relationship to the Lord is always the first priority for your life. But if you are married, your wife is then the second priority. If you have children, caring for them is your third priority. This means loving and providing for your family, nurturing them and teaching them the ways of the Lord (Deut 6:7). Then, ministry comes after your personal walk with the Lord, and after your responsibilities to your wife and children.
If your marriage or children are showing signs of neglect, you become disqualified for leadership in the Church (1Tim 3:1-5). And worse, your neglect may cause harm that opens your family to being unwilling or unable to receive God’s love and plans for them.
It is a challenge to balance work, family and ministry. None of us does that perfectly. But we must always strive to follow God’s instructions for our lives. These instructions are found in His Word. So take the time to study the scriptures that explain God’s priorities and standards for how to lead your family. (Begin with Ephesians 6:1-4; Colossians 3:20,21; 1Peter 3:1-7; and Malachi 2:13,14,16.)
B. OUR FATHER HAS GIVEN US HIS HOLY SPIRIT.
The many benefits of the “inheritance” gift of God’s Holy Spirit are innumerable. But some of them include:
- THE HOLY SPIRIT IS THE “SPIRIT OF ADOPTION” (Rom 8:15).
This means that by the Holy Spirit’s presence in us, we can truly and personally know and experience a close and personal relationship with our Heavenly Father. Through the Spirit, we can cry out, “Abba, Father” (Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6).
The term “abba” denotes intimacy and affectionate respect. It was used in Bible times by children (even adult children) to affectionately address their fathers, and sometimes by students to their teachers. We might use a similar term with our earthly fathers, such as “daddy”.
Jesus used the term “abba” when He spoke to the Father (Mark 14:36). But “abba” was rarely used by Jews when referring to God; for although they had the law of God, they did not have the surpassing privilege of intimate personal relationship with Him. This became available only through Christ’s sacrificial work at the Cross.
- WE HAVE BEEN DELIVERED FROM A SLAVISH FEAR OF GOD.
“For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear” (Rom 8:15). We know there is to be a healthy and righteous “fear of the Lord,” a reverence and awe for the Almighty God. But we, as Christians, no longer need to labor under “a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries” (Heb 10:27). The judgment for our sin has been satisfied; our death sentence for sin (Ezek 18:20) has been paid by Christ. We can proclaim, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Rom 8:1).
Because this is true, we can “come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:16; see also 10:19,22). Our Father who loves us will hear us when we call to Him, and will answer according to His perfect love and wisdom.
- WE HAVE BEEN “SEALED” BY THE HOLY SPIRIT.
“In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory” (Eph 1:13,14).
As a legal act, Roman adoption had to be attested to by a reliable witness. We have already learned that in spiritual adoption, the Holy Spirit’s presence within us is our witness.
The Holy Spirit is there to give witness, to verify, that truly we are the legitimate sons of God. As God’s children, we are the heirs of His inheritance that we have in Christ. “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together” (Rom 8:16,17; see also Galatians 4:6,7).
This idea of being “sealed” by the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13; 4:30; 2Cor 1:22; 5:5) holds great importance for us. A “seal” in Greek culture, when stamped on a possession, was used to indicate ownership and to give protection against theft. A seal also indicated that a document or message was authentic, and conveyed the authority of the one who sent it.
As the adopted sons of God, who are sealed by the Holy Spirit, we are marked as true sons of God. We belong to Him, and He has given His angels charge over us (Ps 91:11,12). We are under God’s authority to do His will, and we also have God’s authority available to enable us to carry out His will (Luke 19:3; John 14:13; 15:16).
As sons of mature placement, we have been entrusted with the privilege to carry out our “Father’s business” in the world around us. We are to live and minister in Jesus’ name, by His authority and aligned with God’s will to carry out Kingdom business. Amen!
- THE HOLY SPIRIT WILL GUIDE US.
“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Rom 8:14).
The Greek word translated as “led” is a present participle. This means that we are to be continuously led by the Holy Spirit. This is to become a way of life for every maturing believer, but especially for pastors and leaders in the Body of Christ.
This continual leading of the Holy Spirit will happen in two ways:
1) by a constant and growing knowledge of the Bible, coupled with a diligent and conscious effort to obey both the letter and spirit of the Word of God (1Tim 4:12-16; 2Tim 2:15; 3:16,17; Jas 1:21-25);
2) by cultivating a sensitivity to the promptings and leadings of the Holy Spirit, taking time to both pray and listen for a response as we go about our daily lives.
It is important to actively invite the presence of the Holy Spirit into our lives each day (Gal 5:16). We can ask Him to lead us in every situation or circumstance we face. Make it your habit to regularly talk to the Holy Spirit, asking Him for guidance and taking time to listen to what He will reveal to your heart.
PASTOR TO PASTOR
Pastor, please know that the Holy Spirit will never lead you to do or say anything that would displease the Lord or that would be contrary to what is already written in the Word of God.
The Holy Spirit, as God and the third person of the Trinity, will always confirm the Word of God and lead you into obedience to what God has already revealed in the Bible.
If you sense that the Holy Spirit is leading you to do something, it is wise to seek the advice of other counselors who are more mature in the Christian faith and knowledgeable in the Word (Prov 11:14; 24:6). Choose those who are experienced, mature believers who have a proven track record of faithfulness to God’s Word. Look for those who have the courage to speak the truth if they need to correct you.
You should also confirm that what you are sensing from the Holy Spirit does not contradict the letter or spirit of the Word of God. For example, the Holy Spirit would never lead you to take something that does not belong to you, for the Bible clearly reveals that we are not to steal (Ex 20:15; Eph 4:28).
A word here especially to men: A provision of wise counsel that God has already given to you is your wife. This does not mean she will always be right – in the same way that you will not always be right. However, a good and godly wife is a helpmeet (Gen 2:18) – and her help can sometimes come in the form of good advice.
Take time to pray with your wife as often as possible. And when you do, also take time to talk about what you may be sensing from the Holy Spirit. Many women are very sensitive to the Holy Spirit. Husbands need to have the humility to ask wives their opinion, and the wisdom to follow it if it is confirmed by the Word of God. Make every effort to regularly seek the Lord together!
C. OUR FATHER IS FULLY COMMITTED TO DISCIPLINE US.
Every parent eventually recognizes the importance of disciplining their children. But God’s discipline is very different from the type of discipline an earthly parent might apply to a child.
The discipline of the Lord is not something to fear or dread. God does not discipline us out of disgust, anger or impatience. His discipline does not involve punishment, judgment or rejection. In fact, the opposite of these things is true!
God disciplines us because we are sons whom He loves. He disciplines us in order to release us from the bondage of sin and rebellion. God disciplines us to set us free to receive more of His anointing and blessing.
Take a moment to read Hebrews 12:3-13. God’s “chastening” is not always because we have done something bad or need to be corrected. The word “chastening” actually contains the idea of strengthening or training that is necessary to fully develop our potential, in order for us to fulfill all the plans that God has for our lives. Strengthening our lives also has the added benefit of protecting us from possible future attacks or injury (Heb 12:12,13; see also 1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
D. SINCE WE ARE ADOPTED SONS, OUR FATHER DESIRES TO TRANSFORM US INTO THE IMAGE OF THE ONLY BEGOTTEN SON.
When we are adopted into God’s family at salvation, He gives us not only a new name, but also a new nature. “…as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2Pet 1:3,4).
As Christians, we bear the name of the One who has adopted us (Acts 11:26; 1Pet 4:12-16). We also, through His provision and the working of His Spirit, are day by day being inwardly transformed into the image of God the Son – Jesus! (2Cor 3:18)
This process of transformation is continual throughout our lives. We are commanded to give ourselves to this process, and to cooperate with the working of the Holy Spirit. We are also to make every effort to become more like Him who adopted us: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom 12:1,2; see also 1 Corinthians 15:49 and 1 John 3:2,3).
Mankind was originally created in the image of God (Gen 1:26,27). But we have been distorted and marred by multiplied centuries of sin and rebellion and its effects. At salvation, however, we begin the glorious process of being restored to our Heavenly Father’s likeness and image, transformed from within in order for our character to become more like His.
God is committed to our maturity and growth. His Spirit will continually convict us of our need to repent of (turn away from) harmful behavior. He will teach us how to trust, yield to and obey the Lord and His Word. God will even use the pressure of circumstances to mold and shape our lives, as a potter would shape and form a clay vessel (Isa 64:8).
As a loving heavenly Father, God is restoring us so that when we finally see Him face to face we shall be more like Him who made us (Ps 17:15).
E. AS SONS, WE ARE GIVEN THE PRIVILEGE OF LIBERTY.
“Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (Gal 4:7); “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).
As believers in Jesus Christ, we have been set free through Christ from the law of sin and death (Rom 8:2). We have been delivered from the elemental things of this world (Col 2:8,16-23). We no longer need to fear death (Heb 2:14,15), nor judgment and wrath (Rom 5:9).
Yet our adoption and the freedom it brings have even more purpose. The adopted son is not free to do whatever he wants (1Pet 2:16,17). Rather, we are now free to do as we ought to do in obedience to our Father’s will and His Word.
We have been set free to give faithful service to our God and to His household (the Church) and, as His messengers, to the entire world.
F. AS ADOPTED SONS, WE ARE GIVEN PROTECTION FROM EVIL.
God’s Word promises that His children will be kept from the power of evil (see Luke 10:19; John 17:11-15; Romans 8:31-39; 1 John 3:8; 4:4). The only power and authority that hell has in the life of the believer is what the believer accepts or allows. Jesus made provision for us to resist the devil (2Cor 10:3-5) and to be set free from anything of evil that would try to oppress us (Eph 6:10-18).
However, it is important to note that the Bible clearly states that in this life we will still experience trials, tribulations and opposition from the devil (see James 1:2-7,12,13; 1 Peter 4:12-19; Matthew 5:10-12; John 10:10; 2Cor 2:11; 11:13). We live in a broken, sin-filled world and will each face challenges and heartaches.
However, our heavenly Father promises to use even those difficulties to work great blessing in us and for us (Rom 8:10,28; 2Cor 4:7-18). In trials, we will have either God’s grace to endure or His power to be delivered (Jas 4:6-8; 1Pet 4:12,13; 1John 3:8; 4:4; Rev 12:11). But no matter the trial, the Lord will be with us; He will never leave us nor forsake us (Matt 28:20; Heb 13:5). He will give us what we need to run the race of this life with His strength and endurance, no matter the obstacles.
G. OUR ADOPTION PROVIDES US WITH A HOLY DIGNITY AND EQUALITY.
There are many places in the world today that consider some people less acceptable than others. People from particular castes, tribes or specific geographic areas, or who speak a certain language, are thought to be less valuable or lower in the social order. There are religions or countries that do not allow females the same dignity, privileges or respect as males receive. These and other forms of prejudice or oppression are not uncommon.
But for born-again followers of Jesus Christ, their adoption and status before God the Father place them on equal level with all other believers. For in Christ, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28, emphasis added; see also Colossians 3:11).
Those who are in Christ are now all of a royal bloodline (the blood of Jesus Christ) and all carry the same Family name and inheritance. The Bible reveals that believers are God’s “chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people” (1Peter 2:9).
The dignity and self-worth of Christians is established by the price paid for us at the Cross of Calvary, and by the simple undeniable truth that God has set His love upon us (1John 3:1). Nothing can change that eternal truth (Rom 8:38,39). No matter the color, class, race or gender, believers are all equal with one another. They are each made worthy of God’s love in Christ, and are one in the bond of unity by the Spirit of God (Gal 3:26-29; Eph 2:11-18; Col 3:11).
PASTOR TO PASTOR
Pastors, all that we say and do should reflect this very important biblical principle of equality. It has been said, “The ground at the foot of the Cross of Jesus is level”. In other words, all believers, whether young or old, male or female, high or low caste, rich or poor – ALL have equal worth and standing before God. ALL have equal access to God in salvation and relationship. God desires to pour out His Spirit upon all believers to empower them for service and to reflect His glory (Joel 2:28-30).
The Bible reveals a principle of unity that goes beyond just the relationship between a husband and wife (1Pet 3:7-12). As leaders, we must always model righteous treatment of all those whom Christ died to save. We must treat others, no matter who they are, with dignity, honor and respect, modeling Christlike behavior to those whom we lead.
If your culture or background, your pride or your fear keep you from loving and releasing in ministry all believers equally, please reconsider your role as an elder or leader in the Church. Being a fruitful, effective leader requires that you live by and model the principles found in the Scriptures.
H. THE COMPLETE FULFILLMENT OF THE PRIVILEGES OF BEING ADOPTED BY GOD IS YET TO COME.
“Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body” (Rom 8:23).
Being justified by faith in Christ sets us free from sin and condemnation (Rom 3:21-25,27,28). By our adoption we become sons who are placed as joint-heirs with Christ (Rom 8:17; 1Cor 3:21-23; Gal 4:6,7; Heb 6:17; Rev 21:7).
Our inheritance as God’s children has already begun. In that we are adopted children, the Bible calls us children, sons and heirs. As children we are already given the gift of a close relationship with our Father in heaven. As sons, our placement or position before Him is secure and filled with promise for this life and for the life to come. As heirs, our inheritance is also both now and future.
Our future inheritance will be totally fulfilled when we pass from this life and see our Savior “face to face” (1Cor 13:12). The key to understanding this future inheritance is the promise contained in Ephesians 1:13,14. Take a moment to read that passage now (see also 2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 4:30).
The sealing gift of the Holy Spirit given to us is stated as a “guarantee”. The word guarantee can be translated as down payment, deposit or first installment. In other words, God has given us His Spirit as a down payment, securing us for that day when God will fully receive us into eternity.
Our heavenly Father has paid the ultimate price for us by sending God the Son to take our sin upon Himself and die in our place on the Cross. Our Father then has given God the Spirit as a pledge, or guarantee, that our full inheritance and the total redemption of our lives are secure and will be fulfilled.
The Bible reveals that even our mortal, weak and corruptible bodies will be resurrected one day (1Thess 4:15,16). Our mortal bodies will then be transformed, becoming immortal and incorruptible (1Cor 15:35-58).
Praise the Lord! As God’s sons, we shall be totally transformed – body, soul and spirit. Some day we will live in eternity completely whole, and in the bright and undiluted presence of our Lord and His love!
Until then, we can know God and experience His love. We have the “down payment” of His Spirit living within us. As we grow and mature in Christ, we can know the Lord more deeply, experiencing an ever-increasing measure of His love and His power in and through our lives.
This growth process can and should continue each day of our lives until we at last see Him face to face and know Him fully, even as we are known (1Cor 13:12). What a joy and privilege it is to be an adopted, placed son of the living God. What great joy and promise of inheritance is ours both now and throughout eternity!
“HE MADE US ACCEPTED”
Our privileges as adopted sons and heirs of the living God are truly glorious. We shall have an eternity to sing His marvelous praises for taking unlovable sinners – through His grace and love – and making us His sons. All of this God has done, “according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved” (Eph 1:5,6).