23rd October 2013
Adoption is a familiar word and activity in our society, when someone decides to adopt and welcome a child with love into a new family. Sometimes they have chosen and adopted a disabled or deprived child, maybe even going abroad and taking to their heart a child in special need from another nation and culture. Their uncertain future is really transformed, as they are given provision, protection, and above all, love!
My wife in her teaching career had a student who came to her one day and said ‘My mother has told me that I am special because I was chosen.' Beautiful! That's true of God's adoption too. The Roman world in Bible days knew all about adoption, when a child was taken into a new family and given a new status and opportunities, but it was usually given by a well-to-do Roman nobleman without an heir. He would adopt a child who was given a new family name and became the heir to the father's privileges and possessions.
Adoption is a Biblical symbol of the loving, personal relationship with God when we become his children through our faith response to his Son Jesus Christ. We can then call God our Father by the intimate, affectionate term ‘Abba' as Jesus did (Mark 14:36). See also Romans 8:15-16 and Galatians 4:6-7. It is rather like our family word ‘daddy' which indicates a warm relationship bond, and adoption in our modern world similarly gives us access to precious benefits in a new family.
Other terms are used for that relationship in Scripture, rather like the various facets of a precious diamond. We read of being born again, entering the kingdom, and tasting in Christ abundant and eternal life here and now, to be consummated in heaven, ‘prepared for those who love him' (John 14:1-3; I Corinthians 2:9).
The apostle John wrote his first letter to affirm, assure and encourage Christian believers, referring repeatedly to our being the ‘children of God'. Some people think that we are all children of God. In one sense that is true by creation, for all physical life is from him, but the New Testament clearly teaches the new relationship that God has with his special children in his special family. Charles Wesley clarifies it in a hymn about those who are ‘Born in Thy family below (that's creation), and by redemption Thine.' Redeem and redemption are significant words, meaning to buy back at a great cost and that price was ‘the precious blood of Christ' on the cross (I Peter 1:18-19).
Even though we are sinners (Romans 3:23; 5:8), God adopts us into his family in his ‘great love which he lavished on us that we should be called children of God' (I John 3:1 NIV). That beautiful word ‘lavished' is a Greek word meaning overflowing, abounding, and J.B. Phillips renders it as the ‘incredible love of the Father'. No wonder the aged John revels in it, and Isaac Watts celebrates it in one of his hymns, ‘His heart is made of tenderness, and ever yearns with love'.
As committed Christians we all need to learn and practice a constant dependence upon God our Father as Paul explained, ‘I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances - through him who gives me strength' (Philippians 4:11-13). I do realise however, that we cannot initially understand all these precious truths about adoption and redemption. I certainly couldn't as a boy just 15 years old when I first responded to a clear Gospel call, but that was the essential foundation for my growth in discipleship and ministry.
Our continuing call is to ‘grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ' (II Peter 3:18). That is why we need personal and group Bible Study to grow in our understanding and always aim for maturity (Ephesians 4:13). So do keep on growing!
Rev Perry Smith, Belmont NSW