Chapter 12, Of Adoption

adoption

  1. All those that are justified, God vouchsafed, in and for the sake of 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. (Ephesians 1:5; Galatians 4:4, 5; John 1:12; Romans 8:17; 2 Corinthians 6:18; Revelation 3:12; Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 2:18; Psalms 103:13; Proverbs 14:26; 1 Peter 5:7; Hebrews 12:6; Isaiah 54:8, 9; Lamentations 3:31; Ephesians 4:30; Hebrews 1:14; Hebrews 6:12 )

 All those that are justified, God vouchsafed, in and for the sake of his only Son Jesus Christ, to make partakers of the grace of adoption. The Confession continues its course through the order of salvation, and following justification God acts to adopt his elect. In this regard, A.A. Hodge states: “Upon the exercise of faith by the regenerated soul, justification is an instant act of God, on the ground that perfect righteousness which the sinner’s faith has apprehended, declaring him to be free from all condemnation, and to have a legal right to the relations and benefits secured by the covenant which Christ has fulfilled in his behalf.”[1]  Thus following that instrument of justification, faith, the elect are also adopted. We see the connection of faith and adoption in Galatians 3:26: “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith” (ESV). Those who are justified, God vouchsafed, meaning “to confer or bestow (some thing, favour, or benefit) on someone.”[2] We see this bestowal or vouchsafing in 1 John 3:1a: “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God” (KJV). This bestowal of adoption is “in and for the sake of his only Son Jesus Christ.” God bestows adoption only “in” Christ; it is only given to those in Christ, that is, in union with him. And, adoption is for the sake of Christ. This is seen in Scripture: “In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:4-6 ESV). And, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal 4:4-5 ESV).

All those that are justified God vouchsafed…to make partakers of the grace of adoption. Scripture states: “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13 ESV). What an amazing thing to partake of this “grace of adoption.” Sam Waldron states: “It is an act of God’s free grace flowing from the electing love of God and Father in eternity and the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit in time, and immediately confers the Spirit of adoption and the privilege of being one of God’s heirs, as well as other privileges, obligations and liabilities.”[3] The Baptist Catechism, question 34 indicates: “What is adoption? Adoption is an act of God’s free grace, whereby we are received into the number, and have a right to all the privileges of the Sons of God.” Thomas Watson states of God’s grace in adoption: “He adopted us from slavery: it is a mercy to redeem a slave, but it is more to adopt him.”[4] From yet another perspective, Watson says of God’s grace in adoption:We were very deformed; and a man will scarce adopt him for his heir that is crooked and ill-favoured, but rather him that has some beauty.”[5] God was pleased in his Son to adopt the elect despite these things to be his very own possession. Adoption is all of God’s grace.

The Confession now provides a series of phrases and clauses which explain the benefits of adoption. By the grace of adoption, they are taken into the number. The number refers to the number of the elect. The Confession, states in Chapter 3, Of God’s Decree, paragraph 4: “These angels and men thus predestinated and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished.” To be taken into the number, means that we are taken into God’s family which has a specified number of elect.

Further, these adopted ones enjoy the liberties and privileges of the children of God. What are these liberties and privileges? The Confession now enumerates several of these. First, these have his name put upon them. “Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me” (Isaiah 49:16 ESV). “The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name” (Rev. 3:12 ESV). Second, they receive the spirit of adoption. “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Rom. 8:15-17 ESV). Thirdly, these have access to the throne of grace with boldness. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father” (Eph. 2:18 ESV). “In Christ Jesus our Lord…we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him” (Eph. 3:11-12 ESV). “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16 ESV). Fourthly, they are enabled to cry Abba Father “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15-17 ESV). Fifthly, they are pitied. “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him” (Ps. 103:13 ESV). They are protected. “In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge” (Prov. 14:26 ESV). Sixthly, they are provided for.And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Phil. 4:19-20 ESV). Seventh, they are chastened by him as by a Father, yet never cast off. “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” (Heb. 12:6 ESV). “For the LORD will not forsake his people; he will not abandon his heritage” (Ps. 94:14 ESV). “For the Lord will not cast off forever” (Lam 3:31 ESV). Eighth, they are sealed to the day of redemption. “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30 ESV). And ninth, they inherit the promises as heirs of everlasting salvation. The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Rom. 8:15-17 ESV). What can we say to all these things? Adoption brings us into those remarkable liberties and privileges that only sons and daughters of the Father can enjoy.

We will conclude this chapter with a citation from the Puritan Thomas Watson regarding adoption:

“To make us thankful, consider, in civil adoption there is some worth or excellence in the person to be adopted; but there was no worth in us, neither in beauty, nor parentage, nor virtue; nothing in us to move God to bestow the prerogative of sonship upon us.  We have enough to move God to correct us, but nothing to move him to adopt us, therefore exalt free grace; begin the work of angels here; bless him with your praises who has blessed you in making you his sons and daughters.”[6]

———————-

[1]  A.A. Hodge, The Westminster Confession: A Commentary (1869; reprinted, Carlisle, Pa.: Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 191.

[2] The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, 2 vols. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971).

[3] Samuel Waldron, 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith: A Modern Exposition (Evangelical Press: Faverdale North, Darlington, England), 170.

[4] Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity (1692, reprinted, Edinburgh, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1997), 233.

[5] Ibid., 235.

[6] Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity (1692, reprinted, Edinburgh, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1997), 234.

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