For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. - Romans viii:14.
The blessings bestowed on believers through Jesus Christ are so numerous and so richly diversified, that a diversity of terms is requisite to denote them. Christians are represented in the Scriptures as justified, reconciled, regenerated, converted, sanctified, saved. Every one of these words conveys an important idea, and might with propriety be made the theme of an hour's contemplation. Adoption, however, is the subject presented for consideration in the text. Interesting subject indeed. May we be interested in its examination.
I. What is Adoption?
To answer this question satisfactorily, permit me to say that ancient nations, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and others, were familiar with the process of civil adoption. By this process children were taken from families of which they were natural members, introduced into other families, and made to sustain a legal relation thereto - a relation similar in its results to those of the
natural relation. Such children were recognized as the children of those who had adopted them and became their heirs. In view of this definition of civil adoption, we can readily perceive that spiritual adoption is that act by which God takes those by nature children of wrath into a now relation to himself - a filial relation - involving their recognition and treatment as children. They are distinguished by the appellation, "sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty."
Civil adoption and spiritual are in some respects similar, in others dissimilar.
Let us notice some points of similarity.
1. In each the child adopted is taken from another family. - The child's belonging to another family renders the adopting process necessary. Sinners, we know, are estranged from God - children of the devil, members of another family.
2. In each the adopted sustains a new relation to the adopter. - This relation is a filial one, which can not possibly exist until the adopting act is performed.
3. In each the adopted becomes the legal heir, of the adopter. - By the law of nature, and by the civil law too, the child is regarded as the heir of the father. The adopted one is in the place of a child. Christians, having been adopted by him, are the heirs of God. They inherit from him, and their inheritance is incorruptible, undefiled, and unfading.
But there are points of dissimilarity.
1. Civil adoption, it is supposed, was first permitted
for the comfort of the childless. - There is nothing like this in spiritual adoption. Jehovah is not childless. The angels are the "sons of God," and they constitute an innumerable company. These "sons of God" shouted aloud for joy when the Omnipotent Architect laid the foundations of Creation's edifice.
2. In civil adoption something amiable and attractive in the adopted excites the regard of the adopter. - Hence, Pharaoh's daughter was enamored of the infant loveliness of Moses - had compassion on him, and adopted him as her son. Hence Mordecai, because Esther was "fair and beautiful," and her parents were dead, "took her for his own daughter." To instances like these there is nothing analagous in spiritual adoption. In the moral character of those whom God adopts there is nothing attractive, but everything repulsive. They are his enemies - guilty of high treason against the King of Glory. They bear the image of Satan, for they are of their father, the devil. The wickedness of their lives is only an imperfect exponent of the corruption of their hearts. Surely God, in adopting such creatures into his family, is prompted by nothing good or amiable in them, but by his amazing and incomprehensible love.
3. In civil adoption though a filial relation is established, there is not necessarily a filial disposition. - Adopted children sometimes become monsters in human form. So base is their requital of the kindness of their benefactors, as to sicken
every benevolent heart. Spiritual adoption is always connected with a filial temperament. It is inseparable from regeneration by which we are born of God and become his children through faith in Jesus Christ. Where the filial relation is established, the filial affections are exercised. All whom God adopts love him as their gracious Father.
II. The Privileges of Adoption
These are many. I will name a few
1. Unobstructed access to God. - The child can approach the father, when the stranger would be repulsed. The son can gain audience when the servant might ask a hearing in vain. The people of God may draw near to him at all times. He ever bids them welcome. They may approach him with confidence. "They have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but they have received the spirit of adoption whereby they cry, Abba, Father." How delightful to enjoy the sublime pleasures resulting from fellowship with God! How cheering is his fatherly smile!
2. The adopted are the brethren of Christ. - The Lord Jesus is the first-born among many brethren. There is a numerous brotherhood, but he is the elder brother. All others are adopted for his sake. Nor is he ashamed of the relation he sustains to them. "For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified, are all of one; for which cause he is not ashamed to call them
brethren." What an honor is this! To claim Christ not only as a Friend, but as a Brother! And to feel that this fraternal relation ia cemented and sanctified by the blood of the Cross!
3. They enjoy the spirit of adoption. - Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying "Abba, Father." The Spirit is a Comforter. He comforts us by bearing witness to our adoption. "The Spirit beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God." He enables us to appropriate the promises made to the adopted. When we are conscious that we possess the evidences of adoption, our spirits bear witness too. There is a concurrent testimony; for the Spirit beareth witness with our spirit, etc.
4. They enjoy divine care and protection. - A kind father provides what is needful for his children. My God, said Paul, shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. The language of the Psalmist is: "The Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly."
5. They are subjected to paternal chastisement. - You may consider it strange that I include chastisement among the privileges of adoption. It can not be improper to do so when Paul says that "God chastens us for our profit, that we may be partakers of his holiness." The sanctification of suffering is provided for in God's covenant with his people. All their afflictions are
blessings in disguise. They are proofs of divine love; for "whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth." That all things (afflictions not excepted) work together for the good of those adopted into the family of God, is the positive declaration of Scripture.
6. A glorious inheritance is in reserve for the adopted. - Christians are said to be "begotten again to a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, undefined, and that fadeth not away." This is a precious, priceless inheritance, surpassing in excellency our highest conceptions as far as the heavens are above the earth. The adopted are to inherit a kingdom - the kingdom of glory - the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world. They are heirs of God. They will be permitted through endless ages to draw upon the infinite resources of the Godhead for happiness. They will appear before the Throne in heaven in all the beauty of unblemished purity, reflecting the image of their Redeemer, even as the polished mirror reflects the image of the sun.
III. Evidences of Adoption.
Perhaps you are saying, we do not dissent from the definition that has been given of adoption, and we have no doubt the privileges of adoption are glorious; but how shall we know that we are among God's adopted ones? Let
us then refer to some of the evidences of adoption.
1. Supreme love to God. - The subjects of spiritual adoption ardently love their gracious Adopter. They love him because he first loved them. Of him they can say: "Whom have we in heaven but thee. And there is none upon earth that we desire in comparison with thee." Their affections are devoutly enshrined in his character, and they give him the most exalted place in their hearts. All the adopted obey the first and great commandment. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God," etc.
2. Hatred of sin and love of holiness. - The adopted are like the adopter. They view things in some degree, as he does. He hates sin and they hate it. He loves holiness and they love it. They are not perfect, but as the hart pants after the waterbrook, so pant their souls after entire conformity to the divine image. They hunger and thirst after righteousness. Sin is odious in all its forms, and holiness is invested with superlative attractions.
3. Love for all the adopted. - "We know that we have passed from death to life because we love the brethren." Love to the "brethren" results from love to God. If we love him we love those who are his. Christians are taught of God to love one another. Yes, this is one of the important lessons he teaches all the members of his family.
4. Obedience to the divine commands. - The child
is disposed to obey the requirements of the parent. A filial disposition is an obedient disposition. Every adopted soul says, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" This is the great question. The adopted are led by the spirit of God, as the text teaches. They are not driven but led. They go voluntarily. They serve God cheerfully and not by compulsion. Their great desire is to please God and secure his approbation. With his smiles they can bear all earthly infelicities.
1. How great are our obligations to God for his adopting grace!
2. Let us not dishonor the family into which we have been adopted.
3. God waits to bestow his adopting mercy on poor sinners, but he will not do so against their consent. They must, if they would be adopted into his family, receive Christ; for as many as receive him to them gives he power to become the sons of God.
[From J. M. Pendleton, Short Sermons on Important Subjects, 1859. This book is from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary Library, Wake Forest, NC via ILL through Boone County Public Library, Burlington, KY. - Jim Duvall]
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