For the Benefit of the Son- A Fresh Perspective on the Doctrine of Adoption

October 4, 2008

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons 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. . . . In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.” -Ephesians 1.3-6, 11-12

For whatever reason I am convinced that the first sermon I get to preach should be on the doctrine of Adoption. Adoption is such a wonderful blessing from God, described succinctly as “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” (Westminster Shorter Catechism). It is expounded upon biblically in places such as Romans 8, Galatians 4, Ephesians 1, and 1 John 3. In regards to this doctrine, I have recently been reading Joel R Beeke’s book Heirs with Christ: The Puritans on Adoption (which I highly recommend) and something I read in it really struck me for the first time.

While discussing the relationships which are transformed by our adoption, Beeke (in summarizing the teachings of Puritan John Cotton in 1 John 3) makes the point that one such transformed relationship is that of our relationship to the church as the family of God. Of course, we are aware that the church is frequently referred to as “the body of Christ” (Romans 12.3-8, 1 Corinthians 12.12-31, Colossians 3.15), but it is also shown that the church is the family of God, brothers and sisters with Christ (Romans 8.17, Hebrews 2.10-18), sons and daughters of the One True God (John 1.12, Romans 8.14, 16, Galatians 4.4-6).

It is in this family relationship which Beeke (or Cotton) said something which hit me differently than I had ever thought of it. He said,

God’s purpose in adopting children is to create a family in which Christ will be glorified as the firstborn among many brethren.

This thought, which I gather is a joining of Romans 8.29 and Ephesians 1.3-6, 11-12, blew me away. To think of our adoption not as a blessing to us that we may be satisfied, but as a gifting to Christ that he may be glorified in the presence of his brothers and sisters, took root in my heart. It feels so frequently that we focus on what we get from being saved, and yet spend so little time directed to the task of what Christ gets from our salvation, not that he lacks anything, but that he is worthy of our praise. Ephesians 1 paints for us the picture of God selecting us as a reward to Christ for his sacrifice in humbling himself and dying upon the cross (compare this with Philippians 2.5-11).

I share this with you guys just to ask you to meditate on it yourselves. Our adoption into the family of God is a magnificent blessing, one which we have never and will never deserve. And yet it is also for the benefit of God and Christ, that our place at the dinner table, as fellow heirs of Christ, further serves to glorify the Son as the sacrifice for sins, the one risen Lord, and the Father as the gracious bestower and securer of all mercies (1 Peter 1.3-5)!