Adoption: What God says about you

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When King Saul and his sons died in battle, one of the few survivors from the family was a little boy called Mephibosheth.   As his family fled, he was dropped, irreparably damaging his legs so that he was unable to walk.[1]  Later King David expressed the desire to show kindness to relatives of Jonathan, Saul’s son.  He was told that Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth had survived. David welcomed him into his palace and he “ate regularly at the king’s table.”[2]

This event from King David’s life provides a beautiful picture of the doctrine of adoption.  Although Mephibosheth was a potential rival to David’s family, the king welcomed him into his family. This was demonstrated by the invitation to eat with the king at his table. 

Adoption means that a child who either does not have parents or, whose parents for whatever reason are unable to care for them finds a permanent home with a family with a new parent or parents who legally become theirs. They are now part of the family.

In Romans 8:12-17, Paul writes this:

12 Therefore, dear brothers and sisters,  you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. 13 For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature,[f] you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children[g] of God. 1So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children.[h] Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”[i16 For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. 17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.

Romans 8:12-17

Notice, that Paul sets out two ways of living here. You can either live  under sin, obeying your sinful nature, though this will lead to death or you can live under the rule on in the power of God’s Spirit meaning that instead of you, it is your sin that is put to death.   Paul says that you don’t have to do what sin says because it is no longer your master. It is as though you were a slave in another household but you have been taken from there and placed in a new family.  The Spirit has led you out from the old house and brought you to a new house where you are now one of the children. You have been adopted. 

Because you belong to God’s family, you have no further obligations to your old boss. You are not a slave anymore who can be ordered what to do.  Sin/Satan treats you as a slave so that you think you have no choice but to do what they say.  That power has been broken and so you are free to live God’s way, to live the life of someone in his family, enjoying his blessings and learning to share his characteristics.  The doctrine of adoption is, according to Paul, foundational to the doctrine of sanctification. 

Jesus tells a story about a dad with two sons, one of them decides he has had enough of home, demands that his dad gives him his share of the inheritance and heads off for pastures new.  In a far off land, he wastes his money until he is penniless and living on a pig farm during a famine.  He comes to his senses and decides to head home but realises he has burnt his bridges.  He decides that least he will be better off as a hired servant on dad’s farm.  He plans to ask his dad to allow him back on those terms.

Instead, the dad has been waiting and looking for him.  As soon as he sees him at a distance, he runs towards him to welcome him. Arms, wide open, he hardly gives him little chance to complete his speech. He insists that his son is welcomed back, clothed, giving a ring as a symbol that he is a son and heir and throws a party for him.  The son comes back believing he is unworthy of his dad’s love, unworthy of sonship.  In fact, he is unworthy but he hasn’t reckoned with grace.  He knows the verdict on his life but his dad offers a different verdict, one that comes through love and forgiveness. In effect, he is adopted back into the family.

Adoption is about God’s verdict, what he says to you and me.  We have learnt to hear things about who we are, that we are sinners, rebels, dirty, guilty, shamed, shameful. Yet the Cross, changes the reality of things, so that God pronounces a new verdict. We are no longer dirty, guilty, shamed, rebels and slaves. Instead we are loved, cleansed, forgiven, restored, sons and daughters.  It’s what God says about you and me that matters. This is the good news that he speaks through adoption.

[1] 2 Samuel 4:4.

[2] See 2 Samuel 9.

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