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The Glory of Adoption
Today, as you may have guessed, we are talking about adoption. You can adopt a puppy, a guppy or a pygmy elephant—a panda, a manatee . . . and #1 on the list is a tiger. You can adopt a star, a classroom, or a soldier. In Chicago you can adopt-a-sidewalk, in Seattle you can adopt-a-street, and not to be outdone in California you can adopt-a-highway.
Oh, and you can adopt babies, kids and even adults too. In the last two hundred years,
adoption has become so prolific in our culture that its true significance is trivialized. This morning, I want you to get a glimpse of the glory of adoption as the Bible describes it. We’re continuing our series on Gospel Greatness, looking at all the different things that happen when God saves somebody.
Shawn used the analogy a few weeks ago of a bullet hitting paper. In the time it takes for a bullet to tear through two pieces of paper held side-by-side, all these things are happening. You are regenerated, you are justified and declared righteous. Your sin is expiated. God’s wrath is propitiated and turned away. You are reconciled to God. You are freed from your slavery to sin. You are indwelt and sealed with the Spirit, and you are adopted into the family of God.
Are you first justified and then adopted? When does the bullet finish tearing through the first fibers of the paper and hit the second layer? It just all happens in one grand act. This is the amazing power of being saved. And we’re trying to freeze the action for a moment, hitting pause on the DVR just to be awestruck by God’s amazing work of salvation.
Today we’re looking at adoption. Adoption is both legal and practical. There is a courtroom aspect, and there is an actual experience to it. There is glorious truth and glorious benefit. Let’s look first at the glorious truth of adoption (John 1:11 to 13). This truth is clearly manifest in John 1–open your Bibles there. Though John doesn’t use the specific word “adopt” in this passage, he very much describes it.
The first chapter of John is prologue—it’s the trailer for the movie. John is introducing Jesus. He’s describing many of the themes which will be unveiled in the later chapters. John is describing the world’s rejection of Jesus, and that’s where we pick up.
John 1:11 to 13 says, “He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” This short passage conveys some key truths about God’s adoption of us as His children.
Christian, at the time of your salvation you were adopted by God. You left your enslavement to Satan. You were no longer in bondage to sin. Instead, you became a child of God. You literally were adopted into the family of God. John uses legal language here to talk about the judicial aspect of adoption. And the first Glorious Truth about Adoption that we see is . . .
1) Adoption is by God’s Sovereign Will (verses 11 to 12)
We see this in two different ways here. Verse 11 says, “He came”–it was at his initiation. His own refers to the Jews–He came to Israel. He came to save people. We tell people who are hurting, “I’m sorry, I’ll pray for you. Let me know what I can do.” Jesus just shows up. He initiates–He came. It was His will to come so that some would believe.
We see it again in verse 12 even more clearly. “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God.” There is one main verb here—“He gave the right.” How did you become a child of God? He gave you the right. This is a legal term, describing a courtroom setting. At the time of your salvation, God gave you the right formally and legally to become his child. And you cashed in on it at that same moment. Though you might have wanted it, God had to give you the right. He acted on your behalf.
God is sovereign in our adoption. He is in control of it. Ephesians 1:5 says, “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.” From before you were born, from before the earth was made, God intended you to be a child of God.
You may have committed years and years of sin, so that your life is full of pain and regret now. You may be battling and struggling against an old sin now that you thought was long dead. You may not currently feel the overflowing love and joy in Christ that you once did. But if you are a child of God, then God will keep you and not abandon you.
He is in control. He knows all things and sees all things. There is nothing you can do to be disowned by the God who adopts you. In fact He put his Spirit within you so that you would know that you are His. Romans 8:15 says, “You have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’” The Spirit of God in you is a mark of your adoption. You cry out to God because the Spirit of God is within you.
But how did the Spirit of God indwell you and confirms your adoption? Romans 8:15–you received Him. Again, it was God who initiated. He is sovereign in our adoption. I know that some of you may feel uncomfortable with this–you may not like all my talk about God’s sovereignty and control in salvation and adoption.
You might be looking at our passage in John 1 and note that it talks about how He adopted those “who received Him.” But just think about this for a moment—tomorrow if I went to the court system, and I completed all the paperwork for adoption, I paid all the fees, got a hearing from a judge. I stood before that judge, and he read through my paperwork–here is what he would ask me. “Your paperwork says that Mr. Phil Robertson [from Duck Dynasty] will be adopting you. Where is he?”
“I’m not sure. He hasn’t talked to me about it.”
“You’re petitioning to be adopted? Mr. Robertson hasn’t signed off on this? He isn’t involved? Get outta my court. Go talk to him, and then if he wants you, he needs to come back and talk to me.”
Now that’s how it works, right? The future parent is the one who initiates adoption. You can’t be adopted by someone just by wanting them to. They have to act–they have to initiate. They have to submit paperwork. They have to have a home study and all that. And if that’s true in this life, why would you think it’s not true with spiritual adoption? God has to initiate–He has to act. He has to want you. He specifically chooses you. Now alongside of that . . .
2) Adoption is Received by Faith (verse 12)
The fact that some dude wants to adopt you doesn’t mean that the courts are going to force it on you, right? You can’t file paperwork to adopt somebody unless they (or their guardian) consents. You can’t adopt my daughter just because she’s cute. You can’t decide to adopt Bono just because you like his music. You can’t decide to adopt Bobby Flay because you love his BBQ.
This is the way that people adopt dogs, tigers and sidewalks. The recipient has no say in it. The adopter just finds something worth loving about them. But for people, that doesn’t fly–adoption has to be received. The person being adopted (or their guardian) has to sign off on it. And somewhat similarly, adoption is received by faith.
Look at John 1:12 and 13, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” Adoption is given. Adoption is also received. God is sovereign. Man is responsible. The answer is yes.
Scripture presents these truths side-by-side, equally. He gave the right to become children of God. Those who received Him became His children. Those who believed in His name became His children. Adoption is received by faith.
Galatians 3:26 says, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” So how do you become adopted by God? Through faith in Christ Jesus. All around us people put their hopes in what they do. They live well and they do good. They figure that if the good outweighs the bad, that they’ll be fine. Others put their hope in what modern science says–that humanity is the result of genetic mutation and that death is part of the cycle of life. Some believe that life is for prosperity, and they believe that the richer you are, the happier. Others look for satisfaction in their feelings and their experiences and the passion of love.
Christians hope in something different entirely. They hope in somebody else. They believe that they are entirely prone to error. They believe that life is not chance, but ordained by God. They believe that they are rebels towards God, and no matter how much good they do, it will always be outweighed by the bad in their hearts. And so they hope in Jesus Christ, who is God and took on flesh to live perfectly and then die for us.
So that those who hope in Him rather than themselves, could be forgiven of their rebellion towards God and His anger toward their disobedience would be placed on Jesus, and they would instead receive Jesus’ perfect life as theirs. When you hope in Christ Jesus through faith–when you believe in the name of Jesus, you become a son of God. You are adopted into God’s family. God calls each of His children, and they always respond with faith in Christ. For this reason . . .
3) Adoption Brings Glory to God (verse 13)
John 1:12 to 13 says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” John is clear that you can’t take credit for it. You were not adopted because of your blood relations. Because you are a Jew, you are not therefore saved. Because your parents love Jesus, you do not therefore belong to God.
Oh, you say that five generations of pastors are in your family? It is “not of blood.” But you really want to be saved? You stopped living together? You’ve been faithfully coming to church? You went to seminary? Those things don’t make you a Christian. It is “not of the will of the flesh.” You’re not even adopted because of how bad others wanted you saved. Your family organized an intervention. Your grandma has been praying fervently for you. Your spouse has been faithfully witnessing to you about Jesus. It is “not of the will of man.”
You are saved by the will of God alone. Your adoption is for His glory alone. It’s not for the glory of your grandma or your parents or yourself. Ephesians 1:5 to 6 says, “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”
Adoption brings glory to God. Are there benefits to us? Yes! Is it right to praise others for their witness to us? Yes! But ultimately, God adopts us as His children so that His name would be praised! He predestined us to the praise of the glory of His grace. When I see little June Avila, two weeks old, I praise her parents for wanting to adopt her. I don’t praise her for being cute enough to adopt. I don’t praise her brothers for wanting her adopted. I praise the parents for adopting her.
And it’s the same with God–He gets the praise for every adoption. We don’t–He does. So God should get all the glory from our adoption. But here is what we get–the glorious benefits of adoption (Galatians 4:4 to 7). God gets the glory for adoption. But truthfully–we get all the benefits!
We don’t bring much to the party, if you know what I’m saying. The glory goes to God. The amazing benefits of adoption are ours. Many of these benefits are mentioned in Galatians 4. Open your Bibles there. In Roman and Jewish cultures, there would be a coming of age party for kids–a bit like a quinceañera, but for boys and with way more responsibility for them.
In Judaism, a boy reaches his bar mitzvah at age 13 and is considered an adult. He takes the obligation of the law on himself, and would be treated as a man from then on. In Roman times, the ceremony would be around age 18. Prior to that time, he was under the tutelage of specially chosen slaves, and was treated almost the same as one. At this coming of age ceremony, his hair would be cut, his childhood toys would be offered in sacrifice to the gods, and he would be recognized as a man and citizen.
Paul uses this cultural analogy in Galatians 4 to describe our life before Christ–how we were children and in captivity to basic worldly principles. Then in verse 4, Paul turns the corner and describes our adoption. Galatians 4:4 through 7 says, “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.” The first and most Glorious Benefit of Adoption is . . .
1) We change from slave to son (verses 5, 7, and 8)
Okay, just in case there’s any doubt about your slavery to sin before Christ, let’s just survey this passage.
Verse 1–you’re compared to a slave
Verse 3–when you were a child (before Christ), you were held in bondage
Verse 5–God redeemed (that’s slavery language)
Verse 7–you are no longer a slave
Wait, I’m not sure yet–really?
Verse 8–at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods
You were a slave to sin. We talked at length about this a few weeks ago. You could do nothing other than rebel against God. It pervaded and tainted all of your being. When we are adopted, we change from slave to son. Now adoption is not what frees you from slavery–that would be propitiation and justification. But forgiveness of sins–AS GREAT AS THAT IS–that just puts you in a neutral status.
A criminal who has been released from prison is free, but he still bears the marks of being a criminal. He lacks money, others know what he did, he has to fend for himself. Freedom from slavery to sin is glorious, but it just puts you into a neutral position. It is adoption that provides the positive status.
When an ex-con is taken into a family, he does not have to fend for himself. He is loved and accepted regardless of his past life. He is treated as an equal with every other family member. Colossians 1:13 says, “He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.”
This is the amazing reality of adoption. Your father was the devil. You were enslaved to sin. And now, through faith in Christ, your father is God and you are freed from sin to find pleasure in obeying God’s Word. You are now a son.
Verse 5–receive adoption as sons
Verse 6–because you are sons
Verse 6–you cry, “Abba [Daddy!] Father!”
Verse 7–you are no longer a slave, but a son
You were a slave to a tyrant–you are now a son to a loving Father. You have been adopted into the family of God, which means that sitting here this morning you are surrounded by brothers and sisters . . . and some crazy uncles. Because we are God’s children, our relationship to one another can go further and deeper than it can among blood relatives.
Though our blood may be different, we have the same Spirit dwelling within us. The Bible does not portray angels in relationship to one another as a family. Only the Church is portrayed as a spiritual family. Many times we are referred to as brothers and sisters in Christ–this is because of the doctrine of adoption. And because we are adopted into the family of God . . .
2) We receive fatherly care from God (verses 6 to 7)
As sons of God, we now receive love and acceptance by our heavenly Father. The one whom we hated has redeemed and adopted us. His righteous anger towards our sin was borne by Christ, so that now we receive His love and affection. He treats you as a child whom He loves. You are no longer a rebel terrorist–you are no longer a slave. You are a son to the Creator of the Universe.
Galatians 4:6 to 7 says, “Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.”
Romans 8:15 to 16 says, “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’ 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.” And 2 Corinthians 6:18 says, “’And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,’ says the Lord Almighty.”
But God is not like your earthly father. He is not arbitrary, He does not change his mind, He does not get mad, He does not yell, He will not play jokes, and He will not take advantage of you.
Matthew 7:9 through 11 says, “’Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him! ‘”
But God is not indulgent or permissive either. He is our heavenly Father, not our heavenly grandfather. That means that He will discipline His children. He will correct you. He will overlook much, but He will spank. He will deal with the defiant. It’s not in your notes, but turn briefly over to Hebrews 12:5 through 10.
“And you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, ‘My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; 6 for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.’ 7 It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.”
God disciplines His children—he acts out of love, not from anger, not as payback. He disciplines for our good, so that we may share His holiness. If you do not know God’s discipline for sin, then something is wrong. If you are not familiar with God’s discipline in your life, then you should be concerned.
When a father comes to me because his kid was caught in sin, this is one of the truths I talk about. Your son was caught with drugs? You found out that your daughter was sneaking out? Be encouraged–God is bringing this to light. It is those who go uncaught that should fear. It is those who God allows to go without punishment that should be worried.
If you are without discipline, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. But if you are a child of God, then you receive the fatherly love of God, which means that He hears your prayers, He watches out for your needs, and He spanks you for defiant sin. All of those are amazing, glorious benefits. But there’s one more back in Galatians.
3) We gain a future inheritance (verse 7)
Galatians 4:7 says, “You are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.” We are not just sons, but heirs. If Beth and I both die, there’s not much to have. But what’s left will be split between the church and my kids. They are my heirs. They will be the beneficiaries of my will and trust. They get what I have now. Actually, they’ll get more if I die sooner. To be called an heir signifies that we have a future inheritance.
The women may have noticed that Paul has not described you as a daughter of God in any of these adoption passages. Maybe you brushed this off to misogyny or patriarchalism. Paul has been really explicit using the word “son” over and over.
The expression “daughters of the Lord” is not found in New Testament language. Paul is being really intentional with his words. He doesn’t say “daughters” or “sons and daughters” because he wants you to understand that we have an equal inheritance. Everyone who is in Christ is treated as a son was back then.
Nowadays, I could give my girls the lion’s share of my massive, massive wealth–of books, and whatever other loose change might be in my bank account when I die. But back then, it was the men who were chosen as heirs. Paul intentionally describes women as sons so that they would understand that they have an equal inheritance in heaven.
Revelation 21:7 says, “He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.” And Romans 8:23, “And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.”
So whether man or woman, if you are in Christ, you are an heir–you have an inheritance from God awaiting you. Your dad might be Bill Gates or Ralph Lauren–you may stand to inherit an island, a yacht, a jet and a Swiss bank account. But that earthly fortune pales next to the inheritance that awaits you from God.
Christian, you will receive an inheritance that neither moth nor rust will destroy. You will receive an inheritance that you can take with you. You will receive an inheritance that begins with complete freedom from sin. You will receive an inheritance that removes every reason for sorrow, guilt, pain or tears. You will receive an inheritance that conquers death. Stop striving for trivial riches here.
First John 3:1 say, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” The truth of adoption is glorious. The benefits of our adoption are staggering. And everyday around us, even in this church, there are people imitating God by adopting children. Without theology, adoption is just charity. Without practice, adoption is simply a metaphor. We need both–the theology of adoption and the practice of adoption. To help us finish well, I asked Robert Dodson to conclude by speaking about the practical challenge of adoption.
The Glorious Challenge of Adoption
Don’t ignore the FaceBook posts any more. Financially assist those who are adopting.
Support the moms. Graciously, lovingly encourage single moms who’re unprepared for motherhood to consider adoption. Love, really love, moms who’ve decided to place their kids for adoption.
Esteem adopted kids–they are co-equals with biological children . . . treat them that way.
Support Adoptive Parents
Don’t ask rude questions–Are they brothers? Which are your real kids? Do you have any children of your own? Why couldn’t her real mom keep her?
Treat their needs the same as any other new parent–their job is actually harder, because there’s often less prep and transition time
Adoptive love reflects and demonstrates heavenly love
Not everyone is called to adopt, but maybe you are