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Confidence in Our Calling: Reflecting God’s Image through Adoption

(This post is part of the Confidence in Our Calling series.)

The process of adopting a child paints a physical picture of how God saves people and brings them into His family.  Consider how themes such as new life, transfer of identity, intimacy with our Father, and waiting for our complete salvation, highlighted in the Scriptures below, are also evidenced throughout the adoption journey.

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Romans 8:15-17

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Romans 8:22-25

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he[ predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will — to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.  And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

Ephesians 1:3-10

Adoption is a living sign of how the Lord redeems.


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Confidence in Our Calling: Stories of Adoption in the Bible

(This post is part of the Confidence in Our Calling series.)

Scripture tells of God’s adoptive actions for His people on a grand scale.  But what role does adoption play in the stories of real people in the Bible?  Does God use adoption in the lives of particular saints to show His love for them and further His kingdom?

Consider Moses. Here is a baby who is saved from Pharaoh’s massacre of infant Israelite boys when the king’s own daughter takes him into the royal family (see Exodus 1:15-21, 2:1-10).  Moses’ adoption into Pharaoh’s household juxtaposed with his own half-forgotten and misunderstood Hebrew heritage creates a tension that God uses as He forms the life of this leader (see Exodus 2;11-15, 3:1-6, 10, 4:24-26).

Ruth is at once a widow, a foreigner, and an orphan.  When this Moabitess’s husband dies, her Jewish mother-in-law Naomi decides to return to Israel, exhorting Ruth to stay with her own people and god (see Ruth 1:1-15).  Yet Ruth pleads to join Naomi’s family and the people of God. “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17) Later in the story, Boaz acts as kinsmen redeemer, and by marrying Ruth, adopts her into God’s household and into the very lineage of Jesus Christ (see Ruth 4:1-13 and Matthew 1:5).

Speaking of Jesus, the only begotten Son of God is adopted by an earthly father.  Joseph probably sacrificed his reputation and livelihood to marry the Virgin Mary who “was found to be with child” rather than “divorce her quietly.” (see Matthew 1:18-25).  And in a series of events eerily and providentially parallel to those in Moses’ day, God uses Joseph to rescue Jesus and his mother from Herod’s massacre of the baby boys in and around Bethlehem (see Matthew 2:13-18).  Joseph’s care and protection of Jesus is a depiction and reflection of God’s adoption of His people.

And God weaves adoption, both physical and spiritual, into the stories of other heroes of the Bible – for instance, Samuel (see 1 Samuel 1-3) and Timothy (see Acts 16:1-3, 1 Corinthians 4:17, 2 Timothy 1:3-6).  Can you think of other Biblical characters whose lives God shaped through adoption?


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Confidence in Our Calling: God’s Adoptive Action for His People

(This post is part of the Confidence in Our Calling series.)

Scripture proclaims how out of His adoptive heart and promises, God acts on behalf of His orphaned people to gather them into His family.

Speaking through the prophet Ezekiel, the Lord declares how He adopted the people of Jerusalem as an abandoned and dying baby and raised them up “to be a queen.”  The graphic imagery here likens the city to an aborted fetus wallowing in its own blood before God comes to the rescue.

This is what the Sovereign LORD says to Jerusalem: Your ancestry and birth were in the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite.  On the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to make you clean, nor were you rubbed with salt or wrapped in cloths.  No one looked on you with pity or had compassion enough to do any of these things for you. Rather, you were thrown out into the open field, for on the day you were born you were despised.

Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood, and as you lay there in your blood I said to you, “Live!” I made you grow like a plant of the field. You grew up and developed and became the most beautiful of jewels. Your breasts were formed and your hair grew, you who were naked and bare.

Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign LORD, and you became mine.

I bathed you with water and washed the blood from you and put ointments on you.  I clothed you with an embroidered dress and put leather sandals on you. I dressed you in fine linen and covered you with costly garments.  I adorned you with jewelry: I put bracelets on your arms and a necklace around your neck, and I put a ring on your nose, earrings on your ears and a beautiful crown on your head.  So you were adorned with gold and silver; your clothes were of fine linen and costly fabric and embroidered cloth. Your food was fine flour, honey and olive oil. You became very beautiful and rose to be a queen.  And your fame spread among the nations on account of your beauty, because the splendor I had given you made your beauty perfect, declares the Sovereign LORD.

Ezekiel 16:3-14

In his letter to the Galatians, Paul explains at length how God’s adoptive endeavors have expanded to encompass all who know Christ.  The believer’s standing in God’s family does not depend on observing the law; it is based on faith in Jesus (see Galatians 3).  Paul uses the language of adoption to sum up his thesis.

But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.

Galatians 4:4-7

John, Jesus’ beloved disciple, also recognizes the Lord’s adoptive work for humanity, encouraging his readers to consider the magnitude of God’s love made manifest in this action. “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!’ (1 John 3:1)


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Confidence in Our Callling: God’s Promises to Adopt

(This post is part of the Confidence in Our Calling series.)

Out of His heart for adoption, God makes commitments throughout Scripture to provide for those whom He calls from afar off.  These pledges come with the imagery of a Father gathering orphans into His home, and they are made to those without a place to belong.

Through Isaiah, God proclaims that He is the Savior of Israel, summoning them by name, delivering them out of the flood and the fire, and giving nations for their ransom (see Isaiah 43:1-4).  In the midst of this declaration, God promises to add to His people those children He has chosen from far away lands.

Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
I will bring your children from the east
and gather you from the west.
I will say to the north, “Give them up!”
and to the south, “Do not hold them back.”
Bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the ends of the earth—
everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.

Isaiah 43:5-7

The night before His crucifixion, Jesus shares the Last Supper with His disciples.  Knowing the events that are about to unfold, and how hard His departure will be for His followers, Jesus uses the language of adoption to comfort them with the promise of the Holy Spirit. “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever — the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:16-18)

And one of the most famous promises in the New Testament, that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28) is immediately followed by the reason behind this guarantee – a reason rooted in God’s adoptive heart. “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:29)

Where else in the Bible does God make promises regarding adoption?


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Confidence in Our Calling: God’s Heart for Adoption

(This post is part of the Confidence in Our Calling series.)

How does God feel about adoption?

All throughout the Bible, God reveals Himself as a Father who cares for His children. (See Psalm 103:13, Matthew 6:9-13, 25-34, and 1 John 3:1, just to name a few instances.)  Moreover, Scripture shows us that God especially desires to be a Father to those without earthly families – orphans, widows, and foreigners.  God expresses strong paternal feelings in His Word to those who do not belong, who are abandoned or estranged, or who have wandered away and are lost.  Since I am trying to unpack God’s perspective on adoption here, I will pay particular attention to His heart towards the orphan and the fatherless.

Consider how when Moses is instructing Israel in the fear of the LORD (see Deuteronomy 10:12-20), he describes God as One who “defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing” (Deuteronomy 10:18).  These attributes are at the core of how God wants to be understood by His people in their Law.

The psalmists echo this acclamation of God’s character over and over again.

  • But you, O God, do see trouble and grief;
    you consider it to take it in hand.
    The victim commits himself to you;
    you are the helper of the fatherless.

    You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted;
    you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
    defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
    in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more.Psalm 10:14,17-18
  • A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
    is God in his holy dwelling.
    God sets the lonely in families,
    he leads forth the prisoners with singing;
    but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.Psalm 68:5-6
  • The LORD watches over the alien
    and sustains the fatherless and the widow,Psalm 146:9

The prophet Hosea, calling out to a rebellious Israel, exhorts them to return to their God, and to admit that “Assyria cannot save us; we will not mount war-horses. We will never again say ‘Our gods’ to what our own hands have made, for in you the fatherless find compassion” (Hosea 14:3). Hosea asserts that even in their idolatry, God’s people still know their true Father’s forgiving and adopting nature, to “heal their waywardness.” (See Hosea 14:1-5.)

And Jesus, immediately after calling a little child to Himself to illustrate what greatness in the kingdom of heaven looks like, warns His followers sternly not to look down on these little ones or cause them to sin. (See Matthew 18:1-10.)  He then compares a child who wanders off to a lost sheep, whom God will leave the entire flock to rescue, because “your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost” (Matthew 18:12-14).

These passages plainly demonstrate that the Lord cares deeply for the orphan and the fatherless. He loves to be the Father to those without families, and to adopt them into His household.

What other Scriptures come to your mind that shows forth God’s heart for adoption?


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Confidence in Our Calling: Introduction

Over the last week, I have begun to listen to an audio recording of Jonathan Edwards’ seminal work, Religious Affections. [1] Edwards wrote this treatise at the end of the First Great Awakening, during a period when emotional and “Spirit-filled” expressions of faith had come under especially intense scrutiny among many Christians.  Although God’s Spirit had been working mightily and extraordinarily throughout the colonies for several years, many who had seemed to experience deeply heartfelt and even miraculous conversions to Christianity had fallen away from Christ.  This added fuel to the arguments posed by numerous believers that displays of emotion were unnecessary and undesirable for true Christians, and even that such “religious affections” indicated that a person’s faith was not genuine. Edwards wrote Religious Affections as an attempt to restore balance to the place of deep and prolonged feelings and their expressions in the lives of God’s saints.

Part II of this exposition is concerned with “Showing what are no certain signs that religious affections are gracious, or that they are Not” – that is, “false positives” of authentic Christian faith. [2]  One of Edward’s assertions in this section is that “It is no sign that affections are gracious, or that they are otherwise, that persons did not make them themselves, or excite them of their own contrivance and by their own strength.”  Edwards argues that although strong impressions and impulses regarding belief in Christ may indeed be caused by powers outside of those who experience them, these affections are not necessarily indicative of God’s salvation, and may not even be from God Himself, despite their great passion and sincerity.

This got me thinking about the events and feelings that served as catalysts for my family’s adoption journey.  My own “conversion” to the pursuit of adoption occurred with strong feelings and impressions that I took to be from the Lord.  (They certainly were of my own doing!) However, in light of Edwards’ treatment of such affections, I began to wonder if these experiences are enough to confirm that the leading I sense is actually from God, or if they might be from somewhere else.

scriptureWith this concern in mind, I started looking at the Scriptures to better understand God’s point of view adoption.  I began this study with a fairly good idea of what I would find. (You might have a hunch, too.)  However, I was surprised to discover just how much God’s Word has to say on the matter of adoption.  I did not expect the Bible to deal with this subject with the breadth and depth I encountered.

My hope is to unpack what the Bible has to say about adoption in a series of posts over the coming weeks.  I think a careful study of this topic is in order, as it will help me to walk the path of adoption with confidence that this is an endeavor close to the heart of God, and not some fleeting urge fabricated by my fickle mind or picked up by my all-too-itching ears.  Understanding the Lord’s perspective on adoption is also likely to provide stability and encouragement when the going gets tough and the future looks uncertain.

[1] The entire text of Religious Affections is available online for free.
[2] Thanks to Dan Ledwith for this wonderful summation of Edwards’ topic here.


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