Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Resolved 2008: Session #4

C.J. Mahaney – God as Father: Understanding the Doctrine of Adoption
I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. Galatians 4:1-7

According to J.I. Packer, the doctrine of adoption is the deepest answer to the question, “What is a Christian?”

Too many Christians are uncertain of God’s love for them. In light of their sin, they are suspicious of God and His love for them. They see God as one who merely tolerates them because He is frustrated with their sin.

This topic is intimately related to our glorious future in heaven. It is through the reality of adoption that our eternal home breaks into our existence on earth. In the truth of adoption, the future breaks into the present.

Because of the cross, we will one day behold the face of God. Through the gift of adoption, that relationship with God begins now. We taste of that fellowship with God and begin to enjoy that intimacy now.

1) The preparation for adoption (v.1-3)

The Galatian church was filled with Gentile Christians who were in the process of deserting the gospel due to false teachers who emphasized legalism. They were trying to their own works to what Christ had done in order to make themselves right with God. Paul, therefore, takes the time to explain the true purpose of the law. The law was given by God with the purpose of preparing for the coming of Jesus Christ and His death on the cross. The law was a guardian until Christ would come.

The pagan nations were not enslaved to Jewish law. The Jewish nation was not enslaved to pagan idolatry. But both were enslaved by sin. The Galatian Christians were returning to the slavery of legalism, as if they were serving their former false gods. The law is meant to prepare us for the gift of the Savior and the blessing of adoption.

2) The basis for adoption (v.4-5)

Verse 4 for reveals the plan and purpose of God determined from eternity past. God takes the initiative towards sinners, all of which we are. God sent forth His Son.

In order to be our Savior, Christ must be like us, born of woman. In order to be our Savior, Christ must be unlike us, perfectly keeping the law. He was truly God and fully man, the Mediator between God and men.

God sent forth His Son to redeem. Before God adopted us, we weren’t orphans. We were not orphans, those to be sympathized with. We were enemies of God: God-ignoring, God-defying, God-hating. There was nothing attractive in us to draw God toward us. We were slaves of sin, not orphans. We were justified objects of God’s wrath. A price had to be paid. And it was paid when Christ gave His life on the cross as a ransom to redeem us from our sin.

But redemption is not the end of the purpose. God sent forth His Son in order to redeem and adopt us. God sent forth His Son with both an atoning purpose and an adopting purpose. God makes slaves into sons through the death of His Son. And here we encounter the deepest insight into the greatness of God’s love.

God doesn’t just justify us, as great as that is and that being our deepest spiritual need, but God goes further. He makes us His children.

“To be right with God the judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father is greater.”
J.I. Packer

Do the words closeness, affection, and generosity accurately describe our common experience with and perception of God?

If not, then perhaps we are more aware of our sin than the adoption of God into His family. Perhaps we are more aware of God as the justifying Judge than as the adopting Father. We must remedy this by devoting ourselves to relentless study of the doctrine of adoption.

When we don’t experience the closeness, affection, and generosity of God as our Father, this grieves His heart. The greatest sorrow we can lay on the Father is to not believe that He loves us. Why? Because He sent forth His Son and crushed Him in order to redeem us and adopt us as sons in demonstration of this love for us.

What more could God do to convince us of His love for us? Nothing.

3) The experience of adoption (v.6,7)

Again, we are drawn to the initiative of God in revealing the love of God. There is a new cry present in the heart of the genuine Christian: “Abba! Father!” This is the evidence that we have received adopting grace. This cry assures us of God’s love for us.

If we are sincerely singing to the Savior tonight, we can be sure that God loves us because God put it there. If he had not put it there due to His love for us, we couldn’t sing, let alone do it with joy. Therefore, we may conclude with certainty that God loves God if we love God. We can only love Him if He first loved us.

Many voices seek to turn us away from the cry of adopting grace. Are we aware of the cry “Abba! Father!” or has it been drowned out?

Paul transitions from plural in verse 6 to singular in verse 7 so that we as individuals might be aware of God’s personal love. The Christian is no longer a slave but a son. But it doesn’t end there because if he is a son then he is an heir. And this all happens through God, not through us. The verse ends fixing our attention on God, not on us.

God’s adoption of us as His children was unnecessary because He didn’t need a son. He already had one. He already had an Heir.

The adoption that we taste in this life is mere preparation for the moment when we will see His face and know the fullness of His closeness, affection, and generosity.

Download the audio here.

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