Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.
When God Adopted You
And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, "Abba, Father!"
Galatians 4:6 NKJ
Question 74 of the Larger Catechism, asks, “What is adoption?” It gives the answer, “Adoption is an act of the free grace of God, in and for his only Son Jesus Christ, whereby all those that are justified are received into the number of his children, have his name put upon them, the Spirit of his Son given to them, are under his fatherly care and dispensations, admitted to all the liberties and privileges of the sons of God, made heirs of all the promises and fellow-heirs with Christ in glory.” Last week we examined whom God adopts. This week we consider what God does for us in our adoption.
God adopts all those who are justified. Everyone who truly believes in Jesus Christ with real, living faith is immediately adopted by God into His family. God’s children enjoy the amazing privileges of His fatherly care. The Catechism lists several of these privileges in the following order. First, when God adopted you, He put His name upon you (Rev. 3:12; 14:11; 22:4). That means you have been marked as a child of God. This mark is for you. It assures you that you belong to God and therefore He will never forget you or forsake you. God’s mark should strengthen your faith in Him, even though you cannot see it, because He assures you that it is real. God’s mark is spiritual in nature but we can see how it functions in the sacrament of baptism. To be baptized is to have God’s Name put upon you. If you are a believer in Christ, your baptism is a sign and seal that symbolizes and testifies to a true reality that God has done in your heart.
Second, the Catechism teaches that when God adopted you He gave the Spirit of His Son to you. Since we know that we were regenerated by God’s Spirit, which takes place logically prior to our adoption, in what sense does the Catechism mean that God’s Spirit is given to us in our adoption? The Scripture at the head of this article is cited by the Westminster divines as speaking to this truth. Because we are sons, that is, because we have been adopted into God’s family, that is why He sends the Spirit of His Son into our hearts crying out “Abba, Father!” The Holy Spirit who regenerated you, imperceptibly and secretly when you were the enemy of God, upon your adoption, now comes to dwell with you, making His home inside of you. Jesus promised His disciples this intimate presence of the Spirit in John 14. They were already believers. They were already regenerated by the Spirit of God, but like all Old Testament saints, they did not have God’s Spirit upon them in such a way that they could worship God directly in Spirit and truth. Jesus promised this greater intimacy with God to everyone who would believe in Him after He went to the Father (John 14:16-18).
Third, when God adopted you He placed you under his fatherly care and dispensations. As an adopted child of God, all of God’s dealings with you are now the outflowing of His love to you. Now God causes all things to work for good to you (Rom. 8:28). Now God “speaks to you as to sons” (Heb. 12:5). Now God chastens you, rebukes you, and disciplines you as a loving earthly father does his child (Heb. 12:5-11). Thus, as an adopted child of the sovereign God of the universe, you should understand everything that happens to you as being designed by and sent from your loving heavenly Father for your ultimate spiritual good!
Fourth, when God adopted you He admitted you to all the liberties and privileges of the sons of God. Some of these privileges include worshiping God immediately in the Spirit and not through types and shadows (John 4:23-24), having direct access to the throne of grace (Heb. 4:16), and being made kings and priests to God (Rev. 1:6). In the New Testament, we are now all as David, we are all as Aaron!
Finally, when God adopted you, He made you an heir of all the promises and fellow heirs with His Son. We are joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17), and heirs of God’s kingdom (Jam. 2:5). That means that all that belongs to God is yours, for you are His heir! Praise God today for the glorious present and the future inheritance that you have by your adoption!