The process through which God enables us to call him “Father” is what the Bible calls “adoption.” It’s the highest privilege we experience—even higher than justification. Justification is the process by which God frees us from our guilt when we repent from sins and place our faith in Jesus Christ. Justification is a legal term that views God as a Judge. It has to do with our standing before the holy law of God.
Adoption, on the other hand, is a family idea. “This is the process whereby God makes us members of his family” [Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 736]. Adoption views God as a Father, thus indicating closeness, affection, and generosity. “To be right with God the Judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father is far greater” [J.I. Packer, Knowing God, p. 253]. Perhaps this illustration might help one understand this concept better.
Suppose someone killed your son and is thrown in prison, facing a death sentence. You forgive that man and set him free. That in itself would be a great thing. But, you don’t stop there. After the person is released from prison, you now adopt that killer, make him your own son and grant him all the privileges that your son would have had! How would that look like? People may even call you insane! But that would show the height of your love! And not only that, but it would also show the height of the blessing experienced by the one who killed your precious son.
Is that not the biblical picture of justification and adoption? God could have stopped with justification. But he did not. On top of the blessing of justification, he gave us an even better one—adoption, whereby he made us his sons and daughters. That is why adoption is a more incredible blessing than justification.
The concept of God as a Father was present even in the Old Testament [Ex 4:22, Psalm 103:13, Isaiah 64:8]. However, in the New Testament, we see the Fatherhood of God in a total sense since the concept of adoption is more clearly revealed to us. The word translated adoption appears 5 times―all its occurrences in the letters of Paul [Romans 8:15, 23; 9:4, Gal 4:5, Eph 1:5].
God has adopted us not because he had a need or because he saw something good in us to benefit him. All he saw in us were rebels who turned their backs against him. Yet, he adopted us because he chose to do so―out of sheer love [Ephesians 1:4-5]. Such love is beyond human understanding!
And such love, which brings about our adoption, results in at least 4 practical blessings.
Blessing #1. Adoption enables us to call God as our Father.
The term “Abba, Father” was used by Jesus when addressing God as his father [Mark 14:36]. We, too, can call God “Abba, Father” [Gal 4:6] through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. A wonderful new relationship that will last for eternity has now been established. We are loved, well taken care of, and will never be separated from this wonderful heavenly Father of ours!
Blessing #2. Adoption enriches our prayer life.
Jesus taught us to address God as “Our Father in heaven” when we pray [Matt 6:9]. This intimacy enables us to approach God our Father will all our requests because he cares for us. We can be free from worry. We can be free from guilt. He forgives all our sins when we confess them. A loving father always hears his children’s prayers.
Blessing #3. Adoption strengthens our hope for the future.
Paul tells us in Romans 8:23 that “we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.” He went on to say, “24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” In essence, Paul is saying that the complete experience of adoption will be in the future when we get glorified bodies and until then, we endure the trials of this present life with solid hope.
According to 2 Corinthians 1:22, God has placed “his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” The phrase “guaranteeing what is to come” refers to the fact that we will be with the Lord in our glorified state for all eternity in the future. This truth also strengthens our hope.
Blessing #4. Adoption enables us to be trained by our heavenly Father.
Hebrews 12:5-6 says, “5 … My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” And the writer goes on to mention, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children” [Heb 12:7]. In essence, the writer of Hebrews says that because we are God’s children, God disciplines us. And that’s a good thing! It shows we are his children! The end goal of this disciplining process is stated in Hebrews 12:10, “in order that we may share in his holiness.”
In the light of these 4 benefits of adoption [and more could be added], what should be our response? Simple. We are to “Imitate God our Father.” If we are his sons and daughters, we should display family resemblance! And that means we are to pursue holiness since God is holy [1 Pet 1:15-16]. We are to love as God loves [Eph 5:1-2], a love that extends even to our enemies [Matt 5:44-45].
God’s children should never forget that we are one family. And that implies there’s no room for bitterness, jealousy, and fighting. We share the joys and sorrows. Even when human fathers fail [and they will], let’s rest in knowing what a loving Father we have in God. And what a glorious future we have as a result of being adopted into his family! These realities should give us a holy resolve to imitate our Father!
And if you are not God’s child and still cannot call him your Father, today will be a good day to settle that issue. You can be adopted into his family by turning from your sins and embracing Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. We are told in John 1:12, “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” And then you too can enjoy all these benefits of being adopted!
Don’t hesitate. Please come. God always has room in his family for more children! Human fathers have weaknesses, and they often fail. However, the one and only heavenly Father—the father of the Lord Jesus Christ has no flaws. He never fails. He will love you with perfect love for all eternity!