4 Benefits of Our Adoption
To contemplate all the privileges of communion with Christ would be, Owen says, “work for a man’s whole life.” Yet these are all summed up in what he regards as “the head, the spring, and fountain whence they all arise and flow.” This—the highest privilege of all—is adoption into the family of God with all the rights and privileges of knowing Him as our heavenly Father.
Outside of Christ, we were strangers to the family of God both on earth and in heaven. But now we are brought near and made heirs. In Christ the Son, we have become the adopted sons of God: “Adoption is the authoritative translation of a believer, by Jesus Christ, from the family of the world and Satan, into the family of God, with his investiture in all the privileges and advantages of that family.” Thus, we enter into the manifold privileges that belong to the royal children of the heavenly King.
At first glance, it may seem strange that Owen discusses the theme of adoption within the context of communion with the Son. Adoption, after all, is by definition an act of the Father, and its confirmation is effected by the Spirit in His capacity as the “Spirit of sonship.” But Owen’s reasoning is fairly obvious: in union and communion with Christ, we become joint heirs with Him. So while each of the divine persons plays His particular role in adoption, it is appropriate to discuss adoption as the highest privilege of our union with Christ.
But in what do we enjoy communion as adopted children? Owen gives a fourfold answer:
- We enjoy the liberty of the children of God. We are set free from the hold of the old family. No longer is its influence dominant—even if we are not entirely free from its atmosphere and even its menacing influence. There is all the difference in the world between obeying the Father who has given His Son for us, so that we can be sure He will also give us everything we need, and being in bondage to the law while making our best efforts to keep it.
- We have a new title, and as royal sons enjoy “a feast of fat things,” not least in the church, where we have the privilege of belonging to the family of God and being served by, and in turn loving and serving, its members. More than that, there is a sense in which the whole world is ours to enjoy, because it belongs to and is preserved by our Father. No child in this family can ever justly complain that his Father has set up a restrictive regime without pleasures and joy. Isaac Watts was surely reflecting on this when he wrote:
The men of grace have found, Glory begun below. Celestial fruits on earthly ground From faith and hope may grow. The Hill of Zion yields A thousand sacred sweets Before we reach the heav’nly ground, Or walk the golden streets.
- We experience boldness before the face of God. In Christ, we are as righteous as He is before God. We have the privilege of calling Him “Abba, Father.” We can ask anything in Jesus’ name. What more could we ask for?
- We experience affliction. But for the child of God, affliction is always chastisement—the action of the Father. This, as Owen rightly points out, is precisely the burden of (Hebrews 12:5–11). It is one of the chief distinctions between Christians and unbelievers. The latter seek but do not find any ultimate meaning in their suffering; as a result, unbelievers must attempt to create meaning. But not so Christians. For Scripture teaches them that, in Christ, trials have a goal. God is treating His people as sons by training them. Were He indifferent to us in our sin and waywardness, questions could rightly be raised about our legitimacy. In this sense, all discipline is evidence of His love. More than that, suffering in the Christian life is the training ground of the soul. The Father is equipping His children through adversity. If our earthly fathers discipline us for our good, how much more will the heavenly Father, who knows His children through and through?
Thus, when we were united to Christ, a transaction and transition of monumental proportions took place. It would be a tragedy if we did not catch a glimpse of the grandeur of what this means—it is nothing less than union and communion with the Son of God in our flesh.
This excerpt is taken from The Trinitarian Devotion of John Owen by Sinclair Ferguson.