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(17 posts)

Book Announcement: Heirs With Christ

Reformation Heritage Books is publishing a new book by Dr. Joel R. Beeke on the beliefs held by the Puritans on the doctrine of Spiritual Adoption. Heirs With Christ: The Puritans on Adoption will be out on June 3rd, and is available for pre-order here. To read the Foreword, click here. I don’t believe I have a single book specifically dedicated to the doctrine of Adoption, so this will be a welcome addition to my library. Description: The Puritans have gotten bad press for their supposed lack of teaching on the doctrine of spiritual adoption. In Heirs with Christ, Joel R. Beeke dispels this caricature and shows that the Puritan era did more to advance the idea that every true Christian is God’s adopted child than any other age of church history. This little book lets the Puritans speak for themselves, showing how they recognized adoption’s far-reaching, transforming power and comfort for the children of God. Endorsements: “Dr. Beeke is well-known for his landmark work setting the record straight on the Puritan doctrine of assurance. Now he comes to our aid again with a superb treatment of the Puritans on adoption. I welcome his expert entry into this important field, and commend his keen insights and careful analysis to all who are interested in knowing ‘what the Puritans really said’ about adoption.” —Ligon Duncan “In this short but spiritually substantive book, Dr. Beeke—a wise and careful ‘pastor theologian’ in the best sense of both words—introduces us to the Puritans’ comforting and transforming work on spiritual adoption. More than just historically informative, this volume should be warmly welcomed by all Christians who want to learn more about this crucial aspect of our identity as sons of God and joint-heirs with Christ.” —Justin Taylor Heirs with Christ now available from Westminster Bookstore.

Adoption versus Justification

The doctrine of justification is surely a wonderful thing, but adoption is better still. Joel Beeke explains the distinction between the two: “Undoubtedly the new testament never separates justification and adoption, but neither does it confuse them. In human terms it is quite possible to imagine a man being justified without the remotest thought of his being adopted. The fact that a judge pronounces the verdict ‘not guilty’ does not commit him to take the accused to his home and allow him the privileges of his son!” Though both justification and adoption are forensic concepts—the former derived from the realm of criminal law and the latter from family law—their practical outworkings differ substantially. Justification in abstraction from adoption leaves us with a rather bare, legal concept—though of course, the privilege of having our sins forgiven and being made acceptable to God must never be underestimated. But adoption enlarges our understanding of what it means to be acceptable to God. We are acceptable not just as moral agents, but as the image bearers of our Father who are being subjectively conformed to Christ. We are acceptable as sons of God who have the privilege of calling God our Father and bear the responsibility of serving Him as His children. —Joel R. Beeke, Heirs with Christ: The Puritans on Adoption (Reformation Heritage, 2008), 32–33.

An Everlasting Love

The wonder of adoption is that those who had no love for God were chosen to be the objects of his love, not just for a while, but forever. [H]ow astonishing it is that, unlike people’s heirs who don’t share their estates with their friends, we as God’s adopted children share the same privileges that belong to God’s only-begotten Son! The puritans reveled in what Christ prays in John 17:23: “[Thou] hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” This is the essence of God’s fatherhood. It shows us how far God is willing to go to reconcile us to himself. How great is the love the father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God (1 John 3:1)—we who deserve His judgment, dethroned Him from our lives, spurned His love, and defied His laws. We never deserved God’s love, yet He graciously lavished His love on us. Here, surely, is the great assurance of the child of God, that God the father loved him when he was bound for hell. God loved the sinner who had no thought of God in his heart, and He adopted him. How wonderful is the assurance of the Father’s words: “I have loved thee with an everlasting love” (Jer. 31:3). —Joel R. Beeke, Heirs with Christ: The Puritans on Adoption (Reformation Heritage, 2008), 44.

The Trinity and Adoption

The gospel is inherently Trinitarian. Joel Beeke shows how one aspect of the gospel, spiritual adoption, is an act of Trinitarian cooperation: The puritans emphasize that all the members of the Trinity are involved in our adoption. Stephen Marshall summarizes it this way: adoption is the gracious act of God the Father whereby he chooses us, calls us to himself, and gives us the privileges and blessings of being his children. God the Son earned those blessings for us through his propitiatory death and sacrifice, by which we become children of God (1 John 4:10), and applies them to us as Elder Brother. And the Holy Spirit changes us from children of wrath, which we are by nature, into children of God by means of regeneration; unites us to Christ; works in us a “suitable disposition” towards God and Christ; and seals our sonship as the Spirit of adoption, witnessing with our spirits that we are the sons of God. In that witnessing, the Spirit shows us God’s work of grace in our hearts and lives, and also “carries our hearts to God, and testifies to the Soul that God is [our] Father.” —Joel R. Beeke, Heirs with Christ: The Puritans on Adoption (Reformation Heritage, 2008), 45–46.

Lord’s Day 35, 2008

I reioyced, when they sayd to me, We wil go into the house of the Lord. (Psalme 122:1) AssuranceAlmighty God,I am loved with everlasting love, clothed in eternal righteousness, my peace flowing like a river, my comforts many and large, my joy and triumph unutterable, my soul lively with a knowledge of salvation, my sense of justification unclouded. I have scarce anything to pray for; Jesus smiles upon my soul as a ray of heaven and my supplications are swallowed up in praise. How sweet is the glorious doctrine of election when based upon thy Word and wrought inwardly within the soul! I bless thee that thou wilt keep the sinner thou hast loved, and hast engaged that he will not forsake thee, else I would never get to heaven. I wrong the grace in my heart if I deny my new nature and my eternal life. If Jesus were not my righteousness and redemption, I would sink into nethermost hell by my misdoings, shortcomings, unbelief, unlove; If Jesus were not by the the power of his spirit my sanctification, there is no sin I should not commit. O when shall I have his mind! when shall I be conformed to his image? All the good things of life are less than nothing when compared with his love, and with one glimpse of thy electing favor. All the treasures of a million worlds could not make me richer, happier, more contented, for his unsearchable riches are mine. One moment of communion with him, one view of his grace, is ineffable, inestimable. But O God, I could not long after thy presence if I did not know the sweetness of it; and such I could not know except by the Spirit in my heart, nor love thee at all unless thou didst elect me, call me, adopt me, save me. I bless thee for the covenant of grace.—The Valley of Vision, Arthur Bennett, editor (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002). Psalme 129 (Geneva Bible) A song of degrees. 1 They haue often times afflicted me from my youth (may Israel nowe say) 2 They haue often times afflicted me from my youth: but they could not preuaile against me. 3 The plowers plowed vpon my backe, and made long furrowes. 4 But the righteous Lord hath cut the cordes of the wicked. 5 They that hate Zion, shalbe all ashamed and turned backward. 6 They shalbe as the grasse on the house tops, which withereth afore it commeth forth. 7 Whereof the mower filleth not his hand, neither the glainer his lap: 8 Neither they, which go by, say, The blessing of the Lord be vpon you, or, We blesse you in the Name of the Lord. Grace be with you, and Peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Raised as an evangelical Lutheran, the doctrine of Justification has been pretty well drilled into me as the supreme doctrine of the church, with only sola Scriptura as its equal. I’m grateful for that heritage, and the foundation that was laid early in life. These doctrines are the very bedrock of my faith, and without them, I would have nothing to believe in. In the last several months, however, another doctrine has absolutely captivated my heart. I cannot think of it without being utterly overwhelmed. Whenever I encounter it, I am stopped in my tracks and must simply sit and contemplate it at length. It is the doctrine of Adoption. I have more to say about that, but first this, from J. I. Packer: Sonship to God . . . is not a natural but an adoptive sonship, and so the New Testament explicitly pictures it. . . . The Apostles proclaim that God has so loved those whom he redeemed on the cross that he has adopted them as heirs, to see and share the glory into which his only begotten son has already come. “God sent his Son . . . To redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full [adoptive] rights of sons” (Gal 4:4–5): we, that is, who were “foreordained unto adoption as sons by Jesus Christ unto himself” (Eph 1:5 RV). “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God! And that is what we are! . . .” (1 Jn 3:1–2). Some years ago, I wrote: You sum up the whole of New Testament teaching in a single phrase, if you speak of it as a revelation of the Fatherhood of the holy Creator. In the same way, you sum up the whole of New Testament religion if you describe it as the knowledge of God as one’s holy Father. If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all. For everything that Christ taught, everything that makes the New Testament new, and better than the Old, everything that is distinctly Christian as opposed to merely Jewish, is summed up in the knowledge of the Fatherhood of God. “Father” is the Christian name for God. (Evangelical Magazine 7, pp. 19–20) This still seems to me wholly true, and very important. Our understanding of Christianity cannot be better than our grasp of adoption. —J. I. Packer, Knowing God (InterVarsity Press, 1993), 201–202 [bold added] I have a sort of mental picture of God’s adoption process. It is perhaps rather lame; I’m sure I can’t capture such profound truth in a parable of my own design. There is a fabulously wealthy man who wants to adopt a son. It’s not that he needs to. He already has a son’and not just any son, but a son who is perfect in every way. This man is entirely happy with his natural son, and has no need of another. He loves his son, and his son loves him. The son he wants to adopt is not just anyone, either. He knows this boy. He has seen him on several occasions. He knows this child. This child is not the typical child that most parents seek to adopt. He is no adorable, cooing baby. He is a homeless child, a loner, living in alleys and abandoned buildings. But he isn’t just any homeless child, either. He has a disease. His disease has deformed his body and twisted his mind. He is filthy, and he stinks. He is vicious and violent, entirely antisocial. He survives by scavenging and stealing. No one would want him. The man tracks this boy down, finding him in an alley scrounging through a dumpster. He approaches the boy with a smile and an outstretched hand. The boy runs. The man follows him, tracking him to a condemned building. Cornered, the boy begins hurling debris at the man, shouting threats and obscenities. All the while, the man looks upon him and loves him. He wants him. He wants nothing more than to take him home and lavish his wealth and affection on him. And so he does. He subdues the boy and takes him to his home. He feeds him, clothes him, and treats his illness. He loves him. And he gives him his name and writes him into his will. This child who was nobody, with no hope, diseased and ugly, hateful and hated, is now a privileged son, heir to a fortune; and he is loved. He has been adopted. He is me. I love this doctrine of adoption.

The Highest Privilege

What is the highest blessing and privilege offered by the gospel? Many, if not most, people’s answer would involve something about forgiveness, salvation from the penalty of sin. In short, justification, and it is no wonder that most would answer in that way. Surely, it is a wonderful thing to be forgiven and freed from the threat of eternity in hell. But there is a greater blessing than that. Packer writes: Adoption . . . is the highest privilege that the gospel offers: higher even than justification. This may cause raising of eyebrows, for justification is the gift of God on which since Luther evangelicals have laid the greatest stress, and we are accustomed to say, almost without thinking, that free justification is God’s supreme blessing to us sinners. Nonetheless, careful thought will show the truth of the statement we have just made. That justification—by which we mean God’s forgiveness of the past together with his acceptance for the future—is the primary and fundamental blessing of the gospel is not in question. Justification is the primary blessing, because it meets our primary spiritual need. We all stand by nature under God’s judgment; his law condemns us; guilt gnaws at us, making us restless, miserable, and in our lucid moments afraid; we have no peace in ourselves because we have no peace with our Maker. So we need the forgiveness of our sins, and assurance of a restored relationship with God, more than we need anything else in the world; and this the gospel offers us before it offers us anything else. The first gospel sermons to be preached, those recorded in Acts, lead up to the promise of forgiveness of sins to all who repent and receive Jesus as their Savior and Lord (see Acts 2:38; 3:19; 10:43; 13:38–39; compare 5:31; 17:30–31; 20:21; 22:16; 26:18; Lk 24:47). In Romans, Paul’s fullest exposition of his gospel—“the clearest gospel of all,” to Luther’s mind—justification through the cross of Christ is expounded first (chaps. 1–5), and made basic to everything else. Regularly Paul speaks of righteousness, remission of sins, and justification as the first and immediate consequence for us of Jesus’ death (Rom 3:22-26; 2 Cor 5:18–21; Gal 3:13-14; Eph 1:7; and so on). And as justification is primary blessing, so it is the fundamental blessing, in the sense that everything else in our salvation assumes it, and rests on it—adoption included. But this is not to say that justification is the highest blessing of the gospel. Adoption is higher, because of the richer relationship with God that it involves. Some textbooks on Christian doctrine—Berkhof’s, for instance—treat adoption as a mere subsection of justification, but this is inadequate. The two ideas are distinct, and adoption is the more exalted. Justification is a forensic idea, conceived in terms of law, and viewing God as judge. In justification, God declares of penitent believers that they are not, and never will be, liable to the death that their sins deserve, because Jesus Christ, their substitute and sacrifice, tasted death in their place on the cross. This free gift of acquittal and peace, won for us at the cost of Calvary, is wonderful enough, in all conscience—but justification does not of itself imply any intimate or deep relationship with God the judge. In idea, at any rate, you could have the reality of justification without any close fellowship with God resulting. But contrast this, now, with adoption. Adoption is a family idea, conceived in terms of love, and viewing God as father. In adoption, God takes us into his family and fellowship—he establishes us as his children and heirs. Closeness, affection and generosity are at the heart of the relationship. To be right with God the Judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father is a greater. —J. I. Packer, Knowing God (InterVarsity Press, 1993), 206–207.

Hymns of My Youth III: A Child of the King

The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. —Romans 8:16–17 210 A Child of the King My Father is rich in houses and lands, He holdeth the wealth of the world in His hands! Of rubies and diamonds, of silver and gold, His coffers are full, He has riches untold. Refrain: I’m a child of the King, A child of the King: With Jesus my Savior, I’m a child of the King. My Father’s own Son, the Savior of men, Once wandered on earth as the poorest of them; But now He is pleading our pardon on high, That we may be His when He comes by and by. Refrain I once was an outcast stranger on earth, A sinner by choice, an alien by birth, But I’ve been adopted, my name’s written down, An heir to a mansion, a robe and a crown. Refrain A tent or a cottage, why should I care? They’re building a palace for me over there; Tho’ exiled from home, yet still may I sing: All glory to God, I’m a child of the King. Refrain —Favorite Hymns of Praise (Tabernacle Publishing Company, 1967).

The Privilege of Adoption

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. —John 1:12–13 Salvation brings with it many benefits, but the greatest of all is adoption as children of God. True faith in the true light brings the greatest of all privileges: “the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). People work all their lives to receive titles and privileges—to become vice president or chairman of the board. Others dream of being the son or daughter of some noble king or high official. But John holds before us the highest possible privilege: to be brought into God’s family and become his blessed children. Having the “right” to become God’s children through faith in Jesus, we experience a change of status. Just as we adopt children, giving them all the rights of family members, God adopts us into a loving Father-child relationship. Jesus is God’s true son, and we may be adopted as sons and daughters in him. —Richard D. Phillips, The Incarnation in the Gospels (P&R Publishing, 2008), 167.

Your Testimony

I have decided to follow Jesus, I have decided to follow Jesus, I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back, No turning back. I once was an outcast stranger on earth, A sinner by choice,* and an alien by birth, But I’ve been adopted, my name’s written down, An heir to a mansion, a robe and a crown. I’m a child of the King, A child of the King: With Jesus my Savior, I’m a child of the King. Which of the above represents your testimony? One declares what I claim to have done; the other what God has done for me. In which are you trusting? Upon which will you base your assurance? Upon which can you base your assurance? But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God. —Galatians 4:4–7 * Yes, I could wish this was phrased differently, i.e., we are born sinners by nature, but we are consequently sinners by choice, so let’s give the author a break.

Kinship by Adoption

Adoption has been called “the highest privilege that the gospel offers.” If we are to go by the attention given to the doctrine of adoption, that is hardly a majority opinion. It was with amazement that the Apostle John exclaimed, “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God” (1 John 3:1), yet most seem to think that we are all natural children of God, that he is universally father of all. Sproul responds, By no means! The Bible asserts that by nature we are children of wrath. There is no universal fatherhood of God or universal brotherhood of man. The Bible speaks of a universal neighborhood. All people are my neighbors, and I am to treat them with Christian love. But not all people are my brothers and sisters. That kinship comes only by adoption. Jesus is God’s only natural Son. All others enter His family through adoption in Christ. —R. C. Sproul, Saved from What? (Crossway, 2002), 110.

The Grace of Adoption

Our Father who is in heaven . . . —Matthew 6:9 Thomas Manton (1620–1677), in An Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer, writes of the great blessing of adoption and the privilege we who are the adopted children of God enjoy of calling God our Father. [T]here is a particular sort of men to whom God is a father in Christ, and that is, to believers: John i. 12, ‘To as many as received him, to them gave he power to be called the sons of God.’ Those which in their natural state and condition were children of wrath, and slaves to sin and Satan, when they come, and are willing to welcome and receive Christ into their hearts, in a sense of their misery, are willing to make out after God and Christ; they have an allowance to call God Father, and may have child-like communion with him, and run to him in all straits, and lay open their necessities to him. 2 Kings iv. 19, When the child cried unto his father, he said, ‘Carry him to his mother:’ so when we are ill at ease and in any straits, this is the privilege of our adoption, that we have a God to go to; we may go to our Father and plead with him, as the church: Isa. lxiii. 16, ‘Doubtless thou art our father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not: thou, O Lord, art our father, our redeemer.’ It is good to know God under this special relation of a father in Christ; and this is that which is the grace of adoption. Adoption is an act of free grace, by which we that were aliens and strangers, servants to sin and Satan, are, in and by Christ, made sons and daughters of God, and accordingly are so reckoned and treated with, to all intents and purposes. It is a great and special privilege, given to God’s own children, by virtue of their interest in Christ; find therefore it is said, 1 John iii. 1, ‘Behold, what love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!’ That is, behold it as a certain truth, and admire it as a great privilege. —Thomas Manton, An Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer, The Works of Thomas Manton (Banner of Truth, 1993), 1:43–44.

What Manner of Love

Our Father who is in heaven . . . —Matthew 6:9 More from Thomas Manton on the privilege of calling God our Father. If we consider the greatness of the privilege itself: ‘Oh, behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called his children!’ 1 John iii. 1. We think it much when we can say, This field, this house is mine; but surely this is more, to say, This God is mine. Again, observe here that interest is a ground of audience. So Christ would have us begin our prayers, ‘Our Father.’ God’s interest in us, and our interest in God. God’s interest in us: when Christ mediates for his disciples, he saith, John xvii. 6, ‘Thine they were, and thou gavest them me.’ And David: Ps. cxix. 94, ‘I am thine, save me.’ That is his argument: the reason is, because God, by taking them for his own, binds himself to preserve and keep them. Everybody is bound to look to his own: ‘He that provides not for his own is worse than an infidel.’ Now what a sweet thing is it when we can go to God and say. We are thine! So it is the same, as to our interest in God. It is an excellent encouragement: Ps. xlii. 11, ‘Hope thou in God,’ saith David to his soul. Why? For he is my God. And elsewhere, reasoning with himself: Ps. xxiii. 1, ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.’ First, his covenant-interest is built, and then conclusions of hope. So 2 Sam. xxx. 6, ‘David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.’ It is sweet when we can go to God as our God. Luther was wont to say, God was known better by the predicament of relation than by his natural properties. Why is interest such a sweet thing? Because by this relation to God we have a claim to God, and to all that he can and will do. God hath made over himself, quantus quantus est, as great as great he is, for his use and comfort. Therefore the psalmist saith, Ps. xvi. 5, ‘The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance, and of my cup.’ A believer hath as sure a right and title to God, as a man hath to his patrimony to which he is born, or as any Israelite had to that share which came to him by lot; so he may lay claim to God, and live upon his power and goodness, as a man doth upon his estate. Well, then, labour to see God is yours, if you would find acceptance with him. It is not enough to know the goodness and power of God in general, but we must discern our interest in him, that we may not only say Father, but Our Father. It is the nature of faith thus to appropriate and apply: John xx. 28, ‘My Lord and my God.’ How is God made ours? How shall we know it, that we may come and lay our claim to him? Behold, Christ teacheth us here to say, Our Father, by taking hold of his covenant; and this is God’s covenant notion, ‘I will be your God, and you shall be my people.’ —Thomas Manton, An Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer, The Works of Thomas Manton (Banner of Truth, 1993), 1:54–55.

Our Adoptive Father

The adoption of believers as children of God is no small matter. Indeed, J. I Packer called it the highest privilege that the gospel offers. This is a privilege that, as Sproul explains, we ought to hold very dear. The New Testament concept of Christ’s being the Son of God is central to biblical theology. Not only is Jesus the Son of God, but also He is what the Apostle John described as the monogenes, the only Son of God. We have a tendency to miss the significance of that today, [when] we hear repeatedly that we are all God’s children. People today believe in the universal fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man. In biblical categories God, naturally speaking, is the Father of One. He is the Father of the Son, the only begotten Son. Christ is the Son of God by nature. Scripture tells us that by nature we are children of wrath, children of Satan, so we must never take for granted the privilege of speaking of God as “Father.” In the first instance He is the Father only of Christ and, by extension, of us only when we are adopted into His family. We are not by nature the children of God. Jesus is by nature the child of God; we are by super nature the children of God. —R. C. Sproul, 1–2 Peter: Be All the More Diligent to Make Your Calling and Election Sure (Crossway, 2011), 27–28.

A Living Hope

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. —1 Peter 1:3–5 Our hope in Christ is more than wishful thinking. In biblical categories, the word hope means something different from its common usage in our secular culture. In our culture hope reflects our subjective desire. I hope that something will take place in the future, but I don’t know for sure that it will. In biblical categories, this hope is the certainty and the fullness of assurance that God will do in the future everything that He says He will do. We have been born again to a hope, a living and lasting hope. This hope is inseparably related to the resurrection, because it is grounded in the reality that when God raised His Son from the dead, He raised Him as the firstborn of many brethren, and that all who are in Him will share in that resurrection life. We have been born again not just to have a better quality of life in this world, not simply to be given a second chance, but to live a life that goes on forever, sustained by the power of the resurrected Christ. —R. C. Sproul, 1–2 Peter: Be All the More Diligent to Make Your Calling and Election Sure (Crossway, 2011), 30.

When Were You Saved?

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. —1 Peter 1:3–5 Many Christians point to a date on which they were saved. Others couldn’t name a date, but have believed the gospel and know they have a living faith in Christ and are saved. In truth, if you are alive and reading this, you are not yet saved—not finally, that is. Yet, if you have received genuine saving faith in Christ, you can be sure that you have an inheritance in heaven, because God has promised to finish what he has begun (Philippians 1:6). As R. C. Sproul explains, [T]he Bible uses the verb to save in every tense of the Greek language. There is a sense in which we were saved from the foundation of the world. We were being saved, we are saved, and we are being saved, but ultimately we shall be saved when we enter into the fullness of the inheritance that is being reserved. —R. C. Sproul, 1–2 Peter: Be All the More Diligent to Make Your Calling and Election Sure (Crossway, 2011), 32.
Is God your father? [T]oday we live in a world that assumes God is the Father of everyone, that all men are brothers. We hear this in the cliches “the fatherhood of God” and “the brotherhood of man.” But nowhere does Scripture say that all men are our brothers. It does say, however, that all men are our neighbors. There is a restricted sense in which God is the Father of all men as the Giver and Sustainer of life, the progenitor par excellence of the human race. But nothing in the Bible indicates that an individual may approach God in a familiar sense. The only exception is when that person has been adopted into God’s family, having expressed saving faith in the atonement of Christ and having submitted to His lordship. Then and only then is one afforded the privilege of calling God his Father. To those who received Him, God “gave the right [authority, privilege] to become children of God” (John 1:12). Only then does God call men “sons.” The Greek word exousia, translated “right to become,” denotes the freedom to act and the authority for that action. Calling God “Father” without the proper credential of sonship is an act of extreme presumption and arrogance. . . . If we go through the New Testament, making inquiry as to who are the sons of God, the answer is clear. The New Testament is neither vague nor enigmatic on this point. Romans 8:14–17a says this: For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father.” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ. In verse 14 of this passage, the word all (autoi in the Greek) is in what is called the emphatic form to indicate an exclusiveness. The verse is best translated, “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these alone are the sons of God” or “these only are the sons of God.” Paul teaches that it is only by the Holy Spirit that we can call God our Father. The significance of this in the New Testament is that we are sons, not illegitimate children, because we are in union with Christ. Our sonship is not automatic; it is not inherited and it is not a genetic necessity, but rather it is derived. The New Testament word for this transaction is adoption. Because of our adoptive relationship with God through Christ, we become joint heirs with Christ. It is only because we are in Christ and Christ is in us that we have the privilege of addressing God as our Father and of approaching Him in a filial relationship. Martin Luther once said that if he could just understand the first two words of the Lord’s Prayer, he would never be the same again. —R. C. Sproul, Does Prayer Change Things? (Tyndale, 2009), 15, 16–17.


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