Adoption is a greater mercy than Adam had in paradise; he was a son by creation, but here is a further sonship by adoption. To make us thankful, consider, in civil adoption there is some worth and excellence in the person to be adopted; but there was no worth in us, neither beauty, nor parentage, nor virtue; nothing in us to move God to correct us, but nothing to move him to adopt us, therefore exalt free grace; begin the work of angels here; bless him with your praises who has blessed you in making you his sons and daughters.
Thomas Brooks asserts that sanctification is simply a living out of one’s adoption and sonship (John 1:12; Rom. 8:17). He writes,
If thou art a holy person, then of a child of wrath thou art become a child of God, a child of love; and of an heir of hell thou art become an heir of heaven; and of a slave, thou art become a son.
The Puritans would resonate well with J.I. Packer’s assertion that sanctification is,
simply a consistent living out of our filial relationship with God, into which the gospel brings us. It is just a matter of the child of God being true to type, true to his Father, to his Saviour, and to himself. It is the expressing of one’s adoption in one’s life. It is a matter of being a good son, as distinct from a prodigal or black sheep in the royal family.
Through sanctification the believer is brought into a fuller experiential awareness of his adoption. He learns to grasp more fully what adoption is, and learns to live out of its wonders
There is a Testimony of the Holy SPIRIT unto our Adoption, which comes as a Mighty Light, more Directly breaking in upon our Minds, to assure us, that we are indeed the Adopted of GOD. There is a Discursive Assurance of our Blessedness; which is drawn from the Marks and Signs of a Soul become an Habitation of God thro’ the Spirit. And then there is a more Intuitive Assurance of it; In which the Holy SPIRIT, more Immediately, and most Irresistibly, and with a Mighty Light, bears in upon the Mind of the Beleever a powerful perswasion of it, That he is a Child of GOD, and his GOD and Father will one day bring him to Inherit all things. The Soul of the Beleever is now wonderfully moved and melted and overpowered with such Thoughts as these; GOD is my Father, CHRIST is my Saviour, and I have an Inheritance in the Heavens reserved for me.
Thomas Manton gives four counsels to assist the weak in faith in being able to call God their Father.
First, “disclaim when you cannot apply.” If you cannot say “Father,” plead on your “fatherless” condition, using such texts as Hosea 14:3, “In thee the fatherless find mercy.”
Second, “own God in the humbling way.” Come to the Father like the prodigal son, confessing your unworthiness, or like Paul, as the chief of sinners. Come to Him as your Father-Creator if you cannot come to Him as your Father-Savior.
Third, “call him Father in wish.” If you cannot call Him Father with directness, do it with desire. “Let us pray ourselves into this relation, and groan after it, that we may have a clearer sense that God is our Father in Christ,” he counsels.
Fourth, make “use of Christ Jesus.” Since Christ’s name means so much in heaven, “if you cannot come to God as your Father, come to him as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 3:14). Let Christ bring you into God’s presence. He is willing to change relations with us. Take him along with you in your arms. Go to God in Christ’s name: `Whatsoever you ask in my name, shall be given to you.’”
Some professing members of the church are under “the Spirit of bondage,” that is, those who are under the Holy Spirit’s power to convict of sin, but do not as yet have liberty in Jesus Christ. Some Puritans—though by no means all—understand this to mean what is at times called “a preparatory work of grace.” Ezekiel Hopkins lays out the essence of this approach more succinctly. His key thoughts form an apt summary:
The preparatory work of conversion is usually carried on in the soul by legal fears and terrors.
This legal fear is slavish, and engenders bondage.
This slavish fear is wrought in the soul by the Spirit of God, though it be slavish.
When the soul is prepared for the work of grace by the work of conviction, when it is prepared for comfort by the work of humiliation, the same Spirit, that was before a Spirit of bondage, becomes now a Spirit of adoption.
To whom the Spirit hath once been a Spirit of adoption, it never more becomes to them a Spirit of bondage and fear.
A reverential, filial fear of God, may and ought to possess our souls, while the Spirit of God, who is a spirit of adoption, is, by the clearest evidences, actually witnessing our sonship to us.
Pastorally, the Puritans advised those who were under the Spirit of bondage of their danger, their invitation, and their encouragement. Their danger is that they will perish if they do not take refuge to Christ with penitent faith and come to know the Spirit of adoption. Their invitation is to come to Christ immediately, confessing their sins—also the sin of lacking childlike fear. They must ask the Holy Spirit to drive them out of their self-confidence and cause them to storm the mercy seat. Their encouragement is, according to Simon Ford,
That God will not keep His elect indefinitely in bondage for several reasons. Thus, religion would become uncomfortable and unappealing, people would faint under their burden of sin, and they would develop hard thoughts of God. God will lead those under bondage into liberty to show that it is not in vain to serve Him. He wants to wean His own from this world, and He wants to commune often with them.”
William Ames says there are four differences between human and divine adoption:
Human adoption relates to a person, who, as a stranger, has no right to the inheritance except through adoption. But believers, though by natural birth they have no right to the inheritance of life, are given it because of rebirth, faith, and justification.
Human adoption is only an outward designation and bestowal of external things. But divine adoption is so real a relationship that it is based on an inward action and the communications of a new inner life.
Human adoption was introduced when there were no, or too few, natural sons. But divine adoption is not from any want but from abundant goodness, whereby a likeness of a natural son and mystical union is given to the adopted sons.
The human adoption is ordained so that the son may succeed the father in the inheritance. But divine adoption is not ordained for succession, but for participation in the inheritance assigned. Both the Father and his first-begotten Son live forever and this admits no succession.
In short, the Puritans taught that regeneration and adoption are to be distinguished in several ways. Here is a summary of points made by Thomas Manton and Stephen Charnock on the differences between the doctrines of adoption and regeneration:
Regeneration brings us to close with Jesus Christ – adoption causes the Spirit to abide in our hearts.
Regeneration is the Spirit’s renewing. Adoption, the Spirit’s inhabiting. In regeneration, the Holy Spirit builds a house for Himself, in adoption, He dwells in the house—much like bees that “first make their cells, and then dwell in them.”
Regeneration is not conditioned by faith, adoption is.
Regeneration enables us to believe unto justification and adoption.
Regeneration engraves upon us the lineaments of a father; adoption relates us to God as our Father.
Regeneration makes us God’s sons by conveying the principle of new life (1 Pet. 1:23); adoption keeps us God’s sons by conferring the power of new life (John 1:12).
Regeneration makes us partakers of the divine nature; adoption makes us partakers of the divine affections.
The most important Puritan works ever written on adoption, are:
John Crabb, A Testimony concerning the VVorks of the Living God. Shewing how the mysteries of his workings hath worked many wayes in and amongst mankind. Or, The knowledge of God revealed, which shews the way from the bondage of darkness into the liberty of the Sons of God.
Simon Ford, The Spirit of Bondage and Adoption: Largely and Practically handled, with reference to the way and manner of working both those Effects; and the proper Cases of Conscience belonging to them both.
M.G., The Glorious Excellencie of the Spirit of Adoption.
Thomas Granger, A Looking-Glasse for Christians. Or, The Comfortable Doctrine of Adoption.
Cotton Mather, The Sealed Servants of our God, Appearing with Two Witnesses, to produce a Well-Established Assurance of their being the Children of the Lord Almighty or, the Witness of the Holy Spirit, with the Spirit of the Beleever, to his Adoption of God; briefly and plainly Described.
Samuel Petto, The Voice of the Spirit. Or, An essay towards a discoverie of the witnessings of the Spirit.
Samuel Willard, The Child’s Portion: Or the unseen Glory of the Children of God, Asserted, and proved: Together with several other Sermons Occasionally Preached.
Sadly, none of these books have been reprinted, which, in part, serves to promote the misrepresentation that the Puritans rarely addressed this subject. However, you can fully be made aware of the Puritans understanding and theological development on the doctrine of adoption in Dr. Joel Beeke’s Heirs with Christthrough RHB Publications.
While reading some of John Calvin’s works this past weekend, I came across something in particular that stood out to me from all the rest. Not only does the Christian live their earthly lives in the common kingdom of this world, but is adopted into the Redemptive Kingdom of God’s promises to Abraham. Philippians 2:14-16 reads,
Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of oa crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine pas lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ sI may be proud that tI did not run in vain or labor in vain.
It was Calvin’s comments on verse 15 that brought to me the idea of seeing God’s adoption of His children through the lens of Two-Kingdoms.
The sons of God, unreprovable. It ought to be rendered—unreprovable, because ye are the sons of God. For God’s adoption of us ought to be a motive to a blameless life, that we may in some degree resemble our Father. Now, although there never has been such perfection in the world as to have nothing worthy of reproof, those are, nevertheless, said to be unreprovable who aim at this with the whole bent of their mind, as has been observed elsewhere.4
In the midst of a wicked generation. Believers, it is true, live on earth, intermingled with the wicked;5 they breathe the same air, they enjoy the same soil, and at that time1 they were even more intermingled, inasmuch as there could scarcely be found a single pious family that was not surrounded on all sides by unbelievers. So much the more does Paul stir up the Philippians to guard carefully against all corruptions. The meaning therefore is this: “You are, it is true, inclosed in the midst of the wicked; but, in the mean time, bear in mind that you are, by God’s adoption, separated from them: let there be, therefore, in your manner of life, conspicuous marks by which you may be distinguished. Nay more, this consideration ought to stir you up the more to aim at a pious and holy life, that we may not also be a part of the crooked generation,2 entangled by their vices and contagion.”
As to his calling them a wicked and crooked generation, this corresponds with the connection of the passage. For he teaches us that we must so much the more carefully take heed on this account—that many occasions of offence are stirred up by unbelievers, which disturb their right course; and the whole life of unbelievers is, as it were, a labyrinth of various windings, that draw us off from the right way. They are, however, notwithstanding, epithets of perpetual application, that are descriptive of unbelievers of all nations and in all ages. For if the heart of man is wicked and unsearchable, (Jer. 17:9,) what will be the fruits springing from such a root? Hence we are taught in these words, that in the life of man there is nothing pure, nothing right, until he has been renewed by the Spirit of God.
Among whom shine ye. The termination of the Greek word is doubtful, for it might be taken as the indicative—ye shine; but the imperative suits better with the exhortation. He would have unbelievers be as lamps, which shine amidst the darkness of the world, as though he had said, “Believers, it is true, are children of the night, and there is in the world nothing but darkness; but God has enlightened you for this end, that the purity of your life may shine forth amidst that darkness, that his grace may appear the more illustrious.” Thus, also, it is said by the Prophet, “The Lord will arise upon thee, and his glory will be seen upon thee.” (Isaiah 60:2.) He adds immediately afterwards, “The Gentiles shall walk in thy light, and kings in the brightness of thy countenance.” Though Isaiah speaks there rather of doctrine, while Paul speaks here of an exemplary life, yet, even in relation to doctrine, Christ in another passage specially designates the Apostles the light of the world. (Matt 5:14.)
Adoption makes the believer an heir of salvation through Christ. The adopted child of God becomes the recipient of salvation through Christ, for “the name of Christ excludes all merit, and everything which men have of their own.” Christ’s merits, through His obedience, death and resurrection, are what secure the believer’s adoption. This is clear from Calvin’s writing on the purpose of why God had to become man. He had to become man to rescue us from our self-made hell, to conquer death, and to procure salvation for his people. This too, serves the believer’s assurance of salvation and heir to the Kingdom, “for the Son of God, to whom it wholly belongs, has adopted us as his brothers.” This work of salvation was achieved through the Incarnation, when “ungrudgingly he took our nature upon himself to impart to us what was his, and to become both Son of God and Son of man in common with us.”
In his application of the doctrine of adoption, it must be noted that John Calvin was discriminatory, opening up its comforts to believers, but also preserving this doctrine from those who would abuse it in unbelief. This discriminatory note can be detected when he cautions that the Incarnation must not be used to automate adoption. Just because Christ came in human flesh does not mean that all are the children of God. He argues rightly that
“when we say that Christ was made man that he might make us children of God, this expression does not extend to all men. For faith intervenes, to engraft us spiritually into the body of Christ.”
The fact that the believer becomes an heir of Christ also has eschatological dimensions. Although this is present in the Pauline doctrine of adoption, Calvin also brings it out in the Johannine complement of the same doctrine. He clearly brings out the ‘now-not yet’ tension of the enjoyment of the inheritance that believers receive through adoption. In his Commentary on 1 John, especially 1 John 3:2, Calvin notes that the believer’s condition as an adopted child of God has not yet reached full fruition and the believer is subject to death, misery, and all manner of evil. He counsels the believer to consider the privileges that yet await being stored up in heaven, looking to the coming of Christ which sustains faith,
“because the fruit of our adoption is as yet hid, for in heaven is our felicity, and we are now far away travelling on the earth.”
This tension is also apparent in his Commentary on Romans in which he highlights the fact that the believer’s inheritance through adoption will be fully realized in the future. He states that
“we shall partake of it in common with the only-begotten Son of God,” which requires patience and endurance in the present Christian life.
At the heart of John Calvin’s theology and undergirding his development of the ordo salutis is the doctrine of adoption. Many scholars note that Calvin does not treat adoption as a separate locus in his systematic theology and magnum opus, The Institutes of the Christian Religion. This is due in part to the fact that Calvin weaves the doctrine throughout the tapestry of God’s marvelous work in the salvation of sinners. The doctrine of adoption is not peripheral, but rather central to Calvin’s theology as noted by Sinclair Ferguson writes, (The Reformed Doctrine of Sonship, in Pulpit and People, Essays in Honor of William Still) “students of Calvin’s theology have too rarely recognized how important the concept of sonship was to his understanding of the Christian life.”
The fountainhead of adoption and its privileges in John Calvin’s thought is found in God the Father. Specifically the privileges that the adopted child of God receives are the comfort of the Father’s providence and the assurance received through the Father’s electing grace.
One of those privileges is that Adoption assures the believer of God’s Fatherly electing grace. The electing grace of the Father almost becomes synonymous in Calvin’s writings with the doctrine of adoption. He does not clearly delineate between these two concepts but rather merges them to show how adoption becomes a confirmation of election. Howard Griffith in his article clearly proves that election and adoption are closely tied in Calvin’s thought when he states:
It is quite clear that Calvin’s intention was to use the biblical teaching on election as Scripture does: in the service of assurance for believers. Election was dangerous and only a snare when considered abstractly. But if for the sake of the analysis of Calvin’s own thinking, we think of it first, it is fascinating to notice that Calvin repeatedly refers to election as God’s adoption of the believer. This is not just the slip of a pen: Calvin repeats it often.
Adoption can be conceived of as the rearview mirror if you will, confirming the electing grace of the Father in the life of the believer. The close relationship of election and adoption serves to assure the believer that he is indeed a child of God.
In his Sermons on Election and Reprobation, Calvin closely links election and adoption when he says, “So, when our Lord engraveth his fear in our hearts by his holy spirit, and such an obedience towards him, as his Children ought to perform unto him, this is as if he should set upon us the seal of his election, and as if he should truly testify that he hath adopted us and that he is a Father unto us.” Throughout the Institutes he makes several references to the close relation between election and adoption where free election by the grace of God becomes the ground of the believer’s adoption. He states, “We were adopted in Christ into the eternal inheritance because in ourselves we were not capable of such great excellence.” Furthermore, man cannot renovate himself to receive the adoption of sons, nor is adoption because of any foreseen merit on God’s part, because “God’s special election towers and rules over all, alone ratifying his adoption.”
This assurance of election is further buttressed in his Sermons on Ephesians where he says, “When he [Paul] says that God has predestinated us by adoption, it is to show that if we be God’s children it is not through nature but through his pure grace…For we have no such status by birth or inheritance, neither does it come of flesh and blood.” The assurance this affords the believer is that it is by the grace of God in Jesus Christ that they are adopted into the family of God and thus “they whom he calls to salvation ought not to seek the cause of it anywhere else than in this gratuitous adoption.” Calvin continues speaking of the assurance that election and adoption affords the believer:
Whosoever then believes is thereby assured that God has worked in him, and faith, as it were, the duplicate copy that God gives us of the original of our adoption…It follows then that if we have faith, we are also adopted. For why does God gives us faith? Even because he elected us before the creation of the world. This therefore is an infallible order, that insofar as the faithful receive God’s grace and embrace his mercy, holding Jesus Christ as their Head, to obtain salvation in this way, they know assuredly that God has adopted them.
Far from declaring God’s election to be cold, calculating and deterministic, Calvin ties election and adoption closely together showing the comfort and warmth that can be derived from doing so. Election becomes the ground of adoption, and thus offers assurance to the child of God that he really is one of God’s children. The root of adoption is not found in the believer, but in God the Father, through Jesus Christ.
To be adopted by God is to be in union with Christ. You can’t have one without the other. When God adopted us, He adopted us “in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:5-6). There is nothing that is more life-changing or destiny-altering than the reality of being in union with God’s Beloved Son — and that is a gross understatement!
Jesus changes everything for us, not the least of which is our prayer life. Have you ever considered the fact that when you pray to your Father, you literally pray in union with Jesus?
To pray in union with Jesus means that your prayers are not carried to God by your merit. If God’s reception of our prayers were dependent upon our merit, our prayers would crash and burn before they could even be formed in our minds. No, our prayers are carried to the Father by the altogether lovely and acceptable merit of Jesus.
“If you could see what your prayers looked like to God [because of Jesus], no one could stop you from praying” (Brian Habig, quoting an unnamed theologian).
Many who know me, know I love focusing my studies on Central-Gospel themes, doctrines, and issues of today that deal with the Gospel its’ self. I have wanted to spend sometime in my Masters of Arts writing on Calvin’s view of the Gospel truths in adoption and what it detailed. My last semester I was able to do so, and work with a fellow brother at seminary who helped me. Here is the paper Maarten Kuivenhoven and I worked on together this past month.
Click on the image below to download our conference poster as a pdf. Please consider using it as a bulletin insert to help spread the word about the upcoming conference. Register for Together for Adoption Conference 2008 here.
Point of Devotion – The Blessings/Privileges of Adoption- The believer of the gospel is blessed with privileges that give him the right to an eternal inheritance with the family of God.
Let’s read our passage for the devotion. Romans 8:15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
This is the Word of God…
This Spirit not only cries out in making us a part of God’s adopted family, but gives the believer blessings that he had never had before as a fallen man. For being the child of God is an experience like nothing you knew before in the fallen state and may not fully understand even now because how often the doctrine of adoption is overlooked. But when you see exactly what this adoption does for the believer and the blessings it provides, you can see that it is nothing but by the grace of God. From the moment of the time that the Spirit is poured into our hearts this confidence of adoption, it poured into us the privileges of adoption as well. These are to the believer nothing but blessings that they could have never imagined existed before the act of adoption.
I will list these blessings or privileges that are given at the time of our adoption so that you can grip overwhelming amount of delight that takes place in being adopted by God.
1. When we are adopted, “the Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” We have intimate fellowship with Christ and God because of this. (Gal. 4:7)
2. When we are adopted, not only is there this intimate fellowship but also there is the blessing of the guidance of this Spirit that cries “Abba, Father.” This how one knows he is a part of the family of God. (Rom. 8:14)
3. When we are adopted, it gives us another blessing. That this Spirit gives His presence to always assure the believer of their status as a child of God. (Rom. 8:16)
4. When we are adopted, it is a blessing that the believer who bears the Spirit that their heart is in perfect relationship with the Father, God. (Rom. 8:14)
5. When we are adopted, most of all, the privilege for believer is that they at the point of adoption now become heirs of God, which is a joint heir to Christ. (Rom. 8:17)
6. When we are adopted, his adopted family (us) is promised to one day after being redeemed in glory bear the likeness of Christ. (1 Jon. 3:2)
7. Lastly the blessing that the believer receives in adoption includes the inheritance of all things since the believer is adopted in being the sons of God. (1 Cor. 3:21-23)
For the believer, bearing the Spirit is nothing more than a blessing that deserves utmost praise to God for allowing us to partake in His family. I would ask of us, when was the last time we actually thought of our adoption, then even thanked our Father for such a plan that would allow him to take in illegitimate children like it.
This new relationship brings the believer into the household of faith. For the believer it is beautiful to know that they will belong to this family forever and ever and ever. God will care for his family and take care of them for eternity. This is why God sent his Son, Christ to die for the sins of His family, so we can have the highest blessing of the gospel, so that we can have the inheritance, this spiritual richness of being a part of the family of God. God gave us the gospel so that we could become children of God.
When you all have the time, check out Together for Adoption! And, if you don’t have the time, then take it.
“[Christ’s] task was so to restore us to God’s grace as to make of the children of men, children of God; of the heirs of Gehenna, heirs of the Heavenly Kingdom. Who could have done this had not the self-same Son of God become the Son of man, and had not so taken what was ours as to impart what was his to us, and to make what was his by nature ours by grace? Therefore, relying on this pledge, we trust that we are sons of God, for God’s natural Son fashioned for himself a body from our body, flesh from our flesh, bones from our bones, that he might be one with us. Ungrudgingly he took our nature upon himself to impart to us what was his, and to become both Son of God and Son of man in common with us. Hence that holy brotherhood which he commends with his own lips when he says: ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’ [John 20:17]. In this way we are assured of the inheritance of the Heavenly Kingdom; for the only Son of God, to whom it wholly belongs, has adopted us as his brothers” (Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2.12.2).
“[The Holy Spirit] is called the ’spirit of adoption‘ because he is the witness to us of the free benevolence of God with which God the Father has embraced us in his beloved only-begotten Son to become a Father to us; and he encourages us to have trust in prayer. In fact, he supplies the very words so that we may fearlessly cry, ‘Abba, Father!’ (Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3.1.3).
“Let us be heartily convinced that the Kingdom of Heaven is not servants’ wages but sons’ inheritance [Eph. 1:18], which only they who have been adopted as sons by the Lord shall enjoy [cf. Gal. 4:7], and that for no other reason than this adoption [cf. Eph. 1:5-6]“ (Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3.18.2).
“We ought to offer all prayer to God only in Christ’s name, as it cannot be agreeable to him in any other name. For in calling God ‘Father,’ we put forward the name ‘Christ.’ With what confidence would anyone address God as ‘Father’? Who would break forth into such rashness as to claim for himself the honor of a son of God unless we had been adopted as children of grace in Christ? He, while he is the true Son, has of himself been given us as a brother that what he has of his own nature may become ours by benefit of adoption if we embrace this great blessing with sure faith. Accordingly, John says that power has been given to those who believe in the name of the only-begotten Son of God, that they too may become children of God [John 1:12]“ (Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3.20.36).
“But because the narrowness of our hearts cannot comprehend God’s boundless favor, not only is Christ the pledge and guarantee of our adoption, but he gives the Spirit as witness to us of the same adoption, through whom with free and full voice we may cry, ‘Abba, Father’ [Gal. 4:6; Rom. 8:15]. Therefore, whenever any hesitation shall hinder us, let us remember to ask him to correct our fearfulness, and to set before us that Spirit that he may guide us to pray boldly” (Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3.22.37).
Dr. Joel Beeke, President of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary and Pastor of Heritage Reformed Congregation
Dr. Russell Moore, Dean of the School of Theology and Senior Vice President for Academic Administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he also serves as Executive Director of the Henry Institute.
Each of these men shares a common bond… they are all passionate about the subject of Adoption. Listen here.
You can purchase Dr. Beeke’s new book on Adoption here.
Earthly adoption is horizontal. It is one human being establishing a relationship with another human being. Heavenly adoption isvertical. It is the eternal God graciously establishing a relationship with fallen human beings, creatures who are by nature “children of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2) or “children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3).
God is an adoptive Father. Jesus, our Elder Brother, is God the Father’s eternal, only-begotten, natural Son. We believers are His children through adoption. This identity is central to who we are. As adopted children, we enjoy all the rights and privileges of the relationship that God the Father enjoys with His eternal Son. This is an amazing reality and eternal privilege.
Adoption is heavenly before it is earthly. One is what God does; the other is what we do. Adoption is something God has done and is doing before it is something we have done and are doing. Adoption was invented by God even before He created the world. Adoption is how God brings us into His family.
If adoption is first heavenly before it is earthly, why do we Christians so often think of earthly adoption before we think of heavenly adoption? Why do we think horizontally before we think vertically? I think one reason for this is the neglect of the doctrine of adoption in the history of the church. In his massive, 2,600-page work The Creeds of Christendom, the church historian Philip Schaff only includes six creeds that contain a section on adoption because they are the only ones he could find while scouring almost 1,900 years of church history.
The early church was primarily concerned, and rightly so, with the doctrines of the Trinity and of Christ because those doctrines were being attacked within the church. The Reformation and post-Reformation church necessarily focused on defending the doctrine of justification. These battles were all essential for the church to fight in the defense of Christian truth, but unintentionally they resulted in the church’s failure thoroughly to develop Scripture’s teaching on adoption.
Even though adoption has been relatively neglected in the history of the church, the Puritans have not contributed to that neglect. To my knowledge, no tradition in the history of the church has rejoiced in and proclaimed the truth of adoption as have the Puritans. Though the Puritans, as f late, have received bad press in their treatment of this great doctrine, their writings demonstrate that they esteemed nothing higher than the incomparable privilege of being God’s children through adoption.
Dr. Joel Beeke offers a great service to the contemporary church by examining the Puritans’ substantial and worship-filled treatment of the believer’s adoption by God. Beeke does a masterful job of setting the record straight on behalf of the Puritans. He has extensively studied the Puritans and is uniquely qualified to write on this most important subject.
The church today should richly benefit from this exposure to Puritan teaching on the biblical doctrine of adoption. If we as Christians even begin to approach the Puritans’ love of heavenly adoption, we will be spiritually richer for it. Therefore, I highly recommend Dr. Beeke’s book Heirs with Christ: The Puritans on Adoption.
By: Dan Cruver, Co-Founder of Together for Adoption.
Pre-Order: by calling 616-977-0599 or clicking here.
Michael Dewalt is a humanities teacher and junior high assistant football coach at Cair Paravel Latin School in Topeka, KS. There he also serves as a member of the Integrated Humanities Committee and Academic Committee. His undergrad studies are from Word of Life Bible Institute and Clarks Summit University and his graduate studies are from Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary and Faith Theological Seminary. He is a member of Grace Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Lawerence, KS, the Evangelical Theological Society, and the American Society of Church History, and winner of the Zwingli Prize Award at the Calvin500 Conference & Tour in 2009. Michael blogs at Gospel-Centered Musings, has written numerous articles for Logo’s Calvin500, Place for Truth a voice of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, and Heritage Book Talk, and is published in the Puritan Theological Journal. Michael lives in Kansas with his wife, Emily, their son Wyatt Cash, two cats Nutkin and Ariel and dog Brutus.