But when the fullness of 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 for the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Gal 4.4-6)
There is a fraternal relationship among those in the “adoption community.” Someone who is adopted is not generally readily forthcoming with that information. But when they hear that we adopt children they say, “Hey, I was adopted, too!” They’re glad to find company with others in the world of the “unwanted.”
That said, I venture today into the Gal 4.4-6 room. Adoption describes more than how I relate to God (or better, how God relates to me). It’s primarily that, but it’s not entirely that. Adoption also describes how I relate to my other adopted brothers and sisters in the family of Christ.
Paul uses precise language in Gal 4.5: we (1st person plural apolabomen) receive the adoption (singular huiothesian). We all share together in the same adoption. The gospel is the great equalizer despite our Christian classes (born-again, Spirit-filled, emergent, fundamental, contemporary, etc.). We don’t all receive our own specialized adoption that we hoard and share alone with God.
There is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all (Eph 4.4-6); and might I add “one adoption.” We’re all born equally estranged from God and equally desperate for God’s grace to declare us in fact what we’re not by nature – his sons and daughters. When I meet another believer I meet an adopted brother or sister in Christ. We may not share the same sanctification progress, but we can joyfully say, “Hey, I was adopted, too! Wasn’t the day of our Father’s justifying grace a sweet day!” As vines vitally connected to the same Branch we’re also vitally connected to one another (Jn 15.5; cf. Rom 12.5; Eph 4.25).
Our oldest (and adopted) daughter Lydia understands this better than I even though she doesn’t know all the fancy language. She has two new siblings who showed upon our doorstep one day (literally!). She knows she’s adopted and she knows we’re soon to adopt her brother and sister. Adoption is a no-brainer to her as though that’s the way it’s suppose to be. She doesn’t care from whence they came or that people have to come “see” her siblings from time to time. She shares the same last name and that’s all she needs to call them brother and “Sissy.” Oh, to have the same childlike love for one another within the church!
Adoption is not a nice doctrine to describe God’s work of salvation. Adoption is the outworking of the gospel by which we all cry out to our common Father. Adoption is the gospel’s power to make otherwise estranged, unrelated people into one glorious, harmonius, peaceful family. Risking extremism, I dare say we can understand the nature of the church apart from the theme of adoption.
This came into sharper focus one night last week. We were sitting in the van waiting for Mom to come out of a store. Out of nowhere (from where all kid’s questions come) Lidi asks, “Dad, has Mom gone to get us another brother. We need another brother.” It’s just that easy for her! Moisty-eyed I said, “No, honey, Mom’s not gone to get another brother. That’s not exactly how it works.” A few minutes pass when another woman came out of the store with a son in tow (it was dark, mind you). Lidi exclaimed, “There’s Mommy with our new brother!” before she realized it was someone else. She caught herself and then asked, “Dad, whose belly is our brother in right now?” I know, pass the Kleenex.
I pray for the same eagerness for adoption in the family of Christ. “Our Great Heavenly Father, where is our new brother and sister right now? Where are you preparing them and when will you send us to get them? Please send us to them soon so we can welcome them into the family?” Maybe Lidi can teach me about that some day.