Yours in Christ: Pastoral Letters from Resurrection, State College

Our Adoption in Christ

Dear Resurrection,

This week’s Yours in Christ installment is a special guest letter from one of Resurrection’s members. A recent profound experience in the life of the Londons’ extended family led Mark to some rich reflections on our inclusion in the family of God. Mark writes:

On Thursday, August 26 my wife, Sherry, and I were blessed to witness the proceedings at the Centre County courthouse for her sister and brother-in-law to legally adopt their foster son, Alex. Part of the proceedings included the sworn testimony of Sherry’s sister and brother-in-law to their affirmation of intent to adopt their new son and to bestow upon him all of the blessings and benefits of a natural born child. Observing this momentous and long-awaited event for their family led me to ponder the parallels between the earthly adoption of children by their parents and the adoption of the believer as a child of God.

In his book Redemption Accomplished and Applied[1] John Murray provides a concise discussion of the nature of adoption and its relationship to the order of the application of the benefits of redemption to the believer. He notes that adoption is different than justification and comments to the effect that whereas justification means “our acceptance with God as righteous and the bestowal of the title to everlasting life”[2] it is different from adoption in that, “By adoption the redeemed become sons and daughters of the Lord God Almighty; they are introduced into and given the privileges of God’s family.”[3] In short, by justification we are declared righteous in the sight of God; in adoption we are graciously granted the status of sons and daughters of God and given all of the privileges of God’s children.

Murray further explains that once we are declared righteous by God through his gracious act of justification, we are then in a position to be adopted as the children of God. God, due to his divine and perfect holiness, cannot adopt children who do not possess the righteousness he demands. This required righteousness is obtained by the believer by the “great exchange” of justification by which the sins of the believer are imputed to Christ and His righteousness is imputed to the believer.  Adoption, then, is next in the sequence of the application of the benefits of redemption to the child of God by which regenerated and justified sinners become sons and daughters of God with all of the benefits and status that such adoption conveys.

Adoption, then, is a separate act of God from justification but is always connected with justification. Those adopted into God’s family are granted the status of children and are given the Spirit of adoption which enables us to cry out to God our Father. It is a transfer of familial affiliation from the alien sinful family of the wicked into the family of God. Adoption is centered on God considering us his children and his being our Father. 1 John 3:1 confirms that God becomes the Father of his children through adoption and that by making himself the father of his children, he also enables us to call Christ our brother as one with whom we share the privileged status of calling God our Father.

But what are these privileges of adoption that the believer is given by God’s grace? The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 12 Of Adoption provides a concise summary of the benefits of adoption in Christ where it states:

All those that are justified, God vouchsafeth, in and for his only Son Jesus Christ, to make  partakers of the grace of adoption, by which they are taken into the number, and enjoy the liberties and privileges of the children of God, have his name put upon them, receive the Spirit of adoption, have access to the throne of grace with boldness, are enabled to cry, Abba, Father, are pitied, protected, provided for, and chastened by him, as by a father: yet never cast off, but sealed to the day of redemption; and inherit the promises, as heirs of everlasting salvation.[4]

Similarly, the Westminster Larger Catechism, Q. 74 What is adoption? affirms:

74. What is adoption?

A. Adoption is an act of the free grace of God, in and for his only Son Jesus Christ, whereby all those that are justified are received into the number of his children, have his name put upon them, the Spirit of his Son given to them, are under his fatherly care and dispensations, admitted to all the liberties and privileges of the sons of God, made heirs of all the promises, and fellow-heirs with Christ in glory.[5]

But one may ask, how are we assured of our adoption in Christ and what are the benefits that accrue to the believer through this adoption? Wilhelmus A’Brakel in his four-volume work The Christian’s Reasonable Service[6] gives a thorough treatment in chapter 35 of volume two to these questions. With regard to the question of how one is assured of adoption in Christ, A’Brakel provides the following comments:[7]

First, one obtains [assurance of] the adoption of children by faith. “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God” (John 1:12); and “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:26).


Secondly, spiritual sonship may be recognized by the bearing of God’s image. A father generates a son according to his image; a human being brings forth a human being, and a child has the same human nature as the parents. The Lord likewise regenerates His children according to His image (cf. Col 3:10; Eph 4:24)

In these brief statements from A’Brakel we see a parallel with natural adoption. One is assured of one’s adoption in Christ by resting in and receiving in faith the same Christ who adopts the regenerated sinner to Himself. By faith we rest upon and receive Christ and are drawn into union with Him, and this same faith provides a foundation upon which our assurance of our adoption rests. As John 1:12 notes, as many as received him (by faith) are given by him power to become sons of God. Moreover, our assurance of adoption is also strengthened by a recognition of our being more and more conformed to Christ’s image as he gradually molds the regenerated sinner into greater likeness to himself. These points by A’Brakel also serve to place our adoption in Christ in between our justification and our sanctification in terms of the process of applying redemption to the believer. The first point above speaks of our resting upon the same justifying faith through which we are united to Christ; the second points to our gradual observation of our growth through sanctifying grace by which Christ brings us into greater conformity with himself.

A’ Brakel further considers several benefits of adoption for the believer where he notes:[8]

1) God cherishes them as His children with a fatherly love. (Jer 31:3)


2) God has His eye upon them as a Father, to keep them so that no evil will befall them. (Ps 121:3-8).


3) Since He preserves them, He cares for them in all that they need according to body and soul, so that they need not be concerned as to what they shall eat and drink and wherewithal they shall be clothed, for their heavenly Father knows what they stand in need of. (Matt 6:25)


4) God has compassion and pity with them in all their bodily and spiritual ailments. It pleases the Lord to lead His children to heaven through many adversities and tribulations, in order that they may thus learn to know and feel their sins, be kept humble, be weaned from the world, be stirred up to prayer, be motivated to trust in Him, attentively acknowledge His help and His preceding grace, give all things into His hands and be satisfied with His government. (Ps 10:14).


5) Since they are His children, God hears and answers them as their loving Father. As children they take refuge to their Father in perplexity and by reason of this relationship they call Him, “Abba, Father!” In an intimate manner they bring their needs before Him, and with tearful eyes they tell Him what their sorrow is. (Luke 11:13; Matt 7:11).


6) Since they are children, they are free (Matt 17:26) and this freedom encompasses several considerations including:

– They are free from the covenant of works (Rom 7:6)

– They are also free from the old ceremonial administration (Gal 5:13)

– They are free from the power of Satan, who will neither have power nor dominion over them as he did prior to their conversion (2 Tim 2:26)

– They are free from the dominion of sin. (Rom 6:14, 22)

– They are free from eternal condemnation (Rom. 8:1) for the truth has made them free (John 8:36), and the Son has made them free.


7) Since they are children, they are also heirs of God; that is, of all the temporal, spiritual, and eternal benefits of the covenant of grace. (Rom 8:17)

These are just some of the many blessings and privileges that the regenerated believer is granted by their adoption in Christ. Many more details could be provided, but the above comments by A’Brakel provide a small taste of the love, grace, mercy, and gracious blessings poured out by our loving Heavenly Father upon his children.

I opened my comments by alluding to the courtroom scene of prospective parents affirming their desire to adopt their son. I hope that my comments above make the point that there is a certain parallel between the act of adoption of a child by human parents and the gracious adoption of the believer in union with Christ. Adoption, in a human sense, confers  great blessings of  love,  support, and  full legal membership and participation of the adopted child in the new family.  Adoption of the regenerated believer by Christ, by extension, confers far greater treasures and blessings of God’s grace upon the believer. Through adoption we are given great privileges as sons and daughters of God and affirmed in our justification and standing before God in Christ. Let us go forth and contemplate the significance of our adoption into Christ’s family with all of its benefits, privileges, and joys that we enjoy in our participation in Him. Let us also approach Him with humility, thankfulness, and gratitude as we praise Him for his continued blessings upon us. Praise our God from whom all of our blessings come!

Yours in Christ,

Mark London

Some scripture verses for consideration: Ephesians 1:5; Gal. 4:4-5; Rom. 8:15-17; 2 Cor. 6:18

[1] Murray, John. Redemption Accomplished and Applied. Grand Rapids, MI: William. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2015.

[2] Ibid., 139.

[3] Ibid., 139.

[4] McMahon, Matthew, and Therese B. McMahon (Eds.). The 1647 Westminster Confession of Faith with Scripture Proofs and Texts from the King James Bible. 3rd ed.  Crossville, TN: Puritan Publications, 2014; pgs. 138-139.

[5] Ibid., 311.

[6] A’ Brakel, Wilhelmus. The Christian’s Reasonable Service. Translated by Bartel Elshout. 4 vols: Reformation Heritage Books, 1992.

[7] Ibid., Vol. 2. 428-429.

[8] Ibid., Vol. 2. 421-424. Reduced and formatted for conciseness and clarity.