The doctrine of adoption is vital to a proper understanding of salvation. Too often, we as believers think of salvation as being limited to a single instant, that wonderful moment of regeneration. It’s the “walking the aisle” or “sinner’s prayer” mentality. When we do this, we shortchange the majesty of what God has done for us, ignoring every other aspect of the salvific process from predestination all the way through glorification, and everything in between. Every step of the salvific process is of equal magnitude—there is no one part more important than the other. This is because all the steps are bound together. A person cannot experience one without experiencing all. There is no regeneration without predestination. There is no glorification without sanctification. There is no adoption without justification, and so on, and so on. Romans 8:18-30 fleshes this out more clearly than perhaps anywhere else in the Bible:
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we await for it with patience.
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
Understanding salvation as a process allows us to fully appreciate the magnitude of what God has done for us by sovereignly orchestrating His will to come to pass. When we are saved, we experience:
• Predestination – God’s gracious choice of a sinful people before the foundation of the world, based not on our merit, but on his good graces.
• Calling – An irresistible beckoning to come to the Father.
• Regeneration – That glorious moment when God grants saving faith and true repentance to an unwilling sinner, overcoming resistance to himself.
• Justification – God removing the guilt and penalties of sin through the substitutionary atonement of Christ.
• Reconciliation – God ending the separation caused by sin.
• Adoption –God inviting the sinner into his family, granting the full set of rights, privileges, and responsibilities that go along with it.
• Sanctification – The process of being made holy.
• Glorification – The final consummation of salvation, when God removes all effects of a fallen world from his people.
Understanding the theological significance behind the doctrine of adoption has been the key motivation for me wanting to adopt. While God first planted the seed of adoption in Emmie’s heart while she was working in Romanian orphanages before we even met, God planted the seed of adoption in my heart through coming to a fuller understanding of the gospel and salvation.
We both believe that physical adoption is a great metaphor for spiritual adoption. God graciously chose spiritual orphans who had done nothing to earn that favor and brought them into his family—completely and permanently. In a similar fashion, families who adopt choose a child with no family of his own and bring that child to share in the inheritance and commitment of family. It’s a beautiful portrait of God’s grace, and one that I would never have been open to without the gracious work of God in my own life. We have a strong hope in Christ that one day, He will adopt all of our children to be a part of his family. I thank God for the work he has done and pray that many more families will come to know the joy of adopting a child.