Adopted sons of God...
As I mentioned a week ago, our son-in-law and daughter, Doug and Heather Ummel, just adopted a seven month old son, Josiah Henock Ummel, who joined two older brothers, Jonathan and Nathan. You'll understand, then, why I've had adoption on my mind and heart. Adoption is beautiful for many reasons, but most especially because it is copied from the image of God's adoption of those who place their faith in the Lord Jesus, making each of us His son with Jesus our Elder Brother.
There are many occasions for us to doubt God's Word on this. Nevertheless, it is true. Here's a sermon preached on the subject this past March. Two sources heavily depended upon are Robert S. Candlish's, The Fatherhood of God, and Thomas Watson's, The Lord's Prayer.
Abba! Father! IV
We have been adopted by God. And being adopted, we have the Holy Spirit living within us. But how do we know the Holy Spirit lives within us?
Because living within us, the Holy Spirit makes us able to speak a new language to God, calling Him "Father."
Galatians 4:6 Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!"
This is a wonderful truth. Think of it: those of us who believe in Jesus Christ have been adopted by God. And being God's sons, the Holy Spirit cries out in our behalf, "Abba! Father!"
We read of this same truth in Romans 8:15,16:
Romans 8:15, 16 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God...
When we are born again by the Spirit of God, we become brothers of Jesus Christ and sons of His Father, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father. So we witness to and confess our new family relationship, our new sonship, by crying out "Abba! Father!"
But when Jesus commanded His disciples to "pray like this, 'Our father Who art in Heaven...,'" He was not extending this privilege to the world, nor even to all the Jewish people who came out to listen to His teaching. No, He was only extending this privilege to His disciples--those who believed on, and followed Him. And when He taught them to pray to God addressing Him as "Our Father," He was not setting Himself outside of the prayer, but was Himself joining with them in their prayer: "Our Father...."
He was directing them to come to God with Him, to come to His Father riding (as it were) on His coattails; to come trusting that those souls the Son brought to the Father would be blessed with the same relationship to the Father that He had had from all eternity--full sonship.
But can this really be true, that we who believe in the Lord Jesus have the same relationship with Almighty God that His Son has? Can it really be true that through adoption we have come into, not a partial or inferior sonship, but the same quality and kind of sonship that Jesus Christ possesses? Can there really be anything approximating similarity, let alone sameness, in God's Fatherhood towards His Only Begotten Son and His Fatherhood towards us?
There are two errors that must be avoided when it comes to God's Fatherhood.
First, we must avoid the error of thinking and speaking of His Fatherhood as if all men possess it. They don't.
Second, we must avoid the error of thinking and speaking of His Fatherhood as if believers in Jesus Christ possess it only in a partial or inferior way; that we are not really sons and He our Father in the full sense of the words, but rather that we possess a sort of probationary sonship; that He is more our foster-father than our real Father, and that at any moment He might turn us out and be done with us; that we must always be on guard lest our sin or weakness will cause Him to change His mind concerning us.
Two errors we must avoid: first, thinking and speaking of God's Fatherhood as if all men possess it; and second, thinking and speaking of God's Fatherhood as if believers only possess it in a probationary, a partial or temporary way.
The only fatherhood to be claimed by unbelievers is the fatherhood that may be attributed to God as Creator, and this is a fatherhood devoid of the love and tender care God promises those who believe in His Son, Jesus Christ. It is this bare fatherhood-as-Creator that the Apostle Paul acknowledges among the Areopagus in Ancient Greece, agreeing with one of their poets as he says:
Acts 17:24-29 The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; 25 nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; 26 and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, 27 that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we also are His children.'
How true it is that, without Christ Jesus, those who speak of being God's children and of having God as their father are only speaking of the bare minimal aspect of fatherhood--namely, that God made them and hence they have come from Him, that they have their origin in Him. But when it comes to full fatherhood, the fatherhood that preserves and protects and provides for and disciplines and loves a son, God is such a Father only to those who are in union with His eternally begotten Son Jesus Christ.
Only those adopted by God as His sons can call Him Father. There are many passages of Scripture that make this clear.
John 1:12,13 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, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
Not just anyone, but only those who believe on Jesus Christ and by faith receive Him in their hearts are given the right as children of God to call God their Father. Why?
Because they are the only ones who are born again of the Spirit of God.
It is explicitly said, here, that they are not born "of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man." It is not a natural or human birth that is being spoken of here--the generation of which man is capable of himself.
Rather, it is a supernatural birth that only God Himself can give to us, through the power of His Holy Spirit alone.
So those who have only been born into the family of man may never call God "father" as Jesus did. Since they have only been born of the womb of a woman, they are only the children of man.
But those who have been born of a woman, and also born a second time--reborn of God, are the children of God and have all the rights and privileges thereof, the first one being the privilege of coming into God's presence crying "Abba! Father!"
Only those adopted by God may call Him "Father."
1Johhn 2:28-31 Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. 29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him. 1 See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.
Here note that "everyone...who practices righteousness is born of Him," born of God. As children of God, we have received the love of God the Father. But the world doesn't recognize our kinship with God because the world, also, doesn't know God Himself.
Only those adopted by God may call Him "Father."
Ephesians 1:3-7 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.
Being adopted is not a haphazard thing, coming to us by pure luck or blind fate. Rather, it is something that has been in the works since "before the foundation of the world." God chose each one of His children by name, He predestined us to adoption as His sons through Jesus Christ.
He determined we would be saved; we would be blessed with every spiritual blessing; we would be holy and blameless. His love was set on us to the end that we would be taken into His Family, younger brothers to His Son Jesus Christ.
Only out of the kind intention of His will did this happen, and only for the praise of His glory--not in any way to our credit. All this has been freely bestowed on the children of the Heavenly Father through His beloved Son.
Through His Beloved we have been redeemed, through His blood we have forgiveness for our sins.
How rich is His grace! How very rich, made richer as we gaze across history and see that the way is broad, and many are on it, that leads to destruction.
So again, this hard truth: Only those adopted by God may call Him "Father."
Luke 12:13-20 Someone in the crowd said to Him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me." 14 But He said to him, "Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?" 15 Then He said to them, "Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions." 16 And He told them a parable, saying, "The land of a rich man was very productive. 17 "And he began reasoning to himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?' 18 "Then he said, 'This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 'And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry."' 20 "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?'"
Note how when Jesus deals with the crowd, responding to their question concerning money and a family inheritance, he does not speak to them of their Heavenly Father, but of Almighty God, the Judge of all the earth Who decrees concerning specific souls, "You fool! This very night your soul is required of you!"
But then Jesus turned from the crowd--the Jewish crowd, mind you--to His disciples, and what He had to say to His disciples was a very different thing from what He had answered the crowd.
Note how this passage begins with the statement, "He said to His disciples." Here we are dealing with those who trusted in, and followed, Jesus. Those who belonged to Him and He to them:
Luke 12:22-32 And He said to His disciples, "For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. 23 "For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 "Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds! 25 "And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life's span? 26 "If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters? 27 "Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 28 "But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith! 29 "And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying. 30 "For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. 31 "But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you. 32 "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom."
Toward those who don't believe and who are striving to protect their rightful inheritance, their wealth, Jesus speaks harshly, with severity warning them very sternly that they are headed for hell. And He gives them none of the family privileges, referring to their Maker and Judge simply as "God."
But then when He turns to His disciples He is all tenderness and promise, encouraging those who believe in Him not to spend a minute worrying about their wealth but to put their trust in Him, in His Father and theirs.
This same God Who, to the unbeliever, is Judge of the whole earth, is the believer's Provider, Seamstress or Tailor, and Defender. He is our solicitous and always watchful Father and everything we need comes from His hand.
Jesus simply commands His disciples not to fear, but to trust completely in His Father's loving care:
Verse 32: Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom."
To unbelievers, God is Judge of the whole earth; to believers, He is Father of His "little flock."
And as we see in the distinction between the name Jesus uses to refer to God with the two groups--"God" with the first group but "Father" with the second--so also we see the same distinction in the name Jesus gives to those who believe in Him. He calls them "little flock."
Not "beloved flock," although that too is true; not "sheltered flock" or "flock," but "little flock."
Only those adopted by God may call Him "Father."
The whole world sees God's fatherhood in only a very limited way, the way the Greek poets spoke of God as the One in Whom all things have their origin and before Whose Judgment Seat all men shall stand.
Synonyms: 'originator:' author, architect, maker, creator.
But to His adopted children, God gives infinitely more of His Fatherhood.
What then is the nature of our sonship, and how is it proved to us?
Our Family Emotions Prove Our Sonship:
If we are children of the Heavenly Father, we melt in tears for our sin :
A wicked man may mourn for the bitter fruit of sin, but only a child of God can grieve for its odious nature. (Thomas Watson)
If we are children of the Heavenly Father, we are filled with sympathy toward Him and zealous in defense of His reputation:
A child takes his Father's reputation personally and is hurt more by evil things said or done to his Dad than to himself.
If we are children of the Heavenly Father, we love Him:
John 21:15 So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus *said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?" He *said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You."
Proofs of True Love:
If we are children of the Heavenly Father, we love His Day, the Lord's Day:
Isaiah 58:13, 14 If because of the sabbath, you turn your foot From doing your own pleasure on My holy day, And call the sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable, And honor it, desisting from your own ways, From seeking your own pleasure And speaking your own word, 14 Then you will take delight in the LORD, And I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; And I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, For the mouth of the LORD has spoken."
Love for His children:
1 John 5:1 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him."
Our honoring God proves our family identity:
Malachi 1:6 A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect?' says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests who despise My name. But you say, 'How have we despised Your name?'
Our resemblance to our Heavenly Father proves our family identity:
Colossians 3:10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him...
The presence of God's Holy Spirit in us proves our family identity:
Galatians 4:6 Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!"
Romans 8:15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!"
Our desire to be near our Heavenly Father proves our family identity:
Psalms 73:25-28 Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 27 For, behold, those who are far from You will perish; You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You. 28 But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, That I may tell of all Your works.
What Are the Joys of Having God as Our Father?
Our being taught of God proves we are sons:
Isaiah 48:17 Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, "I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to profit, Who leads you in the way you should go.
Psalms 71:17 O God, You have taught me from my youth, And I still declare Your wondrous deeds.
Matthew 10:18-20 and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. 19 "But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. 20 "For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.
But let us look not only at the proofs of our sonship; let us also look at the benefits, the blessings of our sonship:
If God is our Father, He holds us in deep affection:
Ephesians 3:17-19 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
2Corinthians 1:3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort...
Isaiah 46:4 Even to your old age I will be the same, And even to your graying years I will bear you! I have done it, and I will carry you; And I will bear you and I will deliver you.
Isaiah 62:3 You will also be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, And a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
Psalms 105:14, 15 He permitted no man to oppress them, And He reproved kings for their sakes: 15 "Do not touch My anointed ones, And do My prophets no harm."
Matthew 18:20 For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.
If God is our Father, He will be full of sympathy:
Psalms 103:13 Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.
Zechariah 2:8 For thus says the LORD of hosts, "After glory He has sent me against the nations which plunder you, for he who touches you, touches the apple of His eye.
If God is our Father, He will notice even the smallest good in us:
Psalms 38:9 Lord, all my desire is before You; And my sighing is not hidden from You.
If God is our Father, He will correct us:
Proverbs 3:11, 12 My son, do not reject the discipline of the LORD Or loathe His reproof, 12 For whom the LORD loves He reproves, Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.
If God is our Father, He will give us mercy along with our afflictions:
Psalms 103:8-14 The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. 9 He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forever. 10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. 12 As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. 13 Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him. 14 For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.
If God is our Father, Satan will not be able to steal us:
Romans 16:20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.
If God is our Father, He will not allow real evil to befall us:
Psalms 91:9, 10 For you have made the LORD, my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place. 10 No evil will befall you, Nor will any plague come near your tent.
And when He does afflict us, the affliction is for our perfecting:
Hebrews 12:10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.
If God is our Father, He allows us into His presence and we may come boldly:
Matthew 7:7-11 Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 "For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 "Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? 10 "Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? 11 "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!
If God is our Father, He will shield us from danger:
Psalms 27:5 For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; In the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock.
Psalms 91:4 He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.
Hebrews 1:14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?
Psalms 34:7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, And rescues them.
If God is our Father, He will give us everything which is good for us:
Psalms 34:10 The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; But they who seek the LORD shall not be in want of any good thing.
Matthew 11:25-30 At that time Jesus said, "I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. 26 "Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. 27 "All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. 28 "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. 30 "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
If God is our Father, all the promises of the Bible are ours:
When we address God as "Our Father," we are praying in the name of Jesus because it is only on the basis of the blood of Jesus washing away our sins that anyone would dare to call God 'Father.'
John 1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name...
If God is our Father, then, let us not fail to avail ourselves of all the benefits of our adoption:
Let us boldly approach the throne of grace knowing that even if a mother may abandon the baby at her breast, our Heavenly Father will not abandon us:
Psalm 27:10 When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up.
Isaiah 49:15 Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.
Let us not be timid because of our sins and failures remembering that if on earth, no one is in a better position to seek mercy at the father's hand than his own beloved son, so God looks at us as His beloved sons, adopted into His Heavenly Family, and we may, therefore, come close to Him confidently knowing that, as the father of the prodigal son awaited his son's return with great patience and love, so our Heavenly Father awaits our return with all the mercy of His eternal being at our disposal.
* Calvin in His Section of the Institutes on the Lord's Prayer writes:
And the better to assure us that he is such a Father if we are Christians, he has been pleased to be called not only a Father, but our Father, as if we were pleading with him after this manner, O Father, who art possessed of so much affection for thy children, and art so ready to forgive, we thy children approach thee and present our requests, fully persuaded that thou hast no other feelings towards us than those of a father, though we are unworthy of such a parent.
Since we pray saying 'our,' not 'my' Father, let us hold in deep affection all the members of His Family with whom we have fellowship here on earth. And let us take our concerns to Him knowing He is listening, and since He is in Heaven, that He has all the power and authority to answer:
1Peter 5:6,7 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.
Philippians 4:5, 6 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
1John 3:1 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.
God isn't everybody's Father. Is He your Father?
John 8:39-47 They answered and said to Him, "Abraham is our father." Jesus *said to them, "If you are Abraham's children, do the deeds of Abraham. 40 "But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do. 41 "You are doing the deeds of your father." They said to Him, "We were not born of fornication; we have one Father: God." 42 Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me. 43 "Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. 44 "You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 "But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me. 46 "Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me? 47 "He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God."
John 17:26 ...and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.