The Doctrine of Adoption


The Doctrine of Adoption

November 5th, 1972 @ 8:15 AM

Galatians 4:5-7

To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

Galatians 4:5-7

11-05-72     8:15 a.m.


On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church.  This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Doctrine of Adoption.  In our preaching through the Book of Galatians we have come to chapter 4, and this is the text:

Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be the lord of all;

But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.

Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:

But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law,

To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.

Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

[Galatians 4:1-7]

And as Paul wrote it in the eighth chapter of Romans, “A joint-heir of Christ” [Romans 8:17]; with all of the inheritance of God’s riches in creation—ours, as a son.

First, as I read the passage, here is the Trinity beautifully set forth: “God our Father, God sent forth His Son, our Savior, and God hath sent forth the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, in our hearts, crying, Abba Father” [Galatians 4:4,6].  The Trinity:  God our Father, God our Savior, and God the Holy Spirit in our hearts.  God our Father, who, according to His rich, glorious mercies, raised Jesus Christ from the dead, and hath begotten us to a living hope in Him: God our Father [1 Peter 1:3].  God our Savior, by whose precious blood we are redeemed, bought back from the slavery of damnation and hell into the glorious liberty of the sons of God [1 Peter 1:18-19].  And God the Holy Spirit, who hath regenerated us, illuminated us, given us the seal of His presence in our hearts [Ephesians 4:30], that we might be assured that we are the children of God [Galatians 4:6], and who someday also shall raise us like our Savior from the dead [1 Corinthians 15:22].  The Trinity:  God our Father, God our Savior, God our Holy Spirit in the hearts of the believer [Galatians 4:4, 6].

Not sacrilegiously but demonstrably I’m going to do something now, and you’ll see by the demonstration how it fits in the faith and in your soul.  If I were to pray to Lincoln, bow my knees and pray to Abraham Lincoln, or pray to George Washington, or pray to some pagan god—like Krishna or Mahavira or Buddha—I would feel like an idolater.  Now, you may bow your head or not; if you’d like to watch me do it, that’s fine, but I’m going to pray to each person of the Godhead, and I want you to see how perfectly it fits in the faith and in your heart.  I’m going to pray to God our Father.  As Paul wrote in the third chapter of the Book of Ephesians, “For this cause I bow my knees unto God our Father” [Ephesians 3:14].  Now you listen.

O God our Father, we thank Thee for all the rich blessings that sustain and bless our lives, for Jesus our Savior, for the church and its precious fellowship, and for Thy every benedictory remembrance.  We love Thee and thank Thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord, amen.

When I pray to God our Father, there is a sense of appropriateness, of reverence and devotion in our souls.  I shall now pray to Jesus.  And you’ll find the same sense in your heart.

O blessed Jesus, our precious and wonderful Savior, may Thy hands of healing touch our sick.  May Thy comforting presence encourage those who know sorrow and pain and distress.  Our Lord, in the hour of our need, stand by us.  Some day, Master, receive us to Thyself in glory, in Thy dear name, amen.

Didn’t you have the same sense of appropriateness when I prayed to Jesus as when I prayed to God our Father in His name?  Now, I’m going to bow and pray to the Holy Spirit; and you’ll have that same sense apropos, in keeping with the deepest meaning of the faith.

O Holy Spirit of God, fall fresh upon us.  Quicken our souls, Illuminate our minds, teach us the deep unfathomable truths and meanings of the Holy Scriptures.  Reveal to us the person of our Savior.  Help us to love Him more, to give our lives to Him the more completely.  Move in every heart in divine presence.  May we feel in our souls the joy and the praise and the glory of the presence of God.  Holy Spirit divine, fall fresh on us; humbly we ask in the name of our Savior, whom Thou dost glorify in the earth, and reveal to us as our Lord forever, amen.

We know God exactly as Paul presents Him here in the inspired Scriptures.  We know Him as God our Father, we know Him as God our Savior, and we know Him as God the Holy Spirit in our hearts, incarnate in His church [Galatians 4:4, 6].  And we sing a beautiful doxology in praise of all three.  Gary, I want you to come up here and have your choir stand and sing one of those doxologies, one of those praises to all three, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  Gary, come and do it now.

Glory be to the Father,

And to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.

As it was in the beginning,

Is now, and ever shall be,

World without end,

Amen, amen.

[“Doxology,” traditional]

Don’t you sense the appropriateness of that?

Glory be to the Father,

And to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.

As it was in the beginning,

Is now, and ever shall be,

World without end,

Amen, amen

All right, everybody stand and sing it together.

Glory be to the Father,

And to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost

As it was in the beginning,

Is now, and ever shall be

World without end,

Amen, amen

Amen, thank you, thank you.

Not only that, does he present here in the Holy Scriptures the Trinity, by whom we come to know God in experience––not that any man can explain the unfathomable, the unutterable, the being of God; we know Him in experience as Father, as Savior, and as Spirit in our hearts––not only does Paul present that in our passage, but he says something here that is precious beyond compare.  “God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” [Galatians 4:4-5], huiothesia.  Huio, the word huios is “son”; thesia would be “placing,” the “placing”: the placing of a son, placing of a son in a family; an adopted son.

Three times is that word used by the apostle Paul, and he only, and it is only in the New Testament that you find it, no other.  Huiothesia is a New Testament word.  In the eighth chapter of Romans, “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father” [Romans 8:15]; our Father, “Though by nature we are the children of wrath” [Ephesians 2:3] and of bondage; the servants of sin, a dying specimen, a dying race, yet by the Spirit of adoption we cry, “Abba, Father!” [Romans 8:15].

Then in the same passage, “Not only the whole creation, but we ourselves groan waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” [Romans 8:22-23]  Here using that word “adoption” as being that now it is just partially we see its meaning.  Our bodies are still dying, they are corrupting, but someday there will be the whole glorious presentation of what it is to be a child of God; namely, when we shall be raised from the dead, when our bodies shall be quickened [Ephesians 2:1-5].  Then Paul uses the passage here in the text, in the fourth chapter of the Book of Galatians [Galatians 4:4-6].

Adoption: by nature we are lost.  There is no such a thing in the Bible as the universal fatherhood of God, and the universal brotherhood of man.  Only in the sense that God created the universe is He a universal Father [Genesis 1:1].  But by nature, by the way we are, we are sinful people, and sin shuts us out from God [Isaiah 59:1-2].  But in Christ we have been redeemed [1 Peter 1:18-19], and by the Holy Spirit we have been regenerated.  We have been born again into the family of God, and that’s what Paul calls huiothesia, adoption; the placing of a son, of a child into the family of the Father [Galatians 4:5-6].

Now, the privileges of that adoption are glorious indeed.  “Wherefore, thou art no more a doulos” translated here, servant.  Doulos is the word for slave.  “Wherefore thou art no more a doulos, but a huios, a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” [Galatians 4:7].  That is, in days past we have been slaves and servants, and trying with feeble human ability to achieve some kind of a rapport with God, and failing at it completely.  Under the law, under the types, under the old covenant, the more we struggled, the more we emphasize and demonstrate our lostness, our sinfulness.  Everything we do has in it that lack, even our worship and our prayers and our love.

None is perfect.  All of it marks our feebleness and our humanity and our mistakes.  We are sinful, lost people [Romans 3:23].  But these efforts and these human achievements by which we would commend ourselves to God are as nothing in His sight [Isaiah 64:6], for we are adopted into the family of God without any of those efforts on our parts, without any commendation to God [Galatians 4:4-6]; just that He loved us and sent His Son to die for us [John 3:16], and to redeem us to Himself [Galatians 4:5].  And He adopts us into His family and we’re no longer servants, but sons and heirs with Christ [Galatians 4:7].

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.  I heard of a little orphan newsboy who lived in the big city out on the streets, in these years of the long ago.  And on a beautiful Sunday morning he was walking down the streets, the little ragged dirty boy, orphan boy, with newspapers in his hand, crying his newspapers.

And as he walked down the street, he passed by a beautiful palatial home.  Oh, the green swards were so beautifully trimmed, and the fountains were flowing, and the spacious house with its driveway was so impressive!  And the little boy wandered into the grounds and looked.  And he finally came up on the porch of the beautiful mansion and looked, and, not intending, he just found himself at the door, punching the doorbell.

And Mr. Lowry, the great businessman, came to the door.  And the little lad was startled and frightened at what he’d done.  And standing there looking at the big man, he just blurted out, he said, “Oh, mister, do you have a little boy?”  And Mr. Lowry said, “No.  My wife and I have never had any children.  I don’t have a little boy.”  And the lad said, “Oh, I wish I were your little boy, and that I could play on this lawn; and nobody order me away and tell me to get out.  Oh,” he said, “mister, I’d give you everything I have if I could be your little boy.”

And one of those strange turns of fortune, Mr. Lowry turned around and called upstairs and said, “Mrs. Lowry, come down here.”  And the queenly woman came down the gorgeous stairway, and stood by the side of her husband, looked at that dirty little urchin, and Mr. Lowry said, “Dear, would you like to have a little boy?”  She was overwhelmed, and said, “Yes, oh yes!”  And he turned to the little lad and said, “Would you like to be our little boy?”  And the lad was overwhelmed.

“Oh,” he said, “Oh, I’d give anything I have, everything I have to be your boy!”  And the father said, “Son, come in.”  And the little boy reached in his pocket and pulled out all that he had, thirteen pennies, and said, “This is all I have.”  And the big man stooped down and pressed them in his hand and said, “Son, I have more than enough for both you and me.  Come in.”  And he adopted that little boy, and he became Mr. Lowry’s son.

That is exactly what God has done for us.  And when we offer Him our little, feeble works to buy it, He presses it back in our hands and says, “No.  No.  You don’t purchase it.  You don’t buy it.  It’s a gift of God [Ephesians 2:8].  You are adopted into the family of our Lord” [Galatians 4:4-6].  No longer a servant, no longer a slave, no longer a doulos, laboring and working, but you are now a son and an heir with Jesus Christ [Galatians 4:7].

Second, the glorious privileges: in days passed, we were under tutors and governors, until the time appointed of the Father. But when the fullness of those days was come, God sent forth His Son to redeem us out of that childhood [Galatians 4:4-5]—out of those tutors, and governors, and paidagōgoi—and now we are mature.  We’ve come of age.  We are sons, and we have been adopted into the family of God [Galatians 4:6-7].  What an amazing thing that is!

In the days of the Romans, when a young man reached the age of twenty-five, he put on the toga, and he was a Roman citizen, standing before the state, walking in the dignity of those who ruled the whole world.  Sort of a like a bar mitzvah.  When a boy becomes of age in the Jewish family, they have a celebration.  The young fellow is now looked upon as a man.

So an identical thing here: in Christ we are citizens [Philippians 3:20], we are in the family!  We’re not under types, in shadows and in all of those rituals, but we have come of age.  We are mature now.  We are joint-heirs with Christ! [Romans 8:17].  We are sons with Jesus [Romans 8:14-16].  Oh, the glory of that, a joint-heir with Christ [Romans 8:17], ruling the whole universe with Him, sitting on thrones of judgment with Him [Revelation 3:21], judging angels [1 Corinthians 6:3], judging Israel, all twelve tribes [Matthew 19:28], judging the whole earth [1 Corinthians 6:2].  Oh, I don’t know what all that means!

This week, I was in a car with a man who had been just converted, and his family.  And he asked me, oh, so many questions, but one of them was “When we get to heaven, do we just sit on a cloud?  What shall we do in glory?”  I said, “Did you know that is a caricature of glory—a man up there with a polished halo, spread wings or folded wings, and sitting on a cloud?”  I said, “You know, it seems to me, if I can understand the spirit of the Bible at all, it seems to me that our home [John 14:1-3], the house where we live will be in the holy city, the New Jerusalem, the golden city of God [Revelation 21:1-3].  That’ll be our house.  That’ll be our street address.  That’ll be where our home is, where we live, in the New Jerusalem, but the whole creation will be ours to administer and to govern [2 Timothy 2:12], and we can go from place to place as rapidly as I can in imagination.  In a moment in my mind I can be in Hong Kong, or Afghanistan, or Burma, or Rio de Janeiro, or in Alaska, in a moment.  And the whole universe will be ours like that.

And as God made the universe and placed it under the anointing cherub [Ezekiel 28:14], under Lucifer, and Lucifer lost it in sin [Ezekiel 28:2-8].  God created Adam and said to him, “Have dominion over it” [Genesis 1:26-28].  And that’s why Lucifer hated the first pair.  And outside the gate, [was] that sinister figure to destroy them, because God had given the great inheritance to Adam and said, “Subdue it, and rule over it” [Genesis 1:26-28].  But of course there came the story of the Fall, and our fall ever since [Genesis 3:1-6].

But what was lost in Adam [1 Corinthians 15:22] is more than restored to us in Christ [Romans 8:16-17], and in the glorious eternity that is to come, God will place back in our hands the administration of the whole universe!  As He said to one of His servants, “Thou hast been faithful; be thou the administrator, the ruler over ten cities” [Luke 19:17]—and He could have said “ten continents,” or He could have said “ten stars” or “ten Milky Ways” just as well.  And He said to another, “Be thou ruler over five cities” [Luke 19:19], or “over five planets”: the whole universe is to be administrated.  And that’s what that means when it says that we are to be a child of God, and a joint-heir with Christ [Romans 8:16-17]: the whole creation of God, the riches of it, the glory of it, the vast infinitude of it, all of it is to be a part of our inheritance, and we’re going to live and reign with our Lord [Revelation 22:3-5], a joint-heir, a fellow son of God with our blessed Jesus [Romans 8:14-17].

Well, I just got started, I have to quit.  I have no idea how the time passes.  It’s a glorious thing that God has for us.  Oh, if I can just come to know it and to realize it!  I just have to close with that expression of the apostle Paul: “Eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, nor has it entered into the heart of a man, the imagination of a man, what God hath prepared for those who love Him” [1 Corinthians 2:9].

We sing our invitation hymn, our song of appeal.  And while we sing it, you, in the balcony round, on the lower floor, a family, a couple, or just you, as the Spirit of the Lord shall press the appeal to your heart, come now.  Make it now.  On the first note of the first stanza, come, and the dear Lord and the blessed Spirit of Christ guide you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.