doctrine

Some of the greatest people I know have fostered and adopted little ones into their home. There is just something right and wonderful about a family making a home for a child in need.

Adoption is a glorious concept. Theologically, adoption is the aspect of salvation whereby God brought us into his family.

Paul highlights adoption in the book of Romans.

14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Romans 8:14-17 (emphasis mine)

In the Old Testament, God’s people were a specific nation. God chose Abraham and his descendants (Isaac, Jacob, and the patriarchs), to be his people. To be identified with God in the Old Testament was to be a part of the Hebrew people. But even in the Old Testament, there were promises that God’s people would include more than a race (Hosea 1:9-10; Psalm 96).

In the New Testament, God fulfilled these promises in the doctrine of adoption. God adopted those into his family who were not previously part of his family. This is the promise for every believer. We are now children of God (John 1:12), and as children of God, we are heirs of God (1 Peter 1:3-5).

Upon hearing they were adopted through Christ, the first believers would have been astounded. According to Roman law, when someone was adopted into a family, they could never be disinherited. A biological child could be disinherited, but not an adopted one. Used in this context, the doctrine of adoption is not only glorious, but it is also guaranteed. God will never disinherit us once he’s chosen us for his family.

Adoption is a great blessing that reflects the love of God for us.

Justification is the basic blessing, on which adoption is founded; adoption is the crowning blessing, to which justification clears the way. J. I. Packer (quoted in The Preacher’s Catechism, 97). 

J. I. Packer (quoted by Lewis Allen in The Preacher’s Catechism, 97). 

Because we have been declared right with God through justification, we can be made into sons and daughters of God. God adopted us into his family, giving us a family. We belong to Someone, our Heavenly Father. We have the greatest big Brother, Jesus Christ. And we have a universal family, all our brothers and sisters in Christ.

But not only does adoption give us a family, adoption makes us heirs of God. We will share in the abundance and wealth of our Heavenly Father. Sinclair Ferguson describes our inheritance this way:

According to the Law, as Paul knew, the firstborn son received a double inheritance, while all the others received a single portion (Deut. 21:17; cf. 2 Kings 2:9). But neither the Father nor the Son binds Himself to the limits of the Law. Paul declares: “[We are all] heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17). Do you see the implication? All that belongs to the last Adam is for us. As the early church fathers delighted in saying, Christ took what was ours so that we might receive what was His. All that is His is ours: “All things are yours:… the world or life or death, or things present or things to come-all are yours. And you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s” (1 Cor. 3:21-23).

Sinclair Ferguson, In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life (kindle edition, locations 1015-1019)

You may or may not have much in this life. But if you have been adopted into the family of God, you have all that belongs to Christ. As adopted heirs of the One True King, we are rich.

  • The blessing of adoption should make us grateful. God adopted us. He chose us to be part of his family. That is a glorious thought.
  • The blessing of adoption should make us joyful. We have God, and God has us. We can rejoice no matter our circumstances in life because we belong to the God who rules all things.
  • The blessing of adoption should make us evangelistic. God doesn’t want a small family. The bigger, the better. The more, the merrier. We should share the good news of Christ because all who repent and believe receive the gift of being children of God.
  • The blessing of adoption should make us generous. God owns everything, and as his children we inherit what he has. We can be generous with what he has blessed us with, for there is so much more to inherit.

Photo by Mayur Gala on Unsplash

This week’s word is a theological term, soteriology. It means the doctrine of salvation.

Previous posts on atonement, redemption, regeneration, election, and justification address various aspects of the doctrine of salvation. Future posts will unpack more specific aspects of the doctrine.

As a panoramic view of the mountains contains multifaceted views, colors, shadows, and wonder so the doctrine of soteriology is dynamic and beautiful. The aim of this post is to remind us of the wonder, grandeur, and multifaceted glory of the doctrine of soteriology.

We often think of the Bible as a book about salvation. And it is. But the Bible is about more than salvation for us, the Bible is a book about God and his glory. In God’s greatness and glory, he sent his only Son, Jesus Christ to earth. Jesus came to earth to reveal God (John 1:14), to show us God’s love (John 3:16), to set us free through the truth (John 8:32), and to offer us eternal life by knowing him (John 17:3). In truth, Jesus is the storyline of Scripture.

As regards humanity, Jesus came to earth to be our Savior and our Lord.

Why do we need this doctrine? Why do we need salvation?

The doctrine of soteriology connects with the doctrines of humanity (who we are), sin (why we need salvation), and Christ (the One who saves). We need salvation from Jesus Christ because we have been made in God’s image (Genesis 1:28). We need salvation from Jesus Christ because we are sinners who have broken God’s laws (Genesis 3; Romans 3:23). We need salvation because unless God saves, we are hopeless to save ourselves.

The various aspects of soteriology teach us glorious truths about our salvation.

  • In election we learn that God planned our salvation from eternity.
  • In regeneration we learn that God made us alive from our condition of being spiritually dead.
  • In atonement we learn that Jesus became our substitute so that our sin could be paid for.
  • In redemption we learn that God bought us out of our slavery to sin and freed us.
  • In justification we learn that God declares us righteous through Christ.
  • In sanctification we learn that God made us holy and is working in us to make us more like Christ.
  • In adoption we learn that God chose us to be in his family and has made us his heirs.
  • In union with Christ we learn that God has given us a unique personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
  • In glorification we learn that God will give us eternal, glorious bodies like that of the risen Christ.

And there are more aspects to salvation than just these.

We often ask, “Are you saved?” And that’s an appropriate question. But it is multifaceted and more glorious than we can possibly imagine.

The doctrine of soteriology puts us in our appropriate place in the universe. The glories, depths, and wonders of our salvation far exceed our own personal experiences in being saved. God’s work in salvation is eternal in its scope (from before creation until after consummation), universal in its extent (available for the entire world), costly in its accomplishment (Jesus gave his life), personal in its invitation (for you and for me), and glorious in its result (God’s redemption of us through Christ reveals his glory).

What do we do with this doctrine?

First, receive it. If you have not yet repented of your sin and trusted in Christ alone, then do so now. Admit you are a sinner. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ alone for your salvation. Commit your life to Jesus as Lord.

Second, worship from it. If you have received Jesus as Lord and Savior, then worship the God who did so much to bring you salvation. He is worthy. Let your salvation drive your worship of the Lord who loves you.

Third, learn about it. Don’t just be content that you are saved. Read Scripture, learn about God, go to church, listen in a small group, read good theological books. Our salvation is deeper and more glorious than we can ever fathom, and yet God gives us the privilege to know him and know his saving work in our lives.

Fourth, share it with others. Be thankful that God loves you, and sent Jesus to save you. But God does not just want to save you only. He sent Jesus to save the world. Be a witness to God’s saving work for someone else.