What does it mean to be adopted into God's family?


When was the first time you heard about the concept of adoption?  For me, it was during a friend's birthday party in elementary school. I was informed by someone there that one of our friends had been adopted. I didn't know much about what adoption was, but I was told that I wasn't supposed to repeat that information. It was almost as if adoption was something scandalous when really it's something beautiful.

Adoption is a biblical concept that is spoken well of in the Scriptures.  There are four examples of adoption in God's word that stand out to me right away.

  • In Exodus 2:10, we're told about Moses who was adopted by Pharaoh's daughter.

  • In Esther 2:7 we're told about Esther who was adopted by her cousin Mordecai.

  • In Matthew 1:24-25, we're told about Joseph who adopted Jesus Christ and raised Him as if He was his own child.

What's the fourth example? The fourth example is you. If you have faith in Jesus as your Savior, you have been adopted into the family of God.

“even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,
— Ephesians 1:4-5

This is a wonderful gift, and undeserved privilege that's worth being explored. What then are the benefits of being adopted into God's family?



“So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 
— Romans 8:12-14, ESV

Several years ago, my wife and I updated our wills. That's a necessary task for responsible people, but it isn't my favorite task to complete. One of the questions we had to answer was, "Are there any debts you would like to forgive?" To my knowledge, there isn't anyone who owes us anything, so we said, "No." We don't tend to lend money or property with the insistence it be returned. If we agree to lend you something, we grant instant amnesty if you don't return it. That way we don't have to hold grudges or get upset over silly things that don't even matter.

Romans 8:12-14 speaks of debts, and it tells us that we aren't debtors to the flesh. What does that mean? It means we are not obligated to live according to the passions and desires of our old, sinful nature. When we trusted in Jesus, we were granted a brand new nature that doesn't sin, nor is it tempted by sin. At the same time, we still have our old nature that loves sin and everything about it. It tempts us to go in a direction that Christ doesn't desire for us. It prompts us to move back in the direction of bondage to sin, instead of embracing our freedom in Christ.

But we've been set free from sin and death through Jesus Christ. We aren't obligated in any way to go back to the manner of living we were once caught up in. Truthfully speaking, living according to the desires of the old, fleshly nature, results in disease, depression, and ultimately death.

By the grace of God, however, we have a better option. As sons of God who have been adopted into His family, we are now truly alive. We aren't being led by the forces of evil. We're being led by the Holy Spirit. He's providing us with divine counsel. He's speaking to our hearts and our minds. He's illuminating the truth of the Scriptures to us. He's pointing us in a direction that is for God's glory and our good.

Generally speaking, as you assess your life, what are the dominant voices you're listening to? One of the benefits of being part of a healthy family is the privilege of receiving good counsel from those who by their wisdom and experience are able to pass it along to you. Just the other day, my son said to me that he plans on doing something as an adult that he has watched me implement. As a Dad, that makes me happy, (partially because I have met his friends and I'm glad they're not the dominant voice in his life).

It becomes evident that we truly are God's children as we practice listening to His voice. Those who are led by the Spirit are sons of God. He loves us enough to lead us. He loves us enough to counsel us. He loves us enough to choose not to abandon us. He loves us enough to not leave us here to try to figure this all out ourselves.

Through faith in Christ, we are adopted into the family of God and led by His Spirit.



“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!”
— Romans 8:15, ESV

When you have children, there are various milestones or transitions you begin to recognize in their lives. One of those transitions takes place when they stop calling you Daddy or Mommy and begin calling you Dad or Mom. It's subtle, but it does communicate a desire on their part to be thought of as older and granted additional independence.

Are we ever truly independent of our Heavenly Father? Our relationship with Him has some parallels with our relationships with our earthly parents, but it has a unique aspect of continual reliance that results in grown adults like us still calling Him "Daddy." We need Him, we love Him, we are confident of His love, and we can call Him "Abba" or "Daddy", knowing that He loves us as well.

At the moment we trust in Jesus, a new family relationship with us is inaugurated. We don't have a spirit of "slavery to fear." Our perspective of God doesn't need to be one where we're living in constant fear of judgment for not keeping His law perfectly. Jesus kept the law for us because we never could. And when we placed our faith in Christ, we received the Holy Spirit. We were adopted as sons of God and this relationship is permanent in nature.

Please consider for a moment the nature of adoption. When someone adopts a child, what are they doing? As an act of the will, they are choosing to bring that child into their family forever. They are willing to bear the great cost, take the risks that come with raising a child, give that child their family name, invest a large portion of their life and time into that child, and then make that child an heir to all they own. That's not a small thing. It isn't a trivial decision.

That's exactly what God has done for us. He has adopted us into His family, bore the cost for our redemption at the cross, taken the risk of being grieved with our decisions, given us His name, made continual investments in our growth, and designated us heirs of His kingdom. And He does this all with great love. This isn't just a legal or technical reality. It's an expression of divine love.

Several years ago, friends that my wife grew up with suddenly and tragically lost their 17-year-old daughter, Hannah, in a car accident. Hannah had teenage friends who became pregnant, were scared, and were considering abortion, but before Hannah died, she had a conversation with her parents to see if they might consider adopting the child her friends had conceived. Several of the family's other children were adopted, so they prayed about it and decided to adopt the baby. The adoption was completed a short time after their daughter's passing and they gave their new son the middle name Samuel because, in the Bible, Samuel was the name given to Hannah's son.

Through Jesus, we have been given the Spirit of adoption. How does that reality impact the way we see ourselves? How does that reality impact the major life decisions we make? Could the choice a believer makes to adopt a child serve as a visible reflection of this spiritual reality?



“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 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 8:16-17, ESV

There are billions of people in this world, and all of us have one Creator, but not all of us are part of the same family. We have one Maker, but only some of us call Him Father. When we come to faith in Jesus Christ, we are adopted into God's family and the Holy Spirit testifies to our spirit that we are now the children of God. He confirms to our hearts that we have been welcomed into the family of God.

 And as this Scripture tells us, if we are God's children, we are likewise heirs to His promises and His kingdom. He has a glorious future in store for us and has assured us of an inheritance that cannot be corrupted, nor will it be stolen from us.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,
— 1 Peter 1:3-4, ESV

We are referred to, in this passage, as "fellow heirs with Christ" provided that our faith in Christ is genuine. Well, what demonstrates the genuine nature of our faith? I think the apostles demonstrated the genuine nature of their faith in Christ during the first century. I think the early church demonstrated the genuine nature of their faith as well. How did they do so? Well, they were willing to suffer with Christ. They were willing to experience suffering for the cause of Christ. They didn't shrink from persecution when it came. They didn't deny Christ when others tried to force them to.

The early believers showed their faith to be genuine and were promised that they would one day be glorified with Christ. That's a promise for us as well. We will spend eternity in a new, glorified body, in the presence of Christ if He is the one we have truly placed our hope in. This is an undeserved blessing that we are granted as people who have been adopted into God's family.

As adopted children of God, we are led by the Spirit of God, have received the Spirit of adoption, and have been made fellow heirs with Christ.  The depths of the love of God that have been displayed in His gracious decision to adopt us into His family inspire us to show sacrificial and selfless love to everyone Christ puts in our lives.

© John Stange, 2024


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