Romans 8:12-17 – 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. 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!” 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.
Life in the ancient world could be brutal for a child. Lacking legal rights, the quality of their life entirely depended upon the character of their father.
If your father did not want you – perhaps because you were a girl or had some physical disability – you were often unwanted, left out with the garbage, beaten, abused, or sold into slavery to be treated as property. If that were the case, your only hope was the virtually impossible act of a good man adopting you as his child, loving you, blessing you, and caring for you. This was the equivalent of winning the lottery.
Of the non-Christian, Jesus says “you are of your father the devil” (John 8:44). The devil is an abusive father who treats people as slaves, not sons, and beats them rather than blesses them.
To become a Christian is to have God the Father spiritually adopt you into His family called the Church. Unlike a slave, a Christian is a child of God called a son which means they occupy the same place of blessing and inheritance as Jesus Christ the Son of God.
This language of adoption is profoundly warm and comforting. Scholars say that only Paul uses this imagery so richly in the New Testament with the word adoption which is also sometimes translated sonship (Romans 8:15, 23; 9:4; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5).
For a moment, envision in your imagination a dejected and rejected child who is disowned, unwanted, lonely, scared, and hopeless living in a run-down orphanage and forgotten. Now, imagine a powerful, wealthy, loving, gracious, generous man walking into that orphanage, walking up to that child, and choosing to adopt that child and devote the rest of their life to caring for them, providing for them, healing them, and blessing them.
And that father is God the Father.
And you will begin to scratch the surface of the bottomless truth of what Paul is saying.
What is the most heartwarming adoption story you know of? What does it teach you about God the Father adopting you?
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