Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ: even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before him in love: having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:3-6).
One of the images that the Scriptures use to explain our relationship with God is that of an adopted child and their adoptive parent (Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:5, Ephesians 1:5). The image is quite appropriate, and it helps us understand much regarding both our spiritual adoption as children of God and the need and importance of physical adoption of children on earth.
In an adoptive relationship, the adoptive parents make a free will decision to take a child into their home, love them, and provide for their needs. There is no “blood” connection, and, in most cases, the parents have not been forced or coerced into taking the child. The child has been specifically chosen and has been legitimated within the family. There is no sense that the child “deserves” anything which he or she obtains through the benefit of being adopted– all they gain comes from the love, compassion, and good will of the adoptive parents.
Thus it is with God and His adoptive children. Yes, there are images in which people are seen as “natural born” children of God (cf. Luke 15:11-32), and we can gain much from those images also. Images do not need to be consistent in order for us to better understand our relationship with God! When we sin we become separated from our God (Isaiah 59:1-2). At that point, we are considered children of the world, having no inheritance in the Father (1 John 2:15-17, Galatians 5:19-21, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Since we all sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:9-23), none of us can claim to have an unbroken relationship with our Father. Furthermore, there is nothing that we can do by ourselves that can restore that relationship with our heavenly Father (Romans 1-3).
Because we chose to sin and justly deserve condemnation (cf. Romans 2:5-10, 6:23), God is under no compulsion to do anything to help us. We all could be rightly condemned and that would be it! But God loves us and desired to show us grace and mercy, and did so through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ (John 3:16, Ephesians 2:1-10, Titus 3:3-8). The sacrifice that Jesus offered was sufficient to atone for our sins and satisfy God’s justice (cf. Hebrews 9). God established that if we believe in His Son, repent of our sins, confess His Son before others, submit to immersion in water for the remission of sin, and become His disciple and walk in the light, our association with God would be renewed (Acts 2:36, 16:31-33, 1 John 1:1-5).
This process can be understood as the means by which we have been adopted as sons or daughters of God. We did not deserve salvation or eternal life– in fact, we deserved the opposite– but God has provided us with the ability to receive both through Jesus Christ anyway. God chose to do this– He was not coerced, and He did not do so out of some idea of “necessity” (cf. Ephesians 2:1-10, 3:10-11). Those who are adopted as children of God are chosen and obtain the legal rights of sons and daughters and thus have a share of the inheritance that awaits (cf. Hebrews 12:5-11, Romans 8:14-17, Ephesians 1:3-5). Praise God for the opportunity to be adopted as sons!
Therefore, it is evident that there is great power in the image of believers as adopted sons and daughters of God our Father. Likewise, just as God has adopted us as His children, we can reflect His image by adopting children while on the earth.
It must be made clear that God has nowhere commanded Christians to adopt children, and adoption may not be advisable for many believers. Nevertheless, Christians ought to see the value in the adoption of children and should seek ways to encourage it when profitable and beneficial to do so.
The adoption of children has a long history in Christianity. It is an effective means of at least partly fulfilling James 1:27. The early Christians were known for watching high areas and mountains and rescuing the rejected children of the pagans, adopting them as their own children. When Christians adopt children and raise them in the discipline and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4), they are more likely to themselves become believers in God and fellow adopted heirs of the Kingdom than if they were left to their own devices or adopted by people of the world.
Furthermore, in general, the idea of adoption stands entirely against the prevalent attitudes of the world. Many in our society accept the claims of science in religious ways and live their lives accordingly. Adoption runs contrary to the heart of evolutionary theory since the adoptive parents are expending great amounts of energy and resources to raise a child that does not carry their bloodline. If “immortality” is something only carried on through genes and DNA, those who adopt are failures. It is entirely understandable why so many feel that they must have their own biological children and will spare no expense in the attempt to do so!
It is certainly not wrong to have one’s own biological children or to want to have biological children (Genesis 1:28). Nevertheless, as Christians, we must remember that the only reason that we have a prayer in life is because God adopted us as sons and daughters despite ourselves. To the Christian, adoption should not be seen as an “inferior” way of obtaining children, and adoptive children should not be seen as having less value than biological children. It may even be that adoptive children look nothing like their adoptive family– they may have different features or even different skin color. When we see this, let us remember that God has adopted children of every race and style (Galatians 3:28) and be thankful– if God only adopted from people who were like His Son, most of us would be excluded! Therefore, let us find opportunities to encourage and support adoptive families, always remembering that God has adopted us as His children, and be thankful for all that God has done for us through Jesus Christ!