God as Father of the church
This is the 17th in a series of articles on the Trinity, excerpted from “What Every Christian Should Know About the Trinity,” available through Amazon and other booksellers.
Let’s consider the wonderful doctrine of God as Father of the church – specifically, as the Father of everyone who receives His Son, Jesus Christ, by faith and thus is adopted into God’s family.
The Bible speaks of adoption as an act of God making born-again believers members of His family. As in first-century Roman culture, all former relationships of the adopted child are severed, and the adoptee is made a full-fledged member of his or her new family under the father’s authority, and with the full privileges and responsibilities of an adult
For Christians, then, no longer does the evil one hold his servants captive, in spiritual blindness, alienated from God, and destined for outer darkness. Christ has come to our rescue, redeeming us from the slave market of sin and joyfully welcoming us into the Father’s family as Jesus’ coheirs in His everlasting kingdom.
Adoption into God’s family is part of the Father’s predestined plan for everyone who believes. It is inextricably bound to all other elements of salvation, spanning from eternity past in foreknowledge to eternity future in glorification. As a consequence, we may rest assured of our salvation, for just as a Roman father could not disown an adopted son, God is faithful to His promise to conform us to the image of His eternal Son.
Consider a few New Testament passages that describe our relationship with our Heavenly Father:
Romans 8:14-17 – “For all those led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons. You did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear. Instead, you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs – heirs of God and coheirs with Christ – if indeed we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.”
These verses show the cooperative work of the triune Godhead in adoption, with the Spirit leading, indwelling, and testifying to the finished work of Christ. As a result, born-again believers may rightly consider ourselves coheirs of all things with Jesus, and together we may call the Father Abba – our Papa.
Galatians 4:4-5 – “When the time came to completion, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”
The adoption of believing people as children of God is conditioned on the finished work of Christ. The Son’s appearance on earth comes at exactly the right moment. Just as the Father appoints a day for His Son to come to earth as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29), He also governs human history in such a way that the birth of Jesus coincides with the world’s readiness for a Redeemer.
Jesus is “born of a woman” (Gal. 4:4), a reference to His miraculous conception in a virgin’s womb. Further, Jesus is “born under the law, to redeem those under the law” (vv. 4-5). Rather than do away with the law, He fulfills it through His sinless life, which is then offered up for us (Rom. 5:17; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15-16). This satisfies God’s justice and extends to us His grace and mercy. What’s more, we now become the adopted children of the Father.
Ephesians 1:5-6 – “He predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ for himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he lavished on us in the Beloved One.”
While our adoption as children of God takes place in time – after we are born again – it always has been in the mind of God. Just as the Father chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world (v. 4), He also predestined us to be adopted as His sons and daughters.
This is a breathtaking truth. Just as it pleased the Father to smite His own (eternal, un-adopted) Son on our behalf (Isa. 53:10), He adopts us “according to the good pleasure of his will” (Eph. 1:5). Not that Jesus is a victim in this divine plan, for the Son of Man makes it clear that He comes into the world to give His life as a ransom for many (Matt. 20:28). He voluntarily lays down His life (John 10:17-18). And, for joy, He endures the cross (Heb. 12:2).
There is no sibling rivalry here between the natural heir of all things and the coheirs His Father has adopted into the family. The Father and Son (and the Spirit) are on the same page. What a remarkable story of divine love and sacrifice for the sake of our adoption.
Next: Jesus in the Old Testament