Justification and Assurance
(d) Adopted by God
God makes us his children out of love, no other reason.
In the previous study we examined Paul’s teaching upon assurance from the perspective of Christian warfare and the Holy Spirit. While we enjoy the Spirit’s ministry we also possess a dead carnal body which must be mortified. The consciousness of sin and the struggle against its onslaught assists us in the matter of assurance because the Spirit is prompting us in this matter. This study considers another aspect of the work of the Holy Ghost in relation to assurance. It is He who convinces us that we are the Children of God. While the last study focused on the struggle this study examines that peace that belongs to all of God’s people.
Before conversion we possessed the “spirit of bondage”. What were we in bondage to? The sister passage in Galatians 4:5-6 would indicate that those who have received this Spirit of Adoption have been redeemed from the “law”. Therefore this spirit of bondage would be the curse of the broken law which condemns the guilty soul. There is also some truth in the view that this spirit of bondage is the Holy Ghost who convicts the soul making the sinner aware of his guilt inducing fear in so doing. Prior to conversion we experienced the bondage of law as the Holy Ghost revealed our sinfulness.
Adoption is referred to, only five times in the New Testament. The Jews did not practice adoption. They had other procedures such as polygamy and redemption for dealing with the problems posed by widows and orphans. Adoption was practiced, however, within Greek and Roman culture. On Roman inscriptions the phrase adopted son occurs with great frequency. The adoption that we have received into God’s family, however, is very different from Roman adoption. The Romans did not adopt to give poor children a better opportunity. They did so to perpetuate the family name, to keep property within the family or to pass political or social privilege. The motivation was largely selfish. Also under Roman law only males could be adopted, never females.
How different is our adoption? God makes us his children out of love, no other reason. He adopts both sons and daughters from all classes and nations. Like the Roman custom God’s adoption is legal. He not only makes us his children by regeneration he also binds us us to himself by legal adoption. While adoption as a word is uncommon in Scripture it is based upon a biblical principle common in both testaments, that God makes a sinful people his children (e.g. Psalm 27:10, Isaiah 43:6, Hosea 1:10).
How is the Holy Ghost the Spirit of adoption? If adoption is a legal act of the Father what is the Spirit’s involvement? According to Paul it he who enables us to cry “Abba Father”. The word “Abba” is an Aramaic word and literally means “daddy”. It is a term of affection. Christ himself used this word in prayer (Mark 14:36) emphasising his intimacy with his Father. It is a blessing that our relationship with God likewise is intimate and affectionate; we too can say Abba.
This was revolutionary teaching. The Jew never called God “My Father” even though God revealed himself to be the Father of Israel. There was always a distance, it seemed between the people and God. Christ, however, taught that we can and ought to address God as “Our Father which art in heaven”.
The apostle teaches here that Holy Ghost bears witness our testifies to our spirits that we are God’s children. The reason why the Christian is convinced of the New Birth and of eternal life is because of the Holy Ghost’s confirmation within the heart. He seals the love of God into the heart of the Christian and this turn not only causes us to love the Lord but creates that sense of peace and faith in an uncertain world.