In his classic book Knowing God, J. I. Packer wrote:
If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all. . . . “Father” is the Christian name for God.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, (Eph 1:3)
even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love (Eph 1:4)
he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, (Eph 1:5)
to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Eph 1:6)
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, (Eph 1:7)
which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight (Eph 1:8)
making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ (Eph 1:9)
as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (Eph 1:10)
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, (Eph 1:11)
so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. (Eph 1:12)
In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, (Eph 1:13)
who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Eph 1:14)
The first few steps of the Christian walk are hard. Irrespective of background, geography, ethnicity, the first few steps into a life of the Spirit are always hard. We are used to the worldly things. Our natural instinct is for the flesh and against the Spirit. Despite that we are set right with God and that is through grace. This is Justification. Once that comes into being God forges a relationship with us. We are called to a divine Son-ship. That is the bond of adoption. God atones for our sinful nature through the blood of Christ and continues to renew our mind and body through sanctification such that on the day of his second coming Jesus may find us spotless and blameless and we may be redeemed in Him as citizens of a heavenly Kingdom. Every Christian knows this, in theory. Let us test our understanding of these four processes, namely:
- Justification and Sanctification
- Adoption and Redemption
Justification and Sanctification
The term justification means “to declare righteous.” The New Testament writers, specifically Paul, use the term in a judicial sense. Imagine God the judge, sitting on His throne, declaring to the believer, “In light of what Jesus has done on your behalf, you are (now) righteous. Things are now right between you and me. Court dismissed.”
What is the basis for justification?
God’s grace —Provided by Jesus Christ’s obedience to God the Father.
But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. (Rom 5:15)
Jesus’ blood—Jesus’ suffering and death made all who choose to believe in him right with God.
Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. (Rom 5:9)
Jesus’ righteousness accredited to believers (1 Cor 1:30; 2 Cor 5:21)—Those who believe in Jesus are freely given “right status” with God, not on the basis of their own works, but on the basis of what God has done in Jesus Christ (Rom 3:28; 4:5–6; Gal 2:16).
And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. (Rom 3:28)
And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:
yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
Once wrongdoers (sinners) have placed their faith in Christ, God declares them righteous. New believers have peace with God (Rom 5:1) because all sins, past, present and future are forgiven. Once forgiven, believers are no longer subject to the judgment that was once due (Rom 8:1). The declaration of this is justification.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
The basic meaning of sanctification is “to be set apart.” The Hebrew word (qadosh; שודק) has a basic meaning of “separation.” As a moral term, sanctification is translated as “holiness” or “purity.” The term in Greek (hagios; ἅγιος) is translated as “holy”, as in “Holy” Spirit, or “saint.” In the spiritual sense of a believer’s life, sanctification means “to be set apart for God,” or to be made more holy through conforming to the image of His Son.
Sanctification is a work of God’s grace. The whole person is enabled to die to sin and live according to God’s will. Justification occurs at the moment of salvation, whereas sanctification is a process. When our lives are over, we will enter into God’s presence glorified, free from the presence and power of sin—already justified, fully sanctified.
Adoption and Redemption
If you are parents of an adoptive family, you have been asked if you wishto tell your adopted children that they are adopted. But I’m convinced that fewer questions like this would be asked if our thoughts moved vertically before they moved horizontally. Why am I convinced of this? Because for Christians adoption is central to what defines us. The apostle Paul is very clear: we are God’s sons through adoption.
I don’t know if you have ever thought about it like this, but God is an adoptive Father. Jesus, our Elder Brother, is God the Father’s eternal, only-begotten, natural Son. We believers are His sons through adoption. This identity is fundamental to who we are. As adopted son, we enjoy all the rights and privileges of the relationship that God the Father enjoys with His eternal Son. To be God’s sons through adoption means that we are co-heirs with Jesus. This is an amazing reality and eternal privilege! We will forever be God’s sons through the miracle of adoption.
It is essential that we recognize that our adoption into God’s multi-ethnic family defines who we are. It is not incidental to our Christian identity. It is fundamental to it. If the truth of our adoption in Jesus Christ, our Elder Brother, were functionally central to our identity, if we daily thought of ourselves as God’s sons through adoption and rejoiced in what who we are as full members of God’s family, questions about whether adoptive parents will tell their children that they were adopted would not be asked. Instead, we would instinctively think, “Of course I will tell my children that they were adopted because adoption is how God brought me into His family; and He tells me that He did!”
It is very important that we as Christians understand this: Adoption is vertical before it is horizontal. Vertical adoption is what God does; horizontal adoption is what we do. Adoption was invented by God even before He created the world (Ephesians 1:3-5). It is how God brings us into His family with all the rights and privileges of Jesus, our Elder Brother. As a result, we should see the earthly practice of adoption as a wonderful, though imperfect, reflection of God’s work of adoption in Christ.
What does the doctrine of adoption mean, and where is it most prominently taught in the Bible?
It means that the true and living God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, by grace has made believers members of his family with all the rights and responsibilities that go with that status. Paul teaches it in many places in, but especially in Romans 8:14-17, 23, 29and Galatians 3:25-4:7.
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.
And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Rom 8:23)
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Rom 8:29)
But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
Do the persons of the Trinity play different roles in the doctrine of adoption?
- The Father is the divine lover who predestined us for adoption and sent his Son to rescue us.
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (1Jn 3:1)
- The Son of God is our redeemer who loved us and redeemed us from the law’s threat of punishment by becoming a curse for us (Gal. 4:5; 3:13).
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—
- “The Spirit of his [the Father’s] Son” (Gal. 4:6), “the Spirit of adoption” (Rom. 8:15) enabled us to cry out to God as Father for salvation (Rom. 8:15) and assures us within that we are God’s children (Rom. 8:16).
The Trinity loves us dearly and planned our adoption, accomplished the work of redemption necessary to adopt us, and applied adoption to us as God’s sons and daughters. This is an important aspect of the triune God’s work of redemption and should occupy a larger place in our worship, whether public, family, or private.
Why is adoption necessary?
To have been adopted indicates that we were, at one time, not in God’s family. This is how Paul wrote about the Gentiles’ status before God added them to his family. Ephesians 2:12 describes their bleak homelessness:
remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. (Eph 2:12)
Notice the word alienated. It means estranged. God is the ultimate creator. However we are separated from the creator through sin, till the adoption takes place and we are taken out of the jurisdiction of the world and put into the love and care of God.
How would you share the gospel with someone using the doctrine of adoption?
The Bible actually does that very thing. In the first place, our need for salvation is portrayed in the Bible as having to do with our status as slaves to Satan and sin (1 John 3:10; Gal. 4:3, 7). Christ the redeemer gave himself for us slaves and lawbreakers because he loved us. He took the curse (the punishment) of the law that by rights should have fallen on us, not him (Gal. 3:13). Through Christ’s work, we have gone from being slaves to sons (Gal. 4:7).
By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. (1Jn 3:10)
Parallel to justification, adoption is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (John 1:12; Gal. 3:26). We trust Christ as redeemer in order to be included in God’s family. The results are incredible, including assurance (Rom. 8:16) and paternal discipline (Heb. 12:5-11). By God’s grace, the teaching on adoption enables us to do what it difficult for some of us—to believe that God truly loves us (1 John 4:16).
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, (Joh 1:12)
And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. (1Jn 4:16)
In Christian theology, redemption (Greek: apolutrosis) refers to the deliverance of Christians from sin. It assumes an important position in salvation because the transgressions in question form part of a great system against which human power is helpless.Leon Morris says that “Paul uses the concept of redemption primarily to speak of the saving significance of the death of Christ.”
The dictionary defines redemption as: 1. the action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil. 2. the action of regaining or gaining possession of something in exchange for payment, or clearing a debt.
Redemption is used in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.
In the Old Testament, redemption involves deliverance from bondage based on the payment of a price by a redeemer. The Hebrew root words used most often for the concept of redemption are pada, gaal, and kapar. The verb pada is a legal term concerning the substitution required for the person or animal delivered. The verb gaal is a legal term for the deliverance of some person, property, or right to which one had a previous claim through family relation or possession. The meaning of the third verb, kapar, is to cover.
Fundamental to the message of the New Testament is the announcement that Jesus of Nazareth is the fulfillment of Israel’s messianic hope and that, in him, the long-awaited redemption has arrived. Deliverance of humankind from its state of alienation from God has been accomplished through the death and resurrection of Christ (Rom 4:25 ; 2 Cor 5:18-19). In the New Testament, redemption requires the payment of a price, but the plight that requires such a ransom is moral not material. Humankind is held in the captivity of sin from which only the atoning death of Jesus Christ can liberate.
-“Entry for ‘Redeem, Redemption'”. “Evangelical Dictionary of Theology”
Prior to their rebellion, Adam and Eve had unbroken fellowship with God, unparalleled intimacy with each other and undisturbed enjoyment in their Edenic environment. There has never been a time such as theirs when humans exercised biblical dominion over creation, complemented each other so completely and joyously lived every moment of every day under the rule of God. But there will be.
The Bible envisions a day when these broken relationships will be forever restored. God’s people will inherit a new earth that bears abundant food apart from the sweat of their brow and without the threat of thorns (Revelation 22:2). They will never feel pain or cause others to experience hurt of any kind as their tears have been eternally wiped away (Revelation 21:4). Death will no longer haunt the living as gentle lambs will rest side by side with formerly carnivorous wolves (Isaiah 11:6). Best of all, God will dwell with his people (Revelation 22:3).
The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. (Isa 11:6)
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev 21:4)
No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.
Redemption is Already Accomplished but Not Yet Complete
Humans still retain the image of God, which accounts for any semblance of goodness and enables any sense of progress (Genesis 1:26-27; 9:6). However, life is not as it should be in this fallen world. Theologians have differed over the means by which Adam’s sin has been passed down to every person but the reality of death provides sufficient confirmation that no one is exempt (Romans 5:12).
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
“there is no one righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10).
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— (Rom 5:12)
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, (Eph 2:4)
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. (Rom 3:23-28)
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Heb 2:14-18)
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2Co 5:21)
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Heb 4:15)
He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. (1Pe 2:22)
And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Act 4:12)
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Rom 5:6-11)
What are some practical steps that you can use to share the story of redemption with others?
Recognize that we are all products of the fall and in need of redemption.
When we view people through the lens of being fallen (instead of expecting them to live as if they were fully redeemed), we can be more sympathetic. Thus, instead of bearing a grudge against them we should recognize the need to point them to their Redeemer.
Jesus stated it this way: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:35-40).
Realize that the sufferings of this world are temporary.
The promise of redemption is that our pain and hurt is not final. We have hope because God Himself has promised to redeem all of creation. If we want others to share in our story of redemption, we do this best when we live in light our future redemption.
1 Corinthians 2:9 states, “But as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no human heart has conceived’ – God has prepared these things for those who love him.”
Respond to God’s grace in your life by offering grace to others.
One of the joys we will experience in the new heavens and new earth is knowing that we are there because someone shared the good news of the gospel with us. How much more will our joy be to know that someone has been redeemed because we shared the story of redemption with them! We can do this with gentleness and kindness:
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).