A Calvin Theological Seminary Publication by Students & Alumni


Adoption is the social, emotional, and legal process in which children who will not be raised by their birth parents become full and permanent legal members of another family while maintaining genetic and psychological connections to their birth family. (Child Welfare Information Gateway; www.childwelfare.gov) This is what happens to us in Jesus Christ.

Because of the fall, sin is introduced into the world and we are born into a sinful world as sinners. We cannot avoid sin and will actively seek to sin. Because of this sin, we are fully and completely separated from God and we are unable to “close this gap.” God, in his infinite love for us, provided us with a means of salvation through Jesus Christ. Through Christ’s salvific work, we are redeemed to live a new life in and through him – through the Spirit, we can be united to Jesus Christ, becoming daughters and sons of God through our union with the one perfect Son of God.

Paul initiates us into this world of adoption in Romans 8. Although by our flesh, or our old self, we are slaves to “the law of sin,” the “Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free” (Rom. 8:2). What does this freedom look like? It is freedom to be adopted children of the Triune God. We have been given the Spirit of God, and by the Spirit “Christ is in you.” And “all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:14–17). This entails that; we are no longer slaves; we are children with an intimate relationship with God. In fact, we don’t even pray by ourselves, but the Spirit prays in us words of intimacy —“Abba! Father!”—as those who are in Christ, or “joint heirs with Christ” (8:15, 17).

 Some interesting concept of Adoption from Billings “Union with Christ Reframing Theology and Ministry for the Church” He started with a parable from Danish philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard: 

Imagine a day laborer living in a great kingdom. The day laborer “never dreamed . . . that the emperor knew he existed, who then would consider himself indescribably favored just to be permitted to see the emperor once, something he would relate to his children and grandchildren as the most important event in his life.” But suppose the emperor did something unexpected: “If the emperor sent for him and told him that he wanted him for his son-in-law: what then? Quite humanly, the day laborer would be more or less puzzled, self-conscious, and embarrassed by it; he would (and this is the humanness of it) humanly find it very strange and bizarre . . . that the emperor wanted to make a fool of him, make him the laughingstock of the whole city.”

In this parable, the day laborer working in the countryside recognizes the high and exalted place of the emperor. An occasional encounter with the emperor would be delightful—enough so that the laborer could keep his own comfortable life, keep his friends, keep his identity, yet have it embellished by the honor of the emperor. “A little favor—that would make sense to the laborer.” But what if the emperor wants to make him his own son? The prospect of adoption in this sense is an offense. It is too much closeness—it is the sort of closeness that requires giving up one’s own identity.

In the words of Kierkegaard, the day laborer says, “Such a thing is too high for me, I cannot grasp it; to be perfectly blunt, to me it is a piece of folly.”[24] It would be wonderful if the king would send him some money or a letter to cherish as a relic. But the king is asking for so much more. The king is asking to be more than an accessory to his identity. The king wants his full identity, his entire life—wants him to be exalted, the child of the king.

And so it is with God, the King. Yet adoption by the King is such a radical notion, we resist it. We would rather have the occasional brush of God’s presence or a relic of his solidarity with us, so that God can be an appendage of our identity. But God wants more than that; he wants our lives, our adopted identity. By bringing us into the new reality of the Spirit, we can call out to God —Abba, Father—as adopted children united to Christ. Yet there are few things more countercultural than this process of adoption—losing your life for the sake of Jesus Christ, to find it in communion with the Triune God.

Martin H. Kamaidan

Saved by Grace