Monday, April 9, 2012

Sons of God

As I’ve been reflecting on Easter, and the price that was paid in order for us to enter into God’s family, I found this passage deeply encouraging and humbling. It is an excerpt from J. I. Packer’s book Knowing God in a chapter titled Sons of God. It is a beautiful description of our adoption into God’s family, his love and his grace.

In the ancient world, adoption was a practice ordinarily confined to the childless well-to-do. Its subjects, as we stated earlier, were not normally infants, as today, but young adults who had shown themselves fit and able to carry on a family name in a worthy way. In this case, however, God adopts us out of free love, not because our character and record show us worthy to bear his name, but despite the fact that they show the very opposite. We are not fit for a place in God's family; the idea of his loving and exalting us sinners as he loves and has exalted the Lord Jesus sounds ludicrous and wild- yet that, and nothing less than that, is what our adoption means.

Adoption, by its very nature, is an art of free kindness to the person adopted. If you become a father by adopting a son or daughter, you do so because you choose to, not because you are bound to. Similarly, God adopts because he chooses to. He had no duty to do so. He need not have done anything about our sins except punish us as we deserved. But he loved us; so he redeemed us, forgave us, took us as his sons and daughters and gave himself to us as out Father. 

Nor does his grace stop short with that initial act, any more than the love of human parents who adopt stops short with the completing of the legal process that makes the child theirs. The establishing of the child's status as a member of the family is only a beginning. The real task remains: to establish a genuinely filial relationship between your adopted child and yourself. It is this, above all, that you want to see. Accordingly, you set yourself to win the child's love by loving the child. You seek to excite affection by showing affection. So with God. And throughout our life in this world, and to all eternity beyond, he will constantly be showing his love, and thereby increasing our love to him continually. The prospect before the adopted children of God is an eternity of love. 

Once I knew a family in which the eldest child was adopted at a time when the parents thought they could have no children. When their natural-born children arrived later on, they diverted all their affection to them, and the adopted eldest was very obviously left "out in the cold." It was painful to see and, judging by the look on the eldest's face, it was painful to experience. It was, of course, a miserable failure in parenthood. But in God's family things are not like that. Like the prodigal in the parable, we may only find ourselves able to say, "I have sinned...I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men" (Lk 15:18-19). But God receives us as sons, and loves us with the same steadfast affection with which he eternally loves his beloved only-begotten. There are no distinctions of affection in divine family. We are all loved just as fully as Jesus is loved. It is like a fairy story- the reigning monarch adopts waifs and strays to make princes of them. But praise God, it is not a fairy story: it is hard and solid fact, founded on the bedrock of free and sovereign grace. This, and nothing less than this, is what adoption means. No wonder John cries, "Behold, what manner of love!" When once you understand adoption, your heart will cry the same.” (pgs 215-216)

Alesia Barton, Administrative Assistant

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