sundays at 9:00 AM, 10:30 AM, & 4:30 PM

Doctrine of Adoption

March 13, 2022 Series: Great Doctrines of the Christian Faith

Scripture: 1 John 2:24– 3:10

Scripture (1 John 2:24 – 1 John 3:10)

Last week we completed looking at the doctrine of justification.

The key points to remember are:

  • Justification is a legal declaration whereby God, the ultimate judge, declares the sinner as righteous
    • This is a change in state
    • This is not a change in condition
  • Justification is applied through the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, which is through faith.
    • It is not because of our faith, but through saving faith in Christ
    • It is a work of Christ
  • The benefits of justification
    • Removal of the guilt of sin
    • Restoration of the covenantal relationship
    • Adoption into the family of God and the right of assurance of salvation

It is Adoption and Assurance of Salvation that we will be discussing next.



  1. What is Adoption?
  2. Adoption is an act of the free grace of God
  • in and for his only Son Jesus Christ;
  • whereby all those that are justified,
    • are received into the number of his children,
    • have his name put upon them,
    • the Spirit of his Son given to them,
    • are under his fatherly care and dispensations,
    • admitted to all the liberties and privileges of the sons of God,
    • made heirs of all the promises,
      • and fellow heirs with Christ in glory.

Position in the Ordo Salutis

We’ve covered a lot in what is referred to as the order of salvation.

  • Predestination
  • Effectual calling
  • Regeneration
  • Conversion
  • Repentance
  • Justification
  • And now Adoption

The position of Adoption can be seen in John 1:12-13

  • to as many as received him
  • to them he gave the right to become children of God
  • even to those who believe in his name, who were begotten
  • not by blood, nor by the will of the flesh, nor by the will of man, but by God.

These refer to the grace of faith in Jesus Christ

  • The act of receiving Christ
    • viewing faith in Christ as the appointed instrumentality that appropriates Christ and His benefits
    • viewing that same faith in Christ as the appointed instrumentality whereby the Christian continues to appropriate Christ’s benefits throughout his entire Christian experience.
  • Immediately following -> that to them Christ “gave the power to become children of God.”
    • The phrase, “gave the right [authority] to become children”
    • refers not to regeneration
    • refers to the grace of adoption
  • Faith in Christ is the necessary logical precondition to adoption
    • just as it is to justification
    • adoption presupposes faith in Christ as the instrumentality through which the believer procures the benefit of adoption

God would not adopt one into his family

  • whose sins he had not forgiven and
  • who had not been accepted by Him as righteous

Therefore, we presume that adoption necessarily follows logically

  • upon faith
  • upon justification.

Scriptural Foundation


God legally constitutes the justified sinner as His child and adopts him into his family.

  • The sinner having been pardoned and constituted righteous in God’s sight (justified)
  • The doctrine of justification speaks to the relationship of the Christian to God as Lawgiver and Judge
    • it declares that he has been judicially acquitted of any and all transgressions of the law and delivered forever from the wrath of God
  • The doctrine of adoption speaks to the filial relationship of the Christian to God as his Father
    • it declares that he is a child of God
    • it declares that God is his heavenly Father

Scripture Passages

  • Eph 1:4–5 – Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will
  • Gal 4:1–6 – from tutelage to adoptions as sons
  • Rom 8:15–16 – received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry “Abba, Father”

Adoption is a Legal Act

Adoption is a legal act whereby God declares the sinner to formally have the status of “sonship” applied to him. (but not the same as the Sonship of Christ)

Sometimes people will include adoption as part of justification.

  • Granted it is similar in some respects, but it is not the same.
  • While it is different than justification, it cannot be separated from justification.
  • The person who is justified will always receive adoption.
  • The person who receives adoption, will always be declared as justified.

Adoption, cannot, be separated from regeneration.

  • Adoption presupposes regeneration and thus a nature that is aligned with said status
  • God will never have a non-regenerated person as an adopted child
  • It is the Spirit that regenerates and also that enables us to cry out to our Father
  • Adoption is the result of both regeneration and justification

Comparison: Human and Divine Adoption

So that we are careful not to apply too much of our human understanding of adoption to what God causes in the believer, let us look as some of the similarities and difference between human and divine adoption.

Reasons why humans adopt:

  • They may not have children of their own and feel like they are missing something in their lives
  • They may want someone to pass their estate to
  • They may want someone to ensure their name lives after death
  • They may see something good or redeeming or of needing mercy in the person who is being adopted

When God adopts

  • He does so out of His free grace in and for His son Jesus Christ
    • Ezek 16:5-6
    • Rom 9:15
    • God is not lacking or somehow incomplete that He needs to adopt someone to fill a void or feel complete
    • God was not lacking someone to give an inheritance to (Heb 1:2) nor will He die
    • God did not look on mankind and see something good or redeeming but rather the opposite
    • God, out of His free will and good counsel, did so decide to adopt some as His children out of His free grace
  • He not only legally declares on to be adopted
    • But He also freely gives them other graces and changes their miserable state from being in bondage to sin
    • But he also freely gives them liberty to resist sin and to obey His word and live in obedience

Relationship with Justification

Adoption is that legal act of God by which He places us into His family

  • Having been declared as just before him…
  • We are adopted by God as his child.

Justification is a legal declaration that the sinner is forgiven

Adoption is also a legal declaration of placing the elect as a son in the family of God

The adoption takes place the time of Christ’s death

  • It takes place legally at Christ’s death.
  • It takes place in reality at the time of appropriation by faith
    • According to the decree of God.
    • According to the renewal by the Spirit of God

It is an act, but it is appropriated through faith

  • It takes place in the appointed time (Ephesians 1)
  • Who are the sons by adoption?
    • They are those who express faith in the redeemer.
  • Who are his children?
    • They are those who express faith in the redeemer.

Universal or Particular Fatherhood?

Sometimes people will say that everyone in the world in a child of God. It has been popular to stand in front of a pulpit and declare everyone in the room, or even those listening on the radio, to be children of God.

the phrase “Sons of God”

  • Sometimes it is applicable to all men in the sense of a universal fatherhood of God with respect to creation
    • Acts 17:25-29 - As God is said to the father/ creator of all mankind
    • Malachi 2:10 - "Have we not all one Father? Hath not one God created us?”
  • Sometimes is refers to a federal relationship to God as members of the visible church
    • Isaiah 1:2 – some will rebel
    • Matt 8:12 – some will be cast into the outer darkness
    • They are visibly the family of God on earth, having professed the true religion
    • Gen 6:2 - ‘the sons of God saw the daughters of men,
    • Ex 4:22 - ‘Israel is my son, even my first-born.’
    • But membership in the visible church is not a guarantee of salvation
  • Christ is called the son of God in an explicitly unique way that is never to be repeated nor is His Sonship with the Father ever to be shared
  • But believers are referred to as sons of God by adoption
    • Exodus 2:10 - Moses
    • Judges 11:1-2 – Jephthah
    • Romans 8:15
    • Matthew 6:9
    • It is a legal act whereby the adopted one is made part of the family and given rights as if they were hereditarily linked
    • When adoption is used with respect to believers, it is used in the full sense of redemption and salvation

“To substitute the message of God’s universal fatherhood for that which is constituted by redemption and adoption is to annul the gospel; it means the degradation of this highest and richest of relationships to the level of that relationship which all men sustain to God by creation” – John Murray

This adoption clearly distinguishes the “adopted” form the “non-adopted”

  • Some remain as slaves to sin, under their father the devil (John 8:44, 1 John 3:8)
  • Others, having been adopted by God, are freed from sin and are now in the family of God (1 John 3:1-2)

Who is the Father?

Sometimes people might be tempted to say that by “Father”, we mean to say Christ…or perhaps the Trinity.

But when we speak about adoption, the Scripture indicates that it is the “God the Father” that is doing the adopting.

  • “God the Father” is commonly used to refer to the first member of the Trinity
  • John 20:17 – Jesus refers to His Father and also likens His Father to the Father of the disciples
  • Matthew 6:9–13 – Jesus tells the disciples to pray to their “Father” who art in heaven
  • The salutations of the epistles often distinguish between “God our Father” and the “Lord Jesus Christ” showing their distinction by title

God the Father is the specific agent in adoption.

But it is the Trinitarian God – all of them - that saves, which is why we are baptized into singular name of the God – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

Have His Name Put Upon Them

Placing one’s name upon something is a sign of ownership

  • We place our name on the title of our house/ car
  • As children, we write our names on the inside of our jackets, backpacks, etc.…
  • When adults adopt a child, they given him their name
  • When parents have a child, the child takes the name of their parents

So it is, here, that God places His name upon us in that we belong to Him, thereby ensuring that he has the Father’s protection and provision.

  • Isaiah 63:19 – “We are thine”

So it is, also, that we have the name of Christ upon us

  • Ephesians 3:15 – “Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named”

“I will be a Father unto you…”

  • 2 Corinthians 6:18

“Thou shalt be called by a new name”

  • Isaiah 62:2

Under His Fatherly care


He feels towards His children as a Father (Psalm 103:13)

The Father who never sleeps nor slumbers, the Father who knows all things, is the only one who could fully and perfectly protect the children

  • Psalm 34:7
  • Hebrews 1:14
  • Philippians 4:19
  • Matthew 6:30–32

Access to God

God allows his children to draw near to him with freedom and make their requests known to Him — (1 John 5:14)

  • Ephesians 2:18
  • Hebrews 10:19

Protection from Apostacy and Sin

Sometimes this protection comes by affliction to stop or restrain sin or to teach and train.

  • Hebrews 12: 6 – “For whom the Lord loveth He chaseneth”
    • Psalm 94:12
    • Psalm 119:67–71
    • Correction and chastisement are not often thought of as a privilege or blessing, but it is the Father that does not love his child that does not correct
    • Being under authority is a blessing from God which is why is it important to realize, in our Presbyterian system, in what is taught in the Scriptures, is that everyone is to be under authority – one of the blessings of the church

The adopted children will be kept by God

  • Jeremiah 32:40

Made heirs

The adopted immediately becomes Christ’s co-heir

  • Christ being the “firstborn Son [that is, the elder Brother] among many brothers”, and thus he or she becomes an “heir of God, co-heir with Christ” (Rom 8:17, 29)

They are heirs of a glorious inheritance

  • 1 Peter 1:4-5

They are heirs of salvation

  • Hebrews 1:14

They are heirs of the promise made by God

  • Hebrews 6:12, 17

Conclusion & Uses

As for his __responsibilities__

  • as a child beloved the believer is to __walk in love Eph 5:1–2
  • as a child of light, he is to __walk in the light and expose the unfruitful deeds of darkness__ Eph 5:8–11
  • he is warned that he will __experience his Father’s chastening love__ when he goes astray Heb 12:6–8
  • as a family member in God’s household, __all other Christians are his brothers and sisters, to be cherished and encouraged in the faith__1 John 4:20–21, 1 John 5:1–20, Rom 15:14


More in Great Doctrines of the Christian Faith

September 17, 2023

Doctrine of the Last Judgment - The Finality of Judgment

September 10, 2023

Doctrine of the Last Judgement - The Great White Throne

September 3, 2023

Doctrine of the Last Judgment