by Spiros Zodhiates
The Lord Jesus Christ is the only One who could have revealed the fatherhood of God to us. In fact, that is the very thing He came to do. God's attitude toward all men is that of a Father, but the trouble is that our attitude is not that of sons. When we are saved through Jesus Christ, it is not God who becomes our Father, but we who become His children. It is not He who changes His identity, attitude, and relationship toward us, but we who change ours toward Him. We become His sons and daughters.
This is what is called in the New Testament the Doctrine of Adoption. When we come to Him through Christ, He accepts us as returning, wayward children. From the far country of sin we enter the fellowship of His family.
A biblical illustration that will help to make clear this love of God for His rebellious and wayward human creatures is that of Absalom. He was so disobedient and rebellious that he broke his father's heart and finally lost his own life. Absalom's wickedness and rebellion could not destroy David's love for him. After Absalom was dead, David mourned for him: "O my son Absalom, O Absalom, my son, my son!" (2 Sam. 19:4).
David never stopped considering Abasalom his son, but Absalom considered himself a stranger to his father. I believe that this is the way God feels toward men. In the story of the Prodigal Son, it was not the father who turned away from the son, but the son who went away from the father.
Let us consider this beautiful doctrine of adoption. Romans 8:15 says, "For ye have not received the spirit of bondage [of slavery] again to fear " Those who do not consider God as their Father are certainly slaves to fear. Observe, however, that through salvation we " have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father."
The change is not in the attitude of the Father, God, but in the attitude of the son, man. It is he who realizes that now, through Jesus Christ, God is his Father, and that he has been adopted into the family of God.
Romans 8:23 also speaks of adoption when it says, "And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body." Observe that there is an adoption that is spiritual and one that is physical. We are still expecting the redemption of our bodies to take place at some time in the future. The moment that a person comes to know Jesus Christ, he or she receives the One through whom this future adoption will be realized.
The Lord Jesus Christ is the "adoption agent." He takes a child who is completely estranged and brings him to the One who is potentially his Father. That One has always had the attitude of a Father, and has always had the desire to be a Father to that child. All the adoption agent does is take the child and bring him into relationship with God, the waiting Father.
This adoption that we experience when we receive the Lord Jesus Christ and come into the fellowship of god's family is a spiritual one. But the day is coming when these bodies of ours are going to be redeemed, are going to be adopted, and will become similar to the resurrection body of the Lord Jesus Christ. The doctrine of adoption is a wonderful truth, isn't it? God is our Father, but we can only become His children through the Lord Jesus Christ.
As Harriet El Buell put it so beautifully:
I once was an outcast stranger on earth,
A sinner by choice, and an alien by birth;
But I've been adopted, my name's written down,
An heir to a mansion, a harp, and a crown.
I'm a child of the King, a child of the King:
With Jesus my Savior, I'm a child of the King.
From The Lord's Prayer
© 1980, revised in 1998
Available from AMG Publishers