- Last Updated: November 9, 2017
Most of us are at least familiar with the concept of God's adoption of us when we become Christians. Adoption embodies the biblical theme of the covenant. It is important to see that adoption is more than a legal contract - it is a relationship of promise.
In fact, this distinction can be made of all family relationships. The relationship between God and His people is covenantal, not contractual, and God intends that family relationships mirror his covenantal relationship with us. Calvin wrote, "God's covenant was not made to last only a few days, or for a short time. When he adopted the children of Abraham, He took them under His keeping forever."
The apostle Paul also uses the adoption analogy in his writings several times. Christians are adopted members of God's family, a privilege originally bestowed exclusively on Israel, but through Christ made available to all through faith in him. According to a Roman-Syrian law book written in Paul's era, a man might be able to disown his biological son if he had good reason, but he could never disown his adopted son. The adoption analogy used by Paul was a strong one indeed.
The scriptural image of adoption emphasizes a) the sovereign character of God in planning our salvation, b) the newness of the family relationship he establishes, c) its climate of intimate trust and love, and d) the gracious and immense inheritance our adoption affords us. This scriptural analogy gives us a wonderful picture of God's character and love for us as his children.
Scriptural Principles Can Be Applied to Families
There are several similarities between adoption into God's family and a child's adoption into a human family. First and foremost, adoption is one of the only two ways that God has ordained for human families to be built. The relationship of parent to child is a covenantal relationship, bestowed on a family whether through birth or adoption. Just as marriage is modeled after Christ and his bride, the church, so parental love is modeled after God as Father of His people. God's plan for children is that they experience life in the midst of this covenantal relationship between a mother and a father.
The scriptures give us examples of birth mothers making adoption plans (Jochebed and Moses, Exodus 2:10), families formed through adoption (Mordecai and Esther, Esther 2), and exhortations to care for orphans. Perhaps the most profound example of adoption in the scriptures is Joseph's adoption of Jesus. It should not surprise us that God desired for Jesus to have an earthly father, consistent with His plan for marriage and parenthood. The lineage of Jesus, as prophesied in the Old Testament, is fulfilled through Joseph (see Matthew 1:1-17). Joseph is fully and completely Jesus' father - participating in his naming, protecting him from danger by traveling to Egypt, teaching him a trade, and presenting him at the temple.
Scriptural images can deepen our understanding of God's covenantal family and His love for us. A true understanding of adoption gives us an overwhelming sense of permanence. God's permanent relationship to his children, and the permanent relationship of adopted children in their families.
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