Child of Love, Adopted by the Father
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law … so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba, Father!’ so you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God. – Galatians 4:4-7 nrsv
In the time of the apostle Paul, adult adoption was common, especially among those of the Roman upper classes who needed to establish a legal heir for their estates. … The adoption process was difficult, made so by what is known as patria potestas, that is, the father possessed absolute power over his family, literally possessing his children. … Such adoption required two steps. Frist, the adopting father had to purchase his adopted child from the biological father, a process called mancipatio. Second, the ceremony dubbed vindicato required the adopting father to present his case to for adoption before a Roman magistrate to ensure the transference of the adopted child into his patria potestas, the adopted father’s absolute power over his new son. When both of these steps were completed, the child was legally adopted.
To the churches in Galatia, Paul wrote, ‘God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law … that we might receive adoption [as children]’ (v.5 tniv). Once we were slaves and sons and daughters of this world, servants of the Prince of Darkness, but now we are legally adopted by God himself. Through Christ’s redeeming work on Calvary, we have been purchased by God, satisfying the law of manicipatio, and we have been publicly adopted by him, fulfilling the legal requirements of the vindicato. Satan no longer has power over us, for we are adopted into God’s patria potestas, resting in his absolute authority and power. We have been chosen by God, and we are his children. We were bought with a price and are now citizens of heaven.
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—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. – Romans 8:15-17 nrsv
When writing to the Romans, the apostle Paul understood the legal ramification of Roman adoption, which he then drew upon when talking to the church at Rome. Paul said because of Jesus’ redeeming work on Calvary, we have been bought by God and legally adopted. Being adopted by God means that we are now legitimately God’s sons and daughters; our past life, including our sins, is completely erased because God is now our Father. And because God is our Father, we are heirs to his kingdom and all that he possesses. No longer are we slaves to sin and our past. The slate has indeed been wiped clean, and we are God’s children.
The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and coheirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. – Romans 8: 16-17 niv
The apostle Paul was aware of the laws surrounding Roman adoption. Official Roman law stated an adoption must be a public event that took place before five witnesses. … Only one of the original five witnesses to the adoption needed to step forward to declare the adoptions legitimacy, attesting that he was present at the adoption ceremony and that the adoption was authentic. That one eyewitness testimony guaranteed the adopted son’s position as coheir with the biological children, allowing the adopted son to hold all the rights and privileges of being a biological child of the father.
Who then testifies for us that we are God’s adopted sons and daughters? Who was present when we were officially adopted by God? Pauls answer is clear; the Holy Spirit. He steps forward, announcing publicly that our adoption as children of God has indeed happened and is legally completed. Our old sinful lives have passed away; our new lives have begun. God claims us as his own, making us coheirs with his Son. All that is Jesus’ is now ours. Instead of being slaves to our human nature, our sinful selves, & the Prince of Darkness, we are now members of the royal family, God’s chosen beloveds who will reign with Christ Jesus forever.
I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends. – John 15:15 nrsv
The prophet Samuel recorded the quintessential story of friendship between Jonathan, the eldest son of King Saul, and David, son of Jesse. Having slain the Philistine champion using only a sling and a stone, David appeared before King Saul. Scripture records that as Jonathan witnessed this meeting, his soul was bound to David’s. He then made a covenant with David, giving him his robe, armor, sword, bow, and belt. Throughout their friendship, Jonathan ‘took great delight in David.’ (1 Samuel 19:1 nrsv), speaking words of encouragement and love to him every time he could, while also speaking well of him to others, especially his father.
David and Jonathan loved each other as much as thy valued their own lives and were willing to do anything for each other. What a picture of authentic friendship! What an example of selfless love reigning in the hearts of two friends.
From David and Jonathan’s relationship, we learn several characteristics of true friendship. True friends love selflessly, always thinking about the welfare of the other. True friends articulate their love, speaking words of encouragement not only to each other but also about the other in conversations with other people. True friends are willing to let the other receive praise, not themselves.
True friends love all the times. True friends will lay down their lives for each other
Most importantly, having a true friend is not something we can achieve or earn; friendship is a gift. When David first met Jonathan, their souls were knit together. By using the passive verb construction, Scripture highlights that neither Jonathan nor David secured this bond of friendship, but someone else. True friendship is a gift of God.
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. – John 15:12-14 nrsv
Why would the omnipotent God willingly choose to call us friends?
Most certainly, we have not initiated this relationship nor could we if we so desired. He is the grand initiator of the friendship, and it is by and through his grace and love that he sustains it. But why us?
At the core of this friendship is love.
The apostle John wrote, ‘Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. … This is how God showed his love among us; he sent his only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.’ (1 John 4: 7,9-10) We are not the initiator of love. We are not made primarily that we may love God (though we were made for that too), but that God may love us, and that we may become objects in which the divine love may rest. In other words, the great wonder of life is not that we love, but that we are loved;
not that we choose to love others, but that God first loved us.
Because God loves us, we can love others and, in turn, we can experience their love. In our relationships, there will be times that we feel unworthy of another person’s love, grace and forgiveness. At such times, we will be gently reminded of the Father’s love for us and the astonishing yet real truth about us: We are Jesus’ friends!
Share with us how another person in this room is special to God.