21ST CENTURY CHILDREN OF GOD
Galatians 4:1-7 November 7, 2004
Our thinking in this message will be concentrated on the statement of Paul in Galatians 4:4,5: “But when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” This passage, along with Romans 8:15 and Ephesians 1:5, speaks of all Jews and Gentiles who become Christians as the sons and daughters of God. Christians are spoken of by God as His adopted children. They are His by adoption. This word adoption generates some serious questions. Christians are not just natural sons and daughters, but adopted sons and daughters. of God. If Christians are God's adopted children, what about all other people who are not Christians? Just who are the sons and daughters of God and who are not the sons and daughters of God? Are all human beings the sons and daughters of God, regardless of what religion they may espouse? Does the Bible teach the universal fatherhood of God? Since the scriptures make use of the term adoption to denote a change of relationship with God, and since Christians are called the sons of God, the subject is well worthy our attention.
The first thing I want to say about the subject of adoption and the revealed doctrine that Christians are adopted sons and daughters of God, is that God has no literal sons or daughters. This is quite evident because God is not married; He has no wife. Sons and daughters are the offspring of a husband and wife. If Christians are not sons and daughters what are they? Literally speaking, human beings are creatures, created in the likeness of God their Creator. We are created beings by an Almighty heavenly Being. Since God has no wife to have literal children, we must understand the phrase sons and daughters as metaphorical language. In Acts 17:26,29 Paul says that the human race is the offspring of God, and He made every nation of men from the one man Adam. They are called sons and daughters, in a manner of speaking, because they enjoy a loving relationship with God. They are made in His divine likeness, and this consists of high intelligence, high moral nature, a religious nature. . He created the first man and woman and used them and their descendants to produce children. for Him. In that sense the human race is the offspring of God. He looks down on them with special favor, like a human father looks down on his children with favor.
Now I must mention the fact there is one exception to the statement that God has no literal sons or daughters. God did have one
literal Son, Jesus Christ of Nazareth; and He is called God's only begotten Son. Jesus was His literal Son, but God produced Him through the virgin Mary by a wonderful supernatural conception by the Holy Spirit. At that time, the second person of the Godhead inhabited the body of that Son for 33 years; and we call that event the incarnation-- God in the flesh. One of His names is Immanuel, meaning God with us. God now produces sons and daughters through the holy relationship between Christ and His bride the church, metaphorically speaking. God produced the human race through Adam and his descendants, and He now produces a new human race through Jesus His only begotten Son. The children whom He receives through Adam and Eve are His natural children, in a manner of speaking; but the children He receives through Christ and His bride the church, are His adopted children.. The difference between these two sets of children will become evident as we proceed in the study.
Secondly, now that we know Christians have the right to be called by the worthy names of sons and daughters of the Almighty, the text also informs us that Christians are God's adopted sons and daughters. At least three times the word of God says Christians become God's children by adoption. We are not only natural children through Adam and Eve but adopted children through Jesus Christ. How could this be? It raises a lot of questions. Who was our father before God became our adoptive Father? God became our Father by way of adoption. To adopt is to receive the child of another as one's own. In the beginning God created Adam and Eve as His own children, and they were given dominion over the earth. They were created to be members of God's family. The entire human race descended from Adam, but they deserted God and refused to serv e and worship Him. When Adam and Eve disobeyed and transgressed God's law, they accepted Satan as their ruler. They alienated themselves and the human race from God. In John 8:44 Jesus said to unbelieving Jews, “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning.” Jesus here referred to the beginning of sin when Adam and Eve were tempted by Satan and brought death on the human family. Since that time there have been two fathers in the world: God and Satan. Satan has been able to impart his evil disposition and nature to the greater part of mankind. We have no other explanation for so much evil in the world. This is a part of human history that the history books do not tell us about.
The moral and religious condition of the Gentile nations from Adam to the flood is described by these words, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth”(Genesis 6:5) For alienating themselves from God and choosing Satan to be their ruler, God removed
the human race from the earth, saving only Noah and his family. God had
some faithful sons and daughters during those early times, but only a few
are mentioned, including Abel, Seth Enoch, Noah and his family, Abraham and Lot. The Gentile nations from the flood to Christ, as a whole, rejected the rulership of God for the rulership of Satan. The religious condition of the Gentile nations in the gospel age of the world is described by Paul writing to Gentiles who had become Christians. Ephesians 2:11, 12 says, “Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh, that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” They were without God, far away from God. and in the family of the Devil. But in that same chapter, Paul said to those Gentile Christians, “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” God delivered those Gentiles out of darkness and from the family of Satan, and transferred them into His family as His own sons and daughters. But they came back to God as adopted sons and daughters. Since two families arose on earth--- the family of Satan and the family of God, this implies also two fathers, Satan and God. In order that man might return to His favor, He offered to adopt as many of the children of men who would make their lives right with God and agree to be His sons and daughters. But they would return to His family only as adopted sons and daughters.
The moral and religious condition of the Jewish nation is described in Romans 2. Paul stated that Jews were no better than Gentiles. God rejected the Gentiles for immorality and idol worship, and He rejected the Jews for the same reasons. Even though they had the ten commandments, they lived the same way the Gentiles did. God always had a remnant of faithful children throughout their 1500 year history, but the nation as a whole lived like the Gentiles and worshiped by idols as the Gentiles did. In John 8:44 Jesus said to unbelieving Jews who surrounded Him on one occasion, “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do..” In Acts 13: 46 Paul said to the Jewish nation, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first, but since you reject it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold we turn to the Gentiles.” This is a profound statement that Jewish people who will not accept Christ are unworthy of eternal life, and it is equally true of all Gentile people. The natural sons and daughters of God through Adam and Eve, Jew and Gentiles, are unworthy of eternal life and cannot go to heaven. The only recourse is to turn back to the God they turned away from, and be willing to become faithful sons and daughters of the one true and living God., but they cannot come back as natural sons and daughters. 4
They can only come back to Him as adopted sons and daughters. Since two families arose on earth, the family of God and the family of Satan, this implies there are two fathers–God and Satan. Scripture calls Satan the god of this world. In order that His wayward natural sons and daughters might return to His favor, He has graciously proposed to adopt as many of the children of men who would make their lives right and agree to live like His sons and daughters. But they come back as adopted sons and daughters, and that is a humbling thought for the human race.
Finally, I would like to comment on God's gracious adoption plan for the human race in the Christian Age of the world and what it entails. Most all governments have strict regulations on adopting children. If you don't think so, try to adopt a child today. Even the ancient Greek and Romans had strict rules on adoption. To adopt a person in the Roman Empire was to take him in the place of a son, and he was to give him all the rights and privileges which accompanied that title. Now the wisdom of Roman law made this matter a public concern. When a man had a mind to adopt another into his family, he was obliged to draw up his reasons and to offer them to the Roman authorities.
To be adopted into a Roman family carried with it great privileges. The private ceremony usually consisted in buying the person to be adopted of his parents for a sum of money, formally given and taken. The parties then appeared before a Roman official, and the intended father said, “Are you willing to become my son?” And the son answered, “I am willing.” The relation was thus formed according to law, and the adopted son entered into the family of his new father. He assumed his name, became subject to his authority, and was entitled to the whole of the inheritance or to a share of it, if there were other sons. He was duty bound to respect the honor of the family name.
It is most probable that the idea of adoption in the New Testament was borrowed from the Greeks and Romans which was common knowledge and understood. So the term of adoption was familiar to both Jews and Gentiles, and the Holy Spirit used this word adoption to convey an intelligent idea of the spiritual relationship between God and His new covenant people. Our text says, “But when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sins.” Adoption, according to the scriptural sense of the term, is an act of God by which He pronounces sinful men and women to be His adopted children, admits them into His family, and gives them a right to all the privileges of His children. I John 3:1 says, “Behold what manner of love 5
the Father has bestowed upon us that we should be called the children of God.” Then Paul adds to that thought in Romans 8:17, “And if children then heirs–heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ.” All that goes with our adoption.
God's adoption plan in the gospel is aslo of a public nature and concern. The person must confess Christ before men. One mut declare publicly that he is willing to become a son or daughter of God. If one is not willing to be a son of God, submit to divine authority and live like a son of God, he should not be baptized. It is not right before God or the church to be baptized when in our hearts we are not willing to change our lives and live like sons and daughters of the Almighty. . Whether we know it or not, when we made the good confession, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, “ we in effect said to God, “I will accept your Son and accept the responsibilities that go with it.” On that confession and our willingness to change our lives, as expressed in repentance, then we are baptized into the adopted family of God, having been born again of the water and the Spirit. Then the Father gives us this instruction, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. What fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness, and what communion does light have with darkness? Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty”(2 Cor. 6:14-18). If You are willing to become a son or daughter of God by adoption, visit the nearest Church of Christ in your community next Sunday; and you will be assisted in becoming one of God's children by faith in Jesus Christ.