"In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God." (Galatians 4:3-7)
You and I were born into this world spiritually orphaned. Our orphanage was run by a hard-taskmaster who, though we didn’t recognise it at the time, made us believe our orphan state was actually true freedom. We were alienated, strangers, ‘having no hope and without God in the world’ (Ephesians 2:12).
Into our orphanage, Christ came crashing. He took our place within it, being forsaken for a moment, so we might be found forever. Jesus lived a perfect life for us, died a gruesome death in our place, and rose again to new life. In doing this He proved our orphan state was not in actual fact true freedom, rather it was slavery. It was slavery to sin, to the god of this world, and to fear (Romans 8:15). Only in Jesus is true freedom found, and whom He sets free is free indeed (John 8:36).
More than being freed by almighty God, the pinnacle of the gospel extends even higher. Not only are slaves set free, but in Jesus we are also adopted into God’s family. We become sons and daughters of the living God! Our identity is transferred and transformed. It turns out that while blood may be thicker than water, our new identity is thicker than blood. We are now brothers and sisters and sons and daughters because God has declared us to be so.
JI Packer has said:
"Our understanding of Christianity cannot be better than our grasp of adoption... If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God's child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all." (J.I. Packer from his chapter “The Sons Of God” in the book “Knowing God”)
It is this grasp of adoption that compels Christians to grasp at the concept of adoption our world knows well. In adopting a baby who bears no biological connection to you, you mimic the Father who adopted us into His family, even though our flesh was at enmity to Him. He saw us as orphans, lost and hopeless, but He called us to be His sons and daughters, purely by grace.
One of the primary ways Christians can preach the gospel is therefore by being open to and encouraging adoption. Adoption is the gospel made visible. It is not to be ‘plan B’, only thought about if you can’t bear your own. Our adoption certainly wasn’t God’s ‘plan B’. Rather, ‘at the fullness of time’, God sent forth His Son, to accomplish the gloriously costly work of making a way for our adoption.
At City on a Hill, there are some who have been adopted into new families, with new parents, brothers and sisters. Yet at City on a Hill, more fundamentally and eternally, all of us have been adopted into a new family, with a Heavenly Father, brothers and sisters.