In God’s gracious plan of salvation, adoption is one of several important features which together indicate the greatness of his grace. Adoption for a believer occurs at the commencement of his Christian life. Yet since it is not the only benefit that occurs then, we have to note the order in which several simultaneous aspects of salvation occur.
Before a person is adopted, he has to be regenerated by the Spirit and then given the status of justification by God. When that person is regenerated, he trusts in Jesus and at that moment, because he has done so, he becomes right with God. To be right with God is to say the same thing as to be justified.
Justification involves two benefits. One is that believing sinners are forgiven all their sins and the other is that the righteousness of Jesus (his perfect life) is reckoned by God to be theirs. Those benefits mean that they have a permanent standing before God as the Judge and once given is theirs forever.
If the act of justification described the only benefit God gives to a sinner when he or she trusts initially in Jesus, it would be an amazing display of divine grace which ensures that they will be God’s people always. Yet we can, and should, ask if God does more.
It has been pointed out that justification restores sinners to the place of righteous servants. As unregenerate sinners, they had failed to serve God and lived for sinful masters, whoever and whatever they were. Once those sinners have been justified, the perfect life of service that Jesus lived is now accounted as theirs and as a consequence they are regarded as having a life of perfect service. Wonderful grace is all we can say!
In addition to justification, which deals with their status as fallen servants, God also adopts those believing sinners into his family, which deals with their status as lost sons. Sin had estranged them from God and they lived outside his family. In his grace, he brings them into it at the start of their Christian life and from then on they have a right to all the privileges of the sons of God (as our catechism puts it).
When I was converted, I was told that I now was a member of God’s family. I accepted that gladly, although it would be years before I realised that in showing this level of grace the Lord lifted his people to the heights. What happens on those heights? We probably know, but we will think about some of them in future blogs.