From the class “Christ is Everything to His Followers.” Parts adapted and expanded from Dr. Buck Oliphant. Parts also used at Belhaven University, evangelism, pastoral counseling, and prison ministry.
When the right time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent Him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that He could adopt us as His very own children. And because we are His children, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are His child, God has made you His heir. (Galatians 4:4-7 NLT)
Everything that Christ taught, everything that makes the New Testament new, and better than the Old, everything that is distinctively Christian as opposed to merely Jewish, is summed up in the knowledge of the Fatherhood of God. “Father” is the Christian name for God. Our understanding of Christianity cannot be better than our grasp of adoption in Christ….If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much they make of being God’s child, and having God as our Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls their worship, prayers, and whole outlook on life, they do not understand Christianity very well at all (J. I. Packer, Knowing God).
As adopted members in God’s family, Jesus’ followers have both privileges and responsibilities. The Lord has woven these together and we cannot have one without the other; they are inseparable. We cannot enjoy one without shouldering the other. Our Heavenly Father holds us responsible and accountable for all our attitudes and actions, our character and conduct. Grace is the opposite of earning God’s favor; that is impossible. But grace is not opposed to holy effort (empowered by the Holy Spirit working in us).
Here is a Partial Listing of our Privileges in God’s Family:
1. In Christ, we are given the Holy Spirit. Gal 4:6 above. God the Father plans our salvation; God the Son accomplishes it; God the Spirit applies all the benefits of Christ’s life and work to us. The Spirit gives us new life, convicts us of sin, and draws us to Jesus. Then the Spirit goes on doing His good work in us to re-make us more and more like Christ, carrying His work on to completion until Jesus returns for us.1 Jesus said, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this He meant the Spirit….2
When God sets His seal on a person’s heart by His Spirit, there is a holy stamp, an image impressed, left upon our heart by the Spirit, like a seal upon wax.3 This holy stamp, or impressed image, assures us that we are God’s child. And this mark stamped by the Spirit on God’s children is His own image. That is the evidence by we are known to be God’s children; we have the image of our Father stamped upon our hearts by the Spirit of adoption. (Jonathan Edwards, adapted)
2. In Christ, we have access to our Heavenly Father. Gal 4:6 above; Heb 4:16 Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence, so we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Comment: Our Father wants us to come boldly to Him, not worried about how He might respond. God wants to help us with our troubles and bless us during them and from them. Hymn: O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer!4
3. In Christ, we become heirs with Him of Heaven. Gal 4:7 above; Rom 8:17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory. Comment: Everything belongs to Christ and by His grace, we get to share in all that is His. Even if we suffer in this life, let’s not doubt our future inheritance. No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no human mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him!5
4. In Christ, we are pitied by God. Psalm 103:13-14 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust. Comment: Our Heavenly Father knows our helplessness and imperfections and does not require of us more than we can handle.6 God has two sheepdogs: Goodness and Mercy. He sends them to us from His throne of grace; sometimes to bark at us, to badger us; sometimes to woo us by persuading us that His will is good and perfect for our lives (Sinclair Ferguson).
5. In Christ, we are protected. Prov 14:26 In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence, and His children will have a place of refuge. 2 Thes 3:3 The Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. John 10:29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.
6. In Christ, we are provided for. Matt 6:31-34 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat or drink or wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
7. In Christ, we receive God’s loving discipline. John 15:2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Heb 12:6,7 The Lord disciplines the one He loves, and He chastens everyone He accepts as His son. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as His children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? Comment: God’s discipline is evidence that we belong to Him, not a sign of His displeasure. The Father has no pleasure in afflicting us, but He will not keep back even the most painful chastisement if He can thereby guide us to come home and abide in Jesus (Andrew Murray).
8. In Christ, we are never forsaken. Psalm 94:14 The LORD will not reject His people or abandon His special possession. Comment: Our Father will never forsake us to the injustice of our oppressors.7 As our king, Christ brings us under His power, rules and defends us, and restrains and conquers all His and all our enemies.8
9. In Christ, we are assured. Rom 8:16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Comment: Assurance does not lie in what we are, be we great or small. Assurance lies in what God has done in His plan of salvation to secure us to Himself. Assurance is our reaction to the gift of salvation and our reflection on our trust in Christ. Faith alone justifies, through Christ alone. Assurance is the enjoyment of our justification (Sinclair Ferguson). Assurance is heaven on earth (Thomas Brooks).
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we are amazed that you love us with an everlasting love and that you have adopted us into your holy family. We are not just servants, guests, or friends; we are your sons and daughters through Jesus Christ. Help us to give you back our whole lives as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to you. Keep us from conforming to this sinful world and keep on transforming us by renewing our minds. Help us to devote our lives to thanks-living out of love for you. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Go in peace, beloved. Walk with King Jesus today and be a blessing to others!
Notes: 1 Phil 1:6. 2 John 7:37-39. 3 see Eph 1:13,13,4:30. 4 What a Friend we have in Jesus by Joseph Scriven. 5 1 Cor 2:9. 6 1 Cor 10:13. 7 See 2 Thess 1:3-10. 8 Shorter Catechism #26.