[The complete sermon series discussed below can be found here on Sermon Audio. It turned out to be 6 sermons in total.]
I’m very pleased to announce that Dr. Timothy Trumper is beginning a six-part sermon series entitled “The Good News of Adoption” this Sunday at his church. The first sermon in this series is “The Fundamental Privileges of our Adoption.” I will post links to the audio of each sermon as the series progresses. Below is what will be included as an insert in their church bulletin this Sunday to introduce the series:
The Good News of Adoption
For our Winter series of evening sermons we turn our attention to the wonderful, yet surprisingly neglected, doctrine of adoption. This doctrine has to do with what it means to be a son of God (we shall explain the use of masculine terminology), and is found among the authors of the New Testament almost exclusively in the writings of the apostle Paul. Certainly the New Testament’s Greek term for adoption, huiothesia (literally, “the placing of a son”) is exclusively Pauline, and is fundamental to the shape of the doctrine, and, by extension, the shape of the sermon series.
Although every believer has the Spirit of adoption (Gal. 4:6; Rom. 8:15), and is thus able to call God “Father”, theologians have done little overall to unpack adoption. While the doctrine was very much a part of Calvin’s Calvinism, and was given a chapter in a confession of faith for the first time by the Puritans (see the Westminster Confession, ch. 12; Larger Catechism, Q&A 74; and Shorter Catechism, Q&A 34), between 1650 and 1830 adoption became lost to view in Calvinistic theology and has not to this day recovered the place it occupied in either Calvin’s thought or Paul’s. That said, the Lord presently seems to be working by his Spirit to recover this truth. For this reason we come to it, and do so at this juncture at the request of a number of esteemed friends and colleagues, and as the latest leg of a protracted pursuit of the recovery of adoption and of its rich theological and pastoral ramifications, notably for Christian living.
One obvious by-product of the neglect of adoption is the want of the sort of in-depth consideration of the biblical data justification and sanctification have long enjoyed. Often adoption has been overshadowed by justification, and sometimes made a part of it. Regularly, typically even, the doctrine has been confused with the new birth (due to the overlap of filial terms such as “children”). For reasons such as this, we begin our study of adoption by laying out the fundamental principles necessary for an accurate understanding of the doctrine. Our purpose is to promote a healthy appreciation of the importance of adoption, of its wonder, and its application to life.
To this end we note, first, the context of adoption: the Fatherhood of God. The Fatherhood of God is written large across the pages of the New Testament. The revelation of God’s paternity is one of the salient achievements of the Lord Jesus. In the Old Testament God is described “as” (or like) a father (e.g. Ps. 103:13), but in New Testament times Christ taught his disciples to address God directly by the name “Father”. While there is a sense in which the Fatherhood of God refers to all three persons of the Godhead, Christ had in mind specifically the first person of the Trinity; Paul too. Note in Ephesians 1:3 how he traces the gospel back to God the Father: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places [literally “the heavenlies”] in Christ Jesus.”
Second, we note the language of adoption. This is important because in the New Testament the Fatherhood of God relates to two different doctrines: regeneration (spoken of metaphorically as the new birth) and union with Christ/acceptance (spoken of metaphorically as adoption). While there are possible references to adoption in John 1:12 and Revelation 21:7, only Paul speaks explicitly of adoption by means of the term huiothesia. He constructs from the term a robust way of understanding major elements of the gospel. John’s major interest, by contrast, is in the new birth (see John 3:3, 6-8; 1 John 2:29-3:1). Although Paul only uses the term huiothesia on 5 occasions (Gal. 4:5; Rom. 8:15, 23; 9:4; Eph. 1:5), the manner of his use of it indicates the importance he attaches to the theme.
Third, with the disentangling of Paul’s adoption model and John’s new birth model, we are better positioned to note the distinctive structure of adoption. His five uses of huiothesia can be arranged without any despite to their context or content to form a line running from the first things to the last things, thus demonstrating what Paul wants us to understand; namely, that adoption is one of those rich themes running throughout the history of redemption. In Ephesians 1:5 Paul tells us that adoption is that to which we were predestined from eternity past. In Romans 9:4 he cleverly notes the foreshadowing of our adoption in Christ in the adoption of Israel as God’s firstborn son. In Galatians 4:4-6 and Romans 8:15-16 Paul depicts the basis and reality of our adoption, while in Romans 8:23 he writes of its consummation. This entails God’s public proclamation of our sonship, coinciding with which is his redemption of our bodies, and our entrance once-for-all into the perfect liberty of body and soul.
Standing back from all these details, we note, fourthly, the message of adoption. It reminds us that while the gospel begins with grace, it ends in glory. Glory for us (eternal life on the new heaven and new earth), but, above all, glory for our kind God who first conceived, executed and applied this wonderful redemption. Adoption is, indeed, good news!
[The complete sermon series discussed above can be found here on Sermon Audio. It turned out to be 6 sermons in total.]