A Missional Adoption

Everyone has seen those pictures — the ones with the well-off white couple visiting a malnourished child in an impoverished third world country. We think, “how honorable it is that they ‘save’ that poor child.” As misguided as that sentiment may be, it almost provides a helpful picture of our adoption by God.

The reality is, it doesn’t go far enough.

Not only are we entirely helpless to remove ourselves from such peril, but we also spit in God’s face when he says, “come to me, my beloved child.”

missional adoption

A relationship richer than anything

Originally, and naturally, we are “children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3) — unrighteous, rebellious, and ignorant — enslaved to a broken and sinful flesh.

Therefore, there had to occur some fundamental change in relationship; namely, from the kind of relationship that enemies have to the kind of relationship that a father and son enjoy. This relationship is marked with infinite forbearance, forgiveness, intimacy, knowledge, tenderness, and joy. The Bible calls this adoption.

Through adoption, we are unequivocally folded into the missional family of God, with a perfect Father and Brother.

This kind of new relationship must confront the tendency for Christians to equate their morning “quiet time” to their relationship with God. What a cheap substitute an hour of reading the Bible, journaling, and prayer is when one is invited to behold and participate in the life of the Trinity – as a son of God and a brother of Jesus!

Adoption: the whole sum of the gospel

But perhaps the most overlooked aspect of our adoption into the family of God is that we are adopted and called God’s children, before we ever act like it.  Adoption into God’s family is first (but not primarily) a status change before a behavioral change. In this way, adoption is very distinct from regeneration. Regeneration has to do with recreating our nature, thereby changing our behaviors; adoption is about status.  An infinitely improved status is the heart of the gospel.

Through Jesus

This is where “adoption…through Jesus” (Ephesians 1:5) comes in. On one’s behalf, this kind of relational change is utterly impossible to initiate with an infinitely holy and just God.

Why? Because we’re in the doghouse. Big time.

But we are offenders right up to our adoption. We are offenders after our adoption. So our improved status from enemies to beloved children is just that — an improved status. It pays no regard to right behavior. The reason that this is possible is because the new status ascribed to us was purchased through Jesus’ sinless life and death in our stead. In other words, we don’t need to behave perfectly because Jesus did.

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7 Responses to A Missional Adoption

  1. R.O. Flyer says:

    Jordan, are you suggesting that we should see the priority of a “status change” over a “behavioral change” as a temporal/sequential priority or a logical priority, or perhaps both? Could we understand the “status change” from “children of wrath” to “adopted” ones as God’s act of justification and the “behavioral change” as sanctification? If so, I think it is right to see a kind of logical priority, at least, in justification, but the two are, to at least some extent, inseparable. The important point here that we must insist on is the priority of grace.

    I also wonder if we should think not so much in terms of our having been “ignorant” or “rebellious”–at the level of the subjective and anthropological–but in terms of our having been in “bondage” or “slavery” to the powers, which places the emphasis on the objective and cosmic, and as such apocalyptic. So, it is God’s apocalyptic act in Christ that sets us free from the powers of “the present evil age” (as Paul puts it in Galatians) to live and move in the freedom of the eschatological “new creation.” Our “status change,” our “adoption” is the grace of God, our participation, by the Spirit, in the “new creation,” which is Jesus Christ, the risen, crucified Nazarene.

    I suppose I want to insist on seeing justification as a kind of cosmic struggle, not in a metaphysical sense (as two opposing forces of power) but in an apocalyptic, eschatological sense, as the future new age breaking in and interrupting the old age. Our “behavioral change,” then, is Christ’s defeat of the powers of death–it our living into the new creation, our living into grace.

  2. R.O. Flyer says:

    Also, I think your absolutely right to think of “adoption” as an “infinitely improved status,” because it points to the radical discontinuity (the “infinite”) between the old “status” and the new “status.” Perhaps “improvement” is not even a strong enough word here!

  3. jamogck says:

    Thanks Ry! I guess I am saying that justification is both the temporal and logical priority in the gospel. One is certainly declared “righteous” before one acts like it. Although, I would also insist, one is not “free” (speaking to our bondage to sin and death) to repent and believe the gospel until one’s heart is regenerate. But I would also make a distinction between a changed heart (regeneration) and changed behavior. A changed behavior is progressive and occurs after one is brought into the family of God.

    Does that make sense? Your questions definitely sharpen my thinking. I appreciate it.

  4. Pingback: Adoption is About Status, Not Behavior « huiothesian: adopted as sons

  5. Matt Tully says:

    Thanks for the excellent post! Loving the blog!

  6. Pingback: Pretty Inclusive « huiothesian: adopted as sons

  7. Pingback: Missional Money | Antioch Community Church - NE Minneapolis, MN

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