“God does not love us because we are lovely. He loves us because Christ is lovely. He loves us in Christ” (R. C. Sproul).
by Stephen Yuille on September 18, 2020
“Alison, Laura, and I walk past a large conference room on the fourth floor of a hotel in Nanchang, China, glancing through the open doors at some sort of business meeting where someone is providing statistical analysis in Mandarin—boring in any language. We continue to the end of the long corridor and enter a smaller conference room, where nine caretakers are holding nine babies—some sleeping, some playing, some crying, some screaming. They’re all dressed in matching pink sleepers and sporting name tags. We know who we’re looking for, because we’ve been staring at her picture for the past two months. … We’ve traveled thousands of miles and haven’t slept properly in over forty-eight hours; we’re exhausted and overwhelmed. We’ve had just enough time to check into our hotel room, purchase some baby formula, and find the conference room. Alison is the first to spot her. Unaware of the proper protocol (and, to be honest, not particularly interested), she approaches with arms outstretched. The man holding our daughter has a kind face and gentle demeanour; without hesitation, he willingly hands over our precious cargo. And there she is in Alison’s arms. … At that moment, a wonderful truth from God’s Word comes into sharp focus: ‘Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.’”
That was nine years ago today.
Our adoption of a child has changed our lives in so many ways (all for the better). While I could say a great deal about this, I actually want to speak of a far greater adoption; namely, God's adoption of sinners into His family. Paul describes it in detail in Galatians 4:4–7.
Adoption is purchased by the sending of the Son (vv. 4–5)
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”
If we see someone drowning, we don’t throw him a book on how to swim. It won’t do him any good. He needs to be rescued. That’s us. The Bible makes it clear that we are dead in sin, and we need to be rescued. “But when the fullness of time had come," the Son of God veiled His glory and majesty in the garb of our frail humanity. He entered this world, lived a perfect life, and fulfilled every requirement of the law. He climbed Calvary’s cross and bore the penalty for our transgression of the law. He emerged victorious from the tomb, and ascended into heaven. He did all this to rescue sinners. But that’s only half the story. In addition to paying the penalty for our sin, He purchased our inheritance. Paul tells us that, when we become one with Christ through faith, “we receive adoption as sons.”
Adoption is sealed by the sending of the Spirit (v. 6)
“And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’”
This doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit changes places. It means that He manifests His presence by His operation in a way that He didn’t formerly. It includes His works of regeneration, sanctification, illumination, inclination, etc. Because of His influence in our hearts, He causes us to cry: “Abba! Father!” As Paul writes elsewhere, “You did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Rom. 8:15). As adopted sons, we commune with God who is our Father. By sharing the Holy Spirit with us, the Father and the Son share their love, life, and fellowship with us. By the Holy Spirit uniting us to Christ, the Father knows and love us as His adopted sons. By the Holy Spirit, we begin to know and love Him as our Father. In sum, the Father loves us; the Son reveals the Father’s love; and the Spirit assures us of the Father’s love.
Adoption is to the Father (v. 7)
“So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”
As adopted sons, we wait patiently for our Father’s promised inheritance. “If we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Rom. 8:25). Hope is fixed on the return of Christ, the resurrection from the dead, the full and final deliverance from sin, and the renovation of the entire cosmos. We know we will inherit it because “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:39). God is our Father, meaning He treats us as “only” sons. As adopted sons, we can be certain of His love for us. “God does not love us because we are lovely. He loves us because Christ is lovely. He loves us in Christ” (R. C. Sproul). He loves us on Christ’s account. He loves us, because we’re one with His Beloved.
Behold, what love, what boundless love,
The Father has bestowed
On sinners lost, that we should be
Now called the sons of God!
 J. Stephen Yuille, A Hope Deferred: Adoption and the Fatherhood of God (Shepherd Press, 2013), 145.