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Like Fools When They Argued

30 October 2012 by Tom Chantry

Q. 74. What is adoption?
A. Adoption is an act of the free grace of God, in and for his only Son Jesus Christ, whereby all those that are justified are received into the number of his children, have his name put upon them, the Spirit of his Son given to them, are under his fatherly care and dispensations, admitted to all the liberties and privileges of the sons of God, made heirs of all the promises, and fellow-heirs with Christ in glory.

A number of years ago I heard a pastor relate a discussion with his youngest son - the only adopted child in the family. The boy accepted that he was a beloved member of the family, but he didn’t fully appreciate his adoption. In talking about wills and inheritances he said, “You mean split up between the others, right? Because I’m not really your son.” And the father assured him that no, he was a true son in every way, and that he would be remembered in the will.

We all chuckled, because it seemed so obvious to us, and then we awed (I don’t mean we were in awe, but rather we said “aw”), because the father’s answer was so sweet, but years later I sometimes think I still haven’t understood the point.

I can accept that I’ve been received into the number of God’s children. I know the Spirit has been given to me. I will testify that God’s care for me is very fatherly. I tend not to remember the promises as often as I should, but I believe they are mine. What continues to throw me about adoption is just one phrase out of Romans 8:16-17 - “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ…”

Surely not! Like the prodigal, I would be content to be one of the hangers-on in heaven, and like a prodigal who still can’t grasp the implications of the fatted calf, that’s pretty much what I expect.

But somehow, without making us the equal of Christ, adoption has made us His “fellow-heirs.” The disciples acted like fools when they argued about who could stand at Jesus’ right hand, but God, through adoption, confers exactly that! We are not the other, unnatural children who can hope at best for a small stipend in the will. No, we are co-heirs of the Kingdom. I’m sure it is one of the most mind-boggling phrases in all of Scripture, could we only understand what it means.