This Sunday is Sanctity of Life Sunday, when we take time to remember that life is a gift from God. We recognize the horrors of abortion, and we celebrate the gift of adoption.
And it’s also a time for us to reflect on an even more beautiful truth and that is, our spiritual adoption into the family of God through faith in Jesus. “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:10). All of us were once orphans and outcasts. Our sin had separated us from God. But by God’s mercy, through faith in Jesus, we were accepted and adopted by God Himself. Now, all who are in Christ are sons and daughters of God.
Text: Galatians 4:1-7
The Apostle Paul has the daunting task of addressing at least three major cultures in his epistles: the Jews, the Greeks and the Romans. And when it came to rites of passage, transitioning a child into adulthood, each of these cultures did it a little differently. For instance:
Jews – (Bar Mitzvah) 12 years old – became a “son of the Law”
Greeks – (Apatouria) 18 years old – the young man transitions from the care of father to care of the State
Romans – the time and age of this rite of passage was determined by their father, but it was celebrated on March 17th each year. This was the time the child was formally adopted as a son, and recognized as an heir. Before that, the child held the same status as a slave – he was protected, provided for, yet he had no inheritance and no family status. Only when his father decided that the boy was ready to be recognized as being mature enough would His childhood toga be replaced with a toga of manhood, and his status as a rightful heir of his father would be secure.
This Roman ritual is what Paul was referring to in v. 1-2…
1 I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father.
How ironic. The Jews grew their boys into sons of the Law. Greeks grew their boys into sons of the State. But the Romans grew their boys into sons and heirs.
Our Spiritual Adoption
And then v. 3 connects us to this picture…
3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world.
Each of us, we were all slaves of our own sin, imprisoned by the Law, under its guardianship. And by no merit of our own, God sent Jesus to redeem us.
4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
Paul draws a distinction here between being “redeemed” and being “adopted”. To redeem means to “buy out of slavery”. But to set someone free without helping them see where they belong would just be trading one kind of bondage for another.
We can be set free from sin, we can be delivered from addictions, we can be rescued out of desperate circumstances, but freedom without a new identity is not true freedom. To truly be free means to be freed FROM something, and to be freed INTO something else.
So, when we trust in Jesus, we are not only redeemed, not only freed from sin. We are also given a new identity. We are adopted into God’s family, as sons and daughters of God. We are His children. And God is our Father.
To be adopted by God means we no longer living life focused on self or just living for our own comforts. It means you and I see our lives, not as something we own, but as a gift to steward. Our families and our homes are not our own, but they are places where God wants to display the hospitality of the gospel, inviting unsaved neighbors over for a meal, and to use as a gathering place for others who need encouragement, and yes…to consider that empty chair at your dining room table as one that could be filled by adopting a child.
In the cultural debate of choosing life, Christians should not be known only for what we are against. Not only pointing at the problem, but we should be offering the solution. Not just standing against abortion, but also promoting adoption – starting with our own families, and also helping to support other families who adopt with our prayers and our resources.
Jesus was forsaken so that we would be forgiven. Jesus was abandoned so that we would be adopted.
Celebrate that now, by living a life of grateful worship to God, and by showing Christ-like hospitality in opening our homes and our families to those who need us most.
“When we adopt—and when we encourage a culture of adoption in our churches and communities—we’re picturing something that’s true about our God. We, like Jesus, see what our Father is doing and do likewise. And what our Father is doing, it turns out, is fighting for orphans, making them sons and daughters.”~ Russell Moore, Adopted for Life