Not only do we create a rift between the Father and Son in the Godhead, we create a rift between us and God. As I’ve said in times past, we’re no more than pardoned criminals, instead of what we actually are—a new creation.
We think like foster children rather than adopted sons and daughters.
This is because of our legalistic view of the Cross. Let’s look at the difference, by way of definition:
Foster child: a child placed with a person or family to be cared for, usually by local welfare services or by court order.
Adoption: to choose or take as one’s own.
Which definition sounds more like your understanding of the cross?
My contention is that Scripture does not paint a retributive view of salvation but an adoptive one. In other words, a retributive view is that God wanted to kill us because we’ve infinitely offended Him, so instead, He killed His Son in our place. We’ve turned Jesus’ death on the cross into a courtroom drama rather than for the purpose of a family reunion. I wrote about this here.
The cross of Jesus Christ is not really best seen in a legalistic paradigm at all, like God is bound to some higher law than Himself (He had to kill Jesus in order to forgive us). No, here’s what God had in mind…before Adam ever sinned, before creation itself (bold type added):
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. (Eph.1:3-6 KNJV)
Paul lays it out clearly for us. Our Father’s primary purpose for sending Jesus was because He chose us to be adopted as His sons (and daughters), according to the good pleasure of His will. This doesn’t sound like a “court order” at all, does it. It doesn’t sound like retribution either. Yes, God is just, but His justice is restorative.
Paul also declares this to us (bold type added)…
For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” (Rom.8:15 NKJV)
The trouble is, because of the way we’ve been taught about atonement and the cross, we’re full of fear, separating our orphan hearts from God, hoping He won’t look too deeply into our soul.
Since we think He cannot even look at sin, why would He ever look at us whenever we do sin? So we hide behind the fig leave of religion.
After all, we were forgiven by a court order. God only forgave us, and loves us, because He executed Jesus. So we seem to think…
Fortunately, Scripture paints a very different picture.
A better narrative of the cross is that, because of His great love, the Father rescued us from ourselves and placed us in His Son.
He took our death and gave us His life.
As Dr. C. Baxter Kruger said, it’s not just what God did for us, but what He did to us.
Adoption, in Scripture, is a critically important concept. I think we’ve made this word too small. Because when we understand it, it changes everything!
We should be asking about now, what does it mean to be adopted by…God? Here are three things to consider.
The first thing is, you’ve been chosen.
You’re not His by court order. You’ve been chosen by the Father to be in His family. Everything God does is because He wants you as His child.
In ancient times, adoption was considered a higher form of sonship because sons were intentionally chosen, not just born into the family. You were chosen!
The second thing is, you have a new identity.
You’re not an orphan anymore. You’re not a foster child. You don’t belong to Adam anymore. No, you’re God’s son or daughter! The Father and Son have made their home in you through the Spirit (John 14:23). This is your family! Your old identity is gone (See 2 Cor.5:17).
The third thing is, you belong.
This one is the least understood of the three. We should ask, belong to whom, where? We belong in God’s family, which means, we are included in the Divine Fellowship.
You have been brought into this circle of other-centered love between the Father, Son and Spirit that’s been going on since before time!
Don’t believe me? Again, the Scripture is pretty clear about this, if we’re willing to see it. Here’s what Jesus Himself said about our belonging (all verses NKJV except where noted):
At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. (John 14:20)
I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one…. “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. (John 17:23-24)
Here’s what Paul said…
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. (Eph.2:6 NIV)
For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. (Col.3:3)
Here’s what Peter said…
Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature… (2 Pet.1:4)
Finally, here’s what John said…
that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:3)
We were not forgiven so we could live as pardoned criminals…or like foster children. No, we were invited to participate in the same union that the Father has had with His Son since before time began—today, tomorrow, every moment of every hour…forever.
This is what it means to be adopted.
Beloved of child of God, you and I belong in this eternal communion as fully affirmed sons and daughters. Let’s stop acting like foster children, like pardoned criminals, keeping our distance, and accept the invitation into His family. The Father’s not mad at you; He loves you as much as He loves Jesus (John 3:16; 15:9; 17:23). You don’t need to hide anymore. Just open your heart to the fullness that fills God and receive His joy!
And these things we write to you that your joy may be full. (1 John 1:4)