Next to my personal conversion in 1971, the most powerful experience of my life was the adoption of my first son, Micah, it being the first of three adoptions we would experience.
We had undergone a long and arduous adoption progress, filling out many forms and spending a lot of money, not to mention completing a detailed home study. Then we journeyed to Iowa and checked into a hotel, waiting for the moment when we would get to see our son.
A few days later there was a knock at our hotel door and when I opened the door, our lawyer stood there with our son wrapped in many blankets. As he handed him to me, we peeled back the blankets and had our first glimpse of our son. He was beautiful and most of all, he was ours! Something happened in that moment. I realized that I could call him son and he could call me dad.
At that moment, I realized I was experiencing a small aspect of what God has done in making me his child through adoption. Though I had not biologically brought forth my son, he was now my son in the truest sense of the word. Through a legal process called adoption, he was my own.
In the same way, God, through the spirit of adoption, had made me his own. In his classic work, Knowing God, J.I. Packer asks the question, “What is a Christian?” There are many answers people could give but Dr. Packer simply answered, “a Christian is one who has God as Father.” In other words, the true Christian is one who personally knows the doctrine of adoption, not merely intellectually but intimately. And this is what distinguishes the true Christian from the false.
It is sad but true that many of God’s people are not certain of God’s love for them. They are very aware of their sin and wonder if God really loves them. They have not adequately been taught that God has adopted them as sons by the Spirit of adoption (Galatians 4:5). This is more than an intellectual apprehension that God loves them, though the mind must be totally persuaded of it. It must move beyond mere intellectual apprehension so that it forms our very identity. According to the apostle, this is why the Spirit was poured out into our hearts; to testify to our hearts that we are now the children of God through adoption.
Jesus, while on earth, came to reveal the Father. In Mark’s account of his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, as he began to feel the agony of the Passion he called His Father, abba. This is the Aramaic term of endearment a son would call his father. (Mark 14:36). It is literally the word, daddy. Jesus is the only Man who ever lived who called God, daddy.
But the apostle states clearly that, now that God has adopted us, we have received the spirit of adoption so that we also now cry ‘daddy.’ Think about it: The God who created all things is now my daddy through adoption. That is why Jesus taught us to pray “Our Father” when we approach God. While God is certainly Creator and Lord of all, He is primarily the “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” To know God as Father is essentially what it means to be a Christian.
A friend of mine once shared how God made this real to him. Coming from a divorced home, he had a difficult time relating to his earthly father and it bled over into his relationship with his heavenly Father. Relaxing on his couch one day while praying, from the depths of his being he uttered the word Abba. Suddenly, the Spirit fell on him powerfully as he understood that God was now his Father. He testified to the fact that from that point on, he never wondered whether God loved him.
We need not worry that stressing God’s Fatherhood will leave us lazy or tempt us to minimize God’s holiness. Indeed, his power and holiness are important aspects of his nature. But He is chiefly a Father, which means that his central work is that of begetting a race of sons. In eternity past, he chose us out of the entire human race and made us his own (Ephesians 1:3-4). While God remains both holy and powerful, it is in understanding He is Father that we begin to understand his chief role.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:3).