God Is Closer Than You Think #10 – What Are Justification and Adoption?


Today’s big idea:

  • Justification is our legal standing because of what Christ has done.
  • Adoption reveals how God feels about us.

The sermon map (Thanks to JT):

  • Over the last 19-months here at SBF, we have taught more on the doctrine of justification than we have on the doctrine of adoption.  I don’t think we should ever teach less on the doctrine of justification.  I do think, however, that we should teach more on the doctrine of adoption.
  • We cannot understand adoption apart from justification.
  • Another way to say it is: A growing understanding of justification positions us to more fully appreciate and participate in adoption.
  • So, this morning we will review justification – and then we will use Galatians 4:1-7 to help us unpack the doctrine of adoption.
  • And with the conclusion I want the Scriptures to help you understand how God feels about you.

A review of justification (Roms 3):

There is a longing in every human heart to “justify our existence.”

  • Paul speaks directly to this longing in Roms 3:21-23…(the words righteousness and justified used in this passage come from the same Greek root word[1])…

21 But now apart [distinct or separate] from the law the righteousness of God has been made known… 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe[2][not just head, but head & heart[3]]. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all [who believe] are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

  • Two weeks ago Jeff Arthurs taught on “What It Means to Be A Christian” and he clearly stated that our responsibility is to “believe.”
    • We do not work FOR our salvation, we work FROM our salvation.
    • God is not opposed to EFFORT, He is opposed to EARNING.
    • We do good deeds, not in order to EARN salvation, but because we ARE saved.
  • And then last week JT Holderman set the table for us very well as he unpacked the doctrine of the Atonement [to make amends], which is the means by which God redeems His people from sin.  JT said there are two major themes that saturate this doctrine:
    • Atonement is about God’s character: Our God will not simply let us remain in sin, but instead He is a God whose love so overflows that He must redeem His people.
    • Atonement is also about our relationship with God.  Because of the doctrine of the atonement we can be reunited in relationship with God, which is the very reason we were created.
  • Jesus condescended to leave heaven and the perfect tri-unity of the Godhead, to provide humanity with an absolutely unheard-of spirituality and an unimaginable approach to God.
  • Where God provides us with an unblemished record—absolutely free of charge.
  • Not just a good record, or even a great record – but a divine righteousness – a perfect record that comes to us, alights upon us — as a gift!
  • When we have justification it is the end of any personal struggle for validation, for worth, or worthiness, and acceptability.
  • Apart from the Christian gospel there is no other religion or belief system that offers anything like this.
  • Here is the gospel: God develops a perfect righteousness and provides it to us – and by THAT righteousness alone we are completely and eternally justified.
  • Here is how J.I. Packer says it (simply and elegantly) in his classic book Knowing God:  [Justification is] God’s forgiveness of the past, together with his acceptance for the future.[4]


Now, we will turn our attention toward the doctrine of adoption – turn to Galatians …The beginning of Gal 4 is a little-bit like walking up to two people who are already deep into a conversation – it will help us to have some perspective…

  • Paul is angry as he writes this letter.  It is different from his other letters to churches (or his Pastoral Epistles written to Timothy and Titus).
  • The lack of thanksgiving in his greeting reveals his unhappiness.
  • Paul follows what one commentator describes as a “standard rebuke-request format.”[5]
  • The intro/greeting is a rather terse 5 verses.
  • The rebuke section begins in 1:6 – 4:11.
  • The request section begins in 4:12-6:18.

All of chapter 3 (preceding our passage for today) is about the Law…

  • The curse of the Law
  • The temporary purpose of the Law (vs.19-20, “mediator, or v.24 “tutor” — temporary intervention).  Paul in 4:2 also uses the words, “guardians and managers…”
  • Paul is making a strong appeal to the Galatians to not return to bondage – which carries over into our Chap 4 passage.

Here is the main idea of Gal 4:1-7: God has sent His Son to offer justification to His people and God has sent His Holy Spirit into our hearts to initiate, from the center of our being, a holy and repetitive prayer (v.6): “crying[6] ‘Abba Father’” (It’s actually Trinitarian…)

1.  Vs. 1 – 3:The Law enslaves.

“Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father. So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world.

The Galatians were primarily Gentiles, not Jews – Paul is referring to their pre-Christian idolatry (4:8[7]).  The Judaizers were convincing them to abandon the gospel and come under the Mosaic Law.

2.  Vs. 4 – 5: The Son of God atones (or redeems) and justifies. God has graciously intervened…

But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

We see in this verse that Jesus Christ was uniquely qualified to be our Savior – “born of a woman, born under the Law.”

  • In order to be our Savior Jesus must be LIKE us.  This draws attention to His humanity.
  • And in order to be our Savior He must also be UNLIKE us in that He perfectly fulfilled the LAW.  2 Cor 5:21 – God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Jesus was truly God and fully man who defeated the power of sin.

3.  Vs. 6 – 7:The Spirit of God authenticates.

Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.”

**Here’s what we REALLY need to see about this passage:  God’s purpose was to both redeem and to adopt“to redeem [and justify] those who were under the law, so that we might receive His adoption as sons” (v. 5).

J.I. Packer[8]:  “What is a Christian?  The question can be answered in many ways but the richest answer I know is that a Christian is one who has God as Father.  Our understanding of Christianity cannot be better than our grasp of adoption.  The truth of adoption gives us the deepest insights that the NT affords into the greatness of God’s love.

God has personal, particular, and passionate love – for you.

Churches are full of people who are not certain of God’s love for them…I hope you have been, or will be, amazed and overwhelmed by God’s love.

And if you are not an active intentional follower of Jesus Christ, I hope you are convicted of your sin and convinced of God’s love for you as revealed through the death of His Son — and that we would all experience God’s adopting grace.


As we close and begin to prepare our hearts for communion I’d like for us to take a look at the phrase “Abba Father,” found here in the Galatians 4:6.  It will help us to better understand how God feels about us.

The phrase “Abba Father” is used three times in the NT:

  • “’Abba, Father,’ he said, ‘everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.’” Mark 14:36
  • “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” Romans 8:15
  • “Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’” Galatians 4:6

According to Jewish rabbinical teachings, slaves were forbidden to address the head of the family by the affectionate title, “Abba.”

  • “Abba” approximates “papa” or “daddy” and implies unwavering trust.
  • “Father” expresses intelligent comprehension of the relationship.
  • Together the two reveal the trusting love and intelligent confidence of a secure son or daughter.

Redemption and justification are accomplished by the Son and applied to our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

J.I. Packer is again helpful: “Adoption is a family idea conceived in terms of love and viewing God as Father.  In adoption God takes us into his family and fellowship, establishes us as his children and heirs.  Closeness, affection, and generosity are at the heart of the relationship. To be right with God the judge is a good thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father is greater.”[9]

Jesus was sent that we might have the status of sonship, and the [Holy] Spirit was sent that we might experience it.  The inheritance is for sons; it is not for slaves!  It doesn’t come by keeping the law, but by living in the Spirit.[10]

Charles Spurgeon, “once knew a good woman who was the subject of many doubts, and when I got to the bottom of her doubt, it was this: she knew she loved Christ, but she was afraid he did not love her.  ‘Oh!’ I said, ‘that is a doubt that will never trouble me; never, by any possibility, because I am sure of this, that the heart is so corrupt, naturally, that love to God never did get there without God’s putting it there.’  You may rest quite certain, that if you love God, it is a fruit, and not a root.  It is the fruit of God’s love to you, and did not get there by the force of any goodness in you.  You may conclude, with absolute certainty, that God loves you if you love God.”[11]

That Holy Spirit’s cry, “Abba, Father” assures us of God’s love for us – and did not originate from you or within you, it is a gift from God and He gave you that gift through His Holy Spirit.  It is His means of assuring you that HE LOVES YOU!

Do not doubt and do not fear…but ask yourself this question: “Do I know the reality of the internal witness of the Spirit of God in my soul?”

In 4:15 Paul essentially asks the Galatians, “Where has your joy gone?”

  • Does your joy tend to collapse?
  • Our joy collapses, or recedes, because we forget our sonship, we forget we are fully adopted sons embraced by a Father who sent his Son to change our status into sons – and who sent His Holy Spirit to give us the experience of sonship and to offer us His strength to change and grow (next week).
  • The more we are aware of (and engaged) of God’s initiative, the more we will be overwhelmed by God’s love.
  • IF we have placed our belief and trust in what Christ has done WE ARE FULLY ADOPTED.

DO NOT allow yourselves, or this church, to move back into legalism/moralism…

Do the words closeness, affection, and generosity describe your perception and experience of God?  If not, perhaps you are more aware of your sin than you are of the adopting grace of God.

Let’s take a few moments to quietly contemplate this as we prepare our heart’s for communion…

[1] Righteousness = dikaiosynē; Justified = dikaioō.

[2] It is God who awakens belief in our hearts. Col 2:13: When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins.

[3] A saving faith has within it an element of yielding, a repentance of trying to be lord of one’s own life and a submission to the Lordship of Jesus. (W. E. Vine, Reflections on Words of the New Testament:132.)

[4] J.I. Packer. Knowing God, pp. 206-207.

[5] G. Walter Hansen, Galatians, IVP 1994: 14.

[6] This word in the Greek (krazō) actually refers to the constant and incessant appeal of a raven (we might be more familiar with a crow).

[7] Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods.

[8] Knowing God, InterVarsity Press 1973:181-182f.

[9] Ibid:187-188.

[10] Philip Ryken, Galatians, Reformed Expository Commentary, P&R, 2005:166.

[11] The Relationship of Marriage.

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