As we stated earlier it is the previous sections, the primary motivation behind the grand and cosmic work of redemption was the Father’s heart. This stirring reality, implicit in justification and imputation, is emphatically expressed in regeneration and adoption.
Just as Justification and Imputation are legal terms, so Regeneration and Adoption are family terms. As soon as a person accepts the gift of righteousness in Christ he or she is received as one of God’s children. A profound spiritual change takes place, which is likened in Scripture to a new birth.
The centrality of the Father’s love in New Testament theology cannot be emphasised enough, yet for so many their theology is clinical and legal rather than filial.
E W Kenyon laments the seeming ignorance of this liberating truth in his study, ‘The Bible in the Light of our Redemption’:
“It is natural that the Father-heart of God should long for sons and daughters. This yearning passion took form, and God planned to create a man who would walk with Him as His child.
Before He created the world, in His dream plan, man was marked out for Sonship. He was to hold the place of a son in the Father God’s love. He was to be the answer to the Father’s hunger for children.
Other Scripture’s that reveal man was the reason for creation are: Romans 16:25 and 1 Corinthians 2:7. These scriptures reveal that man was chosen for the place of a son first, then God created this universe to be a home for him.
The reason for creation is the Father-heart of God.
A few scriptures which reveal the Father’s care for His children are: Matthew 7:11; 6:8; 6:25-32; John 16:27; 17:23; 1 Peter 5:7; Philippians 4:6,7,19 and John 14:23.
Satan has been very subtle in blinding our minds to the Father-nature of God. The average Christian has had no real consciousness of God as being his Father.”
The prodigal is not received as a slave in the household, but embraced back into the family with full privileges. This is the benefit we speak of. You are a child of God, with the right to become sons and daughters with full privilege and authority in the household, and an indescribable inheritance.
The Holman Bible Dictionary describes regeneration as “the radical spiritual change in which God brings an individual from a condition of spiritual defeat and death to a renewed condition of holiness and life.”
“He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,” (Col 1:13 NKJV)
Jesus Himself emphasised His role as the giver of new life, and declared that all men must be born-again (Lit: born “from above”) in order to enter the Kingdom of God.
“I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10b NKJV)
“Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God…Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3,5 NKJV)
The dictionary defines the word, “regenerate” as “to cause to be completely reformed or improved; to form or bring into existence again; to re-establish on a new basis; to be spiritually reborn, as by a religious conversion.”
Regeneration is the change brought about by justification.
Among other things, regeneration is spoken of in the Scriptures as:
- A birth (John 3:1-12; 1 John 5:1-4,18)
- A cleansing (Titus 3:5)
- A quickening (to make alive) (Eph 2:1,5)
- A resurrection (John 5:24)
- A new creation (2 Cor 5:17)
- A renewal (Titus 3:5)
- A Translation (Colossians 1:13-14)
- A new heart (Ezek 36:26)
Through the seed of God’s word entering our heart, and the saving work of the Holy Spirit, we are born again from above, and spiritual life is imparted to us.
“having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever,” (1Pet 1:23)
“Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.” (James 1:18 NKJV)
We do not remain merely forgiven sinners. We are recipients of a brand new nature, the nature of God Himself:
“by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (2Pet 1:4 NKJV)
The scriptures describe the result as a brand new creation, a creation entirely of God:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” (2Cor 5:17-19)
The fruits of such a profound inward change encompass:
- a brand new life of holiness and victory over sin (Rom 6:14)
- a life of supernatural love for fellow men (Rom 5:5)
- a love for God (1 Jn 4:19; 5:1-2), His Word and His people (1Jn 3:14)
- a progressive conforming to the nature and character of Christ.
“For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Rom 8:29 NKJV)
Born-again Children of God and adoption into the family of God
Once justified, a person receives a new nature and is spiritually born again as an infant child of God crying “Abba (Daddy), God”:
“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)
We receive the right or authority become God’s children, and then to develop and become full-grown sons of God:
“But to as many as did receive and welcome Him, He gave the authority (power, privilege, right) to become the children (sons) of God, that is, to those who believe in (adhere to, trust in, and rely on) His name —” (John 1:12 AMP)
Adoption is a term which speaks of this process, whereby the born-again child of God is placed as a son and given the full privileges of sonship.
Whereas regeneration has to do with relationship, adoption has to do with position.
Kevin Conner in Foundations of Christian Doctrine describes it this way:
“In regeneration, one receives new life. In justification one receives new standing. In adoption one receives a new position. Adoption has to do with the legal status as a son being given full rights of inheritance.”
The development of a child to adulthood is used in scripture to illustrate the truth of sonship, and should encourage us as children of God to come to full maturity, being conformed to the full stature and likeness of Christ:
“as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,” (1Pet 2:2 NKJV)
“I write to you, little children, Because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake. I write to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, Because you have overcome the wicked one.
I write to you, little children, Because you have known the Father. I have written to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, Because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, And you have overcome the wicked one.” (1John 2:12-14 NKJV)
As we come into full maturity and sonship he will walk, act and speak just like the Christ the Son.
“He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” (1John 2:6 NKJV)
“Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.” (1John 4:17 NKJV)
Adoption expresses both the redemption and the new relation of trust and love, and the spirit of sonship, highlighted as the life of liberty as opposed to one of bondage:
“For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15)
It is this unveiling that the whole of creation waits for!
“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
…For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.
…because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” (Rom 8:14,19,21 NKJV)
Concerning adoption and regeneration, The New Testament shows that there is a threefold aspect of the time of adoption.
(1) Time Past
The believer was adopted in eternity past. According to the foreknowledge of God the believer was predestined unto adoption (Ephesians 1:5).
(2) Time Present
The moment a person is born again of the Spirit of God, he receives the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of adoption. As a born again child of God, he is to grow to full sonship. The Spirit of Adoption enables him to cry “Abba, Father” (Galatians 3:26; 4:1-5; John 1:11-12; Matthew 6:6-10; Romans 8:15-19).
(3) Time Future
The full manifestation of the believer’s sonship awaits the coming of Christ. The whole creation is waiting the manifestation and unveiling of the sons of God. This adoption involves the redemption of the body, the resurrection and the translation of the saints (Romans 8:23; Ephesians 1:14; 4:30; Philippians 3:20-21; Revelation 21:7). At this time of full adoption, the creation itself will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God (Rom 8:21). Then will adoption be complete, when man’s whole personality shall be in harmony with the spirit of sonship, and the whole universe restored to its intended perfect and favourable state.
Results of Adoption
Kevin Conner outlines the benefits and results of adoption and regeneration in ‘Foundations of Christian Doctrine’, He quotes from Bancroft’s “Christian Theology” which is here summarised:
(1) On the Human Side
- As sons, we have the family name (Ephesians 3:14,15; 1John 3:1; Revelation 2:17; 3:12).
- As sons, we have the family likeness (Colossians 3:10; Romans 8:29; II Corinthians 3:18).
- As sons, we have the parents’ nature (II Peter 1:4; John 1:12,13; 3:6).
- As sons, we have a family affection (I John 2:9-11; 3:14-18; 4:7-8; 5:1).
(2) On the Divine Side
- As His children, we are the objects of His peculiar love (John 17:22,23; 16:27).
- As His children, we are the subjects of His fatherly care (Matthew 6:32).
- As His children, we are the subjects of His paternal discipline (Hebrews 12:6-11).
- As His children, we are the subjects of His paternal comfort (II Corinthians 1:4).
- As His children, we are made heirs to an inheritance (I Peter 1 :3-5; Romans 8:17).
To which Conner adds the following:
- Deliverance from the bondage of the Law (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:4-5).
- Indwelling and reception of the Holy Spirit, as the Spirit of Adoption (Ephesians 1:11-14; Galatians 4:5).
- Reception of the earnest of our inheritance (Romans 8:23; Ephesians 1:11-14; II Corinthians 1:22; 5:5).
- Life in the Spirit, which is the Son of God re-living His life in His sons (Romans 8:14; Galatians 2:20; 5:18; Colossians 1:27).
- Father and son relationship, and sonship privileges as the heirs of God (Galatians 4:6; Romans 8:15).
- Conformity to the image of Christ, the firstborn among a vast family of brothers in the household of God (Romans 8:29; Ephesians 2:19; Hebrews 12:5-11).
- Total redemption of the body at the unveiling of the sons of God at Christ’s coming (Romans 8:19-23).
- Partakers of the divine nature with a new heart and a new spirit (II Peter 1:4; Romans 6:4; Ezekiel 36:26; 11:19; Ephesians 4:24).
- Restoration of total inheritance, as joint heirs with Christ, which we lost in Adam (Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:23; Revelation 21:7; Galatians 3:26).