Full message by Pastor AJ can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/DeepWaterChurch/videos/303355557293670/
AJ Thomas is the lead pastor at Deep Water Church in Halifax and Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada.
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. – Romans 8: 14-17
Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. – Hebrews 2:11
As Christians, we are adopted into the family of God. In the video message above, Pastor AJ Thomas gives one of the clearest descriptions I’ve heard on what this means. It is very helpful if you want to understand better what it means to become a follower of Jesus. Below is a synopsis directly from his message, but to get the full picture I highly recommend watching the video. Pastor AJ is a great communicator who teaches the message of scripture in a way that is clear and easy to understand.
What Does it Mean to Be Adopted By God?
After 40 years of listening to sermons and reading the Bible, it seems that I still have trouble truly grasping what my faith is all about. I’ve heard many times that becoming a Christian means that I am adopted into the family of God, but do I really see myself as an adopted son? Am I really a brother and fellow heir with Christ?
The language of adoption and sonship is used throughout the Bible to describe followers of Jesus, but what exactly does that mean? In first century Rome, it meant a great deal.
Adoption in Ancient Rome
In ancient Rome, adoption centred around a concept of Roman Law called Pater-Potestas, translated “The Power of a Father“. The father in a family had absolute power over their children, even to the point that they could sentence them to death. Everything they had and everything they were was the property of the father. When a child was adopted, this Pater-Potestas, this absolute authority, was transferred to a new father as they were adopted into his family.
In Western culture we think of adoption in terms of a family adopting a new child, but in ancient Rome, it was often adults who were adopted. Frequently to provide an heir who the father deemed to be able to take care of His estate when he died. Roman emperors, if they didn’t think their own children fit to rule, would adopt a son who they thought had what it takes. In Japan today, company presidents sometimes follow a similar practice to choose successors.
When a child was adopted, there was also a payment between the biological and adopted father where the adopting father would “redeem” or purchase the son from the biological father, similar to redeeming a slave.
Sons were the usual choice for adoption. When a son was adopted, he had a new father and full rights as a son. His name was changed. He was not a second class family member but had full status as a son, the exact same status of any biological kids in the family.
As an adopted son, you got a new inheritance. As we discussed, sometimes adoptions were made so the inheritance or status would go to the adopted son instead of the biological. New biological children that may have arrived after the adoption didn’t supplant the status of the adopted son. It wasn’t just about the inheritance when the father died, but the same use of the Father’s wealth as the other kids while He lived.
It was a time that the adopted son could get a new start. All debts and obligations were wiped out. It was as if you were born into a new family. All of the baggage from your old life was gone. Loans, contracts, everything… gone. It was a clean slate for you to start a new life as a child of your new father.
Adoption Into God’s Family
This is the picture of adoption that the first century readers of Hebrews would have in mind when the author says that Jesus calls His followers His brothers and sisters.
God, for whom and through whom everything was made, chose to bring many children into glory. And it was only right that he should make Jesus, through his suffering, a perfect leader, fit to bring them into their salvation. So now Jesus and the ones he makes holy have the same Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters. For he said to God,
“I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters.
I will praise you among your assembled people.”
He also said,
“I will put my trust in him,”
that is, “I and the children God has given me.”Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. – Hebrews 2:10-15 (NLT)
When the writer of Hebrews says God wants to bring many children into His glory, it means into His full presence. Into full connection with Him. God wants to bring us into His family, to adopt us and as our father, give us everything we are entitled to as His children. He chooses to adopt us even though he knows everything about us, even our deepest thoughts.
This adoption would not be possible without Jesus. Sin and death had the ‘Pater-Potestas’, the power of a father, over us. We needed to be transformed from death to glory, from the family of sin to the family of holiness.
As an adoptive father paid a price to redeem his adopted son from the biological father, Jesus paid the price so we can be redeemed into the family of God. His death was the price to set us free from the power of death and give us new life under the power of God, our new adoptive father.
Like the adopted sons in ancient Rome, our debts are forgiven. We have can start a new life where we are heirs of God and co-heirs with Jesus.
Children of God
When He adopts us and we become God’s children:
We have a new father. We no longer belong to sin and death. We belong to God. Rather than the grave, we are destined for glory. We have a new name and new identity as His children.
We have a new inheritance. We have full rights as sons and daughters, access to everything He has provided. We carry the full authority that comes with being a child of God.
We have a new start, forgiven and free. Our debt is paid, past erased, guilt gone and shame removed. Our slate is wiped clean. We are free and empowered to be who we were created to be. Old habits, sins, patterns, thoughts and old ways are gone. We are a new creation in Christ.
God the Father sent sent God the Son to redeem us, to leads us into salvation in a new life as family members of God, to lead us into glory. Our brother Jesus does that for us.
He loves us. He is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters. He claims us as His own. I pray that God will make us all more like Jesus.
Accepting the Adoption
God does not force himself on us. He gives us a choice as to whether or not we allow the adoption to take place. We have to be willing to leave our old lives and our old family of sin and death. We have to trust that Jesus really is God’s son and that His death and resurrection is what lets us become God’s children too. We must submit to our new Father and ask him to teach and empower us how to like the live He designed us to live. A life as a child of God.