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How sinners are saved

How sinners are saved: Adoption into God’s family

Below is a question from the Westminster Shorter Catechism with answers and supporting Scripture proofs. Explanatory notes follow.

Q: What is adoption?

A: Adoption is an act of God’s free grace1, whereby we are received into the number, and have a right to all the privileges of the sons of God2.

1 1 John 3:11 John 3:1
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

3 1 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.  

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— Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!

2 John 1:12John 1:12
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: power: or, the right, or, privilege  

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— But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

Romans 8:17Romans 8:17
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.  

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— And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ;

 

In addition to the act of justification, the application of redemption involves another act of God, the act of adoption. Again, this is an act, not a process. By this act of grace believing sinners are brought into the family of God, and are numbered as belonging to Him. This benefit comes to us through Christ’s work of redemption, Galatians 4:5Galatians 4:5
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.  

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. Adoption is proceeds on the basis of justification — the justified are adopted into God’s family. It is unthinkable that God should count among His family any who are still unpardoned and unrighteous.

The people of God are reckoned as children of God on two counts:

1. By regeneration — by the new birth we are made partakers of the Divine nature, God is our Father and we bear His likeness. Regeneration effects an actual moral change in sinners.

2. By adoption. This is a forensic act of God whereby we are legally brought into the family of God. Adoption is not to be confused with regeneration. It is a legal, not a moral act, dealing with the status and right of the justified.

 

I  ADOPTION IS AN ACT OF DIVINE GRACE.

1. In the act of adoption the emphasis is upon the grace of God taking those who are aliens and strangers, and treating them as His own. Cp Ephesians 2:3, 19Ephesians 2:3, 19
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. desires: Gr. wills 19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;  

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, II Corinthians 6:18. He treats them as His own because they have become His own in regeneration and made like Him in justification. “As set forth in Scripture [the doctrine of adoption] embraces in one complex view the newly-regenerated creature in the new relations into which he is introduced by justification”, A.A. Hodge.

2. This act is an act of free grace. There is nothing in the sinner to recommend such action on God’s part towards those who He adopts. Cp Ephesians 1:5Ephesians 1:5
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,  

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, I John 3:1John 3:1
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

3 1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:  

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3.Only those who believe on Christ are adopted by the Father into the family of God. Cp John 1:12John 1:12
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: power: or, the right, or, privilege  

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, Galatians 3:26Galatians 3:26
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.  

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. Adoption is a direct result of our union with Christ by faith and is therefore the common experience of every believer. It may be common to speak of all men generally as being the children of God by creation, but something entirely different is in view in this case.

 

II  ADOPTION INVOLVES GREAT PRIVILEGE.

The privileges and advantages which the adopted children of God enjoy and have a right to, include:

1. Bearing the name of God, I John 3:1John 3:1
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

3 1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:  

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; sharing in His nature, 1 Peter 1:41 Peter 1:4
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, for you: or, for us  

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; bearing His likeness, Colossians 3:10Colossians 3:10
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:  

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2. God’s fatherly protection. Cp Psalms 121:7, 103:13Psalms 121:7, 103:13
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

7 The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.  

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3. God’s fatherly provision of all necessary things, Psalms 34:10Psalms 34:10
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

10 The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing.  

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4. God’s fatherly correction and chastisement of them when they go astray, Heb 12:6Heb 12:6
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.  

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5. The indwelling of the Spirit of adoption. The Spirit forms within us a filial spirit producing obedience (1 Peter 1:141 Peter 1:14
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

14 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance:  

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); freedom from a sense of guilt, legal bondage and a fear of death (Romans 8:15-21Romans 8:15-21
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

15 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. 16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. 18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. 20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, 21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.  

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); holy boldness and royal dignity (1 Peter 2:91 Peter 2:9
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: peculiar: or, purchased praises: or, virtues  

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6. A sure title to the inheritance of the Kingdom of Heaven, Romans 8:17Romans 8:17
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.  

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. Those adopted are never cast off but are heirs of everlasting salvation, 1 Peter 1:3-4, Hebrews 1:14Hebrews 1:14
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?  

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