The Spirit of Adoption
"You have received the Spirit of adoption." Romans 8:15
"For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves!" Ephesians 1:4-6
Adoption is an act of God, whereby he takes sinners, who were enemies to him and rebels against him—and constitutes them his children. It is an act of grace—of free and sovereign grace; for there was nothing in them, done by them, or expected from them, that could form a reason why this favor should be conferred upon them. It was in the mind of God from eternity! "He predestined us to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first born among many brethren." The Father chose his people in Jesus, he appointed them to the adoption of children, he gave them into the hands of his Son, and all this before the foundation of the world. What love! What free love!
According to divine appointment, the children are brought into being at different periods, in different places, and in different circumstances. They are regenerated or born again by the power of the Holy Spirit. But while they remain under the legal covenant, or look to God, in whole or part, through the medium of his law—they are in bondage. Fear rules the heart; doubt agitates the spirit; conscience annoys or terrifies by its accusations. The soul pines for something it has not, though perhaps it scarcely knows what that is. It wants liberty. Freedom from the servant's yoke. It was formed for freedom, to enjoy a divine relationship. For this it pines, and pants, and sighs. When it hears others call God Father—it sighs out "O that he was my Father!" When it hears others talk of liberty, access to God, confidence in God, and boldness before God—it groans with strong desire to enjoy the same; but it is sometimes long before the Spirit of adoption is received and enjoyed. But until then, the quickened soul will struggle, groan, pray, aspire, and hope that the day of its freedom may come, that the trumpet of Jubilee may be heard within; and the spirit of a slave be exchanged for the spirit of a child.
Sometimes the "Spirit of adoption," almost imperceptibly glides into the soul. All is calm, still, and quiet. The chains of sin are knocked off without any noise. The burden falls from the shoulders, and the yoke is destroyed. The blood of atonement silences the accusations of conscience; some precious word or sweet view of Jesus quells our doubts, removes our fear, and melts down our hearts. God is stripped of all his fearful attributes, and appears before us a "God merciful and gracious," "ready to pardon;" rejoicing to do us good, whose terrors will not make us afraid, neither will his hand be heavy upon us.
His love is sweetly shed abroad in our hearts, and we feel that we love him, can be confident before him, and boldly plead with him. The most pleasing sensations are awakened in the mind, and almost unconsciously we look up and cry "Abba, Father!" We wonder at our own boldness—and yet the very word "Father" sounds like music in the soul. Satan for a time withdraws his accusations and ceases to tempt. We are left to enjoy the pleasing scene alone. Our Father seems to press us to his bosom, and we feel a little heaven while reclining there. We can now pray and praise with freedom, love, and joy. "Old things are passed away, and behold all things are become new!"
This is the joy of heart—which a stranger cannot begin to understand. This is that "oil of joy" which glides sweetly into the soul, softening, perfuming, and elevating as it goes. It follows the mourning for sin, the sighing for freedom, the groaning for the enjoyment of paternal love. It is a sure evidence of adoption, the proof that we are the sons of God.
In other instances, the entrance of "the Spirit of adoption" is more sudden, startling, and striking. Up to a particular time all has been gloom, guilt, darkness, bondage, fear of death, and dread of eternal banishment from God. The soul has been contracted, the heart hard, the conscience restless, and the whole inner man bound hand and foot. Satan has harassed with a thousand temptations. Past sins, present guilt, and future punishment, have been the subjects that have filled the meditations and harassed the soul.
Under these circumstances, when despair has been brooding over the spirit, in a moment—a change has been experienced. Some portion of God's word, some view of Jesus, some ray of light from God's countenance, or some sweet inward whisper—has effected an instantaneous and wondrous change. The chains of guilt have fallen off, darkness has fled, confidence has sprung up, joy has flowed in, and the soul has been almost bewildered with the ravishing enjoyment. "God is my Father!" is the secret exclamation. "My fears are all groundless! My sins are pardoned! My soul is saved! Heaven and all its glories are mine!" are the thoughts which now fill the bosom.
Little is left to pray for—but the happy Christian wants to be freed from every engagement and encumbrance, that it may praise, bless, and adore its gracious God. How empty and worthless, do earthly things appear now! How surprised the emancipated soul is to see professors so taken up with and concerned about temporal things. It is now "abundantly satisfied with the fatness of God's house," and is drinking large draughts of the river of his pleasures! O the sweet peace, the ravishing joys, the ecstatic delights that are now experienced!
These things are not commonly enjoyed for long; for if they were—we would be unfit for business, or any of the duties of the present life. But who can forget the season? How sweet at times to look back upon it, and draw encouraging inferences from it. Years after we seem to have the scenes of it return, when we look back and seem to enter into all the pleasing circumstances again. A lodging place in the wilderness to spend the time in sweet communion with God, unterrupted and undisturbed; or the wings of a dove to fly up to Jehovah's bright abode—are all that the soul now seems to long for.
"The Spirit of adoption" keeps God's paternal character more or less before us, and enables us to believe the astonishing love that he has to us. Under its influence and teaching—we learn to trust his promises, watch his providence, wait at his throne, and expect to receive good things from him. The world is our Father's world. The church is our Father's family. Heaven is our Father's house. Our feelings are filial. We view God so differently to what we did before, that our feelings toward him are completely changed! True we have to endure the inward conflict, to battle with doubts and fears, to be teazed and tormented with worldly cares: yet in proportion as we live up to our privilege and walk with God in humility, peace, and fellowship—we rise above them or overcome them. No life is to be compared to the life of the Christian, while he lives and walks, and works under the influence of the "Spirit of adoption."
The blessed Spirit who reveals the divine relationship to us at first, witnesses to it afterwards. Yes, he is himself the witness; not only so—but the pledge of our future inheritance. Hence the Apostle writes to the Ephesians, "After you believed, you were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, who is the pledge of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory."
Beloved, have you received "the Spirit of adoption?" Does he dwell, and work, and witness in your heart—that you are a child of God? Do you live realizing that God is your Father, and do you love him, trust him, obey him, and worship him as such?
"The Spirit of adoption" is a loving spirit, and while He fills your heart with love to God—He will fill your heart with love to all God's children too. "Everyone who loves the Father—also loves the one born of Him." "We know that we are passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren: he who loves not his brother abides in death."
May "the Spirit of adoption" work more powerfully in all our hearts, and fill us with filial love to God, and fraternal love to all the saints. His presence and power in the heart, will keep piety alive there—not only so—but will make us happy, holy and useful in our day and generation.
God loves to hear us call him Father, and, act toward him as loving children. There is no relation so frequently brought before us in his word as this, nor is there any relation more fraught with comfort and consolation. What a mercy to have God for my Father, and to know that he will do a Father's part by me in all the trials, troubles, and perplexities of this mortal life. Holy and ever blessed God, let your love be daily shed abroad in my heart, and to you draw out and fix my love upon yourself continually! O that I could, and did, love you with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength, every moment, and for evermore! To this end take a full, entire, and immediate possession of me, and rule in my heart, the Lord of every emotion!