Justification and Adoption
When God converts sinners through the means that He has appointed, namely the preaching of the gospel, and the prayers of the saints, and the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, bringing the dead to life, and granting faith in Christ and repentance towards God – it is then that God justifies and adopts the sinner. These two things, justification, and adoption are two great realities revealed in the Scriptures; they are not peripheral things.
“For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,” (Romans 4:3-5 ESV)
“So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” (Galatians 3:24-26 ESV)
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So, you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” (Galatians 4:4-7 ESV)
It is clear from these texts, and others, that sinners are justified and adopted by God through faith in Christ. It is not by works or the works of the law that we are justified and adopted into God’s family. So, what do these words, justification, and adoption, actually mean?
Both words, justification, and adoption, are legal terms. To be justified means that before justification took place, a person was found to be guilty. And we know, as said before, that we were all once condemned because of our sins (Romans 3:19,20). In God’s court, before God’s judgment throne, we all stood guilty, hundreds and thousands of times, for crimes against God. We despised his authority, rejected his laws; we deserved to die and be condemned. But because Jesus Christ came down from heaven to earth, and obtained a perfect righteousness, and came to stand in our place to bear the punishment we deserved, and died the death we deserved; because Jesus was condemned in our place and became a curse for us, by dying on the cross, you and I can have our sins forgiven. We can be declared innocent. It is wonderful to be forgiven but to be declared righteous and just, is even greater! And that is what the gospel is all about. It is about God making a way for you and me to be made acceptable in God’s sight. In the gospel, God made Jesus to be sin for us, so that we can become the righteousness of God in Him. In the gospel, a divine exchange takes place. When a person believes in Christ, God credits Christ’s righteousness to the sinner, and the sinner’s sin to Christ. In fact, Jesus died for the sins of the believer 2,000 years ago. But by faith, in real time, when the sinner believes in Christ, God forgives the sinner, and God credits Christ’s obedience to the law, Christ’s righteousness, to the believer. And when God does this, he declares the sinner to be just or righteous. Justification is a legal declaration by God, in His courtroom. By faith in Christ, God looks on the sinner as if he has never sinned, as if he or she is Jesus Christ Himself!
This is why we evangelize and make God known. We want people across the world to be justified by God, to be accepted by Him, by virtue of Christ. Justification is a once-off declaration by God to a sinner, never to be repeated, never to be canceled. Once a person is justified by God, he can never be unjustified. Those whom God justified, he glorified (Romans 8:29,30).
But there is more: after God has justified a person, he doesn’t stop there. It gets better! Once God justifies the sinner by faith, he proceeds to adopt him or her into his family. Adoption, like justification, is a legal declaration. It is a legal process. Before anything happens to our sinful natures, before the purification process starts, God justifies us by faith and adopts us into His family. These two glorious things, we can say, happen almost simultaneously. But, logically, justification comes first. Once God has justified the sinner, he proceeds to adopt the one justified into his family. He declares the justified one to be his son or daughter! As proof that he has done this, he sends the Spirit of God, the Spirit of sonship, into that person’s life, in order to seal the declaration and legal process. All those whom God justifies by faith in Christ, he also adopts. And once they are adopted, they are baptized by the Holy Spirit and receive the filling of the Holy Spirit.
There is much to say about these things! All I want to say for now is this: the reason we share the gospel, and the goal of going out into the world to evangelize, is so that God, by his grace, would justify and adopt people into His family! Sharing the gospel is about God making people like Jesus. That doesn’t happen unless sinners are justified and adopted into his family. We are not by nature righteous in God’s sight. We are sinful and desperately wicked, in need of mercy. We are not by nature God’s sons or daughters, but sons and daughters of disobedience and wrath. We are by nature sons of the devil and under the curse. Through the gospel, and the gospel alone, we come into the privileged positions of being called sons and daughters of God and we receive the Spirit of God. And by receiving this declaration, we not only receive the filling of Spirit of God, but also an inheritance prepared for us in heaven!
You are no longer called a sinner but a saint in Christ. You are no longer called a slave, but a son. You are no longer condemned; you are justified by faith. Because of this, God no longer counts your sins against you, but credits Christ’s righteousness to you! This is why we make God known, that God would justify, and adopt sinners to Himself.