What comes to mind when you hear the word “adoption”?
If you’re like me, your mind first goes to adopting a child. Giving a safe home and a loving family is one of the greatest gifts that one can give to a child. Yet, if we read the Scriptures, it’s clear that this term “adoption” carries with it so much more than the (very important) gift of a family to an orphaned child.
That’s because adoption is not only horizontal, but also vertical. Interestingly, though, we’ve not spent a great deal of time articulating the theology behind it. Indeed, over the course of the first 1900 years of Christian history, there are “only six creeds that contain a section on theological adoption” (p. 8).
That’s what inspired Dan Cruver to write Reclaiming Adoption: Missional Living through the Rediscovery of Abba Father. In this book, Cruver (along with contributors John Piper, Scotty Smith, Richard D. Phillips and Jason Kovacs) explains what it means to be adopted by God the Father, its implications for orphan care and how it transforms our witness in the world.
Reclaiming Adoption packs a convicting punch. As Cruver unpacks the importance of the doctrine of adoption over his four chapters, he shows readers just how much it impacts everything. To understand the love of God for His people—those He chose to adopt before He even created the universe—completely transforms how we think, live, feel and act. Cruver writes,
Christians who doubt God’s love for them will not mobilize for mission. Unless we know the Father delights in us even as he delights in Jesus, we will lack the emotional capital necessary to resist complacency and actively engage in missional living. The only people who can truly turn their eyes outward in mission are those who knowingly live within and enjoy the loving gaze of their heavenly Father. . . . If we are not confident of his love, our eyes will turn inward, and our primary concerns will be our needs, our lack, our disappointment, rather than the needs of those around us. (p. 18)
Cruver proceeds to illustrate this truth by showing how the doctrine of adoption is tied to the Trinity, the incarnation and our union with Christ.
We need the Trinity because “a god who existed in all eternity past as one person would be a god eternally turned in upon himself. Such a being could not love because by its nature love turns outward.” (p. 25). But because God is Trinity, because He is eternally three Persons yet one Being, He is not only loving, but He is love (c.f. 1 John 4:8). He exists in an eternal communion of love. And through adoption, we are brought into this communion through Jesus.
Likewise, if there were three gods, rather than one who is three Persons, “we could not be sure that what we get with one we also get with the other two” (p. 38). But because Christ is God the Son, we are secure in the love of God. Because He is God, He is the only one who has ever lived who perfectly obeyed the Law. He is the only one who could accomplish our redemption. Indeed, were He not God, we would be utterly lost for there would be nowhere for us to rest securely. However, as Cruver writes, “My security . . . lies in who Jesus was for me in his own Person through the whole course of his incarnate life” (p. 48).
Finally, because we are adopted in Christ, we are in union with Him. Indeed, the two are completely inseparable. “[U]nion with Christ means that we never do anything independently of him,” writes Cruver (p. 52). If this is so, adoption—union with Christ—drastically changes our perspective on lives in this world. It means we’re to live our lives on mission in service of Christ, seeking to bring people into communion with God. And our adoption is our empowerment for mission now and forever. That’s good news, isn’t it?
Alongside Cruver’s work are essays by Scotty Smith, John Piper, Richard Philips and Jason Kovacs. And you might be wondering, given the impressive roster, if there was one who stood out above the rest. While every contribution was excellent, and their merits could be discussed at length, it was Cruver’s work that stood head and shoulders above the rest. He was very thorough, thoughtful and handled the subject with great care and Scripture with great affection.
J.I. Packer once said that the gospel could be summed in three words: “adoption through propitiation.” In Reclaiming Adoption, Cruver and company excel in illustrating this reality and inspiring a desire to respond to the great love with which our heavenly Father has loved us. I would highly recommend you read Reclaiming Adoption to any reader seeking to better understand the love of God and the great news of the gospel.
Title: Reclaiming Adoption: Missional Living through the Rediscovery of Abba Father
Author: Dan Cruver (editor)
Publisher: Cruciform Press (2011)