Vertical Before Horizontal

A month from now, I’ll be joining Steve McCoy, Zach Nielson, Noel Piper and a host of other fantastic bloggers at Together for Adoption in Phoenix. While part of my role will be to live blog the event, I’ll also be there representing my publishers, Cruciform Press.

One of the common questions I’ve been asked recently is why I’m going to this conference—the assumption being that the conference is all about the adoption of children. And while that is an important aspect of the conference, it’s not the primary focus—because this “horizontal” adoption is not the primary focus of the Scriptures. In the Scriptures, before adoption is horizontal, it is vertical.

Adoption is about the gospel.

The apostle Paul illustrates this reality beautifully in two key passages from Romans and Galatians:

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)

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)

In these parallel passages, Paul emphasizes a critical point: Christ’s atoning work doesn’t just release us from slavery to sin, as wonderful as that is. What’s far more wonderful is that His purpose in redeeming the elect was “so that we might receive adoption as sons” and receive the “Spirit of adoption“.

Jesus came to make us part of God’s family. Without that understanding, orphan care doesn’t really make sense.

Since the earliest days of the Church, Christians have led the way in the practice of orphan care—all motivated by their own adoption as “sons” of God. Those who choose to adopt bring others into their family, we make them “heirs” along with their biological children, just as they have been made “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.”

Orphan care—horizontal adoption—is a picture of the gospel—vertical adoption.

It’s a beautiful gift that God has given us and a wonderful opportunity to share His grace with others.

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