Equipping the Generations: Adoption is Bigger Than You Think
This article originally appeared at DesiringGod.org. Used by permission.
“Adoption is greater than the universe.”
So says John Piper, and as sweeping as the statement may sound, it is absolutely true. Because the eternal communion of our triune God is behind, beneath, beside, and above the universe and is the ultimate reason and cause for our adoption.
The Love Story of the Universe
The eternal story of the infinite reciprocal love that the three Persons of the Trinity share with each other sheds the light of the Son on the immense size of our adoption. Pastor and author Gerrit Dawson captures just how this adoption envelops the universe and empowers its inhabitants.
The universe came to be as part of the eternal love story of the Father and the Son. Before the worlds began to be, the Father loved his Son and the Son loved the Father. In a mystery beyond description, this love occurred in the ‘bonds’ of the Holy Spirit. The third person of the Trinity was the personal glue, the love (as Augustine said) that ever flowed within the triune being. Indeed, all things were made out of the overflow of this love between the Father and the Son in the Spirit.
More simply put, the universe came into being out of a great love story. In the virgin’s womb, this love touched down in the midst of our darkened, broken world. The incarnate God showed his sacred face in the infant Jesus so that we could now enter this love. He tasted the sorrow of this world so that we might be taken into the joy of the eternal love of the Father and the Son. (The Blessing Life: A Journey to Unexpected Joy, 92–93)
The Story Behind the Story
The eternal Trinity — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — existed forever in the communion of love before time began. But when the three Persons of the Trinity created the heavens and the earth, the story of the Trinity broke into human history and changed everything.
It became the Story behind the story of creation and of God’s gracious mission in the world to expand his family by billions of children through his work of adoption. Suddenly, adoption has become infinitely greater than the universe itself for that reason alone.
The Word That Envelops and Empowers
It’s this Story, the reality that changes everything. It envelops the universe, dwarves it, in fact; but not only does it envelop the universe, it also empowers its inhabitants to participate within the mission of God.
And herein lies the problem. As T.F. Torrance understands it, “This is our trouble. Our minds are so taken up with mechanical and electrical and atomic power that we are apt to imagine that God’s power is of the same sort, and that God’s power operates in the same way” (The Apocalypse Today, 40). We seem to forget that God’s power in creation and redemption is exercised by his word — and his word is a superior power for by it all things were and are created and by it all things are upheld (John 1:1–3; Hebrews 1:1–3).
How the Word Empowers
When Christians are unsure of the Father’s declarative word of delight over them, real Christian joy is absent; and passionate Christian living is lacking. Mobilizing Christians who are unsure of God’s delight in them to care for orphans over the long haul or to serve orphans (James 1:27) with unflappable confidence and joy is nearly impossible. But when Jesus was launching into his public ministry, his Father spoke this word over him: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). As Scripture makes clear, Jesus had been sent to fulfill the Father’s mission to redeem humanity and renew creation — which includes the removal of the word “orphan” from the human vocabulary. The Gospel writers tell us that the Father’s Son went forward with the mission of his Father in the strength and knowledge of his Father’s delight (Matthew 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22). Yes, the power of the Father’s word in that moment possessed the power to create a thousand worlds. But even more remarkable, it was a word that secured the unfathomable renewal of the heavens and the earth for the Father’s children. If the word “you are my beloved Son” was not spoken while Jesus was standing in the waters of the Jordan, the possibility of a renewed creation would have been less than a mere figment of our imagination. It would have been an inept “word of promise.”
What’s This Have to Do with Us?
Dr. C.F.W. Walther, a pastor who lived in the 1800’s, wrote, “Every Christian may apply to himself the declaration of God: ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased!’” As God’s children, we not only have the privilege of participating in his mission to redeem and renew creation, but we also do so in the strength, knowledge, and all-powerful word of our Father’s delight.
Amazingly, adoption both envelops the universe (for our good and God’s glory, Ephesians 1:3–6) and unfailingly empowers its inhabitants to participate and enjoy God’s mission.