But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God … — John 1:12
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are … — 1 John 3:1
For many, adoption offers a glimpse of the gospel. In a blog post about the vision for Show Hope’s Adoption Aid work, Co-founder Mary Beth Chapman spoke of the first moment she held Shaohannah Hope (Shaoey), her first daughter who was welcomed into their family through adoption. Mary Beth wrote, “God was gracious to give me an incredibly beautiful gift as I began to understand anew the great depths of God’s love for His children. God, our Father, as the relentless pursuer of love sought after me, adopted me, and made me His—forever, for better, for worse.” As God works through the adoption journey, children are welcomed into the love, security, and permanency of a family. The adoption journey provides an opportunity for families and their communities to experience and learn more about what it means to love and to be loved, unconditionally, as children of God.
In his book “Knowing God,” J.I. Packer poses this question and answer: “What is a Christian? … The question could be answered in many ways, but the richest answer I know is that a Christian is one who has God as Father.” It may sound too simple for some, but it is, oftentimes, challenging to wrap our minds around it. As David Platt unpacks the concept, he explains that we often think of God as Judge, and that he is. Yet when we place our faith in him, as Platt says, he judges our sin as forgiven, and “then he rises from the bench, comes down to where you are, takes off your chains, and says, ‘Come home with me as my son or daughter.’
“God is perfectly loving, perfectly kind, perfectly wise. God always knows what is best for us. God is perfectly powerful. He’s never unable to act on his children’s behalf,” Platt continues. “God is perfectly knowledgeable. He knows everything about our lives. There’s nothing hidden from him—past, present, or future. God is perfectly good. So Christian, this perfect, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving sovereign God of the universe is your dad. He’s your Father in heaven.”
The love of God our Father is a love that will never be experienced on earth as it is today. It’s a love that is incomprehensible, honestly. To be a child of God is to experience, as Sally Lloyd-Jones puts it in “The Jesus Storybook Bible,” “a never-stopping, never-giving-up, unbreaking, always and forever love.” In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus compares God’s love to that of earthly parents. “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11). Yet it is only through Jesus himself that we will experience this love—to be a child of God.
In an article published by Crossway, editors J.I. Packer and Joel Scandrett share, “Whether or not you were raised in the Church, to be a Christian requires a deliberate, personal commitment to Jesus Christ, much like the commitment a person makes in marriage. Being a Christian is a process of continuing forward in faithfulness to Jesus from that point on. In order to make this commitment, you need to know the essentials about who he is and what he has done for you. This is the Gospel (‘good news’) of Jesus Christ.” The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, tells us, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the, 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 you are a son, then an heir through God” (4:4–5).
So what does it mean to be a child of God? It means that you are a son or daughter of the Almighty, adopted through Jesus his Son, and “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38–39).