In previous articles we have seen that our adoption as the children of God is predestinated from eternity by God the Father and prepared and sealed in time through the work of Christ, the First-begotten Son. Now we turn to the third phase in the revelation of the wonder of our Sonship, the work of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of adoption. It is through the Spirit of adoption that the adoption of sons is possessed by the children of God. 

We must understand, of course, that our emphasis on the Spirit in this aspect of our adoption does not mean that the Holy Spirit is not active in the predestination or preparation of our sonship. We know that also election is of the Father, through the Son, and by the Holy Spirit; and Hebrews 9:14 tells us that it was “through the eternal Spirit” that Christ offered Himself in our behalf. Nevertheless, it is in the application of adoption that the work of the Spirit stands on the foreground. 

In the application of adoption the Spirit gives to us the blessings and benefits of sonship that are earned for us through Christ’s bloody sacrifice and sealed to us in His resurrection. The result of the work of the Spirit, then, is that we come into conscious possession of our sonship, have the assurance of an incorruptible inheritance, and receive the calling to live as sons of God in a wicked world. 

The importance of this work of the Spirit is clearly seen by returning to the earthly picture for a moment. When we adopt a child we do not leave that child at the adoption agency but we take him to our home and into our own life, otherwise he would never know anything of his sonship, nor would he profit one whit from his adoption. The work of Christ on the cross lays the legal basis for our sonship, but does not deliver us from the house of the devil. It is through the Spirit that we are received into the family of God and are made partakers of all the goodness of His house. 

This work of the Spirit also teaches us once again that here, too, our sonship is a great work of God. It is so great and so wonderful that only God Who planned it and prepared it can give it to us, enable us to understand it, and fill us with the assurance that we are and forever shall remain His dear children. 

The work of the Spirit as the Spirit of adoption was revealed prophetically already in the Old Testament. InIsaiah 44:3-5 the prophet says:

For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour My Spirit upon thy seed, and My blessing upon thine offspring: and they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses. One shall say, I am the Lord’s; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel.

Notice two things in connection with this remarkable passage: first, that through the Spirit the children actually “spring up” as living plants in a barren land; and secondly, that for these children this involves a new consciousness of their sonship so that they begin to call themselves by the names of God’s children, “Jacob” and “Israel.” 

From this prophecy of Isaiah we see, therefore, something that is more clearly revealed in the New Testament, that the work of the Spirit of adoption has two aspects: the bringing forth of sons, and the giving of the assurance of adoption. There are several New Testament passages which speak of this twofold work of the Spirit, notably II Corinthians 3:18 and Galatians 4:6, 7

The first work of the Spirit of adoption, therefore, is the bringing forth of sons. This is a very great miracle. When we adopt children and take them into our homes and hearts, for all the love we show those children, they never become our own flesh and blood. The great wonder of our adoption as God’s children is that we are reborn as the sons and daughters of the living God. The result of this spiritual rebirth or regeneration is that we, in a creaturely way, reflect the nature and glories of our heavenly Father and of His Only Begotten Son. 

In Romans 8:29 this work of the Spirit is mentioned. There we are reminded that the purpose of God in predestination is “that we should be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” In II Corinthians 3:18 Paul specifically mentions the Spirit, in this connection when he says that “we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image (that of the Lord’s glory, R.H.) from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” Peter says that there “are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature” (II Peter 1:4; cf. also John 1:10-13, 3:13-18II Cor. 5:17I Peter 1:23I John 3:9, etc.). 

This spiritual rebirth involves the restoration of the image of God in us. In Colossians 3:12 Paul tells us that our great glory as those who are risen with Christ (vs. 1) is that we have “put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him” (cf. Also Eph. 4:24 and Hebrews 12:10). John, however, reminds us that this marvelous renewal of our nature in the image of our Father in heaven is not complete until at last we appear before Him in glory: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.” John is saying that our glory as the sons of God is not yet visible and will not be visible until the appearing of the Lord Jesus. Then “the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ . . . shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself” (Phil. 3:20, 21). 

The second part, then, of the Spirit’s work as the Spirit of adoption is that of giving the assurance of sonship to God’s children. Thus it is that the truth of adoption becomes a matter of comfort and joy to each of God’s sons and daughters. Here the earthly picture holds true once again. When we adopt a child, then we show that child our love by taking him into our home, caring for his needs, protecting, helping, and instructing him. Thereby we prove our love to him and show both in word and deed that he is a son not only before the law but also in our hearts. Through the Spirit God proves His love to us.

Through the Spirit He gives good gifts to His children (Luke 11:13I Cor. 12:7-11), helps and comforts them (Rom. 8:26,John 14:16-18, etc.), teaches them (John 7:37-39, etc.), and cares for all their needs. The earthly picture falls short of the reality, however, for the testimony of the Spirit is addressed not only to the outward man, but, as we read in Romans 8:16, “The Spirit itself beareth witness,with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” God writes the assurance of sonship on our hearts, something that we as earthly parents cannot do. 

The Scriptures speak of this testimony of the Spirit also in Galatians 4:6: “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” Notice that Paul simply speaks here of a testimony of the Spirit, whereas in Romans 8 he speaks of a twofold testimony, that of the Spirit with our spirit. The reason for this is that in Romans 8 Paul is emphasizing the strength of that assurance; thus he teaches us that “in the mouth of two or three witnesses” every word of God concerning our sonship is established. In Galatians 4 the emphasis is rather on the fact that the assurance of sonship is a gracious work of God through Christ and so the testimony of the Spirit with our spirits is not mentioned. 

Galatians 4:6 is valuable, however, because it reminds us that the Spirit is the Spirit of the Son. That means three things: that He is given to the Son in His exaltation (Acts 2:33), that He is poured out by the Son upon the church (John 16:7), and that He speaks only of the Son (John 15:26, 16:13, 14). That is important because it is only as the Spirit of the Son that He can give us the assurance that we are sons. He testifies of our adoption as sons and daughters of God, by testifying of God’s Only Begotten Son. The two, our sonship and His, can never be separated even in the work of the Spirit of adoption. 

Through the work of the Spirit, then, an intimate relationship of love and friendship is established between God and His people in Christ. Not only does the Spirit testify of God’s love toward His people, but the Spirit as the Spirit of adoption also awakens in the hearts of the children a response of love toward God. Of this we read in Romans 8:15b: “Ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” In that cry all of the love of God’s children for their Father is expressed, as well as a complete dependence upon Him, and a longing to dwell in His heavenly house. 

Once again the earthly picture serves us well. Adoption becomes a legal reality for us when all the papers are signed, but it does not become a living reality until first our adopted child in response to our love and care cries for the first time, “Father, Mother.” And as much and much more than we delight in the cries of our children, our heavenly Father delights in all those who cry to Him. But here also the earthly reality falls short, for we may be disappointed in those adopted children, finding them unthankful and sullen; but our heavenly Father is never disappointed, for it is His almighty grace working in His children through the Spirit that elicits this response from them-every one. 

And this response of the children of God is something that is not only treasured up in the secret places of their hearts, but becomes their confession both in word and deed. We are called to be “blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom (we) shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15). We are called to be “followers of God, as dear children” and to “walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us” (Eph. 5:1, 2). 

So it is that through the Spirit we are rooted and grounded in love and are able to comprehend and know with all the saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of the love of God in Christ which passes knowledge. Yea, when Christ as the Son of God dwells in our hearts through the Spirit and by faith, then we are filled with all the fullness of God our Father and look forward to the day when we shall dwell in His presence and in His house forever.