When two countries are at war, a soldier on one side cannot just decide to switch sides. You can’t just raise your hand, and say, “I’m not an enemy anymore; I’m on your team.” You can’t just realize that you really agree with the other country’s stance and declare yourself a citizen. There may be the possibility of your citizenship changing, but it won’t be up to you. You have to submit to a process and allow someone else with authority to choose to offer you a new home and identity.
When we repent, God could refuse us. He could say, “Well, you can be on my side, but you are the lowest rank.” He could declare us lower class or servants. But He chooses a more beautiful path. He not only changes what side we’re fighting on; He changes our identity. He doesn’t just allow us to immigrate; He makes us His sons and daughters. He adopts us.
“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Romans 8:14)
Adoption is not a Jewish concept. Paul is pulling it either from the Romans or Greeks. The Greek definition of adoption is “being granted the full rights and privileges of sonship in a family to which one does not belong by nature.” F.F. Bruce says, “An adopted son was a son deliberately chosen by his adoptive father to perpetuate his name and inherit his estate.” I love that. The believer is admitted to the heavenly family to which he has no rights of his own. And we have been chosen for a purpose.
Karl Barth said, “God exists. God leads from death to life. God will, and a necessity is laid upon us. This is the real situation. We are not debtors to the world of time and things and men (8:12)… By the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead, by the knowledge of God, we are invariably disposed and orientated from west to east, from death to life. God, in that one moment, completely changes us. He makes the impossible possible. There is no way for us to change sides, but He does it for us.
Aaron and Jamie Ivey, our worship pastor and friends, have adopted two children from Haiti, Amos and Story. Fortunately, Haiti is not at war with the United States, but that still doesn’t mean a child can just change which country he is from. A child of Haiti must grow up and then apply to immigrate. After being a permanent resident of the US for 5 years, being a continuous resident for 5 years, having 30 months of physical presence in the US, 3 months in a specific district or state, being of good moral character, having knowledge of English and Civics, and being attached to the Constitution, they may apply to become a citizen of the United States. They are not guaranteed acceptance; that is the minimum to apply. Someone else must still approve them. But when Aaron and Jamie adopted Amos and Story, at that moment they became citizens. Not because of anything they did, but because of the love of another, they became US citizens.
“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons,” (8:19) We have not been given a new set of rules. We have been given a new heart. We have been redefined. Not a spirit of bondage unto fear, but recreated as a son in whom fulfillment and joy is found in pleasing his Father.