Adoption as an Eternal and Immanent Act of God
by John Gill
by John Gill
From A Body of Doctrinal Divinity
Book II, Chapter V, section I.
1. Adoption; as predestination to it stands next to election, (Eph. 1:5) which is no other than his will to adopt the chosen ones, which is his adoption of them; for as the will of God to elect any is his election of them, so his will to adopt the same is his adoption of them; and the complete essence of it lies in his will, and is as such an eternal immanent act of it; in like manner as election is, and may be considered as a branch of it, at least of the same nature with it; and which agrees with the sense of the word "adopto", from whence adoption comes, which is compounded of "ad" to, and "opto" to choose; so that adoption is God’s choice or election of some to be his children; and by this option, or choice, of his they become so. The Greek word for adoption throughout the New Testament is uioyesia, which signifies "putting among the children"; the phrase used by God (Jer. 3:19). "How shall I put them among the children?" or a putting one for and in the room of a son, that is a stranger and not a son by birth; a constituting and accounting such an one as a son, according to choice, will, and pleasure: and divine adoption is an act of the sovereign grace and good will of God, (Eph. 1:5) to which he is not induced by any motive out of himself; not by any excellency in the creature; nor for want of a son; one or other of which is the case in human adoptions; as of Moses, a goodly child, by Pharaoh’s daughter; and of Esther, a beautiful person, and a relation by Mordecai; but divine adoption is of persons exceeding unworthy and undeserving, nothing engaging in them; not only strangers, but children of wrath even as others, and like the wretched infant in (Ezek. 16:1-63). It is an act of distinguishing grace; it is of men, and not angels; who are servants and not sons, at least not by adoption; and of some men and not of all, though all are alike in their nature state; and it is a most amazing act of unmerited love and free grace (1 John 3:1). Now this is an eternal act of grace:
1a. First, It did not begin in time, but commenced from eternity; it is an act of God’s will, and has its complete essence in it; and the will of God is eternal, no new will, nor any new act of will, arises in God in time; or otherwise he would not be the unchangeable God he is.
1a1. It is an act that does not first take place at believing; indeed the saints are "all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus", openly and manifestatively, (Gal. 3:26) but then it is not faith that makes them children, but what makes them appear to be so; adoption is the act of God, and not of faith; it is God that says, "How shall I put them among the children?" and again, "I will be their Father, and they shall be my sons and daughters", (Jer. 3:19; 2 Cor. 6:18) it is the work and business of faith to receive the blessing of adoption, which it could not do, unless it had been previously provided in the mind and by the will of God, and in the covenant of his grace; for the reception of which Christ has made way by his redemption, one end of which is "that we might receive the adoption of sons", (Gal. 4:5) that is, by faith; for God has appointed faith to be the general receiver of Christ, and of all the blessings of grace through him, and this among the rest; and to as many as receive Christ, he gives exousian, a power, authority, dignity, and privilege to become the sons of God openly; that is, to claim this as their privilege and dignity; which claim is made by faith; but not the thing itself claimed; "even to them that believe on his name", and who are described as regenerate persons; which is an evidence of their sonship, though not the thing itself; "who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man; but of God" (John 1:12, 13). But though this describes such who are the sons of God openly, and who believe; yet,
1a2. Adoption does not first commence at regeneration; adoption and regeneration are two distinct blessings, and the one is previous to the other; though they are commonly confounded together by divines. Regeneration is not the foundation of adoption, but adoption the foundation of regeneration; or, the reason why men are adopted, is not because they are regenerated, but they are regenerated because they are adopted. By adoption they are put into the relation of children, and by regeneration they have a nature given them suitable to that relation; and are made partakers of the divine nature, that they may be made known to be heirs apparent to, and to have a meekness for the possession, enjoyment, and use of it, the inheritance in heaven they are adopted to; for,
1a3. The act of adoption is previous to any work of the Spirit of God upon the hearts of his people; "Because ye are sons, sons already, sons by adopting grace; God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts", both to convince, convert, regenerate, and effectually call by his grace, and sanctify, and also to comfort, and to enable to cry Abba Father, witnessing to their spirits, that they are the children of God; and hence he is called, "the Spirit of Adoption"; and it is his influences, teachings, and leadings, which are the evidences of adoption; "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God"; not that those influences, operations, and leadings, make them, but make them evident to be such, (Gal. 4:6; Rom. 8:14-16).
1a4. Divine adoption, or sonship, took place before any work of Christ was wrought in time, for any of the sons of men; it was before his incarnation and birth; forasmuch then, or because "the children are partakers of flesh and blood", the children of God, who are so by adopting grace; therefore "he also", Christ, "himself took part of the same"; for though the nature he assumed was what was in common to all mankind, yet he assumed it with a peculiar view to the children of God, the spiritual seed of Abraham; whose nature he is said to take, and for whose sake he was the child born, and the Son given, (Isa. 9:6; Heb. 2:14, 16) and in consequence they must be the children of God before Christ suffered and died; and, indeed, he suffered and died for them under this character, considered as the children of God by adopting grace; for he died not only for the elect of God among the "Jews, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad"; that is, those who were already the children of God by adopting grace, who were scattered throughout the whole Gentile world. This relates to the gathering of all the elect in one, in Christ, in the dispensation of the fulness of times; when Christ suffered as their Surety, Head, and Representative; and when they were all considered as the children of God, whether in heaven or on earth, and whether among Jews or Gentiles, (Eph. 1:10; John 11:51, 52) and in order to bring these many sons to glory, it became him to be made perfect through sufferings, and that through his redemption of them thereby, they might receive, actually in their own persons, the adoption before provided for them, as before observed; see (Heb. 2:10; Gal. 4:5).
1b. Secondly, Adoption is an act of God’s free grace from all eternity.
1b1. The elect of God are frequently spoken of as a distinct number of men, given to Christ, and as previous to their coming to him by faith, which is the certain fruit and consequence of that gift; see (John 17:2, 6, 9, 24, 6:37) yea, they were given to Christ before the world was; for if grace was given to them in him before the world began, they themselves must be given to him, and be in him before the world began (2 Tim. 1:9). Now these were given to Christ in the relation of children, and therefore must be children so early; "Behold, I, and the children which God hath given me" (Heb. 2:13).
1b2. The elect of God were espoused to Christ in eternity; as has been shown in the preceding chapter; which serves to illustrate and prove the relation of sonship to God so early; for as in natural and civil marriage, if a man marries a king’s daughter, he becomes his son in law; as David to Saul: or if a woman marries a king’s son, she becomes the king’s daughter: so the elect of God, his church and people, being espoused to the Son of God, they become the sons and daughters of the Lord God almighty, the King of kings; and hence the church is called the King’s daughter, (Ps. 45:13) and these persons being betrothed to Christ, the Son of God, in eternity, as they were the spouse of Christ, they must be, and must be considered as being the sons of God so early.
1b3. The elect of God were taken by him into the covenant of his grace, as children; the sum and substance of which runs thus, "I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord almighty" (2 Cor. 6:18). Now this covenant was from everlasting; as the setting up of Christ the Mediator of it so soon; and the promises and blessings, made and provided before the world began, do abundantly testify. Besides, in this covenant, these same persons so early were given to Christ, as his seed and offspring, his children, and he commenced the everlasting Father of them (see Isa. 9:6 53:10).
1b4. Predestination to the adoption of children, is mentioned along with election, as of the same date with it, and as an illustration of it, and as an addition to it, or rather, a branch of it; as men by election are not only chosen to holiness, but to adoption, and the inheritance annexed to it (Eph. 1:4, 5). Adoption is a sentence of grace conceived in the divine mind, and settled by the divine will, and pronounced in divine predestination, which is an eternal act of God; and so says Dr. Ames, "Adoption is a gracious sentence of God—which sentence is pronounced in the same variety of degrees as justification; for it was first pronounced in divine predestination, (Eph. 1:5) afterwards in Christ, (Gal. 4:5) then in believers themselves" (Gal. 4:6).
And all these pronunciations, and so all that Christ did in redemption respecting this, or the Spirit of God does in revealing, applying, and witnessing it, yea, all that will be done in eternity to come; for though now the saints "are the sons of God, it doth not yet appear", clearly and fully, "what they shall be", even as sons, or what dignity and glory they shall be raised unto, in consequence of this relation; I say, all these in time, and to eternity, serve only to open and expand the original act of God’s will, in appointing and constituting them his sons in an eternity past.