Posted by: Jonathan Stepp | December 8, 2008

The Plan of God is Adoption

The Father created humanity in the Son, by the Spirit, so that he could adopt us as his children.

That’s the message of Ephesians 1:5, where Paul tells us that this was God’s plan from the beginning of the world. He predistined humanity in Christ to become his children.

I’m continuing today to expand on the thoughts I expressed last week in my post on the Key Points of the Neo-Reformation.

This second point (click here for point one) is vital, I believe. As long as we keep talking about God’s plan for humanity primarily, and even exclusively, in terms of sin and salvation we are missing the big picture of what the Father, Son, and Spirit are doing with creation and humanity.

The Father did not create us so that he would have some people to save from sin. He created us so that he could share with us, forever, the life of joy, love, and peace that he has always enjoyed together with his Son in their Spirit. We were created for participation in the Divine Life of the Trinity (2 Peter 1:4).

Now that the Son has become the man Jesus, and remains the human being Jesus forever (glorified and ascended to the right hand of the Father), God’s plan of adoption has been accomplished. This is what we are preparing to celebrate this Christmas: in Jesus, fully God and fully human, Divinity and humanity have been joined together forever. We have been adopted and included in the Triune Life.

The plan of God is adoption and the forgiveness of sin is one component of that plan. Since Adam had plunged us all into sin it was necessary, for the plan of adoption to be fulfilled, that the Second Adam (Jesus) should destroy sin and set us all free from death (Rom. 5:18).

The fall of Adam meant that the Son’s incarnation would become a crucifixory experience, but the incarnation was going to happen – as the means of accomplishing the plan of adoption – whether humanity ever fell or not.

As St. Irenaeus said: He became what we are so that we might become like him, i.e. that we also might be children of the Father.

This Friday: Adoption includes everyone



  1. It is theologically impossible to define sin as the problem to be resolved by Jesus sacrifice without legalism or deception. The only way the incarnation and sacrifice can make sense is from an adoption perspective.

  2. Thanks, tim, I agree: the incarnation and Jesus’ death never really made sense to me until I looked at from the perspective of adoption. The Son’s presence in humanity is necessary if we are to have the Father/Child relationship with the Father that he created us to have and the crucifixion of our sinful flesh (our “circumcision in Christ” Paul calls it in Col. 2:11) was necessary so that our sinfulness would no longer impede our Father/Child relationship.

  3. Thank you both Tim and Jonathan for clearing this up further.
    Just a few thoughts! It is true that just knowing the forgiveness of sin leads us to a performance based acceptance, for how do we now come to live? Still further if we come to know Jesus as life without the knowledge of inclusive adoption then we try to come through another door which we have opened through the extension of given ourselves to Him in order to be birthed. When we proclaim this it leaves the rest of humanity to come and follow our path of salvation. All of this requires performance, even the act of giving our heart or life to Jesus. However!
    When we come to know that the adoptive goodness of God in us leads us to repentance! A wonderful adoptive truth that already holds true for all humanity (Romans 2:4). Seeing this goodness for all humanity enlightens our hearts so that He becomes the acceptance based performance in and through us. I think Philippians 2:12&13 even says it better. jg

  4. I agree, John. When we believe that our faith is what gets us into Christ, and Christ into us, then our whole chain of identity is dependent on our work of believing. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and our faith is the weakest link! So, we end up spending our whole lives trying to prove to ourselves and others that we really do believe and that we are believing strongly enough to get ourselves into Christ. Any theology that fails to establish our identity in Christ solely because of Christ’s work is doomed to create a legalistic religion.

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