An Alternative To Adoption

I wrote an article earlier this week in the literary genre known as “Tongue & Cheek.” If you read it, I hope you caught the sarcasm. I was offering a brief critique of Jason Johnson’s doctrine of adoption. His position is that God adopted his people and that his people should, therefore, adopt orphans. Using the same flawed logic, I proposed that we marry all sorts of sordid women and try to make them beautiful because Christ marries the Church and purifies her and that we dig up old bones and put new cloths on them because God will raise us from the dead and clothe us in glory. Of course, my two propositions are ridiculous; but they are no more ridiculous than Johnson’s doctrine of adoption, which was my entire point.

Today, I would like to offer something more than just a critique. I would like to offer an alternative position to the one held by Johnson. Johnson’s claim is that God’s people should be adopting orphans because the very act of adopting an orphan is a demonstration of the gospel. This means that, in Johnson’s view, adopting orphans is not ultimately about adopting orphans. Adopting orphans is ultimately about demonstrating the gospel. So, his doctrine of adoption is not so much a doctrine of adoption as it is a doctrine of gospel demonstration that happens to include adoption. Therefore, the alternative I will provide is not an alternative doctrine of adoption but rather an alternative doctrine of gospel demonstration or presentation or proclamation.

Suppose we live in a world in which everyone treats everyone else unlawfully and has broken some law that requires they be executed by the king. Since everyone awaits the death penalty, they all spend their entire lives trying to escape the coming judgment. One day, the king has you brought to the castle. To your surprise, your head remains attached to your body; and you hear this from the king, “Son, I have derived an alternative means of justice. You will not be executed, and neither will the others in your village.” He lets you go free, and you are left with the decision of what to do with this information.

Assuming you want to tell the others in your village the good news, which of the two following options do you think would most clearly and effectively communicate the good news?

1) From this day forward, you decide that you will forgive all of your neighbors when they treat you unjustly. When the little boy across the way kicks down your fence, you invite him in for milk and cookies. When your neighbor steals your wheat, you bake him a loaf of bread. You hold nothing against anyone. This will be a physical demonstration of the good news that no one in the village will be executed by the king.

2) You decide to tell everyone in your village that the king has derived an alternative means of justice and that none of them will be executed.

Now, which of these two options do you think communicates the good news most clearly and effectively?

Suppose a man has spent the past 20 years building a beautiful home in the woods for his wife. If he wants to show her everything he has done for her, do you think it would be more effective to draw her a picture or to take her to the house?

The same thing is true with the gospel. If God has done something truly amazing on behalf of his people, why would we want to merely draw them a picture of what he has done? Adoption can be used as a picture of the gospel, but why would we want the picture when we have the real thing? Romans 1:16 tells us that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. The good news that God has secured the salvation of his people through the demonstration of both his perfect justice and grace on the cross is God’s power to cause a person to be born again and to put his faith in Jesus Christ and to repent from his sins. The message of the gospel contains the power to bring about conversion.

Faith does not come about by seeing inadequate physical demonstrations of some of the spiritual truths contained in the gospel. Faith comes by hearing (Rom 10:17), hearing the verbal proclamation of what Christ has done on behalf of his people. No one has been converted to Christ because some Christian family somewhere adopted an orphan. All conversions to Christ happen, without exception, because of the verbal proclamation of the gospel.

So, my alternative to Johnson’s position is this: In God’s adoption of the saints, they are transferred from the kingdom of darkness into God’s kingdom, into his family. They are raised from spiritual death and given eternal life. They escape judgment and are given the all-satisfying joy of beholding their creator in all of his glory and of obeying his commandments. Therefore, the mission of the Church is to declare, with words, that in God’s adoption of the saints, they are transferred from the kingdom of darkness into God’s kingdom, into his family. They are raised from spiritual death and given eternal life. They escape judgment and are given the all-satisfying joy of beholding their creator in all of his glory and of obeying his commandments.

The mission of the church is not to encourage Christians to adopt orphans into their families. God is in the business of redeeming his people and delivering them into his kingdom. We should make God’s business our business, but it does not follow that we should be in the business of finding orphans and delivering them into our families. Rather, the Church should be in the business of proclaiming the redemption of God’s people and their deliverance into his family.

God has been kind enough to give us everything we need for life and godliness in the pages of the Bible. Everything needed to bring salvation and maturity is contained in the pages of a book that we too often ignore. I propose that instead of coercing God’s people into using their lives to draw pictures of the gospel by adopting orphans, the leaders in the Church teach God’s word and demand that people obey God’s commandments.

11 thoughts on “An Alternative To Adoption

  1. MW

    Although the author makes some good points, I am not sure I like the tone of this post. I would like to express my concerns about the final sentence in which the author seems to imply that Church leaders should force people to obey the O.T. law. I am under grace and therefore exempt from the provisions of the law. I sure would not want to be in a church with that sort of legalism and tyranny going on.

    1. Jason Bolt Post author

      Dear MW,

      Why do you jump to the thought of legalism and tyranny when I mention God’s commandments? You do know that I was merely paraphrasing what Jesus says in John 14:15? To which aspect of God’s moral law are you unwilling to submit? God may have decided to be gracious to you, but that does not mean you can ignore his claims on your life.

      1. MW

        I will answer your questions because you seem like a compassionate and thoughtful person. I suspect you just got a little carried away in your article. I “jump” to the “thought of legalism” anytime someone tells me I have to obey the O.T. law. That is the definition of legalism. There are two things to consider about what Jesus is recording as having said in John 14:
        1. Jesus said what He said prior to the institution of the Lord’s Supper. At that point He was fulfilling the O.T. law so that we, His followers, would not have to be put under that burden. At the Last Supper he created a “New Covenant” that frees us from the law.
        2. The “law” that I follow today is the Law of Christ and it is not burdensome. He has written it on my heart and when I pray to Him about things that are on my mind He reveals it to me.
        You can see, I am not ignoring God’s “claims on” my life. I am just receiving them in a N.T. fashion that sidesteps the problems associated with legalism that you seem to be burdened by.

        1. Jason Bolt Post author

          The fascinating thing here is that you did not answer my questions. You ignored the first and third question and half answered the second one.

          I asked . . .

          1) Why do you jump to the thought of legalism and tyranny when I mention God’s commandments?

          You answered, “I ‘jump’ to the ‘thought of legalism’ anytime someone tells me I have to obey the O.T. law.” All that tells me is WHEN you jump to the thought of legalism. Furthermore, I never told you that you have to obey O.T. law. All I said was that Church leaders ought to demand that their people obey God’s commandments. So, why do you assume I am referring to O.T. law, and WHY do you jump to the thought of tyranny when I mention God’s commandments?

          2) You do know that I was merely paraphrasing what Jesus says in John 14:15?

          Even though you did not answer this question directly, I assume you know I was paraphrasing Jesus’ words based upon the fact that you addressed the passage.

          3) To which aspect of God’s moral law are you unwilling to submit?

          You completely ignored this question.

          You say that the definition of legalism is telling people they have to obey O.T. law. If this is your definition of legalism, then you must necessarily believe that it is legalistic, and therefore wrong, for me to teach my children not to steal and murder. Furthermore, you must necessarily believe that it is not legalistic of me to require my wife to always wear a long dress, never speak to other men of whom she is not a blood relative, and most certainly never read romance novels. Are you sure you want to stick with your definition of legalism?

          You are right about the law of Christ not being burdensome. However, why do you think that I am burdened by some other kind of law? Can you explain to me what the difference is between the law of Christ and God’s moral law that is outlined in the O.T.? I am not talking about the way in which you receive the law of Christ and the moral law of the O.T. I am talking about the actual difference between the two. What is contained in the law of Christ that is not contained in the O.T. moral law, and what is contained in the O.T. moral law that is not contained in the law of Christ?

          One more thing, you say that God reveals things to you. Do you claim to be a prophet? Can you tell me what God sounds like? I have always wondered.

          1. MW

            Knowledge puffs up but love edifies. I have decided to take the pathway of love and not answer any of your questions. To do so would be to encourage further argument and I believe that God is a God peace, not anger. You are obviously much smarter than I am but beware, God’s favor does not fall upon you merely because you have a high IQ. The still small voice of God is what I follow. If you have never experienced His voice I pity you. I can’t carry on a discussion with someone on such uneven grounds. You need to become more spiritually mature and recognize that the knowledge of this world is folly to God. God speaks to those who seek Him but first you must be humble. To the proud of heart He has nothing to say.

  2. Jason Bolt Post author

    Dear MW,

    I did not realize we were arguing. I thought we were merely having a discussion. It’s fine if you don’t want to argue, but what is wrong with discussion?

    Can you tell me how you define “love” and how ignoring me is an expression of such “love”? Why do you think I am much smarter than you? I have just been asking some questions. That doesn’t make me smart. Even it it did, why would it give you the right to treat me differently than someone who isn’t smart?

    You are free to follow whatever you want. I try to ignore my inner-voices as best I can and follow the Bible instead. If you want to follow the “still small voice of God,” whatever that is, go right ahead. I hope it works out for you.

    You accuse me of being spiritually immature. Do you have any evidence for this claim? You say that I need to recognize that the knowledge of this world is folly to God. Are you suggesting that I somehow depend on or love worldly knowledge? Do you have any evidence for such a claim?

    You also accuse me of being prideful, which would indeed be sin. If you have any evidence to support your accusation, I request that you provide it. If you don’t have any evidence supporting your accusation against me, then stop making such accusations. You yourself said that God is a God of peace. If you truly believe this, then why do you ignore my questions and respond merely with accusations?

    1. MW

      I am a very tender-hearted soul and these harsh words hurt my soul. Your questions penetrate my soul like shots from a gun. Why must you pepper me with harsh questions? The practice of repeatedly asking harsh and intolerant questions is associated, in my mind at least, with intellectualism. That is why I believe you to be an intellectual. I have met intellectual Christians in my life and they are all very much in love with their minds and proud to display their knowledge. I don’t know you but God put it on my heart to issue a warning to you about the sin of pride and the dangers of worldly knowledge.
      Against my better wisdom I will try and answer a couple of your questions. The first is why we can’t have a discussion. I do not want to continue this discussion because it is about doctrine and we both must admit that doctrine divides and love edifies. I don’t want to divide. Why must we have a doctrinal discussion when all it does is divide. I would rather just bless one another with spiritual wisdom and insight.
      You ask me why I respond to you with accusations. I am sorry if you see my comments as accusations. They are not. God has just given me a heavy heart over this series of comments. The tone is so oppressive. I am just speaking from my accumulated wisdom of many years of Christian experience and trying to calm things down. I want peace and unity. But, I have already written too much. I need to go before Satan tempts me to say something that I should not say.

      1. Jason Bolt Post author


        Are the harsh words you refer to the ones that you have spoken against me? I am glad it hurts your soul when you use unwarranted harsh words against a fellow Christian. That is a good sign.

        Why do my questions penetrate your soul like a bullet? All of my recent questions have been about me, not about you. Why do you deem it harsh of me to ask you if you have any evidence for the accusations you make against me? Surely the contrary is true. Surely it is harsh of you to make accusations against me and then accuse me of being harsh for wanting to know the basis of your accusations.

        What is it about my questions that are harsh and intolerant, and what is the connection between those questions and intellectualism? Also, can you define intellectualism because I don’t know what it is?

        Are you judging me based upon your previous interactions with intellectual Christians? That seems rather harsh and intolerant. I request that you treat me based upon my own actions and not the actions of others. I would never treat you based upon something that someone else did to me.

        Since you say, “God put it on my heart to issue a warning to you about the sin of pride and the dangers of worldly knowledge,” I take this to imply that you are a prophet, someone who receives direct revelation from God. Can you perform a sign for me in order to authenticate your prophetic office? If God tells you something about me that only I know, then I will believe you.

        As for our discussion, our discussion now is mostly about your accusations against me, not about doctrine. Regardless, you say that “we both must admit that doctrine divides and love edifies” and that you don’t want to divide. I will admit that doctrine divides. However, it also unifies. Doctrine divides truth from falsehood, sheep from goats, true servants of God from false teachers. Doctrine rightly separates the body of Christ from the rest of the world. Surely your church has a list of doctrines that, if rejected, keep a person outside of or divided from your congregation. However, doctrine also unifies God’s people. That same list of doctrines that keeps unbelievers out also keeps believers in. We have to be unified around something. That something is doctrine. So, I reject your assertion that doctrinal discussion only divides. Also, I find it fascinating that you say you don’t want to divide. Can you explain how your accusations against me are not an act of division? You say that all you want to do is bless me, but so far all you have done is launch baseless accusations against me. Is this your understanding of unity?

        You say, “I am sorry if you see my comments as accusations. They are not.” First of all, why are you apologizing for the way I see your comments? When a person issues an apology, it has to do with his own behavior, not the behavior of the person to whom he is apologizing. I don’t merely see your comments as accusations. They are accusations. An accusation is “a charge or claim that someone has done something illegal or wrong.” You have claimed that I am spiritually immature, puffed up with worldly knowledge, prideful, and divisive. You are an accuser.

        Can you tell me what is a “heavy heart” and how God has given it to you? Can you explain to me how a written word can have a “tone” and what exactly is oppressive of the things I have written? Why do you feel the need to calm things down? I did not know that things were revved up. You again say that you want peace and unity, but you continue to degrade my character with baseless accusations. How does this serve the cause of peace and unity?

  3. Bernie H.

    Jason, (or should I say “MW”?)

    I see through your split personality. You have created another persona, an alter-ego named MW, that you are using to discuss biblical truth. I do not believe it possible for a real person to exist who can spout so many “Christian” platitudes in such a few words, while exposing their complete ignorance of the Bible, and living on touchy-feeling emotionalism, as the MW character that you have created.

    I guess you high-IQ type people need to make up fictitious people and have a dialog with them just to be amused. I must admit that the dialog has been entertaining and enlightening. Keep up the good work. I find everything you write intellectually stimulating and quite biblical.

    Bernard H.

    1. Jason Bolt Post author


      You better start believing. I don’t know who MW is, but I am certainly not MW. He certainly uses a lot of God-words. While he and I don’t see eye to eye on much, I am glad he is usually willing to chat.

      I don’t think he cares much for me. My guess is that he is not going to like you either now that you have accused him of 1) not existing and 2) being completely ignorant of the Bible and living on touchy-feeling emotionalism.

  4. MW

    Jason and Bernie: It breaks my heart to see you, Bernie, piling on the accusations made against me by Jason. I am personally offended by everything you wrote about me. First of all, I do exist. Second of all, I am not “completely ignorant of the Bible.” I actually have a degree in the Bible. As far as your spurious accusations about my “touchy-feeling emotionalism” are concerned, I can only say that I rejoice in my personal relationship with God and wish that you had one as well. I will pray for both of you.


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