Adoption: The Antidote to Universalistic Assumption
They become the sons of God by adoption (Article 17)
By Roger Salter
Special to VIRTUEONLINE
December 3, 2016
In much professedly Christian conviction, and certainly in the bulk of popular opinion,
there is the belief that all human beings without exception happen to be the children of God and stand within the divine favor.
This erroneous notion is the basis of much seriously mistaken teaching and practice within the life and mission of the church of God. It underlies and sustains flawed views on the salvageability of lost mankind and the proper inclusiveness of the people of God. Due to the great universalistic assumption of our time a great deal of bogus teaching and ethical laxity is smuggled into the mind of the church.
Universalism is virtually the creed of our day. It is simply assumed. There is no room for Biblical particularism of any kind. The Fatherhood and the saving love of God are deemed to be general and undiscriminating. Irrespective of moral judgment or religious persuasion all souls are reckoned to be acceptable to God just as they are. Belief and behavior are immaterial. By virtue of our creatureliness, and a certain warped application of the fact of the incarnation in some circles, all human beings are considered to be members of the family of the Lord. This idea of universal inclusiveness becomes the foundation of massive indulgence, in the sense that repentance and amendment of life are no longer essential elements in the modern revision of the gospel, and love becomes the toleration and condonation of human perversity and preferences that once came under the rebuke of Holy Scripture and are now considered to be mere peccadillos or even newly-rated virtues.
It is increasingly the case in our society that evil has become good, and the good has become eschewed. Former undercurrents of wickedness have now become obvious and glaringly ubiquitous. A veritable deluge is in the offing. Immorality mounts in volume and severe divine judgment is warranted as a result.
The plain truth is that God is not the Father of us all and is only a Father to us through the radical supernatural event of new birth and the accreditation of free justification through the merits of Jesus Christ. Even at the best of times in the history of the church the glorious doctrine of adoption by grace has been under-emphasized (Doctors Candlish and Crawford brought this doctrine to the fore in a thorough debate between them in Scotland in the !9th C). A true child of God is an individual who is regenerate i.e. born from above through the monergistic action of the Holy Spirit.
It is an appalling fact that the term "born again" has been so disastrously debased by glib and inane usage in our notoriously insipid contemporary "evangelicalism". New birth is not a human claim or decision but a stupendous and dramatic miraculous work of God requiring the exertion of creation and resurrection power: His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead (Ephesians 1: 19-20).
Adoption is a privilege accorded to the born again elect by the authority of God: Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John1:12). Holiness (resemblance to God through new birth) is distinctive of the children of God: Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Ephesians 5 : 1), As obedient children, do not conform to evil desires you had when you were in ignorance (1 Peter1:14), Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. He does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of god appeared was to destroy the devil's work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother (1 John 3: 7 -10).
The children of God are disciplined and assuredly drawn in the direction of heartfelt repentance back to God: And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son (Hebrews 12 : 5 - 6).
The children of God are led by the Spirit of God, given the sense that he is their adoptive Parent, and cry out to him instinctively and consistently as "Abba" - Father dear. Consequently, the Lord's Prayer is strictly a form of prayer for those in the family of believers and not of general validity or common use.
Far from every creature being a child of God we see that natural man is an enemy of God from birth until tamed and transformed by grace: Accordingly, in every person born into this world, original sin is deserving of God's wrath and condemnation (Article 9) (Romans 8:5 - 8). And by allegiance to Satan himself, and pre-conversion disobedience, man has become a willing child of the devil (John 8: 42 - 47). The children of God participate in the faith of Abraham (Romans 9: 6 - 8). In an important spiritual sense Abraham is the father of God's true children - their precursor and prototype in a reconciled relationship with God.
Particularism is an imbedded, inerasable trait in Holy Scripture and in the providential government of God. The nation of Israel was chosen to enjoy privileges designed to cultivate the knowledge of God whilst other peoples remained alienated from him, and throughout the course of history various communities have received outward means of grace that facilitated access to him whilst other have been denied the light of the word.
Even Israel, endued with the law of God and his appointed ordinances and institutions symbolic of his favor, manifested an internal differentiation between those who truly knew him and those who were mere nominal members of the covenant people (Romans 9:6). Propounders of a national or ecclesiastical form of election (conditional and corporate - an especially High Church notion)) as a substitute for what they consider to be a more acceptable concept than the foreordination of certain individuals to eternal life must, in the end, recognize that the dealings of God with our race are discriminatory. Deprivation of outward privileges denies entry to the blessings those privileges happen to signify. The "scandal" of particularism cannot be avoided or explained away. Arminianism and nondescript Evangelicalism are the bane of the contemporary church and courage is needed to counter them. Christian valor must validate the purity of the gospel.
It seems extreme in our enfeebled times to say it, but Arminianism and vague theology inevitably lead to radically dangerous alternative options - Unitarianism, Universalism, or Romanism. A clear guide to Biblical particularism is found in B.B. Warfield's masterly treatment of the matter entitled The Plan of Salvation. In our current malaise, with so many impostors claiming representation of the Lord Jesus Christ, it is crucial for Anglicanism to clarify its Scriptural, Pauline, Augustinian, Reformed, Cranmerian position. It is high time to cease muddling about and bending backwards to please. Over-politeness is Anglicanism's marked weakness.
The Rev. Roger Salter is an ordained Church of England minister where he had parishes in the dioceses of Bristol and Portsmouth before coming to Birmingham, Alabama to serve as Rector of St. Matthew's Anglican Church
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