Russell Moore has written about his experience of adopting two boys from Russia.
“The creepiest sound I have ever heard was nothing at all. My wife, Maria, and I stood in the hallway of an orphanage somewhere in the former Soviet Union, on the first of two trips required for our petition to adopt. Orphanage staff led us down a hallway to greet the two one-year-olds we hoped would become our sons. The horror wasn’t the squalor and the stench, although we at times stifled the urge to vomit and weep. The horror was the quiet of it all. The place was more silent than a funeral home by night.
I stopped and pulled on Maria’s elbow. “why is it so quiet? The place is filled with babies.” Both of us compared the stillness with the buzz and punctuated squeals that came from our church nursery back home. Here, if we listened carefully enough, we could hear babies rocking themselves back and forth, the crib slats gently bumping against the walls. These children did not cry, because infants eventually learn to stop crying if no one ever responds to their calls for food, for comfort, for love. No one ever responded to these children. So they stopped.
The silence continued as we entered the boys’ room. Little Sergei (now Timothy) smiled at us, dancing up and down while holding the side of his crib. Little Maxim (now Benjamin) stood straight at attention, regal and czar-like. But neither boy made a sound. We read them books filled with words they couldn’t understand, about saying goodnight to the moon and cows jumping over the same. But there were no cries, no squeals, no groans. Every day we left at the appointed time in the same way we entered: in silence.
On the last day of the trip, Maria and I arrived at the moment we had dreaded since the minute we received our adoption referral. We had to tell the boys goodbye, and by law we had to return to the United States and wait for the legal paperwork to be completed before returning to pick them up for good. After hugging and kissing them, we walked out into the quiet hallway as Maria shook with tears.
And that’s when we heard the scream.
Little Maxim fell back in his crib and let out a guttural yell. It seemed he knew, maybe for the first time, that he would be heard. On some primal level, he knew he had a father and mother now. I will never forget how the hairs on my arms stood up as I heard the yell. I was struck, maybe for the first time, by the force of the ‘Abba’ cry passages in the New Testament, ones I had memorized in Vacation Bible School. And I was surprised by how little I had gotten it until now. (Russell Moore, A Guide to Adoption and Orphan Care, pgs. 9–10).
It's a powerful story. But it’s not just their story. Adoption is our story too. We were spiritual orphans until God sent His Spirit to us causing us to cry, Abba, Father.
The Crown Jewel of Redemption
Adoption has been called the “crown jewel of redemption” and yet we talk about it so little in the church. We love to speak of justification and rightly so. Justification is the article on which the church stands or falls. We talk about sanctification and our final glorification in heaven. But we often spend so little time reflecting on adoption.
In this three-part blog series, I want to offer up three reflections on the doctrine of adoption from Ephesians 1:5.
Adoption is God’s good pleasure
During a mission trip in Ecuador, I once bought a blanket for my wife as a gift. She didn’t ask for a gift, I just wanted to surprise her with something when I got back. I bought the blanket because it was my good pleasure to do so.
In Ephesians 1:5, Paul says that God “predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.” The last phrase of verse 5 literally says, “according to the good pleasure of his will.” Our adoption into the family of God happened by God’s good pleasure. He predestined us for adoption because it pleased him to do so. God was pleased to form a plan of redemption that would involve turning children of wrath into His own sons and daughters.
He could have made us his slaves, or just his servants, or laborers, or stewards. But it pleased God to make us his children. Something about adoption pleases God. But what is it? Why did he find it pleasing to make adoption the crown jewel of our redemption? Paul actually tells us in Ephesians 1:6:
To the praise of the glory of his grace.
It pleased God to adopt us and make us his children because adoption magnifies the glory of God’s grace. How so? The grace of God is magnified when we understand that not only are we forgiven, we are actually adopted as sons of God. Behold what manner of love the Father has for us that we should be called children of God (1 Jn 3:1)! We are brought into the fellowship with the Triune God to share in His unmeasurable love. Amazing grace indeed. God is to be praised for the glory of his grace revealed in our adoption. It pleased God to make us His sons and daughters through adoption because God is pleased when the glory of his grace is magnified and enjoyed by his creatures.
To listen to Matthew Emadi’s sermon on Ephesians 1:5–6, you can do so by clicking this link:
The sermon is #26, “Adoption as Sons.”