by Martyn Lloyd-Jones
he people who are given this power or right or authority to become sons of God are in an entirely different category from others who do not believe. These are those who believe in his name, and the adoption only happens to them, not to the others. Similarly in Ro 8:15 Paul is addressing only believers, those who are "in Christ" and who have been given the "Spirit of Christ." (Ro 8:9). Our Lord put it like this to the unbelieving Jews who had said that they were all children of God: ‘If God were your Father,’ He said, ‘ye would love me’ (John 8:42). But then He was more specific and said, ‘Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do’ (v. 44). Surely that one verse alone is more than enough to demonstrate the case that not all men and women are the children of God in this special sense. Our Lord Himself draws that sharp distinction. And the apostle Paul in the epistle to the Ephesians says that we were all ‘by nature the children of wrath, even as others’ (Eph. 2:3). And it is only those who have been quickened with Christ who have become the children of God.
There is a sense in which these things, as it were, happen all together—regeneration and faith and justification, and so on. The same applies to this great act of adoption, and yet, for the sake of clear thinking, we must differentiate in our minds between these things. Adoption is not the same as justification; it is not even a part of justification, but is quite separate. In justification, you remember, we found that God declares us to be righteous; it is a declaratory, a forensic act. He declares that our sins are forgiven and that He accepts the righteousness of Christ which He has put upon us. So justification is not adoption. In the same way, we must be clear that adoption and regeneration are not synonymous. In regeneration we are given the new nature; we become partakers of the divine nature. We become new creations, new creatures. But that is not adoption. In a sense, adoption is a combination of justification and regeneration. It is the new creature in a new relationship to God—as a child of God. Adoption is more than justification, it is more than regeneration, but it includes them both. Here is the man or woman with the new nature, declared to be just and free from the law and its condemnation, and to be positively righteous. Yes, but, in addition to all that, now declared to be a child of God. In a sense, again, it is a judicial act and another proclamation. But it proclaims something new, something different. By adoption, then, we become the children of God and are introduced into and given the privileges that belong to members of God’s family.