Packer starts out this chapter with a provocative question: “What is a Christian?” Admitting that there are many ways to answer that question, he states that the richest answer is that a “Christian is one who has God as Father.” I love the progression of Packer’s chapters. We have moved from settling the problem of sin through redemption by propitiation as The Heart Of The Gospel, to now the essence of redeemed souls being sons of God. One cannot deny that historically and biblically, God has always been a father to his people. I have to agree, that is not only the richest definition of a Christian but the richest moment in anyone’s existence is when they can call God their Father.
Before we get into the richest of chapters however, we need to do our regular housekeeping function. If you are new to this study, you can find all of the previous lessons using the Knowing God category link. There are also study materials for the book available at william.meisheid.com.
Packer then addresses the fundamental problem: Those who say we are all children of God. The problem is that position is not biblical. It is found nowhere in the Bible. Nada. Being created in the image of God and the fact that every man is given light by light of Christ, does not make us his children. Being illuminated and having a good image only means being illuminated and having a good image. When people make a big deal over the ninth verse of John 1, they then try to slide past verse 12 and 13:
Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. John 1:12-13
Packer goes on to boldly state that you can sum up the whole of the New Testament teaching in one phrase: the “revelation of the Fatherhood of the holy Creator.” He goes further to that New Testament religion can be summed up as “knowledge of God as one’s holy Father.” Packer hinges one’s successful understanding of Christianity on that the make of being God’s child, having God as their Father. That is a bold declaration. Therefore we could say, taking our cue from Packer that the purpose of mankind is to be sons of God.
So, what is the problem? That does not appear to be the way so many who claim Christ define the heart of being Christian. Everything else flows out from that. Why should we love God as defined by the foremost commandment? Because, he is our Father, and as such we love him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
What makes this unique is that we are Gods children by adoption, not by right. We are sinners deserving of damnation, but God adopts us through Christ. How does he adopt us through Christ? By the propitiation of his sacrifice on the cross of Calvary, chapter 18 providing the basis for chapter 19. It is all interconnected; one depends on the other.
There is an important shift that comes with the arrival of Jesus on the scene of human history. We go from an emphasis on our sinfulness and Gods holiness that drove the substance of the Old Testament, to having our sinfulness being fully dealt with by the cross and our lives being utterly changed by adoption as sons of God. We are new creations, with a new and everlasting Father.
No longer is the holy presence of God separated from mankind by a veils and inner sanctums. The author of Hebrews tells us that:
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:19-22
And earlier Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16
Into this glorious revelation comes the argument that while that is all well and good, it means nothing to those who have had bad human fathers. Packer rightly calls this silly. I will call it stupid. Most of what we learn in life is built on contrasts and if our father was bad someone elses father was good, or we were exposed to good fathers through literature or stories in movies or television. The concept of a good father exists and God is the supreme good father.
Packer points out four things that fatherhood implies:
1. Authority. While he demands obedience, that obedience is for our best. It is never capricious or self-serving.
>2. Affection. God loves us with an everlasting love and while we were still sinners, he loved us.
>3. Fellowship. We are never completely alone. God is always with us. Indeed the Holy Spirit resides within us, taking our meager bodies, our mere clay vessels as His Temple of Honor.
>4. Honor. God honors us with the ultimate honor, being glorified as his children spending eternity going from grace to grace. As he told Samuel, for those who honor me I will honor> 1 Samuel 2:30
Packer argues that of all the blessings of the gospel, including justification, adoption is the highest. While adoption depends on justification, the act of propitiation is only the means to the glorious end of being a child of God. Adoption is Gods wonderful purpose, justification through the sacrifice of Christ is his means to bring it about.
Packer focuses the New Testament message and summarizes it with three words: adoption through propitiation, Gods children through Christs sacrifice.
No wonder when the disciples asked Jesus how to pray he began, Our Father Amen to that.
May God grant you the grace to know and the peace to rest in your adoption into the family of God. My daughter, when she was growing up, whenever she had a crisis she would come rushing to me for a hug. What mattered most was that I was always there for her. In the same way, may you always know that God is there for you and that nothing, no not anything, nada, can separate you from his love.