Shorter Catechism Q. 34

Q. 34. What is adoption?

A. Adoption is an act of God’s free grace, whereby we are received into the number, and have a right to all the privileges, of the sons of God.


John 1:12–13; Rom 8:14–17


The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gift that keeps on giving. For the justified believers are also adopted by God and made his sons. Now, ladies, please don’t be put off by “sons.” In Romans 8 Paul is making a too important a point to be sidetracked by the gender neutrality agenda. In the Roman culture (surprise, surprise, Paul is writing to the Romans after all!), as well as virtually all ancient cultures west and east, only the male children inherited the father’s estate. And, often, it wasn’t all the male children either. It was the firstborn son who inherited the father’s estate. If we understand that, we realize Paul is saying something enormously powerful here. He is saying that now all Christians, male and female, are sons, because they are all heirs of the Father’s glory. Not just famous preachers. Not just those who have mastered the Christian doctrine. Not just those have their life together and never seem to make a mess. Not just the mature. But all and every single believer is gifted with the privilege of being his Father’s chosen heir. Now ordinary Christians and even struggling believers have all richly received a share of his Father’s glory and all have the privileges of being heirs with Christ.

So what are the rights and the privileges of the sons of God? There are several. First, a slave’s relationship to his master is different than a son’s relationship with his father. A slave serves his master with fear. “If I don’t do this he will beat me.” At best, a slave can only hope for a just wage. “If I don’t mess up, then I will be paid.”

But a son has a totally different relationship with his father. He serves, because he loves his father. If he makes mistakes, he knows his father still loves him. There is confidence and assurance that a slave can never experience with his master.

Now, if you were to describe your relationship with God, would you say it is more like a slave’s relationship with his master, or more like a son’s relationship with his father? Are you always afraid that God is scrutinizing your every move to punish you? Are you worried that soon or later the things that you do in secret will come to light, and that God will reject you? Are you constantly trying to get on his good side? Then you are thinking like a slave.

But if we are God’s children, we have confidence. When things are going well in life, we give thanks to our Father. When things go ill and we meet disappointment, we have confidence that our loving Father will never send us anything to harm us. He allows us only what we really need, including trials, because he loves us. Even in the face of spiritual failures, when we are dealing with the consequences of our foolishness, even then we know the Father’s love moves his hand to chastise us. In short, as children, we have confidence in life always.

As sons, we also look forward to our inheritance. The glory of what God has prepared for us is beyond what our words can describe. But we get glimpses of it here and there. Read Romans 8. Read Revelation. If we reflect upon what God has prepared for us, then we see the foolishness of loving the things of this world. We are chasing after the table scraps when he has prepared a feast for us. Instead, we want to live to please our Father who loves us.

Are you a slave or a son? Are you afraid of God or are you joyful for his love? Here’s an idea. Why don’t you believe the gospel?