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Author:Dr. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary (CRTS)
 Hamilton, Ontario
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
Title:How Deep the Father's Love For Us!
Text:LD 13 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 146:1,3                                                                                        

Hy 1

Reading – Romans 8:1-17; 1 John 2:24 - 3:9

Ps 103:1,4,5,7

Sermon – Lord’s Day 13

Hy 48:2,3,4

Hy 72:1,2,3,4,5

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved in Christ, for most of us, the days of childhood are long gone. Yet we’ve probably all looked with fondness on our younger days. Maybe as soon as you felt you were getting a bit older—more responsibility around the home, a part-time job, heaps of homework, first worries about money—in times like that, many have wished for the childhood years. Because back then, your parents always took care of you, you had few obligations, lots of promise and potential. Childhood can still be a tough time, but all the same, being a child is special. A child enjoys a unique status.

That’s how the Bible speaks of being a child as well. As members of the covenant, believers in Christ, we’re called God’s children. Whether we’re very young or getting pretty old now, we’re the Father’s sons and daughters.

And that’s a beautiful thing, for as children, we can depend on the Father for everything. We know our Father will always be kind, always be patient, always generous. And as children, the Father says we have lots of potential because we bear his family name. We have a calling, obligations to carry out in the Father’s household, but as his holy children, we also have lots of help along the way. That’s our theme from Lord’s Day 13,

What manner of love our God has bestowed on us!

  1. adopted by God the Father
  2. filled with the Spirit of adoption
  3. united to God the Son


1) adopted by God the Father: I think the idea of adoption is one that captures our imagination. For once in a while, we’ll hear that someone rich and famous was adopted. “Did you know that Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, was adopted?” Or, “Did you know that the South African leader Nelson Mandela was adopted?” Somehow that’s always surprising to us.

Why is that? The idea of adoption—though it’s a simple concept—is quite dramatic. When someone is adopted, that person departs from one family, leaves one household—and then is taken in by some other parents: legally, completely, permanently taken into a whole new family. Adoption is a total change of status, and a redirection of the course of life.

So when you find out that this or that famous person was adopted as an infant or child, that just underlines how drastic a change it is. We don’t know, of course, but think about where Steve Jobs would’ve ended up if he hadn’t been adopted! It’s hard to imagine that he would’ve had the same opportunities as a child and young man. As it was, he founded an influential and multi-billion dollar company. Even if you’re not Steve Jobs but someone a lot more normal, adoption can be a wonderful, life-changing thing.

Take us, for example. We’re adopted too, each and every one of us. Legally and completely, we’ve become members of a new family. We’ve received the status as children of God, sons and daughters. It’s true that we’re all used to that idea, saying without thinking, “I’m a child of God.” For almost all of us were baptized as infants, and almost all of us enjoyed the blessing of being raised in a Christian home, by Christian parents. We’ve always had the privilege of calling on God as Father.

But it’s worth thinking about carefully. For the Bible also tells us the alternative if we hadn’t been brought into the family of God. We’d still be considered children, but without God the Father we wouldn’t just be orphans. Rather, we would be “children of the devil” says John (1 John 3:10). By nature we are “children of wrath” says Paul (Eph 2:3). Without God’s gracious intervention in our lives, none other than Satan would be our father! In charge of us, shaping us, keeping us near to himself.

Think of what Paul writes in Ephesians 2. He remind these former pagans of what they were, and of what they have become: “You are no longer strangers and foreigners, but [now you are] fellow citizens and members of the household of God” (Eph 2:19). That goes for us too. If not for the covenant of grace, we’d be the enemies of God. Apart from his mercy, we’d be separated from God, “strangers and foreigners,” on the outside looking in. But we’ve brought into the security of the Father’s home.

We think it’s a big deal when it turns out a famous person was adopted. But it’s an even bigger blessing for us. For we haven’t been saved merely from a situation of poverty, or abuse, or from an early death. We’ve been saved from eternal hell, rescued from a misery that never ends! Adopted by God the LORD, we’ve been made into kings and queens. Adopted by God, we’ve been given great wealth, an “inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade” (1 Pet 1:4).

So how is such a thing possible, that you and I could be adopted like this? It certainly wasn’t based on our worthiness! Adoptive parents today can sometimes be pretty choosy, depending on how and where they’re adopting a child. They might be able to select boy or girl, choose infant or toddler, someone a bit older. Pick the shade of skin, pass over the damaged ones—adopt the child that will hopefully be just right for them.

But when it came to us, there was actually no reason for God to choose us as his own. Remember what we were: unrighteous, and God’s enemies! We didn’t have anything going for us. But the Catechism puts it so beautifully, “We are… children of God by adoption, through grace, for Christ’s sake” (Q&A 33). This is the only possible basis for our adoption: through God’s amazing graceit’s a free and undeserved love.

And that adoptive grace is shown, the Catechism says, the sake of Christ. Lord’s Day 13 teaches that Christ “is the eternal, natural Son of God” (Q&A 33). That means that He is the Father’s own everlasting son: He is the beloved Son, one who is equal to the Father in knowledge and honour and power and rule. He is not a creature, but He was generated out of the being of the Father in eternity. For example, we can read Jesus’ words in John 5:26, “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.” This means that only Christ has legitimate rights to call God his Father.

But because of his grace though the Son, God the Father adopts us for His children and heirs. As Father, He overlooks our total unworthiness but graciously accepts us as his own. He unites us to Christ, and He gives us the same rights and privileges and honours held by his glorious Son.

And here’s the marvelous truth that we probably overlook far too often: it’s already at baptism that God the Father initiates our adoption! With that sprinkle of water, God confirms it to us: “You’re mine. You’re now a child of the Father. And as a Father, I promise to take care of you forever.” That’s what God the Father promised to you and me. Even though it was a long time ago, we can have confidence that it’s true. God promised to be our Father; and as our Father, He promised to give everything we need.

Being a child of God means we can expect his constant grace. As little children, we can calm our hearts and put away our fears. We can be confident, for we have the Father’s promise. With his own mouth He’s told us. “My child, I’ll give your daily bread and everything needful. I’ll keep you from harm. I’ll strengthen you in temptation. I’ll teach and shape you.” Even in the hardest and worst of times, the Father says that our salvation is never in doubt.

Being a child of God means that even when we sin, we may always receive his mercy. For He understands our frailty, He knows our background and keeps in mind where we came from. Like Psalm 103 says, “As a father pities his children, so the LORD pities those who fear him; for He knows our frame, He remembers that we are dust” (vv 13-14).

And in this rich mercy, the Father receives us back even when we try to run away. Think of the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15, how the youngest son rebelled against his father’s wishes, spent all his wealth on women and wine, and ended up in the lowest place, until finally he came crawling back in shame. In our more dishonest moments, we might shake our heads at the prodigal son and what he did. But it’s not so unfamiliar, is it? Sometimes we live like we’ve forgotten God our Father; we ignore the wisdom of his Word; we take the good things He’s given and we waste them; and we venture on our own until we find out that it leads only to a place of trouble and misery.

Yet God the Father is slow to anger, and abounding in love. Like in the parable, the Father is waiting to receive us back, ready to forgive his sons and daughters, to rejoice over our repentance. It’s no wonder John exclaims, “What manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1).

The Father’s love is great! But that means our responsibility is also great. For as his sons and daughters, those who are adopted and reborn through God’s grace, we need to share in who our Father is. We’re from “his seed” John says, produced by his life-giving power. And “whoever has been born of God does not sin” (3:9).

That’s a difficult verse: the children of God do not sin. Certainly we do sin, every day—aren’t we put outside the Father’s family then? It means that a child of God will not continue to sin willfully, intentionally. If you’re a child of God, born again in the Spirit, rebellion will not be your chosen lifestyle. If you really know the Father, then you’ll want to stay near the Father, and you’ll want to stay far from all that offends him.

Our Saviour Himself said, “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48). That’s a high standard, but it makes sense. Children are expected to be like their parents, cut from the same cloth. If God really has become our Father, then we must do as He does, and we must be as He is. That’s our calling in the household of God: to imitate him in all things.

So do we demonstrate that we’ve really been born of God? Are you holy, like God is holy, even when a temptation appears? Are you faithful, like God is faithful, when you’ve given your word to someone? Are you merciful, like God is merciful, when you see people in need? We can practice these things, for adopted by the Father, we’re also…


2) filled with the Spirit of adoption: When a little child is standing up high somewhere—maybe even somewhere they shouldn’t be: on the counter top, on a table—there’s usually no hesitation to jump into the arms of Dad or Mom. Because they trust those arms will be there to catch them. But as you get older, it gets harder to trust. Maybe we’ve been hurt too often, or we doubt the person on the other side. In a sinful word, this is what we’re used to: broken promises and let-downs. So despite who God is in all his glory, we’re not inclined to trust the Father

I suspect that any parents who have adopted will tell you this too: it’s one thing to get the official papers and court declaration for the adoption of a child. But it’s quite another thing to go home and build a relationship with the child. Trust and love and openness take time and effort.

To make this adoption work then, God gives us his Holy Spirit. Not only must our status change, but our hearts must change. It’s only by the Spirit that we can accept our new Father. Only by the Spirit can we trust him with heart, soul, and mind. So it’s good news when Paul says, “You received the Spirit of adoption” (Rom 8:15). The Spirit makes it real! Instead of being suspicious, instead of doubting, now you can believe it: “I am a child of God. The Father is someone I can trust.”

As Paul writes in the very next verse, “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom 8:16). Paul says the Spirit “bears witness,” that He’s like a counselor, an advisor, a mediator. Within our hearts the Spirit resides, and there the Spirit testifies to us the things we need to hear. The Spirit says, “You don’t have to be burdened by past sins. You don’t have to be anxious about the uncertainties of the future. You’re in the Father’s hands.” Listen to those words again: “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children.” He tells us that it is so!

And this work of the Spirit comes about in a powerful way. Says Paul, “By [Him] we cry out, ‘Abba, Father!’” (Rom 8:15). That name “Abba” is a term of special closeness between a child and his father. Paul probably said it himself when he was a child, calling to his dad for help, or attention—calling it out with love. It’s even what Jesus, the “eternal, natural Son of God” said to the Father when He was praying in the Garden, “Abba, Father.” For a child will honour his father; obey his father; love his father, and expect everything from him alone.

By the Spirit, that’s the whole tone of our prayer: “Abba, Father.” This is praying to God in the humility of a child, but also in the confidence of a child. Because like we said, children often look at things in a straightforward way. No cynicism about life, no pessimism about other people, no doubt about a person’s promise, but a simple, trusting certainty. And if that’s how children view their earthly fathers—men who are weak and inconsistent—then why can’t we look to our heavenly Father like that? Don’t hesitate. Don’t doubt, but look to Him with an unquestioning and unwavering faith.

“By the Spirit we cry out ‘Abba, Father!’” Take notice of that little word cry. That can be a strong expression of a child’s trust in a father. Children who can’t speak and describe what’s wrong will cry. It’s up to Mom and Dad to figure out what’s wrong, but they will find out—or they’ll exhaust every effort. The point is, a child’s cry does not go ignored. In just the same way, we can cry to God in prayer. You might cry with the hurt of life, cry in your loneliness, cry in fatigue and frustration—but if you’re crying out to the Father, you’ll be heard. For through the Spirit, we can trust that the Father’s listening.

And then the Spirit helps us to live like the children we’ve become, for He renews us, and He gives us life. Remember the alternative: either we’re born of the devil, or we’re born of God; either controlled by the sinful nature, or controlled by the Spirit. And “by the Spirit you [can] put to death the deeds of the body” (Rom 8:13). By the Spirit, we can start forgetting all the bad habits we learned along the way. And by the Spirit, we can begin to live like faithful children of the Father.

It’s a long process, our sanctifying and transforming and training as children, but the Spirit will finish the job to perfection. Be sure that this glory is coming! As John writes, “Now we are children of God, and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as he is” (1 John 3:2). He says already now we are children of God—that’s our status. And if that’s who we are, then we know where we’re headed. One day our transformation will be complete—“we shall be like him”—and there will be a marvelous family reunion of the Father with his sons and daughters. One day we’ll get around the corner, and we’ll finally see God as He is. It’s all because we’re:


3) united to God the Son: A little baby can look weak and defenseless, but she’s already got an almighty Helper standing on his side. That’s another promise covenant children receive—a promise from God the Son, that He promises to “unite us with Him in his death and resurrection.” Even as little children, we’re united to Christ and members of his family. That has a lot of meaning for our lives not just today, but forever!

Paul explains, “If [we are] children, then [we are] heirs—heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ” (Rom 8:17). A joint heir is someone who shares in the inheritance that another person receives. It’s like opening a will after someone wealthy has died. You read the list of all that property, all that wealth, all those treasures and priceless heirlooms—then you get to the bottom of the page and find that, together with the first-born son, you’re the beneficiary, and you have full entitlement. You used to be a total stranger and impoverished outsider, but you were adopted into the family, so all these riches are also yours! You’re a joint heir.

First, it belongs to Christ! He fulfilled all righteousness, by obeying the law flawlessly. He earned a glorious resurrection by his suffering. He gained a heavenly throne through his finished atoning work. Rightfully, it’s all his—yet by adoption, now it’s also ours, for we are joint heirs with Christ.

That means his righteousness is ours. His obedience is ours. His suffering is ours. His death is ours. His resurrection is ours. Even his glory is ours, and his heavenly throne! Most importantly, being united to Christ means we’re freed from the punishment for our sin, freed from the terror of death.

And let’s not forget it, that being united to Christ calls us to lead a different kind of life  already now. Think of how Jesus spoke of his new family. “‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ Pointing to his disciples, He said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother’” (Matt 12:48-50). The holy family of Christ is known as those who do the Father’s will. We can say all we want that we’re the children of God, but it’s only credible when we act like it. We’re known as God’s children when we walk in his steps, doing the will of our Father in heaven.

As children of God we do have our obligations then, but with great joy we can fulfill them! For just recall the tyrant who would’ve been our father. Think about where we would’ve ended up. Remind yourself often that you’ve been adoptedadopted away from misery and poverty and death, and adopted into the family of heaven. When we think about these things, we can only say with the apostle John, “What manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”

So let’s live like the children we are. Humbly trust in the Father’s care, and obey the Father’s voice. Welcome the Spirit of adoption, and seek his nearness daily. Embrace the eternal and natural Son of God, your Saviour Jesus Christ—and in everything, act like him. Brothers and sisters, may all of us—young and old—be children who are faithful. For we know that “the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Matt 19:14).  Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was:

(c) Copyright 2018, Dr. Reuben Bredenhof

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