To contemplate all the privileges of communion with Christ would be, Owen says, “work for a man’s whole life.” Yet these are all summed up in what he regards as “the head, the spring, and fountain whence they all arise and flow.” This—the highest privilege of all—is adoption into the family of God with all the rights and privileges of knowing Him as our heavenly Father.
Outside of Christ, we were strangers to the family of God both on earth and in heaven. But now we are brought near and made heirs. In Christ the Son, we have become the adopted sons of God: “Adoption is the authoritative translation of a believer, by Jesus Christ, from the family of the world and Satan, into the family of God, with his investiture in all the privileges and advantages of that family.” Thus, we enter into the manifold privileges that belong to the royal children of the heavenly King.
At first glance, it may seem strange that Owen discusses the theme of adoption within the context of communion with the Son. Adoption, after all, is by definition an act of the Father, and its confirmation is effected by the Spirit in His capacity as the “Spirit of sonship.” But Owen’s reasoning is fairly obvious: in union and communion with Christ, we become joint heirs with Him. So while each of the divine persons plays His particular role in adoption, it is appropriate to discuss adoption as the highest privilege of our union with Christ.
But in what do we enjoy communion as adopted children? Owen gives a fourfold answer:
1. We enjoy the liberty of the children of God. We are set free from the hold of the old family. No longer is its influence dominant—even if we are not entirely free from its atmosphere and even its menacing influence. There is all the difference in the world between obeying the Father who has given His Son for us, so that we can be sure He will also give us everything we need, and being in bondage to the law while making our best efforts to keep it.
2. We have a new title, and as royal sons enjoy “a feast of fat things,” not least in the church, where we have the privilege of belonging to the family of God and being served by, and in turn loving and serving, its members. More than that, there is a sense in which the whole world is ours to enjoy, because it belongs to and is preserved by our Father. No child in this family can ever justly complain that his Father has set up a restrictive regime without pleasures and joy. Isaac Watts was surely reflecting on this when he wrote:
The men of grace have found, Glory begun below. Celestial fruits on earthly ground From faith and hope may grow. The Hill of Zion yields A thousand sacred sweets Before we reach the heav’nly ground, Or walk the golden streets.