Karl Stegall tells of two brothers who entered the first grade. One said he was born January 1, 1984. The other said he was born April 4, 1984.
“That is impossible [that you are brothers],” said the teacher.
“No,” replied the first brother, “one of us is adopted.”
“Which one?” asked the teacher.
“I don’t know,” he replied. “One day I asked my Dad [that question] and he kissed us both and said, ‘I forgot.’” *
The relationship of these two brothers to their father and to one another illustrates two descriptions of how one may be brought into the family of God.
Some Scriptures speak of being born into God’s Family. Jesus told Nicodemus: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:3-5). This is a reference to baptism (immersion) in water when a penitent believer in Christ receives the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; 22:16). Upon his or her baptism, the penitent believer is added to the family of God, the church (Acts 2:41, 47; Galatians 3:26-29).
Other Scriptures speak of the redemptive process as being adopted into the family of God (Romans 8:15-17; Galatians 4:4-6; Ephesians 1:5). The idea is that because of our sins, we are orphans and desperately lost. But God loves us and wants to adopt us into His family. The Son of God, Jesus, paid the price for our redemption – and our adoption – by dying on the cross for our sins (Ephesians 1:7). The Apostle Paul wrote to Christians: “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together” (Romans 8:15-17).
When is one adopted into the family of God? Here is where the two pictures combine: one is adopted into the family of God when he or she is born again.
God will save and adopt into His family those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from their sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized – “born again” – for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16). He adds us to His family, the church, and we enjoy all the spiritual blessings that are found in Christ (Ephesians 1:3), including knowing God as our heavenly Father and sharing relationship with brothers and sisters in Christ.
As Christians we exclaim, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1).
The Good News is that YOU can be “born again” and “adopted” into the Family of God, too. Trust and obey Jesus. God wants you to be in His family, forever.