Sunday, June 23, 2019

Adoption is Not the Gospel

There. I said it.   It has been  gnawing at my heart, mind and spirit for nearly a decade and I was never brave enough to put it in type and own it.  Now I am. And I will say it again.

Adoption is NOT the gospel.   The gospel is the gospel.

I am a four-time adoptive mother. I am an orphanage director. I love and support adoption and find it a beautiful picture of the growing of a family through an avenue not dictated by biology. It's an act of obedience for the families called to it. It's an adventure in "dying to self" that we might never experience any other way.

For many families, adoption is the will of God. It yields blessings too many to number. Yes! God does set the lonely in families (Psalm 68:6) and He calls us to look after orphans and widows (James 1:27)

But it is not the gospel.

Countless books, posts, summits and quotes tout "adoption is the gospel" or is as close to the gospel as a picture we could paint with our flesh here on earth. And I disagree. And I realize I'm nobody and I am disagreeing with the likes of John Piper, Russell Moore and numerous   learned scholars who could bury me in any argument any day of the week with all but one brain cell tied behind their backs.

But, folks, I don't see it. And I have adopted. I love my adopted children to the ends of the Earth.

The gospel, my friends, is the sacrificial death of a holy, perfect God on the cross for sinful, undeserving man.  The gospel is the ONLY hope for hell-bound sinners (that's all of us, by the way) to find life outside of the condemnation we all deserve. 

So where, in this list of descriptors of the gospel of Christ, does the Earthly picture of adoption show up?  Are we, the adoptive parents, the representatives of Christ? Are we saving our adopted children from a literal or theoretical "hell" when we adopt them? Are we laying down our very lives for the purpose of bringing children into our families?  It might feel like it some days but, I assure you, the act of adopting a child will not cost you your literal life. In most cases, anyway. 

And if it did, your death wouldn't pay for a single sin. Neither would mine. 

Wouldn't a more accurate picture of the gospel be we, as adoptive parents, changing places with our adopted children?  We would go live in orphanages as the fatherless and they would be ushered into our homes, no qualifiers needed. We would give up everything in our own lives and just simply hand it over to children who hate us ? Isn't that more in the range of the gospel than us bringing a beautiful child into our homes where we inadvertently get a host of benefits, not the least of which is being able to parent precious children who had no family. 

Adoption is GOOD.  Adoption is BEAUTIFUL and Adoption is HARD.  But when it is equated to the gospel, when it reduces the gospel to something even remotely reproducible by the very recipients of the pure love of God the Father, who had no sin in Him, it falls agonizingly short.  

The same scripture that calls us as Believers to "care for orphans" also calls us to "care for widows". But how many fund raisers have your friends held, how many Go Fund Me pages for the care of widows?  How many of us as Believers are rushing to bring widows into our homes? I never have. It never even crossed my mind to do that.  I wanted more children. That was at the heart of our adoption. Maybe that isn't the case for every adoptive family. But I wanted a bunch of kids. And I got them through adoption. 

Adopting my sons never felt like the gospel. It felt like what it was. Adopting sons. It was exhilarating and awesome.  It was obedience to the call on our family. But the analogy that adopting them was somehow a type of "salvation" for them or for us just felt awkward. And wrong. It's not like what Jesus did. It's what people do. We take care of each other in whatever way God tells us to. 

And where does  "adoption is the gospel" or "adoption is God's heart" leave our fellow Believers who aren't called to adopt children? Do they feel "less than"?  Do they somehow miss the full illustration of the gospel in their lives because they haven't adopted a fatherless child?  I pray they never feel that way.  I pray they understand adoption is a calling on specific families while CARING for the fatherless is a mandate for all of us who claim to belong to the great big family of God. 

Please hear my heart on this. I LOVE ADOPTION!!! I LOVE MY ADOPTED SONS and my biological children with all that I am. 
It is beautiful when the children in my orphanage are united with their forever families through adoption.  It's my heart's desire for the ones who also desire it.

But no human analogy - not adoption, not marriage, not organ donation, not soldiers dying in combat, not people selling all their worldly goods to move to the third world to open an orphanage, not any single act we can engage in can hold a candle to what Jesus did on the cross those 2,000 years ago to reconcile us to God.

That singular act of love, which needed no repeating for a new batch of sinners (unlike adoption which presents a continuous need for new families to reach out to new orphans)  and which could only be satisfactorily completed by God Himself, is final. And incomparable. 

Adoption is adoption. Worthy in it's own way.

The gospel is the gospel. Beauty beyond comprehension, sacrifice beyond replication , good news with no parallel.  

Perfect for the imperfect.  Holy for the sinful. 

Life giving and soul saving in  the only way a human soul can be. 

Adoption is not the gospel. The gospel is the gospel. 




  1. Amen! As Christians, the privilege of adoption is God's reminder to us that we're also adopted. Our boys were adopted into our family. Separately, they have an opportunity to be adopted into God's family by means of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We can't save them, but Jesus can.

  2. Any work of love, kindness, sacrifice or self deprecation could never measure up to what Jesus did on the cross. Some do works of kindness thinking they are commending themselves to God, that is a form of pride which is entirely unacceptable to a perfect, pure creator. The gospel’s news is good to those who come to Jesus in faith. All else is vanity.

  3. Nikki, It is my understanding from your blog on this subject that you are referring to Adoption in the context of Human Parents adopting Orphan Children who most frequently come from Orphanages or Foster Homes. One could rightfully call this “Physical Adoption”

    The word “GOSPEL” simply means “Good News,” and it is surely Good News when Orphan Children learn that they are about to be adopted. But that surely is NOT THE GOSPEL as we all know and understand it.

    THE GOSPEL is a very sacred statement of truth: That God sent Jesus Christ into the world to bring the GOOD NEWS by His Living Example AND by shedding His Blood on the cross SO THAT WE MIGHT RECEIVE THE ADOPTION AS SONS, AND SO THAT OUR SINS COULD BE FORGIVEN AND THAT WE WOULD RECEIVE THE FREE GIFT OF ETERNAL LIFE AS CHILDREN OF GOD. It also includes the concept that JESUS ROSE FROM THE DEAD, an LIVES AND REIGNS FOREVER. HE died so that we might live, and now HE LIVES so that we might never die.

    Jesus Christ came into the world to bring THE GOSPEL and GOD’S LOVE to all mankind by Living Example, and then by shedding His blood on the cross to PAY FOR OUR ADOPTION.

    We can EMULATE Jesus’ example and thus bring THE GOSPEL and GOD’S LOVE to Orphan Children by living example when we adopt them.

    Physical Adoption was intended by God to communicate a “Word Picture” or a “Living Example” of a Heavenly concept or reality. Just like a wedding between a human man and woman is also a “Living Example” of a Heavenly concept. We are called “Children of God” (Spiritual Adoption) and we are also called “The Bride of Christ” Demonstrating the same link from an Earthly event directly related to or representing a Heavenly event. I don’t intend to mean this link makes the earthly equal to the heavenly. I only intend to mean that the earthly is an “Image” of the Heavenly counterpart.

    A Pastor shared with me one day that he was having great difficulty sharing “The Gospel” with his newly adopted teenage sons. It was making no sense to them. The Holy Spirit instantly prompted me to share Galatians 4:4-5 & John 1:12 with him.

    I challenged him to read those verses and when he finished he could hardly contain his excitement of how the Lord had just opened his spiritual eyes to “THE SPIRITUAL GOSPEL” by relating his mind to the Physical Adoption that he had just completed.
    “WOW THAT’S IT!” he shouted. “That’s the Gospel, my boys can relate to those verses in the context of their own (earthly) adoption. I’ve read those verses at least a hundred times and they NEVER spoke to my spirit like that before. (Heb. 4:12)

    “The Gospel” of Spiritual Adoption is simply and clearly stated in the Bible in Gal. 4:4-5 & John 1:12.

    Paraphrased: God sent forth His Son who shed His blood on the cross to pay for our spiritual adoption and, so that He could bring THE GOSPEL and God’s love to all mankind by His LIVING EXAMPLE, SO THAT WE MIGHT RECEIVE THE ADOPTION AS SONS.
    John 1:12 says: As many as received HIM, to them He gave the right to become Children of God.

    MY brothers and sisters, these three verses above plus Eph 1:5 & Rom 8:15 & Rom 8:23 are what I and Russell Moore and John Piper all refer to when we use the expression that I call “The Gospel of Adoption.” Yes, I agree, even SPIRITUAL Adoption as a child of God by itself is NOT THE GOSPEL, But I firmly believe that from these three verses it is proper to say that THE GOSPEL is greater than salvation, it is greater than adoption, it is greater than the bride of Christ. Rather The Gospel includes all of those separate doctrines that each describes an equally relevant portion of THE GOSPEL.

    GOD THE FATHER is incomplete if we fail to include JESUS THE SON and THE HOLY SPIRIT, So also THE GOSPEL IS INCOMPLETE IF IT FAILS TO INCLUDE ADOPTION. Salvation describes what we are saved FROM (SIN) Adoption describes what we are saved TO: (CHILDREN OF GOD)

    Physical Adoption is NOT THE GOSPEL But IT IS a Picture of The Gospel.

    Gerald D. Clark
    Author: “Adoption and The Gospel”

    1. Thank you for your well thought out reply, Kuya Gerry. I always love to hear from you and respect your insights immensely. I understand your points well and agree. Thank you for continuing to fight for the fatherless tirelessly.
      For HIS Fame,