There is such beauty and wonder in what it means to be in Christ. If you ask people what is the core of redemption, most will answer justification. I do not argue that justification is essential to our salvation. For how could unholy people stand in the presence of a holy God apart from being legally reconciled to Him. However, redemption is not complete with only justification. To be redeemed means to be found in Christ, which implies justification and adoption. To isolate justification from adoption would be to dismember the body of Christ. My hope for this article is that we wouldn’t disassociate all the benefits of what it means to be in Christ—in particular, that people would remember that to be redeemed is to be in Christ, and to be in Christ is to be a son or daughter of the Lord.
“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him: male and female he created them” (Gen 1:26-27). To be made in the image of God is to be God’s royal sons and daughters. As he created the first man, who was the first representative of mankind, he created him to reign on His behalf under His authority. He stood rightfully in the presence of God as an innocent son who had an intimate relationship with his true Father. The dreaded serpent did what he is notoriously known for and deceived Adam and Eve into thinking that he would be a better father to them than the Lord. What better way to rob glory from the Lord than to hijack and confuse His image bearers, who are the apex of His creation.
Sin not only removed humanity from the presence of the Lord, but it also made us children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3). This created a legal issue between the holy Lord and an unholy people. The only way to be back in the presence of the Lord was to be justified through His Son Jesus. This is why people commonly would say that to be redeemed is simply to be justified. This reveals a faulty theology that their only problem with God is a legal issue. However, if people just believe that their only need is to be justified, then that will naturally create legalistic faith. If a person views the Lord purely as a judge, then that person will be consumed with upholding the law because he does not want to be found guilty. There is a grave danger in isolating the benefits of redemption from one another. When we teach justification, we must also teach adoption, because these are both benefits of what it means to be found in Christ.
The apex of his re-creation of us in Christ is adoption. Adoption is one of the greatest privileges of being found in Christ. We truly become, once again, God’s royal children who glorify him and who now have the honor to please their Father. Humanity is the image of God; therefore, when humanity is justified and adopted, we are redeemed and display what it truly means to be the Image of God. Justification sets a person free, and adoption gives a person identity. One without the other can be unfruitful, and we must beware of dismembering the body of Christ.