In Romans 1:16, Paul writes, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” The Gospel is the power of God for salvation. I’ve been meditating on this idea lately, thinking about how we can so often turn the Gospel, this thing of dynamic power that’s meant to turn the world upside-down, into a small thing that’s easy to digest and grab hold of, packaging it in bumper-sticker slogans and T-shirt phrases that are easy to remember and equally easy to forget.
But the Gospel is the power of God on display, His infinite grace working in the lives of finite men.
Over the next few months, once a week, I want to look at some of the metaphors and illustrations the Bible uses to describe the power of the Gospel, skipping over some of the usual ones like “saved,” “born-again,” or, if you’re in Romania, “pocaiti.”
So today, let’s look at the first one…
Galatians 4:4-5 says, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” Through the Gospel, God takes us and makes us part of His family. We were orphaned, without a father, left to our own, and God found us, took us in, and made us part of His family.
But this is no Cinderella story where the stepsister is mistreated and hated but the real sisters get the perks of family living. Through Jesus, God has made us sons and daughters, with all the same family privileges the real Son gets.
The word “adoption” Paul uses here is a Greek word made up of two smaller words (also Greek, believe it or not), meaning “son” and “to set in place, to make, to establish.” Literally, it means He made us into His sons. We’re not orphans taken in by the state. We’re not street kids befriended by a kindly old man. We’re not even, technically-speaking, adopted, where we still have a birth mother and father who might try to track us down some day. We’re changed. Those who weren’t sons have been brought home and made into sons.
We’ve been made into sons. We’ve been “son-ized.”
Here in Romania, we’ve come in contact with some pretty impressive Americanizing. If you’re just coming out of your 1950s bomb shelter, Americanization is the phenomenon of American culture influencing nations all over the planet, for better or worse. It’s the reason why, here in Bucharest, you can go to an American restaurant, eat American food, hear American music on the loudspeakers, and hear people speaking the American language of English, all while discussing American movies and wearing American t-shirts. It’s why Parcul Herestrau here has a statue in honor of Michael Jackson. Thank you, America.
Yet, despite all the Americanizing, all the aspects of American culture that are evident here, this is very much not America. This is Romania, and though parts of American culture are influencing this nation, Romanians are still Romanians. They will never be Americans, no matter how much MTv they watch, how many Nikes they wear, how many Hollywood movies they download, or how well they learn to speak English. Americanizing can never delete the fact that this is Romania, filled with Romanians who have their own culture and their own way of thinking and their own contributions to give to history.
When God adopts us into His family, He doesn’t just influence our culture from the outside, like Hollywood sending its movies all over the planet, infiltrating society through images and stories. God changes us deep down inside. God doesn’t just influence us so we begin to act like sons, talk like sons, think like sons, feel like sons. No, he makes us sons. And sons, by their nature, act, talk, think, and feel like sons.
The Gospel is the power of God to turn us into sons of the King.