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Here’s my first attempt at a CliffsNotes‘ explanation of the Trinity & Adoption Diagram I posted on Friday (Plus, I added a bottom section to the diagram over the weekend):

This diagram looks at the theology of adoption from multiple perspectives, from the perspective of eternity-past when all that existed was the Trinity to the perspective of eternity-future when we will live on a renewed earth as God’s beloved children. Here are brief explanations of each perspective.

#1 - The triangular diagram of the Trinity at the top is based on the ancient “Shield of the Trinity” diagram. The inside of the triangle represents the fact that each Person of the Trinity is fully and equally God and there is only one God. But the circle that cuts through the corners of the triangle tell us that the Father is not the Spirit, the Spirit is not the Son, and the Son is not the Father. Although the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the one God, they are not the same Person. They are three distinct Persons. “Scripture teaches that God is a communion of Persons and has never been a solitary individual. The one triune God has always enjoyed perfect loving communion and joy as three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For all of eternity the Father has loved the Son, the Son has loved the Father, and the Spirit has been the personal bond of that communion. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have eternally been and will forever be a communion of Persons” (Reclaiming Adoption, p 26). Perspective #1 teaches us that before God created the world or even “predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ” (Eph. 1:4-5), each Person of the Trinity went out to the others in perfect, reciprocal love, joy and delight. This is the reality that precedes all of human history and the story behind the theology of adoption.

#2 - Before we look at the incarnate life of the eternal Son of God, it is important that we look at the entire history of redemption through the lens of God’s work of adoption. Paul is the only author in Scripture to actually use the term adoption, and his uses of adoption can easily be arranged chronologically. When we arrange them chronologically, we find that they actually serve as very helpful guides through the story of redemption (click on the image below to read the actual texts).

It’s important that we realize that before Christ comes (Galatians 4:4-5), we are predestined for adoption as sons before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4-5) and adoption first appears within the story of redemption in the story of Israel, God’s first son through adoption (Romans 9:4). A long history unfolds before the Son of God becomes man in order that we might become children of God through adoption.

#3 - When the fullness of time arrived, the eternal Son of God became man (Galatians 4:4-6). As the eternal Son now become man, Jesus lived the life of sonship on earth that we should have lived and didn’t. In the fullness of time, God the Father sent His Son, the One with whom He enjoyed the eternal communion of delight and love, to become man. The Son who always enjoyed the love of His Father in eternity past entered into space and time as man, without ceasing to be fully God, in order that his Father/Son communion might be earthed in Himself among those who have rebelled against His Father. In other words, the eternal Son fleshed out perfect loving communion with the Father within our humanity so that by grace we who have been cut off from that communion because of Adam’s sin might be ushered back in (see John 17:21; 20:17).

It is within this context that the “Abba, Father” cries (as shown on the left and right sides of the diagram) are to be understood. Before the “Abba,Father” cry found its way into our hearts and onto our lips it was found in the heart and on the lips of Jesus. Scripture reveals that Jesus was the first man ever to cry “Abba, Father” (Mark 14:36), and it is very significant that he did so on the eve of his crucifixion. By waiting until Jesus approaches his crucifixion before we hear “Abba, Father” come from his lips, Scripture indicates that it would take Jesus’ death before it could come from our lips. Jesus cried “Abba, Father” and was forsaken in our place that we might cry “Abba, Father” and be accepted in him. If Jesus does not cry “Abba, Father” on his way to the cross, “Abba, Father” never finds its way into our heart and onto our lips, but by doing so Jesus ushers all who believe in him into his loving communion with the Father. This new reality is at the center of God’s work of adoption within the story of redemption.

#4 – One horizontal effect of what God has done in Jesus is that our communion with God as our Father moves us out as a people to care for the weak and vulnerable. I am convinced that it is this reality that is behind James’ words in James 1:27, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (emphasis mine). It is as the family of God that we are to move out to care for the fatherless. Our objective as we serve orphans is to give them the loving communion of family. What that ultimately looks like for each child depends on the child’s particular circumstances (which are most often very complex).

That’s the CliffsNotes’ version! Questions? Comments? Shoot them my way!

[For more about the inseparable connection between the Trinity and adoption, read chapter 2 in Reclaiming Adoption. I did my best to flesh it out in only 3,600 words!]

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