How Does God Adopt Us?

When Adopted, Are We Actual Members of the Family of God?

The Answer is YES! - Though We Can Never Be God Beings as God Himself Is.

ARTICLE QUOTE: "Our divine adoption is ontological, not poetic!"

Here is yet another of those major (and great!) Protestant doctrines which have become strangely neglected during the last fifty years or so. Have you heard a sermon on this during the last 25 years? No, neither have I. Yet it is possibly the most encouraging doctrine of all!

The truth is: our God saves us.... by adopting us!

Okay, let's look at some of the Scriptures:

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. (Romans 8:15-16. NIV throughout).

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. (Galatians 4:4-5).

The word "adoption" refers to the removing of a child from one family, and the placing of that child into another family which had not been that child's natural family by birth. Such an adopted child normally receives the full rights of a son or daughter within that new family. So, by the law of most lands, the adopted person comes to have the same privileges, benefits, position, responsibilities and obligations within the new family as any natural born child, moreover, the act of adoption itself is normally a work of grace and favour which the child will not usually have been in a position to earn.

Interestingly, in relation to the Christian doctrine of adoption, according to the Roman law which Paul the Apostle was familiar with, the adopted person lost all rights in his old family and gained all the rights of a legitimate son in his new family. The child gained a new father and he became a full heir of his new father's estate. He was fully co-heir with the other sons in the family; but, in law, the old life was also completely erased and wiped out. All debts were cancelled, and he was absolutely the son of his new father.

With regard to adoption in the New Testament, the relevant Greek word is probably best transliterated as 'heothesia,' it is Greek word 5206 in Strong's Concordance and it is to be found in Romans 8:15, 23, Romans 9:4, Galatians 4:5, and Ephesians 1:5 - a total of five New Testament verses. By a consideration of these verses we can learn quite a lot about what divine adoption really means, and what it entails.

To pick up the sense of the first text we need to start in verse 14,

'...those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship ('heothesia' - 'adoption' ). And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are God's children, then we are heirs - heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.' (Romans 8:14b-17, NIV throughout).

This shares the wonderful truth that true believers who drink in of Christ are actually adopted into the very family of God. Such people become heirs of incredible blessings. And - don't forget - an heir is a person who legally succeeds to property, prosperity and high position. The incredible promise of the New Testament is that true believers become co-heirs with Christ: so we become sons and daughters of God through divine adoption; in short, we become accepted into the very family of God. Very importantly, since the Divine Trinity are not in any sense constrained by time and space, neither - God has decreed - will we be! We therefore become equipped with Eternal Life. So the sense in which the true Christian believer becomes a true son or daughter of God goes far beyond the much looser sense in which every human being is a son or daughter of God: Scripture reveals Divine Adoption to be a most marvellous thing and it is the highest acceptance any may ever attain and the highest position which a flesh and blood human being may ever attain. I have heard of people who think that our becoming 'sons and daughters of God' is just a rather nice poetic/romantic literary construction within the New Testament - they are dead wrong!

Our divine adoption is ontological (relating to the very essence of one's being), it is NOT poetic, nor figurative, nor some warm, hunky-dory 'symbolic picture' to help us feel good about ourselves!

In humility, we must represent the theology of the cross - not the theology of the comfort zone.

Now when I talk of the believer's entry into the family of God, I certainly don't mean this in the Mormon or Armstrongist sense in which believers become "very God" - as God is God. That is not open to us - nevertheless the privilege is very distinguished and a much higher calling than many Christians appear to realise or comprehend. We sometimes seem to forget that the Scripture promises that Christians will eventually reign with Christ (2 Timothy 2:12). Eventually the saved will be higher in rank than the angels (1 Corinthians 6:3)!

But Romans 8 has still more to say on this topic,

'...but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.' (Romans 8: 23b).

So while in a fully adopted status right now, our full adoption blessings don't become realised until the time of the resurrection of the dead.

In Romans 9:4, Paul applies 'adoption' as it pertains to Israel, 'theirs is the adoption as sons' - he spends some time discussing national Israel before making it plain that Christian believers may also be grafted in to Israel (Romans 11:17) but warns against the possibility of this privilege leading to pride (verses 18-24).

So God took us out of the family of sin and of Satan and adopts us into the family of righteousness and of Himself. We have been completely released of all responsibility and debts of sin because Jesus paid the debt in full. We attain a new position before God with all the legal rights.

As children of the heavenly Father we have been given full legal status and inheritance rights (Romans 8:14-15, 23; 1 John 3:1; Revelation 21:7). We have been raised to the status of adult sons - the very righteousness of our elder brother Jesus Christ having been imputed to us. We are the absolute possession of God the Father, and He has absolute right over us.

'But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons ('heothesia' - 'adoption'). Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir." (Galatians 4:4-7).

As true sons and daughters, we do not have to shrink in fear from God, but now enjoy access into His Holy presence. The Holy Spirit enables the believer to call God, "Father" - but not in the manner of little children who are taught the Lord's Prayer in parrot-fashion, rather, we now call God "Father" because that is actually His spiritual relationship to us. We should note that this right was never given to the Jews but Jesus, the Son of God, taught His disciples to accept this truth (Matthew 6:9).

As children of our heavenly Father we are the recipients of all spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3) in this life, and we will fully "share in His glory" and "inherit all things" in the future (2 Timothy 2:12; 1 Peter 4:13; 5:10).

But we must remember that as co-heirs with Christ we must certainly be fully prepared to "share in His sufferings" wherever that should prove necessary (John 15:20; Colossians 1:24; 2 Timothy 3:12; 1 Peter 4:12). Continually looking for success, prestige and "power-living" is not the true Christian way but is an aberration of Christian understanding; we must represent the theology of the cross - not the theology of the comfort zone.

The final mention of 'adoption' occurs in Ephesians, the first chapter,

'For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will - to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.' (Ephesians 1:4-6).

So the message of these wonderful verses is that we are now fully adopted spiritual children of God the Father! Nothing can now ever separate us from the compassionate love of God - yes even for the entirety of a boundless eternity. As members of the divine family we cannot even imagine the incredible joys and experiences which lie ahead for us - we inherit these wondrous things through our divine adoption!

'For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.' (Romans 8:38-39).

Robin A. Brace, April, 2008.