One of the most
interesting examples of adoption in history has to
do with the Emperor Claudius. Claudius adopted Nero
to set up the political intrigue to allow Nero to
succeed him as Emperor of Rome. The two men were not
in any sense blood relatives. Nero wished to cement
the alliance by marring Claudius’ daughter Octavia.
Remember Nero and Octave were in no sense blood
relations, yet, in the eyes of the law, they were
brother and sister. Before they could marry, the
Roman senate had to pass special legislation to
allow the marriage to take place.
Our own adoption
practices are patterned after the Roman laws.
ADOPTION IN THE ROMAN
Adoption was the legal
action by which a person takes into his family a
child not his own with the purpose of treating him
as and giving him all the privileges of his own
natural child. An adopted child was legally entitled
to all rights and privileges of a natural-born
According to the Roman
legal system the person who was adopted into a
family gained all the legal rights of a legitimate
son in the new family, but he lost all the rights,
privileges and responsibilities in his old family.
By becoming a member of the new family he gained all
the rights of his new father’s estate. He was now an
equal with the other sons and daughters in his new
family. He was a co-heir with them according to the
law. He was regarded as a new person who had a new
life in a new family.
Another wonderful thing
about the Roman law was that the old life of the
adopted son was completely wiped out. All of his
debts were cancelled. His past now had nothing to do
with him. He was in a new relationship with a new
In the Old Testament God
adopted the people of Israel as His own unique
people. They enjoyed a special relationship as the
chosen people of God. They were God’s people by
adoption (Romans 9:4, 26).
Why did God choose Israel
and not Babylon, Egypt or Assyria? They were much
larger and more powerful than Israel. Deuteronomy
7:6-8 tells us it was an act of God’s grace. God
told Moses: "For you are a holy people to the Lord
your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a
people for His own possession out of all the peoples
who are on the face of the earth. The Lord did not
set His love on you nor choose you because you were
more in number than any of the peoples, for you were
the fewest of all peoples, but because the Lord
loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your
forefathers, the Lord brought you out by a mighty
hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery,
from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt" (Deuteronomy
7:6-8). God chose Israel as an act of love. Grace is
written all over that choice.
Moreover, the apostle
Paul tells us the Holy Spirit is the witness to our
adoption into the family of God. Have you ever
wondered how you got into the family of God?
IN THE FAMILY OF GOD
Two things happened in
our relationship to God’s family the moment we
believed on Christ as our Savior. The believing
sinner, who is not a natural son or daughter of God,
is positioned as an adult son in the family of God.
This is a legal action and position. It is like a
formal adoption or the legal placing of a child in a
new family. Please keep in mind this is not the same
as regeneration. It is the act of God, which places
the believer in His family as an adult son. At the
same time we are told in the Scriptures the believer
is spiritually born into the family of God. This is
the new birth or regeneration. In this sense we are
as a child who needs to grow and develop. The
believing sinner in his position is one of full
privilege in the family of God; his practice,
however, involves growth in grace and knowledge of
The believer is
placed as an adult son in the family of God.
A believer under grace is
placed as an adopted son in the family of God. When
the Apostle Paul speaks of our spiritual adoption by
God he uses the word huiosthesia (huios
- a son) (thesis - a placing), to place as a
son. It is the place given to one to whom it does
not belong. Galatians 3:26 says, "For you are all
sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus." He is an
adult son of God. It is used only in reference to a
believer in this age of grace.
Adoption put the emphasis
on the position we have with God as His full–grown
children. This spiritual adoption takes place at the
time one is saved and thus becomes a child of God.
The one thus placed has at once all the privilege
and liberty of a full–grown person. Moreover, it
also imposes on the believer the responsibilities of
belonging to full maturity. Whatever God declares
true of any believer, He addresses to all believers.
Because we have all been adopted God expects all
believers to behave accordingly. Every believer is
indwelt by the Holy Spirit and has the same
enabling. Our position as a full-grown child of God
enables us to live the Christian life. There is no
other way to live it. God doesn't just save us and
turn us lose on the world. He saves us and indwells
us with His presence and power so He can live His
life through us.
When a lost sinner
becomes a Christian he enters into the very family
of God. He does not deserve it. God in His amazing
love, grace and mercy has taken the lost, helpless,
poverty-stricken, debt-laden sinner and adopted him
into His own family, so that the debts are canceled
and the glory inherited. Jesus told Nicodemus a
Jewish religious leader, "Truly, truly, I say to
you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the
kingdom of God." There are no exceptions. We all
must be born into the family of God.
The actual placement of
the believer into the family of God is by this
spiritual birth. This is the work of regeneration by
the Holy Spirit. As a result of our spiritual birth
we become "little children" (teknion). The
believer's relation to God as a child results from
the new birth. "But as many as received Him, to them
He gave the right to become children of God, even to
those who believe in His name, who were born, not of
blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will
of man, but of God" (John 1:12, 13). Because of this
spiritual birth we are to grow and become mature in
our spiritual life.
What does adoption
God, in His mercy, has
brought us into His absolute possession. The old
life has no more rights over us; God has an absolute
right to us. The past is canceled and its debts are
wiped out; we began a new life with God and become
heirs of all His riches. Since that is true, we
become joint–heirs with Jesus Christ, God’s unique
Son. That which Christ inherits, we also inherit.
Since Christ was raised to life and glory, we also
inherit that life and glory.
We are no longer members
of Adam's family. We have a new father. We have a
new head of the family. God the Father loves us and
wants us to become members of His family. All of our
inheritance from Adam with its sin and death has
been cancelled out and we are now members of another
family. God is now our Father and Jesus is our big
brother! What a privilege and honor to be members of
OF ADOPTION FOR US
God the Father
"predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus
Salvation is not some
accident or afterthought on the part of God. The
accent falls on God’s eternal plan. God’s purposes
are rooted in His eternal nature. God is a God of
love who seeks a people for Himself. Election is
God’s grace at work resulting in "saints," "holy
ones," "set apart ones." He adopted people into His
family through Jesus Christ. Adoption is family
imagery. This adoption is based upon the death of
Jesus Christ for our sins and His resurrection. "He
predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus
Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention
of His will, to the praise of the glory of His
grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the
Beloved" (Ephesians 1:5-6).
God has determined
beforehand that those who believe in Christ will be
adopted into His family and conformed to His Son.
God’s eternal purpose is that we have the very
character and likeness of His Son, "For those whom
He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed
to the image of His Son, so that He would be the
firstborn among many brethren" (Romans 8:29).
God in love chose us to
be His children (Ephesians 1:4) based on the good
pleasure of His perfect will (vv. 5, 9, 11). God’s
motive was to glorify Himself (v. 14).
God’s placement of His
children in the Body of Christ does not relieve man
of his responsibility to believe the gospel.
It is very important to
note that nothing in Ephesians chapter one focuses
on individuals; everything in the text focuses on
those who are in Christ. Election takes place in Him
(Ephesians 1:4) and through him (1:5). Talk about
security of the believer! Here is where you find it.
We are born with a craving to be wanted and loved
unconditionally. We have a need for a sense of
belongingness. We need someone who will take the
initiative to love and accept us for who we are. God
the Father has done this. He sent Jesus to come and
die for us on the cross. The Bible says, "For God so
loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but
have eternal life" (John 3:16).
The Holy Spirit places
the believing sinner in the family of God as an
adult person (Romans 8:15).
This new relationship
with God gives us freedom. We are no longer slaves.
"For you have not received a spirit of slavery
leading to fear again, but you have received a
spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out,
‘Abba! Father!’" (Romans 8:15).
The Holy Spirit delivers
man from a terrible spirit – "the spirit of
bondage." The bondage is fear. Man is gripped by the
bondage of fear. There is a cosmic fear in all
mankind outside of Christ. Man is not delivered from
this terrible bondage until he places his trust in
The Holy Spirit delivers
the believer from the bondage of fear. How? He
actually adopts the believer as a son (child) of
God. The Holy Spirit bears witness that we are the
children of God. The Holy Spirit quickens our hearts
with the perfect knowledge and the complete
confidence that we are children of God. He sheds
abroad in our hearts the love of God. He spreads the
knowledge that God loves us and He spreads it
through our being. The Bible says, "the love of God
has been poured out within our hearts through the
Holy Spirit who was given to us" (Rom. 5:5), who
"sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a
pledge" (II Cor. 1:22; cf. 5:5). "In Him, you also,
after listening to the message of truth, the gospel
of your salvation—having also believed, you were
sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise"
There is an
intimate relationship with the Spirit of God (v.
The believer receives
this "Spirit of adoption"––this sense of
consciousness, awareness, and knowledge–– that he is
a child of God. The indwelling Spirit gives the
realization of this sonship to the believer's
present experience. Paul reminds us in Galatians
4:6–7, "Because you are sons, God has sent forth the
Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba!
Father!’ Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a
son; and if a son, then an heir through God."
The Holy Spirit enables
the child of God to call God, Father. The Holy
Spirit testifies to our human spirit that we are
children of God. Our own spirit has found peace with
God and testifies to the fact that we are his
children, but the voice with which it speaks is the
Spirit of God. Ours is a Spirit–energized spirit
that gives witness to our being a child of God. At
the present time we have only a foretaste of what it
will be like when Christ returns in His glory
because the full manifestation of our sonship awaits
the resurrection of the saints.
The Spirit gives
access into God’s presence.
The believer has access
to God because he has been adopted as His child. The
believer is a child of God with all the privileges
of sonship, of access to God, of entering into His
presence anytime and anyplace. This relationship
enables the believer to break the bondage of fear.
My daughters have always
been able to gain access to my presence. I have
enjoyed an open loving response to them quick to lay
aside whatever I am doing to give them my
wholehearted attention. When our oldest daughter was
in high school she came by my office one afternoon
and made herself an appointment through my
secretary! She had called the office earlier and
each time she called I was busy with someone. She
told my secretary she wanted her own appointment
with her father. Lois quickly gave her a time slot
before someone else got it. We have that kind of
relationship with our heavenly Father, but we don't
have to go through someone else to get it! He is
never in a hurry, never too busy, never preoccupied,
never any chain of command, etc. Our heavenly Father
reaches out to us ready to give us that sense of
We are able to enter the
presence of God, to lay our fear before God, to cry
out "Father, Father––help me!" Cf. Ephesians 3:12; I
God’s love for the
adopted Child is as great as God’s sovereign power.
God will do everything for the believer who is His
We wait for our
complete manifestation of adoption (Romans 8:23).
"And not only this, but
also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the
Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves,
waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the
redemption of our body" (Romans 8:23). This is
future and only when we have received our glorified
bodies at the Second Coming of Jesus will we possess
all that our adoption as God’s children involves.
We have an eternal
inheritance with our older brother because we have
been adopted into His family. We are joint heirs
with Christ (Romans 8:17). "If children, heirs also,
heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed
we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified
with Him." We shall inherit all that God has and all
that Christ is and has. We are part of the family!
We are given the privilege of sharing in all things
with the Son of God.
Everything we have is
His, also. Every member has responsibilities within
Are you a member of God's
family by adoption? Have you been born spiritually
into His family?
Title: Romans 8:15;
9:26; Galatians 3:26 The Adoption of Believers
Life in Romans