In Christ, Chapter Eight
Paul said in Gal. 4:4-7,
"But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore you are no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ."
There is a great misunderstanding of this term 'adoption' as used by Paul here in this passage. Religion has told us that we were foreigners to God and had to be adopted by him in order to become His sons and daughters. I would like to dispute this teaching and show you the true meaning of the term 'adoption' as used by Paul here.
Let me briefly lay a foundation so you will understand why I am going to say what I am in a moment. First, I want to determine who the children of God are. In Numbers 27:15-16 Moses said to God,
"And Moses spake unto the LORD, saying, Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation,"
Moses understood that God was the Father of all spirits. He was the one that gave them life. This is why Jesus made this strange statement in Matt. 23:9,
"Call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven."
God is the father of all life and especially our spirit. We are all children of God that Jesus came to redeem from the curse that came upon all of us because of what Adam did in the beginning. Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:16,
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
Also in that same chapter verses 3-7,
"Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, You must be born again."
When we are convinced in our heart that Jesus is truly the Son of God and that he died on the cross for our salvation and we open our mouth and confess that we believe in what Jesus did for us, we are born again or we are regenerated. If we are born again it simply means that we were once born and because of what Adam did, we need to be born again. When Adam sinned we were separated from God but only in our minds. Paul said in Col. 1:21-22, (NIV)
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—
Our spirits need to be reunited with the Spirit of the Lord because we are sons of God redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ.
This is not what Paul was talking about when he used the term 'adoption'! In our modern day understanding of the term 'adoption' it means to legally invite someone to be a part of your family with all the benefits of a natural born child. However, this is not what the term 'adoption' meant in Biblical times.
The word adoption in the New Testament is translated from the Greek word huiothesia, which means "the placing of an adult son" and refers to the formal act of recognizing the maturity of an adult son. The word is found in five New Testament passages: Rom. 8:15, 23: 9:4; Gal. 4:5; Eph. 1:5.
The new-born baby is brephos, as in "the babe (brephos), lying in a manger...". The word sometimes refers to the fetus, as in "...the babe (brephos) leapt in her womb...". The believer is also called teknon, a child which is growing up but which is still under parental care. Hence John 1:12, "...to them gave He power to become the sons (teknon) of God." But the believer is also in union with Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is called huios, "an adult son". So, in union with Him, we are said to be adult sons also, although we may be brephos or teknon by experience.
To the people living in the predominantly Greek and Roman culture of the 1st Century A.D., the word huiothesia would bring to mind the ceremony of toga virilis, in which a 14-year-old boy went through an investiture ceremony with the adult male members of his family. At this ceremony, speeches of challenge to the youth would be made, and offerings would be made to the gods. Then, the boy would stand in the center of the group and take off the child's garment that he wore. A new adult man's robe, or toga, would be placed on him. This was the toga virilis, the "robe of a man". This would signify that the boy was now a man and a citizen.
At this time, the 14-year-old was given adult privileges and responsibilities. He could conduct business in his own name, could buy and sell property, could marry, could vote in the Assembly, and in many other ways could carry on as an adult citizen. Of course, he was not mature enough or wise enough to exercise all of the privileges he had; and he was not experienced enough to live up to all of the responsibilities. But the seriousness of his position as a citizen was impressed on him; and if he was intelligent and hard working, he would grow up to be an adult having integrity and character.
The adoption metaphor was not lost to Israel, however. God declares that he is the Father of the nation Israel, whom he loves as his child (Isa 1:2; Hosea 11:1). He tells Pharaoh, 'Israel is my firstborn son' (Exod 4:22). More specifically, he says to David (and the Messiah), "You are my son; today I have become your Father" (Psalm 2:7); and of David's descendant, "I will be his father, and he will be my son" (2 Sa 7:14). Although not precisely adoption passages, the instances of declared sonship in the Old Testament provide a theological foundation for Israel's designation as the children of God."
The spiritual use of the word "adoption" signifies the placing of a child of God, in the spiritual sense, into the position of the privilege and responsibility attached to an adult son. The question arises as to why a naturally born child needs to be adopted. Are we not, after all, "literally born again"? It is here that the true meaning of "adoption" comes into being; because in the New Testament, "adoption" refers to a positional advance. The believer is advanced positionally in his spiritual family to the position of a mature son with all the privileges of being a Son. Paul said in 1 Cor. 12:12-13, (NIV)
body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts
are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.
For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink".
This requirement is reasonable because the Christian life is to be lived in the sustaining and upholding power of the Holy Spirit. And this provision is available as much for one person as for another.
When we believe in our heart and confess with our mouth that we believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that God raised Him from the dead, the Holy Spirit places us in the Spiritual Body of Christ. Luke said in Acts 2:47,
"And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved".
Paul said in Gal. 4:1-7,
"Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differs nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: (Sin) But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because you are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ."
In order to understand what Paul is saying here you must realize that he was talking to people who had lived, as he had, under the Law. Until Jesus came and fulfilled the Law, everyone who had lived under the supervision of the Law were under the curse that Adam brought on his posterity when he disobeyed God. The curse is the control that was given to Sin. They were sold, as it were, as slaves under the control of Sin and were held captive to it's power. When the Law came it revealed the sinful nature that dwelt in mankind and as a result sin sprang to life.
All of mankind at that time were the offspring of God or to put it another way, were given life by our heavenly Father but had been sold by Adam to Satan because Adam choose to obey him instead of God. Paul talks about this in the Seventh Chapter of Romans. He concludes by saying,
"For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin."
Paul is describing the power of this Law of Sin and Death and the power it used to have over him and he ask the question, "Who shall deliver me from this body of death? In Rom. 8 he gives the answer to his question when he says,
"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit!"
The power that Sin had under the Old Law during the time of Adam's reign, condemn those who lived in that time period and it still condemns those who live today that refuse to acknowledge Jesus as Lord. However, since Jesus came and paid the price in full for our sins and took the Law along with all its rules and regulations and nailed it to the cross and did away with it, those of us who have acknowledge Jesus as our Lord and Saviour are not under condemnation because God has made a covenant with us and will remember our sins no more. (Heb. 8:10-12)
When we acknowledged Jesus as the Son of God, the Holy Spirit adds us to the Body of Christ and the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus sets us free from the bondage of the Law of Sin and Death. As a result, the righteousness of Law can be seen in us because we are no longer subject to the control of Sin. Paul also said in Rom. 8:14-16,
"For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but you have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:"
The spirit of adoption is the Father saying to us, "You are my son, today have I begotten you!" God said this to David in Ps. 2:7,
"I will declare the decree: the LORD has said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee."
The Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are a child of God!" We are no longer a servant, but we are a son and a joint hairs with Jesus. God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus! (Eph. 1:3)
The etymology of the word 'adoption' suggests that it literally means "standing as a son," and probably most of us, including the "authorities," have ASSUMED that means, "becoming a son." However, on closer look I find that the word refers to one who IS a son coming into a certain standing AS a son, but in NO case, simply BECOMING a son, equivalent to what we mean by being born, or adopted. In EVERY case, we think it is not "sonship," per se, that is being considered, but the standing or position to which the sonship entitles one.
The only verse I know that clearly defines one such aspect of "adoption" is Romans 8:23, to which we previously alluded. The "redemption of the body" CANNOT refer to our PRESENT SALVATION, for it is "we who have the firstfruits of the Spirit" who are "waiting for our adoption, the redemption of our bodies." There are four other times the word is used in the New Testament, NONE of which violates the basic meaning of the term. It is true that they do not as clearly express the idea as this passage, but if ONE passage sets out what a term means, and no other passages show any other meaning, how better can we discover the meaning of ANY term?
In Romans 8:15, we find, "For you received not the spirit of bondage unto fear, but ye received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, 'Abba, Father.'" It is apparently assumed by most of us that Paul means, "When you BECAME a son, you received the spirit of a son, whereby you can now say, 'Father.'" My judgment is that the "spirit of adoption" is the spirit of one who IS ALREADY A SON, now looking forward to what Paul expresses in the next two verses -- the glorification with Christ when we come into our inheritance as heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. Is there anything wrong with the concept that one who IS a son should have the "the spirit of sonship" -- the spirit in which he yearns for a particular standing as a son (which is what the word "huiothesia" means)?
In Romans 9:4, the Israelites are mentioned as those "whose is the adoption." Most commentators, I presume, would admit that the term has nothing whatever to do with "being born again," but refers to their standing as sons. Yet, no commentary, except Vine's Expository Dictionary, of which I am aware, does any more than make a statement about the meaning of the English word "adoption" as if it were the meaning of "huiothesia" which all scholars admit means "standing as sons" not "becoming a son." Vine says,
"Adoption is a term involving the dignity of the relationship of believers as sons; it is not a putting into the family by spiritual birth, but a putting into the position of sons."
The point I am making is that "huiothesia" NEVER refers, as far as we can tell, to COMING INTO THE FAMILY, as "being born" or literally, "being regenerated from above" does. It ALWAYS refers to the standing or position of a son who has the rights and privileges of the inheritance -- whatever they may be. In our case, they involve the redemption of the body, and whatever glorification we shall have with Christ.
This seems to be very close to the idea found in Galatians 4:1-4. The Israelites were heirs, but it did not do them much good as long as they were like bond servants. But God sent forth his Son to redeem them that they might receive the "adoption of sons." Most of us have apparently ASSUMED that he meant "that they might be adopted AS sons." But it does not say that. The NIV says in Gal. 4:3-5, (NIV)
"So also, when we were children, (he is definately talking here about the Israel descendants and even the Gentiles to whom he was sent) we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. 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."
You must understand that Paul was here talking about those who were under the Law, the Israelites, when he said, "..that we might receive the full rights of sons." The Israelites were considered sons of God or as Paul says here, "..when we were children God sent His Son to redeem those under Law.." Paul was a Jew who had lived all his life under the Law until Jesus came to him on the road to Damascus.
The point I want to make here is that Paul is not saying that Christ came to redeem the Israelites that they might COME INTO the family of God, he is saying that He came to redeem them that they might receive the "adoption of sons" -- the full right of sons -- a special position that an adult son will receive as an heir, as verse 6-7 suggests.
"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."
In Ephesians 1:3-5, Paul said,
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 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!"
It gave God great pleasure to adopt His children as His sons through Jesus Christ! This has been understood (or misunderstood) to mean, "adopted INTO the family of God that we might BECOME sons." It does not say that. What it actually teaches is that He chose us before the foundation of the world that we, who have chosen to believe in Jesus Christ, might receive the "adoption as sons!" Meaning, the standing or position AS adult sons, to the praise of the glory of his grace, or as verse 14 climaxes it, "Unto the redemption of God's own possession."
When God speaks of regenerating us from above (commonly translated "born again"), the idea involves the fact that we thus become partakers of a new nature. The English word "adoption" does not indicate that fact! It is therefore inadequate and inaccurate representation of our relationship with God. But the Greek word, "huiothesia," since it does not actually mean "adoption" in the first place, DOES represent accurately the STANDING OR POSITION which we, as sons, will have at the redemption of our bodies. Being born from above is an ACT. "Huiothesia" is a STATE.
Paul said in Rom. 8:16-25,
"The (Holy) Spirit
himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.
Now if we are 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. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, 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. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently."
Paul says that the Holy Spirit will bear witness with our spirit that we are God's children and being God's children makes Jesus our elder brother and makes us co-heirs of God along with Jesus! Then he says that the whole creation is eagerly awaiting the manifestation of the Sons of God. If you remember in the Garden that the whole world was subjected to the bondage of decay because of what Adam did. Now, the whole creation is eagerly awaiting the manifestation of the Sons of God because the Sons of God will have the authority to reverse the curse that came on the whole creation because of what Adam did.
Notice, that Paul did not say that the whole creation is eagerly awaiting the manifestation of the children of God! Then Paul said that not only the whole creation is eagerly awaiting the manifestation of the Sons of God but those of us who have the firstfruits of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently! It would stand to reason that if we are waiting for our adoption as Sons of God, we have not yet been adopted!
We have been born again or reborn and are now children of God and even the Holy Spirit witnesses this but we have not yet been given the place in the Body of Christ of Sonship. As we have seen in the Greek culture of Paul's day, being a child of someone did not officially place you into the position of being a recognized son of that person with his signet ring of authority to conduct his father's business and to be recognized as having the authority of His Father.
As of right now, Jesus has all authority in both heaven and in earth. He said in Matt. 28:18, (NIV)
"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me!"
There will come a time when Jesus will again submit all of this authority back to His Father when He will have, with aid of the Sons of God, defeated all authority. Paul talks about this in 1 Cor. 15:20-28,
" But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man (Adam) came death, by man (Jesus) came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
For he (God) has put all things under his (Jesus) feet. But when he (God) says all things are put under him (Jesus), it is manifest (or revealed) that he (God) is excepted, which did put all things under him (Jesus). And when all things shall be subdued unto him (Jesus), then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him (God) that put all things under him (Jesus), that God may be all in all."
I know that all of this is hard to digest so you need to meditate on these things and allow the Spirit of the Lord to reveal them to you!