DOCTRINE OF ADOPTION
September, 1981
  1. Greek vocabulary.
    1. The noun ui`oqesi,a, huiothesia, occurs 5X in the New Testament, Rom.8:15,23; 9:4; Gal.4:5; Eph.1:5.
    2. The noun is a compound meaning "placing as a son".
    3. In Rom.8:15, Paul uses the expression "a spirit of adoption" to show that we are not orphans, having received God the Holy Spirit by which we can pray to God the Father. "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!'"; cp. Jn.14:18; 15:26,27.
    4. In Rom.8:23, Paul uses the word in connection with our entrance into the full blessings of adopted status at the Rapture. "And not only this, but we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body."
    5. In Rom.9:4, the term is used for Israel's adoption as the chosen people. "who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises."
    6. In Gal.4:5, the concept is used in connection with our redemption (Phase 1) from a condition as slaves to the requirements of the Law. "in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons."
    7. In Eph.1:5, adoption is seen as part of the eternal decrees of God. "He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will."
  2. Historical background.
    1. As related to the Old Testament.
      1. It is said that adoption was not known to Hebrew law or custom.
      2. Neither the noun nor the verb ui`oqete,w, huiotheteo, occurs in the LXX.
      3. However, adoption is implied in Yahweh's relation to Israel, His "firstborn son", Ex.4:22; Hos.11:1.
      4. This is established by Paul's own reference to "Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption", Rom.9:4.
    2. As seen in Greek and (especially) Roman law.
      1. In Paul's day, it played an increasingly important part in Roman life. For example, from late in the first century to the mid second century AD and beyond, Roman emperors adopted men not related to them by blood with the intention that they should succeed them in the principate (i.e., office of Caesar).
      2. Once adopted into the new family, the son was, in all legal respects, on a level with those born into that family.
      3. If the son to be adopted was of age, he was adopted by his new father in the ceremony of adrogatio.
      4. The Roman process of adoption required the presence of seven witnesses.
      5. Their testimony was crucial if, after the adoptive father's death, his "natural" heirs contested the validity of the adoption. The witnesses had to testify that a valid adoption had taken place in their presence.
    3. Roman law is the only source of reference for the theological background.
  3. Theological background:
    1. All mankind has Satan as their spiritual parent, cf. Jn.8:41-44.
    2. All are spiritual slaves to the indwelling sinful trend of Adam (ISTA) and are under condemnation from birth.
    3. No member of the human race is a natural son of God by physical birth, except Jesus Christ, Jn.1:12,13; Lk.1:2633.
    4. God the Father predetermined from eternity past that certain ones would be His adopted sons and daughters, Eph.1:5.
    5. Jesus Christ, the natural Son, took an active role in the adoption of believers "to the adoption as sons through Jesus Christ".
    6. God the Holy Spirit is the agent of our adoption, Jn.3:5,6.
  4. Adoption in relationship to God the Father:
    1. The Father decided to adopt certain ones (the few, Mt.7) from the human race based on something He saw in them, Eph.1:5.
    2. The decision was made in eternity past based on foreknowledge, Rom.8:29; 1Pet.1:1,2.
    3. The one thing that God required was positive volition at gospel hearing, which God eternally anticipated, cf. Isa.46:9,10.
    4. All that God foreknew and predestined He called and saved in time; not one will be left out, Jn.17:2.
  5. Adoption as related to Jesus Christ.
    1. Jesus Christ, born of a woman, is the natural Son of the Father.
    2. His perfect obedience in the incarnation qualifies Him as the heir of all things, Phil.2:8; Heb.1:2.
    3. As the natural son, He took an active part in the process that made the adoption of believers possible, Gal.4:5.
    4. The Sonship of Christ is unique. One of a kind, Jn.3:16-21.
  6. Adoption as it relates to believers.
    1. The pre-salvation phase is taught by analogy in Gal.4:13.
      1. Under Roman law, a son was considered by statute a minor (Greek nh,fioj, nephios, a "child" in the legal sense: one who has not come of age) until he completed his fourteenth year, during which time he was under a tutor nominated by his father in his will. Then, until he reached the age of twenty-five, he was under a curator.
      2. The time at which the son came of age and became a free agent (namely, at the completion of fourteen years) was fixed by statute; yet, to the father, some discretion was reserved.
      3. The time fixed by the father (Latin certum tempus) was specified in his will.
      4. During these years, the son was under the constraints of appointed individuals (guardians and managers).
      5. This represents the time before our salvation when we were under the ignorance and legalism of the cosmos, vs.3; 3:23,24.
      6. Experientially, the heir apparent was no different than a slave during this period, even though he was the legal owner of all things.
      7. In one sense, we were no different than negative unbelievers; yet in another, we were considered heirs of God even before we were sons, vs.1.
      8. The inheritance (patrimony) was legally ours, yet we had no power to dispose of it (as in the case of the heir under Roman law).
    2. The salvation phase of our adoption is seen in Gal.4:47.
      1. At just the right time God sent His "natural" Son into the world to redeem mankind from their former life under the law, v.4.
      2. Christ delivered us from the curse of this previous existence (Gal.3:13), so that we should receive our instatement as adopted sons and daughters, v.5.
      3. By faith we become sons of God, Gal.3:26 "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus."
      4. Two sure tokens of our status as sons are the spontaneous, uncoerced invocation of God as "Abba! Father!", and the spontaneous, natural, unforced acknowledgement of Jesus as Lord, Rom.8:15; Gal.4:6; 1Cor.12:3. You cannot refrain from speaking about what you are enthusiastic toward.
      5. Believers are now sons and daughters of God. They have been given their freedom and the power to use it responsibly.
      6. As those who have come of age, believers are sons and heirs (as in Roman law), and are qualified to enter into the final investiture of their sonship, cp. Rom.8:16,17.
    3. The consummation of our adoption as sons and heirs of God:
      1. The final investiture of the sons of God occurs in connection with the resurrection of the body, Rom.8:23.
      2. Each believer's share in the inheritance is according to the growth and application of each one, Rom.8:17.
      3. Positive volition to the end of Phase 2 carries with it great reward, Heb.10:32-36.
Reviewed: June 4, 1989
Reviewed: June 3, 1993
 
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