Adoption - Sons and Daughters
Adoption of a child is common in our day. Whether it be a married couple that is unable to conceive a child or if just by choice. Adoption is the giving of your love and your name as if the child is your own son or daughter and raising them as such. The Merriam dictionary defines adopt as to take a child of other parents legally as your own child, but while parents can give their love, resources, and even an inheritance it pales in comparison to our adoption we receive in Christ. Little time is spent understanding this great benefit of salvation and just how much it would strengthen our understanding of our position in Christ. It is to understand how our heavenly Father sees us and how we see Him. As God looked upon Jesus and said, "I am well pleased." That is how He sees you. Why? Because you are His beloved son or daughter to whom you can cry out Abba! Father!
In Romans 8:15 Paul states, For you have not received the spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, Abba! Father! This is a special relationship we have with our Father. It is a deep abiding familial relationship that speaks of intimacy. We have been adopted into this fellowship through the blood of Christ and God now looks upon us sons and daughters. You are surely the apple of His eye. Do you see Him in this way?
Understanding Our Adoption
What does Paul mean by adoption? What is he comparing it to? Lets spend some time understanding what Paul was pointing to in his example. The first lesson in Bible study is, who is Paul writing to in this letter? Paul nor any of the apostles had been in Rome. The church in Rome was planted by Jews who had come to faith in Christ at Pentecost. (see Acts 2) These Jews returned to Rome and proclaimed Christ and the church in Rome grew. Paul was writing to the Jews and Gentiles who were in Rome. This is important to understand for Paul is using an example of the process of adoption used under Roman law as a metaphor and why wouldn't he these are Roman citizens who would have been familiar with Roman adoption laws.
William Barclay gives us an understanding of the Roman Law of Adoption from his commentary on Romans Chapter Eight.
Roman adoption was always rendered more serious and more difficult by the Roman patria potestas. This was the father's power over his family; it was the power of absolute disposal and control, and in the early days was actually the power of life and death. In regard to his father, a Roman son never came of age. No matter how old he was, he was still under the patria potestas, in the absolute possession and under the absolute control, of his father. Obviously this made adoption into another family a very difficult and serious step. In adoption a person had to pass from one patria potestas to another.
There were two steps. The first was known as mancipatio, and was carried out by a symbolic sale, in which copper and scales were symbolically used. Three times the symbolism of sale was carried out. Twice the father symbolically sold his son, and twice he bought him back; but the third time he did not buy him back and thus the patria potestas was held to be broken. There followed a ceremony called vindicatio. The adopting father went to the praetor, one of the Roman magistrates, and presented a legal case for the transference of the person to be adopted into his patria potestas. When all this was completed, the adoption was complete. Clearly this was a serious and an impressive step.
But it is the consequences of adoption which are most significant for the picture that is in Paul's mind. There were four main ones. (i) The adopted person lost all rights in his old family and gained all the rights of a legitimate son in his new family. In the most binding legal way, he got a new father. (ii) It followed that he became heir to his new father's estate. Even if other sons were afterwards born, it did not affect his rights. He was inalienably co-heir with them. (iii) In law, the old life of the adopted person was completely wiped out; for instance, all debts were cancelled. He was regarded as a new person entering into a new life with which the past had nothing to do. (iv) In the eyes of the law he was absolutely the son of his new father. Roman history provides an outstanding case of how completely this was held to be true. The Emperor Claudius adopted Nero in order that he might succeed him on the throne; they were not in any sense blood relations. Claudius already had a daughter, Octavia. To cement the alliance Nero wished to marry her. Nero and Octavia were in no sense blood relations; yet, in the eyes of the law, they were brother and sister; and before they could marry, the Roman senate had to pass special legislation.
Before we received Christ we were under the control of our patria potestas, Satan. Jesus our Lord spoke of him in John 8:42-44. Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. A son will naturally take on the characteristics of his father and we did by our very nature what we knew to do and that was sin.
Because Adam and Eve rejected their Father in the garden through disobedience and sin there were consequences. Romans 5:12 says, Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned-- By this single event we all were born into sin coming under the control of our father the devil and took on his nature of sin. Being sons and daughters of the wicked one (Matthew 13:38) we inherited three characteristics from him, we sin, we die, and we die in our sins. We became his absolute possession under his absolute control our patria potestas.
While in Roman times adoption into another family was difficult not so with God the Father. His plan for our adoption was set in motion from the time Adam and Eve sinned in the garden. And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel." (Genesis 3:15). Eve's seed would produce the Lord of lords and the King of kings, and through His death on the cross for and His resurrection our adoption could be realized.
Let me elaborate. Just as there were two steps to adoption under Roman Law, mancipatio and vindicatio it is similar to our emancipation in Christ. First, Jesus died on the cross for our sins. His last words were, "It is finished." (John 19:30) The word "finished," in the Greek is tetelestai meaning, paid in full. Our debt of sin owed to God was paid in full by Christ' sacrifice on the cross and there was nothing that Satan could do to buy back those that would be set free their debt of sin. 1 Corinthians 6:20 says, You were bought with a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
In Roman law, vindicatio is the action for enforcement of the right of ownership in a thing brought against another claiming full ownership as opposed to a possessor. This step was critical for the father still had legal right to his child who was being adopted; a magistrate was needed to make the adoption legal and validate the transference. This second step can be compared with all who have been redeemed by Christ. When we received Christ He took ownership of what now was rightfully His.
Satan may have believed that all before Christ were his but he was mistaken all he was doing was impeding the rightful owner; Jesus our Lord. He does not love those he keeps in captivity instead he deceives them. again using John 8:44, You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. If you don't have Christ you have Satan and he is your patria potestas; your father. He lies to you, deceives you, and blinds your eyes to the truth of the gospel. His desire is that you die in your trespasses and sins so that you will not stand in the day of judgement.
Children of God
Are all peoples of the earth children of God? It has become cliche' to say he or she is a child of God, but as elaborated you are either a son or daughter of the devil or the son or daughter of God. When anyone receives by faith Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior then and only then do you become a child of God. 1 John 1:12 says, to all who received Him, to those that believed in His Name, He gave the right to become children of God. The birth of a child into this world is a beautiful and wondrous thing to behold but as miraculous as child birth is it does not compare to the new birth one receives as an adopted child of God. This new birth isn't accomplished by us but is truly a loving work of our Father. 1 John 1:13 says, children not born of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. This verse is the foundation of our adoption.
Adoption denotes intimacy which made the New Testament better than the Old Testament as taught in the Book of Hebrews. in the old God was never seen or revealed to the Jews as God the Father but by His covenant name, Yaweh meaning, Jehovah, the Lord. The earliest mention is in Exodus 6:3 when He said to Moses, "I am the LORD. (Jehovah) I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD (Jehovah) I did not make myself fully known to them. In Exodus 3:14 he said to Moses to, "I Am that I Am." He was self-existent He always was and always will be and His character and nature has been the same throughout the ages.
Though Yaweh was His covenant name it spoke to Israel what God was in Himself rather than what He would be in relation to them. (J.I. Packer in his book Knowing God)
In the Old Testament God is seen as holy and separate from His people. Only the tribe of Levi who became the Levitical Priesthood would be allowed to be in the presence of a holy God. The Book of Numbers is a book that showed the Jewish people how they could approach God. They saw that their sin kept them from having an intimate relationship with Him. Their had to be atonement for their sin. They were chosen by God but they weren't children of God that right would be reserved for those who received Christ.
Before Christ you carried a mountain of sin debt which could never have been paid, but just like Paul's Roman Adoption example all of your debt has been cancelled. I am not sure where I have heard this said but Jesus accomplished in three hours on the cross what you or I would have never been able to accomplish if you spent an eternity in hell. That is an amazing thought in itself is it not? You have been given the right to be called a child of God; you are a son or a daughter of God the Father. You have been adopted into a royal family; you are of royal stock.
Our inheritance in The Holy Spirit
When you accepted Christ by faith His Holy Spirit was given to you and now dwells within you. You became a new creation in Christ no longer the same person you were. You were born into the family of God. John 1:12-13 says, Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to be called the children of God-children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husbands will but born of God. You were born by the power of the Holy Spirit and if you were born by the Spirit through adoption you inherited His Spirit and by this inheritance your salvation is secured and preserved. Ephesians 1:13 says, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.
What kind of seal is this and what does it mean for those who are adopted in Christ? The seal that we are sealed with is an an official mark of identification; a mark of ownership. It is a down payment which guarantees our promised salvation. This very seal separates us from the world, not on a monastic sense but a separation of who belongs to God and who does not and that will be played out at the end of time. It will be as the parable of sheep and the goats. (Matthew 25:32-33) All those that belong to God and have the seal of the Holy Spirit upon them will inherit their eternal salvation and those that do not will have condemned themselves to eternal hell for their rejection of Christ.
Co-Heirs With Christ
It has been established that we have been given the right to be called children of God and if it is a right it can't be taken from us. As it says in Romans 8:17, if we are children then we are heirs. We are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ. What does that mean? I love the way John MacArthur puts it, he says, "Every adopted child will receive by divine grace the full inheritance Christ receives by divine right. Jesus said to His disciples "Because I live you shall live also." (John 14:19) As Christ was raised we also will be raised. What a wonderful inheritance we have to look forward too. This should sustain us in anything we may go through.
Do you realize that the day you received Christ's Spirit you became eternal? You are no longer of this world but became a citizen of heaven. You are in this world to be conformed to the image of Christ. You are His child, His servant, His ambassador. This is not your home. If there was a heavenly anthem it would be Galatians 2:20. I have been crucified in Christ it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. the life I now live by the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who died and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20) As we live our allotted lives on this earth as adopted Christians this is verse is our identification in Christ.
As co-heirs with Christ we are promised that our bodies will be glorified. Philippians 3:20-21 says, But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. For now we live in this body of death that is passing away minute by minute. Thankfully as we are raised our bodies will remain. We will be freed from this body of sin but our soul and our spirit will go to be with the Lord until we receive the eternal promise of glory. Our bodies will be like Christ's after His resurrection; fitted for heaven. This be your inheritance that will never perish, spoil or fade and is waiting in heaven for you. (1 Peter 1:4)
You are rich beyond measure. The riches of heaven that await you cannot compare to earthly riches. By adoption you were given the divine right to be called His son or daughter. The promise of inheritance was validated by the Holy Spirit with God's seal of ownership. You have inherited an eternal salvation that cannot be taken from you. Just as Christ you will be raised by the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead and was raised to heaven. Finally, you will receive the same glorified body He received after His resurrection. Your future is bright and is certain. Let us rejoice in that fact. Let us also rejoice that God the Father is truly our patria potestas.