Adopted as Sons of God by Jesus Christ – No.1

Tommy Thornhill

“For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father’” Rom.8:15.  

I once wrote an article, “You can have four fathers.” Summarizing the lesson I noted all humans have a physical father, which is the first father. When people pass from infancy into children old enough to discern the difference between good and evil, they invariably commit sin Rom.3:10-23 at which time the devil becomes the second father Jn.8:44. When one who is the son of the devil learns about Jesus Christ the Savior and obeys His gospel one is born again and his/her sins are forgiven Jn.3:3-5; Acts 2:38. Having been cleansed of sin he/she is adopted by God and God becomes the third father, the heavenly Father. Since most are taught the truth of the gospel about Jesus and His saving work by someone, the person who is responsible for teaching one the truth is often referred to as one’s spiritual father, the fourth father.

In the article as I taught about how God becomes the third Father, I wrote, “To gain access to the cleansing blood a person is baptized into Christ where one reaches the blood of Christ Rom.6:3-5. When this is done God adopts him/her into His family Eph.1:3-7.” A friend of mine after reading the article wrote and asked me to elaborate more fully about what it means to be adopted by God.

Today, adoption is a legal procedure where one voluntarily chooses to take a child of other parents (the natural ones) and form a family relationship with the adopted child treating the adoptee as if he was his own natural child with all the rights and privileges with being a member of his family, submitting to the authority of the adoptive father.         

In Biblical times adoption was a secular legal term used by the Romans and Greeks, referring to the adoption of children. It was a process by which a person, along with his rights and privileges as a member of his natural father’s family was surrendered and transferred to the family of his adoptive father. The adoptee was then recognized as a legitimate son and heir of his adoptive father’s name and fortune.

An adoption was generally initiated by a father, who having no natural offspring, desired an heir to which he could pass on his family name and inheritance. The adoptive father would offer to adopt the offspring of parents who were deceased or willing to sell their child. Sometimes a father would adopt one of his slaves to become his son. The adoptive father would redeem (pay a price) to adopt a child or a slave to his own legitimate son. Completing the adoption would free the slave or child from the authority of the original parents and place the adoptee under the authority of the adoptive father. The adopted child would then be recognized as if he was the natural son of the adoptive father and given all the right and privileges that went with being the man’s son.

While adoption was a legal term of the secular world, Paul, in the NT uses it in a religious sense. W.E Vines in his “Expository Dictionary of NT Words” explains that in the NT the Greek word “Huiothesis” (adoption) is used only by the apostle Paul in Rom.8:15, 23; 9:4; Gal.4:5; Eph.1:5Huiothesis is a compound word formed from huios, (a son) and thesis (a placing), signifying the place and condition of a son given to one to whom it does not naturally belong.


The custom of adoption was prevalent among the Greeks, Romans, and other ancient peoples, but it was not spelled out as adoption in Jewish law. Yet, there was some form of adoption in Judaism even it is not stated as such. In the Jewish genealogies. We read of children of Jewish parents who died taken in by kinsmen and treated as their own legitimate family. So, the usage of the word adoption in the NT would be a term more easily understood as Gentiles would understand it. The only examples of adoption directly stated in the OT were that of Moses Ex.2:10, Genubath 1.Kgs.11:20 and Esther Est.2:7, 15, all of which occurred in lands outside of Palestine. Interestingly enough Paul’s use of the term “adoption” is found in his epistles written to churches outside Palestine, churches that had a good number of Gentiles among the membership.

It was God’s plan from eternity to adopt sinners (they were now children of the devil when they became accountable for their sins) into His family, but only if they were willing to be redeemed by the blood of Christ. Paul explains this in Eph.1:4-7. “Just as He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestinated us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.”

Paul in Rom.9:4 speaking of his countrymen writes that they were “Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption (bolding mine t.t.), the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises” Rom.9:4. (continued in the next issue). 

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