The Doctrine of Adoption
In Gal 4:5 we note an important topic, the “Adoption” of the Church Age believer into the Royal Family of God as an adult son. This is noted by the Greek word HUIOTHESIA that means, “to place a son.” As a result we will now note the Doctrine of Adoption and see the many images and symbols Paul used in Galatians 3 and 4, as well as in Romans and Ephesians to convey the understanding of the Church Age believer’s adoption into the Royal Family of God. In addition, we will see allusion to adoption by John in Revelation 2-3, and by our Lord in Luke 15. These all relate to the ancient Roman system of adoption.
Of first mention is that Scriptures teach that God has adopted two groups of people in history:
1. Israel as a people and nation in Deut 7:6; Rom 9:1-5.
2. The Church Age believer, Rom 8:15; Gal 4:5, Eph 1:5.
For the Church Age believer at the moment of positive volition towards the person and work of Jesus Christ, (the exercise of faith alone in Christ alone, Eph 2:8-9), that believer is adopted Roman style into the royal family of God through the baptism of God the Holy Spirit. As a result that believer receives the position of being an “adult son of God,” Gal 3:25-26; 4:5; 1 John 3:1-2, and is made an heir of God, becoming spiritual aristocracy.
The New Testament teaches that the church, the body of Christ, has been adopted into the Royal Family of God as adult sons conferring upon them all the privileges and responsibilities that go along with this new relationship with God.
In Gal 4:6, the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit guarantees the believer’s position of adoption, making him an heir of God, Rom 8:15-17, Gal 4:7, while the filling of the Spirit enables the believer to experience his adoption. At the resurrection of the Church, also called the Rapture of the Church, the believer will obtain the full manifestation of his sonship, called the “redemption of the body,” Rom 8:23; 1 Thes 4:14-17; Eph 1:14; Phil 3:20-21; 1 John 3:2.
The significance of our adoption into the family of God is that the Church Age believer has been removed from the cosmic system as a child of the devil, and has been placed as an adult son into the Royal Family of God, of which the Lord Jesus Christ is the Head, Col 1:13. Adoption means that the Church Age believer is spiritual aristocracy now and is intimately related to all three members of the Trinity.
The adoption of the Church Age believer means:
1. Privileges as an adult son of God.
2. Responsibility to grow to spiritual maturity.
Definition from Isagogics of Roman Aristocracy.
The Biblical connotation of adoption is based on Roman aristocratic function, which is not the same as our practice today. The Latin term ADOPTIA is the exact equivalent of the Greek HUIOTHESIA, meaning to adopt as an adult son. HUIOTHESIA means “to place an adult son,” which means the adopted child is recognized as an adult son. This was usually done when the son reached the age of fourteen.
Adoption was designed to train a child in the recognition of authority. It was a system of selectivity for heirship (KLERONOMOS), in which a capable person would succeed another capable person. Therefore, a Roman custom for aristocracy was to place an adult son in the family as an heir to the family’s business and fortune, who was capable of handling the authority necessary to continue the family’s heritage.
In the Roman system, adoption conferred adulthood on a natural child, or on a child outside the family, who would be adopted as the heir. This correlates to God the Son being an heir to the Father, as well as the stranger, the Church Age believer. A wise roman aristocrat could adopt as his heir anyone he deemed worthy. So just being the son of an aristocrat did not mean you would inherit your father’s land, wealth, or title; you had to be adopted and adoption was the ceremony of proclaiming the heir to the estate. The actual ceremony was called ADROGATIO.
Also of interest is that this was not just a custom but Roman law, and under Roman law it could not be reversed. So as long as you were alive, you were the heir. Just as the believer who has eternal life given to him will always be God’s heir that can never be reversed. This is part of the believer’s eternal security.
Adoption meant selection to special privilege. Therefore, adoption refers to our equal privilege and equal opportunity under predestination to walk in the Plan of God for our lives, Eph 1:5f.
It also meant rank and aristocracy; not necessarily based on physical birth. You see, the lowest person in Roman society could be adopted, and therefore have the greatest of opportunities. This tells us that all members of the human race who believe during the Church Age are adopted into God’s family giving them great privileges and opportunity.
Adoption was the ceremony of opportunity; it is the ceremony of aristocracy. For the Church Age believer, at the moment of their salvation, in fulfillment of the Father’s plan, He appoints them as a legal adult son. Therefore, however you have failed, whatever your handicaps from birth, environment, or bad decisions from a position of weakness, all of that was set aside when you were adopted at salvation.
Adoption anticipates great blessing and responsibility from the integrity of God. It connotes responsibility, purpose, authority, and a planned life. It means being given the rights, power, privileges and authority of someone who is truly great and has all the power. This speaks to our POLITEUMA privileges being citizens of heaven, Eph 2:19; Phil 3:20.
Eph 2:19, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household.”
In recognition of our adoption as adult sons into the Royal Family of God, we are to advance to spiritual maturity, receive blessings, and glorify God in time and eternity
The Roman Ceremony:
In Roman society there was a great ceremony for adoption called the ADROGATIO, where the entire family was assembled, including everyone who might have been the heir. The father had ready on a table a beautiful white linen robe with a purple border, called the “Toga Virilus”, and a signet ring. During the ceremony the father would recognize the adopted son by announcing his new name and declaring him to be his new heir. He would then give him the “Toga Virilus” and put the signet ring of heirship on his finger. These two gifts sealed his heirship; it was final!
Since the scripture uses adoption to explain how great our Church Age status is, the actual ceremony of adoption provides analogies to what the Church Age believer receives at salvation.
1. First you were selected by God to be adopted as an adult son, based on the grace of God and your non-meritorious faith in Jesus Christ, Gal 3:26 with Eph 1:5.
2. Then the Holy Spirit entered you into union with Christ, Gal 3:27a.
3. At that time the Holy Spirit placed the ceremonial robe on you, having “clothed” you with Jesus Christ, Gal 3:27b.
4. Then God the Father gave you the signet ring, which represents your Portfolio of Invisible Assets included in the “sealing ministry of the Spirit,” Gal 4:6; Eph 1:13.
Note that this was the process for the repentant Prodigal Son, in Luke 15:22, “But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.”
Therefore, at salvation you are placed in union with Jesus Christ, entered into the Royal Family of God, and given permanent and eternal aristocracy, as you in turn recognize God as your true Father, Gal 4:6b.
The manifestation of our adoption will occur at the Rapture of the Church when we also receive our rewards and blessings for the eternal state in, 1 Cor 3:10-15. This is also seen in the description of rewards we can receive in Rev 2:17, (given a new name); 3:5, (clothed in white garments and confession of your name); 3:21, (sitting on the throne with Christ). And as the other awards also allude to, we can have authority in the aristocracy of the eternal state.
So I hope by studying the history of adoption in Rome, you realize this was a very big deal and important thing. And you can see that when a Christian in the first or second century discovered that he had been adopted by God the Father, this meant a great deal and was extremely significant to Him, as it should be to you today too. Also astonishing to the early Church Age believer was that both male and female believers were adopted by God, Gal 3:28. In the Roman custom only men could be adopted as heirs.
In conclusion, all Church Age believers are adopted into the Royal Family of God, as adult sons, at the moment of salvation. This adoption is made possible because we are placed in union with Jesus Christ by the baptism of God the Holy Spirit, and therefore we become joint heirs with Christ, which no one can take away. The imputations we receive at salvation are made as part of God’s ceremony for adoption, recognizing that we now have a plan and purpose in life. And our adoption will be manifested at the Rapture of the Church when we receive our final resurrection bodies and eternal rewards.
Rom 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 the manifestation of our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.”