The Book of Galatians ~ Chapters 4:1-7 ~ Our Adoption as Adult Sons is Greater Than Being Children Under the Law

Vol. 13 No. 31

Divine SonshipV.  Galatians Chapter 4

Rom 8:14, “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15For 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!” 16The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ…”

Chapter 4 continues Paul’s discourse on Justification by Grace. It has three sections which we will note.

Section 1, Vs. 1-11, Paul uses the object lesson of a slave and young child in comparison to the adoption of an adult son to show the difference between the Age of Israel that was under the Law and the Age of the Church that is under the law of Grace. It shows us Grace from a “positional” standpoint.

Section 2, Vs. 12-20, Paul uses a personal appeal to wake up the Galatians from the bondage of the Judaizers’ false doctrines. It shows us the permanency of Grace.

Section 3, Vs. 21-31, Paul uses an allegory for Grace with the bondwoman Hagar and the free woman Sarah to explain the difference between the Law and Grace.

Galatians Ch. 4 – Section 1, Vs. 1-11, Paul uses the object lesson of a slave and young child in comparison to the adoption of an adult son to show the difference between the Age of Israel that was under the Law and the Age of the Church that is under the law of Grace. It shows us Grace from a “positional” standpoint.

In vs. 1, Paul begins a sub discussion regarding the application of adoption in Roman times. In this verse he speaks of the “heir,” KLERONOMOS, as a “young child,” NEPIOS νηπιος which is an Adjective that means, “Infant, minor, child, childlike, etc.” Here it stands for a minor, someone not of age; an immature child.

In comparison to this NEPIOS is the “slave,” DOULOS. Paul says that there is no difference between the two of them even though the young child is the “owner of everything.” Interestingly, “owner” here is KURIOS. So he is a Lord in waiting, with no authority over anything at this time.

In this verse Paul is explaining that there is no difference from an authoritative stand point between a slave and a young child who is the heir apparent. This young child is representative of the Jews under the Law, which had no authority for salvation or the spiritual life.

In vs. 2, Paul reminds them of the “tutelage” of the Law for the young child as simply a “guardian” and “manager”, but nothing more.

Guardian” is the Greek Noun EPITROPOS, επιτροπος that means, “manager, foreman, steward, or guardian.” In a family context it denotes a “guardian.” In the papyri it is used most frequently in this sense as a guardian of children. It is used just three times in the N.T., Mat 20:8; Luke 8:3; and here. It is synonymous with our next word for “manager.”

Manger” is the Greek noun OIKONOMOS, οικονομος. It means a manager of a household or steward, a position most often held by a slave, but sometimes by a freedman. It is used only 10 times in the N.T. This manager was entrusted with the management of a house, the control of its cash receipts and expenditures, Luke 16:1-8, and the administration and appropriate care of slaves/servants, Luke 12:42. He is the one in charge of separate branches of a household such as the inspector of goods, chief cook, porter, accountant, etc. Such managers even assumed responsibility for the children of the household who were not yet come of age, as in our verse. OIKONOMOS is made up of OIKOS for “house” and NOMOS for “assigned or law.” So this person was the “law of the house” for the young children, which is another of Paul’s play on words for the comparison to the Law given to Israel.

Then we have “until the date set by the father.” This brings us to the topic of Roman adoption.

Adoption” means one thing today but back in Roman times, when the N.T. was written, it meant something else. Adoption today means placing someone outside of the blood line legally into a family. A child who is not a natural child of the family, someone else’s child, is placed into the family. That is not what adoption meant in the Bible.

The word for “adoption,” that we will see in vs. 5, is HUIOTHESIA – υἱοθεσία and means, “adoption or adoption as sons.” It is a compound word made up of HUIOS, “a son,” and TITHEMI, “a placing,” which means to place someone in the family who is already in the family, in order to recognize them as an adult son. That is what the phrase “until the date set by the father” alludes to.

You see a boy in a Roman family was no better off than a slave until he became fourteen. Until then he was a NEPIOS, which meant that he was under tutors, administrators, managers, guardians, pedagogues, etc. Sometime after the fourteenth birthday of the boy there was a ceremony in the home. The father gathered all of the family together and said that his son was no longer a NEPIOS but was now a HUIOS, an adult son. He then put on his son a special Roman robe which was usually white and trimmed in purple or crimson. It was called the robe of manhood. The moment the father placed this robe around the boys shoulders this boy could now administer his own funds, choose his own wife, serve in military life, or serve in the senate. He had all of the responsibilities of an adult.

“When you accept Christ as Savior, positionally you are an adult son immediately. This is positionally; you are in union with Christ. This is the doctrine of adoption. Entering into union with Christ you share His sonship, and Christ is an adult son, a mature son. That is why the believer is not under the law. The law is the tutor, the administrator, the pedagogue, all of whom were slaves and the child is under the slaves. So in the doctrine of adoption the unbeliever is said to be a NEPIOS, a child. He is under the law, and the unbeliever should be under the law. The law restrains him; the law teaches him; the law keeps him in order. But the believer is not under the law, he is no longer under the slaves, the believer positionally becomes a HUIOS, an adult son. This happens at the moment of salvation. Positionally, as of the moment of salvation, we receive the robe of manhood. We are adult sons and therefore not under the law. The Galatian believers were trying to get rid of the robe of manhood and put on a child’s robe.” (R.B. Thieme Jr.)

In vs. 3, Paul reminds the Galatian believers that at one time he, as well as they, were like the NEPIOS, held under authority of a guardian, here using the more harsh term “bondage” DOULOO in regard to “enslavement.”  What were they enslaved to; the “elemental things of the world.” This is another type of reference to the Law and sin.

Elemental” is the Greek Noun STOICHEION, στοιχειον that means, “elements, rudiments, or fundamental principles.” In other words, it is the basics of the world, KOSMOS, meaning sin and Satan’s cosmic system. By being under the basics of the Law, they were placing themselves in bondage to sin and Satan’s cosmic system once again; the very thing that faith in Christ freed them from. So by going back to the Law, they placed themselves under slavery to sin once again, because it is a system of works in regard to your sins. As we will also see this word in vs. 9, for the Gentiles the previous enslavement was to the false pagan gods they worshiped. For the Judaizers it was the legalistic interpretation and application of the Law. Both false systems are the result of demonic influence inside of Satan’s cosmic system – the KOSMOS.

Remember that as a child your parents used to tell you the basics of what was right and what was wrong. They closely guided you in your daily life, as you were under their authority telling you what to do and what not to do. Then when you became an adult, your parents no longer determined your day-to-day activities and you were free to make your own decisions. That is the difference between the Age of Israel and the Law, and the Age of the Church and Grace.

Israel, as the young child, was under constant instruction, care and tutelage from the Law as to how to live life, while the Church, as the adult son, is free to make decisions for their spiritual life under the grace of the mystery doctrines for the Church Age. The Law tells us how to live as young children, while the New Testament tells us how to live in the freedom of adulthood.

In fact, it is very interesting what the Holy Spirit has been teaching our church. As you know, we have been studying the book of Proverbs, and now we are taking a quick break to study the book of Galatians. What is the purpose of the book of Proverbs? It was Solomon teaching his “young son” how to be an “adult son.” It was written during the age of the Law. So in essence, Proverbs is the “new testament” like doctrine for the Old Testament saints, to move them from infancy under the Law to adulthood under Proverbs. And as we now are studying the book of Galatians, we are being reminded that we are no longer to be like young/immature children who need constant reminders and reprimands from our parents on how to live life. But we are now adult sons who are free to make mature decisions about what to do and what not to do in the unique spiritual life of the Church Age.

That is why many people gravitate back to the Law and legalistic religions and denominations like the Catholics, Baptists, and Pentecostals. They like a rigid system of do’s and don’ts. They want to be told what to do in their spiritual life, because they like being little babies who mommy and daddy take care of and tell them what to do and what not to do, and when to do it. They do not want the freedom and accountability of making their own adult decisions in the spiritual life. In fact, they will attack the doctrines of freedom and grace, because it provides too much opportunity for sin. But the adult takes on the responsibilities and accountabilities of making their own decisions in life, and love the freedom they have to receive the instructions of our Lord, and apply them under grace to His glory.

In vs. 4, “but when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son.”  This is another allusion to Roman adoption and celebration of the young son becoming an adult son. Jesus Christ was sent by the Father in the “fullness of time”, the time to become a man. Therefore, Paul explains to us why we are now “adult sons,” because Christ has come at the right time in the right place. This topic is voluminous but in context here, Christ came during the time of Roman societal rule of the known world. He came at a time when adoption meant something unique. He came at a time when capital punishment was dealt with in a unique way; crucifixion. He came at a time in the height of apostasy among the Jews. He came at a time when the Law was still in application, “born under the Law.”

This verse also speaks to the humanity of Christ’s hypostatic union, in the phrase, “born of a woman.” This is as close as Paul gets in his writings to saying anything about the virgin birth.

In order to be the redeemer, as vs. 5 tells us, the Christ had to be like us and submit to being under the same predicaments as us. That is, take on humanity, (born of a woman), and be in subjection to the same system as they were, (born under the Law), especially in a time when it was highly perverted into legalism.

In vs. 5, we see the purpose of Christ’s birth, “to redeem those who were under the Law.” Notice the past tense of “who were.” In other words, they are no longer since faith, Jesus Christ, has come.  Also “redeem” is in the Subjunctive Mood of potential of EXAGORAZO, εξαγοραζω meaning, “to take out of the market place,” that is, “to redeem, deliver, buy back, or rescue.” In other words, to purchase them from the slave market of sin; to purchase them out from the Law! With the subjunctive mood the potential of purchase is there, and the potential depends on each individual’s volition to choose for or reject Jesus Christ.

Christ purchased our sins by paying for them on the Cross so that we “might receive the adoptions as adult sons,” which is also in the Subjunctive Mood of potential. Therefore our redemption makes way for our adoption as adult sons. The Subjunctive Mood tells us that our redemption and adoption are conditional; based on our free will decision to choose Christ as our Savior. If we do, then we are redeemed from the Law and slavery to sin, and are adopted into the Royal Family of God as adult sons.

In vs. 6, we are reminded of Gal 3:27 and our baptism, (indwelling of the Holy Spirit), that placed us in union with Jesus Christ. This verse also reminds us of Gal 3:29 and our sonship in Abraham as a result of the sealing and pledge of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling. So this verse tells us that we are in fact HUIOS, adult sons, of God being entered into His Royal and Holy Family.

Rom 8:14, “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15For 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!” 16The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ…”

And with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we realize in our heart, KARDIA, (right lobe of the soul), that God is our true “Abba!, Father,” which trumps Abraham as our spiritual father, who trumped the Law as our spiritual tutor.

In vs. 7, Paul brings it back to the slave analogy, the one who had no authority. We “are no longer slaves,” DOULOS, which means we are no longer under the Law and its tutelage. “But we are adult sons”, HUIOS, free to make decisions under God’s grace plan for the Church Age. “And if a son, then an heir through God.” This is the trumping of Abraham once again. God gave a promise to Abraham, and in Abraham we are heirs to that promise. But more importantly we are not just Abraham’s son, but God’s sons and therefore heirs to the riches and blessings of God Himself, which is far superior to the blessing in Abraham. And remember, this is all made possible because of our position in, union with, the Lord Jesus Christ; THE adult Son of God.

Now going back to vs. 5, we noted 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.”


If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, I am here to tell you that Jesus loves you.  He loves you so much that He gave His life for you. God the Father also loves you. He loves you so much that He gave His only Son for you by sending Him to the Cross. At the Cross Jesus died in your place. Taking upon Himself all of your sins and all of my sins.  He was judged for our sins and paid the price for our sins. Therefore our sins will never be held against us. Right where you are, you now have the opportunity to make the greatest decision in your life. To accept the free gift of salvation and eternal life by truly believing that Jesus Christ died for your sins and was raised on the third day as the proof of the promise of eternal life. So right now you can pause and reflect on what Christ has done for you and say to the Father: “Yes Father, I believe that Your Son, Jesus Christ, died on the cross for the forgiveness of my sins.” If you have done that, I welcome you to the eternal Family of God!

If you would like more information on this subject, you may listen to lessons:
14-084 & 14-085

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