Adopted as God’s children

The Standard June 10, 2021

Before adopting a child in North Carolina, prospective parents must go through a long, arduous process which includes background checks, a home study and special classes. In the classes, proper terminology like “biological mother” or “birth parent” are presented, along with warnings that some well-meaning people might ask questions like, “Is she your real child?” or “Are you her real mother?”  Please note that using the word “real” regarding adoptive families is not the best choice. Of course, most of us mean well and are genuinely interested in children. Hopefully, we have seen that almost universally, the love adoptive parents have for their children could not be surpassed by the love they have or would have for biological children.

The apostle Paul explains in his Letter to the Romans that God has adopted Christians as children. “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we also may be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (Romans 8:14-21)

In his study on the eighth chapter of Romans, pastor Timothy Keller writes, “Adoption was a much more customary legal procedure in Roman society than it was in Hebrew or Near Eastern culture. Paul, as a Roman citizen, would have been familiar with it. Adoption usually occurred when a wealthy adult had no heir for his estate. He would then adopt someone as an heir – it could be a child, a youth, or an adult. The moment adoption occurred, several things were immediately true of the new son. First, his old debts and legal obligations were paid; second, he got a new name and was instantly heir of all the father had; third, his new father became instantly liable for all his actions (his debts, crimes, etc.); but fourth, the new son also had new obligations to honor and please his father. All this lies behind the passage here. Throughout this passage, Christians are three times called ‘sons’ (huioi) of God (v 14, 15, 19) and three times called ‘children’ (teknon) of God (v 16, 17, 21).”

“It is true that in Rome ‘sonship’ was a status of privilege and power given only to males. Yet Paul now has the temerity to apply this to us—to all believers! This shows that God does not distinguish in giving honor. All Christians, male and female, are now his heirs. It was a subversive thing for Paul to take a masculine-only institution and show that, in Christ, the institution of ‘empowering-through-adoption’ is used on females as well as males without distinction.”

Regardless of where we were born, what we look like or what our current circumstances are, if we are led by the Holy Spirit we are adopted as God’s children and are co-heirs with Christ. Good news just doesn’t get any better than that.

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