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What Is the Beautiful Picture of Adoption in the Bible?

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Paul uses the adoption picture five times in his writings. After explaining the adoption of Israel by God (Romans 9:4), and describes four times the adoption of Gentiles into his family (Romans 8:15,twenty three; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5).

But what does Paul mean by being adopted by God? The answer is more complicated than you might think based on current hiring practices.

Adoption in the Roman World

Adoption today is usually aimed at infants or young children because they are unable to bear children or provide a home for children who do not have a loving family. was roman world of the first century.

In that time and place, adoption was primarily about securing an heir. It was not uncommon.

Adoption provided a means by which a surname and property could be inherited if a natural son was unavailable.

There are several aspects of Roman adoption that are particularly relevant to Paul’s usage of adoption. First, as mentioned earlier, adoption had to do with inheritance. The reason for the adoption was to provide an heir if there were no others.

Only free Roman citizens could legally adopt children. Non-citizens and slaves could not be recruited. However, slaves could be freed and adopted as freedmen.

If the slave was owned by someone other than the one who freed him, he must first purchase it.

When a person was adopted, they were given a new name, the name of the family they were adopted from. If the person to be adopted was not the head of the household before, he brought nothing to the adoption.

However, if he was the original patriarch, everything he brought was placed in the new father’s property.

slave to sin

Paul’s use of adoption is not the direct adoption of one Roman citizen by another Roman citizen. Instead, he focuses on the adoption of people who are slaves and who must first be redeemed and freed from slavery before being adopted.

Several times in Paul’s letters to the Roman Church, he mentions that we were slaves to sin (Romans 6:6,16,17,20; 7:14, 25) or that sin was our ruler (Romans 6:14).

Sin here is not used in the sense of an individual act of disobedience. Rather, sin embodies our fallen humanity.

We weren’t free to choose our future. We were slaves and had no prospect of escaping that slavery. Our freedom to order our lives was limited, but in the end we were still slaves to sin, possessed and controlled by that nature.

free in exchange

Romans 6:17-18Affirms that we were slaves to sin, but says that we are now free from that bondage.

and, Revelation 5:9The heavenly armies sang the song of Jesus.

God did for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves. He paid our former master the price for our freedom. And he set us free.

Adopted into God’s Family

As mentioned at the beginning, Paul uses the expression “adoption” five times in his writings. We were not originally born into God’s family as sons or daughters. We were slaves to another master. But God, who bought our freedom, welcomed us into his family.

We are no longer looking in from the outside. We are now intimate members of God’s family.of Romans 8:15, Paul says: And by him we cry out, ‘Abba, Father’. “

Abba is an Aramaic word that means father. According to the Vines Expository Dictionary, this is the word young children use for their father, our equivalent of “daddy.”

We are not only children of God now. But we are called “beloved children.” Ephesians 5:1. When 1 John 3:1 It refers to “the great love which the Father freely gave us, that we may be called children of God”!

While God’s love spreads throughout the world (John 3:16), which is especially given to his beloved children who are members of his family.

God’s heir

In the Roman world, adoption was primarily for the purpose of inheritance. It is the same with our adoption into the family of God that we have experienced. Romans 8:17 “If we are children, we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.

However, this adoption as an heir is different from the Roman adoption of an heir. In the Roman world, inheritance did not occur until the owner of the inherited property died. But we are heirs of God without his death.

This inheritance is what we now look forward to.of Ephesians 1:14Paul says, that the Holy Spirit, who lives within us, is “the deposit that guarantees our inheritance until the redemption of the Divine Owner.”

Our legacy awaits our death, not God’s. What we experience today is just one example of what awaits us. But when the redemption is complete, we fully experience the inheritance prepared for us.

The idea of ​​being co-heirs, or co-heirs, with Christ seems a little strange at first. Certainly our position in the Eternal Kingdom is not the same as that of Jesus as co-inheritance implies.

But as believers, we are in Christ. And in Christ, his experience becomes ours. We share his life now. And we will forever. So we can be joint heirs with him, just as we are in Christ.

put it all together

Paul’s use of adoption images Galatians 4:4-7.

But when the appointed time came perfectly, God sent His Son, born under the law, born of a woman, born under the law.

Because you are His Son, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts. So you are no longer a slave, but a child of God. And since you are his child, God has made you an heir.

This passage begins with redemption from the slave market, leads to adoption, and ends with becoming a beloved member of his family and heir of God.

For further reading:

What Does the Bible Mean About God’s Children

What does it mean to be a child of God as an adult?

What does it mean to be part of God’s family?

What does it mean that God is Abba’s father?

What Does the Bible Say About Having a Birthright?

Photo credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Ilya Burdun

Ed Jarrett A longtime follower of Jesus and a member of the Sylvan Way Baptist Church. He has been a Bible teacher for over 40 years and blogs regularly at: clay jarYou can also follow him twitter Also FacebookEd is married, the father of two children, and the grandfather of three. He is retired and now enjoys gardening and backpacking.

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