The Vocabulary of Salvation – Adoption

Hello TTP Family!! All too soon today we draw the curtain on our enthralling series on the vocabulary of salvation. In this series we have examined words like sin, righteousness, redemption, propitiation, remission, justification and reconciliation. Today we are going to explore the word ADOPTION. On the surface, this may seem as an odd way to cap off the series but we are convinced that by the end of today’s post you would agree with us that this is the perfect end for this series. As usual we are going to explore the use of the word in the Bible, how the biblical authors meant for us to understand it, what it means to us and how it finds its ultimate fulfilment in the person of Jesus. Let’s jump right in.

One of the difficulties present in reading the Bible is that it is a Divinely inspired  historical document with present day significance. The Bible contains the eternal word of God, spoken in different epochs of time and to fully grasp what God is saying to us today we must first take time to hear and understand what He said to the recipients back then (For more details on the Bible and how to properly read it, look ahead to our next series). With that being said, here’s the main thrust; every now and then in reading our Bibles we may come across words that we find very familiar because of their everyday use in our times. To read the same meaning we have in our day and age into the same word would be problematic because it would distort the intended meaning of the author. This is what the experts call an anachronism; that is to say you are reading a meaning that is foreign to the intended meaning of the author.

One word that commonly suffers from such a reading is the word ADOPTION. It is not uncommon for the average reader to encounter the word and begin to think about the legal means by which a child is added to a family or parents take on the responsibility of raising a new child as a member of their family. The question we must begin to ask ourselves is this; is this really the intended meaning of the author? Granted, in the process of salvation, we who were enemies of God are now made sons of God (John 1:12) but the term the biblical authors use for that is the word regeneration or becoming born again. In the process of regeneration the believer experiences a rebirth into the family of God.

What then is adoption?

The Greek word translated into adoption in the New Testament is ‘Huiothesia’. It is a word formed from the words Huios and Tithemi. Huios is the Greek word for a mature or fully grown son. Tithemi on the other hand, means to establish or set in place. Hence the word huiothesia basically means to establish or set in place as a Son. It is not something that is performed on strangers to make them a part of the family, but rather a rite of passage performed on sons to establish them. This rite of passage was quite common in regions of Roman occupied Judea during the times of the apostles and Jesus. The Jews had the Bar Mitzvah and the Romans had the Sonship Toga ceremony. It was the joy of every son because on that day you truly became established. When a blood-son came of age, the ‘Toga of Man-hood’ was ceremonially conferred giving the child the full rights of maturity.

In the book ‘The Robe’ written by Lloyd Douglas, Marcellus tells a friend of this ceremony;

“When a Roman of our sort comes of age, Paulus, there is an impressive ceremony by which we are inducted into manhood. Doubtless you felt, as I did, that this was one of the high moments of life. Well do I remember—the thrill of it abides with me still—how all our relatives and friends assembled that day in the stately Forum Julium. My father made an address, welcoming me into Roman citizenship. It was as if I had never lived until that hour. I was so deeply stirred, Paulus, that my eyes swam with tears. And then good old Cornelius Capito made a speech, a very serious one, about Rome’s right to my loyalty, my courage, and my strength. I knew that tough old Capito had a right to talk of such matters, and I was proud that he was there. They beckoned to me, and I stepped forward. Capito and my father put the white toga on me—and life had begun.”

This is the context in which the biblical authors used and applied the term adoption. So when Paul and the NT authors used the term, they were not referring to the process of us becoming part of God’s family but rather our being made manifest as sons of God.

We see this reality first in the life of Jesus. Jesus Christ is and has always been the eternal son of God. When he appeared on the face of the earth as a man His claim to being the son of God seemed unheard of and outright insane. In fact, several times the Jewish religious leaders felt he was out of his mind. On several occasions he pointed to his miracles and signs as a sign to his deity but that still wouldn’t sway many. However after the death of Jesus something spectacular happened that even turned those who doubted him into staunch believers. He rose from the dead. That was God’s final announcement of His son Jesus to the world. Paul in Romans 1:3-4 says the gospel is

concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.

He was declared (established before our eyes) to be the son of God by the resurrection. The resurrection was the sonship toga ceremony that set Jesus in place in the full glare of all.

When the apostle Paul writes to the believers in Ephesus he assures them of their blessings in Jesus Christ and as part of the package he states that they (we) have been predestined to the adoption of sons. What he is not saying is that they were predestined to become sons of God but rather as children of God, they were predestined to their full day of manifestation. A day where their testimony would not be just by speech but would be seen by the entire world. The point is set out more clearly in Paul’s letter to the church in Rome. In Romans chapter 8 we read;

Romans 8:19-23

For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits 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; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.

As clear as day, Paul states that the adoption is the redemption of our bodies. As believers we walk the face of the earth everyday with a claim to be the sons of God.

This is an extraordinary claim yet the only proof we have now is an inward witness. But what Paul is saying is that there is coming a day that God will declare us his sons in the full glare of all.

The apostle John puts it this way;

1 John 3:1-2 KJV

[1] Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. [2] Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

John is saying that as it stands the world does not know us as sons of God but there’s coming a day when our claim to  sonship will be made manifest. Our claim will be vindicated.

Adoption is a future event for us believers, with present day realities. We have been justified now, on that day we will be perfectly righteous. We are to walk in sanctification now but on that day we will be perfectly Holy. We have the spirit of adoption and are the sons of God now but on that day we will put on our sonship toga (the resurrected body). And we will rule and reign with him. This is our promise, this is our hope, this is our inheritance because of the finished work of Jesus on the cross. We have been PREDESTINED FOR THE ADOPTION!!

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