What thoughts come to mind when you think of the word “adoption”? To me, “adoption” is a word of the heart. I believe that the motivation for most people who consider adoption is love. They have love to give and they long to give it to a child who needs it. When we adopted our daughter Amanda, it was because of love. When two of our sons and their wives adopted children, it was because of love. The Bible tells us that as believers, God adopted us and that He adopted us in love, a love far beyond our human understanding. In Ephesians Chapter 1, as Paul lists our spiritual blessings in Christ, the third one is adoption as sons.
In Ephesians 1:4-5, the apostle Paul wrote, In love He [God] predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will. It was because of His love for us that God chose to adopt us into His family. Later in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul reminds us that before we were adopted we were aliens and strangers. We had no hope and were without God in the world (Ephesians 2:12), but Jesus Christ, through His blood (2:13), broke down the wall that separated us from God so we would no longer be strangers, but members of the household of God (2:14, 19). In his letter to the Galatians Paul explained, ….when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those that were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons (Galatians 4:4-5). The apostle John proclaimed, Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God (1 John 3:1).
We, as believers, are objects of God’s love and have received the adoption as sons, as one of our precious spiritual blessings in Christ. In his letter to the Romans Paul wrote, For 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’ (8:15). We are blessed with an intimate relationship with God the Father.
In the ancient world, the purpose of adoption was to preserve the family by providing an heir. The Greek word “huiothesia”, which Paul used, means to "place as a son". Under Jewish law there was no provision for adoption. When a man died without a son to continue his family line, his closest male relative was to marry the widow and produce an heir (the law of levirate marriage). So Paul’s term, adoption as sons, is not a reflection of Jewish law, but a metaphor reflecting Roman law that allowed a man to provide an heir from outside his family. An adopted son was released from any debts or previous obligations and, as an heir, received all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of sonship. In Romans 8:14–17, Paul wrote that as God's adopted sons, we become His heirs (see also Ephesians 1:11, 14). If we are His children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). Furthermore, according to Roman law, a naturally born baby could be disowned from the family. But an adopted a child was chosen as a family member and, according to law, could not be disowned. He was a permanent member of the family. As believers, we are God’s heirs and will never lose that privilege.
Paul’s term adoption as sons reflects another wonderful truth. At first glance, you may think he is leaving women out or slighting them when he doesn’t write “children” or “sons and daughters”, but that is not the case at all. In his letters to the churches, Paul always includes all believers, both men and women. In Galatians 3:28 he wrote, there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. There is no partiality with God. When God adopts us into His family, we all receive the rights of sons. This is important because in the Roman world, although female citizens had certain limited rights, they were far less than those of a man. Girls were rarely adopted because they did not provide a political advantage nor could the family line be carried on through them. But when we are adopted into God’s family we all are given equal rights! We all have the rights of sons!
So far in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul has written that God has chosen us to be His (1:4) and predestined us (1:5) to be adopted as sons. It is not because of who we are or what we have done or anything we could ever do for Him. He adopted us because He loves us. Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us, that we should be called the sons of God (1 John 3:1). Are you a grateful for this blessing of sonship? How does your life reflect your sonship?
With love as your sister in Christ,
I have been involved in Disciplers since 1987, as a discussion leader, teacher, writer, and now as director. I am profoundly committed to the stewardship of this ministry which God has entrusted to me for a time. God’s word is the chief joy of my life. I cherish my personal time in the word, and I am filled with gratitude to be able to share His word with you, my fellow disciples in Christ.