“The Biblical Principle of Spiritual Adoption”
by Keith Kiper
A Message from Romans 8:18-25
Life sure goes by fast, doesn’t it? Our daughter Kristy is 22 years old and a college student. Those of you with children can relate I’m sure. Just seems like yesterday she was only a baby. I can still remember her first day of school, sweet sixteen birthday parties, and then High School graduation. But you see, December 15th, 1989 was a very special day for Vicky and myself. Our daughter Kristy came into our lives that year. Although we will probably never meet her, Vicky and I thank God every day Kristy’s biological mother chose life. There were a couple of times the agency thought they had a child for us, but things just didn’t work out. At the time it was hard to understand why. We were even willing to take a child with medical problems. But you see, God always knows what is best for us, even when WE can’t see the big picture!
The Bible talks about adoption. When reading what Paul tells us in Romans chapter eight we quickly learn that Spiritual adoption is a very important Biblical principle. Our key verse 23 tells us, ”And it’s not only the Creation. We ourselves who have the Spirit as the first crop of the harvest also groan inside as we wait to be adopted and for our bodies to be set free.” (CEB) The NASB calls this being set free, ”the redemption of our body”
You see, the one who does yet not know Christ, or have God’s Holy Spirit dwelling within-groans from their innermost being until they are adopted into the family of God. The Greek word used in this passage to describe adoption is arraboon. We can also find it in 2 Corinthians 1:22 and Ephesians 1:14. In the common Greek usage it would mean the same as a pledge, much so as with an engagement ring. In the Roman world of that time, an adopted son could not be deprived of his father’s inheritance. The son was recognized legally in the same way as one born naturally. Paul was explaining God’s love to them in a way that they could understand. The English word for adoption is derived from the Latin word meaning to choose - option is derived from the same word). The translation simply means the acceptance of another person's child as one's own. Adoption is very ancient, and is commonly found everywhere in the world among many cultures. The Bible perspective on adoption expands the principle of natural adoption to include national and spiritual adoption. The last one, spiritual adoption, is "the point" of God's offer of eternal life, made available to everyone of all nations who will exercise their option to genuinely repent and truly obey Him
Paul used adoption to illustrate his point because Natural adoption was common during Bible History. Some Bible examples are:
"And the child grew, and she brought him to Pharaoh's daughter, and he became her son; and she named him Moses, for she said, "Because I drew him out of the water." (Exodus 2:10 RSV)
"He had brought up Hadassah, that is Esther, the daughter of his uncle, for she had neither father nor mother; the maiden was beautiful and lovely, and when her father and her mother died, Mordecai adopted her as his own daughter." (Esther 2:7 RSV)
Spiritual adoption is available to all who will repent and obey God:
"His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature." (2 Peter 1:3-4 RSV)
"But to all who received Him, who believed in His Name, He gave power to become children of God" (John 1:12 RSV)
"For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, "Abba! Father!" it is the Spirit Himself bearing 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 may also be glorified with Him" (Romans 8:15-17 RSV)
Romans tells us the whole earth groaned in travail after sin entered God’s perfect Creation through Adam’s disobedience. Because of Adam’s sin our sin separates us from God. Death, disease, sin, and sickness are in the world because of our spiritual death through our biological parents, Adam and Eve. Adam did not die immediately after he sinned, he lived to be several hundred years old. And yes, when we correctly understand Genesis, we know that Adam really lived this many years. Spiritual death was immediate for Adam, physical death came later. Physical death will come for all of us here today save the return of Christ.
You can stop watering a plant, or cut it from its stem. It will eventually die. It is the same way with all humankind. Sin separates us from God. Without Christ in our life, through Spiritual Adoption, we are dead spiritually and then will die physically. Just as we can water the dying plant, the Bible tells us Jesus is the living water! Jesus restores our relationship with the Heavenly Father. We are then justified. Remember the old familiar bromide, “Just as if I never sinned?”
When our daughter Kristy first came into our life, she was 2 ½ months old. There is a reason for this. The state of Florida has some of the best adoption laws in the nation. I believe that is one of the reasons why God led us there in 1983. When a child’s biological mother contacts an adoption agency, the child is placed with foster parents for 2 ½ months. After 2 ½ months the agency places the child with the adoptive parents. The main reason is this allows the mother and/or father time in case there is a change of heart. After this passage of time and the judge drops his gavel, it’s a done deal as they say. Not even the president of the United States can reverse his or the parent’s decision. If every state did this, it would save a lot of heartache. Kristy was our daughter the same as if she was biologically ours…birth certificate and all. Can you see the Spiritual application here? It’s the same with God’s love through Jesus His Son. When we accept Christ’s forgiveness, we are born into God’s family. We become His son or daughter. Just as if we never sinned! There is then the heavenly birth certificate called the book of life. Our name is entered there. No one can remove it but we ourselves.
This doesn’t mean we will then be without trials and tribulatioins. They will come but they will pass. God provides the Comforter the Holy Spirit to live in and through us if we will allow and submit.
From now on, our sense of significance derives not from our performance but our position in Christ. Who we are, and indeed what we are, derives from the fact that we are adopted by grace. From this knowledge flows our sense of value. No longer are we preoccupied with the way others see us. We are wholly taken up with the way God sees us.
Mark Stibbe the Vicar of St Andrew’s, Chorleywood. Mark was adopted as a child and has authored a book on the doctrine of adoption, From Orphans to Heirs. In closing, listen as I read his list of privileges from his book that we have when we are adopted into the family of God.
I have been given the right to be [called] a child of God (John 1:12).
I am no longer a slave but a friend of Christ (John 15:15).
I have been bought for adoption through Christ’s blood (I Corinthians 6:20).
I was predestined for adoption (Ephesians 1:5).
I am a child of Abba by adoption (Romans 8:15).
I am God’s work of art (Ephesians 2:10).
I am no longer under any condemnation (Romans 8:1).
I cannot be separated from the Father’s love (Romans 8:35).
I am loved by the Father himself (John 16:27).
I have been redeemed and forgiven (Colossians 1:14).
I am a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20).
I have not been given a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1: 7).
I am no longer a slave but a son (Galatians 4:7).
I am seated with the Son in heaven (Ephesians 2:6).
I am of the same family as Jesus (Hebrews 2:11).
I am a brother of the Lord Jesus (Hebrews 2:11).
I can approach the Father with confidence (Hebrews 4:16).
I am a brand new person in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17).