The Figure of “Adoption” in the New Testament
By Kyle Pope
figure of adoption is one of many figures used to describe our relationship
with God. As with all figures there are limitations to its application. We see this from another common figure used
to describe man’s relationship to God.
Isaiah (Isaiah 64:8) and Paul (Romans 9:21) both use the figure of God
as the potter and mankind as the clay.
This beautiful figure illustrates how God as Creator has shaped us and
formed our very existence. Yet, does
that indicate that we are nothing more than inanimate clay? Obviously not. The Bible teaches that we are not a lifeless
lump—we are souls made in the “similitude of God” (James 3:9).
What is illustrated by the figure of
All of us
are the “offspring of God” (Acts 17:29)—we are all children of the “Father of
spirits” (Hebrews 12:9). However, sin changes that. Sin takes one who is a child of God in their
creation and makes them a child of Satan. Jesus told the Jews who rejected Him, “you are of your father the devil, and the desires of your
father you want to do” (John 8:44). The
grace of God brought to us through Jesus Christ allows those who have forsaken
their spiritual Father (like the prodigal son)—a way to be adopted as sons of
God, and thus “heirs of God and joints heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17).
Who Chooses Whom?
figure of adoption indicate that man’s relationship with God, like human
adoption, involves a choice by the parent (i.e. God) alone? What
does Scripture say? Certainly in
human adoptions of babies the child has no choice in the matter. However, even in human adoption it isn’t
always the case that the child has no choice. When older children are adopted
the preferences of the children are often taken into consideration before the
adoption is finalized.
1:5, uses this figure in declaring that God “predestined
us to adoption as sons BY JESUS CHRIST to Himself” (Emphasis mine). We can notice in the context of this passage
how often the emphasis is on what Jesus accomplished for us. God “chose us IN HIM” (Ephesian
1:4, emphasis mine); “He made us accepted IN THE BELOVED” (Ephesians 1:6,
emphasis mine); “IN HIM we have redemption” (Ephesians 1:7, emphasis mine); which
is something that God “purposed in Himself” (Ephesians 1:9, emphasis also mine).
God chose that all in Christ will receive the adoption. This is God’s choice,
but it is the election of a class of peope—not
Where Do We Fit In?
choice have a bearing upon whether we are “in Christ” or not? Paul told the Galatians, “you are all sons of
God through faith in Christ Jesus, for as many of you as were baptized into
Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:26-27). We choose to accept the message of the gospel—the
power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). This message produces faith (Romans
10:17) which leads us to confess Him, repent of sins, and be baptized. Paul says, in doing this the one who has been
baptized has “put on Christ.” Thanks be to God for
this wonderful offer of adoption!