The New Testament Greek word for “adoption” is huiothesia. This is a compound of the root words for “son” and “a placing”. It implies more than placing a child – it is the placing of a son. The importance of this will be studied later in this teaching.
A. PAUL’S USAGE OF ADOPTION
The apostle Paul is the only New Testament writer to use the word adoption. Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, uses this “word picture” five times in the New Testament.
The word “adoption” is used once in reference to Israel (Rom 9:4); it is used three times to refer to the life of the born-again believer (Rom 8:12-17; Gal 4:1-5; Eph 1:3-6); and finally, Paul uses “adoption” to refer to our hope for the future when we will fully experience the completion of our faith at Christ’s second coming (Rom 8:22,23).
- DEFINING ADOPTION
Before we continue this study of adoption, it is important to briefly present another biblical truth that will aid our understanding. When the Bible uses the word “son” in reference to a follower of Christ, that term includes people of both male and female gender. Thus, in this teaching, we will use the biblical word “son” when referring to the adopted child, which can mean either a male or a female.
This “sonship” for both male and female believers means that the full inheritance from God is received by every person who is saved by faith in Jesus Christ (see Galatians 3:26-28 and Colossians 3:11). There is no difference between the male or female heir. Every person is equally entitled to his or her inheritance in Christ, and to the full benefits and privileges of being a son.
LIMITS OF HUMAN ADOPTION
In order to fully understand the scriptural principle of adoption, we must clearly define how it is used in the New Testament. Paul’s usage of this term is radically different from how we may think of this term in everyday life.
Most of us understand adoption as the means by which a child who is not born into a family can become a full member of a family. This adopted child will likely have very different characteristics than the adopting parents. The adopted child and the adopting parents may differ in height or build, in personality, in emotional responses, or even in habits or patterns of speech.
Normally, the adopting parents recognize a quality or characteristic in an orphaned child that causes them to be drawn to that child. It might be the physical appearance, a charming personality or a happy disposition. Perhaps it will be the desperate need of an unwanted child, or compassion for a child’s physical or mental limitations and the desire to help the child.
Regardless of the motive for the adoption, the act of human adoption does not automatically impart to the adopted child the nature, disposition or characteristics of the adopting parents.
But in this regard, there are radical and wonderful differences between the human adoption process and our spiritual adoption into the Family of God!
A NEW CREATION
The first and most important difference is the fact that EVERY person who is adopted by God (huiothesia = placed as a son) has first been born again as a child of God (John 1:12,13). Adoption by God is not the making of a son. Rather, it is the placing of one who has already become a son by salvation through Christ.