The Biblical “adoption” holds a spiritual meaning
When we hear about an adoption the year 2015, we normally think about a person who assumes the parenting role of a child instead of that child’s biological/legal parents, and in doing so makes the child a permanent family member with all the legal rights. (It’s not common that a parent to either a biological child or an adopted child will choose to disinherit a child, but it has happened.)
The prodigal son actually inherited much of his Father’s wealth while his Father was still alive, but he (the prodigal son) was lost and dead while being away living in sin. “Be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found” – Luke. 15:32. The Father never stopped loving him or hoping he would repent and return, because God does not want anyone to perish.
The word “adoption” in the Bible is a translation from the Greek word huiothesia (Strong’s 5206). It could refer to the condition of a true follower in Christ who by receiving the Spirit of God becomes a son of God and therefore an heir to his kingdom. It could also refer to the blessed state looked for in the future life, or the relationship that God established with the Israelites. It’s used five times in the Bible, and none of the verses suggest that God unconditionally selects people for adoption/salvation:
Rom. 8:15; 23
The condition for being in Jesus Christ is to walk after the Spirit (obeying God). If a person bears bad fruit or no fruit, he will be cut off the vine (John 15). To be carnally minded is death, but to spiritually minded is LIFE. Paul recognizes that the Romans to whom he writes, are in the Spirit because they live righteous lives. IF the Spirit dwells in us, we also know that our mortal bodies will one day be quickened. “If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live”. Who are the sons of God, according to Paul? “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God”. So the condition for being a son of God is to make sure to live by the Spirit, which should be something we can master because we have received the “Spirit of adoption”. IF we are his children (if we walk in the Spirit and live righteous lives), then we also live in the promise that we are HEIRS to the kingdom of God. If we endure in our sufferings, we will also be glorified.
Rom. 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.—4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.—9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.10 And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:17 And IF children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.—.23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
Here Paul is referring to Israel as a group of people who have the right to be adopted as sons (being God’s own people): “v. 4—who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons” (NASB). We know that not all of Israel made it into the promised land, and we know that not all of Israel will eventually be saved/adopted. That is because some of Israel has stumbled on the stumbling stone, and others simply lack faith and live of the world. You can read more about Rom. 9 here and here.
Rom. 9:3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:4 Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;–24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?25 As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.26 And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.
Paul viewed the Galatians as christians who had received the holy Spirit, and who therefore had the right to be regarded as God’s adopted sons.This also means that they had been given a guaranteed right to enter the kingdom of God due to being valid heirs. However, a christian must still read the fine print of his guarantee receipt, because he only has this right as long as he remains in faith and remains in the vine. A guarantee receipt is to no use of the holder if he throws it away or forgets where it is. Paul understood this too well, because he asked the Galatians how on earth they could think of turning back to the Jewish law after having known God (and also having been known by him). Paul feared that he might have labored for them in vain and that they might end up not inheriting the kingdom of God. He says (4:20) “I would like to be present with you now and to change my tone; for I have doubts about you” (NKJV). In other verses Paul makes it clear that the Galatians – despite having begun in the Spirit, and despite having been given all the wonderful promises that are tied to those who are in Christ – still risked to have suffered and worked in vain. Paul also told the Galatians that Christ will profit them nothing and that they had fallen from grace! They could of course be restored again if they repented and followed the christian way. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. (Note that Paul was not upset that the Galatians obeyed the moral law, but rather the Jewish law with focus on the ceremonial parts.) NKJV:
Gal. 3:1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?— 3Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?4 Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?”
Gal. 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. 2 Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing.—4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.—“7 You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you. 9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump.—15 But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!—18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Gal. 2:26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.—29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Gal. 4:4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.8 Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods.9 But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?10 Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.11 I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.12 Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are: ye have not injured me at all.—19 My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,20 I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you.—31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.
Just like in the verses above, we are heirs if we are in Jesus Christ. Eph. 1-2 concerns a corporate election where the body of Christ will definitely inherit the kingdom of God. The concept that those who are in HIM will be the ones saved was decided upon already from the foundation of the world. If we are in him, we are also predestined to be adopted. The order of events is something like this:
- You believe and trust in Jesus Christ, and you have repented for your sins and decided to walk in the light
- After having repented, you have become totally cleansed, righteous and justified
- You have therefore been given the holy Spirit (marked), and you are IN HIM, in the vine, in the body of Christ
- You are therefore born again, a child of God, an adopted son and therefore an heir to his kingdom
- As an heir you have wonderful things to look forward to upon the return of Jesus, where you will be glorified
However, if you’re defecting from Jesus Christ already in the first position, then of course the promises which are tied to all true christians no longer apply for you. They only apply to those who are IN HIM as Eph. 1 says. If the first point no longer applies for you (due to lack of faith, or due to sin which you won’t let go of) then neither do the following points.
Eph. 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us IN HIM before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted IN THE BELOVED.7 IN HIM we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace —10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things IN CHRIST, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—IN HIM. 11 IN HIM also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12 that we who first trusted IN CHRIST should be to the praise of His glory.13 IN HIM you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; IN WHOM also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory. 15 Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints,16 do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power (NKJV)