Adoption has been a blessing for many families. Often times, children are given a loving home when they otherwise wouldn’t have. I have had several close family members who have been adopted and have found myself loving them as zealously and fervently as I do my biological family. Christians often think about the needs of orphans and others (and rightfully should Jas. 1:27). Christians have historically created loving, godly homes for children in need of a stable environment. Still today, many Christians (both individually and congregationally) support orphan homes and the adoption of those in need.
There is another aspect of adoption that should be especially significant to the Christian. This is the spiritual adoption of Christians by God. In Romans 8, Paul is describing the significance of Christian justification. Throughout the chapter, Paul is building on the point made in Romans 8:1 that there is “now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (ESV). Paul furthers his point by stating that “all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom. 8:14-16 ESV). What a glorious thought! Christians are not slaves to the world, the passions of the flesh, or to Satan. Rather, we have been adopted by God and made to be His children!
When we ponder some of the implications of first century adoption customs, the significance of our adoption becomes even more profound.
Slavery was extremely popular in the first century Roman Empire. However, one of the many aspects which set it apart from American slavery is the aspect of manumission. Manumission was the practice of a slave being freed as determined by their master. It was a somewhat common practice in the first century among slave owners to free (or manumit) slaves, then adopt them to make them legal family members. When we become a Christian, we are liberated from slavery to sin (Jn. 8:32, 34). We were once slaves to sin, but have been liberated by God’s son, and therefore are free indeed (Jn. 8:36)!
Made as Children
Adoption carries with it filial benefits. In the same way that an adopted child receives a loving dwelling place, so does a Christian when adopted by God. God justifies us, forgives us, and sanctifies us. These are all wonderful facts, yet in an act of love, God takes it a step further and adopts us. Thus we become brothers and sisters of each other, and children of God (Gal. 3:26-29). How great it is to have the loving home of the church of Christ, where we are adopted into a family with millions of brothers and sisters, and God as a father!
Made an heir
Not only do we enjoy the filial blessings when we are adopted by God, we receive the “legal right” as an heir to God’s inheritance. Adoption was very popular for this purpose in the first century Roman Empire. Roman emperors would often adopt children in order to have an heir and give rights of inheritance to. When we are adopted by God, we become heirs to His inheritance. But this inheritance isn’t a house, or some money, or an antique car. It’s incorruptible, unfading, and in heaven (1 Pet. 1:4)!
In Christ alone is found mercy, grace, forgiveness, redemption, and adoption by God (Eph. 1:5-8). Thank God for His rich mercy by which He adopts us and adds us to His family:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Pet. 1:3-5 ESV).