No Bible doctrine has been as misunderstood as the doctrine of adoption, and rarely do you hear or read anything clear concerning it. More often than not, the subject of adoption is merged with justification or regeneration, and where you find such muddling, you may be fully certain the speaker, or writer, as the case may be, is confused; or at best he is simply parroting what he has gotten (heard, borrowed, or stolen) from others. Adoption is the wise plan of our great God to finally deliver the bodily portion of the chosen children, and as such it has nothing to do with the spiritual, or inward man. Justification obviously is a legal term, and relates to Jesus being raised again from the dead to make the elect just before God the Father. (Romans 4:25) Regeneration is the work of the Spirit in giving life to those who were dead in sin. (Ephesians 2:1) Regeneration also is the placing of the treasure (Christ) in earthen vessels (II Corinthians 4:7), and this wonderous work is accomplished in such a way as to leave the vessel as it was found for the time being. Those who know their Bibles recognize that the word regeneration is found only twice in scriptures, but is generally used to express the view of the Spirit's inward work.
The word translated adoption is found only in the New Testament, and then only five times twice in Romans 8, once each in Romans 9:4, Galatians 4:5, and Ephesians 1:5. It would seem that with so few texts to reconcile, every Bible student would see clearly into this matter, but not so. For all of man's learning and wisdom, he still can not discern spiritual things except spiritually, and that only when the Lord directs. May He who is all Knowledge and wisdom lead us to pray, "Lord, open unto us the scriptures of truth, if it be thy will." Now, for the purpose of clarification and introduction it is necessary to view the subject of the adoption in the light of several other Bible topics, as follows.
SIN, OR THE FALL.
"Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:" (Romans 5:12) "Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others." (Ephesians 2:3) It is beyond dispute that God's children are by nature corrupted sinners, as is all the rest of the human family. None but fools deny this. We can trace our inherent corruption all the way back to the first family in this earth at a time when there was none in it but Adam and Eve. When they, being the only persons alive, began populating the earth with their seed, all who were born to them were born sinners, for everything produces after its own kind, sinners included. Thus, the elect, as well as the non-elect, can trace their natural, or fleshly ties back to Adam, but no farther. As surely as Eve was in Adam when God created him, so was also all his descendants; the elect and the reprobate as well. In summary, all the human race, as flesh and blood, are chronicled from Adam.
ELECTION IN CHRIST
"According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:" (Ephesians 1:4) No more comforting truth than this can ever be known; that the elect had a standing in Christ before the world was. They were not simply foreknown, but were truly known of God as they were actually in Christ when as yet the dust of the highest hills had not been laid. As natural beings we can identify our standing all the way back to the garden and Adam, and again we repeat, but no farther. But, as spiritual beings we traverse time and eternity back to the Everlasting Covenant as God chose His family in Christ. No bare choice was this! The Holy seed of Christ was chosen that they might stand before God eternally holy and without blame! And, that in love. They were chosen, not to get into Him, but actually chosen in Him. (While they were in Him) When God denominated Christ as His Elect (Isaiah 42:1) all His royal seed were then in Him, resplendent as to nature, and complete and entire as to number, which can neither be increased nor diminished, and they were one with Him. This eternal union was vital, real, true, and proper; just as was their natural union with Adam, though on a much lower scale. What sublime verities are contained in this exquisite doctrine: the chosen sons of God in union with Christ in the Solitary Godhead as It dwelled in tri-unity, or as is commonly expressed, the Holy Trinity. This is blessed honey from the Rock of our refuge, and is sweet to our taste. David also viewed this union of old. "Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them." (Psalms 139: 16) That the elect were one with Christ before the world began is again confirmed by the following verses. "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He sayeth not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one ,And to thy seed, which is Christ." (Galatians 3:16) "And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." (Galatians 3:29) Whereas the seed in verse 16 was singular, in verse 29 it is plural, and what is called Christ in the previous verse is called heirs in the latter. See also Hebrews 2:16. There should be no question that one's seed is equally as old as the person is, hence Christ's seed (the elect children) date back to eternity past with Him; just as Paul spoke of the Levites paying tithes while yet in Abraham's loins. The Levite had no actual physical existence in their father Abraham, as to a bodily being. They were only known as his seed while then resting in his loins, but declared to be as good as present in all of Abraham's activities. (Hebrews 7:9) Thus, while the elect were not flesh and blood in Christ. they most certainly had a true and real existence in Him as His seed, and were in their union with Him as clear of guilt and transgression as He was. And thus the reason why they were in no need of redemption or justification while with Him in eternity. Only the lost, or slaves to sin need redemption; Christ's seed was neither. And there was absolutely nothing for the seed to be justified from, as they were as free from sin as the unfallen angels.
BIRTH - NATURAL AND SPIRITUAL
"That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." Scarcely anywhere in the Bible do we find a text that is plainer than this one, yet vast multitudes hasten on to stumble here, and thus fail to grasp the true meaning of the Lord's words. Two very distinct manner of births are described here. One is a spiritual birth, which requires a Spirit to produce, or generate after its kind. This Spirit birth all the elect will partake of in time, and of it can be said, that it was "not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:13) This spiritual birth is as pure, and free of contaminates as was the virgin birth; both stemming from the moving of the Spirit upon the vessel in which the seed is placed. Nothing but the Spirit can bring forth a spiritual being such as this. It is totally beyond belief that it could be thought otherwise, yet so it is. In all particulars the work of being born again is the free, eternally planned, work of God the Spirit. The life which springs from this birth is not capable of sinning, as it emanates from the very fountain of life itself; God the Father as He is one with the Son. A holy God will never actuate in regeneration anything but a life as pure and unsullied as He is pure and holy.
The other birth (which is really the first in order) is a wholly natural one, the result of natural procreation, the birth all mankind proceeds from. And, it must be admitted after viewing the whole of the six thousand years of our human race that nothing beyond the natural can be produced by natural men. Religious zealots have sought in vain to sponsor spiritual life with their fanatical efforts, yet they have failed to give the first sinner a life of any sort, much less one that would equip one for heaven. When a little child is born in this world, no matter what else may be said of it, this is certain; it will live and it will die a natural being, and never, no never in this life experience a change, as regards its nature. True enough, for the elect children there will a great change come at the appointed hour, but that is an inward work of the Spirit. A new life is imparted in addition to the life in the flesh; yet the flesh remains the same sinful being it received from its parents. Some argue that the Spirit comes and quickens the old man, or our fleshly bodies, and a new birth is the result, but this is positively not so. When the Spirit of God moves on the sinner a new life is given which did not previously exist in the flesh. The seed of Christ is imparted and takes a residency in the tabernacle of clay; thus there is now two natures since there are two men; the adamic and the spiritual, or as the apostle stated it to the Corinthians "For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day." (II Corinthians 4:16) This outward man is the results of a natural birth, while the inward man is the results of the spiritual birth, and the two can not be after the same kind.
There are a number of verses of scripture which touch on the subject of redemption, but for the purpose of this article two shall suffice. The first, "In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace." (Eph. 1:7) The second, "Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchase possession, unto the praise of his glory." (Eph. 1:14) In the first of these verses redemption is seen to be 1st, through His blood, 2nd, for the forgiveness of sins, and 3rd, according to the riches of His grace. The precious blood of Christ the Lamb of God, was poured out that He might cleanse and wash His people from their sins committed in the flesh. This is in order that they might be set apart (sanctified) to stand before God, holy and uncondemned, freed from the curse of the law, and fr9in any guilt whatsoever. It is manifest that for such a redemptive price to be paid the individuals for whom it was paid must have been sinners of the deepest magnitude. A close look will show that the redemption described in verse seven has been accomplished. This cannot be questioned. Jesus surely did die on the cross to fulfill the Will of His father, and take upon Himself the curse in all its power and fury. He actually did redeem His people at that time. However, when one thinks of redemption they usually think of taking possession of that for which they have paid for, and the recipients of the forgiveness of sins have not yet at this time been delivered into the presence of their Heavenly Father. Jesus has not yet said unto Him, "Behold I and the children which Thou has given me," a declaration He will make at the gathering together of all His sheep. But the redemption proper, or the taking possession of the purchased property, is seen in verse fourteen. There, an earnest had been given for the inheritance, securing it until such time that the possession would actually and physically be redeemed, which at this moment it is not, and will not be until the resurrection. The application to the subject is this: the elect are born again when a new life is imparted, but the body, which has been redeemed by blood, (and only the body needs redemption) yet awaits the adoption; to wit, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:23.)
"If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us."(I John 1:10) John, the beloved disciple, here describes the obvious condition of all of God's children, irrespective of their hopes and desires contrariwise. They are sinners! They continue sinning, and no matter how much they feebly walk with God, and attempt to crucify the flesh, to their consternation they still find themself deeply imbued with sin. They are made to groan and cry out with the Apostle Paul, "Oh, wretched man that I am. Who shall deliver me from the body of this death." Sin is their incessant, interminable way, and their life, though they bitterly loathe it, and would cease from sinning if they could. And so, when it is all said and done, they would be calling God a liar if they dared plead innocent. However, in First John 3:9 we find this recorded, "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." Thus, there is to some measure, a seeming contradiction in the two statements in this one book. How can this be? On the one hand we know we are sinners and cannot cease. (I John 1:10) On the other hand, whoever is born of God does not sin, which is saying just the opposite, in appearance, from the previous quote. So, wherein is the harmonizing of these two seemingly incongruous statements? If the Lord has blessed the reader in any measure to recognize the distinction between the old man and the new, the hidden man and the revealed man, the outward man and the inward man, he begins to recognize, to some extent or another, that the contradictions are more apparent than real. There really is a perfect harmonious blending of the truths contained here, as seen in the dual union and natures we have after being born of the Spirit of God. As we have been born in Adam, and trace our ancestry back to him, we find that we have been fallen sinners since the dawn of time in him, and by personal practice now at this present time. Thus, we cannot cease sinning in our Adamic being, or flesh. Our old man, our outward man, does, and will sin. On the other hand, note well, John is just as emphatic in saying that one who is born of God sins not. And too, how can this be also? It must be that John distinguishes, as does the rest of the scripture when properly seen, between the extent of the Spiritual birth and the natural birth. The new man, in Christ Jesus, which has been born again of the Spirit, (that which is born of Spirit is Spirit,) has never sinned, cannot sin, will not sin, and has always existed in perfect, holy union with Christ from the foundation of the world, when he was chosen in Christ, being one with Him in eternity. Thus, that being is perfect in its conduct and standing before God in Jesus Christ. The old man, (that which is born of Adam,) that which is born of the flesh, has a standing in nature, and is fallen in death. He stands in need of redemption only as he was elected in Christ, and then fell in Adam. He continues to sin as the old man, but not as the new, and thus it is clear that though a redemptive price is paid, it was paid only for the old man, which stood in need of redemption by virtue of sinning, and not for the new man, which has never sinned, and stood in no need whatsoever of a redemptive price being paid. But, as was determined before, the redemptive price was paid, but the redemption proper has not yet taken place. That which Jesus died for and redeemed was the old man, or the human portion of the whole man. As one stands before God, he either stands a sinner or a saint. But as he stands in this earth, he stands as two beings, one old and one new; one filthy, and one pure. So finally, it can be seen, the old man can not be born again, and for it to join the family of God it must be brought in another way, and that way is adoption.
It was seen in the paragraph on election that the seed of Christ were chosen in Him from the foundation of the world. (Ephesians 1:4) Then in verse five we have the following "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will." The key words in these two verses are "chosen in him" in verse four, and "predestinated us unto the adoption" in verse five. There should be no doubt that election and predestination are different acts of God, though both flowing from His eternal will, and embrace different purposes for His children the election being their standing in Christ, and predestination being the determination to save them as considered lost. As has been previously stated, the children are secure and sinless in Him from all eternity, but fallen and depraved as they stand bodily in Adam. Thus Christ came to earth to redeem His people from their sins; which sins are the natural results of their fall in Adam. So, while the children are secure in Him from eternity, they are to be redeemed from the grave where the body of corruption will lie until the great morning of the resurrection of the dead, and this redemption is secured in the adoption of the body. Hence, the doctrine we call adoption.
"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." Clearly, by using the word again, Paul here tell the Romans that the Spirit they had now received was not a repeat of that carnal spirit of the flesh they had gotten in their natural generation by Adam, but a new Spirit, from God Himself. This Spirit led them to God, and not to the flesh, and too, it gave hope that the flesh was yet to be changed from a vile corruption to incorruption, from dishonour to honour, from weakness to power, from a natural body to a spiritual body. (See I Cor. 15:42-58) In verses nineteen through twenty-three of Romans eight, the apostle then begins to summarize all that he was telling the Romans regarding this great work of God to deliver His children from the bondage of corruption. God had subjected them to vanity, though they had not willed it so, and then He made them subjects of hope. And what was it they hoped for, but the redemption of their vile bodies? As they were in the flesh they were subjected to vanity, and as they were spiritual they were subjected to hope for the redemption of their body, which would be certain to take place, for God had given them the Spirit of adoption while they were yet servants of sin and corruption. "...we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body." (Verse 23) The first ourselves is the spiritual or inward man, and the second ourselves is the outward or Adamic man, plainly evidencing the two natures conflicting. The word our indicates that the two are both possessors of the subject of the adoption, the body.
Much, much more might be said on this sublime subject, but for now may this serve to show the fact that adoption relates to the body and not the spirit of the children of God. Truly the desire of the family of the heavenly King is that He will soon change our vile body and take us to Himself in that happy home of pure, sinless bliss.
July - August 1989