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THE ADOPTION: WHAT IS IT?

The word “adoption” is used 5 times in the Bible. Below are the references to that word.

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. (Romans 8:15)

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. (Romans 8:23)

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; (Romans 9:4)

To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. (Galatians 4:5)

Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, (Ephesians 1:5)

You will notice that nowhere in these verses does it specifically say “adoption of the body” and yet there is a current periodical that claims to be Old School Baptist that is purporting such things. This actually is a topic that I have struggled with for quite a while now and I was hoping that you would join me in my journey through this wonderful truth as I attempt to lay out what I hope the Lord has shown me and by His grace is continuing to show me. I by no means am trying to persuade anyone with what is contained below but simply just sharing some thoughts.

In all the verses above the Greek word for “adoption” is the same. It is: “huiothesia” which comes from “huios” which means “a son” and secondly the word “tithemi” which means “to set, put or place.” Or in other words “to set as a son.” As you read the verses above and what you read below it will help to keep in mind the meaning of “adoption.” Please understand that I am by no means a Greek scholar, nor do I pretend to be one. I rely completely on the helps that have been made available to me.

Let’s take a little time strolling through the verses above that mention the “adoption.”

Romans 8:10-16 “And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 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. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. 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. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 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. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:”

This above is our first verse in context with its surrounding verses. These verses are talking about the power of the Spirit that dwells in the child of God. The Spirit of God is life, he has the power to quicken our mortal bodies, he leads the sons of God, he sets as sons (adopts) God’s children and therefore he bears witness with our spirit of being a child of God. Notice with me the two complete opposites contained in these verses. The apostle very clearly states that God’s children do not receive again the spirit of bondage to fear BUT they receive the spirit of being set as sons (adoption).

Romans 8:17-25 “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time not worthy with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected in hope, because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, do we with patience wait for.” (Italic words removed.)

Looking at verses twenty-two and twenty-three above which read: “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.” If you are reading from your own Bible you will notice that there are two words that are missing. They are the words “to wit” which are in italics in the KJV and were inserted between “waiting for the adoption,” and “the redemption of the body.” They don’t belong there nor do they help with our understanding of this verse, and that is why I figured it was safe to take them out for this writing. What does Paul mean here? Is this verse saying “waiting for the adoption of our body” and “waiting for the redemption of our body”? What I mean is this verse linking the word “body” to both the words “adoption” and “redemption” or is it referring to two completely separate things? I really don’t think that Paul is saying that “adoption” and “redemption” are the same thing, so we can discount that option. Remember that “adoption” simply means to “be set as a son.” So, does it make sense to say, “waiting to be set as a son of our body”? It doesn’t make much sense to me. Also, what does Paul mean here by his use of the word “body”? This Greek word for “body” has been translated “body” like in the verses above but also has been translated “bodies” elsewhere in Scripture. One question that comes to my mind is why did the translators choose to use the singular rendition (body) of this Greek word and not the plural (bodies)?

Let’s look at a few other verses that might help our understanding of the term body.

2 Corinthians 5:2 “For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:” - If it is the fleshly body that is raised after death than why are the children of God groaning and earnestly desiring to be clothed with something else?

Ephesians 1:13-14 “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” - What is the “purchased possession” that is mentioned here? Is it the fleshly body of each and every one of His elect? Or is it the body of Christ, His bride, His church?

Ephesians 4:2-16 “With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. One body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” (Italic words removed, emphasis added. TA)

Ephesians 5:23 “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.” (Emphasis added. TA)

In both these sections of verses, is Paul referring to the fleshly body of the believer? Or is he referring to the body of Christ as a whole?

As we look at what God says to Adam in the garden it should help shed some light on the questions above. “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. (Gen 3:19)” To me God is very clear here when He says that Adam (mankind) shall return to the dust. Does that sound like it is that specific body that will be raised after death? Is it that fleshly body (dust) that is to be redeemed? Our verse above in Romans says “the redemption of the body.” Asking the same question as the one about Ephesians: What is the meaning of “body” here? Is it the fleshly body of each and every one of His elect? or is the body of Christ, His bride, His church? Let’s also look at a verse in Job.

(Job 19:26) “And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:” - The words “worms” and “body” are inserted words and really do not belong. So the verse should read: “And after my skin destroy this, yet in my flesh shall I see God:” The word for “skin” means “hide” and “this, yet in my flesh” means “the body itself”. The word for “destroy” means to “strike off” or rip off. The words “shall I see” mean just that “to see or behold.” So, what this verse is saying is: “And after this hide ripped body shall I see God.” In other words Job knew that our hide shall be ripped from this body but we shall still see God. How? Paul makes it clear in his letter to the Corinthians in the verse that is quoted above. God’s children have a house that they will be clothed upon which is from heaven. So, again if this flesh (hide) is to be ripped off of us, than what “body” is Paul referring to in our verse in Romans?

1 Corinthians 12:12-26 “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body an eye, where the hearing? If the whole hearing, where the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where the body? But now many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely have more abundant comeliness. For our comely have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that which lacked: That there should be no schism in the body; but the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.” (Italic words removed – emphasis added.)

Colossians 1:18 “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all he might have the preeminence.” (Italic word removed - emphasis added. TA)

In these two sections of verses please notice a theme with me. That theme is the “one body” which is referred to as the “church” or Christ’s bride. Could Paul be referring to this body when he was writing to the Roman brethren? The same Greek word is used in Romans 8:23 for “body” as it is in 1 Corinthians chapter 12 and Colossians chapter 1. Again notice the singular use of the word “body” because it is referring to the whole body of Christ, His church.

Romans 9:1-5 “I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: Who are Israelites; to whom the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service, and the promises; whose the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.” (Italic words removed.)

In these verses, Paul is speaking strictly according to the flesh or the earthy. Notice Paul’s words; “my kinsmen according to the flesh,” and “and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ”. This is not speaking about the true Israel of God which is after the Spirit but is speaking of that which is of the flesh.

Galatians 4:1-7 “Now I say, The heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; but is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” (Italic words removed. TA)

One thing that I found interesting about verse 5 is that the words “adoption of sons” is all one Greek word and it is the same word that we have been discussing throughout. So, my first question with this particular verse was why did the translators use this translation instead of just the single word “adoption”? Is this not saying the exact same thing that Jesus said as recorded in the book of John? “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:” (John 1:12) And is it not saying again what Paul said elsewhere in this same letter to the Galatians? “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” (3:26) The next thing that stood out to me in these verses is what is said in the next sentence. It says: “Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts...” What is it that the worldly church is so fond of proclaiming? Isn’t it; “Just ask Jesus into your hearts and you will be saved”? Is that what this verse is saying? Please notice with me the sentence structure and the wording of this verse. It clearly states that it is because of being a son already as the reason the Spirit of Christ was sent into their hearts. It doesn’t say that God sent forth the Spirit of his Son into their hearts and then they became sons. No! they were already sons and therefore this verse points to the eternal vital unity of Christ and His bride from all eternity.

Ephesians 1:3-14 “Blessed the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly 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: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; in him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” (Italic words removed.)

As in the selection of the verses above from Galatians, it caught my eye with these verses from Ephesians as to why the translators translated the single Greek word for adoption as “the adoption of children.” Doesn’t it still make perfect sense to say; “Having predestinated us unto adoption by Jesus Christ...”? The two words “having predestinated” are actually just one Greek word meaning “predestinated, predetermined, decide beforehand or to limit in advance" and the word “unto” can also be translated as “to”. So it very well could read “Limited us to being set as sons by Jesus Christ...”

There is so much in these verses above that a book could probably be written. That is not my goal but I do hope to touch on some points in them. What a glorious, wonderful presentation of God’s truth and love toward His elect. They were chosen IN Christ when? From BEFORE the foundation of the world. Again please notice that this points to the eternal vital unity of Christ and His bride. Because of the choosing is the reason they will be holy (set apart) and without blame (unblemished) before Him. For it is nothing in and of themselves but ALL of Christ. He has limited them to be set as sons before Him and has made them accepted (highly favoured) all according to the pleasure of His will and to the praise and brightness of His grace. It doesn’t stop there either. His people also have been bought with a price and been forgiven of their sins. The redemption is the payment of a ransom and the ransom was paid by the shedding of His blood. The forgiving of sins has nothing to do with what they have done or can do but is very simply according to the abundance of his good will, loving-kindness and favour.

So, what does all this say about what we were trying to come to a better understanding on? “Adoption” - what does it mean? At the very basics it means “to be set as a son” and has nothing to do with the body. I realize that I have barely even scratched the surface on this wonderful truth. I do hope that you have enjoyed traveling down this road with me.

Tom Adams
Sept. 19, 2007