Guest / Limited Access /
Biblical Adoption Is Not What You Think It Is
Image: Boone / iStock

I was an only child—except for the year I was in third grade. That year, Ronnie and Jerry invaded my bedroom and shared my parents. I thought it was cool to have brothers for a change, even if they were temporary foster brothers.

At the end of the school year, my father took me aside. We could provide a permanent family for Ronnie and Jerry, he said. My parents had discussed adopting them, but they didn't want to decide without talking to me.

There were complicating factors, Dad said. There was a third brother who was behaviorally challenged, and the social worker wanted us to adopt all three. She thought it was vital to try to keep the family together.

Then there was my inheritance. It would have to be split four ways.

In Romans 8:14–17, Paul teaches that we are adopted through the Holy Spirit, and that as God's adopted children, we become heirs. The apostle, in fact, addresses the same issues my parents did with Ronnie and Jerry.

Adoption Then and Now

First, there is intimacy with the Father. Ronnie and Jerry didn't call my dad Dr. Neff, like my other friends did. He wanted them to call him Dad. If my parents had adopted them, he would truly, fully, legally, and in every way but one have been their dad. And Paul writes that the Spirit of God prompts us to call God Abba, the intimate Aramaic word for Dad. Not only that, the Spirit gives us an internal assurance that God is indeed our Abba.

Second, there is adoption itself. In 1984, Scottish law professor Francis Lyall published an excellent study of the legal metaphors in the Epistles (Slaves, Citizens, Sons, Zondervan). Lyall shows that Roman—not Jewish, not Greek—adoption law was at the heart of this teaching. There ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedAll My Children Are ‘My Own’
All My Children Are ‘My Own’
The theological significance of adoption language.
TrendingHow 1,000 Women Who Aborted Feel About the Local Church
How 1,000 Women Who Aborted Feel About the Local Church
Survey: Two in three evangelicals were attending monthly or more at the time of their first abortion.
Editor's PickThe Colonists’ New Religious Mystery
The Colonists’ New Religious Mystery
Sorry, Pilgrims: Jamestown’s spiritual life is suddenly much more fascinating.
Christianity Today
Biblical Adoption Is Not What You Think It Is
hide thisDecember December

In the Magazine

December 2013

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.