Christian Churches of God
The Spirit of Adoption
(Edition 2.1 19940604-20000620)
This paper deals with the concept of salvation by adoption as a Son of God. The process requires total subjection to the Father, which requires an act of redemption.
Christian Churches of God
PO Box 369, WODEN ACT 2606, AUSTRALIA
(Copyright ã 2001 Wade Cox)
(Summary by Ron Proposch edited by Wade Cox)
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The Spirit of Adoption
In former churches some of you may have been taught that God is "reproducing Himself" through humanity. It was taught that this process of "reproduction" was typified through the analogy of conception and birth. Specifically, it was said that when a person is baptised and receives God’s spirit, he or she is "conceived" as a potential God being. The human mind and spirit was likened to an ovum or egg within a woman’s body. The spirit of God was likened to a "divine sperm cell" entering that "egg" and, thus, conceiving a new spirit being.
The church, in turn, was likened to a woman’s body, and specifically her womb. The newly conceived God being needed to become firmly attached to the "uterine wall" of the mother; i.e. Christians needed to attach themselves firmly to the Church and draw their spiritual nourishment from the instruction of the ministry and fellowship of the body. If a Christian left the body of the Church, it would be like a spiritual "abortion" and result in the "spiritual death". Christians were to grow within the body of the Church, until at the first resurrection they were "born again" as spirit beings. New Testament references to being "born again" were in fact references to this process of "spiritual gestation and birth at the resurrection".
All in all it was a clever analogy and explanation of the process of Christian conversion and the ultimate plan and purpose of God.
However, it was in fact a non-biblical analogy. The Bible does not speak of the process of Christian conversion and growth in terms of conception at baptism and birth at the resurrection. It was a misunderstanding of the Old English word begettal, which appears in the KJV and which led to this incorrect analogy. The term beget does not mean conception; it means to father. The biblical analogy of being born again is that we are re-born or born anew at conversion and baptism. From there, we must grow and mature as Christians until we fully develop the character of Jesus Christ.
But not only was this analogy non-biblical, it also forced an erroneous understanding of other passages of Scripture. For example:
Romans 8:1515 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. (KJV)
It was said that the word translated adoption in this passage does not mean adoption at all, but rather, sonship – that God is reproducing Himself and we are to become His real sons, not merely His adopted sons. Support for this was drawn from alternative translations such as the RSV, which has:
Romans 8:1515 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, "Abba! Father!" (RSV)
Of course, verse 23 of the same chapter in the RSV was not quoted! It reads:
Romans 8:2323 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (RSV)
So, in one translation we have adoption, in another both adoption and sonship and in still others (e.g. Moffatt) sonship is used exclusively. What is the real story here?
In the Christian Churches of God, our goal is to research, teach, and publish the truth without fear or favour of anyone (1Pet. 4:109-11; 2Tim. 2:15
God is reproducing Himself
Before we study this subject of adoption we need to understand that God is indeed replicating Himself, or reproducing Himself, in the sense that He is creating in humans additional beings who share in His nature, in which His character has been formed. God is indeed replicating Himself into many, many sons. Christ was the first of His sons and a derived reproduction of God’s nature (2Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:12-15; Heb. 1:3 (Wuest)).
So, Christ had God’s character or nature "stamped into him" at his generation (noted above as the out-raying of God’s glory).
It is also interesting to note that the Greek word translated derived image and derived reproduction above is eikon from which we get the English word icon. It means an image, figure, likeness; an image of heavenly things; etc. Christ is a replica of God in terms of his nature and character.
In the same way, Christians are being transformed into copies, replicas, or images of Christ (and therefore copies of God). We are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26; 1Cor. 11:7). This is a process that will not be complete until the resurrection (1Cor. 15:49).
The point is that God is replicating Himself in humans. He has already replicated or reproduced Himself into many – perhaps hundreds of billions of spirit sons, which we term angels. He will complete the process with humanity over the course of His plan of salvation (Rom. 8:29; Heb. 2:10-11).
The term adoption appears in the following Bible texts: Romans 8:15;23; 9:4; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5. The word translated here as adoption comes from the Greek huiothesia (SGD 5206). It was the standard term for adoption in the first century. It appears to be a compound word meaning to appoint as a son. But our adoption is not yet complete (Rom. 8:23).
God places his name on us (Jn. 17:11).
As Christians, when we receive the spirit of adoption, we join God’s family, have access to His blessings, and we accept His love. God does not make the decision to choose to call us now, lightly.
He and Christ, possibly with council from the 24 elders about His throne, consider very carefully, the implications of calling someone now in a world cut off from God. They have to take into account that the person they are considering will not only have to overcome their own human nature, but also Satan and the world.
We are to be totally subject to God in everything. This subjection and membership of God’s family is to continue as long as God lives and, since God is eternal, we understand that our place in God’s household is forever.
Our lives become God’s. We pay Him His tithe, give Him offerings, and offer Him the sacrifices of prayer and godly living. He, in turn, removes the debt of sin we have built up, so that we can embark on the new life in His family, free from the burdens of the past.
Christians receive the spirit of our new Father, and call Him by the name Father. We begin a new life, as a new child of God, born anew to a life of growth and development under our Father’s care (Rom. 6:4 1Pet. 1:3,23; 2:2 Eph. 4:13-15).
The time is coming when our adoption as God’s children will be publicly proclaimed, and when it will receive public recognition. Today, the world does not recognise us as God’s children any more than it recognised Christ. But the time is coming when, at the redemption of our bodies, that is our transformation to spirit beings in the image of Christ, and our claim to being God’s sons and daughters will be publicly acknowledged.
So now we can understand why Paul used the metaphor of adoption in his letters. Like the analogies in Christ’s parables, it conveyed to the Christian readers of the day powerful lessons about entering God’s family and about God’s plan of salvation. The analogy in no way detracts from the fact that God’s reproducing himself or replicating himself in humans. Rather it adds to our understanding of the Fatherhood of God and the sonship of Christians.
Paul was teaching that the individual who was once not a member of God’s household is now God’s true son and genuine heir, in no way different from Jesus Christ. Paul used the analogy of Roman adoption to strengthen our claim to be God’s sons in every way possible, and thus our legal right to inherit and rule the universe with our elder brother, Jesus the Christ.