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The Holy Spirit is “the Spirit of adoption” The word adoption in the New Testament means “being placed as an adult son.” We come into God’s family by birth. But the instant we are born into the family, God adopts us and gives us the position of an adult son. A baby cannot walk, speak, make decisions, or draw on the family wealth. But the believer can do all of these the instant he is born again.

God’s goal: We are no longer slaves to fear. We have the confidence of the Holy Spirit and knowledge we are the children of God. God wants to be His adult children. We are to be mature in our relationship, obedient to His will and love. Love is the daily goal.

He can walk and be “led of the Spirit” (Rom. 8:14). The verb here means “willingly led.” We yield to the Holy Spirit, and He guides us by His Word day by day. We are not under bondage to Law and afraid to act. We have the liberty of the Spirit and are free to follow Jesus the Messiah. The believer can also speak: “We cry, Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:15). Would it not be amazing if a newborn baby looked up and greeted his father! First, the Spirit says, “Abba, Father” to us, and then we say it to God. (“Abba” means “papa”—a term of endearment.)

A baby cannot sign checks, but the child of God by faith can draw on his spiritual wealth because he is an heir of God and a joint heir with Jesus. The Spirit teaches us from the Word, and then we receive God’s wealth by faith. What a thrilling thing it is to have “the Spirit of adoption” at work in our lives!

There is no need for the believer to be defeated. He can yield his body to the Spirit and by faith overcome the old nature. The Spirit of life will empower him. The Spirit of death will enable him to overcome the flesh. And the Spirit of adoption will enrich him and lead him into the will of God.

  • Romans 8:15 — 15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”
  • Hebrews 2:14–15 — 14 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.

Digging Deeper – How do we become children of God?

If you want to dig deeper, here are some additional resources. To adopt someone is to make that person a legal son or daughter. Adoption is one of the metaphors used in the Bible to explain how Christians are brought into the family of God. Jesus came “that we might receive adoption to sonship” (Galatians 4:5), and He was successful: “You received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children” (Romans 8:15, NLT).

New Strong’s Dictionary

υἱοθεσία huiŏthĕsia, hwee-oth-es-ee´-ah; from a presumed compound of 5207 and a der. of 5087; the placing as a son, i.e. adoption (fig. Chr. sonship in respect to God):— adoption (of children, of sons).[1]

Wayne Grudem Systematic Theology

We may define adoption as follows: adoption is an act of God whereby he makes us members of his family.

John mentions adoption at the beginning of his gospel, where he says, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). By contrast, those who do not believe in Christ are not children of God or adopted into his family, but they are “children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3) and “sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2; 5:6). Although those Jews who rejected Christ tried to claim that God was their Father (John 8:41), Jesus told them, “If God were your Father, you would love me.… You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires” (John 8:42–44).

The New Testament Epistles bear repeated testimony to the fact that we are now God’s children in a special sense, members of his family. Paul says,

For 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, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Rom. 8:14–17)[2]

 

Baker Encyclopedia

Theologically, the act of God by which believers become members of “God’s family” with all the privileges and obligations of family membership. “Sons of God,” a common kjv expression, includes individuals of both sexes numbered among God’s children (Is 43:6; 2 Cor 6:18).

According to the NT, all persons are sinners by nature, and hence are called “children of wrath” (Eph 2:3); however, those upon whom God bestows his love, by grace become “children of God” (1 Jn 3:1). The adoption through which this happens has its origin in God’s love and its foundation in Jesus Christ who is uniquely the “Son of God.” Theologians regard the term Son of God as referring preeminently to Christ’s deity (Mt 11:25–27; 16:16, 17), for he is one in substance and glory with the Father. As the second person of the Trinity, Christ is distinguished from the Father as “the only begotten Son.” Believers in Christ, although “adopted,” are never seen as on a par with the uncreated, divine Son.[3]

Holman Treasury of Key Words

Most people would rather have been born into a loving family than adopted into one. But with respect to God’s family, both—birth and adoption—happen to believers at once. Anyone who believes in Jesus is born of God and is also adopted by God into His family.

The Greek word for “adoption” comes from two words put together: huios, meaning “son,” and thesis, meaning “a placing.” Thus, the word means “placement into sonship.” The Greek word is a legal term that indicates that believers have been given all the legal privileges of being sons in God’s family. When God adopts believers as His children, He places the Spirit of His Son into their hearts so that they become, in effect, His natural-born children. As such, they are not merely “adopted” (in the sense the word now conveys) but genuinely “begotten” by God. God makes “sons of God” out of “sons of men.” The term “sons of God,” a common King James expression, includes believers of both sexes (see 2 Cor. 6:18; compare Isa. 43:6).[4]

International Standard Bible Dictionary

Paul’s Doctrine.—As a Roman citizen the apostle would naturally know of the Rom custom, but in the cosmopolitan city of Tarsus, and again on his travels, he would become equally familiar with the corresponding customs of other nations. He employed the idea metaphorically much in the manner of Christ’s parables, and, as in their case, there is danger of pressing the analogy too far in its details. It is not clear that he had any specific form of adoption in mind when illustrating his teaching by the general idea. Under this figure he teaches that God, by the manifestation of His grace in Christ, brings men into the relation of sons to Himself, and communicates to them the experience of sonship.

In Gal Paul emphasizes especially the liberty enjoyed by those who live by faith, in contrast to the bondage under which men are held, who guide their lives by legal ceremonies and ordinances, as the Galatians were prone to do (5:1).[5]

Christian Quotes

To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.
John 1:12 NRSV

We are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
Romans 8:16–17 KJV

We also, to whom the Spirit is given as the firstfruits of the harvest to come, are groaning inwardly whilst we look forward eagerly to our adoption, our liberation from mortality.
Romans 8:23 REB

[God] predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.
Ephesians 1:5 ESV

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
1 John 3:1 NIV

Adoption gives us the privilege of sons, regeneration, the nature of sons.
Stephen Charnock

The least degree of sincere sanctification, being an effect of regeneration, is a certain sign of adoption, and may minister a sure argument to him that has it, that he is the adopted child of God.
Thomas Gataker

Affliction is the badge of adoption.
Thomas Watson

A man adopts one for his son and heir that does not at all resemble him; but whosoever God adopts for His child is like Him; he not only bears His heavenly Father’s name, but His image.
Thomas Watson

Manser, M. (Ed.). (2016). Christian Quotations. Martin Manser.

[1] Strong, J. (1996). The New Strong’s Dictionary of Hebrew and Greek Words. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[2] Grudem, W. (2020). Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Second Edition, p. 913). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

[3] Shepherd, N. (1988). Adoption. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 1, p. 31). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

[4] Carpenter, E. E., & Comfort, P. W. (2000). In Holman treasury of key Bible words: 200 Greek and 200 Hebrew words defined and explained (p. 221). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[5] Rees, T. (1915). Adoption. In J. Orr, J. L. Nuelsen, E. Y. Mullins, & M. O. Evans (Eds.), The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia (Vol. 1–5, p. 58). Chicago: The Howard-Severance Company.