1999 James A. Fowler
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I. Biblical usages of "adoption"
A. Greek word, huiothesia.
From huis = "son," and tithemi = "to
put or place"
B. New Testament references:
- "you have received a spirit of adoption as sons
by which we cry out, 'Abba!
- "we groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for adoption
as sons, the redemption
- "Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons
and the glory and the
- "redeem those under the Law, that we might receive the
adoption as sons. And
you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit into our hearts,
crying, 'Abba! Father!'"
- "He predestined us to adoption as sons through
Jesus Christ to Himself."
II. Physical adoption.
A. Hebrew culture.
1. No mention
of adoption in Old Testament Law.
occasions of such. All outside of Palestine.
Moses - Exod. 2:10; Acts 7:21; Heb. 11:24
Genubath - I Kings 11:20
Esther - Esther 2:7,15
cf. II Sam. 7:14; Ezra 10:44
B. Roman culture.
a man without natural offspring would adopt male as son. Seldom
men sometimes adopted out of slavery; redeemed from such into
privilege of son.
father sometimes "sold" a son to adoptive father.
authority under Roman law was often severe.
son became legal son with all legal rights and responsibilities.
allege Roman adoption irrevocable. Use as basis for "once
saved, always saved"
allege Roman adoption was rite of manhood for placement as "adult
C. Modern Western culture.
of having children other than by natural generation. Usually
at infancy. Alternative to
objection to such in U.S.A.
Alleged psychological effects of "rejection."
Alleged harm of cross-racial adoption; "cultural genocide;"
"no parents, better than white
Under attack by pro-abortionists. "If baby can't grow up
in care of natural mother, better
dead." "If put child up for adoption, never know if
being mistreated, abused; always
wondering, worried, anxious."
Christian objections. "Sins of birth parents will pop out
in child." "If God does not give
natural children, then not meant to have any."
III. Figurative adoption.
A. Pauline metaphor.
of filial relationship with God - Rom. 9:4
of spiritual relationship - Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:5; Eph. 1:5
of consummated and glorified relationship with God -
to be pressed as allegory.
B. Theological interpretations.
and familial relationship of Christians with God. "The action
of God by which people
brought into filial relationship with Him and conferred with
privileges thereof" (ISBE).
in conflict with birth metaphor of regeneration, but simply connotes
additional idea of
relationship. New relationship with God as Father; the apex of
privilege as part of
reject former interpretation and interpret "adoption"
only of future relationship with
occurring at the "rapture" or in heaven. Point to early
questionable Roman practice of
father "setting a goal" for his son, who then could
reach that goal at age 14, 18 or
and be "placed as an adult son" into manhood. They
emphasize that "adoption" is not
"making of a son," but the "placing of a son."
God, the Father's, "longed-for goal" for
is that we be "conformed to the image of His Son" (Rom.
are alleged to have only the "first-fruits" of the
"Spirit of adoption," being but
down-payment for a future adoption yet to be received when we
have final "placement"
God. This interpretation lacks documentary background and Biblical
eschatological "grid" creates necessity for this interpretation.