The most stunning revelation that Jesus brought was that God was our Daddy. (Abba) The world had images and ideas about who God was, but they were all lacking. Jesus came to reveal who God was, and what He was like. He came to show us God. And the way that Jesus decided to reveal God to us, was as Daddy. Following on through this family language, we are then told in modern translations of the Bible, that we are “adopted to sonship.” As much as this phrase communicates a beautiful concept, is actually completely misleading to what the original authors were referring to and thus robbing us of an even better, and a more powerful concept of adoption.
As we read in Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:5 and Ephesians 1:5, we are “adopted to sonship.” If we look in the footnotes of the NIV we see it adds some meaning to the ancient word (huiothesia) that is used here. It says, “The Greek word for adoption to sonship is a term referring to the full legal standing of an adopted male heir in Roman culture.”
You see, when Paul referred to “adoption to sonship” he had a very different view than modern adoption. In modern adoption, someone who is not part of your family, is now legally included into your family. However, the adoption Paul spoke of was not this at all. Rather, it referred to a ceremony where the Father begot the power and authority of his family name onto his son who was now considered a man.
“During a boy’s teen years, his father would determine when it was time for him to pass from childhood to adulthood—typically around 14 or a little later. In a formal public ceremony, having put aside his childhood toga, he would appear in the toga virilis (toga of manhood), mark of citizenship and his right to now vote in the assembly: “When the boy was ready, the procession to the Forum began. The father had gathered his slaves, freedmen, clients, relatives and friends, using all his influence to make his son’s escort numerous and imposing. Here the boy’s name was added to the list of citizens, and formal congratulations were extended . . . Finally they all returned to the house, where the day ended with a dinner party given by the father in honour of the new Roman citizen” (Roman Children,” ClassicsUnveiled.com). A son’s status was elevated at this point. He was now legally invested with all the rights, powers and privileges of a son and heir of his father—and of a citizen.” (Click here for the full article)
Surely, you can see some imagery beginning to form. Do you remember when the Father spoke from Heaven at Jesus baptism and said, “This is my son who I love, and with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3) This adoption to sonship was a step in maturity, not a step into a family they did not belong to. It was a public recognition, an endowment of authority, and the key to sharing in the family inheritance. This was recognition of a child becoming a man.
So what are the take aways for us?
Firstly, all people are part of the family of God. We often think that those who are not “born again” are not part of the family of God. However, when we look at the genealogy of humanity found in Luke 3, it clearly states that all people are from the family of God. The Apostle Paul even preached this in Athens in Acts 17.
Secondly, the gospel is not about in or out. God is not waiting to include us into His family. We are already part of His family. We just don’t realise it. But when we don’t realise who we are, or who we belong to, we die. We are cut off from the very relationship that gives us life in all it’s fullness. Jesus even said eternal life is that we know the Father. That’s why Jesus came and revealed Daddy. The good news is that we have a Dad who is madly in love with us and want’s to “adopt us to sonship.”
Thirdly, all of creation is groaning and waiting in eager anticipation for us to be adopted to sonship. The future of the world depends upon us stepping up in our identity as the family of God and governing as He always intended. (Genesis 1:28) This will transform the world – or as Jesus put it, will bring the Kingdom of God to Earth.
Let’s close with Romans 8:14-21
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.[f] And by him we cry, “Abba,[g] Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. 18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that[h] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.