For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. (Romans 8:14-15)
Let’s talk for a moment about adoption and what it means. Very often a couple will adopt a child because they cannot have biological children, but many just want to love and care for a child who needs them. Their hearts are just that big. I have heard it explained to the child that they did not grow in Mommy’s tummy, but in her heart.
But what was Paul talking about that we are adopted into His own family as His children?
Jesus is the only begotten Son of the Father. He is the biological Son of God. We are adopted; we grew in His heart.
But really, what does adoption mean? In Jewish society there really was no adoption. If a man died, his children, his wife, his possessions were given to his brother. The wife and children were now his to protect and care for.
Paul wasn’t writing to the Jews; he was writing to the Romans. What did adoption mean to them? What was Paul trying to explain? In Roman society, adoption was not primarily an emotional decision made to care for a child. It often was to build the family, to provide an heir. Several of the Roman emperors were adopted because they were seen as men strong and capable to lead the empire.
I found this article on Roman adoption at aleteia.org. (Emphasis mine)
“In ancient Rome, adoption had a powerful meaning. When a child was born biologically, the parents had the option of disowning the child for a variety of reasons. The relationship, therefore, was not necessarily desired by the parent, nor permanent.
“Not so, however, if a child was adopted. In Rome, adopting a child meant:
- That child was freely chosen by the parents, desired by the parents.
- That child would be a permanent part of the family; parents couldn’t disown a child they adopted.
“An adopted child received a new identity. Any prior commitments, responsibilities and debts were erased. New rights and responsibilities were taken on. Also, in ancient Rome, the concept of inheritance was part of life, not something that began at death. Being adopted made someone an heir to their father, joint-sharers in all his possessions and fully united to him.”
Remember, Paul was writing to the Romans, and they would have understood adoption to mean precisely this. Let’s look closer at this through 2 Corinthians 5:17-19.
- New identity – Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17a)
- Any prior commitments, responsibilities and debts were erased. – The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17b)
- New rights and responsibilities –All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s trespasses against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)
- That child would be a permanent part of the family; parents couldn’t disown a child they adopted – Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6 and quoted in Hebrews 13:5)
- Inheritance was part of life, not something that began at death – And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. (Romans 8:17)I used to wonder how we could be co-heirs with Christ. Since God wasn’t going to die, how could we inherit anything. But this explains that the concept of inheritance is part of life. We inherit all the blessings and privileges and status of our new family.
The adopted person – not necessarily a child – was now part of the new family. This brought new traditions, a new culture, new responsibilities, maybe even a new language. This is definitely true of us as adopted children of God.
- We must learn the language of heaven. Love is spoken there, not unbelief, judgement, fear or shame.
- The new culture is, among other things, totally prioritized on intimacy with the Father to know His heart, His will, His direction. These are absolutely necessary to fulfil our new role.
- This doesn’t happen overnight. Our position in the family is immediate. Our assimilation is not. We must focus not on who we were, but on who we are now. Or more accurately, WHOSE we are now.
Our new family is not just a group of people who are loved of the Father. Jesus called it The Kingdom of God. He is King of Kings. We are sons and daughters of the King. What does that mean? We have positions of authority. We are princes and princesses in training. We are to carry His Kingdom here. Actually, Jesus told us to declare His Kingdom. THY KINGDOM COME, THY WILL BE DONE, ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN. And this world really needs HIS kingdom to come down here!
One other thought. In Luke 9:62 we read, Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
What does this mean? I’ve heard it preached that if you are plowing, and not looking where you are going, you will plow crooked. If the adopted child keeps looking back at who they were, with all their debts, faults and failures, they are not focused on being who they are NOW. Imagine an adopted child (or adult) always remembering where they came from instead of taking hold of who they are now called to be.
I looked up the word “fit.” It is defined as “of a suitable quality, standard, or type to meet the required purpose.” If we are so focused on our past (which was crucified with Christ, by the way), we cannot stand strong and confident in our new role as an ambassador of God’s kingdom.
I know that this is new for some. But God is ALWAYS doing something new.
Isaiah 43:18-19 tells us, Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? This was true in Isaiah’s day, and it is true now.