The Spiritual Man Series
“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery that returns you to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship (adoption), by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” Rm. 8.14-15
“…to redeem those under the law, that we might receive our adoption (sonship) as sons. And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, you are also an heir through God.” Gal. 4.5-7
“He predestined us for adoption (sonship) as His sons through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the Beloved One.” Eph. 1.5-6
In the English language and a secular mindset, the term adoption means: the action of legally taking another’s child and bringing it up as one’s own. So, we immediately have the understanding that this is the action of receiving a child from outside a family into the family legally as a family member. Biblically, however, the word translated to adoption has a slightly different connotation. It is derived from the Greek word, hyiothesía (from hyiós, “son” and títhēmi, “to place”) – thus, it means to place as a son. It is also translated as sonship in some other verses. Thus, the most obvious difference between the two meanings is that in the first action one of taking, as one who would reach out and bring a child into a relationship as a member of a family. In the second instance an action is made to place or set a child into the position of a son. Note the two opposite actions: one is taking or receiving into a relationship and the other is setting or placing while in a relationship. In the first, a possession of a child is gained, in the latter an action is being made upon a child who is already a family member.
We must understand this difference between taking and placing if we are to really understand the meaning of adoption. For example, if I were to go shopping for some articles for my home, I would first select and purchase them. I would then bring them to my house and take them inside. They are mine and now I can decide what to do with them as I please. I would set or place the lamp on an end stand, set the rug in the foyer, and put the computer on my desk. These items would be placed where I feel they belong and serve the function for which they have been purchased. This analogy is as follows: the items that were selected and purchased are as the believers who have been selected in Christ, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and regenerated as children of God; the placing or setting the items in places of function is as the children being placed into positions into the Kingdom and family of God as the sons of God (which is adoption), registered as citizens of heaven, and planned for an inheritance to come. Thus, one must be regenerated (or born again) in order to receive adoption as sons.
It is important to note that this word, adoption, is used five times in scriptures (Rm. 8.15, 23; 9.4; Gal. 4.5; and Eph. 1.5) and it is never used in connection with a child but is only used in connection with son, or sonship. As noted above, a child is not adopted into the family of God but is born into the family of God; and this child, when of age, is placed or set into a position as a son. This is a very important distinction in realizing our relationship with God, His purpose for our life, and the destiny that lays before us. Presently, I do not have the same relationship with my son (who is now an adult) as I did when he was a little boy (child). As a child, he was under my caring grace to provide for his needs and to train him in the way he should walk. But a time came when I could no longer have that kind of relationship with him. He grew to have responsibilities in the household, to have the character and mindset of an adult, and to be in a position for an inheritance. Let’s hold this thought in mind as we lay a further understanding of grace, which is the doorway through which we walk in being born as a child into the family of God and being set or placed into sonship (adoption).
The apostle Paul explains saving grace as, “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.” Eph. 2.8-9 Thus, grace is God’s unmerited favor towards us. But we must also understand that grace is like a two-sided coin, there is a two-fold nature to this grace. On the one side there is an inward working grace, and on the other side is an outward working grace. There is a grace that works within our soul that changes and transforms our will, our life, and our person. It imparts eternal life and gives a sense of God’s presence. Our behavior and our hopes become modified. When one is born again into newness of life, all things change: as our perspective on life, character development, and especially fellowship with God, our Father. He is a caring and gracious God and never requires anything from His children that He does not provide a way for in His grace; and this is primarily by way of His Holy Spirit which dwells within. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation,. The old has passed away. Behold all things have become new.” 2 Cor. 5.17
There is also a grace that works outside ourselves, and finds its complete being is in the heart and mind of God and governs His actions toward His children. This grace may not work within the believer, but sets the vision and anticipation of things now and that which is to come. I fully anticipate the resurrection of my fleshly body in the Day of the Lord as a result of the inward working grace, and, in that Day, I fully anticipate an inheritance of a life of purpose and function in the Messianic Kingdom. This is the result of His outward working grace. Now, a further word on each measure of grace.
Inward working Grace This grace is regenerative, in that a change happens within the believer’s heart and mind (and eventually his body). “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.” Tit. 3.5 It is a rebirth or renewal of life. In the natural, the term regeneration is used as the regrowth of body tissue or an organ that has been lost or destroyed. Spiritually, it is used in reference to new life within generated by the Holy Spirit, by which we actually become the children of God. Note this awesome truth as revealed in the following scriptures.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” 1 Pet. 1.3
“For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” 1 Pet. 1.23
“But to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God—children born not of blood, nor of the desire or will of man, but born of God.” Jn. 1.12-13
This does not describe the Spirit of adoption, but of an inward grace that begins with the seed of Christ in us and leads to the transforming of the soul. By this inward working grace, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. Through these He has given us His precious and magnificent promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, now that you have escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” 2 Pet. 1.3-4 Imagine that! A grace that works within to bring forth a working of His divine nature…by faith. Yes, it must always be by faith.
How does one become regenerated, or otherwise termed born again? It is by two simple acts: asking and believing. Ask God to be redeemed by the blood of His Lamb, Jesus Christ, believing that cleansing by His blood will be thorough and complete. You are crying out for Jesus to save you from the darkness, death, and destruction of this fallen world and be taken into the life and light of the family of God. You will be cleansed and sanctified, or set apart for Him. Expect that you will receive the Spirit of Christ into your heart, as a seed of eternal life. The deposit of His seed within, like all seeds in the natural, will begin the maturation process. You have been regenerated by grace.
No one expects their own children to remain childlike in understanding and behavior but expects them to mature in quality of character, becoming sober-minded. We desire them to mature in integrity, honesty, empathy, and the like. So, too, does God desire such maturity for His children. Once born, He does not abandon them to forage on their own or be taught by way of the flesh the principles of His family and Kingdom. God’s divine presence remains active in our lives: “for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Phil. 2.13
I would that the character of my children grows ten-fold in integrity, honor, empathy, humility, and goodness above what little I find in myself. But now that is out of my hands. I must commit them into the loving care of our heavenly Father and plead the working of His inward grace in their lives. In this dimension, all things of spiritual quality issue forth from an intimate relationship with God our Father and Lord Jesus Christ, through His divine presence as the Holy Spirit. Communion with God in the Spirit will nurture and give growth to our new nature. I am so glad it does not depend upon my efforts to study, discipline myself, vowing and making resolutions. My single overarching goal is to draw near to God and He will draw near to me. Jam. 4.8 This vital union between man and God is our lifeline.
Outward Working Grace Now what about this grace that does not work within us, to cause a new life and spiritual growth, but actually works for us, on our behalf? The Spirit of Adoption is included in this kind of grace. This is that grace residing in the heart and mind of God toward us. O’ how often I have pondered the scripture, “What is man, that You are mindful of him,” Heb. 2.6 (Ps. 8.4) Bible interpreters have debated whether this verse speaks only of Jesus Christ or of mankind in general. Most agree, from the context of the chapter, both man and Christ are included. When considering the vastness of the universe, “Who am I…,” so small and insignificant, that You, the Almighty God, would be mindful of Me. Mindful, mind you, not a passing glimpse or occasional thought. But in God’s mind, planning, designing, laying forth, creating, redeeming, breathing life into, giving of His own Spirit, and providing for eternity. “Who am I?” It is so humbling. How arrogant and disrespectful it is of man to treat his thoughts of God in a casual or selfish manner.
It seems all my life I have had my children in mind in that I wanted to provide for them, for their future. In their early years that primarily consisted of a good education, moral upbringing, and a life insurance policy on myself…if something should happen to me, they would not be completely destitute. And now, they are grown. I relate to them and plan for them differently. Aside from thoughts and prayers, and a blessing here and there, it seems the contributions I make into their daily lives are less. It seems that “family consciousness” for them is taken to a new level with families of their own. In terms of planning, I think about an inheritance to bless them. They have done nothing to earn such, but it is in my heart and mind to do so. I am mindful of them. To bless them will bring much pleasure to my heart. I know all will trickle down into the family. This is the kind of grace to which the Spirit of adoption belongs. It is in the heart and mind of God, but is usward.
Chapter one of Ephesians is rich in describing such grace, but for brevity let us only consider a few verses:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms. For He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His presence. In love He predestined us for adoption as His sons through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the Beloved One.” Eph. 1.3-6
Since the beginning of time the Father has determined that His unmerited favor towards creation would be wrapped up in His Son, Jesus Christ. Whatsoever, or more so whosoever, be found in Christ is also found to be a benefactor of that grace. Whatever or whoever is outside of Christ is not a benefactor of this grace. Adoption, or sonship, belongs to this realm of His grace.
We, the believers, are clearly the object of such blessings:
Who has blessed us
He chose us
He predestined us
He freely gave us (grace)
But in every case it is Christ who modifies the action of God and is the focus:
Who has blessed us…in Christ
He chose us…in Him
He predestined us…through Jesus Christ
He freely gave us (grace)…in the Beloved
We become that object of selection when we are found in Him. After all, He is the chosen one. Scripture declares, “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed.” Gal. 3.1 In other words, the promises were made to one, Abraham, and then to all that were in Abraham, that is, of his seed. The intention was, that all the generations that followed, that were born of his seed, inherited the promises because they were in Abraham when the promises were made. The Old Testament understanding of this oath of God was that Abraham’s seed would inherit the promises of being a great nation and having a land of their own. They would be a kingdom on this earth. This earthly promise was fulfilled under King David and King Solomon.
However, a further enlightenment of this promise came in the New Testament and Christ. This promise became spiritual. The full scripture reads, “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as referring to many, but rather to one, ‘And to your Seed,’ that is, Christ.” Gal. 4.16 Jesus was born physically on this earth of the seed of Abraham, and spiritually of the seed of God. The promises of God would be fulfilled in Christ. Many can understand of the seed of Abraham (and specifically of David [Rm. 1.3]), for that is natural to man’s understanding. But much fewer understand the spiritual seed that is in Christ and how believers, true believers, are actually born of this spiritual seed, in Christ, “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” 1 Pet. 1.23 It is so liberating to fully understand this.
So the emphasis here is on being in Christ. And that all grace is in Christ. Here, in Ephesians, we are merely focusing on the ultimate blessing and inheritance of that outward grace. All who are in Him, God predetermined (predestined) to be set in place (adoption) as sons (not children, but sons). To more fully explain this, God, in His wisdom and counsel, considers all those who are found in Christ to an inheritance in the Kingdom of His Son and an heir in the family of God. All who are truly in Christ have also all the rights and privileges, both morally and legally, of the Kingdom of God and the family of God. So, we have been predestined, not just to heaven, but to a life in the Kingdom and family of God that involves exceedingly above all we can ask or think in terms of life, fellowship and service. Our destiny is not heaven, but a far greater life in Christ Jesus.
If the realization of being born of God unto eternal life in Christ our Lord is glorious, how much more glorious will be the manifestation of the sons of God, in the Day of the Lord.
Manifestation of the Sons of God
“I consider that our present sufferings are not comparable to the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the manifestation (revelation) of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not by its own will, but because of the One who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until the present time. Not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved; but hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he can already see? But if we hope for what we do not yet see, we wait for it patiently.” Rm. 8.18-25
It is common to believe that the expected manifestation of the sons of God is intended to be the coming of a time on this earth when the Church finally comes into maturity and its believers will be manifested as the sons of God, bringing light and revelation to the world, and thereby setting the stage for the return of our Lord. One may come to this understanding if individual verses are read alone, taking them out of context to the whole of the chapter. However, when considering these verses in context with the surrounding verses, their setting paints a different picture.
Clearly, the focus of these passages is on the second coming of our Lord, the Parousea, when there will be the resurrection, the redemption of our bodies. This is the consummation of our salvation when redemption is complete: spirit, soul, and body. It is written: “Now I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” 1 Cor. 15.50 O’ it is true, upon initial salvation believers do indeed enter the Kingdom of God, in part, even as Paul writes, “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial passes away” and “Now we see but a dim reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” 1 Cor. 13.9,10,12
For the sons of God to inherit the fullness of the Kingdom, the resurrection of the body must come first. “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” 1 Cor. 15.51-52 Please be patient with me as I synthesize these scriptures together in order to gain a fuller picture of the time of our resurrection. To what will these bodies be fashioned? It is answered, “Beloved, we are now children of God, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when Christ appears, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as Christ is pure.” 1 Jn. 3.2
O’ how glorious are these end times promises. It is the consummation of all things…the fullness of the Messianic Kingdom…the fullness of the Messianic family of God…the fullness of our inheritance…“And into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, reserved in heaven for you.” 1 Pet. 1.4 O’ let the mythical fables of eternity flee from your minds as a time of ethereal existence in a pleasant abode and press for the reality of function and purpose in an eternal kingdom, eternal family, in a new heaven and new earth. (Rev. 21.1)
“And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as Christ is pure.”
Beloved, we are now children of God, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when Christ appears,a we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is. 3And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as Christ is pure. 1 Jn. 3.2