"But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba! Father!' Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God." (Galatians 4:4-7)
This lesson is the fourth and final lesson in the series about the "Children of God" (Ref. 1, Ref. 2, Ref. 3). This article explains the nature and benefits of our adoption as children of God. This article also describes the Roman adoption process. If you are not sure that you are a child of God, please refer first to the article, "Becoming a Child of God" (John 1:12-13, Ref. 1).
Consider. As an adopted child of God, how would you describe your relationship with your heavenly Father? What do you consider to be the benefits of being a child of God?
Definition. Let's begin by examining the definition of adoption. The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary defines adopt as "to take by choice into a relationship, especially: to take voluntarily (a child of other parents) as one's own child" (Ref. 4).
The Greek word for adoption in the New Testament is huiothesia (Ref. 5). The word huiothesia is a combination of two words, hyiós ("son") and títhēmi ("to place") – "properly, sonship (legally made a son); adoption" (Ref. 5). The word adoption (huiothesia) occurs five times in the New Testament (Romans 8:15, Romans 8:23, Romans 9:4, Galatians 4:5, Ephesians 1:5, Ref. 5).
Roman Adoption - Process. In ancient Rome, adoption of boys was a fairly common procedure, particularly in the upper senatorial class (Ref. 6). Every senator's duty was to produce sons to inherit the estate, family name, and political tradition. Roman families typically restricted their families to three children. For families with too many sons and the ones with no boys at all, adoption was the only solution (Ref. 6). Augustus, the first emperor of the Roman Empire, is possibly the most famous example of an adopted son in ancient Rome (Ref. 6, Luke 2:1).
In Roman society, accomplishing an adoption began with the process where the father sold his child to the adopting father twice and bought back his child twice. On the third sale of the child, the "selling" father did not buy back the child. The adopting father went to the Roman magistrate and made the case for the child to become part of his family and to be under his protection. When the magistrate approved, the adoption was complete (Ref. 7).
Roman Adoption - Benefits. William Barclay's Daily Study Bible (Ref. 7) describes below the benefits for the adopted person in ancient Rome.
Now let's turn our attention to the scriptures that the Apostle Paul wrote about the nature and benefits of our adoption as children of God.
God planned in advance for our adoption. Our adoption as God's children was God's idea and God's initiative. Paul wrote about God the Father, "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will ..." (Ephesians 1:4-5, italics added). The Greek word for predestine is proorizó, which means to pre-establish boundaries or to mark out beforehand (Ref. 10).
Our adoption as God's children is made possible through the redeeming work of God's Son, Jesus Christ. "But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons" (Galatians 4:4-5, italics added). The Greek word for redeem is exagorazó, which means buy away from, purchase out from, or rescue from (Ref. 11).
The redeeming work of Christ has provided us (who believe in him) these benefits:
Apply. In prayer, thank God for planning for your adoption and reaching out to redeem you through the saving work of His Son, Jesus Christ. Thank God for giving you his blessings and favor as a child of God. Thank God for providing you an inheritance - eternal life.
7. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/romans-8.html (public domain)
"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16)
"Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him." (1 John 5:1)
"The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God" (Romans 8:16)
This lesson is the third lesson in the series, "The Children of God" (Ref. 1, Ref. 2). This lesson is the second of two lessons on the Characteristics of a Child of God (Ref. 2). To learn more about "Becoming a Child of God," please review Ref. 1.
Consider. If someone asked you to describe the characteristics of a child of God, what would you say?
A child of God illumines others with the light of Christ. Jesus Christ himself is the light of the world (John 1:9, John 8:12). When Jesus said to his disciples, "You are the light of the world" (Matthew 5:14), Jesus described their (our) role to shine with his light, the light of Christ, upon the world. The light of Christ that we shine enlightens people and leads them to salvation and eternal life. When we are a child of God, we share the light of Christ upon the world effectively because the Holy Spirit indwells us and empowers us (John 14:16-17, Acts 1:8, Ref. 3).
A child of God should have the proper motive in doing good works. Jesus said, "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16, italics added). We are to avoid doing good deeds for ostentatious ("look at me") purposes. Jesus criticized people who do good works to bring praise to themselves rather than to God (Matthew 6:1-6). Our motive as a child of God should always be to glorify God, not ourselves.
A child of God must love all people.
The Greek word for love in these verses above is agapaó, which means to have a preference for, wish well to, regard the welfare of (Thayer's Greek Lexicon, Ref. 4).
A child of God has the witness of the Spirit. The Apostle Paul writes, "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Romans 8:16). The Greek word for bears witness with is summartureó which means to testify jointly, i.e. corroborate by (concurrent) evidence (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, Ref. 5). When we are born of God, the Holy Spirit jointly testifies with our human spirit that God is our heavenly Father and that we are his child (Romans 8:15, Ref. 6 below).
A child of God should be alert (watchful) and sober (free from illusion). The Apostle Paul begins 1 Thessalonians chapter 5 with "Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night" (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2). Then Paul says, "But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day ..." (1 Thessalonians 5:4-5, italics added).
Paul then states a characteristic of children of God, "so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober" (1 Thessalonians 5:6, italics added.) As a child of God:
Apply. In self-examination, consider each of the characteristics of a child of God covered in this lesson.
In the next, and final, lesson in this series, we will discuss the nature and benefits of our adoption as children of God.
6. Kenneth S. Wuest, "Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament," Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1973
"You will know them by their fruits." (Matthew 7:16)
"By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother." (1 John 3:10)
"For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God." (Romans 8:14)
This lesson is the second in a series on "The Children of God." The first lesson in the series discussed "Becoming a Child of God" (Ref. 1). Today's lesson is the first of two lessons on the Characteristics of a Child of God.
Consider. The Bible describes the children of God as having certain characteristics. How do you know a child of God when you see one? What are the distinguishing marks of a child of God?
A child of God bears spiritual fruit. A child of God passes the fruit test. Jesus said, "You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?" (Matthew 7:16) A child of God is recognized by the fruit that he or she bears.
Jesus said that in order to bear much fruit, we must abide in (remain in, stay connected to) him. "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing " (John 15:5, Ref. 2). Bearing spiritual fruit is the natural outgrowth of being attached to the vine, Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit as "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23).
The first characteristic of a child of God is a person who is bearing spiritual fruit.
A child of God practices obedience, righteousness, and godliness.
A child of God is led by the Spirit. When we are a child of God, the Holy Spirit is our guide for life (Romans 8:14). The Holy Spirit guides us into all the truth and helps us understand the scriptures (John 16:13, John 14:26, Ref. 6). The Holy Spirit helps us to put to death the deeds of the flesh (Romans 8:13). The Holy Spirit guides us in making decisions (James 1:5), what to do (Acts 10:19-20), and where to go (Acts 16:6-10). A child of God has an active, dynamic relationship with God, and follows the leading of the Holy Spirit in his/her life.
Apply. Are you exhibiting the distinguishing characteristics of a child of God? Consider the main points in this lesson:
In the next lesson, we will continue our study of the Characteristics of a Child of God.
"But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:12-13 NKJV)
This lesson explains that becoming a child of God is both a starting point - when a person receives Christ - and a process of spiritual growth and maturity.
This lesson is the first in a series on "The Children of God."
Consider. What is the scriptural requirement for becoming a child of God? Are you experiencing growth and increasing maturity as a child of God?
Introduction. John begins his gospel writing about Jesus Christ. John describes Jesus as the "Word" (John 1:1), and as "life" (John 1:4). John describes Jesus as the "true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man" (John 1:9). Note the Greek word for man in this verse is anthrópos which means the human race including women and men (Ref. 1). Even though Jesus is the true Light, many people reject Jesus. John writes, "He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him" (John 1:11).
Becoming a child of God has a starting point - receiving Christ. John, writing about Jesus, begins verse 12 with the words, "But as many as received Him..." The Greek word for receive in John 1:12 is lambanó. Lambanó means to lay hold by aggressively (actively) accepting what is available (offered) (Helps WORD-studies, Ref. 2). In contrast to the great number of people who reject Christ, John writes that Jesus gives the right to become children of God to those who receive (accept) him. John explains in the last part of John 1:12 that we receive Christ when we believe in (trust in, have faith in) him (Figure 1).
Becoming a child of God also is a growth process. In addition to the starting point of when we receive Christ, becoming a child of God includes our growth process from spiritual infancy to spiritual adulthood (Figure 1). The Greek word for become in John 1:12 is ginomai, which means to transition from one point (realm, condition) to another. The word, become, implies motion, movement, or growth (Helps WORD-studies, Ref. 3). Becoming a mature child of God requires growth.
Growing, increasing in maturity, is key to authentic discipleship (Ref. 4).
Indeed, the Lord requires non-stop progress (development) in the life of faith (Ref. 4). The Apostle Peter writes, "Long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation" (1 Peter 2:2). Hebrews 5:13-14 states, "For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil." The Apostle Paul writes, "Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ" (Ephesians 4:15, italics added). BibleStudyTools says it well, "As you spend time in Scripture and pray, you will experience growth and blessings as you pursue righteousness!" (Ref. 5)
Becoming a child of God is a privilege. John writes "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:12). The Greek word for right is exousia. Exousia means privilege, authority, power, and right (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, Ref. 6). Becoming a child of God is a privilege far more so than being the child of any human being (Ref. 7). Jesus gives this favor, this privilege, to those who believe in his name (John 1:12). Becoming a child of God is God's blessing; it is not something we earn (Ephesians 2:8).
Becoming a child of God results when we are born of God, not because of our human lineage. Are all human beings created in the image of God? (Genesis 1:26) Yes. Are all human beings children of God? No, not in the reborn sense described in the Gospel of John. John describes the children of God, "Who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:13).
Jesus' opposers claimed they were descendants of Abraham and that God was their Father (John 8:39-41). Jesus, God's Son, told them, "If God were your Father, you would love Me" (Luke 1:31-35, John 8:42). Jesus also told them, "You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father" (John 8:44).
Some of us are blessed to have had parents who were Christians during their earthly lifetimes. However, we become children of God not because of our human lineage, or because our parents are Christians, but because of God's work in us. We must be born of God and believe in Jesus ourselves to become a child of God (John 1:13, John 3:3, Galatians 3:26).
Apply. Are you a child of God? If not, put your faith and trust in Christ. If you are a child of God, are you experiencing spiritual growth and increased spiritual maturity? Seek God's guidance through prayer and his word.
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