Adoption Children of God – Romans 8:23-27

Even the believers look forward to their redemption, knowing that they have not been fully glorified at this point in their lives. Paul refers to himself and his Christian readers as the “firstfruits of the Spirit” (v. 22-23). This could refer to the first people who have received the Holy Spirit since the New Age has begun. For those of us living “between the ages” we are the early part of the harvest which will be fully seen only when the kingdom finally arrives.

Adopted by GodIt is clear from the book of Romans that Christ’s death on the cross has full we purchased salvation, and that those who are in Christ are justified, and experience peace with God at the present time. However we have yet to be glorified. So by describing the Christians as “first fruit” he calls to mind the fact that the first fruit of the harvest is only a foreshadowing, or a sample of the harvest to come

Paul uses adoption as a metaphor for salvation. Adoption is one of the key metaphors for salvation in Paul’s letters. Although it does not get the attention that justification gets, in Romans 8 it is clearly the dominant image. Adoption was well known in the Roman world. A person may choose to adopt an heir to replace their own child in order to maintain inheritance. The best example of course is the Roman emperor. Julius Caesar adopted Octavian as heir. A child who is chosen for adoption cannot be disowned, and often the child was adopted as an adult. They are given all of the rights and responsibilities of a natural child.

One can be adopted legally as a child of God, but until we are glorified in the future resurrection, we are not fully adopted into the family. Although we are the legal heirs, we have not yet come into our inheritance. By way of analogy, a child may inherit millions of dollars in a trust fund, but because of the terms of the will they do not have full access to their inheritance until they turn twenty-one. But the child may have access to some of the inheritance, an allowance for living expenses managed, etc.

There is therefore a certainty in our hope of a full inheritance in in the future when we experience resurrection and glorification. Legally we are the heirs, but we are not actually in possession of the full inheritance at this point in time. But are there elements of that future inheritance we have now, as adopted children of God? What are these benefits?

6 thoughts on “Adoption Children of God – Romans 8:23-27

  1. This topic of Paul’s metaphor of adoption is extremely interesting and important to me. I am actually writing my course paper on this very topic, and I just recently completed my Short Paper #3 assignment on this theological topic of the Apostle Paul as well. I feel informed on this topic, and I thoroughly enjoy learning about it.

    First and foremost, the metaphor of adoption that Paul uses in Romans 8 is extremely powerful, and I believe that all Christians and believers should understand this metaphor and the impact it carries. Moreover, it is important to note that Paul actually incorporates this adoption metaphor in five different places in his letters to the Church(es). For example, he mentions adoption in the lives of believers in Galatians, as well as Ephesians. Something that caught my attention from this blog post was your claim that Paul’s adoption metaphor is a dominant image in the book of Romans, but it does not always get the same attention as justification. Christians and believers are very familiar with theological terms such as propitiation, justification, reconciliation, redemption, sanctification, etc., but this theological term of adoption does not always get the same kind of attention. Paul makes it extremely clear that this metaphor of adoption signifies the relationship between a believer and God. Therefore, it is evident that this metaphor carries unmistakable weight and importance. So, why does this term not get the same attention as the other theological terms? Though I do not know the exact answer, I studied an article that called for a greater appreciation for this metaphor of adoption that Paul uses in his letters (Longenecker, 2014). I second this notion that this metaphor of adoption needs to be recognized more and given more appreciation.

    Secondly, I strongly believe that this status of adoption in Christ carries results and benefits for Christians. As this post states, those who are adopted into the family of God are considered heirs to the inheritance/kingdom (Romans 8:17). This is definitely a benefit. Another benefit is a sense of peace in knowing that the inheritance of God is in your future. Romans 8:17 mentions that sufferings can come from this adopted status, but God’s glory will come as well. Lastly, Romans 8:15 teaches that the Spirit can help us avoid fear of slavery. This is another benefit of our adopted state in Christ. Clearly, benefits are present. In this adopted state, Christians are able to experience God in a relational way. This is life changing and transformative. Christians must embrace this adopted status and state in Christ because it changes one’s life. As Paul teaches, sufferings may come, but so will the inheritance of the kingdom of God.

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  2. I love the metaphor of adoption that Paul uses, it is as easy as it was then to understand as it is today. The universal and transcendent metaphor carries a lot of weight and says a lot about what it means to be a child of God. We are adopted but have not yet received our inheritance, as was mentioned, this inheritance being eternity with Jesus in heaven. Although we haven’t received this yet we can see snippets of it in our everyday lives. We have a relationship with Christ because of his sacrifice, we can come to him at any time and talk with him, to me this is one of the rewards we receive before our ultimate reward. Another glimpse into our future is our spiritual gifts that we have been given, these gifts exemplify who we are in Christ and are just a sliver of what our gifts will be like in heaven. Being one of God’s children comes with many benefits, we receive bits and pieces of our ultimate prize along the way.

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  3. Adoption has a special place in my heart because of all the people in my life who have been adopted. My cousin was adopted from China and I can not imagine what our family would be like without her. My best friend’s brother also adopted and she was a huge answer to prayer. My late boss has adopted three kids and among their own five, they created an amazing family. Each of these families may be different in ways but they are all the same in choosing to adopt. I think that is a big aspect of adoption, the choice God chose us to be his children, it is our job to choose Him. As his heirs, we have a responsibility to live like it. We also have an inheritance, although we can not receive our full inheritance here on earth we can see signs of our future inheritance. Some ways we can see our future inheritance is through the fruit we produce, like P. Long, mentions above Paul says we are the firstfruits of the Spirit (v. 22-23). Well in order to be the firstfruits it would be beneficial to produce good fruit with the help of the Holy Spirit. Through our presentation of good fruit, we can stand out among others and spread God’s truth. We also have hope here on earth because of Jesus. We can have hope and a purpose here on earth because of our future inheritance.

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  4. This is a very interesting concept that I haven’t really looked that much into before. I was unaware of the history of adoption that you described and it is quite similar to our adoption in Christ. It is true that when you have inherited something, you may not receive all of the benefits of that inheritance all at once. The main benefit as Christians receiving this inheritance is our place in heaven and it is a great question asking what the benefits are that we receive in the meantime. As adopted children of God, we receive so many blessings! With our faith in Jesus Christ, we have received the Holy Spirit which guides us, helps us discern right from wrong, and keeps us in close relationship with God. With the Holy Spirit living manifested within us, we have also received the Fruit of the Spirit.

    “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:11-14).

    I’m not certain whether the question is directed towards our inheritance in heaven or what else we recieve along with that. If it is directed towards our citizenship in heaven, right now we have hope on earth, knowing that we will be with Jesus after death and that we will have eternal life.

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  5. The idea of adoption has always been one that I did not quite understand and was hard for me to comprehend. I have always been within a family, and my family never split. In that way, it is hard to understand the feeling of being completely abandoned and unwanted by others and being brought into a family of love and acceptance. However, in the Greco-Roman era, this idea would have been greatly understood because of the rules that went along with the adoption of a child, such as not being able to be disowned, and being given the same rights and tasks as the other children (P Long). However, the main thing that I believe can be applied to my life is the idea of waiting patiently for an inheritance and looking forward to the day when I can receive it. When I was new to the faith, (and when speaking to those who are new believers), I believed that when I accepted Christ my problems would be gone, and I would no longer be as tempted because of the Holy Spirit – that everything would be perfect; this is simply not the case. In Romans 8:22 it describes how creation, “has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now” (ESV). Even creation is eagerly awaiting the renewed relationship with God, as it was in the beginning; but we must wait for the right time. Longenecker touches on the idea of God’s relationship with creation as well, describing God as “the creator God who, in a sense, wants his creation back” (Longenecker & Still, 2014, p. 186). In the same way that creation is longing to be reunited with God in perfect harmony, and God desires a renewed relationship with his creation, we as Christians long for the inheritance that we will receive after death. Many times, I catch myself complaining about the pain of my day, or the stress of life; many times, I have thought that it would be nice to be able to live in a world free of pain, and how glorious it will be to dwell in heaven. My family members who have lost parents, siblings, and children long for the day when they will be reunited with their loved ones and will have overwhelming joy rather than sorrow. However, as Paul describes it in Philippians chapter 1 how he would much rather depart from this earth and dwell in heaven but knows that he is needed here on earth. (Philippians 1:23-24). In the same way, it is good that we desire our inheritance as those who were adopted in Biblical times did, however; as Paul, we need to continue to remain focused on the job that we have been given by God to accomplish here on the earth first.

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  6. In my experience on this topic of Romans has been heavily debated. But I have never seen this view on the topic of adoption. The idea here is that it’s like we have been adopted and therefore we have an inheritance waiting for us in heaven, are there some aspects of this idea that we have access to now?
    I honestly can’t think of any facts of how we have already inherited some parts of our inheritance, but I do know that once we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, we have been justified, we are made righteous. The next step is that we have been set apart by being made holy. The obvious benefit to this adoption is the inheritance waiting for us in heaven, but as of right now, we have the holy spirit who has been given to us according to Romans 5:1-5.
    In my own experience on the topic of adoption, people were able to influence me into thinking the idea of adoption was about the idea that God has adopted only a certain amount of people that will go to heaven. This idea of adoption could still apply to how there is an elect people who have an inheritance waiting for them. I honestly don’t have much knowledge on this topic

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