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?

13 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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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

  7. I think that we don’t realize how incredible an honor and privilege it is that God adopted us into his family. I think the idea of adoption that we have here in America, has a bit of a different idea than the Romans did. It seems that the ways that the Romans viewed it, gives so much more valuable to understand what it meant when God chose us as His children. For the Romans, they were choosing who would become heirs, not just to be a part of the family. Also, as stated above, adoption often happened when they were adults. Just like us, God knew and created us, and he knows everything that we would do (Psalm 139:16), all wrongs included, and He still chose us. I feel like this just shows how much He truly loves and desires a relationship with us. He knows every move we are going to make and good and bad, and He still says yes. As stated in previous chapters, we will face suffering as believers, but it is also a part of receiving our glory. “We cannot expect to share in his glory if we do not share in his suffering” (Moo, 120). Even though we will suffer, knowing that we are chosen should be one of our driving forces and joy that we use when we face suffering.

  8. The metaphor that Paul uses is one that was easily understood by the people of his time. And yet it is a metaphor that is still understood in our own time. For those who have accepted Christ they have been adopted by the Father, and are now his heirs. In the case of adoption, the child or person that has been adopted cannot be disowned by the Father. In ancient Rome, adoption was a common practice. One reason for its common use, was to carry on a family name. What happens to your family name, possessions after you die? Usually your possessions are passed down to your children, and your name would continue on through your children. But in the case of no heirs Roman’s would adopt children to carry on their legacy. Even grown men could be adopted and brought into a family. And they would receive all the rights as a legitimate child. This was the case for Julius Caesar, who adopted Octavian who would later become Caesar. Even if someone had legitimate children, to carry on the family line. A child or a man could be brought into the family and be given the inheritance. “We are already God’s children adopted into his family, but we are not yet his children in the full sense. We do not yet perfectly manifest our Father’s character or share in all the blessings he bestows on his family (Moo pg. 122).”

  9. I understand Pauls metaphor for adoption and the idea that legally we are heirs to God’s glory we are not yet adopted into the family. My wife and I adopted our son and even though we brought him home from the hospital and were taking care of him we still had a process to go through in which to fully adopt Rylee. The same things happens to us when we accept Christ into our heart and acknowledge him as savior have started the adoption process. Paul throughout Romans acknowledges the struggle that humans have in staying away from sin and Jesus says in John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Even though we have been adopted by God there are still struggles we must go through that are meant to bring us into a closer relationship with God which is part of the process of metaphor Paul is talking about

  10. Using the metaphor of adoption to describe the justification we as Christian’s receive when putting our faith in Christ was one of the biggest reasons, I found my way to Christ. Growing up, I was an only child to a single mother. Although my mom did an extremely good job in raising me with the resources she could, I was always missing the aspect of a father figure in my life. When hearing that Jesus wanted to adopt us in a church service I went to with my family, I was instantly intrigued because the way the pastor described Jesus as a father figure and how he was forgiving, loving, and would never leave your side or forsake you, really appealed to me because of my deep desire for having that father figure in my life. In Romans 8:23 Paul explains that “Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope, we were saved.” When Phil Long explains that Paul uses this metaphor of adoption in Christ often in his letters because of the constant adoption in the Roman world to maintain inheritance, It was clear that Paul used adoption because it was something of a never-ending problem – the concept of the metaphor would not change over time. The use of adoption in the Roman world by Paul is also a preview into what we receive as a gift when we are adopted as a child of God. 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” (Phil Long). For Christians we inherit the eternal life through Jesus Christ when we are adopted as children of Him.

  11. The idea of permanent adoption is perhaps one of the reasons that Paul was wrongly criticized for promoting a libertine ethic (Longenecker 183). If we are permanently adopted and eternally secure in Christ, then what motivation do we have for being loyal and obedient to God? Now that we’ve got what we want from Him, we can go off and live life however we want to without risking our eternal benefits. Of course, we do not make ourselves servants of Christ because we want salvation, but we make ourselves servants of Christ because we have a healthy fear and love of God and a subsequent desire to follow His commands. Of course, Paul also argues that we should not just continue sinning so that we may continue to receive God’s grace. The book of James also explains that no true faithful person is one who continues to live sinfully, and instead righteous living and the following of God’s commands is how we keep our faith alive and true.

    The future inheritance that God’s adopted children will earn is one common throughout the teachings of Jesus, as he often taught (such as in Matt 16:27, Matt 5:12, Matt 25:21, Luke 12:33-34, Matt 6:4, etc.) of the rewards which are awaiting us in heaven that we have earned through our righteous living on earth. This serves (although it probably shouldn’t) as motivation for us to live as close to God’s moral standard as we can manage, since we know that the treasures of earth are only temporary and the rewards for us in heaven will be eternal.

    I am still back-and-forth on the topic of eternal security, and though I would say that each case is different and it is possible for God to reject a true believer (such as in Revelation 22:18-19, where those who add or take away from John’s eschatological revelation will have their share in the “tree of life and in the holy city” taken away, implying that they did indeed have salvation, as you cannot take away something that someone does not already have), though there are perhaps other cases where a believer apostatizes and it is perhaps true that they were never a “true believer” in the first place. Romans 8 does seem to lend good support to the idea that generally a believer cannot lose their salvation, but I do not think this applies to all cases. Just as with ancient adoption, they generally weren’t disowned, but that doesn’t mean it never happened.

  12. The idea of adoption has always been something that I find very interesting as I was adopted. It really sticks out to me how we are pulled from our old life and brought into a new life. Like it talks about in Galatians 4 how we were redeemed under the law and adopted as sons. Longenecker briefly mentioned how Jesus paid the ultimate cost for our adoption. The biggest thing that I find very interesting is how we as sinners “belong to the world” and then when we are adopted, we fully belong to God, and he loves us as His own. Like my experience, biologically I am not related to my family but the moment I was adopted I was just as much a part of the family as my three siblings who are biological. I wasn’t treated as though I was different or less important than my siblings. In the same way, God doesn’t show any type of favoritism (Romans 2:11). We are all God’s children adopted into His family upon salvation. We have been granted eternal life upon salvation though we will not experience that on this earth. Like the post said we have not gained our full inheritance yet. We are legally adopted but because we have not yet been glorified with him we are not fully adopted into His family.

  13. Believers can look at this as an idea that we have been adopted by Christ as an heir. Culturally speaking, to adopt a new heir was a familiar practice and if there was no one to take the heir they could not have a blood relative. God makes it clear that we are His children and even though He is not our earthly father He still looks at us as His own. The metaphor of being adopted is related to not being a legal heir but a chosen one. God chose us as His child. At this point we do not have the full inheritance that we will one day receive in Heaven. That is, God willing, we choose to live a life for God and have our salvation in Christ. As adopted children of Christ we have the gift of the Holy Spirit and we have the honor of living our life for Christ. When one lives for Christ we have the benefits of a personal relationship with Christ, God’s peace, security after death, and more. There are elements that we have now that just look differently. By knowing God and being adopted by Him that does not mean our life will be easy. Knowing Christ does not mean you have an easy life, but we do have Him with us at all times.

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