…in love He predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will…
Paul was basing his understanding of spiritual adoption upon that of the Romans. In the Roman household, family life was based upon “patria potestas” (the father’s power). The father had absolute authority in the home. A Roman historian, Dio Cassius, wrote: “the law of the Romans gives a father absolute authority over his son, and that for the son’s whole life. It gives [the father] authority, if he so chooses, to imprison [his son], to scourge him, to make him work on his estate as a slave in [chains], even to kill him. The right still continues to exist even if the son is old enough to play an active part in the political affairs, even if he has been judged worthy to occupy the magistrate’s office, and even if he is held in honor by all men.” To be adopted into one’s family was a serious issue.
If adoption was going to take place, the biological father and the new adopted father would gather together for a ceremony (you know those Romans – can’t do anything without pomp and ceremony :)). The biological father would use pieces of copper and a scale and symbolically sell and buy back the child two times. On the third time, he would sell the child but could never buy him back again. Afterwards the new adopted father would plead the adoption case before a magistrate and only then would the adoption be final. It is said that the individual who was adopted had all the rights of a legitimate son in the new family and completely lost all his rights in his old family. In the eyes of the law, he was a brand new person. So new in fact, that even his previous debts and obligations associated with his previous family were abolished as if they never existed.
Do you see the tremendous depth this has for us as adopted children of God? We were living under the thumb, rule, and power of death, darkness and sin. But we have been adopted in as sons (and daughters) of God. All our debts and obligations under death and sin have been abolished and we have become an entirely new person (see 2 Corinthians 5.17). The old “family” (death, darkness, sin) no longer has rights to our lives for we are legitimate children in our new family! Not only that but patria potestas still comes into play. Our Father has full rights and authority over our lives, and not just until we become “mature adults” but for as long as we live. It is our loving Father who has complete say in our lives.
Here are a couple additional considerations about our adoption.
- We have been adopted out of death and into life (see Ephesians 2.1-6)
- This is not merely a transactional experience. This was not signed on a dotted line but rather sealed with blood. This wasn’t a mere relationship but one of intimacy and oneness – our Father not only adopted us but lives within us, sourcing us with His life. This is not about biological differences as in human adoption – He changes every aspect of our lives, even our DNA so as He sources our lives, we begin to look, think, and act like Him (taking on His characteristics).
- We have all the rights and privileges as true sons (daughters). Everything Jesus had access to (the indwelling life of the Father) we have access to! We can live how we’re suppose to live! We can have victory in every area of our lives!
One last thought. The entire adoption process was because of His good pleasure and will. The Greek word literally means to take delight, have desire, one’s internal will, pleasure and satisfaction. From the internals of who God is, there arose a passionate desperation to have you in intimacy a part of His family. Before time began, He had you on His mind and He dreamed, planned and determined (predestined) to have you adopted in … then He made the way. All you have to do is say yes and go home with your Daddy.
Oh what delight fills this adopted kid’s heart!