“God has destined us to be adopted as His own beloved children through Christ Jesus because it pleased Him to do so. Through this He has displayed His glorious loving kindness and graciously welcomed us into His favor through His beloved Son.” (1:5-6, paraphrased)
Paul borrows the analogy of adoption from the Roman way of life. If a man has no biological children, he might opt to adopt a child who will ultimately receive his inheritance. The term “adoption” (huiothesia) means “to place as a son or daughter.” Huoithesia is a legal term that describes the process whereby one is brought into a family and given the full status of a son. The adopted child is divested of all previous duties regarding his former family relationship and accepts new responsibilities and privileges. The concept of adoption is inseparably linked with grace and mercy, for the one who adopts a child is under no obligation to do so.
God determined before creation to send His only Son to save us. The goal of His primordial plan of salvation is our adoption as sons and daughters. To predestine means “to decide beforehand; to set bounds or limits.” God desires to adopt everyone, but everyone who accepts His offer does so of their own volition. Although His love extends to everyone, the Father is pictured as encircling those who love Him. Membership in His Church is restricted to those who put faith in Christ. Adoption brings one who was estranged and enslaved into God’s own family. The Believer thus passes from alienation from God into kinship with Him.
Paul informs the Galatians sonship is secured for all Believers by Christ’s atonement (Gal. 4:5). Through regeneration we become members of God’s kingdom and by adoption we become members of His family. Earthly parents who adopt a child are powerless to impart their own nature into him. However, every Believer inherits not only Christ’s blessings but His own character as well. Adoption is the highest honor God can bestow, for intimacy with Him allows us to enjoy the love and tender care of our Heavenly Father. Christ’s atonement introduces a Believer to a new life while the Spirit of adoption makes him conscious of this wondrous new relationship. The Holy Spirit gives us the assurance and confidence to address God as our Father (Rom. 8:15). John exclaims, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God” (I Jn. 3:1).
God determinately adopts children into His family according to His good “pleasure” (eudokia), a term which indicates complete satisfaction. God’s plan regarding adoption delights Him because it perfectly expresses His beneficent character (Rev. 22:17).
God’s ultimate purpose for adopting sons and daughters is to manifest His magnanimity. This provides just cause for Believers to express gratitude for the grace He extends. Personal conversion is always accompanied by an awareness of such undeserved favor. We praise God for what He does that we may learn to praise Him for who He is. The phrase “He has made us accepted” means God has lavishly bestowed His mercy upon us. The richness of God’s abundant grace is a prominent idea throughout this epistle. His mercy is not abstract and theoretical, but real and accessible. His generosity leaves no room for human pride. Because no one can lay claim to His grace, no one has a right to complain about His plan.
We are made acceptable to God through the death of His Son. “Beloved” (agape) is the strongest Greek verb for love and is used here in reference to Jesus. The Father declares “this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” (Mt. 12:18). Agape does not express emotion but rather a focused determination to seek the welfare of another. The incarnation of Christ is the most comprehensive statement of God’s grace and love. “The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (Jn. 1:17). God revealed his law through a man, but He revealed His love by becoming a Man.
Points to Ponder
1. How does the Father view those who are converted to Christ (II Cor. 6:18)?
2. What honor is bestowed upon us when we become converted (Gal. 3:26)?
3. By receiving Jesus, what does one become (John 1:12)?
4. What is promised to the children of God (Rom. 8:17)?
5. What does Jesus promise that Believers will be called (Luke 6:35)?
6. What attribute should characterize God’s children (I Pet. 1:14)?