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Sonship, part 22: Adoption is a legal investiture

Nov 26, 2012

In the previous journal entry, I closed with this statement: “Thus, while many can be adopted as the sons of God, there is a special adoption for those who are selected as the firstborn.” There is one further point to keep in mind as we proceed—and we will address it more later—but it is that Jacob selected or elected his firstborn.

Ephraim and Manasseh did not campaign for the position to get elected. It was entirely at the father’s discretion whom he would choose. So it is with our heavenly Father. He chooses whomever He wills as His firstborn. Let us now examine Galatians 4 once again, but begin here in chapter 3.

Galatians 3:29 And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

“Abraham’s seed.” Father Abraham had a number of offspring, didn’t he? He had Ishmael, then Isaac, then six sons through his wife, Keturah. But only through Isaac was the great inheritance given and passed down.

Galatians 4:28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.

29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.

30 Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.

31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.

Galatians 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

2 Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.

An important debate was going on in the very early church about whether new believers had to be physically circumcised in order to be saved. (They do not.) But Paul puts all this in the context of being an heir of the promise. What promise? Well, what does the Scripture say was promised to Abraham and would therefore be inherited by the sons of Isaac? Paul tells us in Romans 4.

Romans 4:13 For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.

Hey, now that’s nothing to sneeze at, is it? That is quite an inheritance. It makes a Rockefeller or Rothschild inheritance look smaller than a pimple on an elephant. I believe that this inheriting the world for the Isaac-sons, the Saxons, is a material and a physical inheritance, to be sure; but it is certainly more than that, in that it has its primary emphasis in establishing righteousness throughout the world by means of God’s law.

Galatians 4:1 Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all;

Paul is writing to Galatians, people with Greek culture and language, but who are under Roman law and political jurisdiction, and so here he begins to incorporate the ideas of adoption from the Greco-Roman world into his teaching here—and remember, it is basically the same adoption concept as was the custom of the patriarchs.

Paul talks about an heir, who is “lord of all,” but yet he is a child. Question: Does that mean that the child is now in charge of the inheritance? ….Or does it mean merely that the inheritance is something that his father owns which will be the child’s at some time in the future?

The context makes it clear that the latter is the case: the estate belongs to the father, but it’s a done deal that it will be the child’s at some point in the future. The Greek word there for child is Strong’s #3516
nh,pioj nepios {nay’-pee-os} which means 1) an infant, little child 2) a minor, not of age 3) metaph. childish, untaught, unskilled. This is precisely the proper word because Paul now goes on to say that this child, this nepios,…

2 [But] is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.

So even though one can speak of the inheritance as belonging to the child now, it is understood that it does not become a full and present reality until a certain time which is determined by the father. I understand that according to the Roman custom, the son would be in his early twenties, perhaps 23 to 25 years of age before the adoption usually took place.

One might wonder: “Why does he need to adopt his son? He is already his son.” The answer is that the “adoption” was a legal ceremony whereby the father formally invested his son with the power of attorney. It was a legal proclamation whereby the father took his child, who is now a mature son, and the father places him as his intimate confidant in all his affairs.

He gives this son the power and authority to act in the place of the father. The son was no longer a nepios, no longer an immature teenager; he was fully matured to the point where the father could entrust him with all the father’s business.

The son was already the physical offspring of the father, so this adoption clearly is about a legal change of status. Is this ringing any bells in terms of the life of Jesus? Recall when Jesus was 12 years old and his parents could not find him for three days. Then, when they finally located him in the temple—where he was amazing the learned doctors of law with His divine brilliance of thought—what did Jesus say to His parents?:

Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business? (Luke 2:49)

Jesus never sinned, of course, but was the lad Jesus so eager to do his Father’s business that He jumped the gun and tried to start before it was time? That’s speculative, but we do know that Jesus did go back with His parents and was subject unto them.

Even if He were jumping the gun, would it have been a sin? Of course not! What divine law would have been transgressed? None that I can think of. Later on, we know for sure that it was time to do the Father’s business. This began at His baptism in the river Jordan (Matthew 3) because at that time, the Father spoke from heaven and said:

This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

We can now understand this verse from the standpoint that this declaration by the Father was an investiture ceremony? Again, later, at the transfiguration (Matthew 17), it was recorded:

This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.

Investiture: the Father is saying Jesus has My power of attorney. In other words, Jesus had arrived at that appointed time where the Father declared that He is a mature son and He is prepared to do the work I sent him to do. Back to Galatians 4—where Paul now goes on to remind the Galatian believers of their condition and potential status.

3 Even so we, when we were children [nepios], were in bondage under the elements of the world:

4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,

5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

There is one Greek word for the whole phrase “adoption of sons.” The word is huiothesia. Do you see the word huios in there? The “s” is dropped and it is combined with thesia. Together it literally means “son-placing.” Remember huios is the Greek word which refers to a mature son, as opposed to teknon or teknion, a child or teenager.

So to review—this “adoption of sons” concept is referring to a ceremony or an appointed time when the Father invests His mature son with the power of attorney to act in all His affairs. Unlike our modern custom and understanding of “adoption,” this adoption has nothing to do with being an orphan or a child from a previous marriage and being adopted into someone else’s family.

It is a legal proclamation: “This is my beloved son; hear ye him; because He has my power of attorney. He will act on My behalf because He will say and do exactly as I would do. I have placed this son in my position.” (To be continued.)

Category: Teaching