Of late I have been nudged by the Lord to re-examine the concept of adoption as it is used in the New Testament. Without the Hebrew background, most bible interpreters have approached adoption from a Roman idea. This has caused us a significant loss of biblical insight.
In Hebrew, the word adoption and its significance are like a Bar Mitsvah. It is a rite of passage, required to enter spiritual maturity and usefulness. This is clearly laid out in Paul’s letter to the Galatians 4:1-9. I went back to my source for the hermeneutical application in George MacDonald’s book, Creation In Christ.
C.S. Lewis said of MacDonald, “George MacDonald is the man most like Christ that I have ever encountered.” Digesting with new understanding MacDonald’s insight opened such an excitement within me that I decided to forward the entire article for your reward and spiritual nourishment. Here it is, from Creation in Christ:
Let us look at the passage where Paul reveals his use of the word adoption (Rom. 8:15). It is in other of his epistles, Galatians 4:1-7.
From the passage, it is as plain as St. Paul could make it, that, by the word translated adoption, he means the raising of a father’s own child from the condition of tutelage and subjection to others—a state which, he says, is no better than that of a slave—to the position and rights of a son. None but a child could become a son; the idea is, a spiritual coming of age; only when the child is a man is, he really, fully a son.
The thing holds in the earthly relation. How many children of good parents—good children in the main too—never know those parents, never feel towards them as children might, until, grown up, they have left the house—until, perhaps, they are parents themselves, or are parted from them by death. To be a child is not necessarily to be a son or daughter. The child-ship is the lower condition of the upward process towards the sonship, the soil out of which the true sonship shall grow, the former without which the latter were impossible.
God can no more than an earthly parent be content to have only children: He must have sons and daughters—children of His soul, of His spirit, of His love—not merely in the sense that they love like Him, love as He loves. For this He does not adopt them. He dies to give them Himself, thereby to raise His own to His heart. He gives them a birth from above; they are born again out of Himself and into Himself—for He is the one and all.
His children are not His real, true sons and daughters until they think like Him, feel with Him, judge as He judges, are at home with Him, and without fear before Him because He and they mean the same thing, love the same things, seek the same ends. Nothing will satisfy Him, or do for us, but that we be one with our Father. What else could serve. How else should life ever be a good. Because we are the sons of God, we must become the sons of God (George McDonald, Creation in Christ , edited by Rolland Hein, pgs. 129-130).
The insights MacDonald shares are especially timely as the pressures of our day are requiring an increasing level of maturity. Reread it, meditate on it, and let it penetrate your deepest person. Then take the time to read and re-read Gal. 4:1-9, asking the Holy Spirit to make the meaning clear and applicable to you. Try it in several different translations for greater clarity. It will strengthen your spiritual identity, which is the primary issue in all spiritual warfare.
Let us press on to maturity,