Sunday, August 28, 2011
Sunday Bible Study: The Adoption of Sons - A Historical Perspective
"To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons" Galatians 4.5.
In the modern world adoption is a complex, bureaucratic maze of paperwork, inspections, character and criminal checks. The most frequently heard word from adoptive parents-to-be is "frustrating."
In contrast, adoption in the Greek culture that Paul addresses in Galatians 4.5 was a simple, joyful celebration.
There were two basic methods of adoption in Greek society. In the first, a parent who could not keep a child or who did not want the child would take and place the child on the steps of the temple. If someone saw the child and desired to adopt him or her, he would pick up the child and say in a loud voice to all around, "This is my child. His name will be ___________. He will be my son. I will be his father. All that I have is his." He would then take the child home and have a great feast of rejoicing over his new son. Of course, children who were not adopted or taken to be raised as slaves in the temple died of exposure. So, this loving Father not only gave a child a home, he also saved his life.
We can easily see the similarities of our adoption as children of God. He saw us as orphans, dying in our sins. He reaches down to us and saves us, but not to be a slave but to be an heir.
The other way a man would adopt a child would be to take a slave, usually a young man who was a trusted servant. He would offer sonship to the slave. If the slave accepted, the father would choose a time for a feast and at the feast in the presence of all his neighbors and friends proclaim that this person who was his servant would no longer be a slave, but would be his son. In addition, some historians believe, that after this proclamation, the newly-adopted son would cry out "Abba, Father" (Abba literally means "Papa or Dad") and embrace his new father.
Notice verses 6 and 7 "Because you are sons God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ."
I don't know about you, but that causes me to sing and shout and dance a little. I who was once a slave to sin and headed toward death, am now made alive, but also I am made an heir of one who is much greater than any earthly nobleman. I am an heir of God and I am promised even greater things to come.
"Beloved, now we are the children of God and it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is." I John 3.2.
Even so, Come, Lord Jesus!