"Adoption is that privilege, bestowed upon those who are united with Christ, and justified by faith, by which they are admitted into the family of God, adopted as his children, and made joint heirs with his own Son."^[1]^

Although it has legal connotations, adoption is distinguished from justification.

It is also distinguished from regeneration. While regeneration refers to being spiritually reborn into the family of God, the concept of adoption refers to being included in a family one was not born into. It is essentially relational.

Through adoption, we relate to God the Father as our Father-Savior, to Jesus as our brother and co-heir and fellow sufferer, and to the Spirit as our leader and pledge (or "down payment") of our inheritance in Christ.


Old Testament background

William E. Brown writes in Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology:

"The adoption metaphor was not lost to Israel, however. God declares that he is the Father of the nation Israel, whom he loves as his child (Isa 1:2; Hosea 11:1). He tells Pharaoh, 'Israel is my firstborn son' (Exod 4:22). More specifically, he says to David (and the Messiah), "You are my son; today I have become your Father" (Psalm 2:7); and of David's descendant, "I will be his father, and he will be my son" (2 Sa 7:14). Although not precisely adoption passages, the instances of declared sonship in the Old Testament provide a theological foundation for Israel's designation as the children of God."^[2]^

Key New Testament passages

John 1:11-13 - Not of natural birth or the will of man, but of God

"He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." (ESV)

Ephesians 1:4b-6 - Believers were individually predestined for adoption

"In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved." (ESV)

Galatians 4:4-7 - Because we are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts

"But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God." (ESV)

Romans 8:14-23 - By the Spirit we cry, 'Abba! Father!'

"For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, 'Abba! Father!' The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies." (ESV) Verse 23 shows that there is "an eschatological component of adoption... The full revelation of the believer's adoption is freedom from the corruption present in the world. Being a member of God's family includes the ultimate privilege of being like him (1 Jo 3:2) and being conformed to the glorious body of Christ (Phil. 3:21). This is part of the promised inheritance for all God's children (Ro 8:16-17)."^[2]^

Hebrews 12:5-11 - God disciplines every son for their good

"And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? 'My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.' It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." (ESV)

See also


  • Adopted into God's Family: Exploring a Pauline Metaphor, by Trevor J. Burke (IBSN 0830826238)
  • Adopted by God: From Wayward Sinners to Cherished Children, by Robert A. Peterson (IBSN 0875524656)


  1. ADOPTION at
  2. ↑ ^2.0^ ^2.1^ Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology.