“To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” (Gal 4:5)
Most people understand the definition of the word “adoption” as is given by Webster in the first definition, which directs the attention to a physical relationship: “The act of adopting, or the state of being adopted; the taking and treating of a stranger as one’s own child.” However, the phrase the Apostle Paul used in our text verse, “the adoption of sons,” is very different than Webster’s first definition of the word “adoption.” (See Webster for full definition.) Paul speaks of adoption on the spiritual level, and not on the physical level. Physical adoption has to do with a physical relationship of “parent to child” of a child that is not born of the parent; but the parent-child relationship is established by the legal action of the US Court system of a male child or a female child to a permanent parent-child relationship.
Whereas, the spiritual “adoption” has to do with, not in establishing a “spiritual son-ship”; for this was done by God in Eternity past, in His choice of that person in Christ (see Eph. 1:4-11). But, it has to do with the past-chosen spiritual son in Christ, being revealed to this son of his position in time to God, by the Sovereign work of the Holy Spirit in Regeneration.
Paul explains this in Gal. 4:1-7. The spiritual adoption has to do with coming from the “infant” stage in knowledge (as Paul explained in verses 1-3) to a full knowledge of their son-ship in God: (Gal 4:3) “Even so we, when we were children (νήπιος- the English spelling is nēpios and the word is pronounced “nay’-pee-os”; which means an infant), were in bondage under the elements of the world (or we Paul said, were under the Law).” Paul uses the O.T. saints as being “infants” and “slaves” (δοῦλος – Eng. Spelling is doulos, pronounced doo’-los) as to knowledge under the Law of God. Paul said in (Gal 3:23-25) “But before faith came (or before Christ came), we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith (Christ, Who is The Faith) which should afterwards be revealed. (24) Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith( that by the work of Christ, Who is The Faith). (25) But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.” The Faith (or The Christ) has come and has made atonement for our sins on the cross; crucified, buried, and raised from the dead for “our justification” (Rom. 4:25).
Therefore, on the foundation of God’s choice of us in Christ before time began; and on the basis of our redemption and justification in the Atonement of Christ on the cross; then the Holy Spirit of God comes to the sons (infants, slaves) and regenerates them, which process brings the sons (infants, slaves) to the knowledge that they are “adult sons” (in knowledge of their son-ship in God). Paul calls this “adoption”; not that the sons (infants, slaves of Gal. 4:1-3) are then placed in the family God; but, the sons (infant, slaves) are given the Holy Spirit in regeneration. And thereby they are given the experiential knowledge of their son-ship in God, whereby they cry, “Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:14-16).
Paul also explains the truth of “adoption” in Gal 4:4-7: “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 (their school-master, or their guide), that we might receive the adoption of sons. (6) And because ye are sons (notice, you are already sons; but are infant in knowledge as to who you were in Christ), God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father (here Paul is speaking of regeneration; or some call it the New Birth John 3:1-8); (7) Wherefore thou art no more a servant (a servant (a slave), or an infant in knowledge of who you are), but a son (υἱός – uihos – hwee-os’; that is, you are no longer an infant in knowledge, now that you have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, but you are now an adult son in knowledge); and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”
Therefore, when noting the word “adoption” in Gal. 4:5, it is literally “a son-placing”; not as to giving spiritual “son-ship” to the person (for that was done by God’s Sovereign Choice before time ever was; Eph. 1:4-11). But, it is a revelation by the Spirit of God in the spirit of the believer (when he is regenerated and brought to conversion) that he is “an adult son” of God in knowledge, as to his position in Christ. Therefore, let not the definition of earthly “adoption” (which is the establishing the parent-child relationship by law) be confused with the definition of “spiritual adoption” (which is the son-placing of a son of God, from the infant knowledge to the knowledge of an adult son, as to the glory of son-ship in Christ; and this is by experience in the regeneration process).
The child of God in the Old Testament was as an infant under tutors and governors (a school master), still a son of God; but he could not – until Christ came and made the Atonement for sin, and the Holy Spirit came and regenerated that person (born from above, which some call the New Birth) – come to the full knowledge of his position in Christ as an adult son, heir of God, and joint-heir of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, the Apostle Paul, in Gal. 4:5, did not teach that “adoption of sons” was the process of being made a son of God; but was, in fact, a revealing (or a manifesting) to the one who was already a son in the eyes of God, that he, by the Sovereign work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration, is by experience an adult son of God in position and in knowledge, whereby he can cry out, “Abba Father” (Rom. 8:14-16).
(Gal 4:6-7) “And because ye are sons (that is, by God’s Sovereign Choice before time ever was; not on any of man’s merits, but solely upon the Merits of the eternal purpose in Jesus Christ), God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts (God did this by Himself; no help from man), crying, Abba, Father. (7) Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son (a son by knowledge; an adult son; knowing that you were justified by The Faith, or Christ’s work on the Cross; see Gal. 2:16; 3:1-29); and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”
Hallelujah!!! For now I know who I am in Christ Jesus, and Who He is: He is the Lamb of God, my Sacrifice, my Substitute, and my Savior.