Did you know that the Bible talks about our adoption as children of God in the past, present and future? Just like our salvation has aspects of all three of these, so does our adoption.
In Ephesians 1:5, Paul writes: “[God] predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” (all Scripture in ESV).
This part of our adoption happened before we were even born! It’s something God “predestined,” or determined beforehand. It wasn’t according to anything we did or anything merit of our own, but Paul says it was “according to the purpose of his [God’s] will.”
To give an analogy, let’s imagine a teenage girl gets pregnant and decides to give the baby up for adoption. Sometimes it works out where she knows ahead of time who will adopt the unborn child upon birth. The child has done nothing to make that choice him or herself. It’s not a choice based on the child’s merit, either actual or potential. It’s based on the will and love of the adopters.
If you are a believer, your adoption was predestined!
Both Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:5 emphasize the present aspect of our adoption (along with the many, many other references to believers being “sons of” or “children of” God the Father, and that we are “brothers” in Christ): “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!”” (Rom 8:15). “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal 4:4-5).
Both of these verses show that we are presently adopted by God. Adoption is not something confined to predestination in the past, and it is not something only awaiting us in the future. Adoption happens upon a believer’s salvation and is the act of God in which we are placed into God’s family.
Paul says in Romans 8:15 that we “have received the Spirit of adoption as sons.” The verb “have received” is an aorist tense in Greek, meaning it happened in the past. You have already received this adoption! And in Galatians, Paul links adoption with our redemption, and immediately after saying “that we might receive adoption as sons” (4:5b), he says, “And because you are sons” (4:6a, emphasis mine). Paul here explicitly links redemption, adoption and being a son in God’s family.
If you are a believer, you are adopted!
Right after focusing on the present aspect of a believer’s adoption in Romans 8:15, Paul then emphasizes the future aspect of that adoption in 8:23: “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.”
Adoption is something we eagerly await for. But this is not to say that all of adoption is future. Paul specifies which part: “the redemption of our bodies.” Part of our inheritance as God’s children is that our bodies will one day be resurrection and made new (1 Cor 15:50-58; 1 Thess 4:13-18). This fits well with what Paul spoke about in Galatians 4, that we have an inheritance as God’s children. So even though we right now are fully adopted, just like a child must wait until he or she comes of age to receive an inheritance, so we must wait until Christ’s return to receive ours.
If you are a believer, you will enjoy the inheritance of your adoption!