Do we enter God's family through the new birth or adoption?

There’s no doubt that the Bible teaches we enter God’s family through the new birth of the Spirit. But many Christians, who would never dispute that statement, will also say that we enter God’s family through adoption - without pausing to consider the cognitive dissonance involved in believing both statements. Does Paul’s use of the word adoption in Ephesians 1, Galatians 4 and Romans 8 really mean what they think it means?
Romans 8:23 - …we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body.
Looking forward to some interesting input!

1 Like

interesting; I had not thought before about the ‘cognitive dissonance’ of both being true. I think Ephesians 1:5, Galatians 4:5, and Romans 8.15 refer to the ‘legal adoption’ metaphor of salvation, and the verse you quote Romans 8:23 ‘waiting for adoption (rather) the redemption of the body’ in the context of the previous verses might be about Christians looking forward to getting our resurrection bodies (as it says in the previous verses, all creation groans, under the curse, and it looks forward to when the sons of God are revealed; the new Creation?).

the article ( suggests that the born again metaphor is to the Jewish audience, and the adopted metaphor is to the Roman audience? seems logical.

You’ve thought about it a bit to raise it as a ‘cognitive dissonance’; how do you justify both in your mind? is there a contradiction of Scripture? what are your thoughts? :slight_smile: :slight_smile:

As I understand it, the difference is in who it is addressed to. The “Born again” reference comes from a conversation that Jesus had with a Rabbi who was struggling with where to put his faith. Jesus said, “You must be born again!” and this confused the man. He said, “How can I be born again? Am I to enter my mother’s womb a second time?” And then Jesus talked about the idea of salvation being a Spiritual rebirth. TBH, I think this analogy gets a bit too much fanfare as this was just one way to put it.

As far as being adopted goes, this is based on the gentiles being “grafted into the vine” meaning, that we have been taken from outside the vine, as Jesus is the vine, and the gentiles were spliced into the covenant of Abraham by being “adopted” to inherit the same blessings of being children of God.

However, I sense that you may be focussing on single verses of the Bible and not taking in the full context of the passage/chapter/book. There is a lot to discover in terms of context. There are many scholars who study these things in depth to provide answers to out most difficult Bible questions.

1 Like
 Well, you’re right – I have thought about it

a good deal over the years. There are
many good websites – like – and many varying opinions. Some question whether Paul really means the
word “adoption” in the same way we do at all. Vine’s New Testament Greek Dictionary calls it,
“a mistranslation and misleading. God
does not adopt believers as children; they are begotten as such by the Holy
Spirit through faith.” The Scofield
Study Bible on Ephesians 1:5 notes the same.
Some translations even avoid using the word “adoption” altogether.

 I do

have a “mostly baked” idea about it, but one reason I wanted to pose the
question was to let other people’s iron sharpen my own. I think it’s working!

 You mentioned the idea that adoption could

be a metaphor for a Roman audience, and I agree that’s a logical idea. A Christianity Today article, Biblical
Adoption is Not What You Think It Is
, appears to support that.


seems that a Roman patrician without an heir would seek one to pass his name
and estate on to. He would adopt a young
man, as Julius Caesar adopted Augustus, and confer all his titles, authority
and power to his newfound heir.

 While the young man would become a legal son

to his benefactor, the typical father/son relationship was not really the issue
– this was all about the inheritance.

 And in each of the passages where Paul

uses the word adoption – Ephesians 1:4-14, Galatians 4:1-7 and Romans
8:15 and following – Paul explains it in the context of being an heir or
receiving an inheritance.

 So the first part of my “mostly baked” idea

is that the Bible uses the new birth to describe our entrance into God’s family
– because that parallels God’s nature being born within us (which adoption certainly
does not). It only uses adoption to
describe what’s in store for those newborn family members. The fact that adoption is also an alternate way to
enter a family is totally irrelevant. In fact, it’s clear that in
Romans 8:23, the believer awaiting the adoption is already a child. The same in Galatians 4:1-7 – they’re already
children in the opening verses long before the adoption in verse 5. And in Ephesians 1, the adoption in verse 5
that leads to the inheritance in verse 11 is only for those who first
trusted in Christ
in verse 12.

 So, for Part One, I submit that adoption

does not refer to salvation in the past, but to glorification in the future.

 But, of course, any more iron sharpening

is welcome here!

1 Like


So what you are saying is;

  • we have a new birth when we become a Christian (as @Jesse_Means_God_Exists mentioned is in John 3);
  • and adoption is in the future and we look forward to it? Makes sense to me.

(the references you refer to are here??).

and the word for adoption in Greek is: huiothesia: (I don’t know any greek at all; so I just go and read Strong’s concordance online if there is differences in translations :slight_smile: ).

1 Like

υἱοθεσία huiothesia, hwee-oth-es-ee´-ah; the placing as a son, i.e. adoption (figuratively, Christian sonship in respect to God): — adoption (of children, of sons).

This word is not ever used for Jesus.

1 Like

Hebrews also speaks of being joint-heirs with Christ - absolutely amazing to consider this! Jesus, who is God with us (Emmanuel); entered into our suffering (and is our High Priest who understands our suffering); died on the Cross crucified at the hands of His Creation. We need to stop and ask the question John Lennox asks: “What is God doing on a cross, suffering at the hands of his creation!?” There is no greater Love than is demonstrated by God.

Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, is the natural “heir” of the Father. “God said to him, ‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father’” (Hebrews 5:5; cf. Psalm 2:7). Christ’s inheritance is the whole universe, all that is in existence: Hebrews 1:2 says that the Son has been “appointed heir of all things.” Being a co-heir with Christ means that we, as God’s adopted children, will share in the inheritance of Jesus. What belongs to Jesus will also belong to us. Christ gives us His glory (John 17:22), His riches (2 Corinthians 8:9), and all things (Hebrews 1:2). We are as welcome in God’s family as Jesus is; we are “accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6, NKJV). All that belongs to Jesus Christ will belong to us, the co-heirs, as well.

“You are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir” (Galatians 4:7). Think of all that means. Everything that God owns belongs to us as well because we belong to Him. Our eternal inheritance as co-heirs with Christ is the result of the amazing grace of God.

1 Like

Yes, exactly. This is what I was talking about in my first post. Seems you picked that up.

1 Like

Oooo –
love that John Lennox insert! As co-heirs with Him, we co-reign
with Him over all creation forever. He
says in Revelation 3:21, to him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me
in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
That’s what we’re heirs to – the Father’s throne
over all creation! The very thing that
Lucifer went to war to win – that a third of the angels were cast from heaven
over – that this whole conflict began with at the start – God gives it to us


Two: have you ever wondered why God often seemed harsh toward His people in the
Old Testament but so much kinder in the New?

 In that other adoption passage, Galatians

4:1-7, Paul compares how God treated His spiritual children in the Old
Testament (verses 1-3) to how He deals with us now (verses 4-7).

 Before Christ, God treated His children as

minors – meaning they were treated like servants. You see that in Galatians 4:1. Though the child would one day become the lord of all
his father’s estates, as a minor he had no more decision-making authority than
a servant. Children were given orders
and expected to obey or face the consequences – like servants.


in verse 2, just as servants were under managers, the child was also under
tutors and governors (meaning the law – Galatians 3:24-25) until the father
decided that he had finally come of age.

 As spiritual minors, they had no legal

citizenship in the kingdom, they could not inherit property, and they were
under bondage to the law – verse 3.


when the Father finally decided that the fulness of time had come (verse 4),
Christ entered this world to redeem His people from the law (verse 5) – so they
could quit being treated as minors or servants – so they could finally come
into their full citizenship, inherit the kingdom and receive the
full rights of Sonship. That’s really
what adoption is. It’s being treated as
a completed son

– fully conformed to Christ.

 So the best way to view Biblical adoption seems

to be as a believer’s “coming of age” – a minor son is finally treated as an
adult with all the rights and privileges!

 And look at verse 6.  Because Jesus has now redeemed us as sons,

because we’re no longer under tutors and governors, God gives us an advance on
our inheritance – a foretaste of what’s in store – the earnest of our
inheritance, the holy Spirit of promise
Romans 8:23 calls it the firstfruits of the Spirit.

 Which means you’re not treated like a servant

anymore (verse 7) – like a minor son who isn’t mature enough to inherit. You’re a grownup – a full heir of God through
Jesus Christ. The indwelling Spirit gives
today’s believers an adult status that B.C. believers never had.

 And that’s why God treats us differently.  If He seemed more like a disciplinarian in

the Old Testament, it’s because He was dealing with minors. If He appeals to New Testament believers with
persuasion, it’s because He’s treating us as mature sons. That’s what the Spiritual birth does for
us. And He gives it to us as the
earnest, the preview and promise, of all the glory yet to come. It’s the first installment of our inheritance. In a way, by advancing us the indwelling
Spirit, the first benefits of the coming adoption have already begun.

 Any thoughts?
1 Like