Adopted as SonsBy Todd Bentley

The understanding of adoption as sons and daughters is key to the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Apart from the Holy Spirit, we can never have the assurance that we are children of God. "For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God" (Romans 8:14). The true heart of a child of the Father says, "I can do nothing of myself" (see John 5:19). Sons and daughters are moved by the revelation of God's love and grace. Their service is an overflow of gratitude and submission. Their dependence is on the Holy Spirit because as a child they seek to do His will. Jesus said, "I only do the things I see My Father doing" (see John 5:19). When we are led by the Spirit, our desire will be for His will to be done. We will live to bring honor to His name.


Our English word adoption is filled with the ideas of love, grace, compassion, and intimate relationship. In the ancient world, the adopted person lost all rights in his old family, gained all the rights of a fully legitimate son in his new family, and in the most literal sense, and in the most binding legal way, he got a new father (cf I John 3:1-note). In addition, all his debts were legally canceled (cf Colossians 2:14-note). His old life was completely erased and he was regarded by the law as a new person (cf II Corinthians 5:17-note). Similarly, in spiritual adoption, the moment undeserving sinners are adopted by their heavenly Father as His children, their entire status is eternally changed-they receive a new name, a new family, new rights, and new expectations. Unlike human adoption, they also receive a new nature, actually becoming partakers of the divine nature!

Adoption is to be brought into relationship with the Father in a manner that bestows us the full rights of sonship and full paternal intimacy. We need to understand that we were enslaved to another "father" (Satan) by virtue of our sin and guilt, and thus needed to be redeemed so we could legally belong to our true Father. I think understanding Paul's thinking in the culture in which he wrote about adoption is key to grasping the full awesomeness of being sons and daughters.


In the Greco-Roman culture of Paul's day, adoption was common, particularly among the upper class where it was often used to gain political and/or economic advantage. For example, several Roman emperors adopted men who were not blood relatives for the purpose of conferring upon them certain authority and other privileges. The law of adoption held as its basic premise that a father had near absolute legal authority over his child (patria potestas). This authority extended to the power of life and death, and continued as long as the father was alive, no matter the age of the child. Thus children were viewed through the law as the possession of and under the absolute power of the father.

Because of the seriousness of this parental authority, adoption was a significant and solemn legal transaction. As was often the case, a Roman man of wealth and prominence might want to adopt a young man in order to elevate him to a position of prominence. But for that to happen, the absolute authority and power of the birth father over the son had to be transferred to the adoptive father. This transference occurred symbolically in an impressive two-part ceremony of adoption.

During the course of adoption, the birth father would first symbolically sell and then buy his son back two times, but after selling him a third time he would not buy him back-this symbolized the breaking of the authority and ownership rights of the birth father. In the second step, the adopting father went to a Roman magistrate and presented the legal case for the transference of rights of the son from his birth father to the adopting father. With that, the adoption was complete. We thus learn that Roman adoption did not confer an inferior form of sonship. Rather, an adopted son had all the rights and privileges of a natural-born son. It is this legal-cultural view of adoption, along with the Old Testament ideas of fatherhood and sonship, that seem to be Paul's thoughts. (Ted Johnston)


"For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself bearers witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God" (Romans 8:15-16 KJV).

The Holy Spirit teaches us to be sons and daughters and how to relate to God as Father. We now have the "spirit of adoption." The primary ministry of the Holy Spirit is to teach us that we are accepted, secure, chosen, and desired by God. Even though He had no duty to, in His generous grace He chose us.

The Holy Spirit is bearing witness to our spirits that we are now sons and daughters. It is an intimate parental cry to say "Abba" (Daddy). We have no fear because in the revelation of the Father's love, there is no fear. Perfect love casts out fear. We have no fear because we have sonship and confidence that He is leading, teaching, and assuring us of our inheritance in the family. We now bear His name upon us. "And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together" (Romans 8:17, KJV). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee of our redemption, and the promise that we have a future glory and resurrection. He is the comfort and embrace that strengthens us in all suffering.

"In love He predestined us for adoption" (see Ephesian 1:4).

So adoption was part of God's plan before we were even born. He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace (see Ephesians 1:4-6). God chose me for the purpose of sonship so that I would be a co-heir. All of this was because of His grace. Our adoption (sonship) is not based on our being worthy or attractive. It is based on the free, sovereign grace of God, conceived in God's heart before the world even began and purchased for us by the blood of Jesus.

I love the idea of adoption. Many scholars and other interpretations of this passage of Scripture suggest the word adoption is actually sonship. There is some difference in sonship versus adoption. For example, Martin Luther in his day believed stronger in the word sonship because it suggests we have the very life of God in us. It's more than being adopted with someone else's nature. We are now partakers of the divine nature of God (see II Peter 1:4). "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me" (Galatians 2:20). Luther believed sonship was the stronger thinking of Paul's use of the word in Roman times, because through being born again, we now have a new nature and the Holy Spirit dwells in us.

Sonship is union with Christ that comes from our having been begotten of God to be His children in life and nature by virtue of the divine birth. It qualifies us to receive the position and right of sons and daughters in our union with the Son in the Father by the Holy Spirit.


We need to think and relate to God as children and not servants. Jesus always thought of Himself as a Son. He referred to us as family-brothers and sisters. God does not deal with us as master, servant, and slave but friends. "Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth, but I have called you friends" (see John 15:15 KJV). The intimacy and fellowship we see with Jesus and the Father is key to our knowing Him in an intimate way.

"Jesus answered and said to him, 'If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode (home) with him'" (John 14:23).

Jesus was the one that introduced us to the imagery of being with Him in "the Father's house." Think of the atmosphere of a healthy home with the warmth, peace, joy, and security of being in a family loved unconditionally. This is what it means to be a son or daughter of God.


In the Lord's Prayer, Our Father, Abba Father, God as Father, is always accessible. His heart is generous-He knows the things we have need of before we ask Him (see Matthew 6:7-8). The Father's care and providence is part of this relationship as sons and daughters. Jesus said, "Do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on" (see Matthew 6:25). We must have total trust in our Father's care. "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those that ask Him" (Matthew 7:11). Being a son or daughter and knowing the Father loves us is only part of the revelation. We need to learn how to be sons and daughters of God. We need to value God's care and provision as Father, but be sure that we have intimacy, love, and relationship with Him more than what He can do for us. Our question today needs to be, "How can I be a son or daughter in this family, God?"


"For the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father" (John 16:27).

We need to understand that knowing the Father means we must have His affection and embrace. It is only the love of God that can satisfy the thirsty heart. We want to hear Him say, "Well done, good and faithful servant." We want His presence and the safety of dwelling in His arms.

The prayer that Jesus prayed in John 17:23 that they would know You love them, Father, as You have loved Me” is the same love of Jesus. In being a son and a father, I had many great as well as bad experiences. A father cannot just be a father in name and position. He must be a present and active father to his sons and daughters. Earthy fathers try to always provide well. In all of that, still the generosity of our Father in heaven is limitless.

Those fathers who care and provide for their family still need to be near to their sons. We still need to learn to give and receive affection. It can be something the Holy Spirit gives and teaches us.

We are accepted and precious in His sight. "But the very hairs of your head are all numbered" (see Matthew 10:30). Just knowing the truth of this verse gives us security, comfort, and rest.

"For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs" (Zephaniah 3:17 NLT).

Jesus said, "Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you" (John 15:9). Jesus loves me for who I am, not what I do. He loves me in the same way the Father loves Him. Just some of these verses reveal God's value in us. It gives us our sense of belonging and security. It is an amazing thought that when the Father looks at Jesus, He sees and loves us with the same love.

"That you . . . may be able to comprehend . . . what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know (experience) the love (affections) of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God" (see Ephesians 3:17-19).

We need to understand that knowing the Father means we must have His affection and embrace. It is only the love of God that can satisfy the thirsty heart. We want to hear Him say, "Well done, good and faithful servant." We want His presence and the safety of dwelling in His arms.

In Him,

Todd Bentley