"Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God." (Eph. 2:19 kjv)
"For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named..." (Eph. 3: 14-15 kjv)
In the above passages reference is made to the "household" and "family" of God. Who are the members of this family and how did they become so? Are there members of the family who have been adopted? Or, is it the case that they have all been born or created into it? Further, what family model is in view by the Apostle? The Jewish, Greek, or Roman? How are the ideas about family different or the same in each of these cultures? In what ways is NT theology built upon the family model? These questions will be addressed in this and in the next few chapters.
These verses, along with others to be mentioned in this chapter, are further proof that those who are members of the "household" or "family" of God are such who have been born into it, and not because they have been adopted. Further, this is a Hebrew or Jewish "house" and "family," denoting that only those who are of the "seed" or "lineage" of Abraham, and who are by birth "Israelites," are its members.
Some might wonder why so much insistence is being put on the idea of being born into the family of God since those who believe in adoption also believe in being born again. The reason for this is because 1) being a child of a parent by birth excludes the idea of being adopted by the same parent, and 2) those who promote adoption as a model often say that it is adoption that makes one a member of the family of God, that makes him a child of the father, that makes him an heir, and 3) this is often stated without any reference to entering the family by birth. In other words, most promoters of the adoption model do not say "we enter into God's family and become his children by birth and adoption," but will simply say "we enter God's family through adoption."
It has already been shown how both cannot be true. To insist that both are true leads to absurdities, no matter who makes the assertion. I have great respect for those who hold to the adoption model, men like MacArthur, Piper, whom I have already cited and corrected, and J. I. Packer (to be cited). Yet, on this doctrinal point, they are wrong, as we continue to see.
J.I. Packer wrote in "Knowing God" (see as cited HERE - emphasis mine)
"‘Father’ is the Christian name for God. Our understanding of Christianity cannot be better than our grasp of adoption...But this is not to say that justification is the highest blessing of the gospel. Adoption is higher, because of the richer relationship with God that it involves."
These words echo those cited in previous chapters by MacArthur and Piper. Their doctrine of adoption, which is foreign to the Scriptures, is made into the very heart of the Gospel. MacArthur thought it was superior to being born a child. Here the learned Packer says that the doctrine of God adopting children into his family is the "highest blessing of the gospel," higher than even the doctrine of justification. He says that it is the doctrine of adoption that creates "the richer relationship with God" than any other thing. Like MacArthur and Piper, Packer affirms that adoption is superior to the birth method of entering into a family, doing more for the adoptee than for the natural child. Who can believe it?
Packer also wrote:
"Adoption is a family idea, conceived in terms of love, and viewing God as father. In adoption, God takes us into His family and fellowship, and establishes us as His children and heirs." (J.I. Packer, Knowing God, pp. 186-188)
So, according to Packer, how does one enter the family of God? Does he say it is by being born into it? Does he not rather say that one is taken into the family of God by being adopted? Does he affirm, in this statement, that both birth and adoption makes one a child and heir of the Father? Further, if God births his child, what need is there for adoption? What does adoption do that birth does not do? Further, when Packer says that adoption is what "establishes us as His children and heirs," does he not deny that this was done in birth? If one is adopted, and already a child and heir by that method, then how can a subsequent birth (an absurdity) be said to make one a child and heir?
In the section "What Our Adoption Shows Us," Packer wrote:
"The word adoption (the Greek means "instating as a son") appears five times, and of these occurrences only three refer to the Christian's present relationship to God in Christ (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:5; Eph. 1:5). Yet the thought itself is the nucleus and focal point of the whole New Testament teaching on the Christian life."
It is good that Packer did not say that the Greek word "huiothesia" meant "adoption," but says it means "instating as a son." If the Greek word means "instating as a son," then where is the idea of adoption in those words? Do people speak of adoption in those terms? Further, why "son" and not "child"? Why "son" and not "daughter"?
He states a falsehood, as did MacArthur, when he says that the adoption metaphor is "the nucleus and focal point of the whole New Testament teaching on the Christian life." The doctrine of adoption is what presents the clearest view of how one enters into, and maintains, a familial relationship with God as Father? I thought divine birth and parental influence of the Father were the models of this family relationship? Besides the five verses where "huiothesia" is falsely translated as "adoption," where is adoption taught throughout the New Testament? Where did Jesus, Peter, James, John, etc., speak of being made children of God by adoption? They all spoke of birth as being the only way that people become the children of God.
Further, Packer is wrong to affirm that three of the five passages with "huiothesia" refer to a present experience, and yet nothing in those passages say such. In fact, as previously observed, Paul is very clear when he says that Christians are "waiting for the adoption," and identifies it with the time of the "redemption of the body." But, more on that in upcoming chapters.
Packer also stated:
"Not is it only in the four Gospels...The Epistles, too, are full of it. We shall be drawing our evidence chiefly from the Epistles as we move on now to show the truth of our adoption gives us the deepest insights that the New Testament affords into five further matters: first, the greatness of God's love; second, the glory of the Christian hope; third, the ministry of the Holy Spirit; fourth, the meaning and motives of what the Puritans called "gospel holiness"; fifth, the problem of Christian assurance."
Again, this is just not the case. There is no mention of the adoption in the Gospels. Jesus did not teach it as the manner in which people become the children of God. Further, there is no mention of it in the Epistles, excluding the five verses of Paul with "huiothesia." Some may try to read adoption into some verses where "huiothesia" is not used, but it is not because it is already in the verses.
Packer implies that the doctrine of God adopting children gives "the deepest insights" into the New Testament teaching on how one enters the family of God. He affirms that this doctrine enhances God's love, as if more love were involved in adopting a child than in giving birth to a child. He affirms that the Christian hope, holiness, assurance, and ministry of the Holy Spirit, are all greater because of adoption than a child who was born. Who can believe it?
Packer also stated:
"In the ancient world, adoption was a practice ordinarily confined to the childless well-to-do. Its subjects, as we said earlier, were not normally infants, as today, but young adult (sic) who had shown themselves fit and able to carry on a family name in a worthy way. In this case, however, God adopts us out of free love, not because our character and record show us worthy to bear his name, but despite the fact that they show the very opposite. We are not fit for a place in God's family; the idea of his loving and exalting us sinner as he loves and has exalted the Lord Jesus sounds ludicrous and wild-yet that, and nothing less than that, is what our adoption means."
It would have been good had Packer, who is generally thorough in his writings, had told us specifically what model of adoption was used by the NT writers and borrowed from "the ancient world." He does not identify adoption as an ancient Jewish practice, as some try to do. He seems to clearly refer to either Roman or Greek adoption practice. But which? Though similar, they were not exactly the same.
What is striking about the above citation is the fact that there is contradiction in it. He first says that it was the near universal practice of the ancient Gentile world for heirless men to adopt mature sons and that the choice of which sons to adopt was based upon the fitness of the son to be adopted. This is what MacArthur taught, and which is against his Calvinistic and grace teaching. But, Packer does not handle the difficulty by creating another difficulty as does MacArthur. Packer is saying that the adoption of the ancients, which is a model of how God acquires children, is really not a model! The adoption model Paul supposedly is using (Roman) will not work in picturing how and why God saves and acquires sons and heirs. This fact should have caused Packer to realize the defect in the adoption model itself. Look at the dissimilarities, not the similarities (as was done in the previous chapter).
1. Roman men adopted because they were without male heirs. (but God adopts not for this reason)
2. Roman men adopted mature men to become heirs, and not infants nor girls. (but God does not do so)
3. Roman men adopted the most qualified of young men to be adopted. (but God does not do so)
4. Roman adoption did not make the young man a birth child in the image of the new father (but God's method of adoption does this)
It seems clear then that the adoption model is really no model at all. How could it be with so many dissimilarities? So, why do men continue to teach adoption theology when it is so foreign to Scripture?
Packer also stated:
"Adoption, by its very nature, is an act of free kindness to the person adopted. If you become a father by adopting a son or daughter, you do so because you choose to, not because you are bound to. Similarly, God adopts because he chooses to. He had no duty to do so. He need not have done anything about our sins except punish us as we deserved. But he loved us; so he redeemed us, forgave us, took us as his sons and daughters and gave himself to us as our Father."
When he speaks of adoption being in "its very nature" "an act of kindness to the person adopted," he must know that this was not the reason why Greek or Roman men adopted. He seems to be using a modern adoption as the model, and not the Roman or Greek. Yet, he says that the model he is using is "ancient" and unlike modern adoptions. So, it is like it, and not like it. In the previous chapters it was shown how Romans and Greeks adopted for their benefit and not for the chief benefit of the one adopted.
What he is doing now, after having shown how adopting the worthy is not a model of how or why God adopts, showing how there is dissimilarity in that respect, is showing how there is supposed similarity in the fact that both the Roman and Divine reasons for adoption are the same, that is, they are both acts of kindness towards the son chosen for adoption. But, even in this he has failed, for it has been shown that there was little kindness as the reason for ancient adoptions in the Gentile world. With all such discrepancies in the model, then why plead for it?
Packer also stated:
"Nor does his grace stop short with that initial act, any more than the love of human parents who adopt stops short with the completing of the legal process that makes the child theirs. The establishing of the child's status as a member of the family is only a beginning."
Notice how again Packer is clear in laying the sole reason for being in the family of God, or being children and heirs of God, in "legal process" that has several stages and acts involved in it. Notice too that he does not say that being "born of God" is the initial act that makes one an heir and child of God, or brings him into the divine family, but says it is the legal act of adoption! But, there may be a legal process in adoption, but one never becomes an adoptee until the final act! Yet, in the above, Packer makes the first "initial act" in the legal process to be what makes one an adoptee. Surely anyone can see the further inconsistency in this.
Packer, ironically, in another section of his famous book, also stated:
"The gift of sonship to God becomes ours not through being born, but through being born again."
(Chapter Nineteen - "Sons of God" SEE HERE)
I say he has here hit the truth, but it contradicts what he has said in the above citations from the same book! How could the gift of sonship come through birth if it comes by adoption? But, this is typical of most "scholars" on this subject, and it is bewildering.
These family members, from the opening passages, are "citizens of Zion," of the "commonwealth (politeia) of Israel," which is a community of family members who are all related by a common birth, and common parents. It will be shown that all the members of this family, or faith community, are not only related by birth, but by country of origin. It will also be shown how it is not to the physical seed of Abraham, or to those who are Israelites by physical birth, that these things apply, but to the spiritual seed, to those who have been born again and made Jews inwardly. This community of believers are children of God the Father and of Zion/Jerusalem the mother. The "birth and nativity" of those who are children of the new birth is of the land of promise, of that "heavenly country."
The word "household" is from the Greek "oikos" and the word "family" is from "patria" (from pater, father) Patria represents persons of successive generations who are related by birth.
Patria refers to a family or clan, to all who are linked by line of descent from a common progenitor or linked through ancestry. It refers to all the descendants of a particular patriarch. Since the whole Jewish nation can be traced back to Abraham, then it can be called the patria of Abraham. The word "family" is a collective term for the descendants of the same father. Just like modern society, there is the basic "nuclear family," consisting of parents and children. Beyond this, there is the "extended family," which includes relatives.
The Greek word for "family" can only be applied to those who have been born into it, and cannot refer to those who are adopted. There are no adopted members in the family or household of God. There are no aliens, foreigners, nor strangers, in this community. All are citizens of the same country and of the same family heritage. The "people of God" are one spiritually ethnic nation where each citizen is brother and sister to each other.
What is meant by the "whole family" being both in heaven and earth? It no doubt includes all redeemed men and women, those now alive on earth, and those who have died in Christ and are now, as disembodied spirits, alive in heaven. This family, divided now by location, is like a tree, a kind of "family tree." Part of any tree is visible, above ground. Part of it is invisible, below ground.
It probably also includes the holy angels who are "sons of God." Angels were not procreated or born, but created. They certainly did not become members of the divine family by adoption. Had they been begotten like men, then they would have been first infants and would have to reach perfection by a process of growth and development, like natural men and like those born of the Spirit. They were made adult full grown sons in the image of the Father and hence their title "sons of God."
Angels are like Adam, in this respect, who was himself called "son of God." (Luke 3:38) Adam was made a full grown man and "son of God" as were the angels. No other man is like this, either as respects his natural or spiritual birth. God is the originator or creator of the extended family, which includes angels and men. Angels are "sons of God," but not by being "begotten" ("to which of the angels did the Lord say thou art my son this day have I begotten thee?" - Heb. 1: 5). They are, as stated, such by creation, not procreation. They are "sons of God" by production and not reproduction.
Redeemed men, or spiritual "Israelites," who also are styled "sons of God" in Scripture, are not made full grown men in their spiritual births, but are born infants and must develop into full grown status, the "end" of their having been begotten.
Christ, as the eternally begotten Son, was not begotten as a babe, but as the perfect Son of God. Christ, however, in his begotten human nature, was born a babe and progressed through the stages of growth, from childhood to full manhood (concerning which much more will be said in future chapters). In regard to Christ's humanity he was a "child" before he became an adult "son," but not so in regard to his divinity.
Some teach that Christ is "son" by adoption, not by nature or by eternal generation. But, the Scriptures no more speak of Christ being "son" by adoption as it does of his people or the angels becoming sons by adoption. Becoming children or sons is the result of birth and creation, not by adoption.
Israelites of the OT, like Christians of the NT, in being born of God, are spiritually born as infants and do not attain to full status as a "son" until full maturity and complete likeness to the Father and Son.
Welcomed into the Family
"And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." (II Cor. 6:16-18)
The word "receive" may well be translated as "welcome." Separate yourself from your fallen family as Abraham forsook his father's house and the land of his birth in Ur of the Chaldees (Gen. 12:1) to become part of another family and nation in the land of promise. Rather than being "of" the world, the call is to become "of" God. It connotes the leaving of one family and community to become part of another.
In the Greek text "a people" is from the Greek word "laos" which often means "a people, people group, tribe, nation, all those who are of the same stock and language" in the NT, and sometimes it may simply mean "a great part of the population gathered together anywhere" (Thayer, Strong, etc.). W. E. Vine in his dictionary of NT words, says "laos" is often used "of Christians as the people of God, e.g., Act 15:14; Tts 2:14; Hbr 4:9; 1Pe 2:9" and of "a people of the same race and language," e.g., Rev 5:9; in the plural, e.g., Luk 2:31; Rom 15:11; Rev 7:9; 11:9; especially of Israel, e.g., Mat 2:6; 4:23; John 11:50; Act 4:8; Hbr 2:17."
A "people of the same race and language" are the people of God, not as respects who they are naturally, via their natural births, but as respects who they are spiritually, via their spiritual births. Their "race" is heavenly and Jewish, resulting from their birth of the Spirit and union with the Hebrew Christ. Their "language" is also unique to them as a spiritual ethnic group. Even now, metaphorically speaking, Christians speak the same language theologically, having the same basic creed of the Bible. But, one day they will all, in their eternal state, all speak the same language and be one in this as well as every other respect. Wrote the prophet: "For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one consent." (Zeph. 3:9 kjv)
There should be no indefinite article "a" added to the passage as there is in many English translations. Though the definite article "the" is absent, this does not justify the insertion of the "a" indefinite. The Greeks did not make use of the indefinite, and one should not always be implied by the absence of the definite. This is the consensus of Greek scholars of the NT. The literal statement is "and I will be Father to you."
If God becomes Father to a man, does this not then denote that he gives birth to that man? This was true in regard to the Greek word for "father," which defines it as denoting one who is birth father, not to an adoptive father. Of course, this is not the only thing involved in being "father" so someone. It includes providing for the well being of the family. In speaking of "sons and daughters" rather than "children" the implication is that he will not only give birth to but be responsible for their reaching their destined end of their births, that of becoming full grown sons and daughters.
God is viewed in Scripture as supreme Patriarch or Father in relation to creation. "yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things" (I Cor. 8:6) "One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." (Eph. 4:6)
God is universal father. He is the "founding father" of the universe and of mankind. The man who invents or develops some new product is often called the “father” of that product. We use the term “father” to identify its source.
“Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto God, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.” (Acts 17:27)
Because God is Father of all created, some teach that the fatherhood of God means everyone is a spiritual child of God and because of that everyone is going to heaven. According to the Bible, this is not true. God is universal Father to all because he has given existence to all. He is the natural Father of all, but not the spiritual Father of all.
The whole point of all this is this: when Paul speaks of the "whole family" and relates this to "the Father," is there any idea present that God is an adoptive Father, rather than a birth Father? Who can fail to see that to father, in the Hebrew and Greek terms, refers to one who produces or creates children and sons in his image and with his nature?
I cannot find anywhere in the OT or in the NT where "father" is used to designate an adopted father, or for one who was not father because he has fathered or begat children. The idea, in Scripture, is that "father" is by definition one who has "begotten" a child. Likewise, as far as I know, no Scripture word for "child," when used in relation to parents, never alludes to an adopted child, but always to a begotten child. Even when "father" is used metaphorically there is still the idea of producing or generating. For instance, note this passage in Job. "Does the rain have a father? Who fathers ('begotten' kjv) the drops of dew?" (Job 38: 28 niv) The idea of producing or siring offspring is integral to how the word "father" is used in Scripture. Even the cry "Abba, Father," so much talked about in the context of being born or adopted, is not the cry of an adopted child, but of a birth child. We see it also in the words of Peter who speaks of "the Father...who hath begotten us again..." (I Peter 1:3 kjv) When God says that he had made Abraham the "father" of many nations (Rom. 4:17-18), it is clear that this means progenitor, not adopter. We have these words also from the NT that bear on this question of the members of the family of God - "Brethren, sons of Abraham's family," (Acts 13: 26 NAS)
Who are the real "Israelites"?
Paul will explain in Romans chapter nine how both becoming, and being placed, as "sons of God," is not true for those who are mere "Israelites" biologically, according to the flesh, or who are so in name only, or even for those who are so culturally and religiously. He will state positively - "They are not all 'Israel' which are of Israel (Jacob)." He will say also - "neither because they are the seed of Abraham are they all children." (vs. 6-7) He had earlier said nearly the same thing.
"For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God." (Romans 2: 28-29)
Thus, there is a carnal fleshly Jew, Hebrew, or Israelite, as well as a physical circumcision. But, there is also reference to what is the opposite to the carnal and fleshly, to that one who is a Jew, Israelite, Hebrew, son of God, son of Abraham, etc., in a true and spiritual sense. In order to become a "Jew" inwardly, to become a real "Hebrew" or "son of God," one must be "born again" as Jesus taught (John 3:1-8), as well as the apostles (See for instance I Cor. 4: 13, James 1: 18, I Peter 1: 23-25). This new birth would become the real circumcision, dealing with the heart, the seat of man's moral being, and not with the flesh.
In I Cor. 10:18 Paul spoke of "Israel after the flesh," of that "Israel" of which every natural born Jew becomes a part by physical birth and natural circumcision. But the true "Israel of God" (Gal. 6:16) is made up of those who believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, be they Jews or Gentiles (according to the flesh, that is) and they are by comparison rather "Israel after the spirit." The contrast is between natural, carnal, or fleshly Israel and spiritual Israel. One who is a "Jew by nature" (Gal. 2: 15), or by physical birth alone, or merely external, is not necessarily one so internally in spirit. One may be a reckoned a Jew by men and by human ethnic standards, and one in name, but may not be so in reality. There are they "who say they are Jews but are liars." (Rev. 3:9) Wrote Paul:
"Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now." (Gal. 4: 28-29)