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Studies in the Epistles of the Mystery.
The Father's object unto the placing as sons (Eph. 1: 5).
The reader will remember that we found the structural arrangement of these verses
repeats itself, and the last article dealt with the first member of this correspondence. The
Father's object, as revealed in the first half of the structure, was found to be "that we
should be holy and without blame." This now receives its amplification in the words,
"unto the placing as sons."
We have purposely translated the word huiothesia, "placing as sons," rather than by
the word "adoption," partly to draw attention to it, and partly because the English
expression "adoption" conveys a somewhat different meaning from that which the Greek
word and its usage allows. We are apt to think, if we are guided only by the A.V., that by
the act of adoption those who are believers are adopted by God into His family. This,
however, always leaves an unsatisfactory feeling. An adopted child may be loved, cared
for, and brought up with all the attention that could be bestowed, yet its comforts and
privileges would never make it a real child of its foster parents. It could never be so near
as a real child born of those foster parents. It may be more lovable, better behaved, more
creditable than the real child, but these traits, enviable as they may be, could not alter the
relationship, it would still be merely "adopted."
The Scriptures abundantly testify that those who believe, and who are called children
of God, are children indeed, either by regeneration, or by a new creation; that they do not
look up to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ as a guardian or a foster parent,
but that as surely and as really as they have had fathers in the flesh, quite irrespective of
their manners or behaviour, so God Himself is their Father in Christ Jesus His Son.
Five times does the word huiothesia occur in the N.T. and then only in the Epistles of
Paul. One passage is a reference to the special privilege of Israel, one refers to the
equally special privilege of the members of the One Body, and the remaining three refer
to the blessed privilege extended by grace to both Jew and Gentile under the preaching of
the gospel of God. If we examine these occurrences with their contexts, we shall have all
the material which the Spirit of God has given us wherewith to arrive at the meaning of
the expression which is set forth in Eph. 1: 5 to indicate the Father's object towards us in
Rom. 8: 15 contains the first passage: "For ye received not a spirit of bondage again
to fear, but ye received a spirit of adoption, whereby (or in whom) we cry, Abba, Father."
The most important item in this passage is the setting of the spirit of adoption over
against the spirit of bondage. Adoption must include some special liberating factor in
order to justify the contrast. Keeping this in mind, we note the next passage:--
"For the earnest expectation of the creature awaiteth the revelation of the sons of God.
For the creature was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but by reason of Him who
subjected it, in hope that the creature itself shall also be freed from the bondage of
corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the