John 1:12-13 along with many other passages declare that someone who places faith in Jesus Christ become a child through birth. We are born again and His seed is placed in us (regeneration). What then is the adoption noted in places like Romans 8:14-17? I am confused regarding the choice God uses to describe a Christian as adopted as well as being children by new birth?
Great question and an important distinction! Often I hear the two terms used interchangeably, but there is an important biblical difference.
The new birth expressed by the Bible phrase born again refers to salvation. This is the the truth Jesus emphasized to Nicodemus when He affirmed you must be born again (John 3:3,7). Nicodemus essentially asked “How? (John 3:9). Jesus answered that whoever believes in Him receives eternal life (John 3:16). When someone believes in Jesus, the life of God is birthed into them. This includes their human spirit being regenerated with divine life (Eph. 4:24; 1 John 3:9) and the Spirit of Jesus moving in to indwell their now regenerated spirit. They are born again.
Adoption is the truth that when someone is birthed into the family of God as a babe in Christ, that person is simultaneously adopted, taken in as a mature son, with full rights to access the inheritance of the Spirit.
Galatians 4:5 explains that Jesus came, “To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” Then, the passage explains further, “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (Gal. 4:6-7). The word translated sons is not a word describing infants, but rather mature children. The word heir speaks of inheritance and the context emphasizes the Spirit.
Romans 8:14-15 confirms, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 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.” Again the word sons is connected to the word adoption. In fact, the two words are closely connected as evidenced by their spelling in the Greek language. When you follow the leadership of the Spirit, you are accessing your inheritance, the inheritance of the Spirit, with all that He is.
This right to access your inheritance in connection with the Spirit is the right of a mature son. Yet, a brand-new babe in Christ has the immediate privilege to do this because of adoption. This demonstrates how the new birth and adoption occur simultaneously but highlight two different blessings.
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