The Doctrine of Adoption


The Doctrine of Adoption

November 5th, 1972 @ 10:50 AM

Galatians 4:4-7

But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. 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.
Print Sermon
Downloadable Media
Share This Sermon
Play Audio

Show References:


W. A. Criswell

Galatians 4:1-7

11-5-72    10:50 a.m.


On the radio and on television you are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Doctrine of Adoption.  In our preaching through the Book of Galatians, we have come to chapter 4.  And this is the text:

Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, a doulos, a slave, though he be lord of all;

But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.

Even so we, when we were children—

the Greek word is “infant”—

were in bondage under the elements of the world:

But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman—

a virgin-born Son, made under the law, a Jew under the old covenant—

To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

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 doulos, a slave, a servant, but a huios, a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

[Galatians 4:1-7]

Or as Paul wrote in chapter 8 in the Book of Romans, “a joint-heir with Christ” [Romans 8:17], an inheritor of all of God’s riches in glory.

First: when I look at the passage I see Paul’s writing into it the names of the triune God, the Trinity of our experience in God, God the Father, and God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  God the Father sent forth His Son, and because you are sons, He hath sent forth the Holy Spirit [Galatians 4:4, 6], the Three in One, the One in experience that we know as Three.

If I were to bow and pray to Abraham Lincoln, I’d feel so strange doing it, and so would you.  If I bowed in prayer and addressed my petition to George Washington, I’d feel so strange, and so would you.  If I bowed in prayer and addressed my supplication to a Lao-tse, to Mahavira, to Krishna, to Buddha, to Confucius, I would feel like an idolater, and you would too.

But if I bow my knees and pray to God the Father, or pray to God the Son, or pray to God the Holy Spirit, I will feel in my soul a perfect quietness, congruity in the face of the Lord, and you will too.  For we know God in experience and in life as triune.  We know Him as Father.  We know Him as Savior.  And we know Him incarnate in our hearts, the living, indwelling Spirit of God [1 Corinthians 6:19-20].

It is God who has begotten us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead [1 Peter 1:3].  It is God our Savior who hath redeemed us from our sins by His own precious blood [1 Peter 1:18-19].  And it is God the Holy Spirit who has quickened us, regenerated us, borned us again into the kingdom of the Father [Ephesians 2:1-6; Colossians 2:13], who hath given us the seal of the assurance of our salvation by His presence in our hearts [Galatians 4:6], who is omnipresent, who is incarnate in the believer [1 Corinthians 6:19] and in His church [1 Corinthians 3:16].

And if I pray to each One, I have a perfect feeling of fitness, of appropriateness in my heart, and you do too.  Not for show, but to demonstrate that spiritual fact, I’m going to kneel and pray to each One.  You may bow your head or not, for I want you to see and to hear as I pray.  And in each instance, as a Christian you will feel in your heart the appropriateness of what the pastor is doing down on his knees.  In the third chapter of the Book of Ephesians, Paul wrote, “For this cause I bow my knees before God our Father” [Ephesians 3:14].  I shall do that now, addressing the prayer to Him.

Our Father in heaven, for all of the rich blessings that sustain our lives, we thank Thee forever, most of all for the gift of Thy Son, Christ Jesus; may we love Him more and through Him serve Thee better.  In His dear and precious name, amen.  And as I pray to God our Father, I have the sense of the appropriateness, of the reverence of the praise and worship of God, and you do too.

Now I am going to kneel and pray to God our Savior.  And I will have in my heart that same sense of appropriateness, of reverential worship, and you will too.

O blessed Jesus, our holy and heavenly Savior, for the love that reached down even to us, for the sobs and tears of the cross, for the blood of expiation and atonement, for the gift of Thy life that we might live, we love Thee forever.  O blessed Jesus, we pray that Thy healing hand may reach down from heaven and touch our sick, encourage our brokenhearted, and may Thy presence, felt in every heart and house and home and especially in this holy hour, be our comfort and stay now and through the years that unfold before us, in Thy precious name, amen.

And as I pray to the Holy Spirit, I will have in my heart that same feeling of reverential praying and appropriateness, and you will feel it too.  God our Father, God our Savior, and God with us, the Paraclete, the One alongside [John 16:7], the One incarnate in each one of our hearts [1 Corinthians 6:19], and in the fellowship and communion, the koinōnia of the church [1 Corinthians 3:16]; as I pray now to the Holy Spirit.

Holy Spirit of God, all-blessed presence of Jesus in our hearts, fall fresh on us.  May each one, in divine holy presence, feel Thy moving Spirit in his heart.  And in the corporate worship of Thy people, in the assembly of God’s children, O Spirit of God, move upon us, breathe upon us, bring us conviction, to conversion, teach us, Lord, the meaning of Christ, reveal to us the riches of God’s grace and goodness in Him.  O blessed Spirit, dwell in our midst, leading us from grace to grace and victory to victory, in the precious name of Jesus whom Thou did come to glorify in earth [John 16:14], in our hearts and forever in heaven. Amen.

God our Father whom we know as our Father, God our Savior whom we know as our Savior, and God our Holy Spirit who dwells in our hearts [1 Corinthians 6:19], leading us to the deep and precious and wonderful things of Christ, who reveals the Lord to us in all His glory and beauty, His meaning and significance [John 16:13-15].

This is the doctrine of the Trinity that Paul has inwoven into this passage in the fourth chapter of the Book of Galatians [Galatians 4:4-6].  And we do not have a finer praise, a Gloria Patri, a finer doxology than the one that sometimes the people of the Lord in the assembly of Christ will sing to the praise and glory of all Three.  And for an example of it, I want the choir and our instrumentalists now to stand and play and sing this glorious doxology:

Glory be to the Father,

and to the Son,

and to the Holy Ghost;

as it was in the beginning,

is now and ever shall be,

world without end.

Amen, amen.

[“Doxology,” traditional]

That—and you will remain standing—that is the Christian faith.  “Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, the world without end.  Amen.  Amen.”  Now, all of us stand and sing it together:

Glory be to the Father,

And to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.

As it was in the beginning,

Is now and ever shall be,

World without end.

Amen, amen

Now that we have learned it, now that we have learned it, let us really sing it, everyone, out of his depths of his soul to the glory of the triune God.  Everybody singing it:

Glory be to the Father,

And to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.

As it was in the beginning,

Is now and ever shall be,

World without end.

Amen, amen

[Gloria Patri; traditional, second century]

Amen.  Thank you.  Now that is the kind of a thing that I like, praising God just all over the place.  And that is Christian.  And that is the faith: “When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.   And because you are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba—ho pater, abba, “Father” [Galatians 4:4-6].  Pater: using the Aramaic word, abba; using the Greek word, pater; and now the English word, “Father.”

This word huiothesia is peculiar to Paul.  And he uses it several times in the New Testament, translated “adoption.”  Thesia, “placing,” huios, “placing a son”; putting it in the family—for you see, by nature, we are not children of God.  There is no such a thing as the doctrine of the universal fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man, not in the Bible.  Only in the sense that God is the great Creator is He the Father of all mankind.  For by nature, by birth, we are sinful people.  And sin shuts us out, separates us from God [Isaiah 59:2].  As Paul says in Ephesians 2:1, by nature, by birth we are the children of wrath and are “dead in trespasses and in sins.”

But not only has the Holy Spirit quickened us, regenerated us, given us a new birth, not by the will of man, not by the will of flesh, not by the blood, but by the Spirit of God, and in that new birth, in that regeneration, we are adopted into the family of God [Galatians 4:4-6].

Three times in the Old Testament is there an actual adoption.  Moses was the adopted son of Pharaoh in Egypt [Exodus 2:5-10].  In the eleventh chapter of I Kings, Genubath there is a son of Hadad in Egypt.  His aunt was Tahpenes, the queen in the Pharaoh’s court.  He was adopted into the family of the reigning monarch of Egypt [1 Kings 11:19-20].  And in the second chapter of the Book of Esther, we are told that Esther was adopted by Mordecai, her uncle [Esther 2:15].

This is an adoption of all of those who have come to know God in Christ.  This is an adoption of all of us into the family of God [Galatians 4:5-6]; and as such, we have incomparable privileges, the privilege of a son.  He names several of them, and the first one is, “Wherefore thou art no more a doulos, a slave, a servant, but a huios, a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” [Galatians 4:7].  In days past it might have been that we were slaves, we were working, and our reward, our hire was that we might be commended to God, that we might receive from God salvation.  But, having worked a lifetime, we would still be a servant, a slave, not a son.  A slave could work forever.  A servant could receive wages forever and never attain the status of an heir, of a son in the family.

But in Christ, the gift of sonship is bestowed upon us, and we are adopted into the family of God [Galatians 4:4-7].  Not by our poor works do we buy it, gain it, win it, achieve it, but it is something that God does for us [Galatians 4:4-5].  And He elevates us out of the status of a slave, of a servant, of somebody striving into the glorious inheritance and heritage of a son in the Father’s kingdom [Galatians 4:6-7].

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.  Years ago, there walked down a city street a ragged little newsboy, an orphan urchin, crying his papers as he walked down the streets.  In the big city where he lived, he passed by a beautiful mansion.  The lawn was so neatly kept.  The fountains were playing.  On that beautiful Lord’s Day, Sunday morning, the mansion looked so inviting.  And the little lad stood there and looked at the yard and looked at the home, and he found himself walking into it.  And then on the porch, and then up to the door, and before he thought for or realized, he was ringing the bell at the door.

On that Sunday morning, the big businessman, Mr. Lowery, came and opened the door and looked out and saw there that ragged little newsboy.  The little fellow standing in front of the big man was astonished at what he had done, surprised at his temerity.  And not knowing what to do or what to say, and not planning it or thinking for it, he just blurted out, he said, “Mister, do you have a little boy?  Do you have a little boy?”

And the man looked at the child kind of sadly and said, “No, son, Mrs. Lowery and I do not have any children.   We don’t have a little boy.”

And the little fellow said, “Oh, oh, I’d give everything I have, everything, if I could be your little boy and I could play on this beautiful lawn.  And there wouldn’t be anybody to make me get off or drive me away.  Oh, I would give everything if I could be your little boy.”

And one of those turns of fortunes, the big man Mr. Lowery turned and called upstairs for his wife and said, “Mrs. Lowery, come here.”  And the queenly woman walked down the graceful stairway and stood by the side of her husband.  And he said, “Dear, would you like to have a little boy?”

She said, “Oh, husband, oh!”

And the father by adoption turned to the lad and said, “Sonny boy, come here.  Come here.”

And the little boy walked in that palatial home.  And the first thing he did, as he promised, he reached in his pocket and pulled out thirteen pennies, and offered them to the big man and said, “Sir, this is all that I have.”

And we’re just like that when we offer to God what little we have and what little we can do to buy our salvation.  It is nothing.

And the big man took the little boy’s hand and closed it around his thirteen pennies and said, “Son, you keep them, for I have more than enough for us both.”  And he took the lad into his house and adopted him, and he became Mr. Lowery’s son.

That is exactly what God has done for us.  We were waifs, and poor, and ragged, and outcasts.  And into the glorious home of our heavenly Father, God hath invited us and bestowed upon us the privilege of sonship!  He adopted us into the family of heaven! [Galatians 4:4-6]. And we are an heir and a joint-heir with Jesus Christ, our elder Brother [Romans 8:17].  Wherefore, thou art no more a doulos.  You’re no more a slave.  You’re no more a servant.  You’re no more a hireling, but a son, an adopted son, and as a son you are an heir of God through Christ [Galatians 4:7].

And that brings me to the second tremendous privilege.  We are no longer under tutors and governors [Galatians 3:25], but we are now grown up.  We are members of the family.  We are accepted in the Beloved [Ephesians 1:6].  We have reached our majority.

Possibly the background of what Paul is saying here:  in the days of the Roman Empire, when a boy was twenty-five years old he was given the toga, and he became the Roman citizen with all of the rights and privileges and prerogatives pertaining thereunto.  He was a man.  He was a citizen.  He had reached his majority.  And the young fellow now is a full-fledged Roman citizen, wearing the toga.  Kind of a thing as the Jewish people do in the bar mitzvah; when the lad comes to a certain age, he is accepted then as a man in the family of the Jewish home.  So here, in Christ, we’re no longer in types and shadows and laws and ordinances and rituals.  But we are now free.  We are citizens.  We are grown.  We are adopted sons.  We are coequals with Christ [Galatians 4:7].  We are joint-heirs with Him [Romans 8:17].

In the third chapter above, he says, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” [Galatians 3:27], enduō, clothed yourself with the Lord.  And as the young man in the days of the Roman Empire was given a toga to clothe himself as a citizen, so God hath given us Christ, and we are clothed with the Lord.  We have put on Christ [Galatians 3:27].

We are fellow heirs, sons in the household of our Father, and as such, the third tremendous privilege:  we are a heir of God in Him [Galatians 4:7].  As Paul writes in the eighth chapter of Romans, “We are a joint-heir with the Lord” [Romans 8:17].  All that God has and all that God does, all of His riches and His creation, all of it is given to us.  We are inheritor of the whole vast, immeasurable kingdom and creation of God our Father.  As sons, we join with Christ in the ultimate and final inheritance [Romans 8:17].

This week, I was riding in the car with a man who had just been converted; both he and his family had just been converted and baptized and members of a little Baptist church.  And he was talking to me.  He had a thousand questions.  It was such a new experience, just a new faith.  He had grown up in such a different world.  And one of the things that he asked me was, he said, “When we die and when we go to heaven, what are we going to do in heaven?  Do we just sit on a cloud and do nothing?  What is it going to be like in heaven?”

I said, “Ah, you know, I see pictures like that often, a man and his wings and his halo polished, and he is seated on a cloud.”  I said, “Sir that is a caricature.  That is an idiocy.  That is an insult to God and the Bible and what God hath purposed for us, for if there is any one thing that the Scriptures reveal to us it is this: that in heaven we are introduced to an intensest life, life, glory!  All that God in the beginning purposed in the creation, God bestows upon us in the world that is to come.”

 You see, when God made the creation [Genesis 1:1-25], He gave its administration to Lucifer, the anointing cherubim [Ezekiel 28:14].  And when Lucifer fell, and sin entered the world [Ezekiel 28:15], and the creation fell with him [Ezekiel 28:2-8], then God re-created a part of that universe [Genesis 1:3-25] and gave its administration, its dominion to Adam.  And God said to Adam, “This is yours.  Subdue it.  Dominate it.  Rule over it” [Genesis 1:26, 28].  And that is why Satan hated him.  Outside of the garden gate is that sinister being.  For God created another glorious being to take over the administration of the whole creation from Lucifer, who fell.

Adam fell [Genesis 3:1-6].  But the purpose of God does not fail.  For in Christ, all that we lost in Adam do we gain in Him [Romans 8:16-17].  “As in Adam we all die, so in Christ are we all made alive” [1 Corinthians 15:22].  And whatever we were in the beginning, it shall be a thousand times more glorious at the ending, in our Lord.  For it is the purpose of God to bestow upon us the administration of the entire universe, the entire, vast, illimitable, infinitude of His creation! [Revelation 22:3-5].  And I do not know what that means because we have a little universe of our own; a sun, a star, and these planets around, and our little satellite to the moon, we finally make it there.  There are billions of those Milky Ways, and there are sidereal spheres and great suns and stars and planets.  God only knows!

And when the ultimate consummation comes, the New Jerusalem will come down from heaven [Revelation 21:1-2], the golden city of God; that is just our home, our address, our mansion is in the beautiful city [John 14:1-3; Revelation 21:2-3].  But we shall reign and administer over all of God’s universe, all of it! [Revelation 22:3-5].  And we shall go from place to place just like I can in my mind; from Hong Kong, to Alaska, to Rio, to Afghanistan, to India, to Alaska.  In a moment I can do it!  It will be that way.  We live in that home, but we shall administer the whole creation!  As God said to one of His servants, “You have been faithful over this, I am going to make you ruler over ten cities,” and, “You have been faithful over this, and I am going to make you ruler over five cities” [Luke 19:16-19].  We shall have an intensest life for we shall inherit with Christ, our joint-heir [Romans 8:16-17], the entire universe of God!  And when people describe for us heaven as being dull and dreary and lifeless, oh, it is a thousand miles away from the purpose and the intent and the revelation of God.

Well, I have done the same thing again!  At eight-fifteen, I just got started good like this, and the time went by.  And Dr. Bryant said to me, “I hope at the next service you will preach the whole sermon.”  And I said, “I am going to do it.  I am going to preach the whole sermon.”  Time is done, I cannot finish it.

We are going to stand now and sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing it a family you, a couple you, a one-somebody you to give himself to Jesus [Romans 10:9-10], to come into the fellowship of this precious church, would you come and stand by me?  In the balcony around, down one of these stairways, if you are on the top section of that second balcony, there is time and to spare, down one of these stairways, come.  On this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front, “Pastor, I give you my hand.  I have given my heart to God, and here I am.”  As the Spirit shall press the appeal, make it now.  Come now, on the first note of that first stanza, into that aisle, down to the front, “Here I am, pastor, here I come,” while we stand and while we sing.


Dr. W.
A. Criswell



I.          Introduction

A.  Paul writes into the
passage the names of the triune God

B.  We experience all

God the Father has begotten us again unto a living hope (1 Peter 1:3)

God the Son redeemed us by His precious blood

God the Holy Spirit quickened and regenerated us

We pray to and reverence each one (Ephesians

Doxology, “Gloria Patri”


II.         “Adoption” a word coined by Paul

A.  Huiothesia
“the placing of a son”

B.  Three instances of
adoption in the Bible

Moses (Exodus 2:10)

Zeruah(1 Kings 11:19-20)

Esther (Esther 2:7, 15)

Paul uses the word three times (Romans 8:15, 23,
9:4, Galatians 4:5, Ephesians 1:5)

III.        The
privileges (John 1:12)

A.  A slave no longer (Galatians 4:7)

      1.  Orphan boy
knocks on Mr. Lowery’s door

B.  No longer under a
tutor, a paidagogos(Galatians 3:27, 4:1-5)

C.  Joint heir with
Christ (Romans 8:17)

New believer, “What will we do in heaven?” (Genesis
1:26-28, 3:1-6, 1 Corinthians 15:22, Revelation 21:1-2, Luke 19:16-19)

D.  God sends to our
hearts the Spirit of His Son (Galatians 4:6)

Prayer – access to the throne of grace

The filial cry, “Abba, Father” (Matthew 26:39,
Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:6, 1 Samuel 1:15)