A Series on What is Regeneration
Both Jesus and Apostle Paul speak of regeneration that results in privileges of inheritance found only in adoption
(John 1:9-13; Tit 3:4-7).
What is adoption and how are regeneration and adoption related?
Adoption is the legal term that validates the act of a person who voluntarily brings a person of another family into their own
and entitles them to the rights and privileges of a biological son or daughter.
In the Bible, the concept of adoption existed before the New Testament's introduction of regeneration.
Throughout the Old Testament, there is no Hebrew word for any aspect of adoption, and it was not a practice of
Israelites. This was in part because Mosaic legislation required a man to remarry his brother's widow, and property was to be
maintained within the tribe (Lev 25:23-34;
Num 27:8-11; Jer 32:6-15).
However, adoption during this time was practiced by foreigners or by Jews influenced by foreign customs. For
example, Pharaoh's daughter adopted Moses (Ex 2:10).
In instances of covenantal inheritance, there were inferences of adoption with the identification of sonship which
designated the heirs (Gen 48:5; Ex 4:22-23;
Hos 11:1). In most biblical references, adoption as a covenantal concept applied to
a group of people, not to individuals.
In the first century A.D., Roman customs had a great influence on Jewish family life. In regard to adoption, Roman
law viewed the adopted one as being born again into the new family and in essence a new creature. This legal concept was the analogy
that Paul used to describe the relationship of a Believer to God.
With a view towards the legal meaning of adoption, Paul grieves for the nation of Israel for their arrogant attitude of being God's
elect; the nation presumed their adoption through covenant promise by claiming to be descendants of Jacob or Abraham
(Rom 9:3-7). The nation of Israel forgot that they were chosen by God's sovereign
mercy in keeping with His promise to Abraham, and they did not understand who really belonged to Israel
In contrast to physical descendants, the inheritance is for those of faith as symbolized by God's promise of a
child to Abraham (Gal 4:28-29; Rom 9:7-9);
Paul understood Believers to be metaphorically the children of the promise and the true offspring of Abraham.
To the saints in Ephesus, Paul affirmed that Believers were predestined to adoption as God's sons through Jesus Christ as a loving
sovereign act of God (Eph 1:3-8).
To the Galatian Believer, Paul asserts that the Holy Spirit was sent into their hearts, because they were adopted as the sons of
God (Gal 4:1-7). Regeneration is what enables a Believer to cry out "God, Father."
Adoption and regeneration are God's sovereign acts of committing Himself to Believers. They also represent an affirmation to
Believers of their trust in God which continues to grow out of His Fatherhood (Rom 8:14-17),
not only of the present, but of the future hope still to be fulfilled (Rom 8:23).
It can be said that regeneration validates the Believer's legal adoption by God.
Paul sees Believers as sons of Abraham (Gal 3:7, 29) and
co-heirs with Christ (Rom 8:17).
Jesus sees Believers as sons of the resurrection (Luke 20:36;
Mark 12:25; Matt 22:30), sons of
the kingdom (Matt 13:38) and sons of light
(John 12:36). Most significant is that Jesus is not ashamed to call Believers
"brothers" (Heb 2:11).
How is regeneration related to adoption?
Adoption establishes a legal relationship and rights of inheritance and occurs before regeneration
Regeneration changes the origin of birth and establishes a natural and holy relationship to God.
1. Brown C, ed., The New International Dictionary of the New Testament, vol 1, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, (1971).
2. Brand C, Draper C and England A, eds., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, (1998).
3. Youngblood RF, Bruce FF and Harrison, RK, eds., Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers (1996).
4. Gaebelein FE, ed., The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 10, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, (1976).
5. Walvoord JF and Zuck RB, eds., Bible Knowledge Commentary, Wheaton: Victor Books, (1985).
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