Begotten of God for Sonship

Joh 1:12 BSB

But to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God—

Joh 1:13 BSB

children born not of blood, nor of the desire or will of man, but born of God.

Adopted by God for Sonship

Eph 1:5 BSB

He predestined us for adoption as His sons through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will,

Gal 4:5 BSB

to redeem those under the law, that we might receive our adoption as sons.

So which one is it?

  • 2
    Both are true. One speaks of a new creation which will take place in the future; adoption speaks of what is immediate in your created condition. You could say I have faith I will reborn as child of God because I have been adopted. The gift of the Spirt (now) is the guarantee of rebirth (future). Dec 20, 2022 at 13:25
  • 1
    Can you expand more on it as an Answer @RevelationLad Lad Dec 21, 2022 at 10:04
  • Are we God's children by being begotten or by adoption? Yes.
    – Austin
    Dec 23, 2022 at 21:10
  • I think you’re confusing some of the passages as referring to believers when it’s only applicable to the vehicle in which believers enter and become possessors of the benefits offered to the vehicle namely Christ. Key words “IN HIM” read that in v4 of Eph1. Nobody was IN Christ before the foundation of the earth everyone was in Adam and consequently IN Sin. not all passages are applicable to your question. Dec 24, 2022 at 2:34

8 Answers 8


Clarity comes when we pick up on how often the N.T. stresses the sonship of Christians, and how some translations sometimes insert 'children' when the Greek text actually states 'sons'. There is a vital, theological truth in seeing the importance of sonship, and once that is grasped, misuse of the word 'adoption' is seen, leading to a conclusion that God never 'adopts' anyone.

Once Christ was resurrected, he could say outside the sepulchre, "Go and tell my brethren..." and once Christ had ascended, those ones became his Father's sons, and hence, his brethren. Christ had obtained sonship for them, which would be freely given to the elect, by the Spirit of sonship, as per Romans 8:14 - "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." However, the next verse says (in many translations), "...but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God." (A.V.)

This is one example of the A.V. being inconsistent in its translation of the word 'huiothesian'. Likewise in Ephesians 1:5 - "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself" - that is, to God, as Father. But are they adopted children?

Well, the Greek word 'huiothesia' occurs five times in the N.T. Three times it has been translated as 'adoption', then other words are used (in the A.V.). 'Adoption of children' is the phrase used once. Then 'adoption of sons' another time. This sort of inconsistency in the A.V. gave rise to the call for a revision in 1881. 'Huiothesia' is a compound word, and here I quote from a book explaining the matter, showing how it is derived from:

"...the conjunction of 'huios', meaning 'son', and 'tithemi', a complicated verb having the basic sense of 'set, lay' or 'place'. From this verb the Greek word 'thesis', is derived, meaning 'setting, placing', as in 'setting' words and ideas in order. This of course is the origin of the English word 'thesis'.

The meaning of the Greek thesis ranges from 'giving' of a name, 'setting forth' in legal form, 'disposition', to 'laying down', 'deposit', 'payment'. Thesis may have the meaning of 'adoption' of a child, or of a citizen of a foreign state. It may mean the 'situation' of a city; 'position', or 'arrangement'. Of course, this sheds light on the meaning of 'thesis' in English, that is, 'position' assumed in argument, and requiring proof.

It is to the Greek word thesis that huios, 'son', has been joined, forming the compound huiothesia.

It is perfectly true that in Greek literature and on various inscriptions either before, or contemporary with, new testament times, huiothesia was used in the sense of 'adoption'. But then, this was true of the word thesis.

So that to use huiothesia - strictly meaning 'setting, giving, placing as a son' - for 'adoption' is no more than a loose application of a concept already defined and served by thesis.

Suppose the 'adopted' were a daughter: which would serve, thesis in the sense of 'adoption', or huiothesis in the sense of 'position as a son'?" The Church - What is it? pp 2990-1, John Metcalfe

The key point in understanding what the Bible says as to our standing before God as our Father, is the difference between adoption as a change of status in law, and how God causes us to relate to him by birth - spiritual new birth. Are we dealt with legally, or are we generated? Are we strangers born to others, and then are legally taken into a different family, or are we children generated from the Father to form his family?

"This is not an 'adoption'. It is a generation. This is not a change of status in law. It is a relationship by birth. This is not taking a stranger born to others into the family. It is the bearing of children conceived from the Father to form 'the family'. Adoption? Not in the new testament!

In the new testament huiothesia is not the Father 'adopting' those of other, alien parentage. It is the Father begetting his own children, of his own life, by his own seed, through the Son of his love. These are not 'adopted' children of strange blood and stranger life. They are true born children begotten by the Father himself from his own life.

Because they are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into their hearts, crying, Abba, Father, Galatians 4:6." (Ibid. p.293)

This is why, when Psalm 87 speaks of Gentile foreigners to Israel being counted by God as "Zion-born", it twice says "born" and never 'adopted'. These people from Babylon, Philistia, Tyre and Ethiopia never were born in Zion, yet the promise is given that, "The Lord shall count, when he writeth up the people, that this man was born there" - in Zion, the city of God. The application is clear when it comes to God counting as legitimate citizens of heavenly Zion, those from all nations who he generated by the new birth of the Holy Spirit.

"Huiothesia, 'sonship's place' - is held by those who are true-born children, of the Father's begetting, one with the Son. As one these shall rise from the dead by the glory of the Father, in the likeness of the glorious body of his Son, bone of his bones, and flesh of his flesh (Ephesians 5:30-31) out of whose side they were taken from eternity.

The full glory of this place, sonship's place, though now revealed by inward conformity to the spiritual image of God's Son, will not appear till the resurrection from the dead... This 'placing in the condition of a son' appears in terms of the divine counsel and purpose of God in Ephesians 1:4,5." (Ibid. p.294-5)

  • Up-voted +1. Especially regarding or are we children generated from the Father to form his family?
    – Nigel J
    Dec 21, 2022 at 16:59
  • Okay this is Good stuff here. Nicely presented. My question then will be,. Does this then mean we are all that God is because of our being begotten? Dec 21, 2022 at 20:02
  • 2
    @Faith Mendel You would need to post a fresh Q to deal with that query. But it should be clear to Christians that creatures (us) can never be all that the Creator is, as he is uncreated, and the Creator. See Ex.15:11. We have a starting point in time, but not God. He determines eternal futures, not us. Although Adam was created in the likeness and image of God, that did not make him God, even before he sinned. He was to relate to God as his Maker, in obedience. So, you would need to frame any new Q with such points in mind, I suggest.
    – Anne
    Dec 23, 2022 at 12:00

So which one is it?
Um... can't it be both?

From a human standpoint, generally speaking if you gave birth to someone, it means you didn't adopt them, and if you adopted them it means you didn't give birth to them.

These are the normal ways of humans, however, when it comes to God, normal practical considerations and linguistic limitations just don't apply to the all-powerful creator of all things.

Because of the unique otherness of God, when we may describe God with word's familiar to our own experience they often can't mean exactly the same thing when applied to God.

For example, let's consider the description of God as Father. For us fathers are male participants in the process of procreation, but for God, though he is no doubt masculine in identity and presentation, is it really meaningful to speak of his masculinty as any kind of biological sex - he who does not produce sexually?

While earthly fathers may procreate, the heavenly Father simply creates, as the Hebrew scriptures state:

Have we not all one Father?
Has not one God created us?

Why then are we faithless to one another,
profaning the covenant of our fathers?
-Malachi 2:10


Do you thus repay the Lord,
you foolish and senseless people?
Is not he your father, who created you,
who made you and established you?
-Deuteronomy 32:6

The general biblical pattern is that God fathers or begets by creation. Looking ahead, we will see this concept of Fatherhood and begetting and creation applied to Jesus in a new way.

32 And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, 33 this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm,
“‘You are my Son,
today I have begotten you.’
-Acts 13:32-33

Profoundly, Paul directly ties the fulfillment of this famous verse about the day that God addresses Jesus regarding the day he was begotten on the day he was begotten not to his human birth, nor to some time prior to his human conception, but to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

We can understand this begetting was not Jesus being born again by entering his mother a second time, but by being created again by God in his resurrection from the dead, and, in this way, he had become a new creation through the cross.

14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.

Thus, because Christ has been reborn and recreated, all of us who are in Christ are a part of this new creation.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. -Ephesians 2:10


2 Corinthians 5:16-17 16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

And because we are identified as a new creation in Christ, it is said,

26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. -Galatians 3:26


Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God... -1 John 5:1

So the fact that we are born of God means we have been created/recreated by God. So God is not just the all powerful creator, but the all-powerful recreator. He gives birth to his sons not just by creation, but also by recreation. The special ability of God to not only create but recreate enables him to recreate or rebirth him who has always been his son, along with those he has adopted, those of us who formerly were not his sons.

And it is appropriate that the Bible uses the term adoption to refer to our change in status for we who were previously not God's people are now called his sons:

25 As indeed he says in Hosea,
“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”
26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
there they will be called ​‘sons of the living God.’”
-Romans 9:25-26

And so it is said that we have received the spirit of adoption:

15 ...but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. -Romans 8:15-17

Now our current status of being adopted by God and being born of God can be conceptualized as a spiritual rebirth or recreation; however, God is not yet done birthing us, for our full adoption/recreation consists not merely in a spiritual adoption of declarations and covenants, but includes the adoption of our present mortal bodies by the power of this same Spirit:

Romans 8:23-24 23 ...but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved....

Romans 6:10-11. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.

Our full adoption necessitates a full rebirth consistent with the bodily recreation God had set forth in our Lord Jesus.

29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
-Romans 8:29

20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
-Philippians 3:20-21

3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
-Colossians 3:3-4

...So, is it adoption or birth? Yes, We are born again by the creative and recreative power of God because we have been adopted by him through his Son, Jesus, for God has chosen to beget us again in the resurrection. Hopefully, we are able to understand to some degree how this could be. Normal use of human language and logic just doesn't work when dealing with the all-powerful.


There is only one whom the Bible teaches is "begotten" by God; the rest of God's children come by way of adoption.

The Only Begotten Son

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:14, KJV)

No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. (John 1:18, KJV)

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16, KJV)

He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:18, KJV)

In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. (1 John 4:9, KJV)

Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. (1 John 5:1, KJV)

The rest of us may become brothers of Jesus, sons of the Father, by adoption.

Children by Adoption

Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; (Romans 9:4, KJV)

To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. (Galatians 4:5, KJV)

Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, (Ephesians 1:5, KJV)

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: (John 1:12, KJV)

We become adopted as sons of God by receiving God and keeping His commandments.

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. (Romans 8:14, KJV)

That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed. (Romans 9:8, KJV)

For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26, KJV)

Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. (1 John 3:1, KJV)

In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. (1 John 3:10, KJV)

"Called" Brethren of Christ

When we live according to our faith in God, led by His spirit, we are counted His children, and Jesus is not then ashamed to call us his brethren.

9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. 10 For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 11 For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, (Hebrews 2:11, KJV)

Note that if we had been begotten by God in the flesh, rather than by a spiritual "begetting," we would be the sons of God whether or not one wished to call us such. The very fact that we are not called children of God if we are living outside of His will shows that our sonship is by adoption, not by physical birth.

John 1:13

This verse deserves special attention.

Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:13, KJV)

People are ordinarily born of the blood, the flesh, and by the will of man. This verse is making a clear contrast against this natural condition in favor of a spiritual application. The verse immediately follows that which says: "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name" (John 1:12, KJV). In other words, this sonship is not that of physical, flesh-and-blood birth. It is acquired by believing in God. Because this sonship is not by actual birth, but is received later, it can only apply to an adoption. The word "born" is defined here as being inapplicable to natural birth; it does not come by a physical begetting.

Two chapters later, Nicodemus is confronted by this same question.

3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? (John 3:3-4, KJV)

Jesus answers Nicodemus' question, and his answer should suffice for our questions here, too.

Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (John 3:5, KJV)

Thus it becomes clear that those who are "born of God" are born "of the Spirit," and this is a second birth, or some might call it a rebirth or new birth. It is this second birth which comprises our adoption into God's family.


We are God's children by adoption, through receiving God and believing on His name. Jesus is "the only begotten Son" of God; but through adoption, we may be called his brethren. This adoption process comes through a spiritual birth, not one of flesh and blood, as Nicodemus learned from Jesus.


The Greek word “huiothesia” translated “adoption” occurs five times in the N.T. (Rom.8:15, 23; 9:4; Gal.4:5; Eph.1:5); and is a compound of two words in the Greek; the first is (tithemi, G5087), which has the meaning “to assign or appoint”; the second is (huios, G5207) meaning “son”.

It has been taught that we as Gentiles have been adopted into Gods family, having been made to partake in Israels spiritual blessings, but as one can see, Israel has the adoption, as Gods firstborn son (Rom.9.4;15.27; Ex. 4 22). So right away, one can see this assumption does not make sense, and stems from our translation, and the English meaning of adoption, rather than what the text reveals.

So rather than "huiothesia" referring to when one comes to faith and becomes a child of God; the huiothesia concerns the biblical theme of the (beracah) blessing of the (becorah) First born right; this motif runs throughout scripture; and it concerns abundant life, and a position of preeminence in the house of the farther, which is rewarded for being an obedient son (Gen.12:1-3; 22:16-17; 25:1; 27:3-4, 7-8, 26-38; 49:1-28;cp.37:2,14;cp.2-14;48:9-22;49:8-10;cp.44:33-45:3).The “huiothesia” takes place at the time appointed by the father; it is the time when the son is appointed as ruler over all the father’s house (Gal.4:1-2; Mt.24:45-47; cp. Rev.2:26-27; Ps.2:8-9;89:27); when he receives the blessing of the firstborn right (Rom.8:17, 29); the “reward of the inheritance” received by the matured obedient image bearing sons (Col.3:10, 23-25; cp. 1:9-12, 28).

We know from Old Testament scripture that the birth right, along with its blessing can be forfeited for disobedience (1Chron.5:1-2); to which the apostle Paul gives heed to the child of God (Eph.5:3-6), even giving examples from the O.T.(in the context of reward i.e. using words like: prize, race, run, and crown) warning us not to lose out on the inherence, as did the Israelites in the wilderness, figured by not entering the promised land (1Cor.9:24-10.1:10; Heb.12:1, 15-17).

It will be necessary to gain a proper understanding of how the word for “son” (huios) is used (in the context under consideration), being the root of “huiothesia”. In doing this, we will also look at two other words; that have different meanings in the Greek but have (like huios) been interchangeably rendered “child” or “son”. Making it difficult for the reader to see the differences of meaning, thinking they are one in the same. Which has resulted in confusing the “huiothesia” to be what takes place at the time one becomes a child of God (becoming a member of Gods family); instead of being the reward of the inheritance (Jn.3:16; Col.3:24; cp.2Tim.2:10-13).

The first word is (tekon, G5043) which should be properly rendered “child” and has the meaning of producing, to bare, to generate, and is used of one who is born; this words theological usage refers to when one becomes a child of God, upon placing faith in Christ (Jn.1:12; Rom.8:16). And has wrongly been rendered “son” in many occurrences in different bible translations, not making the distinction of when huios is being used.

Huios “son” has the meaning of being full grown, or maturity; and is used in a conditional sense (in the context under consideration), which rest upon the believers walk as being led after the spirit in obedience: “for those who are led by the spirit of God, these are the sons (huios) of God”; this speaks of the child of God who images the character and wisdom of the father, “pray for them which despitefully use you,…..that ye may be the sons (huios) of your Father which is in heaven….Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons (huios) of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Rom.8:14; Mt.5:44-48; Lk.6:36).

The second word (nepios, Gr3516) has the meaning of immaturity, or adolescence, rendered “underage” (Gal.4:1, NIV) “nepios” is in contrast with “son” (being full grown), and is used of the carnal believer, as babes in Christ, not skillful in the word of God (1 Cor.3:1; Eph.4:14; Heb.5:13).

Now lets us look at the scriptures where “huiothesia" is used: Rom.8:14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons (huios) of God. 15For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear (of eternal judgment, under the law); but ye have received the Spirit of adoption (now having been justified from the law, now have the hope of the inheritance set before them). whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 16The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children (tekon) of God: 17and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together ….23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, that is, the redemption of our body. For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? 25But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.

Romans 8:23 clearly states, without a question of a doubt that the “huiothesia” is the future hope of the believer “waiting for the adoption (huiothesia), that is the redemption of the body". Here Paul equates the timing of the adoption to be when the body is redeemed, which takes place at the appearing of Christ (Phil.3:21).

Rom.8:23, allows us to see that the similar language in Ephesians, is indeed associating the “huiothesia” with the future hope of the believer; and is not what took place once one came to faith in Christ, and became a child of God (as entering Gods family), as it has usually been understood due to the English translation “adoption”. Let’s read in Ephesians: “Having predetermined us unto (eis) adoption” “you were sealed with the holy spirit…. which is the earnest of our inheritance until (eis) the redemption of the purchased possession” “whereby you are sealed unto (eis) the day of redemption” (Eph.1:5, 13-14, 4:30). These scriptures along with Rom.8:23 are clearly teaching that “huiothesia” is a future event that takes place at the appearing of Christ, when the believer receives his inheritance (2Tim.4:8).

Gal.4:1 Now I say, if the heir is underage (nepios), he does not differ at all from a slave although he is lord of all, 2but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father. 3So also we, while we were underage, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world. 4But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5So that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the(huiothesia) adoption. 6Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.

In v.5 it says, “that we might receive the (huiothesia)” “might receive” is the Greek word (apolambano, G618) and is used in Col.3:24 “you shall receive (apolambano) the reward of the inheritance.” And in 2 Jn.1:8 “but that we receive(apolambano) a full reward”.

Here In Galatians “nepios” is used of the spiritual condition of those who were previously under the law; being servants to the spiritual powers of sin, they were in an adolescent state, or infant spiritually; and how through faith in Christ, they are now full grown “sons” ( nepious is here being used in contrast with “son”, huios); because Christ has redeemed them from the law; they are now impowered by the spirit unto perfection, no longer slaves to the powers of sin, but “sons” in Christ (Gal.1:4;3:2-3, 22; 4:1-7).

Paul is using the imagery of Israel’s servant condition still under the law covenant; with the Hellenistic cultural practice of Paul’s day, in that, while the adolescent was under guardians, until the time appointed by the father, he was no different than a slave, though lord of all. likewise in the fullness of the time, Christ came to redeem those under the law (guilty and powerless); that they may now enter the inheritance and may be lord of all (Mt.24:46-47); the end of the ages had come up them (1Cor.10:11;Rom.13:11), and they were expecting the return of Christ, and by the power of His spirit would they walk worthy of their calling (Eph.4:1), and enter the kingdom with great reward (2Pet.1:11), assigned as His ruling sons (huiothesia).

The context of one rendering themselves being dead unto sin in Romans 8, is for the reason that they may partake in the adoption on "the day of redemption" (Eph. 4:30) at the coming of Christ, that to be first to enter the Kingdom obtaining salvation with age abounding glory at the appearing of Crist (2Tim.2:10), this will be a resurrection of reward (Lu.20:35; Heb:11:35).

Redemption in this context is unto the inheritance, of How God has purchased us with the blood of Christ, for us to have the right to Gods spiritual life, generating us as His children (being born form above), for the purpose of impowering us to live as righteous sons to walk worthy of our calling, that we enter the inherence, as His ruling sons (adoption).

So, sanctification would allow one to be worthy to partake in the redemption of Gods inherence (the called-out company) that He will rule through, as themed in the Old Testament with Isarel.

We cannot be set of track from rightly dividing these truths, the unfaithful believers will not partake in the adoption, they will lose out on the inheritance of the blessing of the firstborn right. But being heirs of God, they still have the promise of life and will be raised after the thousand years, but these will not be those who partake in the first resurrection, which is a reward for obedience. Also note that each company in the bible has its own adoption, and it is also themed as a corporate event in the O.T. (cp. Rom.9:4).

  • Correctly discerning the truth about being 'born from above' Congats, +1 This would be easier to read and digest if you used the better formatting for the verse quoted as the other answers show. Simply add the > before the verse quoted. and add an extra line to space it apart.
    – Steve
    Feb 25, 2023 at 8:09
  • You can change it to make it clearer if you would like, i will check it out. Feb 25, 2023 at 19:35
  • And thank your for your interest in reading my answer. Feb 25, 2023 at 19:44
  • This is well-researched, but it is really long. We try to be concise here. Could you try to tighten it up? I myself have found I can cut most of my own writings in half with the same meaning. If you can cut it in half, you'll probably get better responses anyway. Cheers!
    – Jesse
    May 9 at 19:19

Paul and adoption
Paul speaks of adoption in terms of an immediate change:

For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15 NKJV)

He also speaks of a future condition:

35 But someone will say, “How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?”...42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. 45 And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. (1 Corinthians 15)

Therefore, becoming children of God is not necessarily a question between adoption or begotten. Furthermore, the Prologue is essentially a "big picture" statement lacking some details. For example, how is one begotten of God? This detail is given later: begotten of God is a work the Spirit (cf. John 3:5-8). Paul also speaks of the role of the Holy Spirit in the future state of the believer:

who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.
(2 Corinthians 1:22)

If the question of adoption or begotten is approached from the perspective of how either is accomplished, the answer is both are the work of the same Spirit. In other words, while the Prologue does differ in terminology, there is no contradiction with the Gospel between the means or in an immediate and future change:

38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” 39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7)

Children of God
It is important to understand what John says and does not say in the Prologue:

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name (KJV)

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name (NKJV)

The word "power/right" is ἐξουσία, exousia and should be understood by comparison to δύναμις, dynamis. Both can be rendered as "power." exousia is power as in authority where dynamis is power as in ability. The Prologue says He gave the authority, not the ability to become children of God. If there was nothing else on the subject, one could suppose this is speaking of adoption. The authority to adopt which is thought to rest with God has been transferred to people. The Prologue makes no mention of what one must do to exercise their authority nor does it give any details of how God uses His ability to bring this about.

Of course, the Gospel does have more to say about becoming children of God:

who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (1:13)

The will of God implies authority. God's will is to have children begotten of God. However, this term does not necessarily rule out adoption.

But I was established king by him, on Sion, his holy mountain, by proclaiming the Lord’s ordinance: the Lord said to me, ‘My son you are; today I have begotten you.
(LXX-Psalm 2:6-7 NETS)

Today I have begotten you uses γεννάω as does the Prologue. The Psalm speaks of something happening to an adult and may refer to adoption. Nor does the Psalm necessarily exclude something in the future.

In terms of Paul's immediate and future statements, it is fair to say the Prologue does not contradict Paul. Yet it does place greater emphasis on what Paul would say is future, but in a way which does not necessarily rule out what Paul would say is immediate.

Born of the Spirit

2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3)

It would be an injustice to the Gospel to claim, becoming children of God being born of the will of God, only meant adoption. Nevertheless, adoption is not necessarily excluded. More importantly, it is the Spirit who has the dynamis which makes children of God. When a person exercises the authority they were given, the Spirit exercises power and the person becomes children of God. The Spirit's role is not "passive" as a conduit of power. The Spirit actively searches all things (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:10) and knows if a person has met God's conditions and exercised the authority God gave them.

John also speaks of the believer's future condition:

1 Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
(1 John 3)

Not in the Gospel, but the letter states those who are children of God are not yet what they will be, but have the knowledge they will be like Him in the future. Taken together, the Gospel and the letter follow the same immediate and future aspects found in Paul. If there is a difference, it is in terminology which works to place emphasis on one over the other.

Exercising authority
Paul gives a "formula" for being saved:

9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10)

Paul speaks of salvation but what he describes follows what he says about adoption:

Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:5)

That is, one is saved, receives the Holy Spirit and immediately experiences a work of the Spirit: the love of God is poured into the heart.

I believe it is reasonable to say the Gospel does not contradict Paul on the issue of adoption and becoming children of God; rather each expresses the same work of the Spirit from a different point of emphasis.

Logically, Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, focuses on the fact salvation which may be from the Jews, is not limited to the Jewish people. A Gentile is immediately adopted and may address Israel's God as Abba Father. Thus there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile and like Abraham, the Gentile is immediately saved by faith. In fact, it is possible Paul's "adoption" has this as aspect of salvation in mind. There is a sense one could speak of God "adopting" Abram, the first "Jewish" believer an action God repeats with a Gentile who believes.

Lastly, it is fair to say, the Gospel never gives explicit instruction on how to exercise the authority to become children of God. In this sense, not only does the Gospel not contradict Paul, it effectively says "do what Paul says."

  • In terms of Paul's immediate and future statements, it is fair to say the Prologue does not contradict Paul. Yet it does place greater emphasis on what Paul would say is future, but in a way which does not necessarily rule out what Paul would say is immediate.... I didn't quite catch what you meant here Jan 3, 2023 at 10:00
  • @FaithMendel The Prologue simply says “…become children of God…” this can be true if one becomes by adoption. Jan 3, 2023 at 15:31

This question was specifically asked by Nicodemus in John 3 - Jesus used the idea of a spiritual "begetting", "being born again" as a metaphor for adoption as per John John 1:12, 13 (as quoted by the OP).

In John 3 we have this exchange between Nicodemus and Jesus about spiritual rebirth:

3 Jesus replied, “Truly, truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

4 “How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Can he enter his mother’s womb a second time to be born?”

5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh is born of flesh, but spirit is born of the Spirit. 7 Do not be amazed that I said, ‘Youb must be born again.’ 8The wind blows where it wishes. You hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

That is, Jesus uses the metaphor of spiritual rebirth as a metaphor for adoption as children of God (John 1:12, 13, 1 John 3:10, Phil 2:15, Rom 8:17, etc). Indeed, John makes the clear distinction between either children of the Devil vs children of God:

1 John 3:10 - By this the children of God are distinguished from the children of the devil: Anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is anyone who does not love his brother.

Note that all the themes of John's Gospel are stated explicitly in the opening prologue (John 1:1-18). Spiritual adoption, or becoming children of God is stated in John 1:12 & 13, as quoted by the OP. This theme is expanded in John 3:1-10 where physical birth is used as a metaphor for spiritual rebirth, or adoption of a child of God.

APPENDIX - Spiritual Adoption in the Bible

Literal adoption was used in both Hebrew (most notably Moses, Ex 1, 2, and Esther) and Roman societies as a means of providing heirs for those who could not have their own, or, providing protection for children deprived of parents by either death or poverty. It is the latter sense that the New Testament uses the term as a metaphor of a person becoming a “Son of God”. This idea is drawn from the Old Testament that discusses Israel’s adoption by God (Deut 14:1, 32:6, 8 (DSS, LXX), 18, Isa 63:16, 64:8, Jer 31:9, Mal 1:6).

The idea of sinners being adopted as Sons of God occurs infrequently in the NT and only by Paul (Rom 8:15, 23, 9:4, Gal 4:5, Eph 1:5). However, Jesus appears to unmistakably allude to adoption in John 3:1-8 and 1:12, 13 where we are able to become children of God; Rom 1:7, 2 Cor 1:2, Eph 1:2, 5, Gal 1:3, 4:5, Phil 1:2, 4:20, Col 1:2, 1 Thess 3:11, 2 Thess 1:1, 2, 2:16, 1 Tim 1:2, etc. This is in contradistinction to the Jewish leaders whom Jesus accused of having the Devil as their father, John 8:44.

Thus, adoption is spoken of in the present and future tenses:

  • Adoption in our current life is a metaphor of the reception of the spirit, “the spirit of adoption” (Rom 8:15) signifying a complete change of attitude and way of life which frees us from the constraints of the law, slavery to sin and fear of spiritual poverty, with the added bonus of the promise of future glory in heaven. This process is technically (theologically) called “conversion”, which see.
  • Adoption in the future life (Rom 8:23) is used as a metaphor of glorification when the saints are translated to heaven.

Adoption is used as a figure of the privileges of sinners under the protection of God in the Christian life, but Gal 4:5 links the idea to redemption and hence to atonement. Thus, it is more a symbol of the change of life from sinner and assurance of heaven (that is conversion) than of only atonement. The latter (psychologically) creates the former. That is, a person of royalty is free from fear of slavery and poverty, but must be generous to those in need.

Indeed, God is frequently spoken of as the “Father” of the Israelites throughout the OT, Deut 32:6, Ps 89:26, Isa 63:8-10, 16, 64:8, Mal 1:6. In the NT writers frequently refer to God as “the Father”, Gal 1:1, Eph 1:3, 5:20, 6:23, Phil 2:11, 1 Thess 1:1, 1 Cor 15:25, 2 Cor 1:3, 11:31, James 1:27, 1 Peter 1:2, 3, 2 Peter 1:17, 2 John 3, etc; or “My Father”, Matt 11:27, 12:50, 18:35, 20:23, 26:53, Luke 10:22, 15:58, John 5:17, 8:19, 54, 10:17, 18, 29, 14:21, 23, 15:18, etc. The Lord’s Prayer begins with “Our Father”, Matt 6:9, see also Gal 1:4, 1 Thess 3:11, 2 Thess 2:16, Titus 1:4, Col 1:3, Phil 1:2, 4:20, etc.

The metaphor of adoption is used as a proxy for the promises of the covenant in Rom 9:4, Eph 1:5, Gal 3:26-29, 4:5; this is apt as the covenant and adoption grant great privileges.

The metaphor of adoption is extended by the New Testament’s repeated idea of Christ being our brother (Heb 2:11-13, 17, Ps 22:22, Isa 8:17, 18, Matt 12:48, 49, John 20:17, Rom 8:29) following adoption.


It is in being born of God that is the true birth and the true life, but we are not born of God by nature. By nature, there is one alone who is God’s only begotten.

Barnes commentary of Jn 1:14, biblehub.com

Only-begotten - This term is never applied by John to any but Jesus Christ. It is applied by him five times to the Saviour, John 1:14, John 1:18; John 3:16, John 3:18; 1 John 4:9. It means literally an only child. Then, as an only child is especially dear to a parent, it means one that is especially beloved.

For us who are born of the flesh, to be born of God is a process of regeneration - of being born again by the Spirit.

That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ … – Jn 3:6-7

Even so, Jesus says that he is using earthly concepts to represent spiritual truths (Jn 3:12).

If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? - Jn 3:12

The word adoption is another earthly concept, in this case one that Paul employs, to explain the process of rebirth. It is helpful in that it captures the before and after aspects of our rebirth: from one who is born in the flesh to one who is born of the Spirit. Furthermore, the concept of adoption is indicative of a legal requirement or process that must be fulfilled. After all, we are not the children of God by nature and must receive that right through an intermediary.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name – Jn 1:12

He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace – Eph 1:5-7

I believe there are unique aspects of our rebirth that neither the concepts of birth nor adoption can fully capture. In being reborn, we are as one who is begotten of God, but we become so by uniting ourselves to Christ, like a branch that is joined to him as the vine or a part attached to his body.

Personally, I am drawn to Paul’s analogy. Adoption is, in my opinion, no less beautiful than the concept of natural birth, capturing as it does the process whereby those who were once alienated from one another or from very different stations in life (Paul’s analogy is of a master adopting his servant) come together and build a home where there was not, and a family where there had been none.

  • Great Answer. So what does the being born again by the will of God Mean ? Does it not also capture the process ? Jan 3, 2023 at 9:57
  • @FaithMendel My point is that the authors use different words to describe the same process, that of being born of God. Reference Rom 8:13-14: "For if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God." His concept/metaphor of adoption helps to capture some unique aspects of that process, as presented in my answer.
    – Nhi
    Jan 3, 2023 at 17:54

It is the same as to ask:

"I have read two slogan-advertisements of this karate academy: a) "Whoever enters here will get a chance to become a world-class fighter!" and b) "Whoever is received here, will get a chance to become a world-class fighter!" So, do we enter there, or are we received there?"

But the question is futile, for entering entails being received, and vice versa, being received entails entering.

Similarly, being born means that we are adopted, and being adopted means that we are begotten/born. Why? Here's why:

God not only does not but cannot give you birth in His Spirit unless you desire to be born anew, thus it is His will and action and your reciprocal will and reciprocal action that gives you the new birth in Spirit and thus makes an adopted son. And the same sentence with the very same semantic can be put thus: God not only does not adopt you but cannot adopt you as His son unless you reciprocate with His will and co-act with action of His Holy Spirit being born in and through Him.

Both stand for the same.

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