Abba's Children

Welcome back, this week as we begin looking at God as our Abba Father, I thought it might be good to talk about some of the prerequisites for being a father. The first obvious prerequisite is one must have children! As we have talked about before, in Abba's case, the only way for Him to have children would be to adopt them. The apostle Paul speaks of this is Romans 8:15-17.

"For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, Abba! Father!" The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs-heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, in order that we may be glorified with Him."

I feel it necessary to warn you that on the surface this week's edition may seem a little bit dry. I believe though, if we think about what we are going to learn here about adoption, that we will begin to appreciate our being Abba's children even more.

So what does this adoption look like and just how did it happen? To answer those questions we must first put off our thinking around adoption as we know it today. To begin with, in the Roman culture, adoption never had to do with children! It was always adults who were adopted. The word translated 'adoption' is used only five times in the New Testament. Part of the reason for that is that adoption was unique to the Roman culture. Adoption was unfamiliar to the Jewish and Greek cultures. For more on this I am going to quote William Barclay in his commentary on this passage. We will touch on this important topic of adoption over the next couple of weeks.

"It is only when we understand how serious and complicated a process Roman adoption was that we can really understand the depth of meaning of this passage. Roman adoption was always rendered more serious and more difficult by the Roman 'patria potestas.' The 'patria potestas' was the father's absolute power over his family. In that absolute power he had complete disposal and control, and in the early days it was actually the power of life and death. In regard to his father, a Roman son never came of age. No matter how old he was, he was still under the 'patria potestas', in the absolute possession, and under the absolute control, of his father. Obviously this made adoption into another family a very difficult and very serious step. In adoption a person had to pass from one 'patria potestas' to another. He had to pass from the possession and control of one father into the equally absolute possession and control of another.
There were two steps. The first was known as 'mancipatio', and it was carried out by a symbolic sale, in which copper and scales were symbolically used. Three times the symbolism of sale was carried out. Twice the father symbolically sold his son, and twice he bought him back; and the third time he did not buy him back, and thus the 'patria potestas' hold on the person to be adopted was broken. After the sale there followed a ceremony called 'vindicatio'. The adopting father went to the 'praetor',one of the Roman magistrates, and presented a legal case for the transference of the person to be adopted in his 'patria potestas'. When all this was completed, the adoption was complete. Clearly this was a serious and impressive step.

So that is a brief look at the steps of ancient adoption. Next time we will look more at some of the consequences of being adopted. This is going to be an exciting and liberating journey. Our Father's heart is inviting us to travel this path with Him.


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