Numerous reasons have been given thus far for rejecting the teaching of "adoption" as the way people become the children of God and enter his family. In this chapter we will show other reasons why "adoption" is not only not the teaching of Scripture, but also why "adoption" is a mistranslation of "huiothesia."
First, the word in dispute has "huios" connected with "thesia." But, if "adoption" were meant, then why "huios" (sons) rather than "daughter" (Greek "thygatēr") or "child" (Greek "nekron") or "infant" (Greek "paidion") or "minor child" (Greek "nēpios")? People today do not generally adopt older boys, and never adopt grown men, as the Romans did. Further, people today rarely adopt their own kin, but the Romans did this often. The point is, if simple western adoption were in view by translating or interpreting "huiothesia" as "adoption," then it would be simply placing or adoption of "children" or "babies."
The translation of "huiosethia" in Ephesians 1:5 as "adoption of children" (KJV) is false and generally corrected by later English translations. The Greek compound word is not made up of "teknon" and "thesia" but "huios" and "thesia." But, as we will see, the KJV errs often in this regard, translating "teknon" as both "child" and "son," when it suited them, and often translating "huios" as both "child" and "son" when it suited them. But, more will be said on this important point later. But, for now, let me add this information about the KJV as regard their translation practice in regard to "teknon" and "huios."
teknon (child) is translated "son" in the following passages: — Matthew ix. 2, Matthew xxi. 28; Mark ii. 5, xiii. 12; Luke ii. 48, Luke xv. 31, Luke xvi. 25; John i. 12; 1 Corinthians iv. 14, 17; Philippians ii. 15, 22; 1 Timothy i. 2, 18; 2 Tim. i. 2, ii. 1; Titus i. 4; Philemon 10; 1 John iii. 12. It is also translated "daughters" in 1 Peter iii. 6.
huios (son) is translated "child" in the following passages: — Matthew 5:9, 45, Matthew viii. 13, Matthew ix. 15, Matthew xii. 27, Matthew xiii. 38, Matthew xvii. 25, 26, Matthew xx. 20, Matthew xxiii. 15, 31, Matthew xxvii. 9, 56; Mark ii. 19; Luke i. 16, 5:34, Luke vi. 35, Luke xvi. 8, Luke xx. 34, 36; John iv. 12, John xii. 36; Acts iii. 25, Acts 5:21, Acts vii. 23, 37, Acts iv. 15, Acts x. 30, Acts xiii. 10, 26; Romans ix. 26, 27; 2 Corinthians iii. 7, 13; Galatians iii. 7, 26; Ephesians ii. 2, 5:6; Colossians iii. 6; 1 Thessalonians 5:5; Hebrews xi. 22, xii. 5; Revelation ii. 14, Revelation vii. 4, Revelation xii. 5, Revelation xxi. 12. It is also translated "foal" in Matthew xxi. 5.
This was not good translation practice. Far better it would be if English translators would translate more literally and keep their private interpretations out of the practice. The KJV translators, as all other English translators, should have always translated "teknon" as "child" and "huios" as "son."
Some bible scholars question whether a meaningful distinction exists in Paul’s use of the Greek words for “child” (Greek "nekron") and “son” (Greek "huios"). In this and the next chapter we will see that the biblical writers, in either testament, did not loosely use these terms, nor other terms denoting people at various stages of life. They did not use such words interchangeably and without significance, as some scholars and translators affirm.
If a NT writer used "huios" or "teknon," for instance, it was done on purpose, with meaningful distinction. I realize that sometimes your average person, in every day language, does not always speak so precisely and with care in the use of such terms. But, though this is generally true among the imprecise conversation of the common populace, whose grammar is often incorrect, it is not true among those who write more correctly and definitively. Neither the writers of the Hebrew OT, nor the writers of the Greek NT, used these terms loosely, as the KJV translators and some other scholars have done.
In this chapter we will begin a look at the various Hebrew and Greek terms used in Holy Scripture to denote persons at various stages of life and then make use of this information to help us decide whether the biblical writers used such terms interchangeably and without purpose, as some scholars affirm. We will see that Paul had a reason for speaking of "son" placement rather than "child" placement.
But, before doing that, let us observe other reasons why "huiothesia" cannot mean adoption. The first of the five passages with "huiothesia" that we looked at was Romans 9:4 where Paul says that "the huiothesia" belonged to those who were "Israelites." Several arguments were offered in regard to that passage which showed that it did not teach that "huiothesia" meant "adoption." Now is a good time to look at its use in Ephesians 1:4.
Predestined To Final Salvation
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,.." (Eph. 1:3-5 kjv)
In the Greek text "predestined us unto adoption (or son placement") is written this way:
"προορίσας ἡμᾶς εἰς υἱοθεσίαν."
The KJV translators gave us "the adoption of children" for the translation of "huiothesia." Let it be kept in mind that scholars on the meaning of this word are interpreters, and their interpretations are not always correct. To see how scholars disagree in interpretation and translation all one has to do is to consult the various English translations and notice the differences in judgment on various passages.
Some think that the way to decide which translations are correct, or most correct, is to view all the translations and see which is the majority or consensus interpretation (translation) and then accept such on that basis. This might be good in most cases, but it cannot be made a rule for the Bible interpreter, for sometimes the majority of scholars are in error and the truth is with the minority.
As stated previously, there is no justification in either the use of "children" or "adoption" in translating the word "huiothesia" into English. Literally, "nekron" means "child" and "huios" means "son." No Greek scholar on the NT disagrees with this. Whatever kind of "placing" or "placement" is in view, in the compound word, it is qualified by "huios" and not "nekron."
To translate "huios" as "children" in Eph. 1: 4 and other places (as does the KJV and some other English translations) and then claim justification for doing so on the basis that the interpreter thinks that these terms are sometimes used interchangeably and without a meaningful distinction in the NT, is not good translating. I would ask such translators - "Why not just translate literally and not impose your presupposition (about no meaningful distinction in the terms)?" If the text has "huios" and that means "son," and is distinct from "teknon" that means "child," then why lead people astray by doing as they have done? Thankfully, at least many modern English translations do at least omit "children" in favor of "sons," although many of them still keep the word "adoption." They will translate as "adoption of sons" or "adoption as sons," or in some similar manner.
Another fault with most English translations of "huiothesia" is how they will give a plural translation to the word in spite of the fact that it is singular. Thus, instead of "sons" or "children," it would be "son" or "child." One wonders why this is so. It seems to be a minor symptom of the translating and interpretation problem concerning this unique word. Yet it is a little revealing. Translating literally it would be "son placement," using the singular rather than the plural. Literally the text should be translated into English as "having predestined us to son placement."
Noticeable also is the absence of the definite article "the" in the passage, though the KJV and some other English translations add it to the text. Just as it was wrong to translate "teknon" as "son," and "huios" as "child," so it is wrong to add the definite article when it is absent in the Hebrew or Greek text, or to omit it when it is present. In Ephesians 1:5 it is not "predestined to the huiothesia," but "predestined to huiothesia." So, the KJV got these things wrong with their translation of this passage.
1. Used the word "adoption" to translate "thesia."
2. Used "child" to translate "huios."
3. Used the plural "children" for the singular "huios."
4. Added the definite article "the" when it is noticeably absent in the text
5. Used the unnecessary preposition "of" in "adoption of children"**
**some other translations use "as" for "of"
The purpose of the absence of the Greek article is to describe, define, characterize, and qualify, as any NT Greek grammar will confirm. There is a difference in saying "huiothesia" and "the huiothesia," just as there is in saying "the God" and "God" in John 1:1. The absence of the definite article does not automatically infer the indefinite. So, just as "God" in John 1:1 does not mean "a god," so "huiothesia" does not mean "a son placement." As stated previously, of the five passages where "huiothesia" is used only two omit the definite article. This is one and the other is Romans 8:15. On the other hand we saw its existence in Romans 9:4 and talked of its significance in that passage.
Many people erroneously connect "the huiothesia" with the beginning of the Christian life, with being adopted or born again in conversion, but this is not the case, for several reasons. Recall that Dr. Packer believed that Ephesians 1: 5 was one of three places where "adoption" or "huiothesia" was shown to be a present reality. However, it is clear that it is not a present reality as yet; And, if it is not a present reality, but a future event, then no one is yet adopted (if adoption be the correct translation).
In the text "huiothesia" is the object of God's eternal purpose, or predestination, in regard to the elect, and would therefore represent the "end" of his design in regard to them. Therefore, final salvation in the eternal state, as perfected sons of God, and sons of the resurrection, must be in view. It must be the end when the elect are all made fully like, in both soul and body, their heavenly Father. Being converted in time is not the end purpose of God in soteriological predestination, but a means to that end. Salvation and sonship, or being made fully like the Son of God, who is himself the express image of the Father, is the culmination or accomplishment of the divine decree.
Divine acts, like rational human acts, are for the attainment of some predetermined end. The purpose of the end is first in view before the determination of the means. What is first in intention is last in execution. It is therefore called the "final cause." The end purpose and design for the elect is that they be be made like the Son of God and enjoy family life with God the Father forever. Notice these words of the Apostle in regard to the decree of election and predestination.
"God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." (II Thess. 2:13-14 KJV)
Notice the end and the means to the end. The end is "salvation" and "obtaining of the glory," which is yet mostly future. The means of this salvation are sanctification of the Spirit and faith via the gospel. But, as sanctification and faith are incomplete, being progressive and linear in the Christian life, so the salvation must be what follows it. In this verse we have two of Aristotle's "four causes." The "first cause" goes back to "the beginning," which beginning is in the mind of God, or "before the foundation of the world." The "final cause" looks forward to the end contemplated. It is purpose realized and brought to fruition. We also have "efficient" and "instrumental" causes in the verses. The Spirit is the efficient cause of sanctification and the gospel and the truth are means or instrumental causes.
In Romans chapter eight, where two of the occurrences of "huiothesia" are found, Paul mentions predestination as in Ephesians chapter one. In Romans 8:29 Paul wrote "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son."
Both these statements, "predestined unto the huiothesia" and "predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son" look to the final state of saints in glory, in eternity to come, when they will be fully made into the image of Christ, who is the image of the Father.
Said Dr. MacArthur in a conference on Ephesians (SEE HERE - Emphasis mine):
"There's also more in it than that. The second half of the word — the first is "pre." The second half of the word is "destined," and that sort of takes you to the end. And the end of it is I think best summed up in Romans 8 that we are: "Predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son." So that God's elective purpose was to the glorification, that is the full and final salvation, of those whom He chose."
This is correct. The end of God's decree of salvation is to have a family of sons and daughters, from among fallen humanity, who have been made divine, holy, and perfect. Therefore, since MacArthur agrees that the salvation unto which the elect are chosen is final salvation, then the "huiothesia," the thing predetermined, is also connected with final salvation and "glorification." As MacArthur says, it is the final "destiny." God has predestined the "end" or completion of his purpose in salvation.
In "The Doctrine of Election, Part 1" (SEE HERE - emphasis mine) Dr. MacArthur said:
"And in the discussions that I had with you regarding that, I said that the end is determined by the beginning. Our salvation is secure to the end because our salvation was predestined in the very beginning to be completed.
And we remember that Romans 8 makes a monumental and very clear statement to that regard. when in Romans 8 the apostle Paul writes, “For whom he foreknew, he predestined to become conformed to the image of his Son.” That is, all whom God predestined will become conformed to the image of his Son in eternal glory. And thus “whom he predestined he called, and whom he called he justified, and whom he justified these he also glorified.” And so, we said that the great undergirding foundational truth that secures our future is God’s decree in eternity past. It is the fact that we are chosen for final salvation that makes our salvation secure."
Of course, again this is correct, and if so, then it is wrong to say that Ephesians 1: 5 shows that "adoption" or "huiothesia" is a present realization. Rather, it is in harmony with Paul in Romans 8:23 where he said "waiting for the huiothesia, i.e., the redemption of the body." Thus, these things are yet to be realized, and are not a present possession.
It is interesting that this is one of the verses that supposedly puts adoption or huiothesia in the present experience of Christians, rather than in the future. As we have noted already, Paul put "the huiothesia" in the future when he said that it is what Christians are yet waiting for, and is to take place with the resurrection of the body. Yet, this passage also puts son placement in the future, for God has predestined us to final and complete salvation. We might just as well translate Paul's words as "chosen to salvation in heaven in the eternal state," and "predestined us to final son placement" and "predestined to be made into the full likeness of the Father and the Son at the second coming."
Predestined To End Time Son Placement
Putting Ephesians 1:4-5 together with Romans 8: 23 we have "predestined us to son placement and to redemption of the body for which we are waiting."
Of course God predetermines the ways and means for effecting his end purposes and designs. But, he first sees the end desired and contemplated and then sets about determining the means to that end. The text has all kinds of references to what is mostly yet future for the believer in Christ. He has stated that God had chosen the believer in Christ before the making of the universe "unto salvation." But, salvation is only begun now and is not yet completed. Only at the second coming and resurrection do saints fully realize the totality of this salvation. But, which is the end and which is the means? Is initial salvation in conversion the end of being chosen or the means to the end? Is the end of salvation not yet future and the thing intended?
Paul does speak, in Ephesians one, of present blessings of salvation. But, the emphasis is rather on the eschatological end of God's purpose in salvation and redemption. When Paul says "God has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ," he does not mean that the believer, at the time of his conversion and birth, received all these blessings. Even though Paul speaks in the past tense, saying "has blessed us," yet he does not infer that all these blessings are a present reality for the believer.
God the Father "chose us in Christ" and "blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ" in eternity past in his decrees and in the covenant between the Father and the Son. Some of these spiritual blessings are a present reality, but the chief of them are yet future, and this fact is often stated by the NT writers in their addresses to Christians. In the context of the three occurrences of "huiothesia" in Romans chapters eight and nine, Paul, though he speaks of present blessings of salvation, nevertheless lays the stress on the future, on what is not yet realized by the Christian, being a matter of hope and expectation. In that context he put "waiting for the huiothesia" along with waiting for "the revelation of the sons of God," and for "the redemption of the body," and with the "glory that shall be revealed in us." All these are future events and all connected with "huiothesia" or "son placement."
Another reason for seeing the "huiothesia" of Ephesians 1: 4 as not something realized in the present mortal life of the elect, but something still yet future, is due to what is meant by the words "before him" in "chosen us to be holy and without blame before him." When is it that believers are "before him" in the fullest sense? Is it not in the glorious eternal state? Is that not when God himself will dwell with them and they live in his presence? Is that not the end purpose?
Consider also the fact that the choice is to be "holy and blameless," to be "without defect," before the Lord. Though Christians have a degree of holiness now, and are fully justified now, yet they are not yet in themselves, or in their characters, "blameless" or morally flawless. The Greek word translated "blameless" is "amomos" and means "without spot or blemish morally," or "faultless, unblameable."