Sonship, or Adoption Encyclopedia

Related: The Son of God, Eternal Sonship of Christ

In Greek, the word 'huiothesian' means 'the place of a son'. It is translated into English as "sonship" or "adoption". Sonship is a privilege that Christians are given because they are justified and stand in Christ's place before God. Sonship is not the same thing as coming into God's family. Due to the modern use of word 'adoption', the original sense of sonship has been lost for many believers. As we see in Galatians 4:1-7, the child becomes a son, showing that sonship has to do with a special place or relationship in the family. We enter God's family by new birth, and this makes us children of God. But adoption gives us an elevated place within the family. For an example of Jewish adoption, see Gen. 48:5 where Jacob took the sons of Joseph as his own. Ephraim and Manasseh were Jacob's grandsons, but he elevated them to the status of their uncles; "as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine". Sonship is the greatest blessing we have as individuals in relation to the Father. There is no higher place than the place of God's Son, and He has given us "the Son's place"!

Eternal ages shall declare
The riches of Thy grace,
To those who with Thy Son shall share
A son’s eternal place.1
The Characteristics of Sonship. Sons enjoy special relationship and intelligence; “because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father” (Gal 4:6). We have a “spirit” or, attitude of one who is a son of God. We stand in the very place of God’s beloved Son! This “spirit” causes us to cry “Abba” (Aramaic for daddy) which is a cry of intimacy, and “Father” which is a cry of intelligence. Sons are led by the Spirit of God (Rom. 8:14); “for as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God”. Having been brought into the place of sonship (more in v.15) we are not left to follow our own thoughts and our own wisdom. The very Spirit of God which indwells us has undertaken to lead and guide us through this wilderness pathway. Sonship combines the intelligence of “friends” (John 15:15) and affection of “children” (1 John 3:1), but it also includes the thought of a special dignity that pertains only to sons.
  1. Darby, J.N. Father, Thy Name Our Souls Would Bless. Little Flock Hymnbook #25. 1879.