The Place of the Abrahamic Covenant in the Salvation of Mankind


Chapter 6 - ADOPTION AND GRAFTING

When discussing the position of Gentiles at birth, the apostle Paul declares in Ephesians 2:12:

"That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world".

Anyone familiar with covenant-making knows that if a person is a "stranger" from a covenant, he cannot be an heir or beneficiary under its terms. This is the position of Gentiles at birth. We have shown that the divine institution enabling a Gentile to become an heir and beneficiary of the Promised Blessings is by belief and baptism into Christ. As the apostle says in Eph 2:13:

"But now in Christ Jesus, ye who were sometimes afar off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. Now therefore, ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God". (v. 19)

There are two kinds of children. Firstly, is a begotten child, that is, a child who is a member of a family by virtue of being born of the father and mother of the family unit - an offspring by procreation. Secondly, is an adopted child, (adoptee) that is, a child born of parents other than the father and mother of the family unit of which the child is a member, by virtue of the child being adopted into that family unit.

Both kinds of children enjoy certain rights and privileges:

  1. Both are entitled to the name of the family.

  2. Both are ranked as heirs-at-law.

  3. Both are ranked as legitimate and legal members of the family and are subject to the entitlements pertaining thereto.

The adopted child is thus legally constituted and from the point of adoption onward, the entitlements including heirship, are governed by the force of law. In some respects, the adopted child is more selected than the natural-born inasmuch as the adopter has a choice and a decided preference for the adoptee which the adopter does not have in the case of a natural-born child. The legal process that enables this new relationship to be accomplished is called in the Scriptures: ADOPTION.

Conditions of adoption

Usually children are adopted in infancy and the adoptee has nothing to say-about the matter. But adoption can take place at any age. Augustus Caesar was nearly 20 years old when Julius Caesar adopted him. At that point, Augustus was in a position to decline the adoption if he so desired. Augustus had the choice of whether he would accept the offer of adoption. He chose to accept and so became the legal heir of Caesar which paved the way to his succession to the throne of Rome.

Once adoption is legally completed, it is irrevocable. You cannot adopt a child and then at a later date, decide to un-adopt it. Besides Augustus Caesar, many historical figures have been the subjects of adoption: Moses, and even Jesus himself appears to have been adopted by Mary's husband, Joseph. (Luke 2:43).

When a man is baptized into Christ, he becomes the subject of a legal adoption into the family of Abraham. Not only is he now "in Christ" but he also is "in Abraham". He becomes the seed of Abraham by adoption and therefore, is entitled to the inheritance promised in the covenant.

It would be difficult to make this process and its results any plainer than does the apostle Paul in Romans 8:14-16.

"For as many as are led by the spirit of God, they are the sons of God...ye have received the spirit of adoption ...the spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God".

Again:

"God sent forth his son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons... and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ". (Galatians 4:4-7)

The only possible way for a Gentile to become part of the seed of Abraham and an heir of the covenant, is by the legal process of adoption. This is accomplished by belief in the Promise and by baptism into Christ.

The only begotten son of God is Jesus Christ. All others who have the unspeakable privilege of being called sons and daughters of God, are such by virtue of the legal process of adoption by which they are ranked as heirs-at-law.

GRAFTING

The apostle Paul illustrates the principle of adoption by the use of a figure. He uses the figure of the grafting of branches from a wild olive tree into a cultivated or "good" olive tree in Romans chapter 11.

Dendrologists know that wild fruit trees generally are hardier and more able to withstand cold, disease and drought than are domesticated fruit trees. Therefore it is prudent to graft a branch from "good", cultivated fruit tree into the structure of a wild fruit tree in order that the "good" branch may take on the resistant qualities of the wild tree. It would be pointless to graft a wild fruit branch into a cultivated tree for two reasons: (1) the grafted branch would only produce wild inferior fruit, and (2) the engrafted wild branch would become less resistant to disease etc. as it adapted to its new environment.

In the apostle's illustration, he argues that the process of adoption into the family of Abraham, is contrary to that which a knowledgeable horticulturist would practise.

The "good" olive tree is a figure used by Paul to represent the spiritual seed of Abraham as nominated in the covenant. The wild olive tree is used by Paul to represent the Gentiles. The "root and fatness" of the good olive tree is a figure of the blessings accruing to the heirs of the Abrahamic Covenant.

Unless a "Gentile branch" of the wild olive tree is grafted into the "Good" cultivated Israelitish tree, it is impossible for the wild olive branch to partake of the "root and fatness" of the good olive tree. This "grafting" is another term (using a different metaphor) for adoption.

THE CALL OF THE GENTILES

Although there were rare cases of Gentiles becoming proselytes and joining the commonwealth of Israel in the Old Testament (Rahab and Ruth), the first Gentile convert recorded in the New Testament was Cornelius.

Peter was given a special revelation from God that the way was now being opened for Gentiles to come within the bonds of the covenant through Jesus Christ. Up until this way was opened to Gentiles, salvation was virtually confined to the nation of Israel. When Jesus instructed the twelve, he specifically charged them, "Go not into the way of the Gentiles...but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel". (Matt. 10:5-6). And Jesus himself advised the woman of Canaan, "I am not sent, but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel". (Matt 15:24)

Despite the spectacular vision-revelation given to Peter concerning the acceptability of the Gentiles, Peter was "astonished" because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 10:45) Immediately after this outpouring, Cornelius and his household were baptized and became adopted children of Abraham and brothers of Christ. Acts chapter 11 is Peter's defence to Jewish believers as to why he had accepted Gentiles into the faith.

Later, at the Council of Jerusalem, Peter rose up and said unto them, "Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the Gospel and believe". (Acts 15:7). Paul reminded the Galatians that Christ had redeemed them from the curse of the Law of Moses in order "That the blessing of .Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ.." (Gal 3:14) This is another way of saying that by baptism into Christ, Gentiles, by adoption, become heirs of the blessings covenanted to Abraham and his seed.