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As I have tried to demonstrate in parts 3 and 4 in this series, the importance of adoption in Paul’s thought is not difficult to discern. Adoption clearly plays a central role in the outworking of the story of redemption. It precedes human history (in God’s pre-temporal decision to adopt us, Ephesians 1:4-5), shows up at climactic junctures within the redemptive-story (Romans 9:4; Galatians 4:4), and brings our salvation to its intended goal (Romans 8:23).

You may be wondering, though, why adoption is so important in the unfolding story of redemption. It is one thing to recognize its importance; it is another thing to understand why adoption is important. Therefore, I think it will be helpful to view the story-line of redemption (i.e., creation, fall, redemption, consummation) through the lens of the doctrine of adoption.

Here is the outline that will lead us through the story of redemption from the perspective of adoption over the next several posts:

  • Adam’s Sonship (Creation / Fall)
  • Abraham’s Promise (Redemption)
  • Israel’s Adoption (Redemption)
  • Jesus’ Mission (Redemption)
  • The Spirit’s Work (Consummation)

Adam’s Sonship (Creation / Fall)

Sometime after God’s pre-temporal decision to adopt us (Ephesians 1:5), He created the heavens and the earth and, on the sixth day of creation, made man in His own image (Genesis 1:1, 26-27). The creation week reached its climax when God formed the first man, Adam, from the dust of the ground.

In his genealogy of Jesus, Luke identifies Adam as “the son of God” (Luke 3:38, see note 1 below). What’s going on here and why did Luke do this?

I think it is very important to see how Luke frames his genealogy of Jesus. It is immediately preceded by his account of Jesus’ baptism where he is identified as God’s beloved Son (“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased,” Luke 3:22). 

Jesus’ genealogy is then immediately followed by the account of his temptation (Luke 4:1ff). Of the devil’s three temptations, two begin with “If you are the Son of God” (Luke 4:3, 9; emphasis mine). On both sides of this genealogy where Luke identifies Adam as a son of God, we find Jesus identified as the Son of God. It seems to me that Luke intends that we see a connection between the sonship of Adam and the Sonship of Jesus.

Here’s the sequence in Luke’s Gospel: First, Luke concludes the narrative of Jesus’ baptism by identifying him as God’s beloved Son (Luke 3:22). He then presents Jesus’ genealogy, which begins with Jesus, the Son with whom God is well pleased, and works backwards through time to Adam, God’s disobedient son (Luke 3:38). The genealogy is then followed with the account of the temptation of God’s beloved Son who succeeds where Adam failed (Luke 4:1-13). It seems that Luke structured these two chapters in this way so that we would see the successful Sonship of Jesus in contrast to the failed sonship of Adam (see note 2).

Before we go any further, it is critical that we realize that when Luke identifies Adam as “the son of God” he is not saying, nor am I saying, that Adam was divine in any way whatsoever. There is only one divine Son, and he is the second person of the Trinity. So, that raises this question: In what sense, then, was Adam a son of God? We will consider this in part 6.


[1] The Greek text only has “son” the first time: “the son of Joseph” (Luke 3:23). Even though it is absent throughout the remainder of the genealogy, it is implied in each case.

[2] Edmund Clowney writes: “Christ’s testing came at the very outset of His ministry. It was the Holy Spirit who drove Christ into the desert: the Spirit of the Father who came upon Him at His baptism—the Spirit, therefore, of His Sonship. ‘Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased’ (Lk. 3:22, KJV). Adam was tested that he might be confirmed in his sonship. Jesus was tested in sonship, too. He was tested as the Messianic Son who was also the only begotten and beloved Son of the Father: the divine Son in human flesh” (The Unfolding Mystery: Discovering Christ in the Old Testament, 28).

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