QUESTION 23: OF ADOPTION AS BEFITTING TO CHRIST
We must now come to consider whether adoption befits Christ: and under
this head there are four points of inquiry:
(1) Whether it is fitting that God should adopt sons?
(2) Whether this is fitting to God the Father alone?
(3) Whether it is proper to man to be adopted to the sonship of God?
(4) Whether Christ can be called the adopted Son?
Article 1: Whether it is fitting that God should adopt sons?
Objection 1: It would seem that it is not fitting that God should adopt sons.
For, as jurists say, no one adopts anyone but a stranger as his son. But
no one is a stranger in relation to God, Who is the Creator of all.
Therefore it seems unfitting that God should adopt.
Objection 2: Further, adoption seems to have been introduced in default of natural sonship. But in God there is natural sonship, as set down in the FP, Question , Article . Therefore it is unfitting that God should adopt.
Objection 3: Further, the purpose of adopting anyone is that he may succeed,
as heir, the person who adopts him. But it does not seem possible for
anyone to succeed God as heir, for He can never die. Therefore it is
unfitting that God should adopt.
On the contrary, It is written (Eph. 1:5) that "He hath predestinated us
unto the adoption of children of God." But the predestination of God is
not ineffectual. Therefore God does adopt some as His sons.
I answer that, A man adopts someone as his son forasmuch as out of
goodness he admits him as heir to his estate. Now God is infinitely good:
for which reason He admits His creatures to a participation of good
things; especially rational creatures, who forasmuch as they are made to
the image of God, are capable of Divine beatitude. And this consists in
the enjoyment of God, by which also God Himself is happy and rich in
Himself---that is, in the enjoyment of Himself. Now a man's inheritance
is that which makes him rich. Wherefore, inasmuch as God, of His
goodness, admits men to the inheritance of beatitude, He is said to adopt
them. Moreover Divine exceeds human adoption, forasmuch as God, by
bestowing His grace, makes man whom He adopts worthy to receive the
heavenly inheritance; whereas man does not make him worthy whom he
adopts; but rather in adopting him he chooses one who is already worthy.
Reply to Objection 1: Considered in his nature man is not a stranger in respect
to God, as to the natural gifts bestowed on him: but he is as to the
gifts of grace and glory; in regard to which he is adopted.
Reply to Objection 2: Man works in order to supply his wants: not so God, Who
works in order to communicate to others the abundance of His perfection.
Wherefore, as by the work of creation the Divine goodness is communicated
to all creatures in a certain likeness, so by the work of adoption the
likeness of natural sonship is communicated to men, according to Rm.
8:29: "Whom He foreknew . . . to be made conformable to the image of His
Reply to Objection 3: Spiritual goods can be possessed by many at the same time;
not so material goods. Wherefore none can receive a material inheritance
except the successor of a deceased person: whereas all receive the
spiritual inheritance at the same time in its entirety without detriment
to the ever-living Father.
Yet it might be said that God ceases to be, according as He is in us by
faith, so as to begin to be in us by vision, as a gloss says on Rm. 8:17:
"If sons, heirs also."
Article 2: Whether it is fitting that the whole Trinity should adopt?
Objection 1: It would seem unfitting that the whole Trinity should adopt. For
adoption is said of God in likeness to human custom. But among men those
only adopt who can beget: and in God this can be applied only to the
Father. Therefore in God the Father alone can adopt.
Objection 2: Further, by adoption men become the brethren of Christ, according
to Rm. 8:29: "That He might be the first-born among many brethren." Now
brethren are the sons of the same father; wherefore our Lord says (Jn. 20:17): "I ascend to My Father and to your Father." Therefore Christ's
Father alone has adopted sons.
Objection 3: Further, it is written (Gal. 4:4,5,6): "God sent His Son . . .
that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because you are sons of
God, God hath sent the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying: 'Abba'
[Father]." Therefore it belongs to Him to adopt, Who has the Son and the
Holy Ghost. But this belongs to the Father alone. Therefore it befits the
Father alone to adopt.
On the contrary, It belongs to Him to adopt us as sons, Whom we can call
Father; whence it is written (Rm. 8:15): "You have received the spirit of
adoption of sons, whereby we cry: 'Abba' [Father]." But when we say to
God, "Our Father," we address the whole Trinity: as is the case with the
other names which are said of God in respect of creatures, as stated in
the FP, Question , Article , Objection ; cf. FP, Question , Article . Therefore to adopt is
befitting to the whole Trinity.
I answer that, There is this difference between an adopted son of God
and the natural Son of God, that the latter is "begotten not made";
whereas the former is made, according to Jn. 1:12: "He gave them power to
be made the sons of God." Yet sometimes the adopted son is said to be
begotten, by reason of the spiritual regeneration which is by grace, not
by nature; wherefore it is written (James 1:18): "Of His own will hath He
begotten us by the word of truth." Now although, in God, to beget belongs
to the Person of the Father, yet to produce any effect in creatures is
common to the whole Trinity, by reason of the oneness of their Nature:
since, where there is one nature, there must needs be one power and one
operation: whence our Lord says (Jn. 5:19): "What things soever the
Father doth, these the Son also doth in like manner." Therefore it
belongs to the whole Trinity to adopt men as sons of God.
Reply to Objection 1: All human individuals are not of one individual nature, so
that there need be one operation and one effect of them all, as is the
case in God. Consequently in this respect no comparison is possible.
Reply to Objection 2: By adoption we are made the brethren of Christ, as having with Him the same Father: Who, nevertheless, is His Father in one way, and ours in another. Whence pointedly our Lord says, separately, "My Father," and "Your Father" (Jn. 20:17). For He is Christ's Father by natural generation; and this is proper to Him: whereas He is our Father by a voluntary operation, which is common to Him and to the Son and Holy Ghost: so that Christ is not the Son of the whole Trinity, as we are.
Reply to Objection 3: As stated above (Article , ad 2), adoptive sonship is a certain
likeness of the eternal Sonship: just as all that takes place in time is
a certain likeness of what has been from eternity. Now man is likened to
the splendor of the Eternal Son by reason of the light of grace which is
attributed to the Holy Ghost. Therefore adoption, though common to the
whole Trinity, is appropriated to the Father as its author; to the Son,
as its exemplar; to the Holy Ghost, as imprinting on us the likeness of
Article 3: Whether it is proper to the rational nature to be adopted?
Objection 1: It would seem that it is not proper to the rational nature to be
adopted. For God is not said to be the Father of the rational creature,
save by adoption. But God is called the Father even of the irrational
creature, according to Job 38:28: "Who is father of the rain? Or who
begot the drops of dew?" Therefore it is not proper to the rational
creature to be adopted.
Objection 2: Further, by reason of adoption some are called sons of God. But
to be sons of God seems to be properly attributed by the Scriptures to
the angels; according to Job 1:6: "On a certain day when the sons of God
came to stand before the Lord." Therefore it is not proper to the
rational creature to be adopted.
Objection 3: Further, whatever is proper to a nature, belongs to all that have
that nature: just as risibility belongs to all men. But to be adopted
does not belong to every rational nature. Therefore it is not proper to
On the contrary, Adopted sons are the "heirs of God," as is stated Rm.
8:17. But such an inheritance belongs to none but the rational nature.
Therefore it is proper to the rational nature to be adopted.
I answer that, As stated above (Article , ad 3), the sonship of adoption is
a certain likeness of natural sonship. Now the Son of God proceeds
naturally from the Father as the Intellectual Word, in oneness of nature
with the Father. To this Word, therefore, something may be likened in
three ways. First, on the part of the form but not on the part of its
intelligibility: thus the form of a house already built is like the
mental word of the builder in its specific form, but not in
intelligibility, because the material form of a house is not
intelligible, as it was in the mind of the builder. In this way every
creature is like the Eternal Word; since it was made through the Word.
Secondly, the creature is likened to the Word, not only as to its form,
but also as to its intelligibility: thus the knowledge which is begotten
in the disciple's mind is likened to the word in the mind of the master.
In this way the rational creature, even in its nature, is likened to the
Word of God. Thirdly, a creature is likened to the Eternal Word, as to
the oneness of the Word with the Father, which is by reason of grace and
charity: wherefore our Lord prays (Jn. 17:21,22): "That they may be one
in Us . . . as We also are one." And this likeness perfects the adoption:
for to those who are thus like Him the eternal inheritance is due. It is
therefore clear that to be adopted belongs to the rational creature
alone: not indeed to all, but only to those who have charity; which is
"poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Ghost" (Rm. 5:5); for which
reason (Rm. 8:15) the Holy Ghost is called "the Spirit of adoption of
Reply to Objection 1: God is called the Father of the irrational creature, not
properly speaking, by reason of adoption, but by reason of creation;
according to the first-mentioned participation of likeness.
Reply to Objection 2: Angels are called sons of God by adoptive sonship, not that
it belongs to them first; but because they were the first to receive the
adoption of sons.
Reply to Objection 3: Adoption is a property resulting not from nature, but from
grace, of which the rational nature is capable. Therefore it need not
belong to every rational nature: but every rational creature must needs
be capable of adoption.
Article 4: Whether Christ as man is the adopted Son of God?
Objection 1: It would seem that Christ as man is the adopted Son of God. For
Hilary says (De Trin. ii) speaking of Christ: "The dignity of power is
not forfeited when carnal humanity [*Some editions read
'humilitas'---'the humility or lowliness of the flesh'] is adopted."
Therefore Christ as man is the adopted Son of God.
Objection 2: Further, Augustine says (De Praedest. Sanct. xv) that "by the
same grace that Man is Christ, as from the birth of faith every man is a
Christian." But other men are Christians by the grace of adoption.
Therefore this Man is Christ by adoption: and consequently He would seem
to be an adopted son.
Objection 3: Further, Christ, as man, is a servant. But it is of greater
dignity to be an adopted son than to be a servant. Therefore much more is
Christ, as man, an adopted Son.
On the contrary, Ambrose says (De Incarn. viii): "We do not call an
adopted son a natural son: the natural son is a true son." But Christ is
the true and natural Son of God, according to 1 Jn. 5:20: "That we may .
. . be in His true Son, Jesus Christ." Therefore Christ, as Man, is not
an adopted Son.
I answer that, Sonship belongs properly to the hypostasis or person, not
to the nature; whence in the FP, Question , Article  we have stated that
Filiation is a personal property. Now in Christ there is no other than
the uncreated person or hypostasis, to Whom it belongs by nature to be
the Son. But it has been said above (Article , ad 2), that the sonship of
adoption is a participated likeness of natural sonship: nor can a thing
be said to participate in what it has essentially. Therefore Christ, Who
is the natural Son of God, can nowise be called an adopted Son.
But according to those who suppose two persons or two hypostases or two
supposita in Christ, no reason prevents Christ being called the adopted
Son of God.
Reply to Objection 1: As sonship does not properly belong to the nature, so
neither does adoption. Consequently, when it is said that "carnal
humanity is adopted," the expression is metaphorical: and adoption is
used to signify the union of human nature to the Person of the Son.
Reply to Objection 2: This comparison of Augustine is to be referred to the
principle because, to wit, just as it is granted to any man without
meriting it to be a Christian, so did it happen that this man without
meriting it was Christ. But there is a difference on the part of the
term: because by the grace of union Christ is the natural Son; whereas
another man by habitual grace is an adopted son. Yet habitual grace in
Christ does not make one who was not a son to be an adopted son, but is a
certain effect of Filiation in the soul of Christ, according to Jn. 1:14:
"We saw His glory . . . as it were of the Only-begotten of the Father;
full of grace and truth."
Reply to Objection 3: To be a creature, as also to be subservient or subject to
God, regards not only the person, but also the nature: but this cannot be
said of sonship. Wherefore the comparison does not hold.