The two stages of sonship--in us
I've been arguing (in the past few posts) that Romans 1:3-4 is all about the resurrection transition in Jesus from flesh to Spirit, from a natural human kingship to a glorified and exalted human kingship, from participation in this age to his present experience and enjoyment of the prerogatives of the age to come. Romans 1:3-4 is a contrast between two stages in Jesus' humanity, not a contrast between his human and divine natures.
This is important, I've been trying to say, because... this two-stage pattern in Christ is one which we were intended to share, as Romans 8 makes clear. Unlike Jesus, we are not both human and divine. However, like Jesus, we are human; indeed, he shows us what it means to be truly human in his movement from the fleshly stage to the Spiritual stage at his resurrection from the dead.
It is important, then, not to lose the connection between what happens to Jesus here and what happens to believers later in Romans 8. In brief, both the flesh/Spirit contrast and the two-stage sonship/kingship (remember, "Son of God" in the OT is a kingship title) are there applied to those who belong to Christ! Moreover, the final transition from one stage (flesh) to the next (Spirit) happens at the same point for believers as it did for Jesus: at their resurrection from the dead.
Let's take the sonship connection first, which is perhaps most clear. On the one hand, believers are already "sons of God":
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For... you have received a spirit of sonship (Rom 8:15-15)Yet our present sonship points beyond itself to, well, being sons of God in power:
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God...(Rom 8:19).So much could be said here, but it will suffice for the moment simply to note that language usually reserved for the Lord Jesus and those waiting for him at his return ("revealing," "eager longing") is here applied--in the plural--to believers ("sons of God"). Together with the OT usage of "son of God" (to refer to a king), this is the strongest argument for not taking "son of God" in Paul as a way of referring to the divine nature. Human kingship is in view, in two stages: an initial stage followed by its full consummation. It happened this way with Jesus. It happens this way with us.
And the point of transition in both cases is resurrection! We've already seen that in Rom 1:3-4. Now note this passage in Rom 8, in which the same pattern is applied to us:
...we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved (Rom 8:23b-24a).We're already sons of God, but we're waiting for our final adoption as sons, which is here identified with resurrection, "the redemption of our bodies." This is an astounding hope. Indeed, Paul goes so far as to say that it was "in this hope we were saved." According to Paul, our Christian hope is to share in the human kingship which Jesus now enjoys in his resurrected and glorified human body!
Much more could (and will) be said about that literally, glorious hope. But it's worth noting at this point that, like Jesus in his earthly life, we're not simply waiting for sonship/kingship. We may not be sons of God in power yet, but we are already sons of God (kings). We've already been anointed, even if we haven't received our full inheritance. Already we see the kind of "already" and "not yet" that Russell Moore is referring to in his book.
And in the next post I'll discuss how that present Spirit anointing is related to the transition from flesh to Spirit that we, like Jesus, were destined to make.
Categories: Romans, Eschatology, Spirit, Sonship