Romans 8:18-23 – New Nature and New Status – The “Not Yet” Stuff

There are four main “not yet” events described in our passage.

  • (1) “the glory that is to be revealed to us” (vs. 18)
    • Schreiner translates verse 18 as “the glory that shall be ours”.
    • The NIV translates verse 18 as “glory that is to be revealed in us”.
  • (2) “the revealing of the sons of God” (vs. 19)
  • (3) “the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (vs. 21)
  • (4) “adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (vs. 23)

 

Obviously, we need to unpack these to plumb the depths of Paul’s words concerning our future.

  • In determining where to start, there is something we need to notice.

 

These four “not yets” are part of the same event…

  • What Doug Moo calls the yearned for “culminating transformation” of believers.

 

What Tom Schreiner calls:

  • “…the eschatological inheritance of believers” – Schreiner.

 

What us common folk call:

  • Our Glorification.

 

So the “glory that shall be ours” – the “glory that is to revealed in us” (vs. 18)…

  • Is the same event as “the revealing of the sons of God” (vs. 19)…
  • And “the glory of the children of God” (vs. 21).
  • And the “adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (vs. 23).

 

All of them are part of our:

  • Groaned for “culminating transformation”…
  • Our “eschatological inheritance”.
  • Our glorification.

 

But, to be fair, each of these four touch on many different aspects of our…

  • Transformation/Inheritance/Glorification.
  • So there are a lot of directions we could go.

 

I want to get at the significance of our transformation/inheritance/glorification…

  • By answering two questions.
  • (1) What is the glory that is ours, to be revealed in us, demonstrating that we are the “sons/children of God”?
  • (2) What is the “firstfruits of the Spirit” that secures our future adoption and redemption of our bodies?

 

We are going to answer the second question first.

 

 

Glorification as New Nature of Existence:

What is the “firstfruits of the Spirit” that secures our future adoption and redemption of our bodies?

  • The answer to this question has profound implications for the very nature of our existence.

 

When Paul talks about having the “firstfruits” that lead to the “adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (vs. 23)

  • He is speaking of a change to our nature – of what we actually are.
  • This is awesome stuff!
  • So lets dive into this a little bit.

 

To begin with, what is “the firstfruits of the Spirit”?

  • It refers to a deposit, guarantee or pledge (MCEDONTW).
  • So it is something we have now, but that will cash out later.

 

Moo clarifies this idea:

“The Spirit, in this sense, is both the ‘first installment’ of salvation and the ‘down payment’ or ‘pledge’ that guarantees the remaining stages of that salvation” – Doug Moo.

 

Paul can help us too.

  • 2 Corinthians 1:22 (ESV) — 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:5 (ESV) — 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

 

So Paul wants us to have assurance that this future change in us is secure.

  • The Holy Spirit has sealed it, guaranteed it and it is a done deal.

 

This alone should be a huge comfort to the believer

  • For we know, and Paul has made clear, that we live in a body of death.

 

But what is assured, sealed and guaranteed?

  • What is the change to our nature that is coming?
  • What is the change in nature that should give us hope and assurance?

 

Again, Paul can help us here:

  • Colossians 3:4 (ESV) — 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:42–44 (ESV) — 42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

 

The answer to our question – RESURRECTION!

  • And Resurrection means we are literally changed in our nature.

 

To be physically resurrected is to be…

  • Glorified like Jesus.
  • Raised in Power.
  • Raised in a spiritual body.
  • (To name a few)

 

Michael Bird puts it this way:

These changes are “what we might call Christification or even Christosis. The meaning is that humanity will recover the glory lost in Adam by sharing in the glory arrayed in Christ” – Michael Bird.

 

The EDNT calls this:

  • Our “participation in God’s glorious nature”.

 

The apostle John puts it like this:

  • 1 John 3:2 (ESV) — 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

 

All these things are part of what it means to be:

  • Glorified
  • Transformed
  • And to receive our inheritance.

 

Now, let’s deal with our first question.

 

 

Glorification as New Status:

(1) What is the glory that is ours, to be revealed in us, demonstrating that we are the “sons/children of God”?

  • There are a variety of ways to answer this question.
  • I’m going explore the one that involves our receiving a new cosmic status.
  • Hang on because this is a trip!

 

N.T. Wright can get us started:

“The point of ‘glory’ is that it means glorious, sovereign rule, sharing the Messiah’s saving rule over the whole world. And that is what the whole creation is waiting for. It is waiting for us, for you and me, for all God’s children, to be revealed. Then, at last, creation will see its true rulers…” – N.T. Wright.

 

We are the rulers!

  • This position as rulers of creation is the new status that awaits us.
  • And it is the one of the things that creation yearns for.

 

And our participation in this rule with Christ…

  • Will demonstrate that we are the “sons/children of God”.

 

I can’t leave it at this surface level, however.

  • This change of status is spoken of in some profound ways in the Bible.
  • And this is worth exploring.

 

New Status – Revealing of the Sons of God and Called to Be Saints:

Let’s take a look at a few verses.

  • Romans 8:19 (ESV) — 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God [“huios theos”].
  • 1 Corinthians 1:2 (ESV) — 2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints [“hagios”] together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

 

These two phrases are used by Paul to describe a “not yet” feature of our glorification (Romans 8 stuff).

  • And both relate to our coming status as rulers of creation.

 

The problem is that what Paul means with these phrases…

  • Is a far cry from what we think of when we see them.

 

We see “saints” and “sons of God”…

  • And we think dedicated old folks in our church and adoption into God’s family.
  • Both true, of course.

 

Paul sees “hagios” and “huios theos”…

  • And he thinks “holy ones” and “heavenly beings”.

 

Wha’ choo talkin’ ‘bout Willis?

 

As we know, Paul’s (and Jesus’) favorite Bible was apparently the LXX – the Greek OT.

  • So when Paul uses peculiar Greek phrases in his letters, we need to understand that he often draws from his Bible.
  • His Bible is what provides the background to their meaning.
  • “Hagios” and “huios theos” are two such phrases.

 

Mike Heiser puts it like this:

These connections between he OT and NT, “create the context from which New Testament writers will talk about the kingdom and the glorification of believers” – Mike Heiser.

 

The same principal is in operation today.

  • If I say something like, “now we are engaged in a great civil war”.
  • This certainly has meaning given current events.
  • But it is actually freighted with even more meaning.
  • The reason is simply because these words are from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

 

Understanding this, let’s look at Paul’s connections to the Old Testament.

 

We have seen that Paul uses two phrases to describe our future status:

  • hagios
  • huios theos

 

These two phrases have a very specific meaning in the LXX.

  • Psalm 89 gives us a great example.
  • Psalm 89:5–7 (ESV) — 5 Let the heavens praise your wonders, O Lord, your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones! 6 For who in the skies can be compared to the Lord? Who among the heavenly beings is like the Lord, 7 a God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones, and awesome above all who are around him?

 

This verse is describing a scene in the Divine Council.

  • YHWH is unique and incomparable.
  • No one can compare – not the “heavenly beings” of the council (vs. 6).
  • And not the “council of the holy ones” (vs. 7).
  • YHWH is “awesome above all” (vs. 7).

 

When we look at the LXX it gets pretty cool.

  • “holy ones” is “hagios”.
  • “heavenly beings” is “huios theos”.

 

The implication, of course, is that (as we said earlier)…

  • Paul sees our future status as that of the “hagios” and “huios theos” – the “holy ones” and “heavenly beings”.
  • In other words, rulers with YHWH.
  • But these phrases set this rule in context of the Divine Council!

 

Knowing this brings clarity to a verse like this:

  • 1 Corinthians 6:2–3 (ESV) — 2 Or do you not know that the saints [hagios] will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you [Christians at Corinth], are you incompetent to try trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we [hagios] are to judge angels [according to Heiser – “angels” came to be the NT stand in for “elohim”]? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!

 

This is casting the saints as future rulers on the God’s Divine Council.

  • We, the saints (hagios), will be the “holy ones”.

 

Mike Heiser puts it this way:

  • “Believers are God’s once and future family, once and future council, once and future rulers with Jesus over all the nations” – Mike Heiser.

 

The apostle John puts it this way:

  • Revelation 3:21 (ESV) — 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.

 

And the implications of our glorification upon our status as rulers also help us with this weird text.

  • 1 Corinthians 2:7–8 (ESV) — 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
  • Ephesians 3:10 (ESV) — 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

 

Given what we have just learned about our how our glorification impacts our status:

  • Why does Paul say the “rulers of this age” would not have crucified Jesus had they known what was in store for us (the “hagios” and “huios theos”) as a result of Jesus’ being glorified on the cross?

 

The answer is found in Psalm 82:

  • Psalm 82:1–7 (ESV) — 1 God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: 2 “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah 3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. 4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” 5 They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. 6 I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; 7 nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.”

 

Paul’s words reveal that our new status is at the expense of the status of the unjust members of the Divine Council.

  • They will be judged (apparently we will participate in this judgment – 1 Cor. 6:2-3).
  • And they shall die like men.
  • This truth fuels much of the fire raging in spiritual warfare.

 

So just like the change to our nature, all this status business is part of what it means to be:

  • Glorified
  • Transformed
  • And to receive our inheritance.

 

Isaiah wasn’t playing around when he said:

  • Isaiah 65:17 (ESV) — 17 “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.