The Shape and Substance of our Adoption

Given this coming Sunday's readings, I'm going to play Matthew's scribe: "Every scribe enrolled in the kingdom of the heavens is like a human steward of a house, who puts forth from his stores what is fresh and what has aged; the new along with the esteemed." (13:52)  But I'm going to play him as Paul.

So, Romans 8:26-39 (AT):
And likewise the spirit participates in our weakness, for we do not know how it is necessary for us to pray, but the same spirit intercedes with ineffable groans, and the one who searches our minds knows what the intention of the spirit is, because it intercedes from God on behalf of the holy ones.  And we know that everything works together toward what is good for those beloved of God, who are called according to a purpose.  Those God foreknew, God also predetermined and shaped in the image of God’s son so that he would be the firstborn among many siblings.  Those God predetermined, God also called, and those God called, God also made just, and those God made just, God also glorified.

Then what will we say about this?  If God acts on our behalf, who can act against us?  Indeed, the one who did not spare his own son, but handed him over on behalf of all of us – how will God not, with him, also grace us with everything?  Who will call in a debt against those selected by God?  God, the justifier?  Who is the condemner?  Christ Jesus who has died, and moreover who has been raised, who is at the right hand of God, and who intercedes on our behalf?  What will divide us from the love of Christ?  Oppression, rough straits, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger or the sword – just as it is written, “because of you we are being killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for slaughtering”? 

No; rather in all of these things we are exceedingly victorious, because of the one who loves us.  For I remain convinced that not death, nor life, nor angels, nor powers, nor what is present, nor what is coming, nor what is possible, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing can divide us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Let's begin with 8:29-30.  "Those God foreknew" -- as also in 11:2, the Judean people.  "God also predetermined and shaped (them) in the image of God’s son" -- these same Judeans, by virtue of being the people of God, have been shaped collectively and together into children of God, the image of the Son of God.  Why?  "So that he would be the firstborn among many siblings."  But "firstborn" isn't quite right here, for prototokos.  It speaks sequence in a way I don't find in Paul -- only in John.  And perhaps here is the error of believing that those predestined to conformity with Christ are those who come after him, not before.  The language of primogeniture works with last week's inheritance language, but we also have here a sense aligned with prototypos, in that Christ as the son of God is the archetype of the children of God.  That Christ is the exemplar of this vast body of his siblings, to whose image they were conformed as children of God in advance of his birth.

And so God has also called these whom he so predetermined, and justified these whom he so called, and and glorified these whom he so justified: the historic people of God.

And this is the substance of our adoption -- we, too, are now being con-formed by the Spirit, shaped together into this image as children of God.  It has become our determination, and our calling; he has become our justification, and in him is our glory.  Christ, the prototype of the children of God -- whether Judean or gentile, Greek or barbarian.  Christ who is the only ground in which we may boast -- but in whom we may, can, and indeed must boast as the reason we survive as children of God in the world.  For in him is our adoption into the Israel of God, and the shape and substance of our childhood in this great household of the Father.  We trust in him because we have seen his faithfulness, just as the Judean people for all their history have known God's faithfulness to them.  That faithfulness continues, no matter what we may suffer, and it is the ground of our endurance in the world, the basis for our hope.

Christ, the unity of both old and new.  Amen.


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