Thursday, March 03, 2011

The meaning of "glorified" (Rom 8:30)

Writing a Systematic Theology, here's my thoughts on "glorification":

According to Paul’s sequence beginning in Rom 8:29, persons were predestined in order “to be conformed to the image of his Son”. God purposes to imprint all those who belong to Christ with the image of the second Adam. As to when this occurs is debated, but the parallel language with Phil 3:21 (God “will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body”) and 1 Cor 15:49 (“just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so will we bear the image of the heavenly man”) suggests that the conforming to Christ’s image is a future eschatological event. That is to say, God predestines believers to a future glory, the glory that Christ currently enjoys.[1] Consequently glory is a future hope for the believer to share in Christ’s glory (Rom 8:17; Col 1:17; 3:4; 2 Thess 2:14; 2 Tim 2:10; Tit 2:13; 1 Pet 4:13; 5:10). This meshes with the final item mentioned in Paul’s sequence in Rom 8:29-30 that those justified are also “glorified”. Too much is made of the Aorist tense form of edoxasen as if it means a completed or punctilliar event, but the main issue is the verbal aspect which is perfective and so the action is envisaged as a simple whole. Perhaps as a protreptic Aorist the point could be that those whom God justified he will also glorify. The Aorist is fitting because God has already decreed that it will take place.[2] Yet in another sense “glory” is a proleptic experience for the believer. For Paul, transformation into the glory of the Lord Jesus has already begun: “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:18). Peter informs believers that “the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you” (1 Pet 4:14). Undoubtedly “glorification” is essentially a future hope, but it has proleptically begun through the ministry of the Holy Spirit who unites us with and patterns us after the Lord of glory. Glorification represents the culmination of salvation as the “redemption of our bodies” (Rom 8:23) and being “brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Rom 8:21). If justification means being freed from the penalty of sin, if transformation means being gradually freed from the power of sin, then glorification means to be freed from the presence of sin. The future “glory” means entrance into the new creation, to dwell in God’s new world, in God’s eschatological reign, among the glorified host of God’s people.


[1] Moo, Romans, 534-35.

[2] Stanley E. Porter, Idioms of the Greek New Testament (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1992), 37.

7 comments:

John Thomson said...

Yes, I agree with all of that. I feel that the big weakness in Reformed theology is not making enough of what glorification implies. Sometimes the impression is given that new creation is not much more than Adam restored. This is to my mind a mistake.

A big feature too of final new creation is a creation in some sense entirely energized by the Spirit of God. I take the transformation of the body to be a kind of synecdoche for the whole of creation; a creation modelled on what is heavenly and of the Spirit (while still physical) rather than 'earthy'. 1 Cor 15 is a vital passage. Christ/Adam... earthy/heavenly... living soul/life giving spirit... seed/flower.

Incidentally, I find OT scholars generally weak on the dramatic transformation of new creation because their horizon is limited to OT revelation which although it sees the newness does not reveal it with the clarity of the new.

Jonathan said...

Hmmm, Michael, I love your stuff in general, more power to you, but I do worry about your use of Greek grammar here. A few long bows in a row I reckon. In general just leaning too hard on tense-forms to decide theological questions. They can't bear the weight, and you end up resorting to suggestions like protreptic aorist to make your point.

If you want to show that glorification is an essentially future blessing, show us from context, from the flow of argument in the Scripture text.

Greek grammar can support theological arguments if used carefully, but it's not very good for constructing arguments.

Every dodgy scholar bases arguments on grammar, and you certainly don't belong in that company!

Andrew Perriman said...

Michael, I don't know if you're open to this sort of response, but I'll try it anyway.

I agree that for Paul the glorification of the believer is a future event and for the reasons given; I don't have a problem with the idea that the aorist has a future aspect; and it may be the case that Paul thought that this future glorification was in some way anticipated in the present experience of the believer, though I am less sure of that. Where I would chiefly question your exegesis is over the interpretation of the eschatological narrative to which this glorification is the climax.

It seems to me that Paul constructs a rather specific argument here about the participation of the "children of God" in the suffering and vindication of Jesus. They are fellow heirs with Christ provided that they suffer with him in order to be glorified with him (8:17). The Spirit inspires the cry "Abba! Father!" which is not just any old prayer but the prayer of Jesus before his passion—it is the prayer of those who face similar suffering. "Endurance" is required under conditions of eschatological suffering (8:25). The sufferings that Paul describes in 8:35 are not general to the human condition; they are the sufferings that will accompany the apostolic mission, they are the sufferings of a persecuted church. Psalm 44 tells the story of the vindication of righteous Israel against its enemies (cf. 8:36). To be a conqueror is to overcome persecution and the final recourse of their opponents, which is to kill the body (8:37; cf. Rev. 2:7 et al.).

It seems to me, therefore, that Paul is talking primarily about the hope of vindication that the churches must hold firmly to if they are to confront persecution successfully. To be conformed to the image of the Son would be to share specifically in his vindication as the Son of Man who suffered and was raised to receive kingdom and glory from the Father. Jesus is firstborn among many brothers because he was the first among many to suffer and be raised, vindicated, glorified, for the sake of the future of the people of God.

Michael F. Bird said...

Johnathan: my point was to temporality in the word in favor of verbal aspect! What is more, if glorified is a parallel concept to "will be conformed to the image of the Son", then it is conceptually future too.

Andrew:I accept your location of Rom 8.29-30, I was writing about the meaning of "glorified" in a nutshell.

Andrew Perriman said...

OK, but then shouldn't the locatedness of Paul's argument about glorification be reflected in a systematic theology, even if only in a nutshell.

John Thomson said...

The now and not yet of glorification seems to be expressed in John.

John 17:22-24 (ESV)
The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

Present realisation by the Spirit is also implied by Peter

1Pet 1:8 (ESV)
Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,

Heb 11:1 (Darby)
Now faith is the substantiating of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

ESV is weak with 'assurance of things hoped for' it is surely more than that; faith makes them a present reality. It means we have:

Heb 11:13 (ESV)
... seen them and greeted them from afar...

Faith focussed on Christ enables us to realise in some measure the glory.

2Cor 3:18 (ESV)
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Geoff Hudson said...

I am surprised that no-one has linked the concept of glory to the Jewish sanctuary.