N. T. Wright’s The Day the Revolution Began, Romans Reconsidered, Part 75 (We Suffer with Him)

dayrevolutionbegan

N. T. “Tom” Wright has just released another paradigm-shifting book suggesting a new, more scriptural way of understanding the atonement, The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion. Wright delves deeply into how the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus accomplish our salvation.

Romans 8:14-17, Part 3

(Rom. 8:14-17 ESV)  14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.  15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”  16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,  17 and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. 

Suffering

I’m not a fan of the verses on suffering. And so it’s really tempting to skip them, and I doubt that many readers would complain. We rarely preach on these, and we tend to gloss over them in Bible class. We Americans just don’t suffer as the First Century Christians did. I mean, to us, “persecution” is a threatened loss of tax-exempt status. I commend to your reading some of the martyrdom accounts in the Ante-Nicene Fathers. They’ll give you a new appreciation for the price that was paid for Christianity to survive the brutal persecutions of the Romans.

The end of v. 17 is an obvious parallel with Rom 5:1-5 —

(Rom. 5:1-5 ESV) Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,  4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,  5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

So what does “glorified with him” mean? In John, as we covered in an earlier post, “glorified” refers to the Triumphal Entry, crucifixion, resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus. Our baptisms re-enact the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, but Paul is speaking of something that will happen in the future — when Jesus returns.

With the talk of glory Paul evokes once again the thought of Adam (cf 1:21, 23; 3:23). For Paul the whole of history reduces to the destinies of two men—Adam and Christ. To be solely a member of Adam is to stay far short of the excellence of God’s purpose for humankind, on the way to death. Only Christ has fulfilled that divine purpose. Only he has inherited the glory of God. So only those in Christ will share in that inheritance—but only if they have already shared in his suffering to death. Once again, as in v 13, the sharper lines of v 9 are softened. The full meaning of “having the Spirit of Christ” becomes still clearer: not simply receiving the Spirit, nor simply a sustained quality of conduct and lifestyle (v 14), but a whole life in the course of which the death of Christ achieves full expression.

James D. G. Dunn, Romans 1–8, WBC 38A; Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988), 464.

Well, I’m not quite happy with that. I mean, neither Wright nor Dunn’s Romans commentary fully defines “glorified with him.” In Paul (unlike in John’s Gospel), here’s my take. It’s a combination of two things, both of which are referred to later in chapter 8.

First, there is the fact that our resurrection bodies will be gloriously different from our earthly bodies. For example —

(Dan. 12:2-3 ESV)  2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.  3 And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. 

(Matt. 13:43 ESV) 43 “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.”

(1 Cor. 15:40-44 NIV)  40 There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another.  41 The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.  42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised 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. 

(Phil. 2:14-16 NIV)  14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing,  15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky  16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.

Going back to at least Daniel, we’re told that we’ll shine like the stars when we are resurrected. We see this also in the Transfiguration where Jesus, Moses, and Elijah shone like lightning.

The other thought is that the OT speaks of God’s glory (shekinah) as evidence of his literal Presence. To be glorified is to be in the Presence of God and thus surrounded by his Glory.

To speak of some force or power ‘dwelling’ in a ‘temple’ is one thing; in the ancient pagan world it would already be taken as an indication of the presence of some divinity. To do so in a first-century Jewish context can only mean—must only mean—some kind of identification of the divine spirit with the long-awaited returning Shekinah. For the divine spirit to take up residence in the church is for Exodus 40 and Ezekiel 43 to find a radical, unexpected and even shocking new fulfilment. But there can be no doubt that this is what Paul meant to say.

Granted, for Paul to say this of the Corinthian church, muddled and rebellious as they were, sounds heavily ironic. But he means it. This new temple is vulnerable. Factional fighting could destroy it. But there is no ‘as if’ about verses 16 and 17. Unless Paul is totally deceived, the divine spirit has taken up residence in the fellowship of Corinthian believers. The church, as it stands, is thus already the new temple, and the spirit that dwells within is the new Shekinah. It is hard to see how a second-temple Jew could give the spirit a higher value than this.

N. T. Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God, Christian Origins and the Question of God, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2013), 4:712.

Now, if you think about it, these two teachings converge in Christianity. Why will our resurrection bodies shine like the stars? Because they will be “spiritual bodies,” as Paul says in 1 Cor 15 — with “spiritual” not meaning “made out of spirit” but “empowered by the Spirit.” The Spirit — which is the very Presence of God — is already dwelling in us. When we’re resurrected, our new, glorious bodies will be Spirit-made and Spirit-empowered and will shine like stars in the universe because God himself lives in us through his Spirit — and God’s Presence is intensely light.

But, Paul reminds us, glory comes with a price. Just as Jesus was glorified when he returned to heaven to be in God’s very Presence — only at the price of the cross — so must we be willing to walk alongside Jesus carrying our own crosses — because it’s the nature of God to suffer for others. To share in his glory, we must share in his sacrifice.

Finally, Jesus was glorified when he ascended to heaven to be enthroned in God’s presence. And as we’ve previously covered, Christians will be enthroned with Jesus when Jesus returns.

(Rev. 5:9-10 ESV)  9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,  10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” 

Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
This entry was posted in Holy Spirit and Providence, N. T. Wright's The Day the Revolution Began, N. T. Wright's The Day the Revolution Began, Romans, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply