N. T. Wright’s The Day the Revolution Began, Romans Reconsidered, Part 84 (the Image of His Son)


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 8:29-30, Part 3

(Rom. 8:29-30 ESV)  29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

“the image of his Son”

There’s a lot packed into these two verses, and we really can’t leave without discussing “image.” I mean, we tend to get so enamored of the arguments about Calvinism that we often fail to see other key lessons that may be far more important.

In the Bible, “image” (eikon) typically is a reference back to Gen 1:26-28, where God said that he’d create humankind, male and female, in his own image and likeness. Hence, the “image” passages also parallel the “new creation” passages, both of which speak to God restoring us to our pre-Fall condition.

More exactly, as John Walton teaches (and we’ve covered here many times), the Creation is about dedicating the cosmos to become a temple for God. Adam and Eve serve the same role in the Creation as a status of Venus (also an eikon) would have served in a temple for Venus — to represent to all present the special presence of the god who lives here and to show the nature of the god being worshiped. Thus, God made us not only in his image, but made us images to display his nature to the world and to show worshipers where God might be found.

With that in mind, Wright’s comments are very insightful —

This process will bring God’s renewed people to the point where they reflect the Son’s image, just as the Son is the true image of God (2 Cor 4:4; Col 1:15; 3:10). They are, that is, to become true, because renewed, human beings.

This is the point, at last, to which the long argument beginning with 1:18 was looking forward. The image of God, distorted and fractured through idolatry and immorality, is restored in Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God; and the signs of that restoration are visible in those who, like Abraham, trust in God’s life-giving power and so truly worship and give glory to God (4:18–22).

But the purpose is never simply that God’s people in Christ should resemble him, spectacular and glorious though that promise is. As we saw in vv. 18–21, it is that, as true image-bearers, they might reflect that same image into the world, bringing to creation the healing, freedom, and life for which it longs. To be conformed to the image of God, or of God’s Son, is a dynamic, not a static, concept. Reflecting God into the world is a matter of costly vocation.

That, indeed, is the thrust of vv. 28–30, which otherwise can easily degenerate, as the history of interpretation shows, into an abstract theory of personal predestination and salvation. God’s purpose for those in Christ is precisely Christ-shaped. …

Conformity to the Son means, of course, conformity to his death. This is familiar enough elsewhere in Paul (e.g., Phil 3:10–11, a passage very close to the present one in theme and expression). Here it is the major subject of the unit of thought that, beginning with v. 17, reaches its climax in the present verse. It is by reproducing the likeness of the Messiah, not least in suffering and “groaning,” that Paul’s apostolic labor went forward; that is the subject of 2 Corinthians, especially chapters 4 and 6, and it is summarized in other passages such as Col 1:24.

But it is not merely apostles to whom the privilege of sharing the sufferings of the Messiah is granted. It is, in some measure at least, all Christians. Though the last sections of Romans 8 are often (rightly) thought of as triumphant, it should never be forgotten that the triumph is announced and celebrated, with irony and paradox, from the midst of circumstances that would be simply unbearable, were it not for faith in God the life-giver, and for the hope and above all the love that accompany this faith.

N.T. Wright, “The Letter to the Romans,” in The Acts of the Apostles-The First Letter to the Corinthians, vol. 10 of NIB, Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2002), 602.

In fact, one goal, perhaps the primary goal, of sanctification is to transform the Christian more and more into the image of Christ. And so although Paul doesn’t use the word “sanctification,” the concept is very much in this passage.

It’s helpful to me to note the parallels with —

(2 Cor. 3:17-18 ESV)  17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  18 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.

The Spirit transforms use into the image of Jesus from “one degree of glory to another.” We begin in glory and we conclude in far greater glory — all from the Spirit as we become more and more like Jesus.

Comprehended within the concept of “image” are the ideas that Christians, being restored to dominion over the Creation per Gen 1:26-28, are kings and queens themselves — which only makes sense if we’re enthroned with Jesus per Eph 2:6. And more subtly, “image” includes the concept of being priests who serve God in his temple. Much of the language of Gen 2 is priestly/temple language.

We see pointers in the Torah in this direction —

(Deut. 14:1-2 ESV) “You are the sons of the LORD your God. You shall not cut yourselves or make any baldness on your foreheads for the dead.  2 For you are a people holy to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.”

(Exod. 19:5-6 ESV)  5 “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine;  6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”

— which is picked up in the Revelation —

(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.” 

Now, the challenge here is to understand that this means for us today. I mean, it sounds really nice and all, but if we’re all kings and queens, then who do we get boss around? After all, the damned will be destroyed. Who’s left?

The answer is that a king that reigns as Jesus reigns does not rule by power or compulsion. Rather, like Jesus, our royal role is to die for others, to wash the feet of Judas Iscariot, to walk the second mile, to turn the other cheek, and to carry a cross. This is the nature of Jesus’ kingship, and it’s to this sort of rule that we’ve been called.

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.
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22 Responses to N. T. Wright’s The Day the Revolution Began, Romans Reconsidered, Part 84 (the Image of His Son)

  1. Dwight says:

    What strikes me most is “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
    God made a plan for us, then calls us, when we answer the call, then God justifies us and glorifies us.
    We do not have any ability to consider ourselves self-righteous no matter how good we are.
    This is grace.
    The only way to be lifted up is to be lifted up by God, by lowering ourselves in service of God and others just as Jesus was.

  2. Larry Cheek says:

    Jay seems to missing from action. I have not been able to get an update about his condition, does anyone know?

  3. Dwight says:

    He has been posting to Facebook about his progression, but I haven’t seen anything posted in a few days.

  4. Kathy says:

    Be lifting Jay up in prayers. He’s still in ICU after some kind of non-heart related emergency surgery on 3/30.

  5. Alabama John says:

    One thing for sure is that jay is getting the prayers sent by many asking for his recovery.

  6. Larry Cheek says:

    I found this site interesting http://globalpreachertraining.com especially the videos on Revelation. I see there are many other subjects discussed here, I haven’t reviewed many of them but those I have don’t appear as negative as I expected.
    I really wonder if the email subscribers are receiving any of this input. It would be awesome if when Jay was able to come back that there were thousands of comments added by many who have never commented prior discussing whatever we could dream up.

  7. Larry Cheek says:

    I have learned that the Summer Celebration at Lipscomb University this year June 28-30 will have the theme (A Unifying Core) The message of Romans. I have disagreed with much of N.T. Wrights communications, therefore I am anxious to hear the message from these presenters. A list of the keynote speakers can be viewed at the web site. I hope some of you will also be there.

  8. Larry Cheek says:

    The need for prayers.
    News about Jay found in the Palisades Church of Christ bulletin 625 Palisades Blvd Birmingham, AL as of May 7, 2017
    Jay Guin – At DCH Hospital in ICU in Tuscaloosa.

  9. Dwight says:

    Thanks for the update Larry.

  10. Ben Baker says:

    Hi everyone. I was just wondering if anyone knows how Jay is doing? Thank you!

  11. Larry Cheek says:

    I had received a report May 31 that he had been in ICU the majority of the previous three months. His health returning has been very slow and contained several setbacks. Of course the family is worn out from the stress of this life altering event. They are coveting prayers. We all hope to hear better news soon.

  12. James says:

    Check the latest Palisades Church bulletin

  13. Royce says:

    Now in a hospice unit. His time is near according to his daughter in law

  14. Alabama John says:

    I’m thinking of all those waiting on the shore writing in the sand that when they see him coming across the river will come running toward him in the shallow water reaching for his hand.
    Sad to leave here, but what a reunion awaits us all!

  15. Larry Cheek says:

    Is anyone else having problems seeing the latest comments? I know this may clear up once I post this.

  16. David says:

    Larry & James

    Thanks for the updates. And Alabama John, I appreciate your thoughts.

  17. Monty says:

    My heart is heavy.

  18. Mark says:

    I just saw that bulletin. Let’s all hope someone takes the blog over or at least preserves it. I’m glad we had him for as long as we did.

  19. Kathy says:

    Jay passed at 12:30 today to be with his Heavenly Father. He will be greatly missed. Please pray for his family.

  20. Dwight says:

    We will. He was a good man with a good heart from my conversations with him from the scriptures.
    He will be missed.

  21. David says:

    We lost a good man. He won a great victory.

    There is a wealth of thought, study, and information on this website. I hope it can be kept on line for a while.

  22. Terry Purcell says:

    Deepest condolences to family, the many close friends and brother’s and sister’s in Christ that loved him so much. To me, Jay is a gentle giant in faith and intellect. One of a kind and very hard shoes to fill. Given his suffering, glad he is now is Paradise with Jesus. Can’t imagine how happy he must be.

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