I wanted to say more about the organic emphasis in what’s termed sonship or adoption. If not in popular theology, at least in the Bible there is a definite emphasis placed on our growth in and experience of God’s life. As amazing as reconciliation is, the Bible itself says that there is something “much more.”
Much more we will be saved in His life, having been reconciled. -Romans 5:10
What Does Sonship Mean?
The process of sonship encompasses regeneration, transformation, and glorification.
In Christ’s resurrection we were regenerated to be God’s sons (1 Pet. 1:3) and Christ affirmed this to Mary the Magdalene in John 20:17- “My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.” Thus we “are all of One, for which cause He is not ashamed to call us brothers (Heb. 2:11).” We were regenerated in our spirit (John 3:6), which is why Romans 8:15 says we “have received a spirit of sonship.” The next verse says that our spirit (the same spirit of sonship) witness to us that we are children of God. The Greek word for children is “teknon, without article, thus, children of God by nature (K. Wuest).” This again proves that sonship is a begetting in life not merely a legal adoption.
The adoption concept continues to fall short in Romans 8:23 which says that we are “awaiting sonship, the redemption of our body.” If we have received sonship how or why are we awaiting sonship?
We received sonship in our spirit but we await its manifestation in our body. This is because sonship is a life long process where the divine life gradually spreads out from our spirit through our soul and into our body. Sonship ultimately is related to glory, which is the expression of the divine life. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says we are “being transformed into the same image from glory to glory.” Colossians 3:4 makes the connection stronger: “When Christ our life is manifested, then you also will be manifested with Him in glory.”
If we realize that our full sonship depends on the spread of the divine life in us, I think we will take the Christian life more seriously. In particular, we will be desperate to deal with our inward parts so that our heart is the good earth in which the seed of life can freely grow (Luke 8:4-18).
The Conditions for Sonship
Each stage of sonship referred to in Romans 8:14-17 has a condition:
Child– believing into Him to be begotten = Rom. 8:16, John 1:12
Son– being led by the Spirit to be transformed = Rom. 8:14, 12:2
Heir– suffering with Him to be glorified= Rom. 8:17, 2 Cor. 4:17
Today we are groaning for our growth in life and the redemption of our body that we may be completely conformed to the image of God’s son. Romans 8:29 says we were “predestinated to be conformed to the image of God’s Son” while Ephesians 1:5 says we were “predestinated unto sonship.”
The image of God’s Son in us is the sonship. But only by having the life of God can we have the image of God. God’s original intention is that man would receive Christ as life for the corporate expression of God. And this is exactly what Romans 8 reveals- that the divine life working in our spirit, soul, and body, eventually produces in us the image of God’s Son. Thus the divine life accomplishes the goal of God’s predestination, which is also the goal of God’s economy- sonship.
We have been redeemed (bought back) but we have also become partakers of the divine nature through precious and exceedingly great promises (2 Pet. 1:4). As good as being adopted by God could be, it doesn’t really add up to the preciousness or exceedingly greatness that Peter refers to here.
Again, this is much more than being accepted by God. This is the divine life saturating us, so that our spirit is life, our mind is life, and our body is life (Rom 8:10, 6, 11). This organic view of sonship focuses on experiencing Christ as life, rather than on a legal event in the past.