Appointed Son(s): An Exegetical Note on Romans 1:4 and 8:29 -- By: J. R. Daniel Kirk

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 14:2 (NA 2004)
Article: Appointed Son(s): An Exegetical Note on Romans 1:4 and 8:29
Author: J. R. Daniel Kirk


Appointed Son(s): An Exegetical Note on Romans 1:4 and 8:29

J. R. Daniel Kirk

Duke University

Romans 8 portrays the fate of the believer in terms of suffering and glory: suffering now leads to glory at the consummation of all things. What Paul presents in this chapter, however, is not an abstract “pattern” of suffering leading to glory; rather, the movement from suffering to glory forms the plot of Christ’s story in which the believer participates. The believer suffers with Christ in order to be glorified with Christ (8:17). The transformation that Paul envisions for believers is a full transformation into the sonship that is Christ’s own.1 Given the close connection between becoming a child of God and dying and rising with Christ, it is somewhat curious that the connection between Rom 8:29 and 1:4 has been largely overlooked by commentators.

In a context where Paul is looking to the “redemption of the body” as the consummation of Christian adoption, he says in 8:29:

ὅτι οὓς προέγνω, καὶ προώρισεν συμμόρφους τῆς εἰκόνος τοῦ εἰκόνος τοῦ ὑιοῦ αὐτοῦ, εἰς τὸ εἶναι αὐτὸν πρωτότοκον ἐν πολλοῖς ἀδελφοῖς

Because those whom he foreknew he also appointed beforehand to be conformed to the image of his son, so that he would be the first born among many brothers.

This description of the believer’s hope contains a verbal and thematic resonance with 1:4. Describing the gospel he preaches, Paul calls Jesus: τοῦ ὁρισθέντος ὑιοῦ θεοῦ ἐν δυνάμει κατὰ πνεῦμα ἁγιωςύνης ἐξ

ἀναστάσεως νεκρῶν, “the one appointed son of God in power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from among the dead.” Paul uses the same root word, ὁρίζω, to speak of the action of God upon Jesus (ὁρισθέντος, 1:4) and the action of God with respect to believers (προώρισσεν, 8:29). What God does for Jesus in the resurrection, he does “beforehand” to believers. Moreover, the end of this action of God is, in both instances, the attainment of sonship. Jesus was appointed son of God, and believers are conformed to that image in order to become Jesus’ siblings, that is, sons of God. Finally, this action of God ...

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