“Sonship,” by Andrew J. Schatkin
In certain section of the New Testament, there is the discussion or use of the term “sonship.” I would like to talk somewhat about those passages. In Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter l8, verse 29, Paul says “for those whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his son, in order that he be the first-born among many brother.” Saint Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, chapters 1-7, states the following:
“I mean the heir, as long as he is a child, is no better than a slave, though he is the owner of all the estate: but he is under guardians and trustees until the date set by the father. So with us, when we were children, we were slaves to the elemental spirits of the universe. But when the time had fully come God sent forth his Son born of a woman, both under the law, to redeem those who were under the law so that we might receive adoption as son. And because you are Sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into out hearts crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So through God you are no longer a slave but a son and if a son then an heir.”
Finally, in the Letter to the Hebrews, chapters 1 and 2, verse 3, Saint Paul maintains that God is treating us as sons.
I would like to suggest the meaning of these particular passages. Apparently, Saint Paul is directing us to the idea, particularly in chapter 4 of his letter to the Galatians, that we are being adopted in some sense as sons by Jesus. This also seems to be the point in Hebrews, chapter 12. The issue and idea that I wish to examine here is what is meant by “becoming a son.”
What I think Saint Paul means here is that we are destined to be eternal beings and as eternal beings we are adopted into the image and form of Christ. On can say that ‘sonship’ or adoption is being conformed and transformed by Christ in the new sort of man that God wants us to be. It is not that we are mirror images of God or Christ but that in relationship to and with him we become the new man that he has made possible for us.
This is what I think is meant by the reference to being sons and adoption as sons. It means that, as we grow in our relationship with Christ, we become more and more like the person that we have the potential to be. What that person will grow to be and become in eternity we can only guess. I can say this much. We will become something wonderful that in his earthly life is beyond our imagination. There will be no barriers, no pain, no death, but only joy, love, and continued and continuous emotional, spiritual, and intellectual growth as we grow more and more in the likeness and image of Christ in full adoption as his children.
This essay is taken from Chapter 33 pp. 95 and 96 (with alternations) from my book Essays, on Faith, Culture, Politics and Philosophy published by the University Press of America, available for sale here.