And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according go his purpose. For whom he foreknew, he also predestined to become conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren; and whom he predestined, these he also called; and whom he called, these he also justified; and whom he justified, these he also glorified.
Four Parts of Romans 8:29
Our aim in this lesson is to understand four parts of Romans 8:29.
- The connection with verse 28.
"FOR whom he foreknew . . . "
- The meaning of God's foreknowledge.
"For whom he FOREKNEW, he also predestined . . . "
- The aim of predestination for our good.
" . . . to become conformed to the image of his Son . . . "
- The aim of predestination for Christ's glory.
" . . . that he might be the first-born among many brethren."
1. The Connection with Verse 28.
"For" indicates that verses 29–30 are the foundation for verse 28. They give reasons why we can KNOW all things will work together for those who are called according to God's purpose.
It appears that what verses 29–30 do is unfold the implications of the phrase in verse 28, "called according to his purpose."
- verse 29 unfolds the PURPOSE
- verse 30 unfolds the CALL
Four Reasons for Providing the Foundation
Why is it important for Paul to give such a deep foundation for this promise? FOUR REASONS.
1.1. To be the Freest of All People
Few promises have brought more comfort and strength to God's people over the centuries than Romans 8:28. If we can be sure in our deepest heart of hearts that this promise is true, then we will be the freest of all people. In the freedom of HOPE we will love one another and will shine like lights in a dark world.
Hope is the most practical power in the world. It overcomes discouragement and depression and irritablity and anxiety and suicide. It gives new life to old jobs and old marriages and old friendships and old churches. It opens the future and invites vision and dreams and planing and prayer. It conquers lust and greed and vain ambition, because these are just short term substitutes for people who have lost hope in something really great and beautiful and satisfying in their lives.
Therefore Paul does not shrink back from giving us a deep foundation for this greatest of all promises. And the foundation is Romans 8:29–30. The pillars of the foundation are the great doctrines of election and predestination and effectual calling and justification and glorification. The reason these things are important to know and love is that they are the foundation of all the covenant blessings we cherish.
1.2. To Avoid a Small and Distorted Vision of God
But even more, if we do not know these doctrines of grace, our vision of God will be small and disfigured. And when our vision of God is small and distorted, the attempt to see all of life in relation to God is frustrated—and we retreat with our little God into a religious subculture instead of confronting the cultural and intellectual life of our day and laying claim to all truth as the territory of the majestic God.
1.3. To Prevent Triviality in Worship
And even within our church, worship suffers the bain of triviality when we do not know and love the God who elects and predestines and calls and justifies and glorifies. Is this not the deepest explanation of the virtual disappearance of reverence in our day. There is a connection between the absence of true and powerful worship and the absence of a God whose rights and power and freedom stun anybody.
1.4. Because It Is God's Word
And the list of reasons why this study is important could go on and on. Suffice it to say in the end, this is the Word of God!
2. The Meaning of God's Foreknowledge.
Verse 29a: "Those whom he foreknew."
2.1. Two Possibilities
God foreknows all things and ALL PEOPLE in one sense (Isaiah 46:10). But not all are predestined to be conformed to his Son. Therefore, the "foreknowing" must be qualified in some sense, because Paul says, "Whom he foreknew, he predestined." There are two ways to qualify or limit the idea of God's foreknowing:
2.1.1. Add a phrase like, "would believe on Jesus," so that it reads: "Whom he foreknew would believe on Jesus, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son." In other words, in order to preserve the self-determining power of man in his own salvation, God predestines people only on the basis of faith which he foresees that certain people will produce by their self-determining power.
2.1.2. Make no additions, but construe the word "foreknew" to refer to that special kind of knowing in Scripture which signifies choice and acknowledgement and favor. In other words, interpret this foreknowledge of God as virtually synonymous with his election.
2.2. Arguments for the Second View (2.1.2)
2.2.1. While it is not impossible that Paul might want us to supply extra words to make sense out of his sentence, it would seem better not to insist on adding a whole phrase if the meaning of the verse is plain and coherent with the context without adding any extra words. The text simply says, "WHOM HE FOREKNEW, HE PREDESTINED," as though the idea of foreknowing contained its own limitation. If we find elsewhere in the Bible and especially in Paul that "knowing" can carry its own limited sense, then the addition other phrases would be unnecessary (see 2.2.3).
2.2.2. The hope of preserving man's power of self determination in salvation is futile in view of verse 30, where it says, "Those whom he called he also justified." See this morning's sermon: if all the called are justified, and if justification is only by faith, then the call must secure the faith because it secures the justification. But if the call of God brings about faith, then it is not the self-determining power of man that brings him to salvation.
Therefore, even if God did base his predestination on faith which he foresaw, it was a faith which he himself intended to create. So the whole motive for the idea of foreknown faith collapses. It still leaves us with the freedom and right of God to elect or choose whom he will call effectually into faith. For God to predestine someone on the basis of faith which he himself creates is the same as basing predestination on the basis of election.
2.2.3. The words "know" and "foreknow" commonly mean "choose" or "set favor upon" or "acknowledge." Therefore we do not need to add any phrase to limit whom God foreknows, because the word itself limits the group—it is those whom he chose or set his favor upon. Here are some texts to show this meaning of "knowing."
220.127.116.11. Romans 11:1–2:
I ASK, THEN, HAS GOD REJECTED HIS PEOPLE? BY NO MEANS! I MYSELF AM AN ISRAELITE, A DESCENDANT OF ABRAHAM, A MEMBER OF THE TRIBE OF BENJAMIN. GOD HAS NOT REJECTED HIS PEOPLE WHOM HE FOREKNEW.
18.104.22.168. Amos 3:1–2:
Hear this word that the Lord has spoken against you, O people of Israel . . . You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.
22.214.171.124. Genesis 18:17–19:
The Lord said, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do . . . ? No, for I have chosen [literally: "known"] him, that he may charge his children . . . to keep the way of the Lord . . . so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised.
126.96.36.199. Hosea 13:4–5:
I am the Lord your God from the land of Egypt; you know no God but me, and besides me there is no savior. It was I who knew you in the wilderness, in the land of drought.
188.8.131.52. Psalm 1:6:
FOR THE LORD KNOWS THE WAY OF THE RIGHTEOUS, BUT THE WAY OF THE WICKED WILL PERISH.
184.108.40.206. Matthew 7:23:
AND THEN I WILL DECLARE TO THEM, I NEVER KNEW YOU; DEPART FROM ME, YOU EVILDOERS.
220.127.116.11. 1 Corinthians 8:3:
If one loves God, one is known by God.
18.104.22.168. Galatians 4:8–9:
FORMERLY, WHEN YOU DID NOT KNOW GOD, YOU WERE IN BONDAGE TO BEINGS THAT BY NATURE ARE NO GODS; BUT NOW THAT YOU HAVE KNOWN GOD, OR RATHER BEEN KNOWN BY GOD, HOW CAN YOU TURN BACK AGAIN TO THE WEAK AND BEGGARLY ELEMENTAL SPIRITS?
22.214.171.124. 2 Timothy 2:16–19:
AVOID SUCH GODLESS CHATTER, FOR IT WILL LEAD PEOPLE INTO MORE AND MORE UNGODLINESS . . . AMONG THEM ARE HYMENAEUS AND PHILETUS, WHO HAVE SWERVED FROM THE TRUTH BY HOLDING THAT THE RESURRECTION IS PAST ALREADY. THEY ARE UPSETTING THE FAITH OF SOME. BUT GOD'S FIRM FOUNDATION STANDS, BEARING THIS SEAL: "THE LORD KNOWS THOSE WHO ARE HIS," AND, "LET EVERYONE WHO NAMES THE NAME OF THE LORD DEPART FROM INIQUITY."
Conclusion: "Whom he foreknew, he also predestined" means that God's appointment of the destiny of his people is based on his prior election, and this election is not based on any foreseen faith that we could produce by some power of self-determination. The plan of redemption was never conceived to include the saving power of human self-determination.
3. What Is the Aim of Predestination for Our Good?
Predestination does not refer here to the choice of who will be saved. It refers to the destiny appointed for those who are chosen. First, God chooses, that is, he unconditionally sets his favor on whom he will, THEN, he destines them for their glorious role in eternity.
Paul mentions two parts to this destiny for the "foreknown" or the "chosen." One relates to our good. The other relates to Christ's glory. First, look at the aim of predestination as it relates to our good.
FOR THOSE WHOM HE FOREKNEW HE PREDESTINED TO BE CONFORMED TO THE IMAGE OF HIS SON.
Other texts that deal with our conformity to Christ show that it probably includes both the final glorious state of the resurrection as well as the process of moral transformation on the way to that glory.
BUT OUR COMMONWEALTH IS IN HEAVEN, AND FROM IT WE AWAIT A SAVIOR, THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, WHO WILL CHANGE OUR LOWLY BODY TO BE LIKE HIS GLORIOUS BODY, BY THE POWER WHICH ENABLES HIM EVEN TO SUBJECT ALL THINGS TO HIMSELF. (This is the only other place in the NT where the word summorphous occurs besides Romans 8:29.)
1 Corinthians 15:42–49
SO IS IT WITH THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD. WHAT IS SOWN IS PERISHABLE, WHAT IS RAISE IS IMPERISHABLE. IT IS SOWN IN DISHONOR, IT IS RAISED IN GLORY . . . JUST AS WE HAVE BORNE THE IMAGE OF THE MAN OF DUST, WE SHALL ALSO BEAR THE IMAGE OF THE MAN OF HEAVEN.
THAT I MAY KNOW HIM AND THE POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION, AND MAY SHARE HIS SUFFERINGS, BECOMING LIKE HIM IN HIS DEATH . . .
2 Corinthians 3:18
AND WE ALL, WITH UNVEILED FACE, BEHOLDING THE GLORY OF THE LORD, ARE BEING CHANGED INTO HIS LIKENESS FROM ONE DEGREE OF GLORY TO ANOTHER; FOR THIS COMES FROM THE LORD WHO IS THE SPIRIT.
Conclusion: The aim of predestination as it relates to our good is that we are appointed to share the very glory of the risen Christ both morally in blameless righteousness and physically in a resurrection body of glory like his. This destiny is the "glorification" of verse 30 ("those whom he justified he glorified") and it is under way right now in all the children of God as we look into the face of Christ in the gospel and are changed from one degree of glory to another by the power of the Spirit.
4. What Is the Aim of Predestination for Christ's Glory?
God's ultimate goal in the eternally predestined plan of salvation does not terminate on humans. It terminates on the Son of God. His glory has precedence over our glory. The glory of the preeminence Christ is the ultimate goal of predestination.
FOR THOSE WHOM HE FOREKNEW HE ALSO PREDESTINED TO BE CONFORMED TO THE IMAGE OF HIS SON, IN ORDER THAT HE MIGHT BE THE FIRST-BORN AMONG MANY BRETHREN.
- God appointed us to share the greatness of the Son so that the Son might be exalted as the greatest among the great.
- God destined us to share Christ's glory in order that the glory of the Son might be magnified in the countless mirrors of those who are conformed to his image.
- God created a second-born and a third-born and a millionth-born so that Christ might be exalted and praised and honored in the midst of a redeemed people.
Conclusion: The unspeakable wonder of predestination is that it aims at and secures the end which God must have in order to be God and the end which we must have in order to be happy—namely, the preeminent glorification of Christ in the glorification of his people.