28And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29For 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.
If you’ve been following my posts over the last year, you’ll know that I like to start by defining the key terms found in the passage.
All of the Ancient Greek translations are from Strong’s Greek lexicon at Bible Hub.
His [God’s] word about love was very practical. He taught the Jews to help the poor. He said that when you gather the harvest, leave the corners of the field, the second picking, and also whatever falls on the ground for the poor to collect. He told them not to steal, lie, gossip or hold back money from an employee. He instructed them to treat the poor, the widow, the orphan and the immigrant with generosity and kindness. To sum it up he said, “Do not hate your brother in your heart … Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge … but love your neighbor as yourself.” Lev. 19:9-18A New Commandment – Dr. Peter Wyns
When you hear someone say something like, “I love my country”, “I love the smell of coffee brewing”, “I love the sound of the ocean”, “I love chocolate chip cookies”, or “I love foot rubs”, ask them, “what exactly do you mean by love?”. I’m willing to bet that most will have confused “love” with “care for”, “like”, “appreciate”, or “favour”.
The act of love is most clearly illustrated in the life of Jesus Christ. However, throughout the New Testament, we see love in its true form.
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.1 Corinthians 13:4-8
So, who is God? He’s the Creator, Sustainer, Governor, and Judge of the universe. And in his justice and mercy, he devised a way, from all eternity, for sinners like us to be forgiven and to be adopted into his eternal family as the children of God and as a kind of bride for his Son, Jesus Christ, so that by sharing the joy God has in himself, our joy in him would show the fullness of his own glory.Who is God? Pastor John Piper, Desiring God
Everything Pastor John has said above can be summed up in four words beginning with “omni” (all). God is:
- Omnipotent: all-powerful – God can do whatever he wants,
- Omniscient: all-knowing – God has full cognition of the past, the present and the future,
- Omnipresent: all-present – God is everywhere at the same time.
- Omnibenevolent: all-good – God is infinetly and perfectly good.
John (the apostle) consolidates love with God and God with love:
8Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.1 John 4:8
According to the people at Oxford, “purpose” is defined as:
the intention, aim or function of something; the thing that something is supposed to achieve; a meaning that is important and valuable to you; the ability to plan something and work successfully to achieve it; not by accident; deliberately.Purpose (noun), Oxford Learner’s Dictionary
16But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.Exodus 9:16
So if you’re searching high and low for the meaning of your life, here’s the answer: humanities singular purpose is the same as our great commission,
Taking the time to get to know someone is a powerful thing. In this passage, the verb foreknew is used to specify God’s specific and intentional act in His love for certain people by setting His affection on them alone. As we see detailed in Amos 3:2, this relational commitment is similarly used towards the nation of Israel,
2 “You only have I known
of all the families of the earth;
therefore I will punish you
for all your iniquities.Amos 3:2
In this respect, although He is omniscient, God chooses to intimately know, or favour, specific individuals by bestowing them with His Spirit and illuminating the truth of the Good News, the gift from God.
4 …even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will…Ephesians 1:4-5
11In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,Ephesians 1:11
In the context of Romans 8, the word predestined is used for all who have been called: Christians. We see throughout the Bible that when God calls someone, it’s not in a meek whisper. Through His Word and the gift of His Spirit, I have all I need to know.
If you genuinely believe in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus on the day of judgement, you’ll find that your name is nicely printed in permanency within the “book of life”. The reality of predestination should be of no surprise to a believer. Our salvation has never been in our feeble little hands.
13 …for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.Philippines 2:13
Conformed means to harmonise with a particular influence, shape, or form.
14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”1 Peter 1:14-16
In general, an image is a portrayal, impression, conception, or representation of something else. In this way, we are all called to be transformed into the image of Christ: Christlikeness.
the image of the Son of God, into which true Christians are transformed, is likeness not only to the heavenly body, but also to the most holy and blessed state of mind, which Christ possessesBlue Letter Bible
Strong’s G1504 – eikōn; εἰκών
Like in many modern families, we see in the Bible that the firstborn child is especially regarded and honoured with various birthrights (such as a more prominent or separate bedroom).
19Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me; now sit up and eat of my game, that your soul may bless me.”Genesis 27:19
As the only Son of God, Jesus is the firstborn of all Creation. He is the “Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end.”
And we know that for those who love God…Romans 8:28
Here, Paul provides us all with the necessary qualification for receiving divine blessing: one’s love for God. By including the condition, “for those who love God”, Paul is specifically addressing Christians.
Since the beginning, God’s purpose was His glorification through the salvation of mankind through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. Thereby, for Christians, all things in our lives are being worked together for good.
…all things work together for good…Romans 8:28
This little passage is as remarkable as it is riddlesome. How do we reconcile our sufferings with a loving God? Well, although it’s often not evident, apparent or even sensical at the time, no matter what happens in the life of a believer, God uses it for good.
So even though our lives are often intermingled with joy and misery, tragedy and triumph, it’s a necessary part of our adaption for heaven. God works it all together for the greater good.
If you read my blog’s “Who am I” page, you’ll see that I know a thing or two or three about this reality.
…for those who are called according to his purpose.Romans 8:28
This is another curious concept. The inclusion of “for those” specifies a specific group of people. The notion of a particular “calling” and Jesus’ “purpose” is probably best expounded in 1 Peter 2:9,
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.1 Peter 2:9
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.Romans 8:29
Predestination…one of those tricky subjects I’ve often debated or mulled over for too long. But, to put it ever so plainly, God is all-knowing, all-present and all-powerful. So yeah, He knows what you’re thinking, everything you’ve done, are doing and going to do.
But, and here’s the kicker…irrespective of these profound truths, we still have the freedom to choose how to play the hands we’re dealt.
We mustn’t forget that God is outside, although inside, this universe simultaneously. Therefore, like traditional logic and rationales, the rules and laws designed by a man can’t be applied to God.
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 8:35-39
If we actually know God, we’ll seek to live our lives in a Christ-like manner. He bore our crosses and paid the immeasurable debt for our sins.
God desires that we are conformed to the image of our sacrificial saviour, Jesus Christ.
18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgement: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.John 3:18-20
When we enter God’s holy presence, we mustn’t think it’s because of our own righteousness or spirituality. With the singular exception of Jesus, no human has lived well enough to credit themselves with salvation; all those who love God are trophies of His grace.