Romans Chapter 8
First Baptist Church
Des Moines, NM
We’re in day 4 of our survey of Romans Chapter 8. Yesterday, we took a brief look at suffering in the Christian life and how it should produce hope instead of despair. Indeed, the Christian life is all about hope. It’s about hope of a life after death and a resurrection in the form that Jesus Christ demonstrated. It’s about freedom from sin and a creation that groans under that sin. That’s what we talked about yesterday and I left us with this passage:
Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
Today, we’ll move on from there to a passage which is the source of much controversy and, in my opinion, misunderstanding. That passage is:
Romans 8:29-30 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (30) Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
Note first of all that this one follows the previous. These verses are not isolate "nuggets of wisdom", but, rather are thoughts flowing from one to another. Romans is, after all, a letter, not a point by point check-off list. So, the previous thought was "all things work together for good to those who love God." And these people, that is, "those who love God" are specifically "those who are the called according to His purpose." As I noted yesterday, don’t lose sight of the fact that this is done "according to His purpose." Paul then says "For whom He foreknew…" and the word "for" indicates a continuance of the previous thought. In other words, "those who are the called according to His purpose" are those "whom He foreknew".
This word "foreknew" is a very important word. Using Scripture to interpret Scripture, I see that the word "knew" or "know" is not a casual word. It’s not like this "Oh, Billy…yes, I know him! He sat behind me in 2nd grade English. Wow…wonder what he’s up to now!" The Bible doesn’t use the word "knew" or "know" in that casual sense. Rather, it’s used in passages like these:
Matthew 7:21-23 "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. (22) Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' (23) And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'
In this passage, Jesus says "I never knew you." Did he know about them? Well, certainly He did! But did he "know" them in a relationship? Evidently not. The word "knew" is used in husband/wife relationships, such as this one:
Genesis 4:1 Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, "I have acquired a man from the LORD."
This is a close and intimate relationship. In fact, if you look up "knew" in the Bible, you’ll find that in every case, it implies more than just ships passing in the night, but an actual relationship or intimate knowledge of someone or something. Therefore, when Romans says that God "foreknew" people, I take that to mean that He has a relationship with them.
Now, of this group that He foreknew, Romans says that he "predestined them to be conformed to the image of His son." Some people take that predestination to mean that God predestined the possibility of them being conformed to the image of Christ. That is, if they come into a relationship with God, then the reward for that relationship is them being formed into the image of Christ. However, the words "whom" and "those" seem to me to indicate a group of people separate from other people, not all people universally. And remember than in Matthew 7, there were a group of people who tried to use their works to gain entrance into Heaven and Jesus said to them "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness." Taking all these passages together, I see those whom God foreknew as a distinct group of people. It is these- whom He called, according to His purpose, as the passage states- who are predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ. Now, I told you from the start that this is a controversial passage, as many people don’t like to give God control of salvation. They want to retain that choice for themselves. But, I don’t know… I’m of the camp that says that if God didn’t call us to salvation, then I don’t think a single person on the face of this earth would ever choose God. After all, doesn’t Paul also tell us:
Romans 3:10-12 As it is written: "THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NO, NOT ONE; (11) THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS; THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS AFTER GOD. (12) THEY HAVE ALL TURNED ASIDE; THEY HAVE TOGETHER BECOME UNPROFITABLE; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, NO, NOT ONE."
So, I personally, after much study, have concluded that salvation is due 100% to an act of God. And praise God for that! Let’s finish this passage… after saying "…whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren", Paul then tells us:
Romans 8:30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
I see no one escaping from this pattern. It says "whom He foreknew, He predestined; whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified." There is no "some" in these statements, but the group remains intact. Now remember that the Christian life is one of hope. If your salvation is due to your efforts, then you have got a monstrous task ahead of you. Christ offers you a rope and YOU must cling to it using YOUR efforts. I don’t know about you, but I’m not up to the task. I don’t have the strength to hang on. But, if God is responsible for giving me the strength to hang on, then I can do it. If God calls me, God conforms me, God justifies me, and God glorifies me, then there’s all the hope in the world. And that, indeed, is what Paul’s next statement says:
Romans 8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
If God is for us, who- including ourselves- can be against us? This is a common theme throughout the Bible. Consider these passages:
Romans 14:4 Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.
Paul says "God is able to make him stand."
Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, (2) looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
In this passage, Jesus is called the author and finisher of our faith. He’s the one who starts the novel and he’s the one who finishes it.
In Luke, Jesus says plainly, specifically regarding salvation:
Luke 18:27 But He said, "The things which are impossible with men are possible with God."
So, when my hope is in God’s work on my life, I can have full and absolute confidence that "what He [has] promised, He [is] also able to perform", as Paul said regarding Abraham’s faith back in Romans 4:21. Having said that, listen now to Paul’s concluding words in this chapter:
Romans 8:31-39 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (32) He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? (33) Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. (34) Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. (35) Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? (36) As it is written: "FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE KILLED ALL DAY LONG; WE ARE ACCOUNTED AS SHEEP FOR THE SLAUGHTER." (37) Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. (38) For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, (39) nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
If we’re going to talk about the confidence and hope we have in God through Jesus Christ, what better passage can there be than the one I just read? Paul says "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" His list of things that will fail to do that cover the gamut from tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, and sword. Paul is "persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." How would this be possible if it depended upon our human strength? The short answer is that it wouldn’t be. But, when God is with us, who can be against us? When our hope rests in God’s strength, not ours, we can have great hope.
I pray that your hope lies in the strength that is Jesus Christ.
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