Romans 8:29-30 (ESV)
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. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
God has just said that He works all things together for good for those who love Him, for those who are called according to His purpose. But what is this “good” that is promised? We find the answer in verse 29. God’s will for every Christian is maximum family resemblance to our Elder Brother. God seeks to order our lives to achieve this lofty purpose. Christ-likeness is the wondrous outcome which God has purposed in our salvation
Salvation can be viewed from the perspective of man’s responsibility and action or it can be viewed from God’s eternal perspective. The steps of God’s Salvation for us are shown in this passage are represented as divine action, so that we may be assured of salvation’s certain accomplishment. But be sure that human responsibility and action are not intended to be ruled out.
There are steps in this section. The fact they are steps that follow each other is made clear by the result of each becomes the starting point for the next step. The Steps we will look at are God’s foreknowledge, predestination, call, justification, and glorification. They each fit together to form a journey to Salvation. The end result of this sanctification process is “the good” to which God is transforming His children, becoming like Jesus. What better, more glorious end could there be?
Let us look and see how secure and good salvation is for those who love the Lord, for those called to His purpose.
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.
These verses give Paul’s explanation of what it means to be one who has “been called according to His purpose” and why God keeps on working all their experiences together to their benefit (v. 28). Believers are those God foreknew. This does not mean simply that God foreknows what believers will do, but that God foreknew them.
“For those whom He foreknew.” So the passage is concerned with the “whom” of His foreknowledge, not the “what.” That God knows in advance what is going to happen poses little problem to most people, although some wonder why He let it happen when He knew in advance what would transpire. But the question that has occupied many believing minds for centuries is does Paul mean simply that God knew in advance who would respond to Him or did He know them in advance because He was going to save them?
“Whom He foreknew” looks back to the words immediately preceding. Those God foreknew are those who love God and are called according to His purpose. The link seems to be initiated by a response to the love and purpose of God. For a detailed understanding of this please look up the following passages: 1 Cor. 8:3; Acts 2:23; 26:5; Ps. 1:6; Mt. 7:23; 1 Peter 1:20).
‘Foreknowledge’ means that ‘God foreknew those in every nation, who would believe, from the beginning of the world to the consummation of all things.(1)
Foreknowledge is not simply God’s all-knowing, it is His foreknowing of individual persons. It is the knowing that comes about because of a personal relationship with Christ Jesus, because they are “in Christ”. Galations 4:9 says, “But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God….”
It is written in Genesis 4:1 that “Adam knew his wife; and she conceived.” They had relation with one another. That is how they knew one another; the intimate knowledge of personal relationship. (2)
Philippians 3:8-12 talks about Paul knowing Christ. Does it that mean Paul did not know about Christ meaning facts and data about this One he was persecuting before he was saved? Obviously not. Paul meant knowing Christ relationally, an intimate relationship knowledge. Which becomes deeper as his life was being transformed into Christ’s image.
In John 17:3 Jesus said that eternal life is knowing God and Himself. Did He mean facts or data about God would save? No He meant the personal knowledge that comes from having established a relationship with God. How can one know God in relationship? One comes to know God only by the Cross of Jesus Christ. There is no other way to know God other than through Jesus Christ. He is “the way the truth and the life no man comes to the Father but through Him.”
Now God knows everything, but how does God know us, meaning know through personal relationship? God does not know any one relationally outside of Christ Jesus. Thus God can only know man through the Cross of Christ. Then how can God have such personal knowledge of man? God can have such foreknowing or relationship knowledge of man because Christ was slain before the foundation of the world (see Rev. 13:8, 1 Pet. 1:20, Heb. 4:3). Thus God foreknew all those in Christ before the foundation of the World (Eph. 1:4). Ephesians 1:4 says that we were chosen in Christ (also see 1 Peter 1:2). Here again foreknowledge comes before predestination and since God sovereignly chose the method of salvation and Christ as His High Priest He sovereignly chose all those who are “in Christ.” God does not choose anyone outside of Christ.
God knows everything by His all-knowing. God also knew relationally in Christ all those that would accept His chosen One and His chosen means of salvation, those that would not only hear but heed the call to salvation and He predestined them to eternal life. Although as Christians we focus a lot and debate a lot on predestination the New Testament does not dwell on it much. (Only mentioning it twice here and three more times -Acts 4:28; Eph 1:5; 11), but whenever the idea occurs it is always based upon the person of Christ.(3)
Thus God foreknew those in Christ who would respond to His call and predestined them so that nothing satan or the world would do could cause even one of God’s elect to be lost. God did not choose men then crucified Christ to have them. He crucified Christ then chose men - before the foundation of the world. Those men He chose were “in Christ.”
What is often skipped over in this step progression is that foreknowledge precedes predestination. All this confusion and debate would not even happen if the Bible had simply said ‘whom He predestined He foreknew.’ But it does not, it places foreknowledge before predestination. Like in Ephesians 1:4-5 if it said we were chosen and brought into Him, but instead it says we were chose while we were in Him.
Ephesians 1:4-5 (ESV)
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 as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,
Whatever conclusions we may reach in this matter, it should be obvious that nothing in the foreknowing or predestinating of God can deny the necessity for human responsibility and nothing that man can do will ever detract from God’s sovereignty.
GOD’S PREDESTINATION: Predestined to Christ’s image
Let’s now examine the second step in this journey
29a For those whom he foreknew he also predestined…
Predestined (prorisen) is to predetermine meaning “to mark out, to appoint or destine beforehand,” “to prehorizon” or “to define in advance the limits” (Acts 4:28).(4) Predestined indicates predetermined according to the purpose and plan of God. Predestination is God’s sovereign right (Acts 4:28, 1 Cor. 2:7, Eph. 1: l1). While there is debate as to whether “foreknowledge” refers exclusively to God’s knowledge, there is no question that “predestine” speaks of the divine will.
All those God foreknew He then also predestined before the foundation of the world so that not a single foreknown person will be lost. Believers have been predestined so that those “in Christ” are totally secured of eternal salvation. God will complete His plan without any loss.
So those who answered God’s call of grace by faith, God foreknew, and who He foreknew He predestined. What is God’s purpose in saving and predestining? What are we predestined to? God’s predetermine plan, before the foundation of the earth was to make believers like Jesus. This is where the emphasis of the passage rests.
29b …to be conformed to the image of his Son…
The purpose for which we were predestined is to be conformed to the image of His Son. God predetermined that those who are redeemed shall experience a salvation that will mold them into the image of Jesus. The determined plan of God’s salvation is to make the redeem “like Jesus.”
God sent His Son in our likeness, the likeness of man, so that we might eventually be like Him. By being of the same mind as Christ (Phil. 2:5-8) and sharing in the suffering so Christ (Phil. 3:10) the believer is gradually being made into Christ- likeness. This transformation is the essence of sanctification.(5)
The word conform (summórphous) comes from two words (sun & morph - Phil. 2:6) which means form together. It indicates a transforming and intertwining into Christ and not merely a superficial conformity to ethical code. The word image (from eik n) is the same word used of Christ as the very image of the Father in 2 Cor. 4:4 & Col. 1:15. So here we have both conform and image to strongly express the gradual change that is occurring in the lives of those predestined until they acquire the likeness of Christ the Son of God so that the adopted sons will ultimately have family likeness with the natural Son.
Christ has assumed our human nature and then purified and exalted it so that we can partake of His nature. To be conformed to Christ is to be made like Him and we are like Him when we reflect that pure character by which He is distinguished. God deals with His children in various ways so that the beauty of Jesus will be increasingly reflected in our lives. Sometimes He allows us to go through severe trials. But regardless of how painful the circumstances may be, He always has one purpose in view - conforming us to the image of Christ.
A rough diamond is ugly has no real outward beauty, but when it is cut, it becomes a thing of extreme beauty. It may be a very small stone, as many as 58 cut upon its surface, and everyone of them reflects a ray of light. This precious colorless jewel becomes a sparkling gem only after a long and painstaking process has been completed by a master craftsman. It’s the cutting that brings out the brilliance.
The same is true with the diamond of human character. Sicknesses, trials, and hard work serve as hammer blows upon our lives. If we do not rebel, they impart to us Christlike qualities we couldn’t acquire in any other way. As we go through God’s workshop and come under the skillful hand of the Divine Cutter, we begin to reflect a heavenly beauty.
Perhaps you are feeling the sharp edge of God’s chisel in your life. You’d like to draw back from the blow of the hammer. The whole process, though under God’s sovereign control, is painful and sometimes seems unbearable. You may even be questioning what the Father is trying to do to you. But we should take heart like the psalmist did
Psalm 138:8 (ESV)
8 The Lord will fulfil his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures for ever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.
God sends trials, not to harm us but improve us. You are one of His precious jewels, and He wants to make you an object of eternal beauty. As we become more and more like Jesus we discover our true self, the person God created us to be and recreated us to become. We are predestined to become a true Son of the True God.
In the beginning God said, “Let us make man in our image” (Gen. 1:26), but man fell, became something considerably less than he was created to be, and began to reproduce “after his image” (Gen. 5:3). This fallen image was at best a poverty-stricken likeness of the original image, and humanity continued in this vein until Christ came—“the express image of [God’s] person” (Heb. 1:3). The Father’s objective in Christ’s coming was that we might “be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers”
Verse 29 continues to tell us that we are family with Christ
29d …the firstborn among many brothers.
God determined beforehand the believers’ destiny is conformity to the image of Jesus Christ. By all saints being made like Christ (finalized sanctification), Christ will be exalted as the Firstborn among many brothers. The resurrected and glorified Lord Jesus Christ will become the Head of a new race of humanity purified from all contact with sin and prepared to live eternally in His presence (1 Cor. 15:42-49). Christ is the first born from the dead or out of the resurrection of the dead.
As the “Firstborn” He is in the highest position among others.
Colossians 1:18 (ESV)
18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent.
The main idea is Christ’s pre-eminence. He is the head and chief among and over that countless multitude who through Him are made sons of God. Why? Because He is the pioneer who provided the door and forged the way from the life of flesh into eternal life by living the perfect life, dying His atoning death, and then being the worthy sacrifice that was raised from the dead.
GOD’S DIVINE PURPOSE (30)
In verse 30 the Bible bridges eternity past and eternity future with a majestic summation of God’s redemptive purpose. Verse 30 states the various steps involved in the realization of God’s divine purpose. Notice the three mighty spans in the salvation’s plan:- called, justified, and glorified.
30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
Between the start and finish of God’s plan are three steps:
being justified (3:24, 28; 4:2; 5:1, 9), and being glorified .]
1st step is God’s Calling (Rom. 1:6; 8:28)
“And whom He predestined these He also called,”
Predestination is God’s purposeful grace at work before the foundation of the world. Calling is God confronting us with His grace in the midst of history. The people of God respond to His call in faith and Spirit-wrought conversion occurs.
“To call” (kaleo) can mean “to name” or “to invite,” or, when used in connection with divine/human experience, “to summon.” The context shows God’s call refers to the way God, having determined that people through faith in Christ should be invited to follow Him for the purpose of becoming like Him.
The gospel is God’s call to salvation. God calls people to Himself through, in, by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When the Gospel invitation is shared saving grace is operational, brought to bear on those who are listening (1 Cor. 1:9). The call comes when the Spirit draws us, convicts the conscience of our guilt and punishment, enlightens the understanding, convinces the will, by persuading and enabling us to embrace Christ.
2nd step is Justification. (Romans 3:24, 28; 4:2; 5:1, 9)
All that surrender to the call of the Gospel are justified. Justification is God making us right with Himself. By faith in Jesus, who He is and what He has done, God justifies the repentant sinner. God, through our faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus justifies us, or places us in right standing with Himself.
Paul spent considerable time in the earlier part of the epistle dealing with “justification.", and I could write many articles on this but lets for this one just focus that “justified” and “glorified” are both in the past tense suggesting that we should look forward to glorification with the same confidence that we look back to “justification.” This can only be done by seeing it in the perspective of our Lord who is eternal, he transcends time. He looks at everything from a unique place where he can see all of time as one moment and He calls it all “now.” There is a special joy in knowing the design of God, and in recognizing the sense in which we are already completed in Him. This allows even the most discouraged saint to speak confidently about God’s good purposes even in the midst of a “groaning” situation.
3rd step is Glorification. (Romans 8:17; Col. 1:27; 3:4)
To be glorified is to have glory or honour brought to light or displayed. Glorification of the believer is the final triumph of God’s grace. We will be glorified when we stand before the Lord. Then we will no longer “fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). “Glorified” is in the past tense because this final step is so certain that in God’s eyes it is as good as done.
In that day we will see and partake of the full revelation of His glory and we will be glorified. To be glorified is another way of saying that God’s children ultimately will be “conformed” to the image of His Son; and that is God’s certain and concluding “purpose” (1 John 3:2; Col. 3:4). There can be nothing more glorious than to be like Jesus.
Several centuries ago, the Emperor of Japan commissioned a JAPANESE ARTIST to paint a bird. Months passed, then years. Finally, the Emperor went to the artist’s studio to ask for an explanation. The artist set a blank canvas on the easel and in thirty minutes completed the painting of a bird that became a masterpiece. The Emperor asked why there had been such a long delay. The artist then went from cabinet to cabinet; he produced arm loads of drawings of feathers, tendons, wings, feet, claws, eyes and beaks of birds; these he placed one by one before the Emperor.
The Holy Spirit operates in the life of the believer, so that we may be conformed to the image of God’s Son. The whole process is a detailed and painstaking progress “until Christ be formed in you” (Gal 4:19). Then the day shall come when the Emperor of emperors will come for us, and the completed work will flash forth in a moment. “It does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 JOHN 3:2).
To know the overall plan of salvation and to realize God’s eternal intent should produces a deep sense of appreciation. We should increasingly cherish the ongoing nature of God’s craftsmanship in our lives. Even when some of the pieces appear to be made too dark through suffering or odd-shaped because of circumstances, we “know” that God fits together a life which will in eternity resemble His Son. While the finishing date is reserved for the age to come, the process is under way in this present age, and “those who love God” have been given a preview of the finished article to encourage them while they live in the age of construction.
- Briscoe, D. Stuart; Ogilvie, Lloyd: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol 29: Romans. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1982, S. 174
- Stott, John. Romans. IVP. Dower Grove, IL. 1994. p 249.
- Edwards, James. New International Biblical Com. Romans. Hendrickson Publ. Peabody Mass. 1995. p 219
- Hodge, Charles. Romans. Banner of Truth. Mackays. Great Britain. 285.
- Harrison, Everett. Expositor’s Bible Com. Zondervan. Vol. 10. Romans. Grand Rapids. 1976. p 98