The Blessing of Guidance - Part 3 of 4 (series: Lessons on Romans)
by John Lowe
He also predestined—What was it that was predestined. It was that those who are saved will be conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, the foreknowledge of God was knowledge with a purpose that could never be frustrated. It is not enough to say that God foreknew those whom He realized would one day repent and believe. Actually, His foreknowledge insures eventual repentance and belief.
That ungodly sinners will one day be transformed into the image of Christ by a miracle of grace is one of the most astounding truths of divine revelation. The point is not, of course, that we will ever have the attributes of deity, or even that we will have Christ’s facial resemblance, but that we will be morally like Him, absolutely free from sin, and will have glorified bodies like His.
God’s foreknowledge or predestination is not the same as fatalism. Fatalism says that the world is plunging headlong toward an indeterminate end. Paul teaches that there is a very determinate end for those who are the called. Their end or goal is to be conformed to the image of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. We are not plunging downward but are progressing upward in being sanctified toward the Son of Righteousness. As believers, we should become more and more like the Master every day. God has planned for us a final and complete conformity to the resurrection glory of the Lord—“And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.” (I Cor 15:49). As we have borne the characteristics of Adam as to our natural birth, we shall also bear the image of Christ in our resurrection bodies. It is the eternal purpose of God that we become increasingly more conformed to the image of Him who is the Supreme Being in the universe.
to be conformed to the image of His Son,—Believers are to be conformed not merely to something that is like Him but to what He is Himself both in His spiritual body and in His moral character. In the latter respect, Christ is to be visible in believers now—in their actions, attitude, and words. The conformity to Christ will be fully and permanently accomplished, spirit, soul, and body when the Lord comes to receive them to Himself. This is not accomplished by their self-effort, but by the foreknowledge and foreordaining grace of God.
that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.—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. Moreover, Jesus has the highest position as the head of this new group of people. “And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence” (Col. 1:18). And he is the head of the body, the church; He alone, and no one else. He directs, controls, guides, and governs the church. The church is His body; He is its source and its life. Christ is not the first of a series, but the source. Christ is the source of new creation and the sovereign Head of that new creation. That in all things He might have the pre-eminence; He alone, not angels or men. Christ has unshared supremacy; He has first place; He is in a class by Himself; He is eminent above all others. It is not enough for Christ to be present, nor prominent; He must be pre-eminent.
30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
Everyone who was predestined in eternity is also called in time. This means that he not only hears the gospel but that he responds to it as well. It is, therefore, an effectual call. All are called, but only a few respond to the effectual (conversion-producing) call of God.
All who respond are also justified or given an absolutely righteous standing before God. They are clothed with the righteousness of God through the merits of Christ and are thereby fit for the presence of the Lord. Justification is a vital doctrine in Paul’s thinking. When God justifies us, He reckons us as if we are righteous because of the atoning death of Jesus Christ. He imputes the righteousness of Christ to our account.
Those who are justified are also glorified. The final step in the purpose of God is the glorification of His people. We will ultimately be completely conformed to “the image of His Son.” “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory” (Col 3:4). This is God’s view of salvation. Actually, we are not glorified yet, but it is so sure that God can use the past tense in describing it. We are as certain of the glorified state as if we had already received it! Foreknowledge and predestination belong to the eternal past, in the eternal counsel of the
Trinity; calling and justification take place in the believer’s present experience; the glow (glorification), which begins now, will not ultimately and completely be known until the future. Although salvation from our viewpoint is an instantaneous act, it has in fact, stretched from eternity past to eternity future and finds its basis, not in our merit or in the works of the law, but in the purpose of God. In the depression and turmoil of these days, nothing can be of greater encouragement to believers than to know that God is working all things together for our good and His glory.
This is one of the strongest passages in the NT on the eternal security of the believer. For every million people who are foreknown and predestined by God, every one of those million will be called, justified, and glorified. He will not lose one.
In verses 29 and 30, Paul is speaking of the experience of every Christian. “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. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” This is a passage, which has been seriously misused. If we are going to understand it, we must face the fact that Paul never meant it to be a statement of theology or philosophy; he meant it to be the expression of Christian experience. If we take it as philosophy and psychology, it means that God chose some and did not choose others. That is not what it means.
Think of the Christian experience. The more a Christian thinks about his salvation experience, the more he becomes convinced that he had nothing to do with it, and God did it all. Jesus Christ came into the world; He lived; went to the Cross; He rose again. We did nothing to bring that about; that is all God’s work. Love woke within our hearts; the conviction of sin came, and with it came forgiveness and salvation. We did not achieve that; all of it is God’s doing. That is what Paul is thinking here.
The Old Testament has an illuminating use of the word “to know.” God said to Hosea about the people of Israel, “I knew you in the wilderness” (Hosea 13:5). God told Amos, “You only have I known, of all the families of the earth” (Amos 3:2). When the Bible speaks of knowing a man, it means that He has a purpose, a plan, and a task for that man. And when we look back on our own Christian experience, all we can say is, “I did not do this, I could never have done this; God did everything." And we know well that this does not take freewill away. God knew Israel, but the day came when Israel refused the destiny God meant her to have. God’s unseen guiding is in our lives, but at the end of the day, we can refuse it and take our own way.
It is the deep experience of the Christian that all is of God; that he did nothing, and that God did everything. That is what Paul means here. He means that from the beginning of time God marked us out for salvation; that in due time His call came to us; but the pride of man’s heart can wreck God’s plan and the disobedience of man’s will can refuse the call. This is what I believe, and I believe it represents what the majority of Christians today believe. Many good Christians disagree with me, however, and I respect their views. However, if my view is wrong, it has the result of causing me to have a greater desire to give the gospel to everyone, and that is what Jesus told us to do in His Great Commission.
In the Old Testament, intersession is used with regard to prayer. Key examples of intercessory prayer are found in Abrahams prayer for the inhabitants of Sodom (Gen. 18:16-33) and Moses’ prayer for a sinning Israel (Num. 14:10-19).
In the New Testament, the word means “to plead on behalf of someone.” The Holy Spirit exercises this ministry, on our behalf, in the most intensive degree. The Christian, when he prays for others is interceding or making intersession.
A theological term that refers to God’s superior knowledge and wisdom, His power to know all things. God is the Lord who knows our thoughts from afar. He is acquainted with all our ways, knowing our words even before they are on our tongues (Ps. 139:1–6, 13–16). He needs to consult no one for knowledge or understanding (Is. 40:13–14). He is the all-knowing Lord who prophesies the events of the future, including the death and resurrection of His Son (Isaiah 53) and the return of Christ at the end of this age when death will be finally overcome (Rom. 8:18–39; 1 Cor. 15:51–57).
Only the all-knowing and all-powerful God can guarantee real freedom from sin, decay, and death. He can begin a process of change in believers during the present age; for “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17).