This summer we’ve been working our way through the book of Romans. For the past few Sunday’s we’ve been in Romans chapter 8. In this chapter Paul talks about suffering, and how followers of Christ have comfort in their suffering.
Just like a friend might comfort you during a hard time, Paul notes multiple reasons for Christians to keep trusting in God even when days are hard.
First Paul points to the future. The Bible tells us that one day the universe will be renewed. It will be restored as a place where sin, pain and evil no longer exist. Our bodies will also be restored. No longer infected with sin. No longer able to experience pain, sadness, aging and so on (Romans 8:18-25).
Then Paul moves on to another comfort. We don’t just have hope for the future. Right now the Holy Spirit is with us, and is adding His perfect prayers to our stumbling, bumbling incomplete ones. No matter what we’re going through, we know that the Holy Spirit is praying perfect prayers for us (Romans 8:26-27).
In our reading for today, Paul offers yet another reason for Christians to lift up their heads while suffering. Way back before anything was created, God the Father looked forward in time and chose us to be His own people, to be saved from our sins (Romans 8:28-30).
We were Chosen from Eternity, by God the Father, to be Glorified with His Son.
Romans 8:28–30 (ESV)
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according 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. 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.
It’s nice to have someone watching out for you, especially when you’re a little kid at the pool.
Just a few weeks ago, my three year old daughter Carmen started swimming lessons at the Lynnwood pool. We were a little late, but we rushed her in and she joined the rest of the little squids in the shallow end of the pool.
Now, it’s shallow, but Carmen is only a few feet tall. The swim teacher recognized right away that Carmen wasn’t tall enough to reach the bottom.
No problem. While the taller kids practiced blowing bubbles by the side of the pool, the littler ones had a platform to stand on in the pool so they could do the same.
It didn’t take long before Carmen needed rescuing. While the teacher was helping other kids, she started inching closer to the edge of the platform.
“Carmen, keep blowing bubbles AND stay on the platform”, the teacher said as Carmen got closer to the edge.
Testing her boundaries, Carmen stubbornly, and sneakily crept close and closer to the edge until – sploosh! She went under.
Calmly, the teacher reached out and pulled my sputtering little blonde up out of the “deep” and back onto the platform.
Later my wife said that Carmen was never really in danger. My wife said that she had seen both the teacher and the patrolling life guard mark Carmen as soon as she was standing on the platform. They knew what she was up to, even before she did.
I’ll say it again. It’s nice to have someone watching out for you.
In our reading for today, the apostle Paul wants his fellow Christians to know that even before the world was created, God the Father was already watching out for us. Verse 29 says…
“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…” (Romans 8:29 ESV).This isn’t the only place in the bible that the teaching of Predestination is found. Perhaps the most well known verses on this subject are found in Ephesian 1, verse 3. There Paul tells his fellow Christians…
“3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ” (Ephesians 1:3–10 NIV).▬
When we hear that God chose some to be saved, the first thought we might think is, well, that means that God chose the rest to be damned. But that’s not very nice. In fact that’s downright evil. If God made some people just to put them in hell, that would make Him evil. But that’s not what the Bible says. In fact, the Bible clearly tells us that God wants, “all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4 NKJV).
But, that truth bumps up against something else we know about God. We know that He is all-powerful. So, our human logic says, “If God is all-powerful, and He wants all people to be saved, how come the Bible says some will go to hell?”
Now, it’s likely that the solution for this mystery is bound up in the fact that God created human beings with free-will, not as robots who cannot stray from the program loaded into their minds.
But, even though we can say the solution is somehow connected to free-will, we still can’t identify a solution to this logical problem.
Of course, religious teachers throughout the ages have TRIED to reason this conundrum out. Some dispose of free-will and say that God chose some to be saved, and some to be damned, and there’s nothing you can do about it. But that’s not biblical. This kind of thinking makes God into a monster.
Others say salvation is either chosen or rejected by sinful man. In other words, WE decide to be saved or damned. But this also is not biblical. The Bible says that the Holy Spirit creates faith, not man. We don’t CHOOSE to believe, the Spirit convinces us that Jesus is our Savior through the Word of God.
The Bible teaches that God gets full credit for saving sinners, while the sinful person gets all the blame for being damned. This is not logical to our human minds, but all the same, it is what the Bible teaches, and what Christians believe.
Now, I’ve taken the time to elaborate on predestination because I think it’s important that we understand what God says and what He does not. But Paul doesn’t elaborate on all this right here in Romans 8 because his point here is to comfort his fellow Christians who are suffering. And that’s what the teaching of predestination is for. God lets us in on the mind boggling teaching of predestination so that we will be comforted by His concern and plan for us. A plan which is older than dirt. A plan whose origin stretches back into the eternal mind of God.
Look again at our reading. Verse 28…
“28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according 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. 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”(Romans 8:28–30 ESV).Paul’s point is that in eternity, God chose us, and in time He reached out to take hold of us through the Good News of sins forgiven through Jesus. Christians, if God is really this involved in our lives, than we should be confident that EVERYTHING that happens in life will be used by God for our benefit. Whether it’s something good or bad.
My brother Seth is a teacher. He once told me that some of the best lessons, he learned from the worst teachers. He learned what NOT to do.
Or think of the person who loses their job (BAD), only to find better work (GOOD). Maybe not higher paying work, but work that is more fulfilling, or better in some other way.
God uses the good and the bad events in the lives of Christians to benefit them. This should move us to trust God no matter what happens. Like it says in Eccelsiastes…
“14 When times are good, be happy;▬
but when times are bad, consider this:
God has made the one
as well as the other” (Ecclesiastes 7:14 NIV).
Paul doesn’t just tell us that we have been chosen by the Father to be saved. He adds more detail. He says we’ve been predestined to be called through the Gospel of Christ and molded to resemble Jesus.
Verse 29 says…
“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 ESV).Earlier in Romans, Paul talked about how through faith in Jesus, we become children of God. And as children of God we have the inheritance of heaven to look forward to. Here in verse 29 Paul tells us that there’s more to being children of God than receiving a heavenly inheritance. As children of God we are also called to receive the family resemblance.
Just as members of families resemble each other in their outward appearance, the members of God’s faith-family resemble each other. They take on the look of Jesus, God’s Son.
Paul says that this is part of God’s purpose in predestining us. He wants us to look like Jesus, not like the children of the world.
Not long ago there were all sorts of bracelets, bumper stickers and t-shirts springing up that asked the question, “What would Jesus do?” And that’s good question for Christians to ask themselves. First we ask, “What DID Jesus do?” And the answer is, He lived, suffered and died so that all my sins stand forgiven before God the Father. But after that, we ask “How should I live as a forgiven sinner?” And the answer is - do what Jesus would do.
Paul once wrote a letter to a young pastor named Timothy. And in that letter Paul instructed him…
“11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called…” (1 Timothy 6:11-12a NIV).
Fighting the good fight of faith. Talking hold of the eternal life to which we were called. This means not clicking on the soft-porn offered on the side of your web-browser. This means trusting God instead of money. This means seeking to help our grumpy and difficult neighbors. This means patiently correcting our children when their behavior is bad. In all these ways and in so many other we are taking hold of the eternal life that we have been given through faith in Christ. In all these ways we are living the NEW life God always had planned for us. That life starts NOW, not in heaven.
Really living as God’s children is part of Paul’s message here. But again, the main point is to comfort Christians in their suffering.
Look once more at verse 30. Paul directs his fellow Christians to see the overarching plan of God.
“…those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8:28–30 ESV).Paul could have simply said, “those God predestined he also called, justified and glorified”. But He doesn’t say it that way. He spreads it all out to remind us that this domino effect is what God always had in mind. He set these dominos up in eternity with the purpose that each stage would follow the last. Paul’s point – God’s will for you will happen.
Like God says in Isaiah 55…
“10 As the rain and the snow▬
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11-12 NIV).
See the power of God in your life. In the future He will watch over you in heaven. Now, His Holy Spirit watches over you in life. And in the past, before the world began, God was already watching over you, and planning the events that would lead you to trust in Jesus for forgiveness. Planning the events that would lead you into His family forever.
No matter what may come, it must serve God’s purpose. Let this bring you comfort, even in pain and sorrow. Let this remind you to do what it says in Psalm 46, verse 10…
“Be still and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10 NIV).Amen.