Meditation on Romans 8:28-30. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
We Know – this is one of the most important things that we must know after coming to Christ. This isn’t a speculation or a theory. It is the very word of God – a promise for every believer that has ever existed. It must be something we know. If we don’t know this or don’t believe it, we will always be doubting God’s goodness and his power.
In All Things – This is the part that even believers who know this struggle. There are many places in the Bible where the word all is used and it doesn’t mean all. (Some preachers say that when the Bible says all, it means all but that isn’t true.)
Ex 9:6 And the next day the Lord did it: All the livestock of the Egyptians died, but not one animal belonging to the Israelites died.
Ex 9:19 Give an order now to bring your livestock and everything you have in the field to a place of shelter, because the hail will fall on every man and animal that has not been brought in and is still out in the field, and they will die.
However, there are places where all really does mean all and this is one of them. What things would be included in this “all things?”
Isa 45:7 I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things.
God Works – There isn’t anything left to chance. Just as all things includes all situations and circumstances of life, history, and the future, so it is God who works these things. It is in his providence and his control to make sure that these circumstances are coincidences – that is they coincide with his decrees and his purposes.
For the Good – Some of these things seem really bad to us. Consider a couple who loses a baby due to birth defects. Doctors try to correct them when something goes wrong – an accident so to speak – and the baby dies. Or consider a little two-month-old baby who is in and out of surgery. No one knows how that will turn out. Are these things for the good? You can go even deeper and ask about the holocaust or 9/11. See how we focus on the bad things when we come to this verse? But God is also working the good things for our good. Otherwise, they would not be good. He knows what is best, regardless of what we call them – good or bad.
Those Who Love Him – This is a conditional promise. It doesn’t apply to all mankind. This may also be hard to swallow and isn’t something I would point out to a nonbeliever outside of their destiny in hell. God certainly does work things out for the bad of unbelievers.
Ps 37:12-13 The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them; 13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming.
Matt 13:42 They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Clearly, this passage is written for Christians to give them hope in tribulation and trials.
Who Have Been Called – This is also a hard pill for some to swallow. God Calls people to himself. No one comes to God except those he has called. No one loves the Lord unless God gives him the ability to do that.
John 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.
How do you know if you have been called? Are you drawn to God? Are you aware of your sinfulness in the presence of Him? Do you know and believe Jesus is the only way to the Father? If so, then you are called.
His Purpose – God is doing these things for our good, but that is his purpose. This brings to light that there is something going on here that is more than about us. It puts us in the right position in this promise. Ultimately this is bigger than us. It is about the very objective God has in mind. It fulfils his intentions for now and for eternity.
God Foreknew – Foreknew or foreknowledge is only used 7 times in the NT.
Acts 2:23 God’s foreknowledge of Jesus
Acts 26:5 since they have known about me for a long time, (NASU)
Rom 11:2 God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. (NIV)
1 Peter 1:2 elect according to foreknowledge of God.
1 Peter 1:20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.
The idea expressed in this is that God knew all about us before some time. If we look at Psalm 139, it speaks of his foreknowledge. He knows whatever we are going to do before we do it. He knows what we will speak before we say it. There is nowhere we can go that he doesn’t already know we will be there and is ahead of us. Before we were born, he decided how our lives would turn out.
Predestined – This fits in with his foreknowledge as indicated in Psalm 139. See how predestination is linked with foreknowledge. He doesn’t predestine everyone to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus, he only predestines those he foreknows. This must mean that foreknowledge is more than just knowing that every person in history would be predestined to be conformed to Jesus. God’s foreknowledge in this instance is an intimate relationship. He takes those he loves and makes sure that they will be like Jesus. He predestines us to be adopted as sons (daughters doesn’t work because a Roman adopted son could not be disinherited but a daughter could).
Conformed to the Likeness of Jesus – This is our sanctification. Jesus lived a sinless life and fulfilled every legal requirement to be counted as righteous on his own merits. We are the complete opposite, but he will bring us into conformity with Jesus’ holy nature. He has already declared us as holy, but he is still working that into us.
2 Tim 1:12 I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.
Phil 1:6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
He is the one who will make sure we will be like Jesus in his holiness and righteousness when we enter heaven.
Firstborn Among Many Brothers – This is to God’s glory, not ours. This is first and foremost the reason God is saving us. It isn’t just about us, but it is about bringing glory to Jesus. He is the first to be resurrected with a glorified body. We will also be in his likeness also.
1 John 3:2 But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
We must be in some way like him, or we would not be able to see him. No one can see God and live.
Verse 30 – This has been called the golden chain of salvation. It is a nutshell summary of how we are saved. It is all about God doing the work in us. He first chooses us – we don’t choose ourselves. At the right time, He calls us – we don’t call ourselves. He justifies us – we can’t justify ourselves or make us worthy. He glorifies us – he makes us into Jesus’ image. None of our salvation is dependent on us. It is all God doing the work.