More Than Conquerors! A Study of Romans 8 #10 God’s Eternal Decree  – Romans 8:29-30

07 Oct

(Romans 8:29-30 NIV)  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.

(Romans 8:29-30 NKJV)  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.

8:29 Those whom he foreknew.NRSV Believers are those people whom God foreknew. God’s foreknowledge refers to his intimate knowledge of us and our relationship with him based on his choosing us. God predestined believers to reach a particular goal: to be conformed to the image of his Son.NRSV “Now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2 niv).

What does predestination mean? What keeps foreknowledge and predestination from being determinism? How can belief in predestination avoid leading someone to despair over the futility of any human choice? God’s foreknowledge does not imply determinism—the idea that all our choices are predetermined. Since God is not limited by time as we are, he “sees” past, present, and future at the same time.

Parents sometimes “know” how their children will behave before the fact. We don’t conclude from these parents’ foreknowledge that they made their children act that way. God’s foreknowledge, insofar as we can understand it, means that God knows who will accept the offer of salvation. The plan of predestination begins when we trust Christ and comes to its conclusion when we become fully like him. Receiving an airline ticket to Chicago means we have been predestined to arrive in Chicago.

To explain foreknowledge and predestination in any way that implies that every action and choice we make has been not only preknown, but even predetermined, seems to contradict those Scriptures that declare that our choices are real, that they matter, and that there are consequences to the choices we make.

That he might be the firstborn among many brothers.NIV Some families have such distinct characteristics (for example, Dad’s brown eyes or Mom’s blonde hair) that everyone immediately knows the children are all related. In the case of believers, the distinguishing family characteristic is that we all are becoming like our oldest brother. When all believers are conformed to Christ’s likeness, the resurrected Christ will be the firstborn of a new race of humans, who are purified from sin. Because we are God’s children, we are Christ’s brothers and sisters.

Some believe these verses mean that before the beginning of the world, God chose certain people to receive his gift of salvation. They point to verses like Ephesians 1:11, which says we are “predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (niv). Others believe that God foreknew those who would respond to him; upon those he set his mark (predestined).

What is clear is that God’s purpose for human beings was not an afterthought; it was settled before the foundation of the world. Humankind is to serve and honor God. If we have trusted Christ as Savior, we can rejoice that God has always known us. His love is eternal. His wisdom and power are supreme. He will guide and protect us until we one day stand in his presence.

8:30 Those whom he predestined he also called.NRSV God’s plan for the salvation of those who believe in Christ has three steps: called (see 1:6; 8:28), justified (3:24, 28; 4:2; 5:1, 9), and glorified (8:17; Colossians 1:27; 3:4). While being glorified is a future event, Paul writes it in the past tense to show that it is so certain to happen that it is as good as done. When we are finally conformed to the image of Christ, we will be glorified. Paul’s description of God’s meticulous plan for our future underscores the length God will go to work “for the good of those who love him” (8:28). In his original summary of the gospel, Paul described a constant component of salvation, “faith from first to last” (1:17). Faith is at work in each segment of the way of salvation: by faith we recognize we have been called (the message of the gospel is personalized); by faith we are justified (God reckons us righteous which we could never achieve by our efforts); by faith we are glorified (we arrive at the destination that God intended all along—we become “conformed to the image of his Son” (8:29). In each of these steps, God is the active agent, while we are the responsive subject.


Predestination is God’s plan whereby his purpose is carried out. The emphasis is on God’s choosing, like the illustrations that Jesus used of the feast and banquet in Luke 14. We are chosen to participate so that we might say, “I was wanted,” not, “I deserve this.”


God isn’t content to have just one Son in his family; he wants a whole host of them. He wants a great crowd of sons, of whom Jesus Christ is the first and the chief.

In order to accomplish that, through the encircling centuries, he has been working out his plan by which he is producing (through the Spirit at work in men’s lives) the glories, and the grace, and the character of Jesus Christ — that we might “be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren.”

This is his goal with you: to make you like Christ — not to look like him, but to be like him. Yet, the amazing thing is that, though he makes all in the same character, there is an infinite variety in their expression; this is the glory and beauty of God’s work.

Have you noticed that this pattern is so prominent in nature? God makes everything out of the same simple elements, but they are always different. Every one of us has a nose, two ears, a mouth, a forehead, some hair (more or less), a chin — and, with these few simple elements, God made faces. But he never makes two alike; with these few simple elements to work with, there is infinite variety.

Now, this is the way God works: Though we all share the character of Jesus Christ, it is not a mold that stamps out the same being over and over and over again, but there is an infinite variety of expression of the beauty of the character of the Lord Jesus Christ. The plan began in eternity past and doesn’t end until eternity in the future, but it is such a vast process that we can’t comprehend it.

That is why we are puzzled and confused about the parts of the process along the way. We are like the weaver who weaves cloth, and, working from the wrong side of the garment, all we ever see is a tangle of threads that seems to make no sense at all. But, when the process is finished, you can look on the other side, and there is the pattern beautifully worked out. That is what life is like with us. That is what God is doing in your life and mine.

While the above statement is a main point of this verse, because of the teachings of Calvin (mentioned above) we often get sidetracked because we have to explain away the idea that people are saved/lost due to a prior choice of God and it is a choice over which they have no control!

Knowing who is in charge is important. In the home, the parents are to be in charge. In other contexts, someone else is designated to be in charge. We must learn who is in charge to respond appropriately.

In our text, Paul informs us that God is ultimately and totally in charge of all things. His authority is without limits. All of creation is under the control of the Creator and Sustainer of the universe (Colossians 1:15-18):

(Colossians 1:15-18 NKJV)  He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. {16} For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. {17} And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. {18} 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.

There is no limit to His power, and nothing is beyond His ability to control. We refer to this unlimited control as the sovereignty of God. When we say that God is sovereign we are saying He is in complete control.

Only one who is sovereign can predict the future in specific terms and with complete accuracy. One who is sovereign is also able to reveal what He is committed to accomplish. Conversely, one who is not sovereign can neither predict nor determine the future specifically or with accuracy.

In Romans 8:28 Paul makes a general statement concerning God’s sovereignty and its goal with respect to the Christian. God’s sovereignty assures Christians He is working all things together for their ultimate good.

Romans 8:29 expands what Paul has said in verse 28, for in this verse, he sums up God’s eternal purpose for the saints established in eternity past. He also speaks of God’s goal of glorifying Himself, through His saints who become like Christ.

In verse 30, Paul describes the outworking of God’s program for individual saints, in time.

The focus of this lesson will be verse 29, and we will begin by defining the two key terms, “foreknew” and “predestined.”

To correctly interpret this text and articulate the doctrine Paul teaches here, we must first determine the meaning of the terms he uses so we can communicate his doctrinal beliefs. Verses 29 and 30 contain five crucial terms. The definitions of these terms shape the doctrine which results from our study. These terms are: foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, and glorification.  Many Christians accept doctrinal distortions because they allow others to do their studying and their thinking for them.

The exact term rendered “foreknow” in our text is found only seven times in the New Testament. The verb form is found in Acts 26:5; Romans 8:29; 11:2; 1 Peter 1:20; 2 Peter 3:17. The noun form is found in Acts 2:23 and 1 Peter 1:2. The only two times Paul uses this term is in his Epistle to the Romans.

(Acts 2:22-23 NASB)  “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know– {23} this Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.

(Acts 26:4-5 NASB)  “So then, all Jews know my manner of life from my youth up, which from the beginning was spent among my own nation and at Jerusalem; {5} since they have known about me for a long time previously, if they are willing to testify, that I lived as a Pharisee according to the strictest sect of our religion.

(Romans 8:29 NASB)  For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren;

(Romans 11:1-2 NASB)  I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. {2} God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel?

(1 Peter 1:18-20 NASB)  knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, {19} but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. {20} For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you

(2 Peter 3:17 NASB)  You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard lest, being carried away by the error of unprincipled men, you fall from your own steadfastness,

The root meaning of the word is easily determined. To foreknow is to “know” (knowledge) “beforehand” (fore). The key to understanding this term as Paul uses it is to better understand the way in which God “knew” men in the Old Testament. The English word “know” can be the translation of several terms (both Hebrew and Greek). Its meaning can range from simple knowing to a much more intimate knowledge. For example, we are told that Adam “knew”208 his wife Eve, so that she conceived and gave birth to Cain (Genesis 4:1). This knowledge is much more than mere intellectual awareness.

Of special interest is the Old Testament’s use of “know” to refer to God’s choice of certain individuals:209

(Genesis 18:17-19 NASB)  And the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, {18} since Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed? {19} “For I have chosen him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice; in order that the LORD may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him.”

(Jeremiah 1:4-5 NASB)  Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, {5} “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

God is in complete control. He gives men commands which they may obey or disobey. He also gives men choices to make and the freedom to make bad decisions. But in spite of all this freedom and certain failure, Paul has just stated that God causes all these things and more to bring about the ultimate good of the Christian. While men are not in control and surely do not live consistently in conformity to His Word, God’s purpose is still being achieved.

For any who would understand the foreknowledge of God as only His prior awareness of future events, but not His prior determination of these events, these two doctrines pose an insurmountable problem. Those who hold a weakened, minimal definition of “foreknowledge” believe that in eternity past God looked down through the corridors of time, taking note of all those who would come to Him in faith and then decided to choose them. The word “foreknew” in our text is synonymous with “chose.” It informs us that God first chose those who would believe.

In light of the teaching of Romans, if God had looked down the corridors of time to see all who would choose Him, He would not have seen one single soul. There is none who seeks after God, and none righteous, not even one (Romans 3:10-11); thus no one would choose God who had not first been chosen and called by Him.

If God is both righteous and sovereign, and men are unrighteous and out of control, how could we suppose men would first choose God? How can God be sovereign in man’s salvation if He is subject to our will rather than our being subject to His? If God can only choose those whom He knows will choose Him, He is far from sovereign. He is dependent upon the will of men. But Romans teaches that our salvation and blessings depend on Him and on His will. It is by His sovereign grace that we are saved and not by anything we have done. He is the Initiator; we are those who respond.

The immediate context of Romans 8:28 demands that even though “foreknow” may sometimes refer to merely knowing in the past, before something else, it cannot be understood in this way in Romans 8:29. If God is the One who causes all things to work together for good to those who are His children, then it is God who is in control. It is God who “causes” the good which is His purpose. To foreknow is to determine or choose ahead of time. For God to “foreknow” us to be His children is for God to sovereignly choose to save us. Foreknowledge is therefore virtually synonymous with election. The intimate association of these two terms—God’s choice and God’s foreknowledge—is therefore pointed out in 1 Peter 1:1-2.


The Greek term rendered “predestined” in our text occurs six times in the New Testament.210 In addition to appearing twice in Romans 8, verses 29 and 30, the term appears in the texts below:211

“For truly in this city there were gathered together against Thy holy servant Jesus, whom Thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Thy hand and Thy purpose predestined to occur. And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Thy bond-servants may speak Thy word with all confidence, while Thou dost extend Thy hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Thy holy servant Jesus” (Acts 4:27-30).

Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:6-9).

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us. In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fulness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ should be to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:3-12).

The root meaning of predestination can be determined by linking the prefix, meaning before, and the root word which is found five times in the New Testament.

“For indeed, the Son of Man is going as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!” (Luke 22:22).

“Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know—this Man, delivered up by the predetermined [definite] plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death” (Acts 2:22-23).

“The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all life and breath and all things; and He made from one, every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times, and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His offspring.’ Being then the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:24-31).

Concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 1:3-4).

This Greek term has a range of meanings including: “fix,” “determine,” “appoint,” “set,” “definite,” “designate,” “define,” “to set limits,” “explain.” We might paraphrase the term with the expressions, “to make official” or to “set in concrete.” There is the overall sense of careful definition, a clear and definite decision, and of being put into force. Collectively, the term describes the process by which a bill would be written and made into law by congress. A more personal illustration might be the prearrangement of one’s burial.

The Old Testament has prepared us for this concept. The God who is sovereign is the One who has “prearranged” history. God sometimes tells men of His plans, as He told Abraham of the blessing of mankind through his seed (Genesis 12:1-3) and of His destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:16-21). When the prophets foretold men of God’s predetermined plans, they often used the past tense212 to highlight the certainty of the event. The coming of Messiah is but one prophetic theme progressively unfolded in the Old Testament, with increasing detail, as God’s predetermined plan is unfolded.

Paul and Luke are the only two New Testament authors to use the term “predestined” and its root word as we have seen in the Scriptures above. Since these two men traveled and ministered together, they likely understood the term in the same way. Every use, in Luke, Acts, or in one of Paul’s epistles, refers to God’s prearrangement, His predetermined plan. Only God is sovereign—in complete control, and thus predestination can only originate from the will and purpose of God.

In Acts 4, God’s predestining of the death of Christ is shown to be consistent with Israel’s sin of rejecting Him and crucifying Him. The sinfulness of man does not and cannot hinder God from accomplishing what He has purposed and promised, because God is sovereign. He is in control of all things. He is able to cause all things to work together to achieve His purposes and to fulfill His promises.

The events of history testify, without exception, that those promises which have already been fulfilled were fulfilled precisely as God promised. This awesome fact assures us that His future promises will also be fulfilled to the very letter of biblical prophecy.

Predestination and foreknowledge are inter-related. We find the pair linked in Romans 8:29. We find them also linked, in reverse order, in Acts 2:23. God’s foreknowledge seems always to be directed toward the people God chooses, and His predestination seems to be directed to the plan or program He has prearranged for them. God’s sovereignty in both areas is required for Romans 8:28 to be true. God must be sovereign in the choice of who will be saved. He must also be sovereign in bringing about all of that for which saved men and women hope.

What does this mean? That has predetermined that all who would choose Christ (to be in Christ) would be saved. Those who will be saved have a choice..but it must be in conjunction with His gospel plan as revealed through His Son.

God has determined to fulfill His purpose for the believer. This is the second assurance of deliverance. Note three significant points.

  1. This passage is often abused and misused. It is not dealing so much with theology or philosophy, but more with the spiritual experience of the Christian believer. If the pure logic of philosophy and theology are applied, then the passage says that God chooses some for heaven and others for a terrible hell. But this is simply not the meaning God intends for the passage. What God wants believers to do is to take heart, for He has assured their salvation.

God knows the suffering that believers go through daily (cp. Romans 8:28-39). God “did foreknow” even before the foundation of the world (Romans 8:29). But no matter how great the suffering, no matter how great the opposition, no matter how great the struggle, God is going to complete His purpose for believers. God has “predestinated [believers] to be conformed to the image of His Son,” and absolutely nothing can change that. Why? “That Christ might be the first-born [have the preeminence] among many brethren” (Romans 8:29).

God loves His Son in the most supreme way possible. God has ordained that His Son shall have many brothers (adopted brothers) who will love and serve Him as the first-born, that is, as the first Person or the most preeminent Person of the universe. God has ordained that Jesus Christ shall hold the highest rank and position: that He be the exalted Head of all creation and the One to whom all men look (cp. Col. 1:15, 18). Therefore, God is going to allow nothing to permanently defeat believers. God is going to allow no fallen child of His to ever remain down permanently. God is going to fulfill His purpose in every child of His, and nothing can stop His purpose. Jesus Christ, His Son, will have a multitude of brothers and sisters who worship and serve Him throughout eternity.

  1. Believers will be conformed to the image of God’s dear Son. The words “conformed to the image” (summorphous tes eikonos) mean both an inward and an outward likeness.
  2. “Conformed” (summorphous) means the very same form or likeness as Christ. Within our nature—our being, our person—we shall be made just like Christ. As He is perfect and eternal—without disease and pain, sin and death—so we shall be perfected just like Him. We shall be transformed into His very likeness.
  3. “Image” (eikonos) means a derived or a given likeness. The image of Christ is not something which believers merit or for which they work; it is not an image that comes from their own nature or character. No man can earn or produce the perfection and eternal life possessed by Christ. The image of Christ, His perfection and life, is a gift of God. To be conformed to the image of God’s Son means…
  • to become a partaker of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).
  • to be adopted as a son of God (Ephes. 1:5).
  • to be holy and without blame before Him (Ephes. 1:4; Ephes. 4:24).
  • to bear the image of the heavenly: which is an incorruptible, immortal body (1 Cor. 15:49-54; cp. 1 Cor. 15:42-44).
  • to have one’s body fashioned (conformed) just like His glorious body (Phil. 3:21).
  • to be changed (transformed) into the same image of the Lord (2 Cor. 3:18).
  • to be recreated just like Him (1 John 3:2-3).


  1. Note what it is that assures the believer’s deliverance from the suffering and struggling of this world. It is two things.
  2. The foreknowledge of God. The word “foreknow” (proginosko) is used three different ways in Scripture. It means…
  • to know something beforehand, ahead of time.
  • to know something intimately by loving and accepting and approving it.
  • to elect, foreordain, and predetermine something.

The present passage is interpreted differently by scholars. Note that the second and third meanings are much the same. When a person is loved and approved, selection or election is involved. The person becomes a very special or select person.

Again, the point to see is not the pure logic of the theological or philosophical argument. This is not God’s purpose in this passage. God’s purpose is to assure the believer: the believer is going to be conformed to the image of Christ, and nothing can stop the glorious process. God foreknew the fact, saw it even before the world was ever founded. He has always loved and approved the believer, electing and ordaining him from the very beginning.

The predestination of God. The word predestination (proorisen) means to destine or appoint before, to foreordain, to predetermine. The basic Greek word (proorizo) means to mark off or to set off the boundaries of something. The idea is a glorious picture of what God is doing for the believer. The boundary is marked and set off for the believer: the boundary of being conformed to the image of God’s dear Son. The believer shall be made just like Christ, conformed to His very likeness and image.

Nothing can stop God’s purpose for the believer. It is predestinated, set, and marked off. The believer may struggle and suffer through the sin and shame of this world; he may even stumble and fall or become discouraged and downhearted. But if he is a genuine child of God, he will not be defeated, not totally. He will soon arise from his fall and begin to follow Christ again. He is predestinated to be a brother of Christ, to worship and serve Christ throughout all eternity. And Christ will not be disappointed.

God loves His Son too much to allow Him to be disappointed by losing a single brother. Jesus Christ will have His joy fulfilled; He will see every brother of His face to face, conformed perfectly to His image. He will have the worship and service of every brother chosen to be His by God the Father. The believer’s eternal destiny, that of being an adopted brother to the Lord Jesus Christ, is determined. The believer can rest assured of this glorious truth. God has predestinated him to be delivered from the suffering and struggling of this sinful world.

Romans 8:29 was written to help explain how Romans 8:28 can be true. The word “For” at the beginning of this verse shows its connection to verse 28. In this verse Paul offers an explanation of how Romans 8:28 can be true. God can claim to be working all things together for the good of His own because He is sovereign. His sovereignty is evident in His eternal decree, His eternal purpose which He determined before time began. His purpose included the choice of those whom He would save (“Those whom He foreknew”). In His sovereignty, God predetermined and prearranged the plan by which all whom He chose would be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. The God who chooses to save some has a plan and a program by which His purpose to sanctify His children will be accomplished.

The sovereignty of God enables Him to establish a plan in eternity past and to carry out that plan perfectly in time. The tense here is past. Both God’s “foreknowledge” and His “predestination” are already determined, and the program has been set into motion. At best, men can only plan and work for future events. God alone can plan them, promise them, and be certain that His plans will be accomplished. Only a God who is sovereign, a God who is in complete control, can plan the past, make promises in the present, and assure us that it will be achieved in the future.

God’s foreknowledge seems to be directed toward those people whom He has chosen; His predestination is directed toward the plan of salvation He has foreordained for His people. God does not choose to save some only to hope that all works out well for them. God has a specific goal in mind, a goal for which He has chosen them, and a goal to which He has made certain they will attain. Some people think of God as a warm, “people person” who loves men and delights in blessing them. They fail to appreciate that God’s blessings are only certain if He is sovereign and if His purposes are certain. Predestination provides the plan by which God’s people are to be blessed.

In Romans 8:28-29, God’s foreknowledge and His predestination are intertwined. In Acts 2:23 and here in Romans, God’s foreknowledge and His predestination are linked together. They are inter-dependent. God’s ultimate goal is not to save men but to glorify Himself. In order to do this, God purposed to save some. Those He purposed to save, He also determined to sanctify. He is glorified when those He saves are like Christ. God’s eternal decree, His all-inclusive plan established in eternity past, had to include not only the choice of those whom He would save but also the process through which He would bring them into conformity to the image of Jesus Christ.

Verse 29 indicates God’s immediate purpose for us. God’s purpose for choosing us and the goal of the program He has predestined is our conformity to the image of Jesus Christ: “to be conformed to the image of His Son.” This goal is also stated in Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians:

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature of which belongs to the fulness of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13).

The final words of verse 29 call our attention to the ultimate purpose of God’s foreknowledge and predestination—His glory, through the exaltation of Jesus Christ. The word “that” in verse 29 brings us to God’s highest goal, His own glory: “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren.”

He has not only chosen them in eternity past, but He has predetermined a plan whereby all His sons will be conformed to the image of His “first-born,” Jesus Christ.

Our Lord’s likeness, His image, is majestic, holy, and awesome as revealed in John’s description of Him in Revelation 1. But it does not seem to be this likeness which Paul has in view. Rather, it is the character of our Lord which so beautified Him in the days of His appearance on the earth. His character, evident in His body, the church, brings glory to Him, and thus glory to God. By being like Christ, we honor Him and bring glory to God. God’s ultimate purpose for working all things together is not for our good, though it does accomplish this, but for His glory. Those who understand God’s grace gladly stand out of the spotlight so that God receives the glory He deserves, which He planned and purposed in eternity past and which He is presently working. To God be the glory!

The sovereignty of God is the basis for our security—and our assurance of the certainty of our hope. If our hope were based upon our own faithfulness, we would be, of all men, most miserable. Focusing on ourselves brings us to the despair of Romans 7, a chapter in which man is prominent. Focusing on God brings us to the certainty, hope, and rejoicing of Romans 8. In this chapter, God is prominent—not men. It is His sovereignty which assures us that His promises are certain.

207 “The term ‘sovereignty’ connotes a situation in which a person, from his innate dignity, exercises supreme power, with no areas of his province outside his jurisdiction. A ‘sovereign’ is one who enjoys full autonomy, allowing no rival immunities.

“As applied to God, the term ‘sovereignty’ indicates His complete power over all of creation, so that He exercises His will absolutely, without any necessary conditioning by a finite will or wills. The term does not occur in Scripture, although the idea is abundantly implied.” H. B. Kuhn, “Sovereignty of God,” The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1975, 1976), Vol. 5, p. 498.

208 The NASB indicates the literal meaning, “knew,” in a marginal note but renders the term, “had relations with.”

209 God’s “foreknowledge” in this same sense also seems to apply to nations. Consider these texts as well: 2 Samuel 22:44; Psalm 18:43; Matthew 7:23.

210 Acts 4:28; Romans 8:29, 30; 1 Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 1:5, 11. The root word, without the prefix, is found in Luke 22:22; Acts 2:23; 17:26, 31; Romans 1:4.

211 In the texts cited, the underscoring is my own emphasis indicating the specific term under consideration.

212 Bible scholars refer to this as the “prophetic perfect.”


One of the most influential religious figures of the last millennium was John Calvin of Switzerland. Calvin was born in 1509. At the age of fourteen, he went to Paris to study the classics. He was so austere that his fellow students nicknamed him “The Accusative Case.” In 1529, he commenced the study of civil law. Presently, though, Calvin became intrigued with the teachings of the German reformers and so gave himself to the study of religion.

In 1533, he broke with the Roman Catholic Church after a religious “experience” during which he believed he received a commission from God to restore the Church to its original purity. By the year 1536, at the age of only twenty-six, he had completed the first edition of his famous Institutes of the Christian Religion. The initial edition was a small volume of six chapters; the final version (1560) – revised over the years – had grown to eighty chapters.

To a significant degree, Calvin’s views, which were developed from the writings of Augustine – a “bishop” in northern Africa (A.D. 353-430), have formed the doctrinal basis of much of modern Protestantism.

In this article, we wish to briefly comment upon John Calvin’s influence upon the religious community on the subject of “grace.” His ideas are circulated in several denominations, and, tragically, have found their way into the thinking many people.

Limited Grace

One of the corner-stones of Calvin’s theology was the dogma of predestination. This is the notion that, consistent with his own sovereignty, God, before the foundation of the world, pre-determined who would be saved and who would be lost. In view of this, when Christ died, his death was efficacious only for the “elect.” This concept of “limited atonement,” hence, limited grace, is so foreign to the teaching of the Scriptures that it is difficult to see how anyone with an elementary knowledge of the New Testament could accept it.

Hear the testimony of Paul:

“For the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men . . .” (Tit. 2:11).

Because God loved the entire world (Jn. 3:16), and so, wants all men to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4), and not a single one to perish (2 Pet. 3:9), Christ died to be the propitiation for sins – not just for the “elect,” but potentially for the entire world as well (1 Jn. 2:2).

Irresistible grace

Calvinism argues that by a secret and special operation of the Holy Spirit, God’s grace is poured forth upon the elect. Since the extension of this grace is an act of divine power, it cannot be resisted – any more than the original creation could have resisted the creative might of the Lord (Hodge, 688).

But the fact is, though God’s grace is generously offered, it must be received by the sinner. “. . . [W]e entreat also that you receive not the grace of God in vain . . .” (2 Cor. 6:1). It is certainly possible to “receive not” that which is offered (cf. Jn. 1:11).

Unconditional grace

Calvinists argue that grace is given to the elect unconditionally. If such is the case, then there is absolutely nothing that one must do in order to receive salvation – not even believe.

One writer states:

“[W]e believe that there is no warrant whatsoever for the view that John 3:16 lays down faith as a condition to be performed by the lost person in order to attain spiritual eternal life.”


“God, without the use of the gospel or any other human means, will save all of his redeemed loved ones in every land and in every age” (Sarrels, 443-444).

The foregoing affirmations are ludicrous.


Paul declares that we have “access by faith into this grace” (Rom. 5:2). In his discussion of grace in Titus 3, the inspired apostle states that God, “according to his mercy, saved us through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit . . . being justified by his grace” (5-7).

Paul equates being saved by the washing of regeneration with being justified by grace. The “washing” is an allusion to man’s response to God by submitting to baptism. Grace is supplied by the Lord – independent of any merit on our part. Clearly, though, the “washing of regeneration” is a condition of our redemption. But is that expression an allusion to baptism? Even Calvin admitted that he had “no doubt’ that Paul was alluding to baptism – though he denied the connection between baptism and salvation (see Shepherd, 405).

Irrevocable grace

Calvin maintained that the elect could be certain that God would never allow them to fall away from the faith. They would thus persevere unto the end. A sizable segment of Protestantism has adopted the doctrine to some degree or another.

But the New Testament teaches otherwise. A child of God can fall from grace (Gal. 5:4), or fail, i.e., fall back from, the Lord’s favor (Heb. 12:15). It is possible to deny the Master who bought you and so be destroyed (2 Pet. 2:1). Thus, we must keep ourselves in God’s love (Jude 21), and give diligence to make our calling and election sure (2 Pet. 1:10), lest our reception of divine grace be in vain (2 Cor. 6:1).


Hodge, Charles (1960), Systematic Theology (London: James Clarke & Co.), II.
Jackson, Wayne (1993), Eternal Security – Fact or Fiction? (Stockton, CA: Courier Publications).
Sarrels, R.V. (1978), Systematic Theology (Azle, TX: Harmony Hill).
Shepherd, J.W. (1950), Handbook on Baptism (Nashville: Gospel Advocate).


Story told of a young man’s disturbing experience while attending a college class recently.

One evening before going to class, he stopped at the restroom just outside the library stairs. As he was about to leave a few moments later, he heard the sound of two women’s voices growing louder and louder as they approached. Realizing that within seconds they would be entering the same restroom, my friend was horrified. Panic-stricken, he wondered if he had entered the wrong restroom, or were the two women about to make a serious mistake?

Making a quick decision, my friend raced back into the restroom, entered one of the stalls, closed, and locked the door. Quickly lifting his feet so his shoes could not be seen, a certain giveaway that one of them was the wrong gender, he waited until the two ladies left. When he felt they were out of sight, he made a dash for the door.

Unfortunately, two other ladies were about to enter. He repeated his same evasive tactics. He could not get out quickly enough when they left. Safely outside the restroom, he courageously peered over the doorway to see the sign. To his great relief and bewilderment, it read, “Men.”

The custodian was standing nearby, and my friend could not help but ask, “Is this the men’s restroom or the women’s?” Casually the custodian responded, “Oh, it’s the women’s. I change the sign every week, but I just didn’t get around to it tonight.” A matter of casual indifference to the custodian had become for my friend a matter of great distress.

Changing the labels can make a very significant difference. The terms of our text, “called,” “justified,” and “glorified,” are all theological labels. Their definitions are not a matter of unanimous agreement. Some differ over these labels out of conviction. Others, like the custodian, are simply too casual as though it hardly matters. But people’s lives are greatly affected by the way we understand the calling, justification, and glorification of the people of God.

The term “called” is used in the Bible in a variety of ways, with the usage in the New Testament closely following its use in the Old. Consider the following summary of some of the major categories of the use of the term “call” in both the Old and the New Testaments.

(1) To call into existence, to create (Isaiah 41:4). Certain events are said to be called into existence by God, such as weeping (Isaiah 22:12); drought (Haggai 1:11); famine (2 Kings 8:1; Psalm 105:16); rain (Amos 5:8); and the sword (Jeremiah 25:29).

(2) To give a name.213 In the first chapter of Genesis, God named day and night (1:5, 8). In the next chapter Adam, who was created in God’s image, named the animals (2:19) and his wife (2:23). The one who gives the name is greater than the person or thing named. God names that which He has created (see Isaiah 40:26).

(3) To give a new name. God not only names, He renames. God changed the names of Abram and Sarai to Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 17:5, 15). The Lord Jesus changed Simon’s name to Cephas or Peter (John 1:21). The new name given is indicative of a new destiny, brought about by God who controls men’s destiny (see Isaiah 56:5; 62:2, 4; 65:13-15; Jeremiah 19:6; Daniel 1:7; Revelation 2:17).

(4) To some, God gives His own name (see Deuteronomy 28:10; 2 Chronicles 7:14; Isaiah 43:7; Revelation 3:12; compare Isaiah 63:19).

(5) God calls by name (Isaiah 43:1; 45:3-4). The word “call” is specific. This call may be of an individual (like Abraham, Isaiah 51:2) or of a group (see Isaiah 45:4; 48:12; Jeremiah 1:15).

(6) There is a more general call which is a broad invitation. This “call” may be rejected by men (see Proverbs 8:1, 4; 9:3, 15; Isaiah 66:4; Jeremiah 7:13; 35:17; Matthew 22:14). The use of “call” as a general invitation is rare in the Bible, Old Testament and New.

(7) To sovereignly summon. Most often in the Bible, the “call” of God is one that is sovereign. When God calls, that which is called responds:

Surely My hand founded the earth, And My right hand spread out the heavens; When I call to them, they stand together (Isaiah 48:13).

This call is purposed from eternity (Isaiah 41:4). In time, the call may come while one is still in the womb (Isaiah 49:1).

(8) God’s sovereign call is for a purpose. It is not an aimless call but a call to a certain destiny (see Isaiah 42:6; 43:7). That purpose is related to God’s glory (Isaiah 49:1-3; 55:5).

(9) God sovereignly calls men individually to salvation (Romans 1:6-7; 8:28, 30; 9:11, 24-25) and to service (Exodus 31:2; 25:30; Acts 13:1; Romans 1:1). The sovereign call of God is rooted in His choice (Isaiah 41:9; 45:4).

(10) The sovereign call of God is irrevocable, and thus it is the basis for our confidence in what He has purposed and promised (Isaiah 54:6, in context; Romans 11:20).

(11) God’s call is always an expression and outworking of His righteousness (Isaiah 41:2; 42:6).

In the Book of Romans, not one instance of the term can be found which is inconsistent with the overwhelming sense of God’s sovereignty that prevails throughout the Bible. Note these references, for example:

Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God (Romans 1:1).

Among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 1:6-7).

As it is written, “A father of many nations have I made you” in the sight of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist (Romans 4:17).

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

For though the twins were not yet born, and had not done anything good or bad, in order that God’s purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of works, but because of Him who calls (Romans 9:11).

For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:29).

It could not be any other way than for the sovereign God to summon sinners to faith in Jesus Christ through baptism for remission of sins. We were not righteous. We were not seeking Him. We did not understand (see Roman 3:10-18). God chose us in eternity past (“whom He foreknew,” Romans 8:29). For all those whom He chose, He predetermined a plan which would result in our good and His glory (“predestined,” Romans 8:29, 30).

How could a sovereign God leave our salvation to us when we would never choose Him? How could He leave our salvation to chance (if there was such a thing)? The salvation which God sovereignly purposed in eternity past for those He chose, He started in motion in time by calling men to faith in Himself. God’s call is not merely an invitation; it is an irresistible summons. When He speaks thus (“calls”), His creation responds—in such a way as to do His will.

Justification is the result of being called, and it is the basis for our glorification. Just as divine calling is necessary because we do not, cannot, and will not seek God, so our justification by God is necessary because we cannot justify ourselves.

Paul has already said much about justification in chapters 1-4 of Romans. Because of this, here we need do no more than review his teaching on the subject of justification. The doctrine of justification, as Paul has taught it to the Roman Christians in this Epistle, is set out below:

(1) Justification is God’s declaration that we are righteous. Man will be declared righteous if and when he lives according to the standard of righteousness which God has set down in the Law (see Romans 2:13, 23, 27).

(2) Righteousness is the basis for justification, and glory is its promised reward. To be declared righteous, one must be righteous. The hope of glory is promised to all who are righteous (see Romans 2:7, 10).

(3) God’s standard of righteousness is too high for men. Because we are sinners, there is no way that we can live in perfect obedience to the Law. The Law therefore justifies no one; it only serves to condemn us for our unrighteousness (Romans 3:10-20).

(4) Because all men are unrighteous, they have no hope of attaining to the glory of God by their own works (3:23).

(5) In His kindness, God provided a means for making men righteous and giving them eternal life. God made a way to forgive men, to give them eternal life, yet in a way consistent with His righteousness. God sent His own sinless Son to die for our sins. God’s wrath was poured out on Him, and His righteous anger was satisfied (propitiated). In Christ, God’s righteousness was made available to all who will receive it. Man receives God’s righteousness by faith, apart from works (Romans 3:21-26).

(6) The divine call of God opens men’s eyes to the truth of the gospel and their hearts toward Him. God’s call irresistibly draws men to Christ by faith, a faith which we are given by God (see Ephesians 2:1-10).

(7) Justification by faith eliminates all boasting in ourselves, and gives us ample basis for boasting in God, in His salvation, in the hope of glory, and even in present adversity (Romans 5, 8).

(8) This justification by faith is not an excuse for continuing to live in sin as we once did; rather it is the basis for living in obedience toward God, for living righteously (Romans 6).

Essentially there are but two kinds of glory in this world. There is the matchless, untarnished glory of God, and there is the tarnished, temporary glory of man. If we would understand our glorification, we must understand it in the context of the glory of God and against the backdrop of man’s glory.

The theme of the glory of God is best understood as it has been revealed. God has progressively revealed to us the doctrine of His glory, of its hope and promise for all who are the sons of God, and of its terror for all others. We will therefore endeavor to trace the theme of God’s glory from eternity past to eternity future. Only then can we understand the magnitude of that glorification which yet awaits those of us who know God in Christ.

We will consider the premises which should guide and govern our study, as well as the conclusions we will reach, before we begin to study the glory of God. These premises enumerated here are based upon the teaching of Paul in the Book of Romans.

(1) Glory and glorification must be understood in relationship to each other. Our glorification is to be understood in the light of Paul’s teaching about glory in Romans.

(2) Our glorification, while spoken of in the past tense, is yet future.

(3) Our glorification involves the redemption of our bodies and our adoption as sons (8:17-25; 9:4).

(4) Our glorification is certain (5:2), yet unseen (8:24-25).

(5) Our present suffering is preparatory and prerequisite to our future glorification (5:17).

(6) Our future glorification is God’s promised reward for the righteous, the “glory” of which Paul writes in Romans 2:7 and 10.

(7) Our future glorification is an extension or expression of God’s glory (5:2).

(8) The glory is that which God promised Israel and which Paul still speaks of as belonging to Israel (Romans 9:4).

Having set these premises before us, let us now trace the “glory of God” through the ages as described in the Bible. No more noble endeavor will ever come our way. Let us ask God to open our hearts and minds to His glory. It is indeed a transforming subject.

Satan was a magnificent being with a splendor second only to His Creator. But his reflected, secondary glory was not enough for him. He wanted more. He wanted God’s glory (Isaiah 14:12-14). Because of his greed for glory, Satan fell. All history is evidence of his continuing effort to tempt men to pursue a “God-like glory,” not by trusting in God but by striving to be like God.

When God made the heavens and the earth, He created Adam and Eve in His image. They were to reflect God’s image and His glory by ruling over creation. Satan tempted them to reach for a greater glory, the glory of being like God (see Genesis 3:5). When they followed Satan and disobeyed God, Adam and Eve fell, and all mankind fell with them (see Romans 5:12-21).

God created the universe as a showcase by which He could display His glory. Men were to see God’s glory in nature, and were obliged to glorify Him in worship. They refused, choosing rather to exchange the glory of God for a lesser glory, one which was like unto their own image. Because of this, men have shown themselves to be worthy of divine condemnation (Romans 1:18-23).

In the beginning, God’s glory was reflected in His creation and in man. Sin has tarnished the reflection of God’s glory. God chose a people to whom and through whom He could display His glory—the nation Israel. God’s glory was evident in His deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage (Numbers 14:22). It was evident in the wilderness, especially when the people sought to rebel against God (Exodus 16:7, 10; Numbers 14:10; 16:19, 42). God’s glory was revealed at Mt. Sinai, when He gave the Law to Moses (Exodus 24:16-17). It was also evident in the garments of the priest (Exodus 28:2, 40). It filled the tent of meeting (Exodus 29:42-43; 40:34-35; see also Leviticus 9:6, 23). Seeing God’s glory was the highest ambition and desire of Moses, a desire which God granted to him, in part (Exodus 33:18–34:8). When Israel went to war, God’s glory accompanied them in conjunction with the ark (see 1 Samuel 4:21-22).

Israel’s sin resulted in the manifestation of God’s glory in judgment (Exodus 16:7, 10; Numbers 14:10; 16:19, 42). Eventually God removed His glory from the midst of this people, as a judgment for their persistent sin (see 1 Samuel 4:21-22). When the tabernacle was replaced by the temple, the glory of God filled it (1 Chronicles 16:10; 2 Chronicles 7:1-3).

Israel’s glory was her God (1 Samuel 15:29). Glory belonged only to Him (1 Chronicles 29:11). Israel’s response to God’s glory was to glorify Him in worship (1 Chronicles 16:29). Even sinners were to give glory to God (see Joshua 7:19; 1 Samuel 6:5). Israel was not to worship idols because this would give glory to mere images, rather than to God. But beyond glorifying God in worship, Israel was to tell the nations of God’s glory (1 Chronicles 16:24). This is the heart of evangelism, then and now.

Israel did not glorify God. They turned from the God of glory to man-made idols. They did not obey His law. Justice and mercy were forgotten; worse yet, they were trampled under foot. Through His prophets, God admonished His people but they would not listen. God warned of a coming day of judgment at the hand of heathen nations. Beyond the day of God’s judgment was a day of redemption and restoration. There would come a time when Israel would be brought to repentance. God would then rule over them and even over the other nations.

All of this was described in various ways in the prophets. One of the prominent themes in the prophets was that of the glory of God. The theme of the glory of God as related to Israel’s sin, her judgment, and then her deliverance and future restoration are described by the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah. Below are a sampling of the verses which play out the theme of God’s glory:

And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory” (Isaiah 6:3).

For Jerusalem has stumbled, and Judah has fallen, Because their speech and their actions are against the Lord, To rebel against His glorious presence (Isaiah 3:8).

“I am the Lord, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, Nor My praise to graven images” (Isaiah 42:8).

“‘For as the waistband clings to the waist of a man, so I made the whole household of Israel and the whole household of Judah cling to Me,’ declares the Lord, ‘that they might be for Me a people, for renown, for praise, and for glory; but they did not listen’” (Jeremiah 13:11).

 “Now therefore, behold, the Lord is about to bring on them the strong and abundant waters of the Euphrates, Even the king of Assyria and all his glory; And it will rise up over all its channels and go over all its banks” (Isaiah 8:7).

Now it will come about in that day that the glory of Jacob will fade, And the fatness of his flesh will become lean (Isaiah 17:4).

How the Lord has covered the daughter of Zion With a cloud in His anger! He has cast from heaven to earth The glory of Israel, And has not remembered His footstool In the day of His anger (Lamentations 2:1).

And Babylon, the beauty of kingdoms, the glory of the Chaldeans’ pride, Will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah (Isaiah 13:19).

But now the Lord speaks, saying, “Within three years, as a hired man would count them, the glory of Moab will be degraded along with all his great population, and his remnant will be very small and impotent” (Isaiah 16:14).

“The fortified city will disappear from Ephraim, And sovereignty from Damascus And the remnant of Aram; They will be like the glory of the sons of Israel,” Declares the Lord of hosts (Isaiah 17:3).

In that day the Branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth will be the pride and the adornment of the survivors of Israel (Isaiah 4:2).

Then the Lord will create over the whole area of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, even smoke, and the brightness of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory will be a canopy (Isaiah 4:5).

But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles (Isaiah 9:1).

Then it will come about in that day That the nations will resort to the root of Jesse, Who will stand as a signal for the peoples; And His resting place will be glorious (Isaiah 11:10).

Then the moon will be abashed and the sun ashamed, For the Lord of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, And His glory will be before His elders (Isaiah 24:23).

In that day the Lord of hosts will become a beautiful crown And a glorious diadem to the remnant of His people (Isaiah 28:5).

Therefore a strong people will glorify Thee; Cities of ruthless nations will revere Thee (Isaiah 25:3).

“And you will swear, ‘As the Lord lives,’ In truth, in justice, and in righteousness; Then the nations will bless themselves in Him, And in Him they will glory” (Jeremiah 4:2).

 “The beasts of the field will glorify Me; The jackals and the ostriches; Because I have given waters in the wilderness And rivers in the desert, To give drink to My chosen people” (Isaiah 43:20).

Shout for joy, O heavens, for the Lord has done it! Shout joyfully, you lower parts of the earth; Break forth into a shout of joy, you mountains, O forest, and every tree in it; For the Lord has redeemed Jacob And in Israel He shows forth His glory (Isaiah 44:23).

Before leaving the theme of the glory of God in the Old Testament, several important observations should be stressed:

First, Israel’s glory was to share in the glory of God. Israel did not have a glory of her own. Israel was, by divine design, established for the glory of God. God’s presence among His people was glory to Israel. The righteousness of God manifested in and through His people was the glory of God.

“In the Lord all the offspring of Israel will be justified, and will glory” (Isaiah 45:25).

“No longer will you have the sun for light by day, Nor for brightness will the moon give you light; But you will have the Lord for an everlasting light, And your God for your glory” (Isaiah 60:19).

“I bring near My righteousness, it is not far off; And My salvation will not delay. And I will grant salvation in Zion, and My glory for Israel” (Isaiah 46:13).

Second, God’s glory is as evident in His judgment of sin as it is in the manifestation of His righteousness through His people. When Israel sinned, they were unrighteous. This did not glorify God. God’s glory was therefore manifested in His wrath toward sin. Whether in her obedience or in her disobedience, God would be glorified through His people, Israel.

Third, Israel’s glory was not to be hoarded but to be shared with and by the other nations. Israel quickly began to think of her glory as her glory. While God would not share His glory with any other “gods,” Israel was to share her glory with the nations. This she refused to do. When God spoke of the glory that was to come, Israel would be glorified, but the nations would also have a share in it.

Behold, you will call a nation you do not know, And a nation which knows you not will run to you, Because of the Lord your God, even the Holy One of Israel; For He has glorified you (Isaiah 55:5).

Surely the coastlands will wait for Me; And the ships of Tarshish will come first, To bring your sons from afar, Their silver and their gold with them, For the name of the Lord your God, And for the Holy One of Israel because He has glorified you (Isaiah 60:9).

For I know their works and their thoughts; the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and see My glory. And I will set a sign among them and will send survivors from them to the nations: Tarshish, Put, Lud, Meshech, Rosh, Tubal, and Javan, to the distant coastlands that have neither heard My fame nor seen My glory. And they will declare My glory among the nations (Isaiah 66:18-19).

Fourth, Israel’s glory would ultimately be brought about by Messiah Who would first suffer and then enter into His glory. Israel, God’s servant, failed. She had proven that she was unable to be the servant God required. The Messiah was to take Israel’s place and to become the Suffering Servant. Only in Him could Israel be justified. Only in Him could Israel be glorified:

Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry out or raise His voice, Nor make His voice heard in the street. A bruised reed He will not break, And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not be disheartened or crushed, Until He has established justice in the earth; And the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law (Isaiah 42:1-4; see also 52:13-15; 53:1-12).

Our Lord Jesus Christ is God’s revelation of His glory. If the creation manifests the glory of God, far more does the One who created it—God manifested in the flesh:

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:3).

It is no wonder that glory accompanied the announcements of Christ’s coming:

And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened (Luke 2:9).

“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased” (Luke 2:14).

“A light of revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Thy people Israel” (Luke 2:32).

This “glory” of our Lord was often veiled during the days of our Lord upon the earth. It could be seen by His mighty deeds,215 and by His character, but most were unable to see it, even His disciples. And so, from time to time, God lifted the veil. Such was the case at our Lord’s transfiguration:

Who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions had been overcome with sleep; but when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men standing with Him (Luke 9:31-32).

Throughout His earthly life, Jesus did not seek men’s glory but rather He sought to glorify His Father.216 In His high priestly prayer for His disciples in those last hours before His crucifixion, Jesus prayed:

“And now, glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was” (John 17:5).

“And the glory which Thou hast given Me I have given to them; that they may be one, just as We are one” (John 17:22).

“Father, I desire that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am, in order that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me; for Thou didst love Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24).

Glory of Believer: God has set the glorification of the believer once-for-all. It must be remembered throughout this passage that Scripture is talking about the believer. A believer is a person who sincerely believes in Jesus Christ, responds by faith through baptism for remission of sins, and diligently seeks to please Him by living soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world (Titus 2:11-13).

It is the believer whose glorification is predestinated, set forever and ever by God. The true believer can rest in this glorious truth, for God has done three wonderful things for him. God has called, justified, and glorified him.

Note that all three steps are in the past tense; all three steps are something already accomplished. The believer’s glorification has already taken place in the plan and mind of God. God already sees believers glorified; He already sees believers in His presence. It is assured and predestinated—already written down in the annals of heaven, never to be erased.

Again, does this mean that some are destined to hell and some to heaven? No, a thousand times, no! This is not the purpose of this Scripture. God’s purpose is to give enormous assurance to the believer: he shall be delivered from the struggling and suffering of this sinful world. He is going to be freed—if he is a true believer—freed from all the sin and shame, failure and shortcoming, pain and death. He is going to be glorified right along with God’s dear Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

  1. God has called the believer. Some time ago the Spirit called and stirred the heart of the believer to come to Christ through the gospel message and His Word. The believer responded to the call. Scripture definitely teaches that the believer had a choice. He could have chosen to respond or not to respond. (Cp. Rev. 22:17.) Thank God he responded and came to Christ. Therefore, the call was effective; the call worked. The believer did respond to Christ.
  2. God has justified the believer. Again, note the past tense. Justification has already taken place for the believer.
  3. God has glorified the believer. This, too, is past tense: the glorification of the believer is an accomplished fact, a fact that has already taken place in God’s mind and plan. God already sees and counts the believer as glorified in His presence for eternity.

From the Bible’s point of view, “calling” describes all of the responsibility of all believers to serve God with all of their lives:

Every believer is called to belong to God. Paul indicated to the Christians at Rome that both he and they had the same calling ( Rom. 1:1 , 6 ). Likewise, he wrote to the believers in Ephesus that just as there is one Spirit and one body (that is, the church), “you were called in one hope of your calling” ( Eph. 4:4 ).

Every believer is called a child of God. In His love, God brings us into His family ( 1 John 3:1 ), through faith in Christ Jesus.

Every believer is called to accept the work of Christ on our behalf. Though we are sinners deserving of judgment, Christ’s death on the cross has “justified” us, made us able to stand before a holy God and receive His salvation and grace ( Rom. 8:28–30 ; 2 Tim. 1:9 ). For this we have every reason to live lives of gratitude ( 1 Thess. 2:13 ).

Every believer is called to become like Christ. Living the life God calls us to involves change in which we take on the character of Christ. That means resisting the temptation to turn away from Him, even though others may encourage us to do so ( Gal. 1:6–9 ). It involves fleeing evil and pursuing good, fighting to maintain our faithfulness ( 1 Tim. 6:11–12 ). Just as Christ is holy, so we are to develop holiness in everything we do ( 1 Pet. 1:15 ; 3:9 ). As we pursue Christlikeness, we can do so with the certainty that the Lord is helping us, equipping us for every good work ( Phil. 2:12–13 ; 2 Pet. 1:3–10 ).

Every believer is called to serve God and other people. Christ has called us to Himself to live out our faith in a manner that is worthy of Him ( Eph. 4:1–4 ). We have the privilege of declaring God’s work through everything we do and say ( 1 Pet. 2:9–10 , 21 ).

Every believer is called to become a citizen of the new heaven and new earth. The Christian life leads ultimately to the end of being “glorified,” raised up to stand with Christ in eternal glory, pure and holy at last ( 1 Pet. 5:10 ; 2 Pet. 3:10–11 ). In that day, we will celebrate the final coming together of Christ and all His faithful ones ( Rev. 19:9–10 ). Our obedience to the Lord right now confirms this ultimate calling ( Matt. 5:19 ).

If you are a believer in Christ, you have the same, significant calling as any other believer in Christ, no matter what your workday occupation may be. Calling is not just a matter of what job one has. It means living as a child of God. Is that the calling that you are pursuing? [1]

god’s mission: adoption

When we come to Christ, God not only forgives us, he also adopts us. Through a dramatic series of events, we go from condemned orphans with no hope to adopted children with no fear. Here is how it happens. You come before the judgment seat of God full of rebellion and mistakes. Because of his justice he cannot dismiss your sin, but because of his love he cannot dismiss you. So, in an act which stunned the heavens, he punished himself on the cross for your sins. God’s justice and love are equally honored. And you, God’s creation, are forgiven. But the story doesn’t end with God’s forgiveness.

For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our Spirit that we are children of God ( Rom. 8:15–16 nasb ).

But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons ( Gal. 4:4–5 nasb ).

It would be enough if God just cleansed your name, but he does more. He gives you his name. It would be enough if God just set you free, but he does more. He takes you home. He takes you home to the Great House of God.

Adoptive parents understand this more than anyone. I certainly don’t mean to offend any biological parents—I’m one myself. We biological parents know well the earnest longing to have a child. But in many cases our cribs were filled easily. We decided to have a child and a child came. In fact, sometimes the child came with no decision. I’ve heard of unplanned pregnancies, but I’ve never heard of an unplanned adoption.

That’s why adoptive parents understand God’s passion to adopt us. They know what it means to feel an empty space inside. They know what it means to hunt, to set out on a mission, and take responsibility for a child with a spotted past and a dubious future. If anybody understands God’s ardor for his children, it’s someone who has rescued an orphan from despair, for that is what God has done for us.

God has adopted you. God sought you, found you, signed the papers and took you home.

god’s motive: devotion

As a minister I have had the privilege of witnessing—up close—the emotion of adoption. On one occasion a lady in another state who had heard me speak called and asked if I knew any prospective adoptive parents. Her pregnant daughter was seeking a home for her unborn child. I put her in touch with a family from our congregation and took a front row seat as the drama unfolded.

I saw the joy at the possibility and the heartbreak at the roadblocks. I watched the resolve in the eyes of the father and the determination in the eyes of the mother. They would travel as far as it took and spend every penny they had. They wanted to adopt that child. And they did. Only moments after his birth, the infant was placed in their arms. And this is no exaggeration: They smiled for a month after they brought their son home. I’d see them in the church hallway; they’d be smiling. I’d see them in the parking lot, smiling. From the pulpit I could see them in the congregation, cradling the baby and smiling. I think if I’d preached a sermon on the agony of hell, they would have smiled through every sentence. Why? Because the child they had longed for had come into their home.

Let me ask you, why did this couple adopt that child? They had a happy marriage. They were financially secure and gainfully employed. What did they hope to gain? Did they adopt the baby so they might have a little extra cash or sleep? You know better. Their supply of both diminished the minute they brought the child home. Then why? Why do people adopt children? As you are thinking, let me tell you why God does.

Delight in these words:

Long ago, before God made the world, God chose us to be his very own, through what Christ would do for us; he decided then to make us holy in his eyes, without a single fault we who stand before him covered in his love. His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by sending Jesus Christ to die for us . And he did this because he wanted to ( Eph. 1:3–5 tlb , emphasis mine).


And you thought God adopted you because you were good-looking. You thought he needed your money or your wisdom. Sorry. God adopted you simply because he wanted to. You were in his good will and pleasure. Knowing full well the trouble you would be and the price he would pay, he signed his name next to yours and changed your name to his and took you home. Your Abba adopted you and became your Father.

May I pause here for just a second? Most of you are with me … but a couple of you are shaking your heads. I see those squinty eyes. You don’t believe me, do you? You’re waiting for the fine print. There’s got to be a gimmick. You know life has no free lunch, so you’re waiting for the check.

Your discomfort is obvious. Even here in God’s living room, you never unwind. Others put on slippers, you put on a front. Others relax, you stiffen. Always on your best behavior, ever anxious that you’ll slip up and God will notice and out you’ll go.

I understand your anxiety. Our experience with people has taught us that what is promised and what is presented aren’t always the same. And for some, the thought of trusting a  heavenly Father is doubly difficult because your earthly father disappointed or mistreated you.

If such is the case, I urge you: Don’t confuse your heavenly Father with the fathers you’ve seen on earth. Your Father in heaven isn’t prone to headaches and temper tantrums. He doesn’t hold you one day and hit you the next. The man who fathered you may play such games, but the God who loves you never will. May I prove my point?

god’s method: redemption

Let’s return to the verses that describe your adoption. Read them a second time and see if you can find the verb which precedes the word adoption in both verses.

For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our Spirit that we are children of God ( Rom. 8:15–16 nasb ).

But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons ( Gal. 4:4–5 nasb ).

Find it? Not too hard to see, is it? Before the word adoption is the word receive.

Could Paul have used another phrase? Could he have said, “You have earned the spirit of adoption”? Or “that we might earn our adoption as sons”? I suppose he could have, but we wouldn’t have bought it. You and I both know that an adoption is not something we earn; it’s something we receive. To be adopted into a family is not a feat one achieves, but rather a gift one accepts.

The parents are the active ones. Adoption agencies don’t train children to recruit parents; they seek parents to adopt children. The parents make the call and fill out the papers and endure the interviews and pay the fee and wait the wait. Can you imagine prospective parents saying, “We’d like to adopt Johnny, but first we want to know a few things. Does he have a house to live in? Does he have money for tuition? Does he have a ride to school every morning and clothes to wear every day? Can he prepare his own meals and mend his own clothes?”

No agency would stand for such talk. Its representative would lift her hand and say, “Wait a minute. You don’t understand. You don’t adopt Johnny because of what he has; you adopt him because of what he needs. He needs a home.”

The same is true with God. He doesn’t adopt us because of what we have. He doesn’t give us his name because of our wit or wallet or good attitude. Paul states it twice because he is doubly concerned that we understand that adoption is something we receive, not something we earn.

Which is so good to know. Why? Think carefully about this. If we can’t earn our adoption by our stellar performance, can we lose it through our poor performance?

When I was seven years old, I ran away from home. I’d had enough of my father’s rules and decided I could make it on my own, thank you very much. With my clothes in a paper bag, I stormed out the back gate and marched down the alley. Like the prodigal son, I decided I needed no father. Unlike the prodigal son, I didn’t go far. I got to the end of the alley and remembered I was hungry, so I went back home.

But though the rebellion was brief, it was rebellion nonetheless. And had you stopped me on that prodigal path between the fences and asked me who my father was, I just might have told you how I felt. I just might have said, “I don’t need a father. I’m too big for the rules of my family. It’s just me, myself and my paper bag.” I don’t remember saying that to anyone, but I remember thinking it. And I also remember rather sheepishly stepping in the back door and taking my seat at the supper table across from the very father I had, only moments before, disowned.

Did he know of my insurrection? I suspect he did. Did he know of my denial? Dads usually do. Was I still his son? Apparently so. (No one else was sitting in my place.) Had you gone to my father after you had spoken to me and asked, “Mr. Lucado, your son says he has no need of a father. Do you still consider him your son?” what would my dad have said?


I don’t have to guess at his answer. He called himself my father even when I didn’t call myself his son. His commitment to me was greater than my commitment to him.

I didn’t hear the rooster crow like Peter did. I didn’t feel the fish belch like Jonah did. I didn’t get a robe and a ring and sandals like the prodigal did. But I learned from my father on earth what those three learned from their Father in heaven. Our God is no fair-weather Father. He’s not into this love-’em-and-leave-’em-stuff. I can count on him to be in my corner no matter how I perform. You can, too.

May I show you something? Look at the bottom of the painting. See the words etched in gold? The Apostle Paul penned them, but your Father inspired them.

Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor ruling spirits, nothing now, nothing in the future, no powers, nothing above us, nothing below us, nor anything else in the world will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord ( Rom. 8:38–39 ).

Your Father will never turn you away. The doors of this room are never closed. Learn to linger in the living room of God’s house. When the words of others hurt you or your own failures distress you, step in here. Gaze at this painting and be reminded of your God: It is right to call him Holy; we speak truth when we call him King. But if you want to touch his heart, use the name he loves to hear. Call him Father.[2]

[1]Thomas Nelson Publishers. 2001. What does the Bible say about– : The ultimate A to Z resource fully illustrated. Nelson’s A to Z series . Thomas Nelson: Nashville, Tenn.

tlb The Living Bible

[2]Lucado, M. 1997. The great house of God : A home for your heart . Word Pub.: Dallas

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Posted by on October 7, 2021 in Romans


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