Sermon on Romans 8:28-30
Text: 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 image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
When a person starts to build a house, you rarely know what the finished project will look like. You know that a house will be there, but you don’t know what size it will be, how many rooms it will have, what color the walls will be, etc. If you don’t have access to the plans, you can only stand back and watch the house being built. It isn’t until the house is finished that you can see how and why certain things were done. Because you don’t see the plans, you can only watch as the house is being built. However, the builder has the plans. He knows what needs to be done before the house is built. The house took shape because the builder had the plans for it. In our text for this morning, Paul mentions a plan that God had and has for this world. As we study our text, we see GOD’S ETERNAL PLANS FOR US.
The first part of our text contains words that we often use when things are going badly for us, or for someone else. “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” (Verse 28) These words are comforting, because they remind us that God is in control of all things. Because he is our loving Father, he makes all things work out for our good. We are thankful that God tells us that we need not worry, because he is in control. No matter what happens, our God will take care of us.
However, when we quote this passage, we often forget the last part of the verse. The entire verse reads, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Verse 28) What is God’s purpose? It is the thought of that last part of verse 28 that we wish to concentrate on this morning. Looking at God’s plan of salvation is kind of like looking at a beautiful stained glass window. We can stand back and allow the sunlight to make the window come to life. We can step closer and examine one part at a time and be impressed by the detail. This morning, we want to look at the details of God’s plan of salvation and the step back and appreciate the picture all the more.
Paul spoke of “Being called according to God’s purpose.” (Verse 28) What is this purpose that Paul is talking about? Paul gives us the answer in the verses that follow. He wrote, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” (Verse 29) God’s purpose for us was that we would be like his Son, Jesus. That means that we are sinless and holy. That means that we are God’s children and he is our loving Father. How do we become one of God’s children? Paul outlines the steps for us in these verses.
He, first of all, speaks of God’s foreknowledge. This foreknowledge that God had of us occurred before the world began. This foreknowledge was not just who we would be, what would happen to us, and so on. This foreknowledge does not mean that God looked across the centuries and saw that we would be good people. God’s foreknowledge shows us his loving care. God, from eternity, has known each of us. He loved us before the world began. This foreknowledge has a choosing aspect to it. Before we could respond, God chose to love us. This is God’s foreknowledge.
Paul continues the chain by saying, “For those God foreknew, he also predestined.” (Verse 29) God’s foreknowledge and predestining occurred at the same time in eternity. God’s foreknowledge points to the loving care of our God. Predestined points to the goal that God had in mind for us. God wanted us to be “Conformed to the likeness of his Son.” (Verse 29) God wanted us to be his children. That is the goal that God set for us. We have been elected, chosen by God from eternity, to be his children. We have been set aside to residents of eternal glory. This is a predestination to salvation. That is the goal that God set for us, that we should be in heaven with him.
There are some who say that, if God predestined some to heaven, he must have predestined some to hell. That makes sense to human logic. Yet, that is not what the Bible says. The Bible tells us, very plainly, that if a person is saved, it is to God’s credit. One such example is found here in our text. However, Scriptures also say that, if a person is lost, God is not to blame. If a person is lost, it is their own fault. When Stephen was speaking to the Jewish authorities, who had arrested him for speaking about Jesus, he said, “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit!” (Acts 7:51) People have an awesome ability to keep the Holy Spirit away and, thus, condemn themselves because of their unbelief. If a person is lost for eternity, it is their own fault. However, if a person is saved, it is to God’s glory.
Paul continues to unveil God’s plan of salvation: “Those he predestined, he also called.” (Verse 30) Not one of us would believe in Jesus, if we had not been called to faith. Some people claim that you can make your personal decision for Christ. The Bible tells us, very clearly, that this is not the case. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12:3, “No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.” Only through the working of the Holy Spirit do we come to faith. There is no way that we could come to this decision on our own. The Bible tells us in Ephesians 2:1, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.” We are born spiritually dead. We could not make any moves closer to Christ. However, the Holy Spirit called us. He brought us to life. He created faith in us. Through that Spirit-born faith, we can now accept Jesus as our Savior. Note the sequence! First, the faith is given to us, then we accept. It is not the other way around. The Sprit called you and me to faith.
Paul continues, “Those he called, he also justified.” (Verse 30) Justification is a word that we use quite often in church. Yet, sometimes, for us to get the full value out of that word, it is good for us to stop and think about the word. In order to get the full picture, we need to picture ourselves in a courtroom. You and I are on trial before the holy God. God demands perfect obedience to his law, which is summarized for us in the Ten Commandments. As we are on trial, every single sin that we have ever committed is brought out into the open. You and I could not make a defense case for ourselves. The sentence that will be handed down seems inevitable. We are to spend an eternity in hell, being punished for our sins. There is no doubt that we are guilty on all counts. However, then Jesus steps forward and asks the Judge to see the fact that he suffered and died to pay the debt that we owed, because of our sins. Then, a most miraculous thing happens. God declares us, who are so obviously guilty, to be “Not Guilty.” It wasn’t that God overlooked our sins. Justice exacted a very heavy price, namely, the precious life of Jesus, God’s own Son. Because of Jesus’ work, God declares us “Not Guilty.” That is what is meant by the word, “justification.” Paul tells us that, when we are brought to faith, God declares us to be “Not Guilty.” We have been justified.
Paul continues, “Those he justified, he also glorified.” (Verse 30) The glories that have been given to us are ours because, in God’s eyes, we are sinless. We can look forward to an eternity in heaven. Then we will be at perfect peace. There we will experience a joy that has no equal on this earth. Note that Paul didn’t say that God will glorify us. He said that God glorified us. Paul is so sure of these things happening that he speaks of them in the past tense, as if they had already happened. To some extent, they have. We have the status of being one of God’s children. That is far and above what we were before we were called. We are glorified and we will be glorified. All the way back, before the beginning of the world, God had this ultimate goal for you and me, that we would be with him in the eternal bliss of heaven. Those God foreknew, he also glorified.
This teaching of election and predestination is a hard one for us to follow logically. Yet, we are glad that God revealed it to us. First of all, it points to God as the Author of our salvation. We don’t have to do anything to earn our salvation, so we don’t have to worry of we’ve done enough or done it correctly. Jesus did it all for us. God planned from eternity that we would come to faith. God sent the Holy Spirit into our hearts to create and sustain this saving faith. We praise our God because we know that he predestined us from eternity to be in heaven with him.
We are also thankful because, as the first part of our text points out, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Verse 28) Because we are one of God’s chosen, we know that no matter what happens in our lives, whether good or bad, it is always in our best interests. God is our loving Father. He promises to take care of us. He promises to be with us. We thank our God for all of the love that he has shown us.
This morning, we have looked at God’s plan of salvation for us. We have seen how God, from the beginning, planned for us to be with him. May we never lose sight of God’s plan for us. May we show our gratitude for all that God has done for us, as we live for him each day. We thank God for his eternal plans for us. Amen.
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