Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on April 9, 2018
Let us begin this morning by reciting our April memory verse. Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” What a wonderful truth to cling to.
Two weeks ago I preached on verse 28, and in that sermon we took time to stand in awe of this massive promise from a Sovereign God, that God uses all things for our good. We meditated on the truth that the unchanging God of the Universe is all powerful, all knowing, and all present. We examined Scripture that clearly expressed that God ordains, by his providence, all things of His creation, even the most seemingly random events like the roll of the dice. We recognized that these “all things” would include not just good things, but bad things. It would include trials and tribulations, such as injuries, sickness, poverty, persecution, divisions, and even death.
And we saw that this promise that God uses all things for our good gives us an immense amount of peace and comfort; for we recognize that the moments of our lives are not meaningless; that suffering is not meaningless. We recognize that God has a reason why you have cancer, that God has a reason your child dies, that God has a reason for depression...and the reason is for you good.
Today and next Sunday we are going to continue to unpack this massive promise of God by looking at the foundation of verse 28. We are going to look at what holds up this enormous and encouraging truth. With that said, let’s get right to work and see what God has to say to us this morning. Please stand for the reading of God’s Word.
What is the For There For
Let us begin by looking at verse 29. Verse 29 begins with the word “For.” The word “for” is made up of just three letters, but is of fundamental importance. The word “for” is what is called a conjunction. Every time you see a conjunction in your Bible, I would recommend you circle it, because it is of significant importance to understand the logic of God’s Word. What a conjunction does is that it connects two clauses. In our text for today, the word “for” connects the clause of verse 28 with the clause of verse 29 and 30. The promise of verse 28 is connected to the truths that are contained in the following verse.
The word “for” could also be translated to “because”. In fact, let’s read our text with the word “because” in place of the word “for”. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29[because] those whom he foreknew he also predestined…” Does that help?
The word “for” or “because” is telling us the reason why the promise in verse 28 is true. The word “for” is pointing to the foundation that holds up the massive promise that all things work together for a believer’s good.
So let us know examine that foundation, but before I do. Let me say one thing, there comes times in your Christian walk that your faith in God’s Word will be tested. When you are first born again, you are immature in the faith, just like a newborn baby, and through the reading and studying of God’s Word you begin to grow. Some of the things you read in God’s Word will be difficult to accept. And this is because of your sinful flesh. For example you may read that you are to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, and your flesh will resist it. Or you may read that God is a jealous God, and your flesh doesn’t like how that sounds. Or you may read that God is ordaining trials and tribulations in your life, and you don't want to see a loving God through this lens. Or you may read that God has designed marriage that the husband is the head and the wife must submit to his leadership, your flesh doesn't was to submit to your God given role.
For some of you, today may be one of those days. A day where you will hear things that you are going to struggle with because of your sinful flesh. Your faith in God’s Word may get tested today. So, now, let us examine these foundations.
Those Whom He Foreknew
The first block in this foundation is the phrase, “For those whom he foreknew.” Let us begin by answering the simple question, who are the “those.” Who is Paul speaking about when he says “those”. All we have to do is to look at verse 28. The “those” are “those who love God.” They are “those who are called.” If we continue to trace it backwards up through Romans it, the “those” are those who have the indwelling of Holy Spirit that intercedes on their behalf. The “those” are the ones who are adopted into God’s family that cry out Abba Father. The “those” are the ones have set their minds of the things of the Spirit, not on the flesh. The “those” are the one who have “no condemnation in Christ Jesus.” If we continue back to Romans chapter 1-7, we see the “those” are those who delight in the law, are dead to the law, slaves to righteousness, free from sin, alive in Christ, have peace with God, justified by faith, and saved through the power of the gospel. Or to put it another way, the “those” in verse 29 are born again Christians.
Now, let us look at the next part, we are told in verse 29, that “he” (God) foreknew Christians. What does foreknew mean? The Greek word is proginōskō (pro-gē-nō'-skō). It is made up of two parts, “pro” which means before. And ginōskō (gē-nō'-skō) which means to know. Now, there are two ways that you can think about to know: 1) Information and 2) Intimacy. For example, I know that 1 + 1 = 2. That is the knowledge of information. I know that this podium is black. That is the knowledge of information. However, there is a different way to use the word know, and it is a word of intimacy. We actually see this type of knowledge used frequently in the Bible.
With this in mind, it helps us understand what Jesus was saying in Matthew 7:22 when he says, “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” When Jesus says, “I never knew you” he is not talking about information, for we know that Jesus is fully God, and therefore he is all knowing. What Jesus is saying is, depart from me, I have never had a relationship with you. And this is how the word “foreknown” is being used in Romans 8:29.
It is not a reference to information, it is a reference to intimacy, specifically, God’s relationship with Christians before they existed. God does not know about us, he knows us. Here are a couple of verses to back this idea up about God’s intimate relationship with his children before they exist.
God, before his children existed, knew them. The Triune God, Father, Son and Spirit, existing in perfect harmony before He created time, knew you. He knew your name, he knew what your characteristics would be, he knew your days, he knew your calling, he knew everything about you, but not just informationally, God knew you intimately. I loved the way John Gill wrote it, “He foreknew them from everlasting, affectionately loved them, and took infinite delight and pleasure in them.”
Therefore, as I have said before, when you get to Heaven and ask God, “How long have you loved me?” He will say, “I have loved you forever.” Psalm 103:17 says, “But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children.” So talk about a deep foundation. There is no bottom to the foundation of God’s steadfast, eternal love.
Predestined to be Conformed to the Image of His Son
Let us now look at the next foundational block. Verse 29 again, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” For all Christians who has loved before time, he predestines them.
Now, this is where it gets a little hairy for some of you. I don’t know how many times I have heard the word “free will” during Bible studies. It is almost a guarantee that when a new person joins a Bible study, that within two or three studies they will say God gave us free will. Let me share a little secret with you, the concept of “free will” is nowhere in the Bible. In fact, what do we see in out text today? Free will? No, we see the word predestined.
I have to admit, I get so frustrated with people who ask me if I believe in predestination? As if it is a theology, verses a Biblical doctrine. I don’t want to sound too snarky, but we all have eyes don’t we? Verse 29 explicitly says, “he also predestined.” Predestination is a God word, not a theological word. The Greek word behind it is “proorizō (pro-o-rē'-zō) which means to predetermine, to decide beforehand, to decree from eternity, to foreordain. This word means that God has a pre-determined destiny for his children. That God has a guaranteed goal for your life.
In fact, we can reach back into verse 28 and see the phrase “according to his purpose.” An all knowing, all powerful God has a purpose for His creation. He has an end in sight, and you can bet your bottom dollar that he will accomplish it. Isaiah 46:9-10, “for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,” God has a purpose, and will accomplish his purpose. And those who he foreknows are a part of that purpose.
And what is that purpose, as it relates to us? What is the per-determined destiny of God's children? To be conformed to the image of Jesus. Your destiny is to be like Jesus is every way. And this was in the mind of God before the foundation of the world was laid, to create you and then to conform you.
Now some of you may say, aren't we already made in the image of God? Isn't that what it says in Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Yes and no. We are created in the image of God, and bear certain communicable attributes that are Godlike, such as affections, reason, dominion; however because of sin, the image of God is a marred image, a distorted image, perhaps you could even say a counterfeit image. The image we bear is not of Christ, but of Adam. Remember Romans 5:12, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— “ We are descendents of a fallen Adam, and bear his image as a sinner.
But this is not a Christians destiny and this is why Christ came into the world to change what you display. Christ came to destroy the image of Adam and to replace it with the image of Himself. And what does the image of Christ look like? It looks like holiness. Listen to what Jesus says throughout the Gospel of John.
To look like Christ, is to do the Father's will. Earlier I read to you Matthew 7:23? It says, “And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” If Christ knows you, specifically foreknew you, you will be conformed to the image of Christ. Meaning that you will not be lawless, but you will be law abiding. You will hunger and thirst for righteousness. Your food will be to do the will of God.
If you claim to be a Christian, but there is no distinction between you and the world, then you may not be a Christian, for Christians are being molded into Jesus, we are being conformed to His image.
But how does this happen? How are God's children, who are born looking like sinful Adam, dead in our trespasses and sins, following the course of this world conformed to be like Christ? We must be born again by the power of the Holy Spirit. Don't forget what Romans 8 is substantially about? It is about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Verse 9 says, “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” It is by the Spirit of God that we are conformed the the Image of Christ. It is our destiny, and it is our guarantee.
As it says in Philippians 1:6, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”