Yellow Balloons Devotional Series: Advent

Romans 8:28-30

The Apostle Paul writes to the world-renowned believers in Rome, the center of the world at that time, in order to answer a slanderous charge made to them against Paul and his message. Paul’s detractors claim his emphasis on faith overturns the law. Paul says that ” just living by the law” does not achieve personal justice before God, while “just living by faith” does. Paul then demonstrates what a just life looks like: harmonious living with Jesus as the leader. Paul also makes clear the choice a believer has: to walk in faith and the power of the resurrection and experience resurrection life, or walk in sin and unnecessarily experience the negative consequences.

Following the law, or rules, can never make us spiritual, but walking in the Spirit fulfills the law. Institutions, and people in general, are inclined to use rules to attempt to control others, using the threat of condemnation to control them. But there is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus, so there is no reason for believers to submit to such control. Paul is arming the Roman believers receiving this letter, who are already world-famous for their faith, with the knowledge that no person or circumstance can separate us from the perfect and all-encompassing love of Jesus, so they will reject the competing Jewish “authorities” attempt to condemn them in order to gain control.
Further, Paul offers up the reality that serving Jesus (rather than men) will bring the suffering Jesus suffered (including rejection by men) but that suffering leads to an unfathomable reward – to be a joint-heir with Jesus, to co-inherit what Jesus inherited for His faithfulness to His Father. For all these reasons, Paul exhorts the believers in Rome, and by extension us, to reject the control of rule-making legalism and serve Jesus with a true heart.

God promises in Romans 8:28 that He causes every circumstance to conform believers to the image of Christ, with the intent that many would rule with Christ as joint heirs.

Paul uses the same word called, in Romans 8:28, that he uses in Romans chapter 1 to refer to the believers in Rome (1:6-7). As believers, we are called saints, for God’s purpose. So, for the people who love God and are called according to His purpose, God causes all things to work together for good. We can be tempted to say “Great, then that means God will do so-and-so for me.” But God does not leave it to us to decide what is “good.” God tells us what is good. What is good is for us to be conformed to the image of Christ. God intends to utilize every single thing that happens in our life to conform us to the image of His Son.

This does not mean it will always be apparent to us how something might be good. But sometimes God reveals to us how He is working. For example, even when Paul was wrongfully imprisoned, he saw that God was using it to good, because Paul was able to share the gospel message to the people that guarded him in prison, and other believers were encouraged to share the gospel message without fear, even though they faced imprisonment and death (Philippians 1:12-14). So God was working through bad circumstances to bring others to Christ and conform them to His image. This letter Paul wrote to the Romans was a letter he undoubtedly hated having to write. His entire ministry was being put at risk by competing Jewish “authorities” seeking to undermine his message. But God has used this resulting letter to conform millions to His image through Paul’s diligence.

Those whom He foreknew, He also predestined, predestined means that something is predetermined. What is predetermined in this particular verse is that every believer will be conformed to the image of His son. And God will utilize every circumstance to accomplish this purpose. Our choices are real, but no matter what we choose, God’s purpose to conform believers to His image stands.

From other passages Paul has written, such as 1 Corinthians 3 and 2 Corinthians 5, it appears there is a process that conforms us to the image of Jesus based on learning from an evaluation by God of our experience on earth even after we are in heaven. These passages use the image of a refining fire burning away impurities. How exactly this process occurs is not delved into here, but what is certain is that we can absolutely count on the fact that every single thing that comes into our life will be redeemed by Jesus to conform us to His image. This includes even our own mistakes, which is very assuring. Perhaps this process ends when all tears are wiped away. Regardless of how this operates, it is assuring to know God will redeem all things.

The people that are predetermined to be conformed to the image of Christ are the people that God foreknew. The debate over this concept usually centers around whether humans choose but God knew, or God predetermined, but people’s choices impacted God’s choice. This debate generally falls into the category of Greek minds seeking linear solutions. But God is paradoxical, and much of life is paradoxical. Nature is paradoxical.

The God described by the Bible is paradoxical. God is outside of time but also works inside of time. Jesus was fully man and fully God (Hebrews 2:3-18). God is everywhere at once but in one place. The only non-contradictory explanation for these descriptions of God is to accept that God is the beginning of all that is or has been; and that is how the Bible begins: “In the beginning God.” This is also consistent with God’s description of Himself. When asked His name by Moses, God answered that He is the “I Am.” God is the very source and essence of existence, so existence does not explain God, but God explains existence.

In the same way, God gave us the freedom to put our faith in Jesus and also foreknew who would become believers. Both are true. How can that be? Because God is God, God is the I Am. So, we who have chosen to believe were chosen by God, we are also called by God to do His will, and will be glorified when we receive new bodies (verse 23). Those whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. God states definitively that He will see to it that we will become conformed, or changed, to resemble Jesus. If we choose to do that while living a consistent life of faith, we will receive an amazing and special reward (verse 17).

Paul refers to Jesus as the firstborn among many brethren. Jesus, because of his faithfulness and sacrifice on the cross, will inherit the new earth (Philippians 2:8-11). We, believers, have the opportunity to be fellow heirs with Jesus if we suffer with Him (verse 17). This is a part of God’s plan of restoring the earth to His original design that we see in Genesis 1-3.

Paul began this chapter by telling the believers in Rome that there is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ, meaning there is no heavenly condemnation no matter what, and no earthly condemnation for those who are living the resurrection life found in Jesus, which comes through daily faith. The law of sin and death does not have power over believers who walk according to the Spirit of life. Here, Paul is showing that as believers we can know that God chose us and has given us the opportunity to become fellow heirs with Jesus if we suffer with Him (verse 17).

Paul will discuss predestination/predetermination more in the next chapter, chapter 9.

Biblical Text

28 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. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.