Summary: Our suffering is because God has predestined us to be conformed to the image of Christ...
October 17, 2010
Every single person on earth has fallen completely short of God’s glory: the Gentiles deserve His wrath since they deliberately suppressed the knowledge of God and exchanged His glory for idols. Jews also deserve wrath because they have received the Law and have yet broken it.
The Gentile is condemned by the Law of his conscience, and the Jew is condemned by the written Law (Rom. 1-3).
Yet, God has so willed that some will be saved by grace through faith apart from good works (Rom. 4). These are justified in His sight because we’re joined with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. We’re free from the law of sin and death, and our debt to God is paid through the blood of Christ (Rom. 5-6).
However, while saved and adopted and free, we still struggle in this corrupted body of flesh (Rom. 7)—we groan with creation and the Spirit while we wait for all things to be manifest. We wait on our adoption as sons (Rom. 8:1-26).
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.
Here we find a sure hope that can’t exist without the promise of God. Believers know for certain that God causes all things to work together for our good. But what does this mean exactly?
There are those who take this verse and say that since God “causes all things” that He must be responsible for Nazism; He must have played the dirty trick of giving someone cancer or AIDS or Ebola.
But it’s an important distinction to make between saying that “God causes all things” and that “God causes all things to work together for good.”
God permits evil, but He’s not the cause of it—“God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all” (I John 1:5). He permits evil, but He also promises He’ll cause it to be used for our good.
Consider the story of Job—Satan was the cause of the evil, and God (in total sovereignty) allowed it. But Job’s suffering wasn’t without benefit. God caused the evil committed against him to be used for good.
Taken alone, this can be a hard verse to understand. Does it mean that every bad thing that happens to us will result in something good? In the past I preached about a lady who broke her arm, and when she got it x-rayed, cancer was discovered and treated. Breaking her arm was bad, but look at the good which came from it. It’s a nice story, but (1) it doesn’t always work out so nicely, and (2) it doesn’t fit the context of the entire passage.
What does the rest of the verse say? It’s very important to note that the promise is only made “to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Why? The answer is given in verse 29.
29For 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;
All things (good or bad) are caused by God to work together to conform us to the image of Christ!
He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him (Eph. 1:4).
One of the greatest truths in suffering is that God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world; we will be conformed to the image of Christ for that is God’s will, and all things work together toward that end.
It says, “those whom He foreknew, He also predestined.”
Some claim that God’s foreknowledge means that He predestined us based on a decision we would make later on down the line. God looked through eternity and used His knowledge of future facts to pick those who would be His based on their decision to be His. In reality though, this would mean that God chose us only because we first chose Him.
But this goes against Scripture: Ephesians 1:4 told us that He chose us—not the other way around.
It does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy (Romans 9:16).
For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes (John 5:21).
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:12-13).