The future glory. 8:28-30
The purpose of this short passage in chapter 8, is to underline the hope expressed in verses 17-27. We have a sure hope, but it is blurred by the struggles of life, both within and without. So, we groan as we await the dawning of the new age. Paul therefore, wants to reassure his readers with the knowledge that God is a purposeful God. His purpose is that we be transformed into the image of his Son. He has elected us to his good purpose, he has determined our future, he has called us to himself, he has begun making us righteous by grace through faith and he has glorified us and will glorify us in Christ. So, we can be sure that all of life's circumstances will be used by God to achieve his ultimate purpose in our lives.
v28a. Nothing can harm, in a spiritual sense, those who really love God. Rather, our spiritual struggle, in the midst of life's vagaries, helps us to move toward the greater good of our salvation. The reason for this is that God is in control. His power and control is such that even our failures can serve his will.
v28b. Paul further defines "those who love God" to reinforce the truth that God is in charge and is achieving our salvation, even through our doubts, fears and failures. Those who have accepted God's invitation in the gospel are woven into God's eternal purpose to perfect a people to be with him in eternity.
v29. The next two verses support the contention of v28. They outline five steps in God's purpose to conform a people, a community, into the image of Jesus. The first two, found in verse 29, predate the creation. They are the foreknowledge of this people (ie. God's design and intention to form this people unto himself) and his gracious decision to act on behalf of this people. The word "predestined" describes God's decision to achieve a predetermined goal, the goal being the creation of a people to share eternity with him.
v30. The next two steps in God's purpose for his people are in the present time: first, their call and next their justification. As part of his setting all things right, our God invites us to gather with his new community, and those who gather, he sets right before him. The word "called" is seen by some as a sovereign act of God to choose individuals for membership, but a general invitation is more likely. The fifth and final step is the glorification of the members of God's new community. This reality is still in the future, although there is a sense where it impinges on the present moment.
The lesson of life
For most of us, each day passes quickly and seemingly with little importance. The day is filled with a mass of events, circumstances, encounters, troubles and joys and we just ride along as best we can.
For all intents and purpose, the circumstances of life seem little more than the product of mindless chance - action and reaction. The stone goes into the pond and the ripples move outward and touch each one of us. The ripple may leave us defeated, oppressed, groaning within, but at other times, elated and more than conquerors.
Yet, God is not bound by this endless chain of events. He is master of every circumstance, and he can take these seemingly mindless events and use them to his purpose. Nor is he limited by our weakness. God knows what is in our hearts and the Spirit of Christ happily speaks for us.
God's purpose, as far as this world is concerned, is the gathering to himself of a people and their transformation into sons of God. This purpose he has completed in Christ and so now we may freely become a member of God's redeemed people, this remnant, this chosen people, this called-out, predestined people. Membership guarantees our eternal right-standing before God and the glorification of our beings. All this is ours when we reach out to Jesus in faith. "Ask and you will receive."
For us then, every event, no matter how small, has the potential to work toward our transformation. Every little moment, every circumstance, joy, weakness, failure, sacrifice and trouble, can be used by our Lord in the transforming of our natures into the image of Jesus.
Obviously, we have to learn to view each day as potentially purifying. No matter what the situation is, God can use it for our good. So, next time when sin, failure, trouble..... enters our lives, instead of getting down in the mouth, we need to look to the one who can use any circumstance for our ultimate good. There are lessons to be learnt in the most mundane of daily events, for life is but the schoolroom of eternity.
1. Those who are in a relationship with Christ and thus "love" God, "have been called according to his purpose", v28. This "call", in Reformed circles, is known as the "effectual call", ie. God's call of an individual is effective for their salvation. Thus by implication, those he doesn't call are not saved. Discuss this view.
2. God's sovereignty is strongly demonstrated in this passage. What has God "predestined" for those in Christ? (Note also v30)
3. What are the "all things" and "the good" of v28?
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