We’re continuing in our series in Romans 8. Today follows directly on from yesterday’s post, which you’ll need to read to make sense of it.
Thus far, Paul has argued for his thesis that God is working all for our good by reminding us that God is in charge of the process from start to finish. As we saw yesterday, he’s the subject of all of the verbs in the sentence:
Romans 8:29-30 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.
An unbreakable chain
But more than that: did you notice how each of those five aspects follows on from the previous one? It’s a logic chain. You know – since a equals b, and b equals c, then a must equal c.
My eldest son, back when he was only six, wanted to be a lawyer. He had all the argumentation strategies down. He told me with great confidence that I’m not the boss of him, God is. I patiently explained the idea of delegated authority, and that until he’s 18, I very much am the boss of him. Undeterred, he said: ‘Well, you’re not the boss of everyone, are you?’ ‘No’, I answered. ‘Well I’m a part of everyone, so you’re not the boss of me.’ A logical fallacy, but it took 10 minutes of set-theory to get him to see it that way. (In hindsight, the fact that I had to spend that 10 minutes explaining it goes some way to proving his point.)
But here, Paul’s not employing dodgy six-year-old logic. He’s using sound logic. If you love God you’re part of his chosen people. And his chosen people are those who were foreknown by God. And those who were foreknown were also predestined for Christ-likeness. And those who were predestined were also called. Those called were justified. Those justified, will most certainly be glorified. It’s an unbreakable chain.
It doesn’t say that some of those who love God were foreknown by him, but others weren’t. It doesn’t say that some who were predestined were also called, but others weren’t. And it doesn’t say that some who were justified will also be glorified, but you might not. If you love God, all things are working so that you will be glorified. You’re not going to slip through the cracks in God’s plan, because there aren’t any!
Now notice that the context of this unbreakable chain is v28. It’s about all those who love God. And that doesn’t include someone who once raised a hand or went forward at a youth rally in 1978, and since that time has shown limited interest in living a godly life. It doesn’t say that this is true for someone who once prayed a prayer as a kind of insurance policy to avoid hell, but isn’t particularly keen on having a relationship with him in the here & now.
But it does include everyone who loves God. Not just someone who has a vague positive feeling toward him. But a person who’s embraced who he is. His values. His commandments. Someone who’s committed to finding their joy in God, rather than in the idols of this age; the real thing, not the counterfeit sources of pleasure with which our world entices us.
Certainly not someone who’s perfect. Or who seeks God perfectly. By no means! But someone who desires God and his goodness. That’s what it means to love God.
And if you do love God, your eternity is 100% guaranteed.
An already completed process
In fact, it’s presented as a done deal. In English, it’s usually translated in the past tense – those of us who love God were foreknown, predestined, called, justified and glorified. Also past tense. But hang on, aren’t we still waiting for our future glory, as Paul said back in v18?
Now there are various explanations of this, but the one that makes most sense to me hinges on the fact that Greek tenses are a little different from English tenses. There’s no good way of putting this exact idea into English. The Greek tense of all these verbs implies less about when these things happened than the viewpoint of the writer. Other tenses present things as they happen, like you’re watching a movie in real-time. But this tense ‘zooms out’ to show you the entire storyboard at once. Like a Tarantino movie, the end has already happened. We’re told the story almost from a timeless perspective. Even a ‘God’s eye’ perspective.
And from where God sits, it’s a done deal. Those of us whom God foreknew – we’re in one sense already glorified. In God’s eyes, the outcome isn’t up in the air.
An indication of God’s intentions
Because these five actions of God give us a pretty strong indication of his intentions. Confidence that unless God completely changes his mind, he’ll continue to be working for our good until the end. In other words:
- If God has foreknown you, do you really think he’s going to un-know you? (This is God we’re talking about. Not some fickle Facebook contact ready to unfriend you out of spite.)
- If God has predestined you to Christ-likeness, do you think he’s going to change his mind next week?
- If God has called you into his people, is he going to un-invite you?
- And if God’s gone to the trouble of justifying you in spite of your sinfulness, do you think he’ll decide that on second thoughts, you’re too sinful for him to keep on justifying?
Comforting, isn’t it!
Yet so far, this has mostly been theological assertion. Do we have any evidence to back this up, other than that Paul said it, and he’s an apostle so it must be true? Well that’s what he gets around to giving tomorrow…