"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28).
And We Know That All Things Work Together For Good
As we have said before, let us say it again, until one understands The Cross in both its salvation and sanctifying roles, one does not really understand the gospel. It is The Cross of Christ that makes everything possible. There are two key words in verse 28: love and purpose. The heading presents the beginning of one of the most often quoted scriptures in the Bible. In view of the broad brush of this text, and especially considering its vast consequences, one would not do violence to scripture by asking these questions: Do in fact all things work together for good concerning believers? The answer is yes and no. If the conditions are met, then yes. If the conditions are not met, then no. Paul begins the great promise by saying, "we know," which means that not only does he know this, but as well it is meant for every other believer to know, hence the repetition of the text. Also, "all things" covers the entirety of the spectrum respecting life and godliness (2 Peter 1:2-4). It refers to every effort made by Satan against the child of God, every scurrilous plan devised by him for our destruction and even pertains to evil men working with him (whether they realize it or not) to further their designs of darkness concerning our own personal lives.
To Them Who Love God
The heading proclaims the first qualification. However, in the Greek text, the apostle designates believers as not merely loving God but being loved by God. The divine side of our security from the harm is brought out as combining with and ensuring the other. We are sure that all things work for our good, not only because we love Him Who works all things, but also because He Who works all things has loved and chosen us and carried us through the successive steps of our spiritual life. So, we learn from this passage not only the requirements on our part, but as well, what The Lord is doing for the believer. The question could be asked, Does the phrase insinuate that there are some believers who do not love God? No, that's not the idea. The idea of the text is that all believers, in fact, do love God. Actually, it would be impossible for a believer not to do so (providing he is a true believer), and for the reason that believers at the moment of conversion have the divine nature imparted to them. To the degree of that love, however, is something else again.
To Them Who Are Called According To His Purpose
The heading proclaims the second qualification. Our lives must be for His purpose and not our purpose, and here is where the great conflict begins. The working of The Holy Spirit in our lives, sent to us to carry out the will of God, pertains here to the calling of which the apostle speaks. It is twofold:
That spoken is the effort being carried out by The Holy Spirit, and it is our business to see to it that His purpose is our purpose as well. Unfortunately, the terrible struggle of self will enters in here, which greatly hinders The Holy Spirit and presents a conflict to the believer that is not easily overcome. The flesh is so subtle that most of the time it masquerades under great spiritual claims. It takes total concentration on the part of the believer in order for The Holy Spirit to point out these areas of spiritual weakness, which we sometimes think in our delusion are great spiritual strengths. In fact, it is a lifelong struggle. However, The Lord does not require perfection in this area, simply because, were that the case, none would qualify. He does require love for Himself, and that portrays the direction of our hearts. In that view, the text actually reads, "And we know with an absolute knowledge that all things are constantly working together, resulting in good for those who are loving God, for those are the called ones according to His purpose." Having these qualities of love for God, and our calling being according to His purpose and not of our own, all things must then work together for our good, and in fact, do work together for our good.
For Whom He Did Foreknow
"For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren" (Romans 8:29). If the preacher is not pointing people to The Cross, what he is saying is a waste of time. The only solution in fact, for mankind, is The Cross of Christ. God is omniscient, meaning that He knows everything – past, present, and future. Consequently, foreknowledge is His ability to look down through time in whatever capacity or whatever degree, and therefore, see and know what will take place at that particular time and with whomever it involves. It is true that the scripture makes use of anthropomorphic (related in human terms) forms of expression regarding the way God obtains knowledge (Genesis 3:8), and sometimes even represents Him as if He did not know certain things (Genesis 11:5, 18:21); nevertheless, the constant representation of the scripture is that God knows everything. This perfect knowledge of God, moreover, is not merely a knowledge that is practically unlimited for all spiritual purposes, but covers every aspect of all things in the strictest sense of the term. In the historical books of the Old Testament, the omniscience of God is a constant underlying presupposition wherein it is said that God watches men's actions, knows their acts and words, and discloses to them the future; while in the psalms, prophets, and wisdom books, this divine attribute becomes an object of reflection, and finds doctrinal expression.
Always Has Been
It cannot, however, be said that this attribute of God – the knowing of all things – appears only late in the history of special revelation; it is a characteristic of the biblical idea of God from the very first, and it is only its expression that comes out with special clearness in the latter books. God's knowledge is then represented as perfect. Since He is free from all limits of space, His omniscience is frequently connected with His omnipresence (He is everywhere).
God Is Not Bound By Time Restraints
God is also, according to the Old Testament, free from all limitations of time so that His consciousness is not in the midst of the stream of the succeeding moments of time, as is the case with the human consciousness. God is not only without beginning or end of days, but with Him a thousand years is as one day or vice versa. Hence, God knows in one eternal intuition that which for the human consciousness is past, present, and future. In a strict sense, therefore, regarding the foreknowledge of God and the distinction in God's knowledge, which we derive from His Word, such is actually the only way in which we can conceive of divine omniscience in its relation to time and our understanding of such.
God's Knowledge Of Events
It is God's knowledge of events which, from the human point of view, is future that constitutes His foreknowledge in the sense of that which we understand or attempt to understand. God is represented as having a knowledge of the entire course of events before they take place. Such knowledge belongs to the supernatural power of God from the very outset of special revelation. He knows beforehand what Abraham will do and what will happen to him; He knows beforehand that pharoah's heart will be hardened and that Moses will deliver Israel (Genesis 15:13; Exodus 3:19; 7:4; 11:1). Actually, the entire history of this period of revelation exhibits plainly the foreknowledge of God in this sense.
Prophecy, which makes up about one third of the bible, is actually the foreknowledge of God. This means that nothing future is hidden from Jehovah (Isaiah 41:22; 42:9; 43:9-13; 44:6-8; 46:10; Daniel 2:22; Amos 3:7), and this foreknowledge embraces the entire course of man's life, whoever that man may be (Psalm 31:15; 39:5; 139:4-6, 16; Job 14:5). Passages from Isaiah show that it is from the occurrence of events in accordance with Jehovah's predictions that the prophet will prove His foreknowledge; and that in contrast with the worshippers of idols, which are taken by surprise (in other words, they don't know what is coming), Israel is warned of the future by the omniscient Jehovah.
The New Testament
In the New Testament, likewise, God's omniscience is explicitly confirmed. Jesus taught that God knows the hidden secrets of man's heart (Luke 16:15); and this is also the teaching of the apostles (Acts 1:24; Acts 15:8; 1 Corinthians 2:10; 3:20; 1 Thessalonians 2:4; Revelation 2:23). In the Word, according to the author of the epistle to the Hebrews, who I think was Paul, everything is open to God, so that He is literally omniscient, i.e., all knowing (Hebrews 4:13). Actually, Jesus asserts a foreknowledge by God of that which is hidden from the Son, at least was hidden at that time (Mark 13:32), and James asserts that all God's works are foreknown by Him (Acts 15:18).
Does God's Foreknowledge Impact Free Will?
Denials of the divine foreknowledge have been occasioned by the supposed conflict of this truth with human freedom, in other words, free will and choice on the part of man. It was supposed that in order to be free, an event must be uncertain and contingent as it regards the fact of its future happening, and in the most absolute sense, that is, from the divine as well as the human point of view. Hence there have been many in the past who have denied the foreknowledge of God. It was supposed either that God voluntarily determines not to foresee the free volitions of man, or else that since God's omniscience is simply the knowledge of all that is knowable, it does not embrace the free acts of man which are by their very nature uncertain and consequently, unknowable, at least they say. Upon this view of freedom, this denial of God's foreknowledge was logically necessary. Of course, to take that view, one has to come to the erroneous conclusion, that God has created all things, and merely sits by as an onlooker regarding the course of all events be they present or future and which are necessarily entirely independent of His purpose and control; however, if anyone reads the Bible at all, we know this thinking has no place inscripture, considering that God is involved in everything. If God foreknows future events as certain, they must be certain, and if so, then the certainty of their actually occurring must depend either upon God's decree and providential control, or else upon a fate independent of God. This we know is not the case, and in fact cannot be the case.
To What Extent?
It has been the thinking of some that God has a knowledge of events as conditionally future, that is, events neither merely possible or certainly future, but suspended upon conditions undetermined by God. However, this is not true. Besides being contrary to the scripture in its idea that many events lie outside the decree of God and that God must wait upon man in His government of the world, there is really no such class of events as this theory asserts. As we have already stated, God is involved in everything. If God foreknows that the conditions on which they are suspended will be fulfilled, then, these events belong to the class of events that are certainly future. If God does not know whether or not conditions will be fulfilled by man, then His foreknowledge is denied and these events in question belong to the class of happenstance. The scripture passages to which appeal is made to try to buttress such a doctrine such as Genesis 11:6; Exodus 3:19; Deuteronomy 7:3-4; 1 Samuel 23:10-13; 2 Samuel 12:18, etc., do not afford a basis for this doctrine. The scripture recognizes that God has put all things in particular categories, and speaks of what can or cannot happen under such and such conditions; however, none of these passages assert or imply that the events are suspended upon conditions that are either unknown or undetermined or not controlled by God.
God's foreknowledge, according to Scripture, is based upon His plan or eternal purpose, which embraces everything that comes to pass. God is never represented as a mere onlooker, seeing the future course of events, but having not part in them. That God has such a plan is the teaching of the entire scope of Scripture. It is implied in the Old Testament conception of God as an omnipotent (all powerful) person governing all things in accordance with His divine plan. This idea is involved in the names of God from Job to the patriarchs; El, Elohim, El Shaddai, and in the prophetic name, Jehovah of Hosts. This latter name teaches not only God's infinite power and glory, but also makes Him known as interposing in accordance with His sovereign will and purpose in the affairs of this world, and as having also the spiritual powers of the heavenly world at His disposal for the execution of His eternal purpose. Hence, the idea of God comes to signify the omnipotent ruler of the universe (Psalm 24:10; Isaiah 6:3; Isaiah 51:15; Isaiah 54:5; Jeremiah 10:16; Amos 9:5).
Not only in this conception of God as omnipotent and sovereign ruler is the thought of His eternal plan evolved, it is explicitly asserted throughout the whole of the Old Testament. The purpose of God as determining human history in the book of Genesis lies clearly upon the surface of the narrative, as, for example, in the history of Abraham and of Joseph. Where there is no abstract statement of this truth, it is evident that the writer regards every event as the unfolding of the purposes and plan of God. In the psalms, prophets, and wisdom books, this truth finds explicit and reiterated assertion. Jehovah has an eternal purpose (Psalm 33:11), and this purpose will certainly come to pass (Isaiah 14:27; 43:13). As well, this purpose includes all events and renders certain their occurrence (Isaiah 14:24; 40:10; 46:9-10; Zechariah 1:6). Also, the providential control wherewith Jehovah executes this plan includes the heart of man (Proverbs 21:1). Likewise and stated, the New Testament regards all history as but the unfolding of God's eternal purpose (Acts 4:28), which includes man's salvation (Ephesians 1:4-5; 2 Timothy 1:9), the provision of Christ as Savior (1 Peter 1:20), and the character and nature of the Christian (Ephesians 2:10). In other words, God is able to do all things without interfering with man's free moral agency and because He is truly omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent.
So How Do We Answer All The Questions Which God's Foreknowledge Proposes?
Knowing and understanding that God is involved in every single event of human history, even to a far greater degree than our human minds can grasp, how are certain things reconciled? If one is to consider that The Lord notes every sparrow's fall, and numbers the hairs on each an every head of every person in the world (Matthew 10:29-30), then one has at least some idea as to the degree of involvement. As stated, it is beyond comprehension. So, how can God have this much involvement, foreknowing all things and, at the same time, not impact the free will of man? This we do know concerning man's free will: while God speaks to men, deals with men, moves upon men, and convicts and even pressures men, there is no record in the Word of God that He violates the free moral agency (free will) of any person. Actually, the entirety of the tone and tint of scripture is "...whosoever will..." (Revelation 22:17). The only answer that one can give in respect to this question is that God, Who has and Who is divine power, divine knowledge and divine presence, can involve Himself in anything desired and to any degree desired, and, at the same time, not affect man's free moral agency, at least to go beyond the normal appeal. Still, in every sense of the word, once a certain level is reached, God is beyond the comprehension of man. He wouldn't be God were that not the case.
He Also Did Predestinate
The heading proclaimshere the basic bible teaching of predestination, which deals with God's plan. However, predestination does not pertain to individual conformity of free wills to that plan. God has called all men, and all are free to accept or reject the call (John 3:16; 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9; Revelation 22:17). All who do accept, He has foreknown and predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son that His Son might be the first born among many brethren. Those who reject the plan, He has foreknown and predestinated to be confined to eternal hell. Arminianism gives grace supreme place and makes it, when welcomed, pass into saving grace. The idea of that statement is simply that it is by grace that one is saved (Ephesians 2:8-9). However, it is only when grace is welcomed and accepted that it becomes saving grace. In other words, the grace of God is abundant to all, but can only be extended to those "...whosoever will..." (Revelation 22:17). He made election depend on faith, which is the condition of universal grace. This statement means that God has elected people to be saved who exhibit faith in His Son, The Lord Jesus Christ, and the sacrifice He gave of Himself at Calvary. While grace is universal, meaning free to all, as it must be if it is to be grace, the condition for receiving grace is, as stated, "faith".
The Significance Of These Doctrines
Armenism rejects the so called elect grace of predestination theory. This teaches that grace is extended only to those who are predestined to be saved. Of course, the bible teaches no such thing. It does teach "...whosoever will..." (Revelation 22:17). Armenism holds that the awakened human will cooperate with divine grace in such wise that it rests with the human will, whether the divine grace is really accepted or rejected. Armenism looks to faith and repentance as conditions of personal salvation (Acts 20:21). the Armenian standpoint admits the foreknowledge of God but denies foreordination (some ordained to be saved and some ordained to be lost). The reader may think these doctrines to be of little significance; however, to be blunt, there are untold millions at this moment in hell simply because they had an erroneous view of these subjects as it concerned their soul's salvation. No, these doctrines are not of small consequence, but rather the very opposite. The believer should know what he believes and why he believes it. We teach, as stated, that it is faith that gets one into salvation – faith in Christ and what He did for us at The Cross. Likewise, it is faith that keeps us in. The only thing that can cause a believer to lose his soul is to quit believing; in other words, the person no longer exhibits faith in Christ and what Christ has done at The Cross. Such a person then resorts to the position of being an unbeliever, which means the loss of the soul, that is, if the person continues in that capacity. Sin, as hurtful and harmful as it is, will not cause a believer to lose his or her soul. That in no way is meant to condone sin. It is not sin but rather a lack of faith that can cause a person to lose his soul. There are millions who claim to be saved and living a life of debauchery with never any repentance in sight, but they think they are saved because someone tells them they are. Please remember, The Lord saves from sin, not in sin. So, these millions, sad to say, are not saved. In fact, they have never been saved.
To Be Conformed To The Image Of His Son
The heading presents the predestination addressed here, and the only predestination addressed. Those, who of their own free will, accept Christ are predestinated to be conformed by The Holy Spirit into the Christlike image, which we have been addressing here throughout the entirety of this chapter. Let us observe the way in which Paul introduces this subject so as to better understand his drift. He has been speaking of the trials and imperfections of this present life and urging his readers not to be discouraged by them on the grounds that if they continue to "live after the Spirit", these things will by no means hinder, but rather further the final issue. To strengthen this position, he introduces the thought of God's eternal purpose. The idea is that the believer is in the state of grace in which he now finds himself, having accepted it, due to God's eternal purpose to call him this this state. Consequently, it is impossible that the circumstances in which he has placed us, or any power thereafter, should thwart His purpose, providing we continue to believe Him. In the Greek, the word conformed is summorphos, and it means "to be made like unto." So, the idea is that the believer become Christlike in every way, hence, He said, "...learn of me..." (Matthew 11:29). In the Greek, the word image is eicon, and means "a copy, representation, or resemblance."
That He Might Be The Firstborn Among Many Brethren
The heading does not mean that Jesus was born again as a sinner, as some teach, but rather that He is the father of the salvation plan, having paid the price on The Cross, which made it all possible. Some have tried to use the word firstborn, as it referred to Our Lord, as becoming a sinner on The Cross, and then born again in hell of all places. Of course, there is not a shred of scriptural evidence to back that up. Jesus did not become a sinner on The Cross. Had He done so, then He could not have presented Himself as a perfect sacrifice. In fact, He became a sin offering (Isaiah 53:10). Jesus did not go to The Cross to become a sinner; He went to the The Cross because He was to be and was the Savior. He atoned for all sin on The Cross by giving Himself as a perfect sacrifice. His spirit, soul, and body had to be perfect for it to be accepted by God, which it was. So, when The Holy Spirit used the word firstborn, referring to Our Lord, He was referring to Him as being the father of the salvation plan, as stated, having paid the price on The Cross, which made it all possible.
Savior, again to Thy dear name we raise,
With one accord, our parting hymn of praise;
We stand to bless Thee ere our worship cease,
Then lowly kneeling, wait Thy word of peace.
Grant us Thy peace upon our homeward way;
With Thee began, with Thee shall end the day;
Guard Thou the lips from sin, the heart from shame,
That in this house have called upon Thy Name.
Grant us Thy peace, Lord, through the coming night,
Turn Thou for us its darkness into light,
From harm and danger keep Thy children free,
For dark and light are both alike to Thee.
Grant us Thy peace throughout our earthly life,
Our balm in sorrow, and our stay in strife;
Then, when Thy voice shall bid our conflict cease,
Call us, Oh Lord, to Thine eternal peace.
How The Holy Spirit Works Chapter 9