29 For those whom he (God) foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be[a] against us?
“Those whom God foreknew he also predestined.” God pre-determines those whom He then transforms into brothers and sisters of His Son, Jesus Christ. In order to transform us, first He has to call us, then He has to justify us and finally He must glorify us. The entire work of salvation is the Lord’s — from beginning to end.
I am not sure why this concept is difficult for seemingly so many Christians, but it is. Some Christians want to take credit for accepting Christ and even for becoming ‘holy’. But the Word contradicts this idea repeatedly.
God makes Pharaoh a vessel for wrath while He makes Moses a vessel for glory. Moses is a murderer, and as such is — at his worst — no more worthy of God’s mercy than Pharaoh at his best. God hardens Pharaoh’s heart repeatedly, each time the Egyptian king decides to let God’s people go, God changes Pharaoh’s mind.
God loves Jacob before Jacob does anything good or bad while He ‘hates’ Esau also before Esau does anything good or bad.
Someone I know told me that God is not a manipulator. God most certainly is! He is the great and ultimate ‘manipulator’! A manipulator is defined as “a person who handles or controls something skilfully”. God is the perfect manipulator, handling us as skillfully as a master puppeteer or gifted potter.
God is in control.
Why does this bother you (assuming it does)? Why do you resist the Master’s control? Don’t you believe He is perfect? Don’t you believe He is only good, that there is no evil intent in His plan?
If God is indeed perfect, then it follows that His control — His manipulations, if you will, are also perfect.
A challenging aspect of reading the Word of God is understanding what was meant when it was spoken or written. An example of translation differences follows. What do you think?
Paul thanks the church at Philippi for its generosity toward the work of Christ’s gospel. The generosity of this church is inspired by God the Holy Spirit who will continue to “bring it to perfection.” He will nudge the church to aid the spreading of the good news of Jesus Christ.
5 so full a part have you taken in the work of Christ’s gospel, from the day when it first reached you till now. 6 Nor am I less confident, that he who has inspired this generosity in you will bring it to perfection, ready for the day when Jesus Christ comes. 7 It is only fitting that I should entertain such hopes for you; you are close to my heart, and I know that you all share my happiness in being a prisoner, and being able to defend and assert the truth of the gospel.
Or Paul recognizes that God has begun a work in the persons who move about in the church at Philippi because of their willingness to partner with him in spreading the good news. He knows that God “who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” He feels this way about them because they “are all partakers with me of grace.” They, like him, defend and confirm the gospel.
5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. 7 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. (ESV)
You hear Christians speak of a God who refuses to live in one who is not holy, i.e. in one who is un-holy. And, most often, this required holiness is defined in negatives. Holiness is a set of rules, a lengthy list of ‘thou shall nots.’
But, Jesus defines holiness as ‘love.’ If you love God and others as you love yourself and as you are loved by God, then God will dwell within you. Not only that, but God’s love is perfect in you. If God’s love is in me, then it is perfect in us.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfect in us.
What is perfect love?
The author of Hebrews delineates the champions of faith from the time before Christ, then says that although their faith allowed them to “obtained good report;” nevertheless they “received not the promise.”
“these all through faith obtained good report, and received not the promise,
40 God providing a better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.”
In order to obtain perfection, these Old Covenant saints needed us. What do we have that they don’t? The author says they have faith. What are they missing that is found in us? It isn’t as if God did not forgive sins during the Old Covenant times, it’s that it required the repetitive sacrifice of bulls and goats and lambs and doves – it required a great deal of shed blood.
What we have that the OC saints did not is – of course – the shed blood of Jesus Christ, the one and only sacrifice. His sacrifice is the promise we obtained; the promise they only looked for as through a glass darkly. The OC saints yearned for a better country – perhaps we should say – a better time, a better thing.
Jesus does not promise we are not going to be ambushed by our adversary, who prowls about like a lion actively searching for one to devour. Instead, Jesus offers us “the might of His virtue” and “the armour of God” so we might “stand against the ambushings of the devil.” Paul puts it like this:
“Here afterward, brethren, be ye comforted in the Lord, and in the might of his virtue. Clothe you with the armour of God, that ye be able to stand against the ambushings [the ambushings, or assailings,] of the devil.”
Paul strongly advises:
“13Therefore take ye the armour of God, that ye be able to against-stand in the evil day; and in all things stand perfect.
14 Therefore stand ye, and be girded about your loins in soothfastness [Therefore stand ye, girded about your loins in soothfastness], and clothed with the habergeon of rightwiseness,
15 and your feet shod in making ready of the gospel of peace.
16 In all things take ye the shield of faith, in which ye be able to quench all the fiery darts of him that is most wicked.
17 And take ye the helmet of health, and the sword of the Ghost, that is, the word of God.
18 By all prayer and beseeching pray ye all time in Spirit, and in him waking in all busyness, and beseeching for all holy men, [By all prayer and beseeching praying all time in Spirit, and in him waking in all busyness, and beseeching for all saints,]”
Paul says to “stand perfect” “in all things.” Jesus says, “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” How do you stand perfect? You stand perfect “in the might of His virtue” through faith, truth, righteousness, wisdom, the gospel of peace, the Word of God, prayer, and God’s own Holy Spirit indwelling.
“For the commandments, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not covet’, and any other commandment there may be, are all summed up in the one rule, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Love cannot wrong a neighbor; therefore the whole law is summed up in love.”
Anyone who claims to have never violated the one rule is lying. Those who claim this complete love are deluding themselves — for love does no wrong to its neighbor — ever! Jesus tells the young rich man who wants to know how to enter heaven, “‘If you wish to go the whole way (i.e. if you wish to be perfect), go, sell your possessions, and give to the poor, and then you will have riches in heaven; and come, follow Me.'” I don’t see many who sell all of their possessions, give all to the poor, and then follow after Jesus. Or, who give the very little they have as does the poor widow; leaving themselves completely dependent upon God.
Rather, many of us — if we are honest — weakly follow after our Lord. Which of us will cut off our offending arm rather than enter the fires of hell?
But, God in His great mercy, sells all He has and gives it to us — the poor. We are the poor in spirit who rely on His shed blood to enable us to love as He loves. Jesus continually points us to Himself, saying to us that if we wish to succeed in this life and in the life to come, we must leave ourselves behind, stop trying to ‘do good’, and rather just ‘be good’ through His Holy Spirit.
“Love cannot wrong a neighbour.” God is love. May He always be allowed to love others through us. Let’s get out of His way.
“Yahweh, You are my God; I will exalt You. I will praise Your Name, for You have accomplished wonders, plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness.” (Isaiah 25: 1, Holman Christian Standard Bible)
Why is anyone surprised or bewildered that God plans? Why are we taken aback by God having created us knowing we would fall, having allowed the serpent to tempt us, having driven us from Eden, having planned our salvation? Why does it irk us that God makes choices? Is He not in complete control? Is He not sovereign? Does He not have the final say in any matter?
“For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor? Or who has ever first given to Him, and has to be repaid?” (Romans 11: 34 – 35)
The way around bewilderment or even resentment that God is in control is to recognize that everything He does is done “with perfect faithfulness.” In God’s sovereignty there is no error.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness,” writes James “to the twelve tribes in the Dispersion.” James further writes that the full effect of steadfastness is perfection, so that we are “lacking in nothing.” (James 1: 4)
God is “like a refiner’s fire and like fuller’s soap. He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver, and He purifies the sons of Levi and refines them like gold and silver, and they bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.” (Malachi 3: 2 – 3)
Trials are common to humankind; not one of us escapes them. The son of David writes,”Whether it is love or hate, man does not know; both are before him. It is the same for all, since the same event happens to the righteous and the wicked, both to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to him who sacrifices and to him who does not sacrifice. As the good one is, so is the sinner, and he who swears is as he who shuns an oath. This is an evil in all the is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all.” (Ecclesiastes 9: 1 – 3)
Very few are able to count trials as joy. But Christians “know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom [God] foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.” (Romans 8: 28 – 29) If we are to be “conformed to the image of [God’s] Son,” then we must be refined. The process of refinement is often painful as the dross of our daily lives is burnt off, melted away through adversity. Adversity makes as stronger, if we submit to it and learn from it. “In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other.” (Ecclesiastes 7: 14)
The manner in which we respond to the days of adversity is key — if we trust that God is at work in us for His good pleasure, to perfect us; then we are able to count those times of suffering as joy.