Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
September 1, 2002
God’s Work in Redemption
I want to begin this week by repeating something I said last week, for we are
going to be looking at two verses that have been the center of a lot of
theological debates. I believe that the major reason for this, as with the
majority of theological debates, is that man wants God fit within his own
theological system. He then interprets Scripture in light of the logic of his
theological system rather than in careful consideration of its grammatical and
historical context in order to know God as He reveals Himself, whether He fits
our system or not.
We must come to grips with the fact that there are many things that we simply
do not understand about God. We are finite and God is infinite. That in itself
states that God is beyond our ability to comprehend. But we must also grapple
with the fact that God has only given us a limited revelation of Himself. Moses
recognized and said in Deuteronomy 29:29, "The secret things belong to
the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever,
that we may observe all the words of this law." Paul also recognized
this and exclaimed in Romans 11:33,34, "Oh, the depth of the riches both
of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and
unfathomable His ways! 34 For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became
As we look at Romans 8:29,30 this morning, we will be examining concepts that
are hard, if not impossible, for us to fully comprehend. We are bound in the box
of this physical world of matter, space and time. God is not, and we must not
place upon Him the same limits that apply to us. If what God reveals about
Himself does not seem logical to us, then the error lies in our logic.
Remember, the validity of logical conclusions are only as good as the
validity of the observations and suppositions that lead to the conclusion. We
err when we demand that God ‘s nature and behavior must fit within the
dictates of our own observations, experiences and values. We must take God for
what He reveals Himself to be, not what we want Him to be.
That being said, we must also remember the context of these two verses. Let
me read through them starting in verse 26 and then make some brief comments
about the thrust of the passage before analyzing these two verses in depth.
26 And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know
how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for [us] with
groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the
mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to [the
will of] God. 28 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.
29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined [to become] conformed to the image
of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; 30 and whom He
predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified;
and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
Though there are three main thoughts in this section of Scripture, they are
all joined together by one theme. They really form only one paragraph, even
though different translators break up the passage in different ways. In the
previous section, starting in verse 18, Paul was speaking about the present
suffering that Christians have in this life as we await our final redemption to
receive our glorified bodies and are then taken to heaven. In this passage, Paul
is presenting the reasons we can have hope for the future in the midst of
I spoke about this suffering in my previous sermons. Because we live in a sin
fallen world, we suffer its consequences. There are the consequences of my own
sin. There are the consequences of the sin of others against us, and there are
the consequences of sin upon the world which has left it in its current cursed
state. Not only do I long for the day when the curse of all this sin will be
done away with, but so does creation itself (vs. 19-23). God’s word promises
us the hope of a day when that curse will be removed. But what can give me hope
to endure the present sufferings? What is the basis of having hope that those
promises will be fulfilled?
In verses 26-30, Paul gives three reasons to endure the present sufferings
and have hope for the future. All three are based in having confidence in God
Himself. We can be confident that God cares about us individually, for He has
sent His Holy Spirit to help us in our weakness and intercede on our behalf
(26,27). We can be confident that God is powerful enough to carry out His
promises for our good, because He does work all things together for good to
those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (28). And finally,
our hope in God is a confident assurance that He will fulfill His promises to us
because He is sovereign. What He has started, He will finish. Even when I face
difficult circumstances in life, I can trust my heavenly Father, for the work of
redemption He began in me in eternity past will be completed in eternity future.
There will be a day that every true Christian will stand before Him in a
glorified state as a joint heir with Christ. His sovereignty guarantees it.
This is the context of verses 29 and 30. We must also remember that
everything in these two verses only applies to those referred to in the previous
verses, those who love God and are called according to His purpose. These are
true Christians only. However the theological debate may rage about the meaning
of the words in these verses, we must never forget the context of them.
29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined [to become] conformed to the
image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; 30 and
whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also
justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
Foreknowledge is an interesting concept. It arises out of the fact that
God is omniscient. He knows everything about everything. There is nothing He
does not know. Omniscience includes prescience, or knowing what will happen in
the future, as well as knowing what is happening currently and what has happened
in the past. All prophecy is based on this. God tells before hand what will
happen in a future time, and He never makes a mistake. In fact, the test of a
true prophet is that they must be 100% accurate. Deuteronomy 18 declared that
any prophet that erred was to be considered a false prophet and was to be
stoned. The same test applies today, even though the authority to stone them
does not exist in our society. Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, those in many other
cults, and that includes those following Harold Camping of "Family
Radio," are following false prophets. God knows the future with 100%
accuracy, and those claiming to speak on His behalf must also be 100% accurate
in their prophecies, or they prove they are false and not from God.
The Greek word used here for foreknowledge, (proginwvskw
/ proginosko), is the word for experiential knowledge (ginwvskw
/ginosko) with the prefix for "before" attached to it. In some way God
has experiential knowledge of us before we are born. I believe that God exists
outside the time box that we are in. He knows the end from the beginning (Isa.
46:10). He chooses those who will be saved from before the foundations of the
world (Eph. 1:4). Before I existed in time and space, God knew me and choose me
to be one of His adopted sons. I do not understand exactly how God had
foreknowledge of me, but I am comfortable with simply accepting that in some way
He did, because I know that God is beyond my full comprehension. I can accept
His revelation of Himself simply as it is given without forcing Him to fit into
my preferred theology.
Others are not so comfortable and do try to explain such things according to
their theology. This is the source of a great debate about what it means that
God has foreknowledge of us. The context here is salvation, so how God’s
foreknowledge works out in salvation is part of the debate. The concepts of
foreknowledge and predestination are linked together. Predestined (proorivzw
/ prooridzo) means to "foreordain" or "to appoint
In Acts 2:23, the Apostle Peter uses the cognates of these two words to refer
to the same thing. In that passage, Peter is preaching to the crowd that had
gathered after the Holy Spirit had come and the church had been born. In
reference to Jesus, Peter said, "This Man, delivered up by the
predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands
of godless men and put Him to death." In Greek, the phrase
"predetermined plan" and "foreknowlege" are linked in a
grammatical structure (Granville Sharp Rule) which ties them together to refer
to the same thing. In other words, God’s predetermined plan and His
foreknowledge are equated as the same thing by Peter.
In our text, predestination is linked with foreknowledge as being the next
step in the sequential process of God’s work of redemption. Foreknowledge
invariably results in predestination. In this text, predestination refers to God’s
gracious decision which appoints for the elect their goal. Included in that goal
is adoption as sons through Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:5) and obtaining the
inheritance (Eph. 1:11), as well the goal here of being conformed to the image
There are many theological views concerning foreknowledge and predestination.
Some believe that God looks down the corridor of time by His omniscience to see
who would believe, and He then responds by choosing them. This would be sort of
like knowing in advance who will win the tournament, so I choose them for my
team. This can be an intriguing idea, and it certainly gives abilities to God
that no man has. However, it quickly runs into two problems. First, it reduces
foreknowledge into foresight, which is far short of what that word means. And
second, this view is predicated on man’s choice. God looks down the corridors
of time and therefore knows who will choose Him, and so God in His foreknowledge
will then choose them, foreordain them, call them, justify them, and glorify
them just as the rest of the passage states. This is the teaching of Arminian
theologians and is referred to as "conditional predestination" since
it is based on God’s foreknowledge of the way in which the individual will
either freely accept or reject Christ. It is a popular view among many today,
even by those that are not otherwise in the "Arminian" theological
camp. This is what Dave Hunt is espousing in his latest book, which is basically
an attack on John Calvin and Calvinism. I generally recommend books by Dave
Hunt, but I do not recommend this one.
This view has severe theological problems. Paul has already clearly explained
that no man does good or seeks God on his own (Rom. 1:18-3:18). God calls on man
to seek Him and even promises reward for those that do (Isa. 55:6; Acts 17:27;
Heb. 11:6), but man does not and will seek God on his own (Psalm 14:2,3). Man
will not choose God of his own volition because it is against his sinful nature.
The natural man lives "in the lusts of [their] flesh, indulging
the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and [are] by nature children of
wrath" (Eph. 2:3). The minds of the unbelieving are blinded by the god
of this age (2 Cor. 4:4). As 1 Cor. 2:14 puts it, "a natural man does
not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and
he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised."
If God based His choice on man’s choice, there would be no human to choose,
for no man will choose God of his own "free" will. The truth is that
the unsaved do not have a "free" will. Their will is corrupted by
their sinful nature which has bound it to sin. God makes a genuine offer of
salvation to all men throughout the Scriptures, but because man’s nature is
bent toward sin he will not choose righteousness for it is foolishness to him he
and does not understand it. He cannot be saved without God’s merciful
intervention, because he will not choose God.
In addition, this view violates all the passages that make it clear that God
initiates salvation based on His own character of love and grace. For example,
the text in our bulletin today, Titus 3:5-7. "He saved us, not on the
basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy,
by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured
out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that being justified by His
grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." We
can love God only because He loved us first (1 John 4:19).
A current view that is growing is the idea that God lives within time, not
out of time. This view also holds that man has free agency to choose, therefore
God cannot know anything that happens within the realm of that free agency. In
that respect, it is Arminian in its origin. Some are even calling it a neo-Arminianism.
Those espousing this theology say that God is relational, open, suffering and
everywhere active, but as He is moving history along to a future conclusion, the
specifics of that journey are not settled. Some even say that the final outcome
is not settled. Since God does not know the details of what will happen in the
future, He is "open" to responding and changing as time unfolds. This
theology is called "Open Theism."
This view is based in logic and philsophy, not Scripture. One of its
proponents, William Hasker reveals this when he said, [A] main difficulty
about divine timelessness (i.e. God is not bound by time) is that it is
very hard to make clear logical sense of the doctrine. He also said, "It
is logically impossible that God should have foreknowledge of a genuinely free
action." Since his theological system demands that man have a
"genuinely free" will, then he must interpret Scripture in a way which
will make God fit into his logical system. It does not matter what doctrines are
destroyed in the process, as long as it will make logical sense to him. In this
system, the argument is that either God is sovereign in all things and therefore
impersonal and responsible for all things both good and evil (which include
would the existence of evil itself and the actions of evil men such as Hitler,
the holocaust, the destruction of the World Trade Center, etc.), or God does not
control everything and therefore He is not responsible for the evil that beings
of free will do. Of course, in the world of Open Theism, God can also be
imperfect in His actions and evil could possibly triumph.
Open theism denies God’s attributes of timelessness, omniscience,
immutability, sovereignty, as well as His foreknowledge and predestination. The
God of Open Theism is incapable of true prophecy. He is just a very good
God is timeless. He inhabits eternity (Isa. 57:15). His ways are eternal (Hab.
3:6). He saved us and called us according to His own purpose and grace which
was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began (2 Tim.
1:9,10). One day with the Lord is a thousand years, and a thousand years as one
day (2 Peter 3:9). The Lamb of God was "slain from the foundation of the
world" (Rev. 13:8).
God is sovereign in all things both big and little. Deut. 32:39,"See
now that I, I am He, And there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death
and give life. I have wounded, and it is I who heal; And there is no one who can
deliver from My hand." Prov 16:33, The lot is cast into the lap, But
its every decision is from the Lord." Isaiah 45:6b-7, "I am the
Lord, and there is no other, 7 The One forming light and creating darkness,
Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all
God is omniscient and reveals the future with certainty before it happens for
the purpose of declaring Himself to men. Isaiah 46:9,10 "Remember the
former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; [I am] God, and
there is no one like Me, 10 Declaring the end from the beginning And from
ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be
established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure." Jesus said to
His disciples in John 13:19, "I am telling you before it comes to pass,
so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am."
Like Arminianism, a major error of open theism is in its lack of
understanding of the corruption of man’s nature. Because they believe that a
genuine offer by God also demands that man have a free will to choose between
good and evil, they must twist the scriptures to fit their logic. As we have
already seen this morning, man’s nature is so corrupted by sin that he
absolutely will not choose God. He rejects God’s genuine offer of salvation
because he does not understand it and finds it to be foolishness, and no amount
of arguing can convince him otherwise. He will not choose to respond to God’s
call to repent because he is by nature a child of wrath, dead in trespasses and
sin, and walking in the ways of this world, according to the prince of the power
of the air (Eph. 2:1-3). Unless God intervenes to remove the blindness of his
sin and make him alive in Christ, the natural man cannot be saved for he will
always choose to reject salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus
Others believe that God’s foreknowledge is tied to His will and power. In
other words, what God knows, He ordains. He does know things just as information
and then sit by as a spectator. He wills it and has the power to bring it to
pass. God’s knowledge of all things is the presupposition of their being. Or
to state it another way, God in His sovereignty and omnipotence decreed in
eternity past all the details of what will happen in the present and the future,
and time is just the unfolding of that decree. This has strong Biblical support
in all the verses that speak of God’s timelessness, sovereignty, omniscience,
omnipresence, and immutability. This is the teaching of the theological system
However, it must be cautioned that many Calvinists make logical extensions of
this view that are biblically unsound at best and just plainly unbiblical at
worst. For example, while all that exists does so because it has been eternally
in God’s foreknowledge, this cannot be extended to say that God’s
foreknowledge is the cause of all things. God knows what is possible as well as
what is actual. Some have extend God’s sovereignty to mean that God is even
the cause of evil. God knows Satan and sin, but He is not their cause. God is
holy and righteous, and there is no evil in Him (Deut 32:4; Ps. 92:15; 145:17;
Others deny the legitimacy of the universal offers of salvation in the
gospels. Yet, the Bible is full of verses calling men to repent, seek God, and
receive His blessings. These verses are given to "whosoever will."
Verses such as John 3:16; 11:26; Acts 2:21; 10:43; Romans 10:9-13; 1 John 4:15;
5:1 and many others.
There are theological tensions in the Bible. There are things we do not
understand. They do not make logical sense to us. We must always remember both
that we are finite with a limited capacity to understand things, and we do not
have all the information. Divine foreknowledge is the presupposition of all
things including our wills, choices and decisions, yet divine foreknowledge must
not be confused with determinism or fatalism even if we do not understand how it
all works out. God knows man’s decisions, but He is not the cause of them, and
He justly holds man responsible for them. We must learn to be content and rest
in God’s character when we come to things we do not fully understand. As God
said in Isaiah 55:8,9, "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither
are your ways My ways," declares the Lord. 9 "For [as] the heavens are
higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts
than your thoughts."
Purpose. Paul states here in Romans 8:29 that the purpose of God’s
foreknowledge and predestination of the elect is so that they will be "conformed
into the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren."
That is the ultimate goal of the Christian, and it will take place in fulness
when we are in heaven and receive our resurrection bodies. We will then be like
Jesus, for we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2). God’s foreknowledge and
predestination give us confidence in the present that our future hope will be
fulfilled. God will be glorified. What He has done in raising Jesus from the
dead, He will also do for those of us who are joint heirs with Christ.
At present, we are in still the process of becoming like Christ. As we mature
in this present life, we should become greater reflections of Jesus Christ.
Currently, we "lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in
accordance with the lusts of deceit," and being "renewed in the
spirit of [our] mind," we "put on the new self, which in [the
likeness of] God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the
truth" (Eph. 4:22,23). As 2 Cor. 3:18, states it, "we are being
transformed into the same image from glory to glory."
Called (kalevw / kaleo) here in verse 30
refers not the general call of God to the world to repent and partake of the
offer of salvation, but to the effectual call of God that brings a person to
salvation in Jesus Christ. The context here is specific to those who are
Christians, so this is the drawing of the Father spoken about in John 6:44 when
Jesus said, "No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws
him; and I will raise him up on the last day."
Justified (dikaiovw / dikaioo) refers to
God’s judicial declaration of "not guilty" on the person who has
placed their faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ for salvation from
their sins. The righteousness of Jesus is then imputed to them. We have spoken
about justification many times already in our study of Romans.
Glorified (doxavzw / doxadzo) refers to
when we will be receive our inheritance and be changed into the glorified state
we will have in heaven, including having our resurrected bodies. Paul uses the
past tense here in demonstration of the absolute confidence we have that God
will fulfill His promises to us. We can speak of a future event as having
already taken place because God’s sovereignty makes is certain.
Each of these actions of the work of God in our redemption are tied together
in an unbreakable chain. In the sovereignty of God, there is no possibility of a
break in this chain. What starts with foreknowledge will end in glorification.
That is a great comfort to us when we are suffering in this sin fallen world.
God’s promises to us are true. They will be fulfilled even though
circumstances at present may not be pleasant. My hope in God is not a wish, but
a confident assurance of what will happen in the future.
If you do not have that same confidence in God, talk with myself or one of
our church leaders today. We would love to introduce you to Jesus Christ. If you
do have that confidence, then rejoice in it and give God the praise He deserves.
Tell others what God has done for you, so that they too might know what God has
done for them and join in the praise.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s
lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something
you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older
Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times the
words "foreknow/foreknowledge" are mentioned. 2) Discuss with your
parents what God’s work in saving people.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
Can you fully understand God? Why or why not? What three reasons does Paul
give in Romans 8:26-30 for having hope in the midst of suffering? What is the
context of Romans 8:29,30? What is the basis of God’s foreknowledge? What does
the Greek word for "foreknowledge" (proginwvskw / proginosko) mean?
What does "predestined" mean? How are the two linked together? What do
Arminian theologians believe about God’s foreknowledge and predestination? Why
are they in Biblical error? What does "Open Theism" teach regarding
God’s foreknowledge? What are some of their major Biblical errors? What do
Calvinists teach regarding God’s foreknowledge? What is the Biblical support
for this? What Biblical errors do some Calvinists make in extending their
logical conclusions? Can God be the source of evil? Why or why not? Does God
make a legitimate offer of salvation to people? How should we deal with
theological tensions? What is the specific purpose of salvation given in vs. 29?
What does "calle d" refer to in verse 30? "Justified"?
"Glorified"? Why does Paul speak of "glorified" (past tense)
when it is still in the future? Can the chain of God’s actions be broken? Why
or why not?
Sermon Study Sheets
Sermon Notes – 9/1/2002 am
God’s Work in Redemption – Romans 8:29.30
/ proginosko) and Predestined (proorivzw
/ prooridzo) (29)
Theological Tension – Isaiah 55:8,9,
Purpose of Salvation (29)