Romans 8:29
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God. This was a remarkable statement for the Apostle Paul to make, especially when we consider how much he had suffered because of his love to God and his truth. He had been imprisoned, he had been stoned, he had been beaten with stripes; and yet, after all this, he is able to say that "all things work together for good to them that love God." Some might be disposed to doubt such a statement with regard to the experience even of the Christian. Yet many others besides Paul have borne similar testimony. David said, "I have been young, and now am old; yet never have I seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread" (Psalm 37:25). And again, "Before I was afflicted I went astray; but now have I kept thy Word It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes" (Psalm 119:67, 71).

I. THERE IS GOOD IN ALL THE PROVIDENCES OF GOD. Many persons think there is good only in those things that give pleasure or delight to body or mind. They will admit that there is good in health and prosperity, But they find it hard to see what good there can be in sickness, in adversity, in poverty, or in sorrow. The apostle takes a wider view of life's experiences. He holds that "all things work together for good." He could appreciate the joys of life, but he felt that there was a wise purpose and blessing in life's sorrows and trials also. Our human nature is in itself unholy, alienated from God, easily absorbed by the influences of this present world, and easily led away by temptation and sin. What a proof of the ungodliness of man's nature is afforded by the fact that many are as little affected by the most certain and most important religious truths, which they profess to believe in, as if they did not believe them at all! There are no truths more universally admitted than the existence and moral government of God, the certainty of death and of a future state of rewards and punishments. Yet how many do we see around us whose character and conduct afford almost no evidence that they believe in these truths at all! How, then, are men to be roused from their indifference? How are they to be led to think seriously of their own souls and that eternity that awaits them? Some might be disposed to answer - By what we ordinarily call exhibitions of God's love and goodness. But we are having exhibitions of God's love and goodness supplied to us every day in our daily food, in health and strength, and all the other blessings and comforts which we enjoy. Yet these, instead of making men think of eternity, seem to make them think more of this present world. God's goodness, instead of leading them to repentance, hardens their hearts. The discipline and awakening of suffering and trial are needed. These trials, breaking in upon the routine of our daily business and enjoyments, help to withdraw our desires from the things of this perishing world, and to fix them upon a more enduring substance. They remind us that this is not our rest; that we are entirely dependent upon a power that is above us for all our happiness and comforts; and that there is indeed a God that judgeth in the earth. There is nothing more calculated to show a man his own weakness and his dependence upon a higher Power, and to lead him to reflect seriously upon his future prospects, than to find himself, in the midst of important and perhaps pressing duties, suddenly laid aside, stretched upon a bed of sickness, racked, it may be, with pain, and unable to do anything for himself. In such circumstances we must feel that "it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." There are many Christians everywhere who, with feelings of deep humility and gratitude, are ready to acknowledge that they never had any serious thought of eternity, that they never knew the power of the love of Christ, and that they were never led to seek him as their Saviour, until the day of adversity made them consider; until they were stripped of their dearest possessions; until they were warned by the sudden death of some one who was dear to them; or until they themselves were laid upon a bed of sickness, and brought nigh unto the gates of death. "Lo, all these things worketh God oftentimes with men, to bring back his soul from the pit, to be enlightened with the light of the living" (Job 33:29, 30). And through all the Christian life, how many times we have to thank God for the discipline of trial! Our trials have often proved to be our greatest blessings (see also on Romans 5:3-6).

II. WHO ARE THOSE THAT EXPERIENCE THIS GOOD IN ALL GOD'S PROVIDENCES? "All things work together for good to them that love God. It is not all men, therefore, who are entitled to such a happy way of looking at the events of life. There are many in whose case everything that God gives them seems to be turned into evil. Not merely the trials which harden their hearts, but also his blessings which they abuse and are ungrateful for, and the life he gives them, which they misspend. The more they have prospered, the more they have forgotten God. Those things that might be a blessing if rightly used, become their greatest curse. Love to God is the quality that makes all life happy and blessed. Love to God sweetens every bitter cup, and lightens every heavy burden. For if we love him, we must know him, we must trust him. That is the threefold cord that binds the Christian unto God, and that keeps him safe in all the changes and circumstances of life. In order to love God, we must know him and trust him. This knowledge and this trust can only come by the study of God's Word. This love can only come from a heart that has experienced the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. The natural man is enmity against God. Cultivate the love of God if you would have light for the dark places of life, if you would have strength for its hours of weakness, and comfort for its hours of trial and sorrow. Then you will experience that all things work together for good to them that love God." - C.H.I.







For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son.
The "for" bears on the previous verse. All things must turn to the good of them that are called according to God's eternal plan, because, once foreknown, He has determined to bring them to the glorious consummation of perfect likeness to His Son. The decree of predestination is founded on the act of foreknowledge. In what respect did God foreknow them? Obviously not as being one day to exist. For the foreknowledge in that case would apply to all men, and the apostle would not have said "whom He foreknew." Neither is it as future saved and glorified ones that He foreknew them; for this is the object of the decree of predestination of which Paul goes on to speak; and this object cannot at the same time be that of the foreknowledge. There is but one answer: foreknown as sure to fulfil the condition of salvation, viz., faith; so: foreknown as His by faith. The act of knowing, like that of seeing, supposes an object perceived. It is not the act that creates the object, but the object which determines the act. And the same is the case with Divine prevision or foreknowledge: for in the case of God who lives above-time foreseeing is seeing; knowing what shall be is knowing what to Him already is. And therefore it is the believer's faith which, as a future act, but in His sight already existing, which determines His foreknowledge. This faith does not exist because God sees it; He sees it because it will come into being at a given moment, in time. We thus get at the thought of the apostle: whom God knew beforehand as certain to believe, whose faith He beheld eternally, He designated, predestinated, as the objects of a grand decree, to wit, that He will not abandon them till He has brought them to the perfect likeness of His own Son. Will in God is neither arbitrary nor blind; it is based on a principle of light, on knowledge. In relation to the man whose faith God foresees, He decrees salvation and glory. The predestination of which Paul speaks is not a predestination to faith, but a predestination to glory, founded on the prevision of faith. Faith is in a sense the work of God; but it contains a factor, in virtue of which it reacts on God, as an object reacts on the mind which takes cognizance of it; this is the free adherence of man to the solicitation of God. Here is the element which distinguishes the act of foreknowledge from that of predestination, and because of which the former logically precedes the latter.

(Prof. Godet.)

There is a threefold conformity which a believer is said to have to Christ — of holiness, of suffering, of glory. First, of holiness and sanctification. Every true child of God he is predestinated to be conformed to the image of Christ, that is, to be holy as He was holy. And this again to a double purpose. First, in affection and disposition, to be carried by the same spirit. "Let the same mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5; Romans 8:9). Again, secondly, in life and conversation; we must be like to Him in this also (1 John 2:6). When we say that we are to be like Christ, and to do that which He did, this is rightly to be understood by us, and in that sense wherein it is spoken; namely, as to those kind of actions alone which are imitable by us, and which it lies in our way to follow, and to conform unto, and to take Him for our ensample. There are three sorts of actions of Christ's which are mentioned in Scripture. First, His work of mediation. Secondly, His working of miracles. And thirdly, His works of obedience, and conformity to the law of God in all those moral actions which came from Him. The two former of these they are wholly beyond our imitation. God will Himself one day make a serious search and inquiry here into. He will ask concerning every man whose image and superscription he hath upon him, whether the image of Christ, or the image of Satan. And according as it is in this respect with him, so shall be also his future condition. Men may possibly sometimes herein deceive others, and oftentimes do so. While it is said here, that we are predestinated to be conformed to the image of Christ; and that this in one sense is meant of holiness; then we see here what I formerly hinted, that our sanctification is a special fruit and effect of our election, and that which the Lord does mainly and chiefly intend to us in His choosing of us. The second conformity, in which believers stand to Christ, is a conformity of suffering and of affliction. This was another image of His whereby He was made known to the world. And this in all the particular explications of it; as, first, in the cause of suffering, we are conformable in this, for as Christ suffered for righteousness sake (1 Peter 2:21, 22). Secondly, as in the cause of suffering, so also in the kind of suffering, there is a conformity to Christ's image in this also. Kind for kind, reproach, disgrace, hatred, outward violence, and death itself in the worst circumstances of it. Thirdly, in the manner of suffering. There is in Christians, and so ought to be likewise a conformity to Christ in this also. To suffer with the same spirit as we find Him to have done. The consideration of this point may be thus far useful to us. First, as it may serve to inform us of the state and condition of a Christian what it is. Therefore secondly, this teaches us all to prepare and to provide for suffering. Thirdly, we have hence also a ground of patience and comfort in afflictions, which do at any time fall upon us, that they are not such things as do come to us by chance, but by special order and dispensation from God. The third and last, is a conformity in glory. This is another kind of correspondency which the Scripture does sometimes intimate and declare unto us, that we shall be changed into the same image with Christ from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18). "And as we have born the image of the earthly, so we shall also bear the image of the heavenly" (1 Corinthians 15:49). It is said in John 17:22, "The glory which Thou hast given Me, I have given them." This is grounded, first of all upon the forementioned union which believers have with Christ; as from thence they conform to Him in His sufferings, so also in His glory. Secondly, we have the praise of Christ to this purpose, "Ye which have been with Me in My temptations, ye shall be with Me in My kingdom" (Luke 22:30). Thirdly, we have for this also the prayer of Christ (John 17:24). As the promise of Christ is most infallible, so the prayer of Christ is most effectual; and as Christ is sure to perform whatever He hath made tender of to us, so He is sure also to obtain whatever He hath requested for us. God the Father will hear His Son in all His petitions; "I know," says He, "that Thou hearest Me always" (John 11:42). And so in this petition especially, amongst and above all the rest. The use of this point to ourselves comes to this — First, as matter of comfort and satisfaction to us in all those troubles and afflictions which do at any time befall us, and our conformity to Christ in suffering. Secondly, this may serve also to put a lustre and splendour upon the saints and servants of God in the midst of all those disparagements and contempts which are cast upon them. Thirdly, we should also hence labour to be fitted for this glorious condition of conformity to Christ in glory. The third and last is the limitation of this conformity here mentioned, and that is in these words, "That He might be the first-born among many brethren." First, to take notice of their relation; the saints, and such as are true Christians, they are all of them brethren. First, brethren to Christ; they are His brethren, thus in Hebrews 2:11, 12. First, as partaking of the same nature. Secondly, as partaking of the same Father. Thirdly, as partaking of the same Spirit, etc. Secondly, they are brethren also, as being so one to another (1 Thessalonians 5:26, 27; 1 John 3:16). This they are said to be upon a various account. First, as of the same profession and of the same heavenly calling. Secondly, of the same family and household; the family of heaven, the household of faith. Thirdly, having the same inheritance allotted unto them. The third and last particular is their order; to wit, in reference to Christ, and that is, they are younger brethren," that He might be the first-born amongst them; and herein especially does consist the limitation of the saints for their conformity to Christ's image. It is still with this reservation, that He is the chief and principal. Christ He is the first-born amongst many brethren, take notice of that. Christ is the first-born; that is, the Chief. First, in point of holiness; He is the first-born in this explication, and that in a twofold respect. First, in regard of capacity, as He hath a greater measure of holiness in Himself than any of His brethren. Secondly, in regard of conveyance, as He is the spring and fountain, and deriver of holiness unto them. Secondly, in point of suffering. It holds there also that Christ hath the precedency and priority afore any other besides. This seems in a special manner to be here intended. That the sufferings of Christ, they were greater than all the sufferings of any of the saints. First, they were greater subjective, in regard of the eminency of the person that did undergo them, as being no other than the Son of God Himself, the Lord of glory. Secondly, those sufferings of Christ, they were greater, also extensive, in regard of things which He suffered in, as to all kinds and particulars; not only in His body, in all the parts and members thereof, but also in His soul, as to all the powers and faculties thereof. Thirdly, greater intensive in regard of the exquisiteness of the pains and torments themselves which He suffered; it is said, "It pleased the Lord to bruise Him (Isaiah 53:10). The third and last is in point of glory; Christ has the pre-eminence here likewise. We are predestinated to be conformed to the image of the Son of God in this particular amongst the rest; but yet still so as we must give Him leave to go before us, and to have the precedency of us; upon which account He is called not only the Author, but also the Captain of their salvation (Hebrews 2:10). First, Christ as the Head of the Church hath the pre-eminence of dignity and power, and of all here in this life. The first-born in ancient time had the precedency in this particular. The excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power, as it is in Genesis 49:3. They were princes and priests in their families. Secondly, for the life to come; Christ He hath the pre-eminence of the saints here also, being the great Heir of eternal glory. It is true they are made conformable to His image in glory; but it is to the truth of His image, not to the transcendency; they are partakers with Him of the same glory in kind, but not of the same glory in degree. Therefore accordingly it should teach us to give all honour and glory unto Him, as standing in this relation to us, and we to Him, as members under this Head, as subjects under this Lord, as younger brethren under this First-born.

(Thomas Horton, D.D.)

It is a sad circumstance that a large number of professing Christians completely overlook that in which our salvation chiefly consists. Those of whom we speak say, "To be forgiven is to be saved — to be justified is to be saved." But to be forgiven is only a part of salvation, to be justified is only a part of salvation. God teaches us that redemption consists, not merely in being accounted righteous, but in being made righteous. We are told by the Apostle Paul that Christians are predestinated to be conformed to the image of God's Son. God's provision for renewing man contemplates likeness to Christ. This provision consists of the atonement and the ministrations of the Holy Ghost. Christian truth has its centre and substance in Christ; and the Holy Ghost in His revelations to us, reveal chiefly Christ. Such contact must produce correspondence and likeness. No nobler pattern could be present to God. Look, for a moment, simply at the human nature of Christ. There, in that human nature, all is goodness. We will carry these remarks a little further, and say that conformity to a less perfect pattern would not exhaust those capacities of the human soul which God gave to that soul when He created it, or satisfy the thirsts awakened in the human spirit, when that spirit is reconciled to God. The heart of man is capable of being made a complete likeness of God. Oh, how you sin against yourselves when you degrade yourselves — when you act as though you were sent into this world simply to eat, and drink, and put on raiment! We remark, further, that all under the Christian dispensation, who seek renewal into God's image, make Christ their Example. Now, in this real human life Christ sets us an example. He hereby shows what humanity in close connection with God can be. The end and tendency of all Divine dispensations, since the Fall, have been to fix the attention of mankind on Christ. Now, while the thoughts of renewed men are frequently occupied with their Saviour, their hearts are warm towards Him. Cold metal will not take the mould; you may try to drive it into the mould, but you cannot; or, if you get it into the mould by powerful hammers, it will not take the form of the mould even then; it will come out as an unshapen lump; but metal liquified will run into any shape. Just so the soul of man in contact with Christ. When that soul is fused by the power of love, it immediately takes the likeness of the Saviour. If we could only raise our eyes above the level of the Church, and fix them upon the Saviour, there would be an improvement in our character, and in our style of life immediately. The image becomes an essential part of the individual. It is in the core of his nature. It is a substantial likeness wrought into the material of the inner self. Now let us, for a moment, dwell on the fact that this likeness is visible. God, of course, sees it. The angels see it — renewed men see it, the ungodly sometimes see it. All may see it. Not if you take your microscope and magnify a mote until it seem a beam, and a beam so large that nought beside is visible! — you will not see it then. If you apply your microscope to some one of your faults, you will not then see the likeness of Christ. You must look at yourselves as a whole, if you would judge of that which is being done for you. Or, to use another illustration, you will not see the likeness of Christ, if you take your dissecting knife, and, cutting out some plague spot of the flesh, examine it as though that dull, foul lump were the whole body — of course, you will not see the Divine workmanship in your character then, Nor will you be able to see it if you look for the stature and strength of manhood, where you can expect to find only the form and the feebleness of infancy? But if you know what to look for, where to look for it, and when, then the image of God, in the regenerated man, may be seen by you; seen, if you be regenerated, in your own heart, and seen in others, if they too be born again. Let me remind you that the delineation of God's image is progressive. "We all with open face, beholding, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." They are born again to possess this image, and as they grow up into it, it expands and becomes perfected.

(S. Martin.)

The apostle is not here describing a chain of causes and effects, but simply showing the method in which God works; the order in which the several branches of salvation constantly follow each other. This will be clear if we survey the work of God in the salvation of men —

I. FORWARD.

1. God foreknew all who would believe — i.e., speaking after the manner of men, for properly there is neither fore or after knowledge in God. All time, or rather all eternity, is present to Him at once. But we must not think that things are because He knows them, any more than the sun shines because I see it. Men are as free in believing or not believing as if God did not know it at all.

2. Whom God foreknew He "predestinated," etc. — i.e. God decrees from everlasting that all who believe in the Son of His love shall be conformed to His image. Accordingly all who believe in Christ receive "the end of their faith, the salvation of their souls," and this in virtue of the unchangeable decree, "He that believeth shall be saved," etc.

3. Whom He predestinated He also called — outwardly by His Word, inwardly by His Spirit.

4. Whom He called He justified — i.e., here, made just. He executed the decree, "conforming them to the image of His Son," or sanctified them.

5. Whom He justified He glorified. "Having made them meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints," He "gives them the kingdom prepared for them."

II. BACKWARD.

1. Take your stand with "the multitude which no man can number," and you will find none who was not sanctified before he was glorified.

2. Take a view of the sanctified on earth and you will find all were first called.

3. Who are they that are thus called but those whom God had predestinated to be conformed to the image of Christ, "for God calls none, but according to the counsel of His will."

4. All God predestinated He foreknew. He saw them as believers, and as such predestinated them to salvation according to the eternal decree. "He that believeth shall be saved." Conclusion: God sees and knows from everlasting to everlasting through one eternal now. Yet in condescension to our weakness He speaks after the manner of men of His purpose, counsel, plan, foreknowledge.

(John Wesley, M.A.)

I. IN RELATION TO MAN. What is the design of God in predestination? "Conformity to the image of His Son." To make a little Jesus Christ of a man — that is what God does. What God predestines to do for man is what man, left to himself, does not and never will wish for. No unconverted man, no lost soul, no devil wishes to be like Christ. To wish to be good is itself a kind of goodness, and to wish to be like Jesus Christ is in some degree to resemble Him. Observe —

1. There is nothing here about a predestination of men to eternal misery. Our text speaks of nothing but good for man.

2. Predestination has reference to character rather than condition. It is not a plan by which men are to be made happy hereafter irrespectively of their inward nature and disposition.

3. The predestination of God includes all the laws, processes, means, and instruments by which the result is secured, as adapted to the constitution of the mind, the will, and the affections, to be renewed and sanctified. In His providential dealings the plan of God includes not only the end, but the means. The man who only takes a part of God's plan might sit down in the corner of the field, and there reason, "If a crop of corn is to grow here, it will grow; therefore I will lie down and leave the matter to God." But the man who has a firmer faith in predestination will say, "If a crop of corn is to grow here, I must labour because labour is comprehended in God's scheme." Therefore the man who contents himself with saying, "If I am to be saved I shall be saved," is only half a believer in predestination. The thorough believer in it will "give all diligence to make his calling and election sure, and work out his own salvation, because it is God that worketh in him."

4. The only evidence of personal predestination is in the attainment of the end proclaimed — Conformity to Christ. You may hold the doctrine of election and yet be none of the elect. You may be a drunkard, etc., and that is no part of God's purpose. You may even reject the doctrine, and yet be yourself an exemplification of it — God's workmanship.

II. IN RELATION TO GOD.

1. It is God who works salvation in those who are saved. It is not that we have nothing to do and are to abandon ourselves to the current of events, but that the first and efficient Author of our salvation is God.

2. What God works in time is the effect of His eternal purpose. As the act of election is the act of God, so it is not done without forethought and design. The whole universe is formed, and all its parts organised after the purpose of God, planned by infinite wisdom and regulated by infinite power. Now, if this be so in regard to the fall of a sparrow, the numbering of the hairs of our head, etc., how much more in the building of the spiritual kingdom and temple of God! If the framework of the scaffold has been so wisely formed, how much more the palace to which it is subordinate! What it was right for Him to do, it was right for Him to purpose to do. Conclusion: The Divine predestination —

1. Wears towards men only an aspect of love. Its sole object is to make men like Christ.

2. Respects the accomplishment of a work of grace, which without would never be accomplished at all.

3. The only satisfactory mark of our interest in it is our conformity to Christ.

4. In the experience of salvation let this doctrine have its proper place. There is predestination in the entire process. But the use of means comes before attainment of the end. The first appeal of God to us is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us begin with that. Leave out for the present the perplexing question, "Am I one of the elect?" Our election must manifest itself by our growing conformity to Christ. The purpose of God is to be read in the work of God. And if this evidence appear, let it humble and awaken gratitude in you.

(P. Strutt.)

is to mark out beforehand especially in one's mind. Only in Ephesians 1:5, 11; Acts 4:28; 1 Corinthians 2:7. It is more definite than "purpose." A parent who before his child is old enough for a trade, chooses a trade for him, predestines the boy. He marks out beforehand a path in which he designs him to go. So God from eternity resolved that believers should be made like His Son. Foreordination is simply a purpose, and by no means implies the inevitable accomplishment of the purpose. The boy marked out for one trade may enter another. But it might be thought that what God foreordained must in every case be realised. But God has thought fit that the accomplishment of His own purposes shall depend upon man's faith. Hence Paul solemnly warns his readers that, unless they continue in faith, they will, although foreordained to glory, be cut off (Romans 11:21, 22). So in Jeremiah 18:7-12, God expressly declares that the accomplishment of His purpose of blessing to Israel depends upon Israel's conduct. The doctrine of predestination is thus consistent with the teaching that salvation depends upon each man's own faith (Romans 9:32; Romans 11:22f); with the teaching that God is using means to lead all men to repentance (Romans 2:4); and with the universality of the purpose of redemption (Romans 5:18).

(Prof. Beet.)

I. OUR CONFORMITY TO CHRIST IS THE SACRED OBJECT OF PREDESTINATION. We are to be conformed to Him —

1. As to nature. It is not possible for us to be Divine, yet we are made "partakers of the Divine nature." We cannot be precisely as God is, yet as we have borne the image of the earthy we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. The new birth as surely stamps us with the image of Christ as our first birth impressed us with a resemblance to the fathers of our flesh.

2. As to relationship. Our Lord is the Son of God; and truly now are we the sons of God. As Christ's Sonship was attested at His baptism by the voice from heaven and the Holy Ghost, so the voice of God in the Word has testified to us our Heavenly Father's love; and the Holy Spirit has borne witness with our spirits that we are the children of God.

3. In our actions. As a Son Christ served His Father, and you could see the nature of God in His sympathy with and exact imitation of God; and so we are to speak the truth, for God is true; love, for God is love. Moreover, Christ wrought miracles of mercy towards men, which proved Him to be the Son of God. And our Lord has told us that greater works than His own shall we do.

4. In our experience.(1) Of suffering. "Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered." And if we "be without chastisement then are we bastards, and not sons."(2) In relation to men. "He came unto His own, and His own received Him not," and so we have to "go forth unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach."(3) With regard to Satan. You know how thrice he assailed Him with those temptations which are most likely to be attractive to poor humanity, but Jesus overcame them all. We are predestinated to he conformed to Christ in that respect.(4) As to all evil, our Lord's entire life was one perpetual battle. And we are to be holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners.

5. As to character. He was consecrated to God; so are we to be. He went about His Father's business; so should we ever be occupied. Towards man He was all love; it becomes us to be the same.

6. As to our inheritance, for He is heir of all things, and what less are we heirs of, since all things are ours?

II. PREDESTINATION IS THE IMPELLING FORCE TOWARDS THIS CONFORMITY.

1. It is the will of God that conforms us to Christ's image rather than our own will. It is our will now, but it was God's will when it was not our will, and it only became according to our will when God made us willing in the day of its power.

2. It is rather God's work than our work. We are to work with God in the matter of our becoming like to Christ. We are not to be passive like wood or marble; we are to be prayerful, watchful, fervent, etc., but still the work is God's.

3. Therefore all the glory must be unto God and not to us. It is a great honour to any man to be like Christ; and we must lay all our honours at His dear feet, who hath, according to His abundant mercy, predestinated us to be conformed to the image of His Son.

III. THE ULTIMATE END OF ALL THIS IS CHRIST. "That He might be the first-born."

1. God predestinates us to be like Jesus that He might be the first of a new order of beings, nearer to God than any other. There is no kinship between Jesus and angels.

2. The object of grace is that there may be some in heaven with whom Christ can hold brotherly converse. "Many brethren" — not that He might be the firstborn among many, but among "many brethren," who should be like Himself. No doubt, however, the text means that these will for ever love and honour Christ Himself. We love Jesus now, and how will we, when we get to heaven, love and adore Him as our dear Elder Brother with whom we shall be on terms of the closest familiarity and most reverent obedience.

3. God was so well pleased with His Son, and saw such beauties in Him, that He determined to multiply His image. The face of Jesus is more lovely to God than all the worlds; therefore doth the Father will to have His Son's beauty reflected in ten thousand mirrors in saints made like to Him. Conclusion: Keep your model before you. You see what you are predestinated to be; aim at it every day. Above all, commune much with Christ. Communion is the fountain of conformity. They said of Achilles, that when he was a child they fed him upon lion's marrow, and so made him brave; and of Nero, that he was suckled by a woman of a ferocious nature. If we take our nutriment from the world, we shall be worldly; but, if we live upon Christ and dwell in Him, our conformity with Him shall be accomplished, and we shall be recognised as brethren of that blessed family of which Jesus Christ is the firstborn.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Biblical Museum.
I. THE NATURE OF THIS CONFORMITY with respect to —

1. His sonship.

2. His moral character.

3. His offices.

4. His suffering and humiliation.

5. His glory.

II. THE ACT OF GOD IN PURSUANCE OF THAT END. Predestination is an act agreeable —

1. To God's nature.

2. To the analogy of nature.

3. To the conduct of His providence in Christ.Conclusion: Predestination —

1. Affords no comfort to those who are not conformed to Christ.

2. Does not destroy the voluntary character of human actions, nor involve force or compulsion.

(Biblical Museum.)

I. WHEREIN THIS CONFORMITY CONSISTS.

1. In afflictions (Isaiah 53:3). This must be expected by us (John 15:20). He calls us to no harder lot than He Himself endured.

2. In righteousness and holiness (Philippians 2:5; Matthew 11:29).

(1)This is the end of conformity to Him in our afflictions (Hebrews 12:10).

(2)This is the way to conformity to Him in glory (2 Corinthians 3:18).

(3)This is a sign of our communion with Christ (1 John 2:6).

(4)This will give us boldness in the judgment (1 John 4:17).

3. In felicity and glory. Conformity to Christ showeth us not only what we should do, but what we may expect. As to —

(1)The body (Philippians 3:21).

(2)The soul (1 Corinthians 15:4; 1 John 3:2; Psalm 17:15).

II. WHY THIS IS THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE ELECT AND OTHERS.

1. This suiteth with God's design of recovering man out of his lapsed estate, by setting up a pattern of holiness and happiness in our nature.(1) Our primitive glory was God's image (Genesis 1:26).(2) When this glory was lost none was fit to restore it but the Son of God made man; for thereby the glory of the Father was again visible in Him in our nature (Colossians 1:18; Hebrews 1:3). Therefore all the heirs of promise are predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son, or to God appearing in their nature.

2. Because they are all called after Christ's name — Christians. Now all that are called after Christ's name should be framed after His image, otherwise they will be called Christians to the disgrace of Christ. Surely, then, we ought to live as if another Christ were come into the world (2 Timothy 2:19).

3. Because all that are elected by God and redeemed by Christ are sealed by the Spirit (Ephesians 1:15; Ephesians 4:30; 2 Corinthians 1:22). What is this but the image of Christ impressed upon the soul by His Spirit?

4. Because Christ was an example. It is a great advantage not only to have a rule, but a pattern, because man is so prone to imitate.(1) By this example our pattern is the more complete. There are some graces wherein we cannot be said to resemble God, as in humility, patience, obedience. But in these we have pattern from Christ (Matthew 11:29; Hebrews 5:8; 1 Peter 1:21).(2) It shows that a holy life is possible to those who are renewed by grace.(3) It shows what will be the issue and success of a life spent in patience and holiness (1 Peter 1:21). Conclusion: The use is —

1. For information.(1) What little hopes they have to get to heaven who are not like Christ.

(a)In holiness.

(b)In patience and courage under sufferings.(2) How we should know whether we have the true holiness, viz., when we are such as Christ was in the world. Some content themselves that they are not as other men (Luke 18:11). It is a sorry plea, when we have nothing to bear up our confidence but the badness of others. Others look no higher than the people who are in reputation for goodness among whom they live; whereas we are to be "holy as He is holy" (1 Peter 1:15; 1 John 3:3).

2. For direction. Now for directions.(1) The foundation is laid in the new birth. The Son of God was conceived by the operation of the Holy Ghost; so are we born of water and the Spirit.(2) When we are dedicated to God, the Holy Ghost is the same to Christians that He was to Christ, a guide and comforter.(3) There is a conformity of life necessary, that we be such as Christ was —

(a)To God, seeking His glory (John 8:50); pleasing God (ver. 29); obeying His will (John 6:38); delighting in converse with Him.

(b)To man, subject to His natural parents (Luke 2:51); to rulers (Matthew 17:27); good to all (Acts 10:38); humble to inferiors (John 13:3, 4).(4) Eye your pattern much (Hebrews 12:2). Examine what proportion there is between the copy and the transcript.(5) Shame yourselves for coming short (Hebrews 3:12-14).(6) Use the means of communion with Him, especially the Lord's Supper.

(T. Manton, D.D.)

Essex Congregational Remembrancer.
I. WHAT IS THAT IMAGE OF HIS SON TO WHICH GOD DESIGNS HIS PEOPLE SHALL BE CONFORMED? His moral image; it being impossible that any creature, however exalted, can ever possess His natural perfections. "God created man in His own image." But, alas! by his fall he lost the image of his Maker. But it is the purpose of God to restore His people to their original rectitude; and in the character of the man Christ Jesus we behold the perfect pattern after which they shall be formed — viz., love to God, benevolence toward man, holiness, etc. Perfect conformity, of course, is not attainable in this world. It is the object of every good man's pursuit, but none reach it till they see the Saviour as He is. There are two things especially which the Holy Spirit does in those who are conformed to the likeness of Christ.

1. He enlightens the understanding to discern the beauties and excellences of the Saviour. Ancient philosophers used to say that if virtue was embodied every one would be in love with her. But every excellence adorned the character of our Lord, yet He was despised and rejected of men. But under the Spirit's illumination we shall readily admit that " He is fairer than the children of men," "chief among ten thousand and altogether lovely."

2. He produces love to those excellences in Christ, which He discovers to the mind. And "beholding the glory of Christ, we are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord."

II. BY WHAT MEANS IS CONFORMITY TO CHRIST PROMOTED?

1. The Scriptures, which portray Christ's image.

2. Gospel ordinances, such as preaching and the Lord's Supper, and private duties, such as self-examination, prayer, etc.

3. The constant influences of the Holy Spirit.

4. Sanctified afflictions.

III. WHAT ENDS HAS GOD IN VIEW IN EFFECTING THIS TRANSFORMATION?

1. To manifest the power and riches of His grace.

2. The honour of Christ. The purchase of His blood shall be presented before the throne, "not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing."

3. The happiness of the saved.

(Essex Congregational Remembrancer.)

By the "Image of Christ," is here meant the moral character of Christ. And what a character was that! Goethe says, "I esteem the four Gospels to be thoroughly genuine, for there shines forth from them the reflected splendour of a sublimity proceeding from the person of Christ, and of as Divine a kind as was ever manifest upon earth!" Rousseau confesses, "If the life and death of Socrates are those of a sage, the life and death of Jesus are those of a God." And, to quote only the words of J. S. Mill, "Whatever else may be taken from us by rational criticism, Christ is still left a unique figure, not more unlike all His precursors than all His followers: a Divine person, a standard of excellence and a model for imitation; available even to the absolute unbeliever, and can never be lost to humanity." In the entire conformity to the character of Christ, there is —

I. THE COMPLETE SATISFACTION OF THE HUMAN SOUL. In all moral existences there is an ideal character. The cause of moral misery is discordance with this ideal. The character of Christ is this ideal. Souls can conceive and desire nothing higher. Only as men approximate to it they grow in power, rise in dignity, and abound in satisfaction.

II. HARMONY WITH THE HUMAN RACE. The human race is sadly divided; it is severed into numerous contending sections. The human house is divided against itself and cannot stand. The human body has not only its limbs amputated, but they are rattling one against the other, and all against itself. It writhes with anguish. A re-union is essential to its health, and peace, and vigour. But what can unite men together? Universal conformity to rituals or doctrines? Such conformity would be no union. Universal conformity to the image of Christ would unite the race. Let all men be Christ-like, and all men will love one another. When all men become Christ-like, and not before then, will all contentions cease, all men embrace each other as brethren and be "gathered together" in Christ as members to one body directed by one will. If you would divide men, preach doctrines, and policies, and ceremonies. If you would unite them, preach Christ.

III. THE GRAND PURPOSE OF THE GOSPEL. What is this? To give men theological knowledge and material civilisation? It does this, but does something infinitely grander: it gives men the character of Christ. It is to create us anew in Christ Jesus in good works, and to inspire us with the spirit of Christ, without which we are none of His. Where Christ's gospel does not do this, it does nothing. The testing question is — Are we like Christ?

IV. THE SUPREME DUTY OF LIFE. This, the grandest, is also the most practical.

1. We are made by imitation.

2. Christ is the most imitable of all examples — the most —

(1)Admirable;

(2)Transparent;

(3)Unchanging;

(4)Intimate. He is always with us.

(D. Thomas, D.D.)

There is no surer sign of littleness than slavish imitation; yet this is not the case when the models are perfect. No artist is accused of a want of originality because he studies Greek sculpture or the works of Michael Angelo or of Raphael. It is even so with the imitation of Christ. To imitate other men is weakness; to copy Christ is strength. He who should imitate Him the most nearly, would be the most original man upon earth. If I should exhort you to imitate any one else, I should have a difficult task with sensible men. There is not a single biography about which you could say, "I will re-live this man's life precisely as he lived." There is but one model which a man can accept as his copy in every jot and tittle.

I. IN WHAT SENSE IS A BELIEVER TO BE CONFORMED TO THE IMAGE OF CHRIST?

1. Negatively.(1) Not as a penny bears the superscription of the Queen. There is something more required of us than having in some dark corner the name of Jesus tattooed into the skin of our profession.(2) Nor is a cold morality conformity to the image of Christ. A statue may present the very image of a statesman or warrior, but it is dumb, and blind, and motionless. We are not to be mere dead pictures of Christ; we are to be like Him as living men.(3) Nor is it enough to act publicly as Christ would have acted. Some are ever asking, "Would Christ have done this" or "that?" And then they answer it according to their own fancies. They see some Christian man who is not bound by the "touch not, taste not, handle not," of the old Mosaic spirit, and they cry over him, "Would Christ have done such a thing?" If he laughs or keeps a carriage, "Ah," they say, "did Christ ever do so?" And so they think that by putting on a face that is more marred than that of any man, they shall become the very image of Christ Jesus. You might put on a garment without seam, put sandals on your feet, and you might even ride through the streets of Jerusalem upon "a colt the foal of an ass"; but this imitation is not to be in mere externals.

2. Positively. We are to be conformed to the image of Christ.(1) In character.

(a)In humility: "though He was rich, yet for our sakes became poor."

(b)In diligence: in the Father's business.

(c)In love.

(d)In devotion and prayerfulness.But who can describe the whole? We can but say that whereas one man is admirable for his faith, another for his patience, another for his courage, and another for his affection, He is altogether lovely!(2) In suffering. If we are ever conformed to Christ, we must bear His cross.(3) In glory. If we be cross bearers we shall be crown wearers.

II. WHY SHOULD WE BE TRANSFORMED AS UNTO THE IMAGE OF CHRIST? Well may we desire to bear the image of Christ, because —

1. It is that which we lost in Eden. If Eden were a sorrowful loss, and if it be desirable to obtain its paradise again, surely the image of God must be desirable first and foremost of all.

2. It is the ultimate end of God's decree. I do not read that the saints are predestinated to paradise, but to be conformed to the image of His dear Son, that He may be the first-born among many brethren.

3. It is the Spirit's great work in us. When we are regenerated, the new man is put into us; and the new man is renewed in the image of Christ Jesus. The moment that a sinner believes, there is put into him the first germ of a perfect Christ; it needs but that it should be nourished by the Spirit, and it will grow into the perfect stature of a man in Christ.

4. It is our highest glory on earth, and our crowning privilege above. What more glorious for a man than to be like Christ?

III. IS IT POSSIBLE? "I have tried," says one, "to make myself like Christ, and I cannot." Indeed, thou canst not. This is art which excels all art. Why, the most wondrous painters, who have never failed before, always fail in the portrait of Christ. They cannot paint the chief among ten thousand, the altogether lovely. Orators, before whose eloquence men have been swayed as the waves are tossed by the wind, have confessed their inability to reach the excellences of Christ. Divinest poets have been compelled to lay down their harps, and relinquish all hope ever to sing the song of songs concerning this fairest Solomon. And must it not be a vastly harder task for a man to be made like Christ? Indeed, if this were our work, it were impracticable, and we might dissuade you from the task. But it is not your work, it is God's work. It was God who predestined us to be conformed to the image of His Son; and God who made the decree will fulfil it Himself. But wherein lies the hardness of our being made like Christ? It lies —

1. In the material to be worked upon. "Oh," saith one, "there is never a possibility of making an image of Christ out of me. I am but a rough hewn stone of the quarry; friable, unworkable; the chisel will only blunt its edge upon me." But what matters the material when you know the great artificer? To Him all things are possible.

2. In the world we live in. "How can I be like Christ?" saith another. "If you would build a monastery, and let us all live as Christian brethren together, it might be possible; but I have to mix with men that blaspheme; and my business is so trying to the temper. And then our trade has so many temptations in it. We get one touch, as it were, put into the picture on a Sunday, and we think we shall be like Christ one day; but the devil puts six black touches in during the week, and spoils the whole; it is not possible we should ever be like Christ." But God says it shall be done. Of course Satan will do his best to stay God's decrees; but what shall become of anything that stands in the way of God's decree?

3. In the perfection of the image. "If it were to be like David, Josiah, or some of the ancient saints, I might think it possible; but to be like Christ, who is without spot or blemish, I cannot hope it. It were presumption for such a fallen worm as I, to hope to be like Christ." And did you know it, that while you were thus speaking, you were really getting the thing you thought to be impossible? When you bowed before that image overawed, do you know it was because you began to be made like it? When I come to love the image of Christ, it is because I have some measure of likeness to it. And if you as believers will look much at Christ, you will grow like Him.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

The Christian life is the only life that will ever be completed. Apart from Christ the life of man is a broken pillar, the race of men an unfinished pyramid. One by one in sight of eternity all human ideals fall short, one by one before the open grave all human hopes dissolve. The Laureate sees a moment's light in Nature's jealousy for the Type; but that, too, vanishes.

"So careful of the type," but no

From scarified cliff and quarried stone

She cries, "A thousand types are gone;

I care for nothing, all shall go."All shall go? No; one Type remains. "Whom He did foreknow He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son." And "when Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory."

(H. Drummond.)

A celebrated philosopher of antiquity, who was nearly contemporary with Christ, but who could have known nothing of what was going on in Judaea, and who, alas! did not always "reck his own rede " — wrote thus to a younger friend, as a precept for a worthy life: "Some good man must be singled out and kept ever before our eyes, that we may live as if he were looking on, and do everything as if he could see it." Let us borrow the spirit, if not the exact letter, of that precept, and address it to our young men. Keep ever in your mind and before your mind's eye the loftiest standard of character. You have it, we need not say, supremely and unapproachably, in Him who spake as never young man spake, and lived as never man lived, and who died for the sins of the world. That character stands apart and alone.

It has been said by some one, suppose the sun in the heavens, which enlightens, warms, and fructifies everything, were a rational being that could see everything within the reach of its beams, it would then behold its own image in every sea, in every river, in every lake, and in every brook — nay, it would even see itself reflected on the loftiest mountains of ice; and would it not, in the abundance of its joy at such glorious radiance, forgetting itself, embrace all these oceans, seas, and rivers, nay, the very glaciers, in its arms, and delight over them? Thus Jesus Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, beholds His image and Divine work in every renewed soul as in a polished mirror.

(J. Krummacher.)

Upon the occasion of Voltaire's visit to England in the last century he became acquainted with the saintly life and devoted labours of Fletcher of Madeley, of whom he remarked, "This is the true likeness and character of Jesus Christ."

A Christian friend calling upon a poor old woman in Scotland expressed sorrow at seeing her suffer so much pain. "Oh," said Jeanie, "its just an answer to prayer. Ye see, I've long prayed to be conformed to the image of Christ; and, since this is the means, I've naething to do wi' the choosin' o' them. That's the end I seek. It is ours to aim at meetness for His presence, and to leave it to His wisdom to take His ain way wi' us. I would rather suffer than sin any day."

I was in the photographer's dark little closet. He had in his hand the little plate of glass that in the camera had been exposed to the light and had caught upon its sensitive surface an image. But there was no appearance of an image. There was nothing but a cloudy surface. "If there's an image there?" said the photographer, half inquiringly. But it must be "developed," he told me. He poured upon a glass the chemical solution, and in a moment what a weird change! Out of the cloud I saw the outlines of a face stealing, breaking its way through all obscuring shadows, growing clearer and clearer, till in a moment the artist took the plate to a window, and there it was most plainly, the picture of a face. Developing the image! I have often thought of it in its spiritual significance. God's work inhuman souls will vary. In all His children there is the same positive fact of the receiving of Christ's image upon the sensitive surface of their hearts. In some that likeness comes at once to the front of a man's life. You see it in the very look. You hear it in the voice. You almost feel it in the grasp of the hand, so warm, true, and sympathising. Best of all you see it in his life, a life flaming in its consecration from the very start. There is Christ, you say. To-day I plead for the souls where a work of grace has begun, and yet it may be very imperfect. You believe something is there, and yet faith may be perplexed at times when it would affirm that work. There are inconsistencies in the life, and you sometimes doubt if the Lord's mark is upon the soul. Still you can but feel that the person has come in contact with Christ, has caught His image, and, though that image is under a cloud, it only needs to be developed. I plead for these souls. I ask for patience in their behalf. Let us be willing to wait, just as God waits for the first faint tint of dawn to kindle into the flaming glory of sunrise, for a seed to expand into a shoot, for your soul and mine, so wayward and capricious, to slowly, slowly come round to a place at His feet. Thomas Erskine said, "If we are faithful and patient, we shall have the life God taught to us and nourished in us. But we are in such a hurry; we think something must be done immediately." We may apply these wise words to our dealings with others, and so have patience with their imperfections.

(E. A. Rand.)

I. THE TRANSCENDENT MODEL. The Word of God declares that all His reconciled children are to be conformed to the image of His Son. The life of Jesus was a plan of God. A sculpture once, on being asked why he smiled on a rough block of marble which was taken into his studio, replied, "Because I see an angel in it and I am going to liberate her." Well, when God looked upon us, though we were ugly with sin, yet in the fulness of His love He saw in us the image of His Son. Men sometimes despair of human nature, but our Heavenly Father keeps on working, and in due time His reconciled children shall be conformed to the transcendent Model. The strokes of the spiritual chisel may cut deep at times, but it is a part of the plan to make you perfect. We are not told the features of God's Son, but of this we may feel assured, that the face of Jesus was lovely. Attracted by the love which shone in His face, little children climbed His knee, and fallen men and erring women gave up their sins and became His disciples. We are not, however, to be conformed to the image of His face; but to be transformed to the spirit of His life. The same rudder that directed the spirit which made His life Divine is also to directs ours. Consider —

1. His perfect life. We cannot suggest the least improvement in it, and there are no flaws or stains to wish to betaken away.

2. His submission to the will of God.

3. His true worship of God. His life was one psalm of the love of God.

4. His consecration to God.

5. His unselfishness. Though He was rich, for our sakes He became poor.

6. His cross. We have never heard of any but Jesus who was willing not only to bear the penalty of others, but the guilt of their sins?

II. THE INESTIMABLE PRIVILEGE OF BEING CONFORMED TO THE IMAGE OF CHRIST. When He was transfigured, He was so surpassingly beautiful that the disciples cried, "Master, it is good for us to be here!" When the sun goes down on a dark and dull evening, it sometimes lights up the clouds just above your head, and makes them golden with beauty. It is like the time when Stephen the martyr was being stoned to death. While he knelt on the ground, he looked up into the heavens and cried, "I see Jesus standing on the right hand of God." And the light from heaven shone with such splendour upon his face that it was like that of an angel. And when we see Jesus, we shall be like Him. We shall not be made into His image like —

1. A picture, which a painter desires above all things be placed in a right light. Some people can only exhibit holy charity in the house of prayer; but the reconciled children of God are to be conformed to the image of Jesus on the Exchange, in the factory, and the street. We do not need to be put into a particular light.

2. A statue. When we look at the figure of Wellington, who can imagine that grim statue ever crying, "Up Guards, and at 'em"? We are to have life and vigour.

3. An actor, when he is on the stage, feels for the moment that he is really the man he is representing; but eventually goes home a common man. But the true Christian does not wear a seamless robe and sandals; he is a living embodiment of Christ.

(W. Birch.)

I. CHRIST IS THE GRAND IDEAL OF MANHOOD. "The image of His Son." Not the corporeal nor the mental image, but the moral character. This is —

1. A perfect ideal.(1) He was without blemish. "He did no sin." His judge could find no fault in Him; and He challenged His enemies to convince Him of sin.(2) He possessed every virtue, grace, lofty aspiration. There have been men who have had many virtues, but they have been associated with many salient imperfections. , a model in some respects, was so inconsistent that, having spent his life in exposing popular superstitions, his last request was that a bird might be sacrificed to Esculapius. and Seneca had many virtues; but the one was infected with vanity, and the other was mean-spirited and greedy to a fault. So with the best of the old Hebrew men; and even apostles had their faults. But you cannot put your hand on a single flaw in Christ's character, nor point to an excellence that did not dwell in Him.(3) Not only had He all virtues, but all His virtues were harmonious. There is in Him an exquisite balancing of the passive and the active, the masculine and the feminine virtues. He is indignant, but never boisterous; tender, but never weak; resolute, but never obstinate; condescending, but never familiar.

2. It is a soul-approving Ideal. By the laws of man's moral constitution he is bound to approve of this Ideal. A man wants a mansion; the architect gives him a plan so accordant with his own taste that he is bound to accept it. Another man wants something cut in marble; the sculptor presents an object that comes up to his loftiest ideas, and he is bound to accept it. So man wants a model character; and God gives him an Ideal that meets his highest conceptions of the morally beautiful, and he is bound to accept Him. And all men alike. There are ideals in architecture, painting, poetry, costume, which some may admire, but others loathe. But here is an Ideal that commends itself to the deepest soul of every man. It fits every soul — no soul too small for it, no one too large. It is literally "the Desire of all nations," that for which humanity has been hungering through all ages and lands.

3. It is a universally attainable Ideal. A man may give an ideal of painting, and to practical men, and they may say it is too difficult to work out; but not so with this Ideal of character. The most imitable character is that which is —(1) The most admirable. We imitate only what we admire.(2) The most transparent. There are characters so misty that you cannot discern the principles that rule them; these you cannot imitate.(3) The most unchangeable. A fickle character would be beyond your imitation. Christ answers in the highest degree all these conditions.

II. MAN'S CONFORMITY TO THIS IDEAL IS GOD'S PREDESTINATION. Whom did He foreknow? Not some men, but all men; not some things, but all things. The idea is, that all the men He foreknew He ordained to have one grand Ideal of character to aim at and to conform to. God has predestinated that all men, to have health, must attend to certain conditions; that all men shall commence their existence in infancy, shall go on through the various stages, and in the end go back to dust. And likewise God has foreordained that all men shall form their character after the Ideal of excellence embodied in Christ. This is the grand purpose of God in relation to humanity. Conclusion: Learn from this —

1. The transcendent value of the four Gospels. In other parts of the Bible you are brought into the presence of legislators, historians, prophets, apostles. But here you are brought into the presence of Christ Himself. Elsewhere you have scattered star-beams; but here you have the Sun Himself.

2. The grand work of the Christian preacher. To exhibit Christ, who is the Chief among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely, and to urge men to love Him.

(D. Thomas, D.D.)

This passage has been the battleground of Calvinism and Arminianism. The best way to get a clear idea of such controverted passages, is to ignore the conflicting opinions that they have started, and study them in the light of common sense, the light of their context, the light of the general scope of biblical teaching, and in humble dependence upon the Spirit for help. If we look at these verses in this way we shall see nothing that is not found in connection with every other Divine operation. Any work which an intelligent being has accomplished — whether it be in husbandry, architecture, legislation, or science — always implies an executive agency, a presiding plan, and a previous knowledge on which the plan is based. These three things we have in the text concerning God, in the work of man's restoration. The result comes out of the agency; the agency comes out of the plan; the plan comes out of a previous knowledge. We infer —

I. THAT MAN'S RESTORATION IS THE RESULT OF GOD'S AGENCY. God —

1. Calls —

(1)By the admonitions of conscience;

(2)By the events of history;

(3)By the ministry of His word;

(4)By the strivings of His Spirit. He calls sometimes through the thundering voice of law, and sometimes through the melting accents of love.

2. Justifies. Justification is a forensic term, but it does not convey forensic ideas. An accused person in the court of human judicature is justified when the verdict of "Not guilty" is returned; and he may be pronounced "Not guilty" on three different grounds —(1) Actual innocence.(2) Regretted accident. He might have committed the act, but contrary to wish.(3) Judicial ignorance, or failure on the part of the judge and jury to get at all the evidence. But no man, before God, could be pronounced "Not guilty" on any of these grounds. All that evangelical justification means is, that God treats the guilty as if they had never sinned — overlooking the past.

3. Glorifies. Man's body, intellect, character, and condition, are now inglorious. God will glorify the whole. "We shall be like Him."

II. THAT GOD'S AGENCY IS GOVERNED BY A PLAN. Some beings act from instinct, impulse, habit; but God acts from plan.

1. What is this plan? It is to save men.(1) By assimilating them to the image of Christ. "He also did predestinate," etc.; that they should be governed by the same principles that govern Him; animated by His Spirit; consecrated to the same great cause for which He gave His life.(2) By subjugating them to the authority of Christ. "That He might be the first-born among many brethren!"

2. Now, Paul would have referred God's agency in any other department to an eternal plan. As a pious man, he would refer everything that was good to God; and as an intelligent man, he would refer everything to the plan of God. Had he been writing on agriculture, he would have traced every blade and flower and plant that grew to the predestination of God. But he was writing of man's salvation, and it was only to his purpose to refer it to predestination in connection with that. Predestination is not a dream of the schoolmen, or a dogma of Calvin, but an eternal law of the universe.

III. THAT GOD'S PLAN IS FOUNDED ON A THOROUGH FOREKNOWLEDGE OF THE SAVED. "Whom He did foreknow" does not refer to all creatures, although God does foreknow all creatures. Nor does it refer to mankind in general, although God does foreknow all that shall happen to all men. But it refers to those spoken of in the preceding verse, and the whole chapter, as loving Him, as being His sons, etc. Note, in relation to this foreknowledge —(1) That it does not interfere with the free agency of the good. A. might have such a thorough knowledge of B.'s temperament and tendencies, that he might predict with certainty that B. would, under certain circumstances, adopt a certain line of action; yet if B. knew not the knowledge of A., he could not by any possibility have any influence upon his conduct. The fact, in like manner, that God knows all about me, all that I shall ever do, has no necessary influence upon my line of action. The conduct of the Jews at the crucifixion of Christ is an illustration.(2) That it is a ground of security for the good. We often form plans from partial knowledge, and no sooner endeavour to carry them out than circumstances, never foreseen, baffle us; so that we are obliged to abandon our projects. But not so with God. His plan is based upon a thorough knowledge of all future contingencies.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

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