His Achievement Are We
THE MEMBERS of Christ’s body were “foreknown” by God (cp Rom.8:29). God’s holy nation, the people of Israel, are also among those “whom He foreknew” (Rom.11:2). Thus “the purpose of God may be remaining as a choice, not out of acts, but of Him Who is calling” (cf Rom.9:11).
We are “called according to the purpose that, whom He foreknew, He designates beforehand, also, to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom.8:29). The thought here is not that He knew something about us, but that He “knew” us. This speaks not of His ignorance of others, but of His special “knowledge” of us.
God’s literal prescience or foreknowledge of our faith or works cannot be in view, for membership in the body of Christ is a matter of grace, not reward. Since salvation is not a matter of qualification, it is surely mistaken to assert that foreknowledge is merely knowing ahead of time who will qualify to be saved. Besides, “free will” faith and acts could never be foreknown. Since there is always a “chance” they might never occur, their future existence could not be an object of knowledge. On the other hand, where faith and acts are foreknown, their occurrence is inevitable, and thus it becomes impossible but that they should occur.
In such cases as this, in which God’s “foreknowledge” of us is in view, foreknowledge is a figure of speech. It is not only—wonderful as it is—that we are “known” by Him today, but that we were foreknown by Him long ago as well. “Now if anyone is loving God, this one is known by Him” (1 Cor.8:3). And, as those “whom He foreknew,” our calling itself is founded upon God’s predesignated purpose to conform us to the image of His Son. The same is true concerning those in Christ among the Circumcision. In writing to the believing expatriates of the dispersion, Peter reveals that they were “chosen . . . according to the foreknowledge of God” (1 Peter 1:1, 2).
Literally, we know facts, for example, “knowing this before” (2 Peter 3:17). Figuratively, we “know,” or have a certain relationship with persons. In making his defense before Agrippa, Paul declared, “My life, indeed, then, from youth, which came to be from the beginning among my nation, besides in Jerusalem, all the Jews were acquainted with, knowing me before, from the very first” (Acts 26:4,5). “Know” is continually used in ordinary speech in just this way, as well as in many passages throughout the Scriptures (e.g., Jer.1:5; Hosea 13:5; Amos 3:2; Matt.7:22,23; John 10:14,15; Gal.4:9; 2 Tim.2:19).
In Romans 8:29, God’s “foreknowledge of us has in view gracious gifts and a glorious relationship with Him. In His own counsels, God had already established these things on our behalf long ago, long before we were born. Thus we were “foreknown” by God, having already been chosen by Him, according to His purpose, and “the vast love with which He loves us” (cf Eph.2:4).
This is not a matter of partiality at all, but of purposeful choice—“according as He chooses us” (cf Eph.1:4). Its motive is the accomplishment of a glorious goal; it is not born out of prejudice. Yet purposefulness, even as partiality, involves the choosing of some and not others (in any purpose that is less than universal in scope). This is so concerning God’s choice of us, even as in an orchestra director’s choice of the members of his orchestra. He chooses those whom he judges to be best suited to his purpose. The act of choosing need not involve the slightest taint of partiality. Furthermore, God does not choose us simply that we might be blessed, but in order to make a display of His grace in us (Eph. 2:7), and that we should become a blessing to others, serving in His work, “to have an administration of the complement of the eras to head up all in the Christ” (Eph.1:10) and “to reconcile all to Him (making peace through the blood of His cross), through Him, whether those on the earth or those in the heavens” (Col.1:20). Our calling involves “the multifarious wisdom of God” being “made known to the sovereignties and authorities among the celestials, through the ecclesia” (Eph.3:10).
Among the Corinthians (and we are hardly any different), it was “the stupidity of the world God chooses, that He may be disgracing the wise,” even as the weak, ignoble and contemptible, and “that which is not,” He chooses, “that He may be disgracing the strong”—and, “that He should be discarding that which is, so that no flesh at all should be boasting in God’s sight” (1 Cor. 1:27-29). Not many wise, powerful or noble, “according to the flesh,” are even called: Thus “you are observing your calling, brethren” (1 Cor.1:26).
God’s calling of the nation of Israel into the kingdom of the heavens, in which “many are the called and few are the chosen” (Matt.22:14), is an entirely different calling than the calling which Paul presents here for the members of the body of Christ, according to his evangel.
In our holy calling, God’s choice precedes His call, and that by a vast expanse of time (2 Tim.1:9; Eph.1:4). God’s call is of His chosen ones, and they will respond. In Paul’s evangel, election is first. Subsequently, all these chosen ones are called; then they are all justified and finally all glorified. All who are called were first all chosen.
But in the calling concerning the kingdom of the heavens, the opposite is the case. Many who were called are finally not chosen. There election is last. Only a few of the vast number who are called are finally chosen.
Worthiness is essential for entrance into the kingdom of the heavens (cf Matt.22:8; Luke 20:35). Yet for ourselves, worthiness is not essential to the allotment of life eonian (cf Rom.5:20,21; Titus 3:7), but only to having a part, or allotment, in God’s kingdom (His government or “reign”; cf Gal.5:21; 2 Tim.2:12). All the members of Christ’s body will enjoy glorious life in the oncoming eons, and they will possess it as a gracious gift (cp Eph.2:7; Col.3:3,4; 1 Cor.15:51-53).
NOW WE ARE AWARE
The awareness that God is working all together according to His counsel and purpose (Rom.8:28-30; Eph. 1:4-12), and that this includes His knowledge and choice of us before we were born, seldom dawns on the believer early in his faith. But when it does, and we are able to put aside our false and prideful notions of free will and contrary choice, we are bound to increase in satisfaction and usefulness.
The CV of Romans 8:28 reads, “Now we are aware that God is working all together for the good of those who are loving God. . . . ” Though this rendering is certainly in accord with the truth, the thought presented in the Greek text is an even wider and more glorious one. It is not only that God is working all together for the good of those individuals who are loving Him, but that God is working all together for good. Period. His operations for good are not confined to matters of our own welfare, but concern the best interests of all. They encompass all that exists and all that occurs. God is the Worker of all, for He “is working all.”
Ephesians 1:11 declares that God (Theos, PLACER) is operating (IN-ACTing) all. Romans 8:28 reveals that He is doing so for good. This is His purpose. Paul says that those individuals who are truly loving the Placer not only believe this, but are aware that this is so. Immature believers may love the “heavenly Father” while being very far from loving God, “the Placer”—“the only true God” or Subjector (John 17:3). God cannot be loved as God when He is not even recognized (much less glorified and thanked) as God.
The phrase, literally, “TO-THE ones-LOVING THE God,” is not in the genitive case (OF), but the dative (TO). It is an appositive, making reference to how matters appear (cp James 4:17) in the eyes of those believers who have this awareness (compare the “we” here with the “you” of Romans 6:17, concerning those who “obey from the heart the type of teaching to which” the Roman saints were “given over”). The main unfolding here—that God is working all together for good—though marked by great intellectual depth, is an easy to understand thought. It may be difficult, or rather, impossible, for most to believe, but what a wonderful awareness this is!
Syntactically however, these verses as a whole are rather complex and difficult to translate into English. This is especially so since an ellipsis is required with regard to the thought presented in the latter part of verse 28 and in verse 29.
We might phrase the passage as follows: “Now we are aware that, to those who are loving God, God is working all together for good. To these [believers], who are called according to the purpose that, whom He foreknew, He designates beforehand, also, to be conformed to the image of His Son, for Him to be Firstborn among many brethren [there is this awareness].”
The definite article, which appears here twice in the dative case (represented by the phrases “to those who are” and “To these, who”), in both cases is used as a demonstrative pronoun. Though in the first statement the correct sense can be conveyed by the English far demonstrative, “those,” it is important to note that Paul’s reference is to his near-at-hand subject, those believers who, in fact, are loving God. But in its second occurrence, the near demonstrative, “these,” must be used in order to retain the sense. For the apostle is speaking of those who are loving the Placer and of their resultant awareness. It is these believers who are being spoken of.
Paul does not say, however, that the remaining members of the ecclesia are not chosen in grace and predesignated of God. Indeed it is the very revelation of Ephesians chapter 1 that they too are so chosen and designated (cp vs. 1 and 4). But it is “those who are loving God” who are in view in Romans 8:28,29.
In the nature of the case, then, the entire ecclesia is included in verse 30: “Now whom He designates beforehand, these He calls also, and whom He calls, these He justifies also; now whom He justifies, these He glorifies also.”
In the Authorized Version, proorizo is translated “predestinate,” as well as “ordain” and “determine before.” The Concordant Version translates it uniformly as “designate beforehand.” This is its sense; it simply speaks of what is designated or specified. Its significance is clearly illustrated in Acts 11:29 (without the auxiliary, pro, BEFORE): “Now according as any of the disciples thrived, each of them designate something to send to the brethren dwelling in Judea, for dispensing.” Man often fails to accomplish his plans, the things that he designates to accomplish. But God’s plans, the things He designates to occur in His own wise counsels, always come to pass, for it is He Who fulfills them all (Isa.46:9-11).
In the Scriptures the expression “designate beforehand” is only used in reference to a few subjects, all of them of great consequence. Yet it should never be inferred from this that these are therefore the only things God designates beforehand. Besides, that is not the issue. Instead, the question is, Does God operate all (Eph.1:11)? and, absolutely speaking, Is there any other God (or Placer) except One, “the Father, out of Whom all is” (1 Cor.8:4-6)?
God’s CHOSEN ONES
“What, then, shall we declare to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? Surely, He Who spares not His own Son, but gives Him up for us all, how shall He not, together with Him, be graciously granting us all? Who will be indicting God’s chosen ones? God, the justifier? Who is the Condemner? Christ Jesus, the One dying, yet rather being roused, Who is also at God’s right hand, Who is pleading also for our sakes?” (Rom.8:31-34).
In choosing us, God has acted neither as a rewarder nor arbitrarily. Instead, in His grace, He chose us. It is what He preferred to do. Others may be better or worse than ourselves, but we are those whom God has chosen. As the dictate of His wisdom, and in accord with His purpose, He chose each one of us. He has not revealed why He selected us instead of others to be members of Christ’s body. But we know that He has done so and that this was the best decision that could have been made, for it was His decision.
“Now we ought to be thanking God always concerning you, brethren, beloved by the Lord, seeing that God prefers you from the beginning for salvation, in holiness of the spirit and faith in the truth, into which He also calls us through our evangel, for the procuring of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess.2: 13,14). We will never fulfill this duty until we believe that God has indeed thus preferred us. God’s purpose cannot fail, and His purpose in preferring us from the beginning and calling us into salvation is to procure the glory of Christ our Saviour.
When we enter into a settled conviction concerning these things, we will be shocked that we ever wanted to limit God’s foreknowledge or mix His grace up with our responsibility. Finally, therefore, the fact that we were foreknown and chosen of God, apart from anything in ourselves, will become to us one of the most precious revelations of all the Scriptures.
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