Do the Math
Bible Reading: Romans 8
Romans 8:28-30, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
The first word of verse 29 links the verse to what proceeds. The fact God works all things together for good in the lives of those who love Him is affirmed by His sovereign oversight over their lives from beginning to end. In God’s salvific work, none are lost along the way, for in every step, be it His foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, or glorification, the same number of souls proceed on in the divine formula.
There are big theological terms used here, giving rise to much theological debate. Indeed, there is a degree of mystery which belies our full understanding of them. How can it be that we humans are held responsible for our actions if God is sovereign? Two of the terms used here in verse 29, are used also in Acts 2:23 where Peter spoke of Jesus, declaring He was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” and that He was “killed by the hands of lawless men.” So who killed Jesus? If you were to say He was killed by the hands of lawless men, you would be correct. Likewise, you would be correct in saying God Himself killed Jesus, for He is the One who premeditated it! You’ll find a similar juxtaposition of these two truths in Acts 13:48, where it says, “as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” Who was it who believed? “As many as were appointed to eternal life!”
Rather than bristle at imagined salvific ramifications of the doctrine of election—which by the way, is a doctrine meant to be a comforting truth for us–we should take God at His word and in its context. What the passage is saying is God causes all things to work together for good because that’s exactly what He has planned and purposed to do, even from before our birth. He will finish the work He has started in us.
Charles Spurgeon has commented on this, “The foreordination of God in no degree interferes with the responsibility of man. I have often been asked by persons to reconcile the two truths. My only reply is, “They need no reconciliation, for they never fell out.” Why should I try to reconcile two friends? The two facts are parallel lines. I cannot make them unite, but you cannot make them cross each other. I believe that nothing happens apart from divine determination and decree. I do not believe that there ever would have been a man delivered from this present evil world if it had not been according to the will, the purpose, the predestination of God. It needs a mighty tug to get a man away from the world. It is a miracle for a man to live in the world, and yet not to be of it. I am sure it would never have been wrought if it had not been according to the will of God our Father.”
God foreknew you. Before you were born. God predetermined your salvation, choosing you before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). He called you. He justified you. He will glorify you. In the present you face all kinds of challenges. But God, who works all things according to the counsel of His will, will not fail in His plan for you. As the hymn says, “A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing; our helper He amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing!” None who have been predestined by God to be glorified with Christ will be lost along the way amidst the mortal ills prevailing in their lives or in this world! Because of this you can be assured He will cause all things to work together in fulfilling His sovereign plan for you!
I KNOW WHOM I HAVE BELIEVED
I know not why God’s wondrous grace
to me is daily shown,
nor why, with mercy, Christ in love
redeemed me for his own.
But “I know whom I have believed,
and am persuaded that he is able
to keep that which I’ve committed
unto him against that day.”
I know not how this saving faith
to me he did impart,
nor how believing in his word
wrought peace within my heart. [Refrain]
I know not how the Spirit moves,
convincing us of sin,
revealing Jesus through the Word,
creating faith in him. [Refrain]
I know not when my Lord may come,
at night or noon-day fair,
nor if I’ll walk the vale with him,
or meet him in the air. [Refrain]