Romans 8d

Romans- R.S.V.P

As we look back at this verse 28, that began this encouraging  section that describes us as ‘ more than conquerors’, we look at the phrase –‘those who are the called according to His purpose.” (KJV)  Who are the “called”? There is much discussion and confusion about who the ‘called’ are which Paul writes about.  Let us think about what Scripture tells us.

First Scripture makes it clear about God’s  Sovereignty:  “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55)   We also know God can make a way where there is no way.

Scripture tells us of God’s purpose- “For God so loved the world, He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever should believe in Him, should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)  “And He is the propitiation for our sins and not for ours only but also for the sins of the world.” (I John 2). And Peter reminds us- ‘The Lord is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (II Peter 3.)   It is clear God is not willing- that is God does not will anyone to perish. And Jesus could not be any clearer when He spoke these words:  “ O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but  YOU WERE NOT WILLING.” These verses tell us Jesus would not violate their will to choose.  (Luke 13)

Then consider the two similar parables told by the Lord in Matthew 22 where He compares the kingdom of God to a king who prepares a wedding banquet for his son and sent his servants out to those who had been invited. “Many are called, but few are chosen” KJV “Many are invited, but few are chosen” NIV Matthew 22:14. In the other similar parable in Luke 14, we are told many of the reasons why they declined the invitation. One had just bought a field and was going to see it. Another had just purchased a team of oxen. And still a third declined for they had just married.

Paul describes three groups in I Corinthians and I believe these three groups are still present today. Paul wrote, “But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power and the wisdom of God.”   The Jews trusted in religion, rite, ritual and works. There are many today who are active in their religion but have no relationship with the true and living God.  The Greeks trust in their own intelligence, philosophy and human wisdom. Many today view the Bible as antiquated, and in their finite wisdom deem it to nothing more than superstitious myths which happen to contain some good principles, but is nothing more than a book.  The ‘called’ were those who believed.   They accepted the invitation. Jesus was very clear- in John 3:  “This is the verdict, Light has come into the world but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”

Make no mistake- God is sovereign. However, God does not force us to act against our own will; rather God accomplishes His purpose and brings about His plan through the willing choices of men. Therefore, although salvation is all of God, man is responsible and accountable for his choice. So when we approach this difficult issue of election, God’s Divine Will and man’s free will, we find two truths which we seem to be unable to reconcile. Guess why?  God’s ways are higher than our ways, His thoughts higher than our thoughts, that is why.  “The secret things belong to the Lord Our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” ( Deut.29:29)

Now let us venture into the sequence of this process and tackle the words – ‘foreknew and predestined.’   First of all this word, predestined is never used in connection with the lost. It is always in connection with those who have accepted the invitation, who have RSVP’d to the invitation to come to the wedding banquet. This sequence which Paul describes is the ongoing process of sanctification that begins when we accept the invitation, the call. We are then supplied with a righteousness that is from God that is by faith. God supplies us with the Robe of Christ’s Righteousness, for only those wearing this will be admitted to the Wedding Banquet.

“For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.” ( Romans8:29)  What does foreknew mean?  Simply to know beforehand. Know something is going to happen before it happens. A fact must be established in order for it be known.  Most human knowledge comes after the fact is established.  But even man can predict with great accuracy what will occur in the future.  For example:  a scientist can tell you with great accuracy when an eclipse will occur, the time, the date, and the exact geographical location in terms of longitude and latitude where it can be seen.  The scientist did not cause the eclipse, he only knew the fact beforehand. Listen to these verses in Psalms 139: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” In this great Psalm- the Psalmists, David, testifies to God as all knowing and ever present. (Omnipresent and omniscient.) He has all knowledge, including foreknowledge.   He knows the end from the beginning. “For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love, He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ in accordance with His pleasure and His will to the praise of His glorious grace which He has freely given us in the One He loves. (Ephesians 1)

Now let us try to understand as best we can how this worked as Peter explains in his sermon on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:  “ Men of Israel, listen to this : Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through Him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross. But God raised Him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him…..Therefore let all Israel be assured of this:  God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ. When the people HEARD  this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, Brothers, what shall we do?  Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are for off- for all whom the Lord Our God will call.”

That Jesus would be crucified was prophesized hundreds of years before, in fact in the Garden of Eden it was foretold. This prophesy was specific in how He would be executed, how He would be betrayed – so it was foreknown by God and man had done this to Him by their own free will.  Now notice the reaction- some were cut to the heart. These are those who heard the call and wanted to know what shall we do? So on that first day of the Holy Spirit’s arrival, we see exactly what Paul tells us in I Corinthians- to some Jews; it was a stumbling block, because they depended on their religion, their rituals and their works of the flesh, in other words, their self righteousness.  To others, this was foolishness, it could not be reckoned with their human intelligence. To some who saw the light it was a decision of their own free will to stay in darkness, because they preferred darkness because their deeds were evil.  To others it was indifference for they had other things more important to them, their treasures were the things of the world- a field they had purchased, a team of oxen they had bought or another relationship which was more important for they had just married.   But those who accepted the message were baptized and about three thousand souls were added to their number that day.

John writes:  “He came to His own, but his own did not receive Him. Yet to all who received Him, to those who believe in Him, He gave the right to become children of God- the children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or the husband’s will , but born of God.” (John 1)

For God sent His son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that through Him the world might be saved.  “Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden.” “Behold I stand at the door and knock> If anyone hear my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me.” “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.”

R.S.V.P.   Respondez, s’il vous plait.  Respond if you please.  Many are invited – few are chosen.

Can the sovereign will of God and the free will of man be reconciled?  In God’s mind they are- I am not sure any of us will ever be able to reconcile what seem to be two irreconcilable truths. For now I am satisfied with what God is satisfied. I am satisfied that I have responded to His invitation, opened the door and let Him into my life, I have believed, received and have become and am in the process of becoming the son of God.  How can I be sure?  I have the witness of His Spirit who testifies with my spirit that I am a child of God.

Whom God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.  Predestined, what does this word mean? Destiny is defined as an event or course of events that will inevitably occur in the future.  Pre- means before so this means God has set and determined beforehand our future destination and destiny- to be conformed to the image of His Son.  There are several ways to look at this:  a potter who looks at a lump of clay and sees in his mind’s eye the exact shape he is going to make out of this clump of clay. In fact God used this illustration with Jeremiah when He told him to go down to the potter’s house and observe. It can be likened to the architect who first conceives in his mind what a structure will look like then puts it on paper in a blueprint.  Tozer used this illustration of God’s sovereignty in his comparison to an ocean liner leaving NYC destined for Liverpool.  The pre-determined route across the ocean will be charted and will end up at the predetermined destination; however, the scores of passengers on the liner are free to do what they decide to do while on this voyage.

I admit I do not fully comprehend all of this. But the most important thing is you know you have responded to the invitation. This is the beginning of the sequence of the predetermined voyage the Captain of our Salvation has set us upon.  We will pass through many dangers, toils and snares, but we can rest assured we will reach our final destination – heaven. And when we do, we can be sure we will be like Jesus. Our bodies now glorified as our old man has finally been done away with.

So here is the sequence- those He predestined- He also called, those He called, He also justified, and those He justified, He also glorified.  We are on the journey now; it began when we RSVP’d .  Justification is the action on the part of God who washed away all our sins with the blood of Jesus Christ and at the same time crucified our old nature and buried it with Christ.  In God’s view, He sees me already glorified, just as the potter sees the final work of His hands even as He is shaping it on the wheel; as the architect can already see in his mind, exactly how the finished building will look.

I had the opportunity in the 1990’s to meet a man named, Charlie Pendrell.  Charlie was the president of a wholesale laboratory that manufactured prescription eyeglasses, called Sierra Optical in San Diego.  When I first called on Charlie, their lab was located in an old building which had been in its past an apartment house. It was a nightmare of a structure without order- that had outgrown its usefulness. He took me out on Interstate 5 to a building which he had purchased. He and his father had invested everything they had to get this building which was several times larger than their current structure. When we walked in – without the benefit of a blueprint or architect’s rendering, Charlie walked me through a vacant building and showed me where everything was going to be.  We came to one space and he said this is where we will hold seminars, training and educational events. Next May, you will speak to a room full of doctors in a seminar we will hold here.  Next May I came and I spoke in this beautiful facility where everything was just as Charlie had pictured it, including me standing there before a room full of doctors for a seminar.

Many of us have known such visionaries as Charlie in our lives, which are able to conceive things in their minds and bring them into being.  Why do we have a problem with Almighty God creator of all things doing the same?

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was without form and void and in darkness.” Genesis 1.  The Potter begins His work. He already has in His mind exactly what He will do and how it will look.  The architect, the author of our faith is the one who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.

Here is what Paul is doing through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit – he is getting the believer to consider the course of salvation, and as we consider it, we cannot miss the proactive role of God in bringing us along the path. Here is what seems irreconcilable – the sovereign will of God and the free will of man.  To come down favoring one side more than the other, to let the pendulum of our minds swing too  far to one side or the other- will put this mystery of these two truths out of balance. God‘s sovereign will – will not be thwarted and man’s free will – will not be violated.

Here is again the conclusion I have come to:  God does not force us to act against our will; rather God brings about His plan through the willing choices of man, thus making man accountable and responsible for his actions.

Our decisions and actions we take on the voyage are based on our own free will, but once we have believed and received, we have begun a voyage of salvation with its predetermined destination- sure. And we can rest assured, we will arrive at this destination and when we do- we will be conformed to the likeness of His Son, and the final work is called glorification. Right now we are on the potter’s wheel; His hand is upon us, shaping us even as we make decisions of our own free will, which He is able to work together for good.

Paul then, as Paul is accustomed to doing, asks his readers some questions. These questions are asked much in the same way the first question the Lord asked. After the fall, the Lord came and asked Adam who was attempting to hide from God, ‘where are you?’ The Lord was not asking for information- He was asking Adam this question so Adam would examine his life, his situation , his circumstances and in the process link his misery with his decision to act contrary to God’s will.

Paul is going to ask us questions so we can examine our lives and in doing so examine our relationship with God and the reason for our hope.

“What then shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His Son , but gave Him up for us all- how will He not also along with Him, graciously give us all things? Who is he that condemns?  Christ Jesus who died- more than that, which was raised to life-is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? “        (Romans 8:31-35)

Paul then lists seven ways the enemy of our soul attacks us and attempts to separate us from the love of Christ: trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, or danger of the sword. These threats were real in Paul’s life and the lives of Christians down through the ages. We also must realize the Lord allows these trials for our spiritual growth.  Whatever form your trial takes, Paul’s answer is the same to all these things- NO. Nothing can ever separate us from the love of God that is Christ our Lord. Nothing in death or life, in the present or future. Nothing in all creation.

Paul’s answer to all of these questions is –  No in all things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.   Interesting Paul describes us, Christians as more than conquerors.  ‘The Lord has promised good to me, His word, my hope secures.’ Do you remember what happened to God’s chosen people, the nation of Israel, when they were poised to enter the Promised Land?  In Numbers 13, we read of the spies who were sent into the Promised Land of Canaan.  Listen to what they found:  “…they cut off a branch bearing single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them along with some pomegranates and figs. ..They gave Moses this account: ‘we went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey. BUT the people who live there are powerful and the cities are fortified and very large.” There are giants and forts.   These spies sent by Moses had tasted the first fruits of the Promised Land – but did not believe the God who had taken them out of Egypt could take them into the land He had promised them.  They did not believe if God was for them who can be against them?

We, as Christians, have taste the first fruits –  the blessings of heaven given to us by the Lord Jesus through the Spirit.  We can live in the promises of God in the present as we await His sure appearance.

Look back even in this chapter:  it began by telling us there is therefore now no condemnation for those of us who are in Christ Jesus.  This chapter also told us God is working all things together for good in our lives for the purpose of conforming us to the image of His Son.  And in concluding it gives us these great promises that nothing can ever separate us from His Love.

*God is for us. The Father has proven His love for us by giving us His Son. He is working all things together for good in the lives of us who love Him. So Paul concludes – if God is for us- who can be against us? No one.

*Christ died for us. The argument here is if when we were sinners God gave His Son, His Best –His all for us- will He not give us all we need? Jesus said, if you earthly fathers know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father give you, the One who is the giver of all good gifts in whom there is no shadow or turning.

*God has justified us. If God has declared us righteous –who can bring any charges against us? No one.

*Christ intercedes for us.  Imagine that- the Lord Jesus Christ is praying for you and me. And there is nothing- neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present or the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen!

Have you responded?  Have you submitted your response. For God in His Sovereignty- will not force you- He is asking you to ‘ respond, if you please.

Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14