Specifics of God’s Calling in Salvation: Romans 8:28-30

Romans 8:28-30

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 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. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

While “and,” at the beginning of v. 28, connects this entire context with what has gone before (as opposed to the negatives regarding those who are not adopted, do not have the Spirit of God, are actively hostile to God, cannot submit to God’s law in Christ, and cannot, at any time, please Him), the subsequent conjunction “for” at the beginning of v. 29 connects it with all preceding and within it, while the connective “and” at the beginning of v. 30 does the same, connecting the three vv. into one seamless whole, which is to say, although the context does not stand alone, it is, in itself, a standalone context, with a complete and comprehensive set of grammatically logical propositions that yield indisputable conclusions. The entire context is regarding the adoption in Christ by those led by and conducting their lives in the power of the Spirit of Christ who indwells them, and applied their adoption in Christ to them; therefore, we submit that this is easily understandable, and so will concentrate on particular aspects of the passage; namely, “called, (according to His purpose)” “foreknew,” “predestined,” “conformed to the image of His Son,” and in v. 30, along with, again, “predestined” and  “called,” “justified,” “glorified” and a bit more observations on the additional connectives at the beginnings of v. 29 and v. 30. We will consider, also, the objects of these grammatical elements, as well as the flow of the apostle’s meaning as to what these things intend for both this present age and the age to come.

First, however, as to the audience of these precious doctrines, we assert Paul is speaking, in the primary sense, to the collective saints in Rome as a singular group, as proven by the verb “we know.” This verb is in a tense which speaks of a past action having continuing results in the present which will continue to be ongoing, regarding the certain and sure knowledge that these things are so for those reading them; by application, since God gave us His Word to know these things, this broadens out to the wider audience of all saints in His church throughout redemptive history since our Lord ascended to glory.

Regarding “called,” this refers “to those who are,” and it is a present, particular, ongoing call, according to the grammar. It is not addressing those who are not called in any manner, nor is it addressing those who are called in a general manner, as is made plain in the text; it is addressing those who are called, specifically, “according to His purpose,” which purpose is made clear in the following words. In this, Paul has moved away from addressing the group as one collective entity, to speaking of specific individuals within that collective entity, noted by the change from the first person singular in “we” to the  plural in the article “those.”

Within v. 28, “those” is in a case that makes these people, individually and collectively, the object of “God;” that is, because they have been called according to His purpose, by Him, particularly, they presently, actively love Him continually. That all things are working together for the good of these called children of God is not to be taken as if no adverse circumstances occur in their lives (which would dismiss the apostle’s own ministry completely), but that the mind of those so chosen will see the sovereign grace of their God at work for their good in even the most adverse of circumstances in every situation (as the following vv. 31-39 spell out in detail).

As mentioned previously, the adverb “for” beginning v. 29 connects the foregoing in v. 28with that which follows. It has the meaning of “for this reason,” or “in view of the fact,” and is linked with the called according to the foreknowledge of God (“those He foreknew”). This is not a passive, but an active foreknowledge, as the verb form shows, and is rooted in the past calling (as the verb form also shows) of God on those His active foreknowledge was set upon for accomplishing all these things from that past time, which is defined as “predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” “Foreknew” also is in the third person, broadening out to the extent that, although still considering individuals, is now regarding all who are being written about, which considers all believers in Christ Jesus who have been called according to this foreknowledge of God.

Predestined” is in the same tense, voice, mood and person as “foreknew,” and is joined with the former through the emphatic adverb “also.”  Therefore, the two (foreknew and predestined) may not be considered apart from one another, but must be considered together, and both are rooted in the active foreknowledge of God, which, it must be noted, being active and joined to the also active predestination, cannot merely mean that God passively took in the knowledge of those whom He would call, or even that He reactively responded to the knowledge of those who would choose Him, but that He actively predestined those who would be called according to His active foreknowledge. Since the meaning of “predestined” here (and everywhere the word is used in the New Testament) is “to choose or select in advance of some other event—‘to choose beforehand, to select in advance,’” the possibility of the one chosen in advance of the particular event for the purposes stated in that choosing is nil [1]

Since the peace of the church has been so disrupted by unnecessary misunderstanding over the meaning of this word, I include this brief but excellent study of the word from The Complete Word Study Dictionary, © 1992 By AMG International, Inc. Chattanooga, TN 37422, U.S.A. Revised edition, 1993,  edited by Spiros Zodhiates, Th.D (numbers in parenthesis reference Strong’s Concordance):

proorízō; fut. proorísō, from pró (G4253), before, and horízō (G3724), to determine. To determine or decree beforehand (Act_4:28; Rom_8:29-30; 1Co_2:7; Eph_1:5, Eph_1:11). The peace of the Christian Church has been disrupted due to the misunderstanding which surrounds this word. It behooves the Church to consider the divinely intended meaning of this word by carefully examining the critical passages where it is used.
In 1Co_2:7 it has a thing as its obj., namely, the wisdom of God. The purpose was our glory, i.e., our benefits of salvation.
In Act_4:28 the verb is followed by the aor. inf. genésthai (gínomai [G1096], to be, become), to be done. The action of Herod and Pontius Pilate in crucifying Jesus Christ is said to have been predetermined or foreordained by the hand and will of God. This indicates that Christ’s mission, especially His death and resurrection, was not ultimately the result of human will but originated in the eternal counsel of God which decreed the event determining all its primary and secondary causes, instruments, agents, and contingencies.
In Rom_8:29-30, predestination is used of God’s actions in eternally decreeing both the objects and goal of His plan of salvation.Proorízō has a personal obj., the pl. relative pron. hoús, whom. This relative pron. refers to those previously mentioned as those whom God foreknew (proégnō [G4267]). The translation is, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate.” The objects of predestination are those whom He foreknew. Predestination does not involve a predetermined plan only but also includes the individuals for whom the plan is devised. The goal of predestination is expressed in the phrase, “to be conformed to the image of his Son.”
In Eph_1:5, Eph_1:11 this same purpose of foreordination is termed adoption. Adoption (huiothesía [G5206]) is the placing into sonship or legal heirship of those who are born of God. According to Eph_1:5 the basis of this prior decree is “the good pleasure of His will.” The word rendered “good pleasure” is eudokía (G2107) and means pleasure or satisfaction, that which seems good. Paul is careful to add that it is the good pleasure of God’s will, it is what seems good to God-not man. Similarly, in Eph_1:11 foreordination is based upon “the purpose (próthesis [G4286]) of the One who is working all things ([neut. acc. pl.]  pánta[G3844], an idiom for the entire metaphysical and physical universe) according to the decision of His will” (a.t.). This same thinking is reflected in Rom_8:30 where foreordination is joined successively to foreknowledge. Here it is presented not as a capricious, arbitrary or whimsical exercise of raw will or unreasoned impulse, but as the expression of a deliberate and wise plan which purposes to redeem those undeserving sinners whom God freely favors as the objects of His mercy.
Because it is neither possible nor permissible for us to pry into God’s secret counsel, it is not proper to be fixated with determining who the predestined are. Instead, we should contemplate the glories of what they are predestined to, i.e., salvation, adoption, or glory.

Although this is where many stop their comments regarding v. 29 (being conformed to the image of His Son), this is clearly not where that purpose of God is finished being defined, either as to the objects of His electing will who all are being so conformed, or as to the logical order of this brief but robust teaching of the apostle Paul regarding these aspects of the Ordo Salutis (order of salvation), for the next v. – v. 30 – again begins with a conjunction which logically connects that which has immediately gone before with that which follows.

That which follows is summed up thusly: “Those” refers to the the direct objects of the actions of being “predestined,” “called,” “justified” and “glorified,” as it is in the case that makes those so being addressed the direct objects of the actions of these verb forms, the Author of these actions being, of course, God. Please notice, these verb forms are of the same as that mentioned of “foreknew” and “predestined” in v. 29, which is to say, the actions perpetrated by God upon these objects of His purpose are all grounded in His predetermining, elective (“called”) foreknowledge, and since it is, as stated above, an active foreknowledge based in that same knowledge of God, it is to be taken as preceding from Him to accomplish His purposes, not responsive in any shape, form, or manner, as we trust the definitions of these terms have fully shown. This is to say God does not, in any way, react, but predetermines who will be conformed to the image of His Son, and does so according to that sure knowledge of His which brings about in redemptive history that which He determined to do beforehand, which is to say, before those who are called in (to speak in human terms) eternity past are actually confirmed in this elective calling at that specific time in redemptive history when they are adopted by the Spirit of God into His family.

The results of these actions of God has been seen, in v. 29, to “conform (usinto the image of His Son,” but this conforming is based in the objective reality of His resurrection and glorification, which has present results and realizations, as well as eschatological results; however, in the following verses (31-39), Paul is focused on the practical implications and application of these results, which the verb forms in v. 30 show, since these verb forms speak to the effect that all these things have been accomplished already in Christ; that is, those who are in Christ were predestined to be called, and having been called, are presently (some would say positionallyjustified and glorified, which accords with the ongoing process of being conformed into the image of His Son, which process will have it’s full result in the full redemption of each saint (this is where the eschatological consideration comes in, although it is secondary to the practical implications in the subsequent verses by which we live according to that which is now, and will be then, fully).

SDG –Bill

[1] Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Vol. 1Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.) (362). New York: United Bible Societies.

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