(from a transcript of a sermon preached on 9/14/03 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)
Please turn in your Bibles to Romans 8. I'll be reading verses 28 through 30:
Romans 8: (28) But we know that [to] the [ones] loving God all things work together for good, [to] those being called according to purpose; (29) because whom He foreknew, He also predestinated [to be] conformed to the image of His Son, for Him to be [the] First-born among many brothers. (30) But whom He predestinated, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
In the last sermon, we focused on the first phrase of verse 29, specifically on God's foreknowledge. We saw that when the Bible says God FOREKNEW certain people, it doesn't mean that He FORESAW what they were going to do and then acted according to this foresight. It means that God FORELOVED certain people. Before the foundation of the world, God loved His people in Jesus Christ.
Let's now go further into verse 29. Whom God foreknew - whom He loved from before the foundation of the world - He what? He PREDESTINATED. The ones God loved, He predestinated. The Greek word for the verb "to predestinate" is pro-or-ID-zo, which comes from the prefix PRO, which we saw last time, meaning "before," and hor-ID-zo, which means "to determine." So to PREDESTINATE means "to determine before." Before what? Again, it is before the foundation of the world. So God DETERMINED something BEFORE the foundation of the world. Before we go into what God determined beforehand in this verse, I'd like for us to turn to all the other passages in the New Testament in which the Greek word pro-or-ID-zo is used. First, we see the word again in verse 30, which we will go into later, the Lord willing.
Now over to Acts 4:27-28:
Acts 4: (27) For truly both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the nations and [the] peoples of Israel, were assembled against Your holy child Jesus, whom You anointed, (28) to do whatever Your hand and Your counsel before-determined to be done.
The LITV uses the term "before-determined" here instead of "predestinated." It means the same thing as "predestinated," but consistency in translation would be nice. So in this passage, the actions of Herod and Pontius Pilate and the Jews and the Gentiles in the arrest and trial and torture and crucifixion of Jesus Christ was determined by God before the foundation of the world. So we see here that even the sinful actions of men are predestinated by God.
Next, 1 Corinthians 2:7-9:
1 Corinthians 2: (7) But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, having been hidden, which God predetermined before the ages for our glory, (8) which none of the rulers of this age has known. For if they had known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; (9) according as it has been written, "Eye has not seen, and ear has not heard," nor has it risen up into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those that love Him.
This time, the word is "predetermined." So now we have THREE terms in the LITV for this one Greek word. Again, it would be better if there were one consistent word. I don't want to get into the whole "mystery" issue right now, but suffice it to say that the thing predetermined here is the mystery of the gospel, the salvation of the world of both Jews and Gentiles based on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ alone.
And the last two times this word is used are in Ephesians chapter 1. Let's read verses 3 through 12:
Ephesians 1: (3) Blessed [is] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies with Christ, (4) even as He elected us in Him before [the] foundation of [the] world, for us to be holy and without blemish before Him in love, (5) predestinating us to adoption through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, (6) to [the] praise of [the] glory of His grace in which He favored us in the [One] having been loved, (7) in whom we have redemption through His blood, the remission of deviations, according to the riches of His grace (8) which He caused to abound toward us in all wisdom and understanding, (9) making known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, (10) for the administration of the fullness of the times to head up all things in Christ, both the things in the heavens, and the things on earth, in Him, (11) in whom we also have been chosen to an inheritance, being predestinated according to [the] purpose of the [One] working all things according to the counsel of His [own] will, (12) for us to be to [the] praise of His glory, the ones who had previously trusted in Christ;
Now you might be thinking that the word "elected" in verse 3 is one of those times, but that's actually from a different Greek word meaning "to choose." The first time pro-or-ID-zo is used is in verse 5, where God shows that we, God's people, are PREDESTINATED, PRE-DETERMINED to adoption, to being taken out of the family of Satan and made part of the family of God. And the last time it is used is in verse 11, but it's not the word "chosen," it's the word "predestinated" again. But it does have to do with being chosen to an inheritance. God, before the foundation of the world, pre-determined an inheritance for His people, for us to be to the praise of the glory of God.
So now let's go back to our passage in Romans 8:29 to see what God PREDESTINATED, PRE-DETERMINED regarding those whom he foreloved. Let's read the entirety of verse 29 again:
Romans 8: (29) because whom He foreknew, He also predestinated [to be] conformed to the image of His Son, for Him to be [the] First-born among many brothers. (30) But whom He predestinated, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
Those whom God loved from before the foundation of the world, He pre-determined to be conformed to the image of His Son. What does it mean "to be conformed to the image of His Son"? Well, when we look at the Greek behind this phrase, it really opens up the meaning of this phrase. The Greek word for "to be conformed to " is soom-mor-FOSS. The prefix SOOM means "with" or "together", and the word MOR-fay means "shape" or "form." So soom-mor-FOSS means "formed together" or "jointly formed." So God predestinated those whom He foreloved to be CONFORMED to, to be FORMED TOGETHER, to be JOINTLY FORMED to what? To the IMAGE of His Son. What does "image" mean? The Greek word is I-kone, from which we get our word "icon." God pre-determined that those whom He foreloved would be formed together with the ICON of Jesus Christ. Interesting, isn't it? What is an icon? It is a representation of, a likeness, a resemblance. Now we know how the term "icon" has been used by heretical religions such as the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox false churches. They actually have physical images of what they call "Jesus Christ," whether in pictures or statues or whatever. These are actually idols that are forbidden in God's Word. But this is not what this passage is talking about. It would be ridiculous to be conformed to a painting or a statue, wouldn't it? This is talking about BECOMING LIKE CHRIST. God has predestinated His people to become like Christ. Now some will say that this is talking about being Christ-like in our character and conduct as we walk this earth. Certainly, we are to strive to be like Christ in all of our words, thoughts, and deeds. But in this context and the way this word is used in another passage that we're about to read, I believe it's talking about being like Christ in final glory, when we will be glorified together with Christ, as we saw in Romans 8:17.
The other passage that uses this Greek word soom-mor-FOSS is Philippians 3:20-21. Let's turn over there:
Philippians 3: (20) For our citizenship is in Heaven, from where we also wait for a Savior, [the] Lord Jesus Christ, (21) who will transform our body of humiliation, for it to be conformed to His body of glory, according to the working [of] Him to be able even to subject all things under Himself.
So this is talking about being formed together, having the same form as Christ's body of glory when our bodies are transformed when we go to heaven. We will be CONFORMED to the LIKENESS of Christ.
Let's now turn over to 1 John 3:2:
1 John 3: (2) Beloved, now we are the children of God, and it was not yet revealed what we shall be. But we know that if He is revealed, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is.
Here again, we see that this is talking about when we get to heaven, we will be LIKE Christ. Verse 3 talks about this hope, which is obviously talking about the time when we are glorified with Christ in our sinless bodies.
So these passages of Scripture are one reason why I believe the passage in Romans 8:29 is talking about our future glorification in which we will be conformed to the image of Christ. The other reason is the context, which leads us right into the last phrase of verse 29, which is, "for Him to be the First-born among many brothers." Now we could go into a whole study of what it means to be first-born. To be the first-born son in the Old Testament meant to have many privileges, including the inheritance - the birthright. Jesus Christ, as the first-born among His brothers, has the privilege of the inheritance. But what makes Christ's status as firstborn unique is that, first, we have been adopted into His family, and second, He has made us JOINT-HEIRS with Him, so that we SHARE in the SAME privilege of the inheritance because His righteousness has been imputed to us, so we are counted as HEIRS IN CHRIST and are entitled to the SAME PRIVILEGES as if we were the first-born! Christ, the first-born, has many brothers who SHARE in that JOINT-HEIRSHIP as we saw in Romans 8:17.
But that's not all. Turn over to Colossians 1:18:
Colossians 1: (18) And He is the Head of the body, the assembly, who is [the] Beginning, [the] First-born out of [the] dead, that He be preeminent in all things;
Jesus Christ is described as the Firstborn out of the dead. He rose from the dead as the firstborn, the one who was the first in line who would guarantee the resurrection of his brothers. It reminds me of some passages in Romans 6 and 7 that say "for if we have been joined together in the likeness of His death, so also shall we be in the resurrection" and "if the Spirit of the One having raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the One having raised the Christ from the dead will also make your mortal bodies live through the indwelling of His Spirit in you." And remember when we talked about the term "firstfruit" when we were looking at Romans 7:23? Christ is called the "firstfruit"in 1 Corinthians 15 as it relates to resurrection from the dead. Let's turn over there. Let's read 1 Corinthians 15, verses 20 through 23:
1 Corinthians 15: (20) But now Christ has been raised from [the] dead; He became the firstfruit of those having fallen asleep. (21) For since death [is] through man, also through a Man [is] a resurrection of [the] dead; (22) for as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. (23) But each in [his] own order: Christ, the firstfruit; afterward those of Christ at His coming.
Christ is called "the firstfruit of those having fallen asleep." And this passage says that the order is as follows: First, Christ is raised, as the firstfruit, and then Christ's people are raised at His coming. I think this all ties in with Christ as the firstborn. He is the firstborn among many brothers, the firstborn out of the dead, and he was raised as the firstfruit, the guarantee that His people would be raised from the dead.
Now back to Romans 8:29. Let's sum up this whole verse. Whom God fore-loved, He pre-determined to be jointly formed to the likeness of Jesus Christ in glory, for Christ to be the first-born, the first-fruit, among His brothers, those who are joint-heirs with Him because of His imputed righteousness. Is that understandable? I can put it another way. God loved certain people before He created the universe. These people weren't even created yet, but God had already decided to save these certain people and to bring them to heaven to be made like Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ lived a perfect life and died on a cross for those people that God loved and chose, and He rose from the dead as a guarantee that everyone for whom He lived and died would have everlasting life. God promises salvation to EVERYONE for whom Christ lived and died. And He keeps His promises. EVERYONE whom Christ represented in His life and death will be saved. He will lose NONE of them. EVERYONE whom God loved before the foundation of the world will be saved. EVERYONE whom God predestinated to be conformed to the image of Christ will be saved. God pre-determined the salvation of His people, all the way to final glory in heaven, as we will see in the next verse, the Lord willing. It's a done deal. Are you one of those whom God loved from before the foundation of the world? The only way to know is if you believe the gospel. Everyone whom God loves will, at some point in their lives, be regenerated and believe the gospel of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ alone. If you believe the gospel, you know that God loved you with an everlasting love and guarantees that you will be glorified with Christ in heaven. If you don't believe the gospel, God commands you to repent of your wickedness, including your false religion, and believe in the true gospel of salvation conditioned on the work of Christ alone. Amen.