Lesson 10: May 8, 2022
Romans 8:18-30 Living in the world we sometimes suffer because of evildoers. Where can one find inspiration and hope for the future? God promises to bring good out of our suffering and give us a blessed future.
Freedom for the Future
Bible Background • ROMANS 8:18-30
Printed Text • ROMANS 8:18-30 | Devotional Reading • 1 PETER 5:1-4
- Teaching Tips
- Aim For Change, In Focus, Keep in Mind
- Focal Verses
- People, Places, and Times and Background
- At a Glance and In Depth
- Search the Scriptures and Discuss the Meaning
- Lesson For Liberation and Application for Activation
- More Light On The Text
- Say It Correctly and Daily Bible Readings
Words You Should Know
A. Suffering (Romans 8:18) pathos (Gk.)— To experience agony, intense pain, distress, or sorrow
B. Vanity (v. 20) mutaiotes (Gk.)—Depravity, changeability
Unifying Principle—Hope for the Future. Living in the world we sometimes suffer because of evildoers. Where can one find inspiration and hope for the future? God promises to bring good out of our suffering and give us a blessed future.
A. Read the Bible Background and Devotional Reading.
B. Pray for your students and lesson clarity.
C. Read the lesson Scripture in multiple translations.
O—Open the Lesson
A. Begin the class with prayer.
B. Use a large strip of newsprint or shelf paper to create a timeline for the Christian life. The timeline should include foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, and glorification. Discuss the meaning and examples of each.
C. Have the students read the Aim for Change and the In Focus story.
D. Ask students how events like those in the story weigh on their hearts and how they can view these events from a faith perspective.
P—Present the Scriptures
A. Read the Focal Verses and discuss the Background and The People, Places, and Times sections.
B. Have the class share what Scriptures stand out for them and why, with particular emphasis on today’s themes.
E—Explore the Meaning
A. Use In Depth or More Light on the Text to facilitate a deeper discussion of the lesson text.
B. Pose the questions in Search the Scriptures and Discuss the Meaning.
C. Discuss the Liberating Lesson and Application for Activation sections.
N—Next Steps for Application
A. Summarize the value of trusting God has a plan for your life.
B. End class with a commitment to pray for accepting the promise of the Holy Spirit to give strength, direction, and advocacy.
For the Superintendent or Teacher
Theme: Freedom for the Future
Song: “And Can It Be”
Aim for Change
By the end of this lesson, we will UNDERSTAND the role of the Holy Spirit in our relationships with God and Jesus; FEEL empowered by the Holy Spirit even in the midst of suffering, weakness, or loss of direction; and LIVE with hope as we seek God’s purpose and calling.
Thomas would always arrive 20 minutes late for work. His attitude was “I can always stay late and finish what I need to do.” He would lie and tell his boss he had car trouble. The truth of the matter was Thomas had trouble getting out of bed in the morning. The thought of facing the multitude of tasks on his to do lists gave him real mental stress, so much so that he delayed going to bed and tossed and turned through the night, making his morning alarm even harder to obey. He was even considering talking to his doctor about the problem. In the meantime, he felt 20 minutes should not matter as long as he got his work done before he left the office.
One day in the cafeteria he overheard a coworker telling someone how his lateness hinders others in the office from meeting their deadlines because they are waiting on him to do his part. Thomas realized his actions had a negative impact on those who depended on him. His behavior had to change, but he didn’t think he had the strength.
That night he forced himself into bed a full eight hours before his morning alarm. He didn’t have an entire plan, didn’t even know what the root of the problem was. He just knew he should pray about it. God would understand what he meant. God would grant him the miracle he needed.
God helps us in our struggles to do what is right and empowers us to overcome sin through our faith in Jesus Christ. How has the Spirit helped you to pray and helped in your struggles?
“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18, KJV)
“Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.” (Romans 8:18, NLT)
KJV Romans 8:18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.
20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,
21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?
25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.
26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
NLT Romans 8:18 Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.
19 For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are.
20 Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope,
21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.
22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.
23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us.
24 We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it.
25 But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)
26 And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.
27 And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.
28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
29 For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
30 And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.
People, Places, and Times
The Suffering of the Righteous. The Bible provides numerous examples of godly people who experienced a significant amount of suffering for various reasons—Joseph, David, Job, Jeremiah, and Paul, to name a few. Historically, many of African descent suffered for the sake of the Gospel.
The Bible gives various reasons believers suffer, including: (1) an ongoing consequence of the Fall. When sin entered the world, pain, sorrow, conflict, and eventual death invaded the lives of all human beings (see Genesis 3:16–19). In fact, the entire created universe groans under the effects of sin and yearns for the time of the new heaven and new earth when God will abolish the curse (see Romans 8:20–23; 2 Peter 3:10–13); (2) the same reason that unbelievers suffer—as a consequence for their own actions (see Galatians 6:7); (3) because we live in a sinful and corrupt world. All around us are the effects of sin, and we experience distress and anguish as we see the power that evil holds over so many people’s lives (see Ezekiel 9:4; Acts 17:16); and (4) the devil has been given power to afflict us in a variety of ways (1 Peter 5:8–9). The story of Job is an example of this kind of suffering (see Job 1–2).
In Romans 7, Paul writes about the grace of Christ. He shows us that without grace, a believer would live a defeated and miserable life, in bondage to their sinful nature. However, in Romans 8, Paul changes his focus and begins sharing about the supernatural life that has been made available to all believers in Jesus Christ.
Through our union with Christ by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, believers are now able to live a life free from condemnation, and they no longer have to be enslaved by sin. The Spirit gives believers victory over sin and allows them to experience true fellowship with God. Paul lets us know that the only way we can be delivered from the power of sin is by receiving—and being controlled by—the Spirit. In other words, the Spirit, working in the life of a believer, will lead them to victory.
The apostle affirms there are two kinds of people: those who live according to the flesh, and those who live according to the Spirit. People who choose to live “after the flesh” take pleasure in the corrupt desires of sinful human nature, including fornication, adultery, strife, and uncleanness (see Galatians 5:19–21). Those who live by the Holy Spirit will submit to His leading and exhibit love, peace, goodness, and self-control (see Galatians 5:22–23).
Every true believer receives the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit the moment they accept Jesus Christ. Thus, it is only through the Spirit that we are able to put to death the deeds of the body (Romans 8:13). The mark of a true believer is the ability to be led by the Spirit.
Paul also reminds us that living in the Spirit and being victorious are not always easy. We are to prepare ourselves through the Spirit to suffer even as Jesus suffered. We identify with Christ through our suffering with Him that we may be also glorified together.
If we have been glorified with Christ, why must the Christian still suffer?
1. Freedom for Creature and Creation
2. The Spirit’s Freeing Intercession
3. Free to Hope (vv. 28–30)
1. Freedom for Creature and Creation (Romans 8:18–25) All the sufferings, injustices, hurt, pain, disappointment, rejection, financial woes, health problems, heartaches, and other trials that a believer may now experience will seem so insignificant when God’s glory is revealed in us in the age to come. Believers have a future hope—the manifestation of God’s glory will be fully revealed in us one day.
Ever since Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, creation has also been subjected to suffering, catastrophes, groanings, and travailings. Not only will faithful believers be glorified in the new age, but nature itself will be recreated. There will be a restoration of all things, including a new heaven and earth.
Believers desire full redemption, even though we possess the Spirit and experience God’s blessings today. Believers groan for the full manifestation of God’s glory to be revealed and for the honor and privileges of full adoption (see 2 Corinthians 5:4), which includes the redemption of our body (Romans 8:23). That resurrection body will be our heavenly house (see 2 Corinthians 5:2), not subject to the harshness of this present world. The Christian’s faith in Jesus Christ, His Word, and the Spirit enables us to patiently wait for the fulfillment of God’s manifested glory.
In what ways have you seen creation itself suffering from the effects of sin?
2. The Spirit’s Freeing Intercession (vv. 26–27) Paul says that the Spirit also helps our infirmities (v. 26)—our weakness in praying effectively. Paul affirms that God will not listen to prayers based on our selfish desires (v. 26). Often we pray based on the right now instead of basing our prayers on God’s eternal purpose for our lives and our family and friends. Either we pray our own will or we pray amiss (James 4:3). As a result, many of our prayers go unanswered. The Holy Spirit helps us pray prayers that will glorify the Father.
Paul reminds us that God searches our hearts. He knows our motives, and the reason for our prayers. Thus, the Holy Spirit’s ministry is to make intercession for the saints according to the will of God. The Holy Spirit working effectively in the life of a believer will line up the believer’s will with the Lord’s and will cause us to pray prayers that will glorify God. It is encouraging to know that we have two divine intercessors assisting us in our walk with the Lord: the Holy Spirit (vv. 26–27) and Jesus Christ (v. 34).
What does the Spirit do when our prayers do not align with God’s will? Does the Spirit still intercess for us then?
3. Free to Hope (vv. 28–30) Despite all the trials we will face in this life, with the help of the Spirit intercessing for us, we can have the confident hope that it will all work together for good. Not that everything will be good for everyone. This promise is for “those who love God and are called” to His purpose. Those devoted to God, who are doing His work, will see that the overall arch of history is working toward the good will of the Lord.
Many theologians have long debated the tension between predestination and free will. When interacting with these verses, however, it is enough to know that the omniscient God has always known who would be His. He calls these people, provided Jesus for their justification, and provides the Spirit as the seal for a promised glorification.
How has God called you throughout your life?
Search the Scriptures
1. Why should the sufferings of this present age be considered insignificant (Romans 8:18)?
2. Why does the Spirit make intercession for the believer (vv. 26–27)?
3. What does the Christian ultimately hope for (vv. 23, 30)?
Discuss the Meaning
1. Is it necessary for a believer to suffer? Why or why not?
2. What is the Holy Spirit’s main responsibility? Why do we need the Holy Spirit?
3. If the Spirit is our intercessor, does that mean we can live any way we want and just ask Him to go to God on our behalf? Why or why not?
To tell new believers (and sinners) that they will never experience pain, sorrow, or sufferings once they have come to Christ contradicts biblical texts such as Philippians 2:26, 27; John 16:33; Romans 8:18. This unfounded teaching has caused many new converts to fall away from the church, or become hostile and indifferent to the Gospel. Similarly, some people believe and teach that suffering is a sign of God’s disfavor because of sin. However, Scripture declares that people who desire to live godly lives will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). When people choose godly lives, persecution and suffering are inevitable. A believer who refuses to compromise their faith to conform to the world will often be rejected, mistreated, and ridiculed. A lack of suffering could be a sign that the believer has not taken a stand for righteousness. How does this knowledge reflect on your life today?
Application for Activation
Create a song or poem to praise and thank God for the hope He gives in times of trouble. Review it daily this week and look for how you feel the Holy Spirit working in you. Maybe you can add another stanza to your piece based on the week’s experiences with the Spirit.
Follow the Spirit
What God wants me to do?
Remember Your Thoughts
Special insights I have learned?
More Light on the Text
Romans 8:18–30 8:18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. Paul weighed suffering against the future revelation of glory and found suffering to be not worthy of comparison to the glory in store for the Christian. Suffering (Gk. pathos, PAY-thoce, agony, intense pain, distress, or sorrow) has been part and parcel of the human condition since the fall of humankind (see Genesis 3). Old Testament examples of suffering are present in many of the psalms (compare Psalms 22; 38; 64; 77; 79). Job uses suffering as a dominant theme as well. Paul’s reference to suffering as being for “this present time” (Gk. kairos, KIEroce, a short while or season) seems to indicate that suffering is limited in duration, while the future glory is timeless.
Suffering may refine and fashion lives (1 Peter 1:6-7; 5:10) or transform lives. Jesus learned obedience and was perfected through suffering (Hebrews 5:8–9) which also demonstrated God’s power. Suffering helps us show more sympathy for others who suffer (2 Corinthians 1:3-6; 12:7). Believers increasingly identify with Christ as they suffer for Him (Philippians 3:10). The suffering makes us more like Christ.
Glory (Gk. doxa, DOKE-sah) refers to the beauty, power, and honor of God and symbolizes God’s power and authority. The word “glory” may be used to denote three different aspects of God: morality, beauty, and divine perfection. These divine qualities are beyond what the human brain can understand (Psalm 113:4). God’s glory is manifested in Christ (Luke 29–32) and the members of the Church with whom Christ’s glory is shared (John 17:5–6). Through this sharing, Christians will be completely transformed in the last days, when the glory of God will be revealed to all of creation (Revelation 21:23). A third meaning of the glory of God is the praise and honor which the people of God give to Him (Psalm 115:1; Revelation 5:12–13).
When Paul compares these two, the goodness of the glory far exceeds the badness of the sufferings. There is really no contest between the two. The glory that God promises wins an overwhelming victory. On this side of eternity it might seem like the trials are terrible. From the viewpoint of eternity, however, those same trials are not even worth mentioning.
19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. The word translated “creature” here and “creation” in verse 22 is the same (Gk. ktisis, kuh-TEE-seese). It can refer to a single created being (i.e., a creature) or to all of creation. Context here makes “creation” the preferred reading, referring to all of nature, but usually understood as excluding humankind because of our special place among God’s creatures. Creation will be set free from its bondage to decay when the children of God enter their glory. Paul personifies creation, giving it human qualities (it waits with earnest anticipation). The phrase “earnest expectation” (Gk. apokaradokia, ah-po-kah-rah-doe-KEE-ah) refers to the manner in which creation waits for the glory to be revealed. Creation waits as we might say “with baited breath.” The word “waiteth” (Gk. apekdechomai, op-eck-DEHkho- my) means to expect fully, to look out, or wait for. “Manifestation” (Gk. apokalupsis, ah-poe-KAH-loop-seese) means disclosure, or revelation. Paul is likely intending a bit of alliteration here in the words apokaradokia, apekdechomai, and apokalupsis, as they all begin with the same prefix ap(o)- and then a k at the beginning of the root verb. This repetition of sounds emphasizes and helps the hearer remember the point.
The “sons” of God (Gk. huios, hoo-ee-OCE) means those having kinship to God. When used in the plural, as here, the word can be gender neutral, and is better translated “children.” Paul puts forth our relationship to God through Christ as “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (8:17). Paul posits that we are children of God if we are “led by the Spirit” (v. 14). This parent/child relationship goes both ways. While we have the responsibility to obey God’s law, we also have the privileges of His heir. In fact, we have a “spirit of adoption” which is witnessed to by the Spirit (v. 5). As joint heirs with Christ, we suffer His trials, but also enjoy His glory.
20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, 21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. Paul here takes us back to the creation and fall. The implied idea here is that the world which God created waited for the manifestation of human beings for its fulfillment. Humanity is the crown of creation. However, when humanity fell, creation lost its glory. Just as it waited for the manifestation of God’s son Adam, now through the death and resurrection of Jesus, it awaits the completion of the new creation when the redeemed are restored to their rightful place. But this expectation is not passive, it is a dynamic hope in divine desire for human restoration to God’s primary intention. Creation will be set free from its forced bondage to decay when the children of God enter their glory.
Creation did not cause its own subjection, as humankind did, but rather was made subject to decay by God. The Greek phrase “in hope” is placed so that it is unclear who is hoping, whether God (KJV) or creation (NLT). Either God placed creation under the pain of corruption “in hope” that humanity would soon repent and be glorified; or creation waits “in hope” to be delivered. Paul has already stated that creation is waiting with eagerness (v. 19), which leads many to translate the phrase differently from the KJV. Either way, all of creation is “subjected” (Gk. hupotasso, hoo-poe- TAS-so; put under obedience) to “vanity” and the “bondage” (Gk. douleia, doo-LAY-ah, slavery) of “corruption” (Gk. phtora, fuh-thor-AH). It hopes for deliverance from bondage to “glorious liberty.” The KJV usage of “vanity” is not the same as today’s meaning, which is limited to selfish self-centeredness, but refers to anything that, like physical beauty, is fleeting or flimsy. Creation suffers from transience, always on the brink of total chaos, always restlessly changing. It is also bound as a slave to “corruption,” which refers to death and decay. Paul here implies that the perfect world God created in Eden was not made to be fleeting or to be forced to die and decay. It was made to last.
Vanity and corruption are described as a kind of bondage. This bondage is contrasted with God’s liberty. To the Corinthian church, Paul writes of God’s liberty from the veiled and misunderstood Law, freeing God’s people to be transformed into ever increasingly glorious creatures of God’s likeness (2 Corinthians 3:17- 18). Liberty from the Law allows the Spirit to move us closer and closer to God. Here, Paul explains that not only will God’s children enjoy this glorification, but all of creation itself too.
22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. 23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. Those who possess the Holy Spirit long for the redemption of their bodies. Paul is suggesting a relationship between creation and humankind, as they “groaneth and travaileth” and await the adoption and the redemption of their bodies. The phrase “travaileth in pain together” (Gk. sunodino, soon-oh-DEE-no) means to sympathize in expectation of relief from suffering. Paul’s use of this birth metaphor suggests that the appearance of a new age, just as an actual birth, results in the appearance of a new person. Groanings do in fact accompany the process of birth, and it is also joined with the expectation of something new. Continuing the birth metaphor, Paul speaks of “adoption” (Gk. huiothesia, hoo-ee-oh-theh-SEE-ah), which literally means the process of becoming a son. When the process of producing a son is done naturally, it involves much pain, and so it is with our spiritual births. Roman adoption laws gave the adopted child all the rights of a natural-born child, rights that could never be revoked. Our adoption into God’s family provides us with many benefits, but the one Paul highlights in this particular verse is “the redemption of our body.” “Redemption” (Gk. apolutrosis, ah-poe-LOO-troh-seese) means ransom in full or salvation, as the body is redeemed and the glory is revealed (vv. 17, 23). No longer will we have to suffer the physical pains of a corporeal life. No longer will any created thing have to suffer to survive. All will be healed when full glorification comes.
24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? 25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. In verses 24 and 25, Paul lifts up hope as the means to salvation. By hope (Gk. elpis, ell- PEESE), we are saved. The invisibility of what is hoped for keeps us anticipating, waiting in earnest. If what was “hoped for” were visible, the need to either wait or develop patience would not exist (v. 25).
26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. The Spirit searches the hearts of believers and intercedes for them when they cannot express their needs. Paul notes the relationship between humankind and the Spirit. In addition to witnessing our adoption and being joint heirs with us, the Spirit intercedes for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. The Spirit helps us when we are unable to express our desires in prayer. The Spirit uses “unutterable groanings” to interpret our wishes to God.
Additionally, the Spirit “maketh intercession” for the children of God “according to the will of God.” When making intercession for us, the Spirit confers with God on our behalf or comes to our defense. The phrase “maketh intercession” (Gk. huperentungchano) means “to confer” with God. The Spirit intercedes “according to the will of God” (v. 27).
Paul also affirms that the Spirit of God is suffering within the believer as He awaits the manifestation of the final days of redemption (vv. 23–25). This groaning of the Holy Spirit occurs in the hearts of believers (v. 26). One of Holy Spirit’s ministries is to help believers in prayer. When we face trying circumstances, it is encouraging to know that the Holy Spirit can assist us when we pray. Many of the attacks we encounter are spiritual (Ephesians 6:12). The Spirit gives us the power and assistance we need in order to fight.
For example, when James and John’s mother approached Jesus, her desire was for her sons to sit on the left and right hand of the Savior in the Kingdom (Matthew 20:20–23). Jesus knew that this mother had no idea what she was asking for and neither did James and John realize the implication of the request. Little did they realize that one of them would die an unnatural death (Acts 12:2), while the other one would suffer imprisonment (Revelation 1:9). Many believers do not realize the consequences or the price we may have to pay when we offer up selfish prayers. That’s why we need the Holy Spirit’s intercession for us (or through us) according to the will and eternal purpose of the Father.
28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. As a Christian, we are promised a happy ending. Those who love God, whom He has called, who work toward His purpose, are promised to have “all things work together for good.” What an amazing promise!
This promise does not mean, however, that everything in everyone’s lives will be pleasant. We cannot look at individual events, but at “all things.” We cannot expect instant results, but wait for them to “work together.” We also might see disaster in the life of someone we love and want to assure them that it will all work out, but if they are not a God follower, then we cannot make that promise.
This promise also does not free us from responsibility to work toward the purpose God has given us. Some might think that since everything will work out for good, then they do not have to worry about doing their part. However, there is great reward and honor in being the one to help bring about God’s purpose. One way we show God that we love Him is by holding true to our calling.
29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. Paul shows that one reason we can trust that all will work together for good for those called by God is this list that builds upon itself all the way into heaven. In this list, Paul shows that the reason those called by God can trust all will be well is that God already justifies and even glorifies those He has called. Even though on the human side of salvation, it might seem like a simple one-step process of saying the “Sinner’s Prayer,” Paul tells the Romans that God has fulfilled all the other steps of salvation on our behalf already. In addition to saving us, God also foreknew us, predestined us, called us, justified us, and gloried us.
There is much biblical evidence for God’s foreknowledge of His people. David speaks of God knowing him in his mother’s womb. Jeremiah speaks of receiving his call to ministry also in the womb, which is also when Samson was set aside for protecting Israel. Jesus tells Nathan that He saw him “under the fig tree,” which some scholars understand as meaning “as an infant,” as mothers would let their babies play in the shade of a fig tree. The omniscient God who exists outside of time knows everything that was, is, and will be.
Many scholars have pondered and discussed the full implications of Paul’s reference to predestination and its relationship to human free will, and many more will continue to do so. For understanding this particular passage, it is enough to know that God has decided that His followers will all conform to the image of Christ. This will make Jesus the first among many siblings, because God has always wanted a huge family. To conform to Christ’s image is to identify with Him and make ourselves more and more like Him. As Paul says to the Philippian church, we become like Christ in His suffering and even death, so that we can be like Him also in His glorification.
Those who are going to conform to Jesus’ example are also called. The call of the Spirit to repentance and freedom from sin is persistent, and becomes increasingly difficult to ignore. The language of being “called” recalls for the Jews in Paul’s audience the common name for the Jewish community of faith of the “called out ones,” the ekklesia in Greek. These are those who have been called out from their tents to gather at the sanctuary for worship, but also those who have been called out from the world to be separate and holy for God.
When we accept God’s calling, we are instantly and completely justified or made righteous in God’s eyes. Having accepted the call and identified ourselves with Christ, we can stand before God as though we had never sinned because Christ’s death paid for the sins already. This is the step that we most often think of when we think of salvation. Salvation does not end here, though, because God has something even better in store for His children.
The justified are also glorified! This is why we can trust that everything will work for good if we are called: because we know the called will be glorified, and indeed are already glorified. Paul speaks of these steps of salvation all in the aorist tense. This Greek verb tense marks an action completed in the past that has an effect on the present. Truly, all of it was finished at the Cross. Let us not focus on the temporary pains this world brings, but fix our eyes on the fact that God has already glorified His chosen people.
Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible:
New Modern Edition. Vols. 1-6. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson
Publishers, Inc., 2009.
Strong, James. The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.
Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003.
Thayer, Joseph Henry. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament.
New York: American Book Company, 1889.
Say It Correctly
Daily Bible Readings
No Longer Slave of Sin
God Bestows the Spirit
We Have Died to the Law
An Inner Struggle to Obey
No Condemnation for Heirs with Christ
(Romans 8:1–4, 10–17)
Receive the Holy Spirit
All Things Work Together for Good