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“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. 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.” (Romans 8:29, 30)

A lot of discussion over the years has been generated over these verses. Who does God predestine? If he predestines a person, then is that person necessarily free to choose Him? And if some are predestined for salvation, does that mean others are not? Let’s have a look at these verses and see what they are teaching us about God and predestination.

To answer the first question, who does God predestine, we need to look at the context of the Bible chapter in which these verses occur, Romans 8. In this chapter, the apostle Paul is discussing those who “walk after the Spirit”. He declares them to be “the sons of God”.

Romans 8:14-17: “(14) For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. (15) For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. (16) The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: (17) And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with [him], that we may be also glorified together.”

The Spirit of God dwells in the sons and daughters of God. If we do not have the Spirit of God, we are not Christs.

“But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (v9).

We know that the work of Spirit of God is to bring the gift of salvation to us through “regeneration” (Titus 3:5). To be “regenerated” by the Spirit, is to be “born again” (John 3:5). So that it may be said that, those who are Christ’s are those “born of the Spirit” or “born of God”. And what do those that are born of God do?

“…love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God” (1John 4:7).

They love God. Paul refers to them as “children of God” and “joints heirs with Christ”, “saints” (v27) who will be glorified together with Christ. These are those “who are called according to his purpose”. The “born again”, “regenerated” “saints” are the subjects of the verses that follow.

Now look at Romans 8:28:

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God….”

“Them that love God”, the “born again” children of God, are the ones that all things work together for good. But what is meant by “good” here? We have often heard this verse quoted to us as a source of encouragement, particularly when some trouble or calamity comes our way and for which we have no explanation. But it is not often that we hear the full verse quoted. The second half of the verse suggests that there is an explanation for the “all things” that happen to those that love God. “All things work together for good…to them that are called according to his purpose.” When we understand God’s purpose for those who love Him, we will understand what the “good” is that God is working together in us. Understanding this purpose, will also provide a solace in answer to the question “why” when troubles come. So let’s consider the purpose of God, and how it relates to His predestining.

Looking again at verse 28, when it says “called ACCORDING TO his purpose” it means the calling is in harmony with the purpose. The Purpose therefore would precede the Calling.

Purpose -> Calling

Now verse 29 brings God’s foreknowledge into the discussion. Here is where many stumble. People read “foreknowledge” as God’s predetermined will. But this is not the case. Paul introduces God’s “foreknowledge” using the conjunction “for” or “because”, implying that the phrase, “whom he did foreknow” is an explanatory remark related to the previous phrase, “those who are called according to His purpose”.

God foreknows those who are “called according to His purpose”. Paul then says of those ones that God “foreknew”, He “also did predestinate [to be] conformed to the image of his Son”.

Foreknowledge = Predestined ->To be Conformed to the Image of the Son

The reason for this predestination is “that he [Jesus] might be the firstborn among many brethren” (v29), by the many being conformed to His image. To conform them, they first must be “born again” in Christ. Those who are “born again” have been called in accord with this purpose.

Now we know that the calling of God includes the invitation: “Whosever will let Him take of the water of life freely” (Rev 22:17). This is an invitation to “whosoever will”. Any one that wants to, let him or her drink. This is a universal invitation.

Paul then says, those whom He called, are also justified (v.30). Does that mean that everyone called is automatically justified? No. Jesus has said that He will “draw all men” unto Himself through the power of the Cross (John 12:32). However, in accordance with Romans 3:26, God “is the justifier of Him which believeth in Jesus”. Those whom God justifies are only those that exercise belief in Jesus. That the drawing of God is universal, is further supported by the fact that that drawing includes an unwillingness on God’s part “that any should perish”. God is willing rather “that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

God’s purpose then includes a willingness for all to be conformed to the image of His Son. But in between the willingness for all to come and the conforming, is the harmonic:

Only the “whosoevers” that will come and “believe” on Jesus are permitted to take “freely” of the water of life and thus be ultimately conformed to the image of His Son. This freedom to believe or not to believe is the harmonic undergirding all that God does within those whom he calls. In the word picture below, this Harmonic sits between Calling and Conforming:

Calling<=>Harmonic (freely believe)<=>Conforming

The Calling of God does not compromise this harmonic at any step in the process, else it becomes discordant with God’s Purpose.

Purpose = Calling =>Harmonic (freely believe ) =>Conforming If those called do not continue to drink “freely” of the “water of life” by “believing” on the Son, they will not be conformed to His image.

Understanding this harmonic within God’s Purpose, divine foreknowledge then is God foreseeing those who will respond willingly to the call to believe and drink. They will be “born again” in Christ. And those that God did foreknow, Paul goes on to say, He also did “predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son”.

Predestination then is God’s pre-determination that all those whom He foresees responding willingly to the invitation to come and believe, will be permitted to drink. They will be justified by faith in Jesus.

And those whom He has justified, according to Paul, He will also glorify. They are the ones that God will ultimately conform to the image of His Son. As they drink from the water of life freely, God works together all things, in order that they may go on to full conformity to the image of His Son, and thus constitute the many brethren. That is the work of the Holy Spirit within each one who believes. The Spirit that regenerates those who believe, is the Spirit that also transforms them day by day into the same image, “from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

What this means for one who is yet to believe is that God’s invitation, “whosever will let him drink”, is an invitation to freely receive the gift of salvation. “Let him drink”. If you are one of those souls, this invitation is for you. Sister White explains,

“The same divine mind that is working upon the things of nature is speaking to the hearts of men and creating an inexpressible craving for something they have not. The things of the world cannot satisfy their longing. The Spirit of God is pleading with them to seek for those things that alone can give peace and rest—the grace of Christ, the joy of holiness.” Steps to Christ, p. 28.

But God will not force you to accept Him nor will He deny you if you are willing to believe in Jesus and accept His forgiveness for your sin. He will pardon you, and justify you freely “through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24).

What this means for those who do believe in Jesus is that God will accomplish His purpose in you. He will conform you to the image of Jesus. All He asks is that you freely exercise your faith in Him constantly. Don’t let the present difficulties discourage you in the Christian life. Take up the battle in the strength of the Holy Spirit. Remember, Paul recognised that the sufferings of the present, are to be expected of those who are children of God and joint heirs with Christ (v17). If Christ suffered, then so shall we. But note, Paul’s attitude to sufferings in view of God’s ultimate purpose:

“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” (v18).

So no matter what happens to you, no matter what trials or tribulations come your way, no matter what sufferings you may be called to endure, you can have confidence, founded in God’s determined purpose, that He is working ALL things together for your ultimate good—His predetermined purpose—that your life will be conformed to the image of Jesus.

–Paul Chapman

 

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By Gerson Robles

There is legend of an animal that inhabits the forests of Northern Europe and Asia. This animal is known as the ermine or short-tailed weasel. The thing he is most famous for is his beautiful, snow-white winter fur. During the middle ages, prominent people in society, such as judges or royals lined their coats with the ermine’s white fur – the white being an emblem of purity and honour.

It is said that the ermine has a special regard for his lovely fur. At all costs, he will protect it from anything that would spoil it. Some fur hunters have taken cruel advantage of the ermine’s preoccupation with keeping his coat clean. They do not set a trap to catch him by surprise, but instead find his home, a cleft in the rock or the hollow of a decaying tree, and daub the entrance and interior with filth.

The hunters conceal themselves and lay in wait for the ermine to wander by. Upon seeing him, they let their hunting dogs loose and the ermine, alarmed, flees toward his home; his only place of refuge. He finds it stained with uncleanness, but he will not spoil his pure white coat.  Rather than remain in the unclean place, he crawls back out and faces the barking, maddened dogs. He will preserve the purity of his fur – even at the price of his life. It is better that he be stained with his own blood than be spoiled by the filth of his surroundings. 1

This story of the ermine teaches a searching lesson to Christians living in this age of crime and sexual boldness. How much do we value our purity? Are we willing to die rather than defile the soul and body with sin?

Purity is not a Perfume

In Joshua Harris’ introduction to the video series called ‘I Kissed Dating Goodbye’ there is street scene where a number of people are asked, ‘what is purity?’ Each person interviewed explained their concept of purity, but one question that stood out was by a teenager who asked, ‘Is that a perfume?’ As I watched, I couldn’t help thinking that this response was but a faint reflection of a society with forgotten morals.

The Collins English Dictionary defines the word pure as: “free from tainting or polluting matter; clean; wholesome: pure water.” Biblical purity encompasses our whole being, focusing on the motives, thoughts and intents of the heart. It is a moral quality – to be free from sin. This is the work of Jesus for His people, “That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” 2

The Only Source

Contrary to popular philosophy, the Bible teaches us to look outside of and above ourselves for anything good. In fact, it says that any good whatsoever can only come from One Being – “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” 3 It is no different with purity.

Some months ago, a friend of mine took me to a market known especially for selling organic produce. As I walked past the stalls, I noticed a table on my right where a small white sign with bold black letters stood. The words read, ‘WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR IS INSIDE YOU’. I looked at the man sitting behind the table, he seemed eager to hear my enquiry. ‘What do you mean by this sign?’ I asked. He said with enthusiasm, ‘what people are looking for is joy, love and peace and they would simply find it by looking inward, deep inside themselves.’

As we spoke, I asked him if he had ever read the Bible. When he told me he hadn’t, I quoted a couple of verses saying that the human heart is, ‘deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?’ 4, and that Paul an early Apostle wrote concerning his own human nature saying ‘I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells.” 5 I then asked, ‘if the human heart is deceitful above all things, and in it no good thing dwells – how can we ever find joy, peace and love by looking inside ourselves?’

Purity does not originate in man. Outside of God, man’s concepts of purity are as varied as the colours of the rainbow and although we may appear pure in our own sight; our views are at best dim. Solomon stated this when he said, “There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes, Yet is not washed from its filthiness.” 6

Our only hope of becoming pure is by looking to Jesus, the embodiment of purity. The disciple John wrote, “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” 7 Unless we do this, we will become just as pure as our dim views of purity will take us – for “man will rise no higher than his conceptions of truth, purity, and holiness.” 8

Carelessness a Crime

Christians are today living in times like no other. Jesus described the unhappy experience of many last day Christians when He said, ‘…because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” 9 Familiarity with sin will chill the ‘hottest’ Christian.

Pornography and immorality are no longer confined to obscure locations in city districts, but are easily accessible to anyone with an internet connection or mobile phone. And this usually means young people. Many of them are wiser than their parents with technology. Sexual vice and immorality has certainly reared its ugly head – in the home of careless Christians.

Society is made up of families. Christian families are supposed to guard the purity and happiness of the race. But how can families guard the purity of society while the sacredness of their own home is pillaged with sexual filth? Children who have access to sensual or pornographic images on television, books, internet or other media will reap the fruit that parents have allowed to be sown in their sensitive and receptive minds. I say that have allowed it, because by not being vigilant – they have permitted it. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

I have met parents who show no concern about what their children and teens are seeing on the internet, books or mobile phones. They place no great importance on strictly guarding the avenues to their hearts.

A child’s life is composed of what enters through his senses. And approximately 80% of what he learns comes through eyesight. The things we hear, touch, taste and smell, but above all – the things we see mould our thoughts. Thoughts produce actions, repeated actions become habits and before we know it we are reaping the fruit of the seeds sown in our minds – whether good or bad.

We read with horror about the pagan cultures in Bible times who offered their children as burned sacrifices to Molech. But do parents today realize that by allowing their children to watch whatever they like on television or YouTube and to surf the internet unguardedly and with no purpose in view, you are throwing your children into a fire of sin that will arouse fiery passions within and consume them upon the altar of lust? Sensual thoughts will be aroused and passions enflamed, all leading to self abuse. If they are saved, they will have a hard battle with self to fight – and only by the grace of God can they win. Are your children being sacrificed to Molech?

Purity of Heart

The physical heart pumps life giving blood and nutrients to all areas of our body. If the heart is sick – so is the body. Spiritually, the heart is the centre of our affections, emotions, motives and desires.

The heart is the core of our being. Solomon wrote, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” 10 Through sin, the heart of man has become corrupt. Jesus said, “from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” 11 Therefore; the Saviour’s chief concern is for the heart of man.

God’s invitation is, “My son, give me your heart, And let your eyes observe my ways.” 12 God alone can purify our hearts. After his sin of adultery David yearned for purity of heart. In deep repentance he cried, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” 13

The process of God in cleansing the heart from sin will be the study of the saved throughout eternity. It cannot be explained – far less in this short article. But this statement will shed more light, “The science of salvation cannot be explained; but it can be known by experience.” 14

God has promised cleansing to all who will look to Him for purity, no matter what the sin. Listen to His promise, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.” 15

How can we maintain purity in such a sinful age as this? The only way is to purpose in our heart, not to defile ourselves with sin, and to live in union with Christ’s divine power. His truth will be our shield and buckler.

Remember the ermine? That little creature knew how to keep his fur clean. He was willing to die rather than defile his pure coat with filth. In like manner, “death before dishonour or the transgression of God’s law” 16 will be our motto, if we wish to preserve the purity of our character. Like all the faithful that have lived before us, Christ enthroned within will be the means of keeping us from the corruptions of these days – and as we learn to love the Truth, Christ Jesus, we will see that it is worth infinitely more than all the short-lived sensuous pleasures of sin.

By Gerson Robles.

References:

1. Adapted from an illustration in the public domain found at: http://elbourne.org/sermons Accessed July 24, 2009.

2. Ephesians 5:27, KJV

3. James 1:17, KJV

4. Jeremiah 17:9, KJV

5. Romans 7:19, NKJV

6. Proverbs 30:12, NJV

7. 1 John 3:2, 3, NKJV

8. White, Ellen. Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 91

9. Matthew 24:12, KJV

10. Proverbs 4:23, KJV

11. Mark 7:21-23, NKJV

12. Proverbs 23:26, NKJV

13. Psalms 51:10, KJV

14. White, Ellen. Desire of Ages, p. 494

15. Ezekiel 36:25-27, NKJV

16. White, Ellen. Messages to Young People,

p. 80

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