Safe in God’s Love – Romans 8

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,
What a comforting verse this is. But one that is so often torn out of its context. But we actually lose much of the meaning of Romans 8:28 if we separate it from verses 29 and 30.
The problem is that so many people play down verses 29 and 30 because it is one of clearest passages in the bible on the subject of Predestination. They don’t understand Predestination, or they don’t agree with predestination, or both. So they skate over those verses and by doing so miss out on a great blessing.
Because the whole point of Romans 8:28 is that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, NOT because they love him, or because they obey Him or because they serve Him or because they trust Him. God works for the good of ALL Christians, and not just extra loving or extra trusting Christians, precisely BECAUSE we have been called according to His purpose.
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
God has a secret cosmic masterplan, and he works all things for our God not just because he loves us but because we are involved in His plans and purposes. Our safety and security do not depend on our efforts (or lack of effort). They depend on God and God alone! And that is very good news! God’s activity in our lives and our situations right now is guaranteed because it is all part of his five part masterplan for every Christian which is summed up in Romans 8:29.
29 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. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

Martin Lloyd jones described Romans 8:28-20 as “probably more packed with doctrine and comfort than any other in the whole realm of Scripture. He spent 12 chapters and 196 pages of his commentary on Romans on three verses, a dozen sermons of 50 minutes each! Let’s see what we can unwrap of God’s five part plan in the next 25 minutes.
Those He FOREKNEW
When we talk about God’s foreknowledge this is not simply about knowing what is going to happen in advance, although God who is eternal and outside time does indeed know the end from the beginning, and the future before it happens. God’s foreknowledge is not of facts, but of people. God’s foreknowledge is about a relationship which exists from God’s side long before we ever begin to experience it from our side. Those who God foreknew are those people with whom God has chosen to enter into a relationship with, by His grace and for His glory.
Not only the apostle Paul, but also the apostle Peter, tells us about God’s foreknowledge of his chosen people.
1 Peter 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, 2 who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood:
Grace and peace be yours in abundance.

Some folk have a problem with the idea that God should choose some and not choose others. But that is how it always was, all the way through the Old Testament. God chose Abraham and chose to bless him. God chose the Israelites to become His chosen people, not the Egyptians or the Canaanites or the Babylonians but the Israelites. Not because the Israelites deserved God’s blessing, but because of His grace and mercy. “But that isn’t fair,” some people complain. It is unfair to choose some and not choose others. But if it was a matter of fairness, God wouldn’t choose anybody! All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. There is none who is righteous, no not one! All we deserve from God is judgment for our sin. If it was a question of fairness we would all be condemned. It is only by God’s grace that He enters into a relationship with any of us!
Those who God foreknew He PREDESTINED
Time was Predestination was one subject guaranteed to stir up controversy between Christians. We hear less arguments about that now, but that isn’t necessarily a good thing because I suspect it is just that many Christians and many popular preachers don’t think as deeply about their faith any more. In any case, Paul didn’t introduce Predestination here as a theological puzzle for us to worry about or argue about. Predestination is grounds of our Christian assurance.
29 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.
God’s purpose is to make us all like Jesus. C.S.Lewis said God’s plan is “to people the world with a lot of little Christs.”
1 John 3:1 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.
Jesus is to be the firstborn amongst many brethren. Our individual salvation is just one part of God’s cosmic masterplan. Predestination or free will? Did God choose me or did I choose God? BOTH! From my side, I chose to repent and believe the gospel and follow Jesus. But God sees it differently. From God’s side, He chose us before the beginning of time to have a relationship with us and to transform us into the image of Christ. Jesus said words to his twelve apostles which John 15 records because they are the pattern for all disciples of Jesus.
16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. … 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.

Those who he predestined He also CALLED
There is a human aspect of God’s call. In the External Calling the church proclaims God’s open invitation to everybody to repent and believe the gospel. We preach, we witness, we share Scripture, we serve our neighbours in love and sacrifice. All these things point to Jesus. All of these things form part of the External call of God on people’s lives. But none of these things are worth anything without the Internal Call of God’s Holy Spirit on a person’s heart, drawing them to Christ. This is the Spiritual aspect of God’s call, the work of the Holy Spirit enabling the lost sinner to turn to God in faith.
Augustine called it “prevenient grace”, the grace which goes before a person drawing them to Christ. The reformers talked about the internal calling, or the effectual calling, the Holy Spirit making the External Call real in the life of the believer. Jesus taught about this work of the Holy Spirit bringing men and women to faith in Him.
John 15:26 “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.
We testify – the external call. The Spirit testifies – the internal call.
167… Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; 10 in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

Ultimately the choice rests with God and the call comes from God who is saved, since salvation is always entirely of grace, and not of good works. There is NOTHING we can do to contribute to our salvation. Human merit does not and cannot come into it – it’s all God’s grace!
But I don’t want anyone spending any sleepless nights worrying about this question of God’s election and call. “Am I one of the elect?” Somebody may ask. “Am I truly called?” If you are trusting in Christ for eternal life then you are definitely elect and you are definitely called! Sometimes we may worry about other people. Are they called? Has God chosen them? Well PRAY for them. Spurgeon said that he preached as hard as he could until all the elect were gathered in and then he prayed as hard as he could that God would elect some more!
We are called, says Paul, according to God’s purpose. God has saved us to fulfil His eternal purposes. This is why we can be sure that, whatever problems we may be facing, whatever sufferings may come our way, God is working all things together for good, to complete His masterplan. What a comfort it is to know that our eternal destiny does not rest in our own hands or our own actions or our own decisions, or even on our own faith. If it depended on me, I would get things wrong and mess them up time and time again, because I am human! Praise God, our salvation and our eternal destiny rests in God’s hands, according to His eternal purposes which cannot be thwarted. Praise God, we are called according to His purposes which He WILL accomplish!
Those who He called He also JUSTIFIED
Those who God foreknows and predestines will come to Him in God’s right time, and when they do God will justify them. God puts them right with Himself, making it just as if I’d never sinned. From that point on, Romans 8:1 is true in their lives.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.
This then has other consequences.
31 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?
Well in practice – following Christ can mean that the whole world is against us! Who can be against us? In practice – everybody! But nobody else counts. If God is on our side, nobody else matters! When little children have problems, they can say, “I’m going to tell my Daddy.” When we have problems we can run to our Heavenly Father, Almighty God, Creator of Heaven and Earth. If God is on our side – nobody else counts.
32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.
We have God on our side. And God will never let us down. God will never turn against us. However much we fail Him! Christ died for us while we were God’s enemies. He won’t reject us now we are God’s children. We are safe in God’s love. We can rely on the promises Jesus Himself made.
John 6:37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.
God’s five point plan: those who He justified He also GLORIFIED
You notice the past tense. Paul is SO CERTAIN of our future inheritance, so definite that we WILL share God’s glory, that he puts it in the past tense as if it has already happened. God HAS glorified His children!
There is one clear conclusion here – once saved, always saved. We cannot lose our salvation. Heaven is not just some vague possibility which relies on us keeping on going. Heaven is a happy certainty for every Christian. On that wonderful day when the children of God receive their inheritance, each one of us WILL be there to share in the glory of God. We have the Holy Spirit as the first instalment of heaven, guaranteeing our inheritance. We will be there! And our assurance does not rest on our efforts, but on the grace of God. Augustine called it God’s “sufficient grace” which made our salvation completely secure. The Reformers talked of the Perseverance of the Saints. They didn’t mean us as Christians making heroic efforts to persevere in our faith. They meant, “That continuous operation of the Holy Spirit in the believer by which the work of divine grace that is begun is continued and brought to completion.”
Philippians 1:6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
God doesn’t leave a job half finished. The perseverance of the saints, God’s Holy Spirit which makes sure that we don’t give up but keep on going all the way to glory! God’s five part plan for every Christian.
29 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. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

Our salvation is completely certain. So we can be sure we are
Safe against all the troubles of this life
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
We are superconquerors! We sometimes find ourselves quoting that verse, “all things work together for good” to people who are facing all kinds of troubles and difficulties: maybe opposition, maybe suffering, maybe bereavement. The words are still true, because nothing happens which is outside God’s control. Everything can be redeemed by God’s saving grace. God’s love cannot fail to accomplish His purposes in our lives. Not only are we safe against all the troubles of this life, we are
Safe against all the powers in creation
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 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.

Some Christians are scared when they hear of the devil and the demons. We don’t need to be. We are safe in God’s love and nothing can separate us from God’s love. Hear the promises of Jesus in John 10.
27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
God works in all things for good and nothing can separate us from God’s love. Because our assurance rests on God’s five part plan: God foreknows, predestines, calls, justifies and glorifies. And praise God, we don’t even have to understand this glorious passage! All we need to do is put our trust in God and his grace which will never, ever let us go!
Here again the promises of God from Romans 8.
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 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.

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