Romans 8:29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
Hi Rick, Is this passage saying that only some will be predestined to be to be conformed to the image of the Son (saved). I am confused by this. I was thinking that everyone has the opportunity to be saved, but this reads differently. Can you help? Does God only choose those who will eventually say YES to Jesus? Does God Choose any of us?
This passage brings up the controversies between Armenians and Calvinists about God choosing us vs. us choosing God by faith. Both ideas are there in Scripture all over the place and so the question is always how do we reconcile the two ideas. And it matters a lot because as you said, if we side with the idea that God chooses us without regard for our choice (or faith), then does this not imply that God has scripted salvation for a few and by necessity scripted (predetermined) judgment for others? And if that’s the case, A) why bother?, and B) is God not immoral to judge us for not choosing salvation when he himself forbade us the choice, since he made it for us??
This is a terrible conundrum of unfairness!
And it’s terribly unnecessary if we look at the passages that seem to emphasize God’s choice. First thing to note is WHAT is being predestined. In other words, what has God predetermined (which would imply it’s his choice and nobody else’s choice gets to interfere)? The answer is this: God has predestined for believers to be conformed into the image of his Son. In other words, the thing being predetermined here is not everyone’s faith or salvation, but the rather the endgame of those who are saved. This matches the other critical passage that talks about predestination.
- Ephesians 1:4-5: Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ.
This talks about God’s planning and choosing things in advance… but look at the language carefully. What has God chosen for us long ago? The answer is: he chose us to be holy and spotless. Next sentence says basically the same thing. What did God decided in advance (IE in advance of any of our choices)? The answer is: for us to be adopted into his own family. So what is being decided in advance is not the everyone’s destinies without regard for their faith. No. What is being decided in advance is the END STATE of all who are “in Christ”. This passage answers the question “what has God planned for who by faith are in Christ?”. It does not answer the question, “what has God planned for people apart from their faith or lack of faith?”
And if you look at what God has planned for us who are “in Christ” – it’s a glorious thing: to be spotless and blameless and adopted, and made to look like Jesus and finally glorified as we share in God’s divine nature at the End of all things. This is pretty amazing stuff that God has decided in advance. But what he has not decided is to choose some and “unchoose” others without regard for their faith – just unilaterally some are glorified and some are damned and we are just playing out this predetermined script.
In the Romans passage, the second thing to note is this, what is all this preplanning based on? God’s Foreknowledge. So as God sees all things including things past and present and future, God knows those who will freely choose him by faith. And so God looks into the great tomorrow even before he makes the world, and he knows that many will freely choose him if given the offer of salvation by faith – trusting loyalty in Him.
Based on that knowledge, God PLANS for those to be conformed into the image of Christ, called into his Kingdom, Justified and made right without spot or blemish and finally his plan is to Glorify them as coregents in the New World with Jesus himself. This is stunning stuff. But all this that God has planned for us is based on foreknowledge. It is not based on his unilateral choice FOR US, regardless of, or usurping of, OUR choice.
A good analogy is this. I make a plan to use a movie clip to illustrate a point in my sermon. Then I put out the invitation through social media and through regular attenders calling people to come and listen to the talk I’m going to give. My plan is set and when people come to the talk there is no question about what is going to happen to them. They are going to experience this clip and the impact I’m hoping for it. That is my predetermined plan for them. I have predestined them for a certain experience. But I have not planned in advance exactly who will see the clip. That is up to the choice of the invitees. They choose to come or not. But once they come, my preordained plan cannot be changed, because that was MY choice, not theirs.
Just like that, it is our choice to respond in faith to Jesus. But if we do, it is God’s choice to adopt people who trust in him. It is God’s choice predetermined design that we who respond be made blameless and to share in God’s glory. God could have chosen those in Christ for a different destiny. He could have chosen those in Christ to be slaves in heaven and extend some kind of mere existence. He could have planned for us to grovel for eternity. He could have planned a hundred things for the saved… but his PLAN is this soaring design of adoption and justification and glorification. That is what predestination means.
In answer to your questions, yes, only some will be predestined to be to be conformed to the image of the Son. Yes, because only some will turn and by faith be saved. But because God is not willing that “any should perish by all should receive eternal life” (2 Peter 3:9) everyone has a chance to respond in faith to whatever level of revelation they have received. Everyone. Does God only choose those who will eventually say YES to Jesus? The answer to that again is yes. BUT, God’s choice depends on our choice and God gives everyone the choice.
Jesus explained it perfectly in a parable about a great banquet:
- Matt 22:2: The Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a king who prepared a great wedding feast for his son. 3 When the banquet was ready, he sent his servants to notify those who were invited. But they all refused to come!
First big idea: salvation is like an invitation to a wedding feast. Some are invited. But some refuse to come, which means it is THEIR choice and not God’s that they miss out on the Kingdom, right? Massive emphasis here on people’s free choice. Completely absent from the parable is any idea of the King choosing to reject some in advance of their choice. They get invited and they reject it, God does not reject them in advance of their rejection. Next verse:
- And he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, and the guests I invited aren’t worthy of the honor. 9 Now go out to the street corners and invite everyone you see.’ 10 So the servants brought in everyone they could find, good and bad alike, and the banquet hall was filled with guests.
Second big idea: the offer of salvation goes out to those expected to come first (that would be the Jews) however, they (by and large) rejected the offer. So the offer eventually goes to “everyone you see”. That is, the unlikely, and in this context we can infer the Gentiles are in mind here and also notorious sinners and all people “unlikely” to respond, IE bad people, outsiders, ner’do-wells etc. And the surprise of course is that the likely invitees reject the offer and the unlikely invitees accept it!! But regardless of who accepts, you can clearly see that EVERYONE gets invited. But now notice how Jesus wraps up the story:
- Vs 14” “For many are called, but few are chosen.”
There it is. Few are chosen. By God? Yes, few are chosen by God. But through the parable we know that the Chosen by God are the ones who chose to accept the invitation to the banquet! SO it was their choice that made them God’s chosen! And secondly, we note that everyone was called to the banquet (that is to say, invited). Everyone. Not everyone will be saved, because not everyone will respond to the invitation. But everyone will be called to salvation. Those who respond (and only those who respond) are predestined for greatness in the future Glory to be revealed.
Hope that helps sort through the confusion 😊