Copyright © 2012 Robert B. Thompson. All rights reserved.
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
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. 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. (Romans 8:28,29)
What is God’s eternal purpose? It is to create brothers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Have you ever heard this preached? Neither have I. Why would God want brothers for His Son? Maybe for fellowship. Maybe because God is going to create an eternal kingdom in the ages to come, with populations on numerous stars as well as on the new earth — stars that shine with the Glory of Christ. Obviously these branches of the one Kingdom will need rulers. Maybe because God wants to enlarge His family of sons. Maybe because God is so pleased with the Lord Jesus He wants to multiply His image, His Person.
Will these be genuine brothers, or is this some kind of churchy figure of speech? I believe they will be genuine brothers, born of the same Father. The Bible refers to the Lord Jesus as the Firstborn.
In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. (Hebrews 2:10,11)
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. (Romans 8:29)
I think what is important here is that the goal of our salvation is revealed. It is not to go to Heaven, as wonderful as that will be. Rather, the goal for which we have been predestined is that we be conformed to the likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not a change of where we are but of what we are.
If anything needs to be emphasized in the Christian churches of our day, it is that God wants to change us into the image of God, not carry us off to Heaven in our unchanged state!
Just think! In all the chaotic confusion of the world, which is going to become worse in the future, every circumstance and event shall contribute to the bringing forth of the brothers of the Lord Jesus. This fact should give us quietness and confidence no matter what takes place.
For a human being to be changed into the image of Christ, which is the image of God, is no small matter. In our present state, we are little more than intelligent animals. We may have majestic opinions of ourselves, but we are deceived. The flesh profits nothing.
The sons of God are created in two stages. The first stage is that of an intelligent animal. The second stage is the image of God, which is a life-giving spirit. How do we get from here to there? It is a matter of the crucifixion of the first stage and the development of the second stage.
But how are we crucified? We are crucified as God brings us through numerous testings and problems, pains and frustrations, and deferred desires. We must set aside our own ambitions and bear our personal cross, patiently following the Lord Jesus where He leads us. As we are brought low, the Life of Christ enlarges in us. John the Baptist said, “I must decrease but He must increase.” It is “line upon line, command upon command, here a little and there a little.”
I believe one of the main problems of our day is that we think about the Christ of history and about the Christ of the future. But it appears that the living Christ is not real to many of us. We are not abiding in His Presence at all times and hearing His voice.
Perhaps this is due to the saying, “The just shall live by faith.” This often is interpreted as, “The just shall live by believing in accepted doctrine.” This is not what it means. It means that the just shall live by obedience to the living Jesus. We must cultivate His Presence each day, and all night when we are awake. We must communicate with Him constantly.
I spent quite a bit of time in bed after I broke my right femur by falling down the stairs. At that time the Lord said to me, “Rest, listen, reflect.” You don’t need to break your right femur to do this. There should be a time each day to rest, listen, and reflect. If necessary, take the time you ordinarily would spend watching the television and rest, listen, and reflect.
It is written that man shall not live by food alone, but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God. This means that God continually is speaking to each person. But most of us are too busy to listen to God. Or else we think that God does not speak to us today. You will find that if you take the time to listen, God will communicate with you. It may not be in words, but God will find a way to convey His will to you. When He does, ask Him to help you to be strictly obedient to His will.
The Kingdom of God is the doing of God’s will in the earth as well as in Heaven. The most important aspect of the Kingdom is obedience. The righteous shall live by obedience!
Where sin abounds, grace shall much more abound. Sin is abounding in our nation and our world today. Therefore grace is abounding. Television, radio, and other signals bombard us all the time, but we do not hear them unless we have a suitable receiver. So it is that God’s will for us is bombarding us at all times. We are to learn to listen to God. We are to live by His words to us as well as by food.
The problem of the world from the beginning is that people do not listen to God. They want to plan their life and solve their problems by their own strength and wisdom. This is why the world is in the condition it is today.
It also is true in the Christian institutions and churches. The various programs often are operated by human wisdom and talents. We do not really know what Christ wants. We assume He is blessing our efforts because we are acting in His name. So the world and the Christian religion are in confusion.
Because the spiritual darkness is increasing, we need to hear from God. Each one of us must take time each day to listen to Jesus. Then we need to be obedient to His commands, not only His commands in the Bible but His commands to us personally. If we will do this, we will be part of the solution to mankind’s needs and not continue as a part of the problem. It is not enough just to try to go out and serve Christ. We must listen to Him and obey Him. The righteous shall live by obedience.
God did not predestine everyone born on the earth to be conformed to the likeness of His Son. But He did predestine some people for this purpose. If you want to be one of those, then ask the Lord to make you one. I think He always can use another candidate.
If we have been predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ, is it certain that we shall be changed in this manner?
- Yes, if we live in obedience to Christ.
- No, if we do not use our talents in the service of God and find our security and pleasure in the Antichrist world system.
God can take the worst of us and make us life-giving spirits in Christ. God has that wisdom and power. But we must listen to the Lord and be obedient. There is no such thing as “eternal security” in the sense that whether or not we obey the Lord, we shall be saved and changed according to God’s purpose for us. God will do His part, but we must do ours. To think otherwise is to be deceived.
I am not exactly sure what is meant by the expression “those God foreknew.” However, we know it is a fact because the Bible says so. But does this mean that we existed before God created the world? (There is no scriptural basis for this idea, as far as I know.) Or does it mean that God, as He created all things in a timeless vision, knew in advance the choices we would make?
I am not certain that the second option is entirely true, because on one occasion I felt God’s sadness because of a believer who did not fulfill the purpose God had for him. This would not make sense if God knows in advance what we will do. Or perhaps God was sad in advance knowing that the person would not fulfill his appointed role. I simply do not know the meaning of the expression.
It is my point of view that God knew that Satan and his angels would rebel and instill sin in mankind, and had prepared the cross in advance. The Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world, the Bible says.
There is one point that seems solid to me: the fact that an individual is predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ is not a guarantee that this shall take place. You must do your part, or God will be disappointed in the way you conducted your life.
How marvelous that Christ should have brothers! I think He is more excited about our being His brothers than we are. To what extent shall we be His brothers? We know He is King of all kings and Lord of all lords. God our Father has been pleased to make Jesus Christ the Head over all of God’s creation. This is true. Yet, I think we do not realize what it means that we actually were born of God.
Children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:13)
All of us were born of natural descent, weren’t we? Yet, when we received Christ, we were born again — this time of God. We actually were born of God! Think of what is implied by this.
Some draw the line, saying we never can truly be of God just as Jesus
is. But I am not of this company. I believe if the Bible says we have been
born of God, then we actually have been born of God. God said it, I believe
it, and that settles it for me.
Peter tells us we have been made partakers of the Divine Nature
I do not see the point in not believing what the Bible says about this, unless we are trying to be humble or something like that.
Now let’s think for a moment about the implications of being born of God. This means we have the potential of truly being in the image of God. I do not mean to get us all puffed up beyond every semblance of humanity by saying we will be like God when we grow up. What I am declaring is that as the endless ages roll by, we continually will be more like God in our personality. This is an inspiring thought when we consider the graciousness, faithfulness, and forbearance of our Father in Heaven.
The Lord Jesus during His time on the earth revealed the personality of our Father. It is a good thing God is like He is, isn’t it? What if He were faithless and cruel like Satan? The reason we are not destroyed is that God is faithful and true. Did you ever think about that?
Did you know we are different from all the creatures of God in that we have been made in our Father’s image and have been born of God? None of the other races God has brought forth can be referred to rightfully as sons of God. The angels have been created by the Father, but they were not born from Him as we have been. They are a race whose duty it is to assist the heirs of salvation as the Father directs.
It is not presumption on our part to declare that we truly have been born of God. It is what the Scriptures state. Rather, it is a point of encouragement to realize that if we will be faithful and obey the Lord Jesus Christ, we continually will become more like God in our behavior. If that is not a wonderful thought, I certainly do not know what is. We have been born of our Father in Heaven, and He is conforming us to His image, if we are being obedient.
Why God would choose some people from among mankind to be conformed to the likeness of His firstborn Son I cannot tell you. But He has. It is not democratic. It is not fair by our standards. But it is an eternal fact. Our task is to believe what God has said, and to do faithfully all He tells us to do. Will you agree with me on that?
(“God’s Purpose”, 3196-1, proofed 20211023)