If you abide in Me and My word abides in you, then you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.
As we continue to look at promises God gave His people, one of the greatest in my opinion comes in Romans 8:28-29. For some reason this passage is one of the most frequently misquoted, misunderstood and taken out of context in the entire Bible. In the New American Standard version, this passage reads as follows.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;
I’ve frequently heard people say “All things come together for good,” and just chop it off there. Usually these are people who either or not born-again or else haven’t been taught much about God’s word. This passage was never intended to be a general catch-all, feel-good statement. It has a very specific application.
Another misuse of the passage comes from people who shut down their thinking processes when they see the word “predestined.” They’ll either be confused by the word or else use it to bolster their belief that everything we do has been preordained by God and we have no free will. Let’s look a little more carefully at what it actually says.
Before it says anything about “predestined,” it says “For those whom He foreknew . . .” Let’s think for a moment about what that means.
Webster defines foreknowledge as having a previous knowledge of. This should actually be a “duh!” Foreknowledge. Knowledge before.
God knew before the foundation of the world who you and I were, when we would be born, and everything else about us. That’s His omniscience. Before you come to the next street intersection, He knows which direction you’re going to turn. Before my telephone rings, He knows who will be calling and what I’ll say.
Before I was born, He knew whether or not there were any circumstances under which I would accept Jesus as my Savior. If He’d known I would never take that step, He wouldn’t have wasted His time trying to get me to do so.
Since He foreknew that there were circumstances under which I would accept Jesus, He arranged events in my life to lead me inexorably to that set of circumstances. Unfortunately, in my case He knew that I would only accept the salvation Jesus offers if I became hopelessly down and out.
Knowing that, He allowed—not caused, but allowed—my first marriage to fall apart at the same time my business went under. This combination of events left me without the love of a wife, without an income, and with greatly reduced access to the not-quite-five-year-old daughter I loved more than life itself.
For 31 years I’d lived with the confidence I could make everything work out okay. Now, for the first time, I had to come to the realization that I couldn’t. I had to be at that nadir before I would turn to God and ask Jesus into my heart and life.
For 38 years now, I’ve praised God for letting me fall flat on my face. For using “all things” for my good. Because of His foreknowledge, and not as an abrogation of my free will, He was able to bring me to salvation—to start the process of conforming me to the image of His Son, that He [Jesus] could be the firstborn among many.
Am I conformed to that image? Of course not. I will remain a sinner as long as I live on this earth. But He is in the process of conforming me. That’s why the verse reads “to become conformed.” It’s not a once and done deal. My salvation was a once and done deal. It can never be lost or revoked. But conforming me to the image of Jesus is a lifelong procedure.
This morning my daughter burned her finger and found she had a dead battery when she parked at her office. Not the beginning of a fun day, but she kept her perspective. She posted on Facebook that she was able to praise God anyhow. I don’t know whether or not I can take any credit for her understanding and her attitude, but I can take a paternal pride in her reaction.
Are you able to praise God when seemingly bad things happen to you? Tell me about an experience when you did. I love to hear from you.
Have a New Testament passage or concept you’d like to see discussed here? Maybe something you’ve never quite understood. I’d love to hear from you about that, too. I’ll try my best to explain it.
Contact David at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet him at @davidnwalkertx