Our future glorification of ultimately becoming like Christ will make the difficult journey worth it all. In Romans 8:18-30, the apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Rome that in spite of the suffering in this present world they could be encouraged by hope in God’s ultimate purpose for their future glorification of becoming like Jesus. We can be encouraged by hope in God’s future glorification of becoming like Jesus.
Below is an automated transcript of this message:All right, good morning, church. Good to see all of you here this morning. We are in the book of Romans and we’re still in chapter eight. It’s just a glorious chapter; we promised last week it would get “gooder,” so get ready for “gooder” or better. It gets better and better in Romans, chapter eight.
We’re picking up at verse eighteen and going through verse thirty this morning in Romans, chapter eight. It’s been our desire to preach through the book of Romans; we started last Fall of 2018. We did the first four chapters, and then we picked up again this Fall with chapters five through eight. We’re coming close to the conclusion. Next Sunday will be the end of of our Romans series, and then we’ll be getting ready, believe it or not for Christmas, right? So the seasons come and they go.
This morning, we’ve entitled this sermon, “Hoping in God’s Glorification.” As we look at Roman’s chapter eight, I would just remind you that we’ve been saying that the first five chapters of Romans were really about God’s justification. He was counting sinners just by faith, apart from works.
In chapter 6, he talks about how he’s in fact making us holy, which is called the doctrine of sanctification. This morning, you won’t see that word, sanctification, anywhere in the segment that we’re reading, in the passage that we’re reading. However, it is clearly present, even though it’s not named. Let me remind you of a couple of these terms that we’ve been using.
Maybe you’re here for the first time, and you, especially, need some help with definition. So let me get those up on the screen for you. The word, justification, when we talk about that, we’re talking about the three tenses of salvation. Whenever you believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, at that very moment, you are justified. What that means is you have been saved immediately from sin’s penalty, which is death. If you’re a believer today, that’s the past tense of salvation that happened the moment that you said “yes” to Jesus. You were accounted righteous by faith, apart from works. We’re in a process now while we are under construction; we are being made like Jesus. That’s the word sanctification. You can hear the word, sanctification. You’re being made holy like Christ. You are being saved progressively from sin’s power. This is the process that we’re in now.
I keep saying, from week to week, as we’ve been going through chapters 6 – 8, “Wait, we should all get T-shirts that say “Under Construction, God is still working on me.” That’s the process we’re in right now; then, there’s that final movement of the spirit in our lives, the final tense of salvation, which is a future tense and that’s the word, glorification. You will be saved ultimately from sin’s presence. In other words, we’re going to be like Jesus, not just counted righteous but completely righteous and no longer infected by sin at all. What is God up to? He’s making us like Jesus. If you’re a Christ follower today, you’ve been justified by faith and you’re presently and progressively being made holy like Him, knowing that someday He will complete what He started, what He began.
Now this is true, Yet we often ask this question. Why does the road to glorification have to be so rough? Why does it have to be so hard? Why is there suffering in this world? If this promise is so good and dear; you said it was gonna be “gooder” this week. Why does there have to be such a rough road on this journey? And why does it seem sometimes, like things in this world are actually getting progressively worse?
Have you ever been on a long and difficult journey? Have you ever been on a tough road trip or one that promised to be difficult, but they told you, “Just wait until you get there?” It is kind of rough before you get there. But this way, when you get there, it’ll all be worth it. You’ve been on a road trip and I’m that little kid, when I was growing up that drove my father crazy. I would keep asking, “Daddy, when are we going to get there?” Maybe you’re like that. You know, some of us never outgrow that phase. “Father, when are we going to get there? When are we going to get there?”
That’s what it’s like when we take a mission team to a place like Uganda. We tell them, “Wait until you get there.” It’s kind of hard getting there and you have to get some time off. You have to spend a lot of money, and then the journey is pretty tough. Once you get there to Uganda, it can get even harder if you decide to go see the pygmy people up on the edge of the impenetrable forest, which is where the mountain gorillas live. They are a people group called the Batwa. Our church has partnered with pastor George Mbonye at Kisoro, Uganda. Pastor George actually carried the gospel to this unreached people group for the first time and has already planted a church there. The last time we visited Uganda, one of our most veteran members of the team got sick as he could be on this trip, because it’s so curvy and so difficult. No matter whether you are a vet or a rookie, sometimes that journey is kind of tough.
That last photo is of myself and the church pastor at Mountain View Baptist Church, where we have planted a church. Pastor Costant is one of my best friends in Uganda. He has moved to that area in order to plant a church with the pygmy people, the Batwa, who used to live in the jungles with the mountain gorillas but now have been moved out by the government. It was a rough journey getting there. It was bumpy; it was hard. But once we got there, man, the view was spectacular and the people were wonderful . We saw that even though we were worlds apart in culture, we shared the same faith in Jesus Christ. The destination makes the journey worth it.
I don’t know what kind of journey you’re on today, but the destination makes the journey worth it. That’s what Paul is talking about in this section of Romans. Our future glorification of ultimately becoming like Christ and spending eternity with Christ will make this life, in this world, this journey worth it all.
In Romans, chapter eight, verses 18 through 30, the apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Rome that, in spite of the suffering in this present world,they could be encouraged by hope in God’s ultimate purpose for their future glorification. I believe that we can be encouraged by that same hope of our future glorification that we will be made like Jesus. Why’s this possible?
Here the text gives three reasons why this is possible, that we can be encouraged in the present by the weight of that future glorification, this hope that we have in becoming like Christ. Let’s dig in by reading the text and then we’ll unpack it together.
Romans 8:18-30 (ESV) “18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” This is God’s word.
Why God’s future glorification for us gives us hope. Here’s the first reason:
(1) Because our future glory outweighs our present suffering.
I want you to take note that Paul, in verse 18, begins talking about glory. In the middle of verse 21, he brings it up again. And then the last word in this section is the word glory. This section is about finding hope in our destination. We are in this process of being made like Jesus. But we can look into the future and know that what God began, He will finish; that he will make us like Jesus. That’s the process that we’re going through now.
Paul, in verse 18, says, “For I consider…” now that word, consider, means to reckon, to calculate, to think it through and weigh out a thing. And so he says, “I consider that the sufferings of the present are not worth comparing with the glory that is in the future to be revealed.” He uses this word, this idea, of not worth comparing. The word, comparing, comes from the word, axis, from which is a center point. What he had in view was those old fashioned scales where you’ve got a center point, a bar across and two little chains that come down that hold a cup to put stuff in. If you put suffering on this side of the axis and you put glory on this side, glory greatly outweighs suffering. It’s just very literal in the Greek; this idea of it’s not worth comparing. Paul says, “I’ve thought about it, I’ve reckoned it, I’ve considered it and when I weigh…”
Not many of us have suffered nearly as much as Paul did. If you want to study about Paul’s sufferings, he’s got a whole list of places where he suffered. He talks about being stoned and left for dead, snake bit, shipwrecked, received 40 lashes and left for dead many times. He had suffered greatly. But he said, when I weigh it out, when I reckon it, based on what I’ve seen because he said there was a time that he was caught up to the third heaven and he saw things he couldn’t even talk about. He caught a glimpse of heaven when he says, “third heaven,” by the way; don’t get confused about that. The first heaven is the blue sky. The Jews would look up during the daytime; that’s the first heaven. The second heaven is the night sky, where you see the moon and the stars. This is not weird or difficult to understand.
The third Heaven is the unseen heaven; that’s all that it means. He was caught up to the place where the Lord is. He saw things too wonderful to even speak about, so he caught a glimpse of the glory, and when he weighed it out, he said that there’s no comparison. This is what he wants to say to the church at Rome, to the believers at Rome; look, don’t worry about what you’re going through now. I know it’s rough. I know it’s bumpy. I know it looks like we’re never going to get there, but we’re going to get there and when you get there, the destination will make the journey worth at all. The glory greatly outweighs the sufferings.
A. W. Tozer says something that strikes us kind of hard unless we’re looking to the future, he says, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.” Now listen, if he’s going to make us like Jesus, there’s going to be some difficult construction work that needs to be done on us or some stuff that will need to be torn down before he can build us up. And some of us are pretty stubborn; we have to take the same lesson three or four times before we’ll learn it.
God loves us enough to where He wants to make us like Jesus and He cares more about our character than He does our comfort. He’s making us like Christ; He often puts us in uncomfortable situations in order to make us like Jesus because He is doing that very thing. That’s His goal for us. Paul looked at it and he said, it’s worth it all; the destination is worth it all. He uses unusual language here in a way, when he says, revealed, in verse 18. He says “the glory will be revealed to us.” Then, he talks about creation in verse 19, “for creation waits…” He names creation several times here, mentioned five times in the text. If you remember your English studies, something called personification, where he’s taken something that is inanimate like creation and he gives it feelings and he gives it thoughts and expectations. He’s using something called personification here. He says, for the creation waits with eager longing. So here’s creation, which he, in this case is separating us out of. He’s seeing us as we’re part of creation, but he’s going to talk about us separately and then everything else that’s not us and not God. That’s what he’s talking about. Creation is waiting for what? For us to be revealed. So we’re waiting for us to be revealed and so is creation, waiting for the revealing of the sons of God.
Now, remember, if you were here last week, ladies don’t get offended by being called sons, because if you are given the rights of sonship, that is superior because only sons were given an inheritance during the time when Paul was writing. Ladies, don’t get offended by being called sons. Men don’t get offended by being called the bride of Christ , right? We talked about this last week.
Here is the relationship that, and God is using in His word, different relational terms to help us get at that. It’s not about religion. It’s about relationship. Do you know Jesus? Does He know you? Are You in a relationship with him? That’s what’s in view here. The word, revealing, is mentioned twice, and so we look at his words, they are longing for the revealing, that word is (Greek word). Try using that tomorrow at work some time. It’s where you can hear the word apocalypse. It’s translated, revelation. So then the name of the last book of the Bible is (Greek word) or Apocalypse. If it’s in the verb form, it means this: the unveiling or the pulling back of a curtain of something that is hidden. But someday the curtain will open.
Have you ever been to a play? You just can’t wait; the person comes out and says, “it’s getting ready to start inAct one.” Then, here it comes. The curtain opens and you finally get to see what you’ve been waiting to see. This is what creation is waiting for. Creation can’t wait to see what we’re going to be. Because when creation sees what we’re going to be, because God’s making us like Christ, then creation gets a new body, too. That’s why creation is so into this idea, because there’s going to be a new heaven and a new earth fit for those new bodies that were getting.
Some of you are at church today and you’re thinking, “what in the world?” I told you, chapter eight, here it is. He’s talking about what is to come here. You don’t have to wait until you get to the book of Revelation. You can get it right here in Romans. What is to come for the creation. In verse 20, what’s going on now, the creation was subjected to futility not willingly, but because of him who subjected it. So what is this futility? The word, futility, could be translated vanity or emptiness without meaning. It’s just circular. The rain falls on the mountains, runs down and creates a river, and the river runs into the oceans. But as the poet mentions, the oceans are never full because the rain in the ocean is evaporating and it turns into rain again. It is just circular. And so, we end up with the eastern religions who have observed and base what they’re thinking about on what they currently see.
Paul is saying it won’t always be this way. It won’t always be futile. There won’t be all this death and dying; Paul suggests that the Lord caused this to happen in hope. What did he cause? Is it because of Him who subjected it. That’s the Lord. That’s because of God who subjected what the creation was. Remember back in Genesis, chapter three, whenever Adam and Eve sinned, He said to Adam , “I’m cursing the ground because of you, and you’re still going to do what I made you to do. You’re still going to find your identity and work. You’re gonna work in the fields, but the ground will be cursed. And it will raise up thorns and thistles whenever your work and you will work by the sweat of your brow.”
If you were on Facebook at all yesterday, you saw that I was out raking pine straw and it took me all afternoon. I’m making hay in my yard right now I’ve got so many pine trees. I’ve been trying to plant grass all fall, and I had a neighbor come by yesterday. He said, “Man, I appreciate the hard work you’re doing here, but you still got some bad spots.” I said, “Don’t point out my bad spots.” I told the guy, my neighbor, “Look, I’m a pastor and I’m out here preaching against this lawn every time I work in it. Lord, come on, what is this?” I have the sweat on the brow thing going on and . I need some good grass to come up here but I am dealing with a creation that doesn’t cooperate.
Why is that, in hope, that we would see the futility of everything? We would see the brokenness of everything, and there would be something inside of us that desires something better. Now, if we were the product of some blind process or some kind of chance, we would feel like we belong here, but we don’t. There’s something inside us, as Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes that God has set eternity in the heart of ma. We’re looking for something that will last. Instead, what we find is something that’s futile, meaningless and empty. Where does this come from? God in hope caused creation to be full of this emptiness, this bondage to corruption. We see later in the next verse that there’s death and dying . Why? So we would look up in hope. Of what? In hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of who? Of the children of God because we’re all going to be free. There’s a glory coming. There’s the word, glory, again in verse 21. For we know. What do we know?
Paul loves to talk about what we know and what we don’t know. Here’s something we should know; this is the whole creation. This is the universe, including the unseen creation that has been groaning. There’s your first “groaning word.” There’s three of them in here. It has been groaning like a woman giving birth. Now I’m not a woman, so I haven’t groaned to give birth. There’s some men who had certain operations and so forth and what we might claim that we’ve groaned. But ladies will always correct us, that you’ve never groaned. I was present three times to watch my wife groan through childbirth. It says here that the whole creation has been groaning.
I was reading J. Vernon Magee’s commentary on this, and I agree with him. He says, “If you go stand in the woods and hear that lonesome wind blow through the trees, it seems as if nature sings the blues.” Maybe that’s why I love the blues so much. I don’t know. Maybe it’s because nature sings the blues along with us; nature itself is groaning like a woman waiting to give birth, waiting for that new revealing of the glorified children of God to appear. And when that happens, then birth is given.
There’s a new heaven and a new earth. In the meantime, creation groans. And not only does creation groan, but it says in verse 23, “but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit…” Firstfruits is one of those Old Testament words. It’s where, whenever a farmer would get his crops, the firstfruits that came in he was supposed to bring them to the Lord. He was supposed to bring them to the priest and offer them at the temple because you give your firstfruits. You’re trusting that God’s gonna give you all the rest. You recognize that He’s the owner of everything. He’s using an Old Testament word here to describe that, that He’s given us the spirit, which is like a foretaste of everything else he’s going to give us.
When you get saved, the spirit comes and lives in you as kind of a first portion that the rest of the harvest is coming. And so he says, we ourselves who have the firstfruit of the spirit; we are groaning too. Groaning inwardly. Every time I get up from my recliner, I make a funny noise, and my wife says something like, “ Are you okay?” That’s it; stop asking me if I’m okay. But, she say says to me, “You groan every time you get up.” That’s just my typical spectacle. Don’t worry about it. I’m supposed to be groaning; the Bible says I should groan. You young guys, you young men, women, you think you won’t be like that. Okay, go ahead. Yeah, I had fun playing football and racing motorcycles. I had a good time with this body and I groan now when I’m trying to get up or when I’m trying to get down. I’m doing good as long as I’m up; it’s the transition from up and down that’s rough.
Groan as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons. No, wait a minute. Last week you told us we were already adopted. That’s true. But we’re like the child in the orphanage. We already have adoption papers in our hands. Everything is paid for. But we’re still waiting for Daddy to come pick us up. Everything’s paid for; we are adopted. We have a new name; everything’s done, but He hasn’t come to pick us up yet. He’s not saying we’re waiting for adoption. In fact, what he is saying is we’re waiting for that final portion of adoption, and he makes it clear here. “We groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” That’s what’s in view. We’ve got the inward change. We’ve got the new name, the new identity, but we’re still stuck with these groaning bodies. We need a body fit for heaven. We need a redeemed body , but He has redeemed the soul. The soul already points towards the Lord. We want to do what the Lord wants us to do. But we need a new body and that’s why we grow.
The creation is groaning and we’re groaning . Paul, in verses 24 and 25, is making a parenthetical aside here, a parentheses in his conversation. He feels like, at this point, he wants you to understand. He’s telling you this stuff about groaning, not to discourage you, but so you’ll have hope. He is going to talk about hope for a couple of verses. This hope is what he had in view for this whole passage, but he is talking about this groaning. He is talking about this suffering because you should have hope in what’s coming. He says, “For in this hope…” We say, what hope? The hope that we’re looking forward to; we are already saved.
Remember, the three tenses; we’re being saved and will ultimately be saved because we have a hope in the conclusion of that, the whole thing, not just part. I guess Paul wants to remind us of what hope is now. Hope that is seen is not hope. If you already had it, you wouldn’t need to hope. You are hoping for what’s not seen. If we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. He takes a little time out and does a little teaching on hope. Then, he’s ready to move on.
Here’s what he says; let’s look 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (ESV) “16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” We need to lift our eyes, not lose heart and keep hoping because if you weigh it out, Paul is saying the glory will outweigh the journey. The journey will be worth it all when we finally see the destination.
The word, glory, in the Old Testament in the New Testament Greek is ( ). That’s where we get the word, doxology. But in the Old Testament Hebrew it’s “chesed.” Get a little phlegm in the back of your throat if you’re going to speak Hebrew. Ichabod means no glory, but abode means glory. It also means heavy. The glory is heavy. It’s heavy. It’s much heavier than suffering.
Have you ever noticed the forgetfulness of mothers? Here’s what I have noticed; that mother’s are forgetful when it comes to the pains of childbirth. They forget it all, it seems, once they hold the baby. They forget all about the groaning and all about the labor. I see it over and over again. If you ever see some young woman who’s given birth after terrible labor pains and then they hand her the baby and the glory comes over her face and everything is suddenly worth it all. Some of the ladies are shaking their heads, “No, at me.” I just observed with my own wife and my daughters; they seem to forget everything and try again because they realize that the destination is worth it all. Are you groaning today? Are you groaning today? Don’t lose heart. We reach our destination. It’ll be worth it all.
Here’s number two. That was a lot of verses, so it took me longer. Don’t get afraid; we’ll get out of here. We’ve said that the glory outweighs the suffering. Here’s the second reason that we can hope in God’s glorification.
(2) Because the Spirit helps us to pray according to God’s will.
The spirit helps us because we need help. This section begins with the word, “ likewise.” “Likewise the, spirit…” Perhaps it’s because the spirit is getting ready to groan, too. Creation groans. We groan. The spirit groans. He says, “likewise.” Perhaps, that’s why it says the spirit groans and spirit helps, likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness? What’s our weakness? We still have these old bodies, and we’re still in this suffering feudal world. And so the spirit, the firstfruits, which is the future, the future glory that’s coming, is already living in us and helps us. How does he help us? Sometimes we don’t know how to pray for We do not know what to pray for as we ought. Sometimes we pray selfishly; we pray wrongly. We pray for all kind of things. But when the Holy Spirit lives within you, he teaches you to pray. He helps you to pray. He helps you to pray like Jesus taught us to pray, “Our father, which art in heaven , hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” So we stop praying my will be done and we start praying thy will be done. The Holy Spirit lives within us and we start praying thy will be done. Start praying thy will be done. Instead of praying, my will be done and build me a kingdom, we start praying differently. The Holy Spirit lives within us and he enables us to pray. Gary, why are you talking about praying here? Because it says here that we groan and that the spirit groans within us, interceding for us, praying for us in groanings too deep for words. So just imagine that were groaning inwardly as we’re waiting. The Holy Spirit lives within us, and He knows us better than we know ourselves. He, of course, because he knows the father, he’s praying on our behalf in ways that we don’t even know how to pray. He groans. There’s a lot of groaning going on in this passage, but it all points to a desire to get there. We’re on a journey, and we want to get there, and the spirit knows how to groan for us even when we don’t know how to pray.
Have you ever been in a place in your life where you didn’t even know how to pray? Have you ever been there, you are at your limit, and you can’t take any more. If there is one more thing, I won’t make it. It is then that the spirit prays in groanings too deep for words. I’m glad we have the Holy Spirit to help us on this journey of sanctification, this journey that we’re on while we wait for that destination that we’re headed towards. I’m glad he intercedes for us. He stands in between and mediates in groaning two deep. Groanings interceding on our behalf .
Verse 27, “And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” He who searches hearts is the Father. He knows your heart , and he knows the spirit because he is one God, in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He knows. He’s searching us and finding out what we really need. You know, we’re probably asking for something temporary, something short sighted because we are weak, because we’re still in these old bodies. But he’s looking to the future, and he’s praying for us. Verse 27, “And he who searches Hearts knows what is the mind of the spirit because the spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” He’s praying for God’s will.
We’re learning to pray for God’s will; we’re learning to pray as Jesus prayed in the garden. “ Father, if it’s possible, could this cup pass from me? But not my will but yours be done.” Have you learned to pray like that? That’s how the spirit works in us so that we pray God’s will.
How many of you have learned that God’s will is better than your will? Have you learned that yet? I’m looking at some of you. I have the privilege of knowing a lot of your prayers because you share them with me. And I’ve had many of you come to me recently and say, “You know, I was wanting this and God didn’t let me have it, and I was so upset at God and at everything. And then this happened and now I have realized that His plan is better. I’m glad God got His way instead of my way.” How many can say that? You know that he’s helping us, he’s working within.
Ephesians 6:18 says, “Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.” You know, back in 1 Samuel, chapter one, there was a woman named Hannah. She was barren and wanted to have a child. The Lord had not opened her womb. She went to the tabernacle, to the tent of meeting. The prophet priest during that time was a man named Eli. Hannah got there and she was so broken that when she started praying, her mouth moved, but nothing came out. Tears were pouring down her face and she was just moving her mouth. Eli I looked at her and got kind of pharisaical; he looked over there at her, got kind of judgmental, and said to her, “Woman, If you’re going to come to church, don’t get drunk before you come.” He thought she was drunk. She said, “No, I haven’t been drinking; I’m praying for a son. If the Lord would just give me a son, I would give him back to the Lord.” Eli felt badly; he blessed her, and before the year was out, she bore a son and his name was Samuel. He was the greatest prophet and judge of the entire Old Testament. He was a transitional figure that pointed to Jesus. Why? Because of this woman. I think the spirit prayed in groanings too deep for this woman. She opened her mouth and nothing came out. But something came out and the Lord heard her prayer. Have you ever been in such deep anguish that you didn’t know how to pray? The Holy Spirit knows what you need and he knows what the father wants. He will intercede for you.
Now here’s the third reason that we can hope in this future glorification.
(3) Because God causes all things to work together for His purpose.
We’re in verses 28 to 30. Now, these final verses are jam packed. We come to one of the favorite verses of the Bible; verse 28. How often have believers turned to this verse in times of trial, to find these reassuring words of the apostle Paul that God has not only not deserted us, but in fact he’s been at work in every circumstance of our life. Romans 8: 28. Many of us have this on a post-it note or a memory verse card. Here’s something we should know. We might not always know how to pray, But we should know this. We should know this, that God’s at work, causing all things to work together. Now when you look at it in the NASB, it says, “And we know that for those who love God, all things work together.” Now that translations pretty good. But it might give you the false understanding that all things are working. All things are not working. God is working. So I’m gonna give you a translation that I think is more accurate to the Greek. And I’m not saying something negative about the NASB because a lot of translations struggle with Romans 8:28, But the New American Standard says it like this, “And we know that God…” See, that puts God in the subject where it belongs; where He belongs. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God and to those who are called according to His purpose.” All things aren’t good, don’t misunderstand this. All things aren’t good. All things aren’t working. God’s working and the truth of the matter is, most things are bad, so all things aren’t good. He’s not saying anything about the world being goods or you’re good. It’s God that is good. These are a couple of things to notice about Romans 8:28. Sometimes we’re reading it and think to yourselves, “don’t worry, be happy” and we would sing a little song. No, that doesn’t match the world. If you look out there, it’s groaning; the world is groaning. There’s a lot of groaning going on. All things are not good. They’re not all good, but God is
If you’re a believer, if you’re following him, he will take and weave it all together and cause it to work for good according to his goal for you. What’s his goal for you? It’s the same for you, the person next to you and the person next to you and the person next to you. He’s making you fit for heaven. He’s making you like Jesus. He causes even the worst stuff, and a lot of it was self inflicted that we did to ourselves. You look back on your life and you say, “I’m ashamed of that. Oh, I hate that I did that.” Look at Romans 8: 28 and recognize that God is gonna take that if you’ll just let him. If you’ll stop being secretive about it and stop being ashamed about it. If you will say, “I’m gonna give that to the Lord.” If you’ll just give that the Lord, He will cause it to work together for your good. What’s your good? That he’s making you like Jesus. He’s going to cause all things to work together for good. This is what he’s doing now.
How do we know that that is His goal? We have to keep reading. If you stop, you don’t get the whole thing; “28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” So we have a purpose clause here, where he says in verse 29, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His son, in order that…” What’s his ultimate goal? That Christ would be the first born among many brothers. Here again, ladies, don’t be put off by the word, “brothers.” It means brethren; it means believers. He’s gonna be the first born and this is a radical thing. He is Lord; He is Savior, but Paul says here He’s our big brother. What? Whatever Jesus is, whatever you see in his resurrection body and His reality , is the prototype of what Christ is making, what the Lord is making us. We will have a glorified existence and we will ultimately be like Christ. This is beyond anything that we could hope for, he says. That’s my goal; that Christ will be the first born among many brothers, that we would be children of God and he would be our elder brother. This is a relational conversation that Paul’s having here. The goal of how he’s working all things out is in order that you would be made like Jesus. This is his goal, that we conform to the image of His Son. I think Paul uses the word, image, here because he’s looking back all the way to Genesis, where we were made in the image of God, but because of sin the image was warped. But Christ came as the very image of God.
Colossians, chapter one, verse 15 says that He is the image of the invisible God. We are being made like Christ, conforming to the image of Christ, so that there’s something even better happening to us We’re being made like Jesus.
Then he gives five past tense verbs what the Greeks call aorist verbs. Five past tense verbs; these verbs are beautiful. Some have called them a “golden, unbreakable chain.” Let’s just look at them; they scare us a little bit, especially if we’ve encountered certain doctrinal systems, but they shouldn’t because the are Bible words. Let’s just work through them very quickly for now.
“For those whom he foreknew (past tense for new) He also predestined to be conformed to the image of his son that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Then he says in verse 30, “and those whom he predestined he also called and those whom he called he also justified.” That’s the fourth past tense aorist verb and then those whom he justified he also glorified. That’s the golden chain; those five words Do you see them? Let’s go through them quickly .
Foreknew means to know beforehand. But better than that, it means to know beforehand. Before you were ever born, before God even spoke the creation into existence, he foreknew, he had foreknowledge of you. It has more the sense of where Jesus said to the one who came saying, “Lord Lord,” he said, “I never knew you.” It didn’t mean he didn’t know about the person. It meant he did not have a relationship with the person. Here’s the thing to know in a past tense way. God already loves you. He already knows you. He foreknew you, and it makes sense in the sense that we know that God is omniscient. He knows all things. He stands outside of time and he knows all things.
Then it says predestined. Now that word is one of the more difficult words in the Bible. Some of you are smiling at me now because you’re waiting to see what I will do with this one. You’re right. I could have just decided. I’m just gonna preach that one verse and camp out there. But my goal is to preach in context, verse by verse, not to pull out something and create a theological system, as some are tempted to do. May I say to you that we need to be cautious here and not do as Calvin and others have done and create too rigid a dogmatic system off of one word. We need to be careful here and do as Paul recommends; he’s got the word, predestined, in here as a goal for those who before knew he predestined to do what? To be like Jesus. He’s not talking primarily about salvation here. He’s talking about glorification. He’s talking about sanctification. When he says predestined, he says, he I’m talking to those that I love, that I’m making them like Jesus. I’ve already aimed at the destination, and the destination is to be conformed to the image of Christ for so that he will be the first born among many brothers. That’s what I’ve decided is the goal. And so that’s what I’m doing. And so what’s in view here is that he’s making us like Jesus. Many want to make this about a doctrine of election and other things, and perhaps these things are true. But in context here, This is not what Paul is talking about. Look at Dr Robert Mounce says about this. In his commentary on Roman’s, he says, “In the present context, predestination is not concerned with election to salvation. Rather, God has foreordained that believers be brought into moral conformity to the likeness of His Son.” What is predestined? That we become like Christ, and so that’s what I’m saying about this. Here’s a quick comment about this. I am okay with leaving this as a mystery. Many wanna put God in the box on this one. But this pastor sees that God has not clearly explained all this. Here’s another thing I want to say to you. God stands outside of time. He’s not stuck within time like we are. And when we look up and we try to see what God is doing and we try to put words like predestination and others in some sort of system, we have to be very humble and very careful that we don’t go too far.
I don’t know if any of the ladies , or maybe even men, do cross stitch here. My wife has cross stitch hanging all over our house, and one of the most amazing things about these was, before she framed them, she would say, “What do you think?” I would tell that is was beautifulThat and then I would flip it over on the back and think that’s the ugliest thing I have ever seen. It has strings going this way and that way. She says, “Well, that doesn’t matter. Nobody’s going to see that. That’s the underside, and I’m gonna put that in a frame and put it under glass. The only thing people will see is the beauty of this amazing grace cross stitch.” If you look at that side, what in the world is that mess? And so here we are, looking up at the underside of what God’s weaving together. We have to be careful. It seems to me, describing it with too much detail, because we do not have his perspective. We only have the parts that he’s shared with us, and so I’m being careful. What I’m saying is it’s a mystery.
Then he’s got the word called, and that means to be summoned by name. You’ve already been summoned; he’s got the word justified. It’s in the past tense. God has declared us righteous by faith, apart from works. God has done this and it’s this process that begins our sanctification. And then he does a thing that’s so amazing that some people have said it’s the most amazing thing in the whole Bible because he says in those whom he justified, he also glorified. He says it in past tense, like it already happened. Well, in God’s mind, it has. Did I tell you he stands outside of time? He is not limited by time. He created time in the beginning. God created the heavens and the earth right In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. That’s the first verse in the Bible; He stands outside of that. He is the creator; He’s not limited by time. And so when he looks at you, it’s already happened. He already sees the goal of you becoming like Jesus. I don’t see it yet. I’m hoping because hope is that which is not yet seen. But he says it’s already happened. We will be like Jesus someday. It’s going to happen, just as sure as anything. Here’s what C. S. Lewis says about this, in his book, Mere Christianity, he said, “God will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a dazzling, radiant, immortal creature pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love, as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror, which reflects back to God perfectly, though, of course, on a smaller scale, his own boundless power and delight in goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful. But that is what we are in for; nothing less. He meant what he said.”
God’s up to something he’s making us like Jesus. As Randy quoted in his worship conversation earlier, here’s what it says in Philippians, ”I’m confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” He’s not going to leave you under construction. He is going to finish what he started.
I grew up here and my mother would sing a song. It was written, I believe, by a group called the Happy Goodman family. “I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now” was the title of the song. She’d lost a husband to cancer, and she raised four kids all by herself, starting at age 30. She was often discouraged and lonely and sometimes struggle with depression. Yet, I would see my mother stand up at church, lift her eyes to heaven and sing, “I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now. I’m going to make it to heaven somehow.” How’d she do that? She saw something in the destination that made the journey worth it all. Do you know the one who makes this possible? Are you on the journey towards becoming like Jesus? That is God’s goal for you.
Let’s pray, Lord, thank you for Jesus. And thank you for all the work that you’ve been doing since we even came into existence, preparing for us so that we might know you, redeeming us from sin and preparing a new place that is to come. A new heaven and a new earth, as John the Revelator saw a place that’s perfect. That creation even now is groaning to see us and groaning even to see itself in this new reality. There’s a day coming, we believe it and it makes this journey worth it in comparison, Lord, I pray for the person that’s here today who’s yet to set their foot on this journey. They’ve yet to say I surrender. I’m going to stop going my way. I want to go God’s way. Jesus says to you Come follow me. Would you say yes to that? Today I want to follow Jesus. I want to be a Christ follower. How do you do that? The scriptures clearly says to say with your mouth that Jesus is Lord . You can do it right now. Lord Jesus, you’re the boss here and my master. Believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead. Do you believe it? Do you believe Christ is alive now and that he wants to save you? If you do that, you will be saved The scriptures say so, right where you are, right in your seat. You can say it in prayer. Dear Lord, I believe I want Jesus as my Lord and my Savior. I believe He lives today. Come and live in me. Others are here right now and you’ve done that. You’ve received Christ as Lord and Savior. But the journey’s been beating you up. Would you lift your eyes right now, don’t lose heart and say, Lord, pray from the spirit for me , groan for me right now so that I would do your will, Lord. I don’t want my own will now. I want yours. In Jesus’ name, Amen.