Romans 8:28-30 We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; and those He justified, He also glorified.
Have you ever heard about a little company called Foxconn? I don’t know if it’s been in the news much lately.
Foxconn Technology Group is a multinational electronics contract manufacturing company based in Taiwan. It is the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer.
And, it is looking for a place to build its newest manufacturing plant.
Out of all the places in the world that it could go, Foxconn chose the United States. Out of all of the states that Foxconn could choose, it has chosen Wisconsin. And, out of all of the areas in Wisconsin that Foxconn could choose, it is seriously considering choosing Mt. Pleasant.
That’s a big deal!
But a far bigger deal is God choosing you! Out of all of the nations on the earth; out of all of the time periods in the millennia of history; out of all the billions of people in the world – God chose you to be His own.
Foxconn promises to bring thirteen thousand new manufacturing jobs to Wisconsin. That could mean a housing boom to the area, ancillary jobs in construction, banking, restaurants, and the hospital. It could mean that we at Epiphany are re-examining second site ministry in Mt. Pleasant or Sturtevant.
However, there are a lot of things that could go wrong before Foxconn actually chooses Mt. Pleasant for its manufacturing plant. The incentive package that the Wisconsin government is putting together could not be right. The state might not agree to add additional lanes to I-94. Perhaps the power plants won’t be able to generate the kind of electrical power Foxconn needs. Perhaps something negative will be found in the soil samples that were taken. There are a whole host of issues that Foxconn could discover that might cause it to not choose this area for its plant. Very easily, the whole deal could fall through.
That’s the difference with God choosing you to be His own. He knew you would break the deal, even before He thought about choosing you. He didn’t choose you because He knew what a wonderful Christian you would be some day. He didn’t choose you because you are such a great hymn singer or such a wonderful evangelist or because you are such a dedicated parent. He didn’t choose you because He just had to have you on His holy team.
No, while you were still a sinner, God chose you (Romans 5:8). God chose you when you didn’t deserve choosing. It’s like being the smallest, weakest, slowest kid in your class, and despite all that, your best friend chooses you first to be on his team.
You were saturated with sin, even from conception and birth. You grew up to become an object of God’s wrath. You deserved to be discarded eternally in the fiery pit of hell.
And yet … God chose you to be His own! The Bible teaches: [God] has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace” (2 Timothy 1:9).
St. Paul writes a sentence that we often use in the hospital or at the gravesite: “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.”
God works for the good of those who love Him. Really?!
What about the Christian father who has his wife and three small children ripped from him in a horrific traffic accident? What about the child battling cancer instead of going to school with his friends? What about the wife taking care of her husband, who no longer remembers who she is?
How can any of this be for good?!
This is God’s promise. Every situation in life will be used in some way by God for the eternal good for His people. Sometimes it may not always appear to be for our temporal good. But, it is always for our spiritual and eternal benefit.
The next sentence provides the foundation for Romans 8:28 and keeps it from being simply a Hallmark inspired sentiment. “For those He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers.”
So, how we do we know God actually works everything out for good? What proof is there?
Look at the One who made the promise. He is the One who knew you in eternity and chose you to be His own. The Bible teaches: “He chose us in him before the creation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). Even before the universe was formed; before a single second ticked off the clock; God thought about us. He saw the future and our predicament of being trapped in sin and unbelief. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit then created a plan to save us. Before we were even given the gift of life, God planned how to give us eternal life.
This underscores how we are saved by God’s grace alone! We did not choose God. He chose us. We contributed nothing to God desiring to choose us and make us His own. He knew that the devil would sink his vicious claws into us and make us his own hellish spawn. This still wasn’t a deal breaker. With God’s perfect foreknowledge, God knew all this was going to happen. Still, God destined us in advance to be brought back into His holy family.
We were predestined be conformed to the image of His Son – the image of Jesus. What on earth does that mean?
Stay with me – we’re way past Sunday School Bible stories with all of this.
God the Father looked into eternity and saw how those whom He would make in His image – Adam and Eve – would destroy that image. They would listen to the forked tongue of the serpent and plunge God’s perfect creation into rebellion, death, and hell that was never intended for human beings.
So, God looked further into eternity and planned mankind’s redemption. In order to restore the broken image of His sons and daughters, the Father sent His only begotten Son from eternity into our flesh. The fulness of the Deity dwells in Christ’s bodily form. The Father formed His Son into the flesh and blood of humanity, so that the Father could then conform humanity into the divine of His Son.
The Bible teaches: “He (Jesus) was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake” (1 Peter 1:20). Not only did God choose you from eternity, but also in eternity, He chose His Son to be crucified for your sins and the sins of the world. This was such a done deal, that St. John writes in Revelation: “The Lamb was slain from the creation of the world” (Revelation 13:8).
That is your destiny in Christ, a destiny worked out from before the foundations of the world in Christ.
Again, the Bible teaches: “He chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight” (Ephesians 1:4). That is your destiny, a plan worked out long before you ever had any say in it, a plan devised by the Holy Trinity from all eternity to save the cosmos in the death of the eternal Son in the flesh.
But, how did the Triune God get you from the point of being chosen in eternity to being saved for eternity?
“And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; and those He justified, He also glorified.”
In Christ, God predestined you to belong to Him. In order to bring you into His holy family, God called you. It was at the baptismal font that the Triune God called you by name. Then, with water and the Word, He put His Triune name on you.
Those God called, He also justified. Though you are guilty of inborn sin; guilty of sins of thought, word, and deed; guilty of sins of commission – the things you’ve done wrong; guilty of sins of omission – the things you’ve failed to do right – you are justified. You stand before the all-holy Judge, who is a consuming fire, but you are not quaking and quivering in fear. You have been justified in Christ. You are declared innocent because of Jesus. A sentence has been spoken over your head by the blood of the cross where the Son of God took away your sin and made you innocent of any wrongdoing.
There’s still more. Those whom God justified, He also glorified. Note the past tense that St. Paul uses here. Done. Glorified. Even now as you sit here, you are already seated at the right hand of the Father in glory. You are glorified in the glorified flesh of Jesus Christ. He embodied you in His death, He embodied you in His resurrection, and now He embodies you in His ascended glory. Your life is hidden in Christ, you are glorified in Christ. In your self, it is anything but glorious. You suffer, you sin, you die. But in Christ, you are glorified and pure and holy.
This is deep theological stuff. Predestination. Election. Choosing from eternity. This isn’t Sunday School. This isn’t even youth confirmation. And the way I used to teach adult confirmation, it isn’t that, either.
Twenty years ago, in my first adult confirmation class, I struggled to teach this doctrine clearly and understandably. Pat, who was an Army tank commander in that first class, struggled to understand what I had taught about predestination. So, he went home and asked his wife – who had grown up WELS.
The next week, Pat was in class and admitted, “Pastor, I had no idea what you were talking about last week. So, I went home and talked it over with Tammy. Let me see if I’ve got this right. I was baptized as a baby and grew up in the Catholic Church. But then, my parents got into a disagreement with the priest, and we didn’t go to church anymore. After high school, I went into the Army. I did some things I’m not proud of, but I believe God kept me from doing really bad things.
“I got married to Tammy, but we still didn’t go to church very much. Then, my daughter, Skylar, was born. We came here to church to have you baptize her. Now, we’re coming to church and I’m in class to become a member.
“Is that predestination?”
Yes, it is!
Predestination is not a teaching of why some are saved and not others. It is always and only a doctrine of comfort of knowing that you are saved. It is you looking back on your life and seeing all the ways God has worked everything out for your spiritual benefit in order to get you to heaven with Him.
We don’t know if Foxconn is going to choose Mt. Pleasant or not. It would be great if it did. But, we will survive if it doesn’t.
We could never survive and escape hell if God did not choose us.
That’s why these verses are such a comfort. When you are in the hospital or at the gravesite, don’t stop with Romans 8:28. Read the next two verses. They give the reason that God works everything out for our good.
It is because God does all work. He does all the verbs from eternity to get you into eternity. Foreknew. Predestined. Conformed. Called. Justified. Glorified. He does them all. You do nothing for your salvation. They are all done in Christ. That takes everything eternal out of your hands. Even before you were, you were known in Christ and destined in Him.
And, because God does all the work of saving you, He is going to make sure everything works out so that you receive that salvation. All because you were chosen. Amen.