Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Romans 8:28-30 (Part 4) - God's grace and sovereignty

Romans 8:28-30:

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 image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

Before we jump in, I spent the weekend at KYCK, and it was awesome. 6 sermons on 1 John and God's love for us and how we need to respond. It was exactly what I needed to hear and be challenged on, and it tied perfectly to what I've been reading from Romans 8 - God is awesome, he knows what he is doing, he is faithful, he is loving. Worship him and him alone!

Onto verse 29 then.
"Those God foreknew he also predestined". There are two ways to read this verse I think, but one seems to me to be more biblical in the implications.

1.  We can read it as if God looked forward in time, saw who would choose him and then chose them. I have a number of close friends who would read it like that.
2. The second option which I agree with (since it seems to have more biblical support) is this: God chooses who he will save and who he will condemn justly. 

Did God choose us, or did he simply see that we would choose him? One seems to give him the power and glory (though it's much harder to swallow) and it seems to me that the other makes it much easier for us to seem like the good ones. From Ephesians 2:8-9 "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast." If we are saved by grace alone through faith alone, and if it is "the gift of God", then how can we have any of the glory? How can it be us choosing God? Looking forward to Romans 9, the whole chapter is about God's sovereignty in choosing who he will have mercy on and who he will condemn. Isn't that unjust? Unloving? Well for starters it cannot be if God is who he says he is in the bible. God created us, he sustains us, and every moment we have on earth is because he allows it. Therefore he has the right to do whatever he wants with us - to glorify himself by saving us or by condemning. Why does he condemn? Because we sin. Matthew Henry has a good quote on this:

"Whatever God does, must be just. Wherein the holy, happy people of God differ from others, God's grace alone makes them differ. In this preventing, effectual, distinguishing grace, he acts as a benefactor, whose grace is his own. None have deserved it; so that those who are saved, must thank God only; and those who perish, must blame themselves only"

To give you the gist of that: God is just and those he saves are saved only by his grace. Those he condemns only have themselves to blame for their sin. We all deserve hell and God would be just to condemn us all, yet he chooses to save some to show forth his attributes. It sounds unjust and we don't like it, but it is just for God to condemn and in Christ he can also show mercy on those he chooses while still being just. I know that isn't a comprehensive answer, but it's a good thing to think about and to start working through (whether you accept God as sovereign or not). 

One point of application from God's sovereignty - we don't have to fear the future! If he is totally in control then he can keep his promise from v28 that he will work everything for the good of his people, and we wont have to fear or worry about what is going to happen. We can trust him that his will is the best for us and for his glory and that he will sustain us and protect us. That no temptation will face us which we cannot overcome by his strength (1 Corinthians 10:13). That should be a massive comfort to us!

"To be conformed to the image of his Son" - God calls us to be like Jesus. He doesn't just save us and that's it - he saves us to be like Jesus. One of the sermons from KYCK outlined that knowing the truth about Jesus and holding to it, genuine love for God and obedience all are tied strongly together. You cannot have one without the others - if genuinely christians we will love God and know his love, we will believe the truth, that Jesus is God, that he died and rose again and has paid for our sins so we can be forgiven, and it will show itself in our lives through obedience to him and us becoming more like Jesus. Are you like Jesus? What sin is in your life? Where are you falling short? For me there's plenty - especially pride, anger/frustration and not sharing the gospel (it's easy to do it online, but I find it so hard to talk to people in person about Christ). Are you like Jesus? Are you trying to be more like Jesus? Why do you obey God - is it fear of God's wrath? Is it fear of people and wanting them to think good of you? Is it just because you think obeying God is the right thing to do? Or is it out of love for God? Is it genuinely flowing from trust and love for him? That's another thing I've been challenged with - what's my motivation? What's yours? So what was Jesus like? Well he is God - so a good question to tie to that is what is God like? He is good, just, merciful, loving, kind, faithful, compassionate, perfect, pure, holy, righteous. (note: they're all absolutes). We fail and all, but that needs to be our aim - to be like Jesus. How do we know how to be like Jesus? Read the bible. Pray. Talk with fellow Christians and go to church! Spend time in God's word - how are you meant to be like him if you don;t spend time getting to know him from his word?

"That he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters" - The firstborn has a lot of significance in the bible. They got the biggest inheritance, yet we learnt before that we are co-heirs with Christ! Jesus, who is God, who is eternal, all powerful, perfect, etc, came to earth and lived as a man, and not only did he give up his infinite glory, but he came and was born in a stable, lived like a normal person and then was murdered ny those he came to save. He came to save us who hate him, reject him, who sin and mock him. He came to save us so we can be forgiven for our sins and so that we can share in his glory and so he can share in his eternal inheritance with us. Why? There was nothing in us he could want, nothing we can do can make us right before him - if he wanted he could have just created more people who would love him. No, he did it for his glory and out of love for us. What an awesome God and saviour! He was first, and we will follow - he rose again, and we also will rise again after we die and go to heaven. We have that sure hope to hold onto. (Check out 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 and Romans 8:18).

God chooses us, we don't choose him. He doesn't need us, it is us who need him. It's all about him, all about Jesus, not about us. We did nothing to save ourselves, all we bought to the cross was our sin which nailed him there - we have nothing to boast in. It is all Jesus. Through him we are forgiven, loved by God, adopted as his children and made co-heirs with Christ. What an awesome saviour! What a mighty God!

Soli Deo Gloria!

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