And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 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. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30)
This passages relates to God’s continued work in our life, resulting in his gracious gift of eternal life in his kingdom. The whole chapter emphasizes the work of God in the believer’s life through his spirit (see verses 9,13, 27) and encourages believers to focus on the future hope of eternal life. Although there are bad things that can happen in our lives (tribulation, distress, danger, sword — see verse 35), God is with us all the time. Not only is God with us through our trials, but the end of all these negative things is God giving ‘us all things’ (v32) when Jesus returns to earth to establish God’s kingdom.
This passage mentions predestination, which has prompted some confusing and unhelpful theologies over time. When thinking about passages like this, there are some important principles to keep in mind:
- God would like all people to be saved. “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9 NIV)
- As long as we are willing to allow God to work in our lives, he will continue to do so.“Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8 NIV)
- God has given us the freedom to choose how we respond to him. “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” (Deut 30:19)
From before we were born (predestined) to our conversion (called) to the forgiveness of our sins (justification) and finally to our part in God’s kingdom (glorified), God will continue to work with us.
“being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil 1:6, NIV)
The knowledge that God does not give up on his children was very important to the early Christians as they struggled with very real physical persecution, and remains so for Christians today as they struggle with any sort of hardship.