We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28 (CSB)
I love that verse. It was my grandpa’s favorite verse. He had a wooden plaque with that verse etched in it. That plaque now hangs in my office, and that verse has become one of my own favorites.
Many believers draw a great deal of comfort from that verse when they are experiencing difficult things in their lives. Perhaps it has been a comfort to you on more than one occasion.
I love how definitive this verse is. Paul says, “We know”. It’s decided. Conclusive. Firm. We can stand on what’s about to be said because it’s absolutely true.
But why is it true? The next two verses tell us.
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 and sisters. And those he predestined he also called; and those he called he also justified; and those he justified he also glorified.
– Romans 8:29-30 (CSB)
God’s “purpose” in verse 28 is to conform every believer to the image of his Son. Every. Single. Believer. And he will use all things in our lives to make that happen.
Because that purpose was set forth from before the foundations of the earth.
If you have trusted Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and the hope of your eternal resurrection with him:
God foreknew you. He saw you before you ever came to be. (Psalm 139:13-16; Jeremiah 1:4-5)
God predestined you. He decided beforehand to conform you to Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 1:3-5,9-11; Romans 9:23)
God called you. He brought you to himself, revealed Christ to you through the gospel, made your dead heart alive, and gave you the faith to believe in him through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 1:13-14; Ephesians 2:1-10; 1 Corinthians 1:23-24; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; 1 Peter 2:9)
God justified you. He declared you forever righteous in his sight because of Christ’s sacrifice on your behalf. (Romans 3:21-31; Romans 5:1-2; Romans 8:33; 1 Corinthians 6:11)
God glorified you. He WILL conform you completely to his Son, glorify your physical body, and bring you into his glorious presence for all eternity. (John 17:22-24; 1 Corinthians 15:42-49,53-57; Philippians 1:6; Revelation 21-22)
Paul uses “glorified” in the past tense because, even though it hasn’t come to fruition yet, Paul is so convinced that God will complete what he started, that Paul speaks about it as if it has already been finished.
God’s purpose from eternity past to eternity future is to conform his children to the likeness of his Son.
So what happens while we wait for this glory to be revealed? We’re being conformed in it more and more each day.
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. – 2 Corinthians 3:18 (ESV)
With each passing day that brings us closer to eternal glory, the Spirit who dwells inside us is revealing the glory of Christ to us in increasing measure AND transforming us into his glorious image in increasing measure. He is sanctifying us.
So let’s put this all together. As a child of God and a believer in Jesus Christ, God’s purpose for you has always been to make you like his Son. This is the “good” the Paul is referring to in Romans 8:28.
And right now, as a follower of Christ, you have already been foreknown, predestined, called, and justified. Think about it. His purpose for you that was set forth before the foundations of the world is almost complete!
And it will be completed.
Because he is working everything in your life according to that purpose so that as you endure life’s trials and experience life’s joys in the here-and-now, you can know that through it all, he is conforming you in ever-increasing glory to Christ himself.
The day is coming soon when you will lack nothing. You will see Christ in the fullness of his glory as you enter his presence fully glorified. And you will spend all eternity glorifying the One who has finished what he began in you. Because that was his purpose from the beginning.
Do you know this, Christian?
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 (ESV):
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
For further reading: Ephesians 1; 1 Peter 1