Romans 8:29 – Future Assurance

We ended last week with a paraphrase of verse 28:

  • “We know that groanings and present sufferings do not negate or thwart God’s purpose of future glory for all believers.”


So this is what we know.

  • The question now is “why do we know this will happen?”
  • What is our assurance of this truth?


As we deal with verse 29, these are the right questions.

  • These are the questions Paul is contending with.


I agree with Bird:

“…we must refrain from reading into the text debates about divine sovereignty, the basis of election, and human free will. While the text no doubt raises the question for readers, even so, answering it is not Paul’s main concern” – Michael Bird.


So using our paraphrase, we can frame our question for exploring verses 29:

  • Why is it that groanings and present sufferings do not negate or thwart God’s purpose of future glory for all believers?


Paul’s answer:

  • Romans 8:29–30 (ESV) — 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.


Today we will deal with verse 29.



Verse 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.


The first and main thing he does to answer the question we raised is…

  • Connect us to Jesus Christ!


In other words:

  • Those who love God” (vs. 28).
  • Those who are called” (vs 28).


It is these that have full assurance of future hope/glorification because…

  • From the very beginning, the Father connected them to their future by way of Jesus Christ!


This is the idea behind being “conformed to the image of his Son” (vs. 29).

  • It is all about Jesus!


But what exactly did Paul mean with “he foreknew he also predestined”?

  • What was foreknown and predestined?




Paul says “those” God “foreknew” (vs. 29) – who are those?

  • Those”, of course, are “those who love God” (vs. 28).
  • And they are “those who are called” (vs. 28).


What does it mean that he “foreknew” (proginosko) them?


Commonly, the word simply means, “know beforehand or in advance” – BDAG.

  • Simple enough.


There are some, however, that suggest that “proginosko” in verse 29 means more specifically:

  • choose someone beforehand” – BDAG.
  • In other words, “predetermine”.


Others critique this understanding of the word as being one read in light of:

  • “…later theological debates, such as…the debates of the Reformation era” – Craig Keener.


I think scholars like Doug Moo, Robert Jewett, and Michael Bird are right to pull back a bit from this specific meaning.

  • Moo says, “Paul does not intend to give a complete picture of his, still less of NT, soteriology” – Doug Moo.
  • (More on Moo’s view next week – he doesn’t pull back much).


This means the point of Paul’s use of “foreknew” in verse 29 is that:

  • God always knew…
  • He would, before the creation of the world…
  • Have a people for Himself.
  • A people who loved Him.


And, in keeping with Paul’s concerns, God knew:

  • This people would be “Gentiles as well as Jews” – Keener.


And God knew:

  • He would make both of them His people “through Christ” – Keener.


In other words, “foreknew” here is:

  • General language about the assurance of God’s mission to create a people for Himself.
  • This is not language about a system of salvation – like T.U.L.I.P.




What about predestined?

  • Is Paul saying that the method God would use to create a people for Himself would be predestination?
  • In other words, is Paul’s point that God makes Himself a people by predetermining and choosing them beforehand?


Again, I think Bird and others have a better handle of this text.

  • “Predestination here is not an absolute decree to elect some and not others…” – Michael Bird.


So what is predestined if not the people?

  • The thing that is determined and predestined beforehand is this…
  • Believers will be “…conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.


In other words, it is both that:

  • Christ is to whom believers will be conformed.
  • Christ is to be the firstborn.
  • Christ, Christ!


God will create His people by conforming them to the image of Jesus Christ.

  • And Christ will be the means.
  • These are the things predetermined in verse 29.



Foreknew and Predestined Wrap-Up:

So the whole point of all this language for Paul is that…

  • God always intended to, is and will “create a Christ-shaped family, a renewed humanity modeled on the Son” – Michael Bird.


And in our text, Paul:

  • “…concentrates on that which God planned and purposed for them” – N.T. Wright.
  • The creating them through Christ…not on a method of salvation.


As we said earlier:

  • From the very beginning, the Father knew He would have, and connect believers to their future, by way of Jesus Christ!


This is why:

  • Going back to our paraphrase of verse 28…
  • “We know that groanings and present sufferings do not negate or thwart God’s purpose of future glory for all believers.”


Our future glory doesn’t depend on us.

  • It is God who creates and conforms us to Christ.
  • And we inhabit what God has always known and planned.
  • We “who love God” aren’t left in a vacuum, or to fate and the winds of chance.


I love how Robert Jewett sums this verse up:

“Paul’s aim here is not to establish and abstract doctrine of predestination…or to invite ‘reflection on the classic problems of determinism and free will’, but to reassure the vulnerable, harried believers in Rome that their lives and work have significance in the grand plan of God for the restoration of the creation through the recovery of ‘sonship’ by conforming to the image of Christ” – Robert Jewett.


So let’s deal with this conforming business.



Conformed, Image of His Son, Firstborn:

…conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

  • This is what the foreknowing and predestining are all about in verse 29.
  • As we said – it is all about about Jesus Christ.


But what does Paul mean with this language?


All of it relates back to things Paul as already discussed.

  • In other words, our glorification – our new nature and new status.


Let’s take a look:

  • Conformed, “symmorphos”, means this:
  • We are transformed into a “similar form, nature, or style” as something – BDAG.


And whose form or nature are we transformed into – who is the “something”?

  • “…the image of his son” – Jesus Christ.


This, once again, is language of:

  • Christification
  • Deification
  • Theosis


In other words:

  • “It is as Christians have their bodies resurrected and transformed that they join Christ in his glory…” – Doug Moo.
  • We are being and will be changed to be like Christ!


Or as Bird explains:

“Here Christology and ecclesiology converge as believers will one day become miniature Jesuses who reflect his image, just as Jesus reflects the image of God” – Michael Bird.

  • This stuff never gets old!


So, what is this “firstborn among many brothers” business?


The idea here is that Jesus as the new Adam…

  • Recovered what it was to be God’s image bearer.
  • He did what Adam and Israel failed to do.
  • He acted “as the true child of God” – Robert Jewett.


As the new Adam and the “true child of God”, Jesus was rightfully the:

  • “firstborn, the preeminent” of all believers – (Jewett).


And His resurrection, the first fruits of the believers’ resurrection…

  • Was the vindication of this fact.


Paul explains this in Colossians:

  • Colossians 1:18–20 (ESV) — 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent [same root as firstborn]. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.


All of this focus confirms for us…

  • That it is Jesus Christ who is the main point of verse 29.


And Jesus’ role as “image” and “firstborn among many brothers”…

  • Is the ultimate foreknown and predestined fact that gives us hope in the midst of our sufferings…
  • And brings about our glorification.


Let’s wrap all this up with our paraphrases:

  • We know that groanings and present sufferings do not negate or thwart God’s purpose of future glory for all believers. (vs. 28)
  • Because God determined before the creation of the world to create by, in and through Jesus Christ – His preeminent Son – ‘a Christ-shaped family’ consisting of both Jew and Gentile. (vs. 29)



Rabbit Trail – God’s Foreknowledge and 1 Samuel 23:1-13:

It is worth pointing out a feature of God’s foreknowledge that is overlooked.

  • It’s a feature that works against the idea that “proginosko” necessarily means that God’s knowing the event beforehand equals Him actualizing the event or outcome – making it so.
  • In other words, that foreknowledge equals predestination.


In 1 Samuel 23, David asked God, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?” (vs. 2).

  • God said, “Go and attack the Philistines and save Keilah” (vs. 2).


David was afraid and asked again.

  • God said, “…go down to Keilah, for I will give the Philistines into your hand” (vs. 4).
  • David did and saved Keilah.


Then, Saul heard that David was at Keilah.

  • Saul said, “God has given him into my hand, for he has shut himself in by entering a town that has gates and bars” (vs. 7).


David hears that Saul is coming and he asks God:

  • Will the men of Keilah surrender me into his hand? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard?” (vs. 11).


God’s reply:

  • He [Saul] will come down” (vs. 11).
  • They [men of Keilah] will surrender you” (vs. 12).


So, what did David choose to do?

  • He left Keilah.


But what about the idea that God’s foreknowledge equals predetermination?


God knew beforehand two things that would happen.

  • (1) Saul would come.
  • (2) Keilah would hand David over to Saul.


But here is the thing:

“Neither of these events that God foresaw ever actually happened. Once David hears God’s answers, he and his men leave the city. When Saul discovers this fact (v. 13), he abandons his trip to Keilah. Saul never made it to the city. The men of Keilah never turned David over to Saul. Why is this significant? This passage clearly establishes that divine foreknowledge does not necessitate divine predestination” – Michael Heiser.


Now, it seems rather strange that God knows things in the future that don’t happen.

  • If an event doesn’t happen, what is it exactly that God foreknows?


God foreknows what philosophers call counterfactuals.

  • God foreknows what would happen in any situation if, for example…
  • David stays in the city or leaves the city.


This means that our choices matter!

  • It doesn’t mean, however, that God doesn’t use means to influence our choices.
  • In our 1 Samuel example, God used the truth of a counterfactual to motivate David to flee.
  • But it was David who chose to flee.