For whom he did foreknow, etc. - "In this and the following verse the apostle shows how our calling is an argument that all things work together to advance our eternal happiness, by showing the several steps which the wisdom and goodness of God have settled, in order to complete our salvation. In order to this he first gives us, in this verse, the foundation and finishing, or the beginning and end, of the scheme of our redemption: For whom God did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son. To foreknow, here signifies to design before, or at the first forming of the scheme; to bestow the favor and privilege of being God's people upon any set of men, Romans 11:2. This is the foundation or first step of our salvation; namely, the purpose and grace of God, which was given us in Christ Jesus, before the world began, 2 Timothy 1:9. Then, he knew or favored us; for in this sense the word to know is taken in a great variety of places, both in the Old and New Testaments. And as he knew the Gentiles then, when the scheme was laid, and before any part of it was executed, consequently, in reference to the execution of this scheme, he foreknew us. This is the first step of our salvation, and the end or finishing of it is our conformity to the Son of God in eternal glory, Romans 8:17, which includes and supposes our moral conformity to him. When God knew us, at the forming of the Gospel scheme; or, when he intended to bestow on us the privilege of being his people; he then destinated or designed us to be conformed to the image of his Son; and, as he destinated or determined us then to this very high honor and happiness, he pre-destinated, fore-ordained, or pre-determined us to it. Thus we are to understand the foundation and finishing of the scheme of our salvation. The foundation is the foreknowledge, or gracious purpose of God; the finishing is our being joint heirs with Christ. Now, our calling or invitation (see on Romans 8:28; (note)) stands in connection with both these.
That he might be the chief or head of all the redeemed; for His human nature is the first fruits of the resurrection from the dead; and He is the first human being that, after having passed through death, was raised to eternal glory. See Dr. Taylor.
For whom he did foreknow - The word used here προέγνω proegnōhas been the subject of almost endless disputes in regard to its meaning in this place. The literal meaning of the word cannot be a matter of dispute. It denotes properly to “know beforehand;” to be acquainted with future events. But whether it means here simply to know that certain persons would become Christians; or to ordain, and constitute them to be Christians, and to be saved, has been a subject of almost endless discussion. Without entering at large into an investigation of the word, perhaps the following remarks may throw light on it.
(1) it does not here have reference to all the human family; for all are not, and have not, been conformed to the image of his Son. It has reference therefore only to those who would become Christians, and be saved.
(2) it implies “certain knowledge.” It was certainly foreseen, in some way, that they would believe, and be saved. There is nothing, therefore, in regard to them that is contingent, or subject to doubt in the divine Mind, since it was certainly foreknown.
(3) the event which was thus foreknown must have been, for some cause, certain and fixed; since an uncertain event could not be possibly foreknown. To talk of a foreknowing a contingent event, that is, of foreknowing an event as certain which may or may not exist, is an absurdity.
(4) in what way such an event became certain is not determined by the use of this word. But it must have been somehow in connection with a divine appointment or arrangement, since in no other way can it be conceived to be certain. While the word used here, therefore, does not of necessity mean to decree, yet its use supposes that there was a purpose or plan; and the phrase is an explanation of what the apostle had just said, that it was “according to the purpose of God” that they were called. This passage does not affirm why, or how, or, “on what grounds” God foreknew that some of the human family would be saved. It simply affirms the fact; and the mode in which those who will believe were designated, must be determined from other sources. This passage simply teaches that he knew them; that his eye was fixed on them; that he regarded them as to be conformed to his Son; and that, thus knowing them, he designated them to eternal life. The Syriac renders it in accordance with this interpretation: “And from the beginning he knew them, and sealed them with the image of his Son,” etc. As, however, none would believe but by the influences of his Spirit, it follows that they were not foreknown on account of any faith which they would themselves exercise, or any goodworks which they would themselves perform, but according to the purpose or plan of God himself.
He also did predestinate - See the meaning of the original of this word explained in the notes at Romans 1:4; see also the Acts 4:28 note; and 1 Corinthians 2:7 note. In these places the word evidently means to determine, purpose, or decree beforehand; and it must have this meaning here. No other idea could be consistent with the proper meaning of the word, or be intelligible. It is clear also that it does not refer to external privileges, but to real conversion and piety; since that to which they were predestinated was not the external privilege of the gospel, but conformity to his Son, and salvation; see Romans 8:30. No passage could possibly teach in stronger language that it was God‘s purpose to save those who will be saved. Ephesians 1:5, “having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ unto himself.” Ephesians 1:11, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.”
To be conformed to the image of his Son - To resemble his Son; to be of like form with the image of his Son. We may learn here,
(1) That God does not determine to save people, whatever their character may be. The decree is not to save them in their sins, or whether they be sinful or holy. But it has primary respect to their char acter. It is that they “should be” holy; and, as a consequence of this, that they should be saved.
(2) the only evidence which we can have that we are the subjects of his gracious purpose is, that we are “in fact” conformed to the Lord Jesus Christ. For this was the design of the decree. This is the only satisfactory proof of piety; and by this alone can we determine that we are interested in his gracious plan of saving people.
That he might be the first-born - The first-born among the Hebrews had many special privileges. The idea here is,
(1)That Christ might be pre-eminent as the model and exemplar; that he might be clothed with special honors, and be so regarded in his church; and yet,
(2)That he might still sustain a fraternal relation to them; that he might be one in the same great family of God where all are sons; compare Hebrews 2:12-14.
Many brethren - Not a few. The purpose of God is that many of the human family shall be saved.
The encounter with the demoniacs of Gergesa had a lesson for the disciples. It showed the depths of degradation to which Satan is seeking to drag the whole human race, and the mission of Christ to set men free from his power. Those wretched beings, dwelling in the place of graves, possessed by demons, in bondage to uncontrolled passions and loathsome lusts, represent what humanity would become if given up to satanic jurisdiction. Satan's influence is constantly exerted upon men to distract the senses, control the mind for evil, and incite to violence and crime. He weakens the body, darkens the intellect, and debases the soul. Whenever men reject the Saviour's invitation, they are yielding themselves to Satan. Multitudes in every department in life, in the home, in business, and even in the church, are doing this today. It is because of this that violence and crime have overspread the earth, and moral darkness, like the pall of death, enshrouds the habitations of men. Through his specious temptations Satan leads men to worse and worse evils, till utter depravity and ruin are the result. The only safeguard against his power is found in the presence of Jesus. Before men and angels Satan has been revealed as man's enemy and destroyer; Christ, as man's friend and deliverer. His Spirit will develop in man all that will ennoble the character and dignify the nature. It will build man up for the glory of God in body and soul and spirit. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7. He has called us “to the obtaining of the glory”—character—“of our Lord Jesus Christ;” has called us to be “conformed to the image of His Son.” 2 Thessalonians 2:14; Romans 8:29. DA 341.1
And souls that have been degraded into instruments of Satan are still through the power of Christ transformed into messengers of righteousness, and sent forth by the Son of God to tell what “great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.” DA 341.2Read in context »
The first disciples went forth preaching the word. They revealed Christ in their lives. And the Lord worked with them, “confirming the word with signs following.” Mark 16:20. These disciples prepared themselves for their work. Before the day of Pentecost they met together, and put away all differences. They were of one accord. They believed Christ's promise that the blessing would be given, and they prayed in faith. They did not ask for a blessing for themselves merely; they were weighted with the burden for the salvation of souls. The gospel was to be carried to the uttermost parts of the earth, and they claimed the endowment of power that Christ had promised. Then it was that the Holy Spirit was poured out, and thousands were converted in a day. DA 827.1
So it may be now. Instead of man's speculations, let the word of God be preached. Let Christians put away their dissensions, and give themselves to God for the saving of the lost. Let them in faith ask for the blessing, and it will come. The outpouring of the Spirit in apostolic days was the “former rain,” and glorious was the result. But the “latter rain” will be more abundant. Joel 2:23. DA 827.2
All who consecrate soul, body, and spirit to God will be constantly receiving a new endowment of physical and mental power. The inexhaustible supplies of heaven are at their command. Christ gives them the breath of His own spirit, the life of His own life. The Holy Spirit puts forth its highest energies to work in heart and mind. The grace of God enlarges and multiplies their faculties, and every perfection of the divine nature comes to their assistance in the work of saving souls. Through co-operation with Christ they are complete in Him, and in their human weakness they are enabled to do the deeds of Omnipotence. DA 827.3Read in context »
The standard by which to measure character is the royal law. The law is the sin detector. By the law is the knowledge of sin. But the sinner is constantly being drawn to Jesus by the wonderful manifestation of His love in that He humiliated Himself to die a shameful death upon the cross. What a study is this! Angels have striven, earnestly longed, to look into this wonderful mystery. It is a study that can tax the highest human intelligence, that man, fallen, deceived by Satan, taking Satan's side of the question, can be conformed to the image of the Son of the infinite God—that man shall be like Him, that, because of the righteousness of Christ given to man, God will love man, fallen but redeemed, even as He loved His Son. Read it right out of the living oracles. LHU 150.2Read in context »
We are not to rest in the idea that because we are church-members we are saved, while we give no evidence that we are conformed to the image of Christ, while we cling to our old habits, and weave our fabric with the threads of worldly ideas and customs.... Mar 54.2Read in context »