The Secret Things Belong To The Lord Our God, Deut. 29. 29
R. V. Court, Bristol, England
Why did He do it? is a question that comes to mind immediately we read such a passage as Romans 8. 28-30. Its contemplation is almost staggering, and, as being marked, with limited intellectual capacities, we wonder what it all means. We read there of a Cod who so controls all things that they are made to work together in harmony for the good of those who 'arc the called according to his purpose.' The passage goes on to speak of God 'foreknowing'-referring to persons, and then of His predestinating those whom He foreknew. And this predestination is in relation to those who are 'called according to his purpose.' Thus the need to control all things that would affect His purpose for them.
Theologians over the years have argued about the mysteries of predestination and many hearts have been troubled as they have read into it something that is not there. It is interesting that only four times is the term used in the New Testament and in none of these references is the question at issue one of eternal life or eternal doom, but rather the matter of position for those who already have eternal life. The references are Ephesians 1. 5, where the matter is one of 'adoption as sons': Ephesians 1. 11-12 where the purpose of predestination is that we should be to 'the praise of His glory', 'and our main passage for consideration in this article, Romans 8. 29-30, where predestination is plainly declared to be in connection with God's purpose that those whom He foreknew should be conformed to the image of his Son/"
We know from the scriptures that there will be some, apart from the church, for whom God has a blessing in the future. There are the saints of the old covenant, there are those who will accept Christ as King during the Great Tribulation period, and those who accept His Lordship during the millennium. Their blessings may very well vary, but Romans 8. 28-30 tells us that for the church is reserved a blessing greater than those for any other group. It is 'to be conformed to the image of his son.' God has a special place for those concerning whom the Lord Jesus prayed so lovingly, John 17, as 'those whom thou hast given me'.
May we look at our passage in a little more detail. Romans 8. 29-'whom He did foreknow'. Surely this is where our problem is found, not in the matter of predestination. What do these words mean? Let us admit right away, we do not know. But our human minds try to probe the unknowable, and we get worried when we get nowhere. One thing is certain, the words do not simply mean that Cod, being God, knew from the beginning that certain persons would trust Him, and so from eternity chose them to salvation. That would mean the deciding factor in our salvation would be our own action.
In Acts 2. 23 Peter, speaking on the day of Pentecost, spoke of the Lord Jesus being 'delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God,' and those words assure us that the foreknowledge of God was linked with His 'determinate counsel.' It was part of His divine eternal plan of redemption. The same man, Peter, as he wrote to the pilgrims of the dispersion, 1 Pet. 1. 2, spoke of them being 'elect (chosen) according to the foreknowledge of God the Father,' and again we are reminded that the election of an individual is linked with God's foreknowledge. What we do not know, and what God has not been pleased to reveal, is what it was in the foreknowledge of God that caused Him to choose certain individuals to salvation.
As Paul proceeds in Romans 8 he shows how this divine plan, concerning those whom God foreknew, operated. From the mysteries of eternity he moves out into time, and we read that those who had been foreknown and predestined to be like His Son were 'called'. May we emphasise that when the apostle here speaks of individuals being 'called' he is not implying that God did not call others, who did not respond. He is simply showing the way in which the 'foreknown' were brought into relationship with Himself. That others are called and refuse to respond is clear right through the word of God, and that word makes it plain that deliberate refusal means judgement-the individual is regarded as having the power to say 'yes' or 'no' and God accepts the decision. The solemn passage at the end of Proverbs 1.24-33 makes this abundantly plain. And the words of the Lord Jesus condemning those who refused to believe must not be ignored. He did not say 'ye cannot come to me' but 'ye will not come to me', John 5. 40. W. E. Vint., in his Expository Dictionary of the New Testament Words says, 'while Christ's death is sufficient for all men and is effective in the case of the elect, yet men are treated as responsible, being capable of the will and power to choose'.
Now, says Paul, God called those whom He had foreknown-this was His method of forging the link which was to bind them to Him for eternity. Through the Gospel He called them, and on their response (the work of the Holy Spirit) He justified them-reckoned them as righteous -and at the same time linked them with the glory, where they were to be eternally with His Son.
So perfect is this work of justification, based upon the substitutionary work of Christ on the cross, 2 Cor. 5. 21, that Paul goes on to write of the impossibility of any being able to bring a charge before God against the Christian, v. 33: of any condemning him before God, v. 34: and of the impossibility of any ever separating him from the love of Christ v. 35, Read the list of possible experiences which may come to a Christian, and which have in fact already come to many, and note the divine assurance of verse 30 that none of these shall 'separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord'. How could they? in view of verse 28 with its thrilling assurance that God is so in control that these things are actually being made to work for our good as part of God's eternal plan.
It may be helpful at this point to emphasise the sovereignty of God as seen in the kind of people He foreknew, and who responded to His call, Look at 1 Corinthians 1. 26-29, 'For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called; but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty; and base things of the world and things which are despised; hath God chosen, yea and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence'.