For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)or whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate.—The process already summed up under these two phrases is now resolved more fully and exactly into its parts, with the inference suggested that to those who are under the divine guidance at every step in their career nothing can act but for good. The two phrases indicate two distinct steps. God, in His infinite foreknowledge, knew that certain persons would submit to be conformed to the image of His Son, and he predestined them for this.
When we argue deductively from the omniscience and omnipotence of God, human free-will seems to be obliterated. On the other hand, when we argue deductively from human free-will, the divine foreknowledge and power to determine action seem to be excluded. And yet both truths must be received without detriment to each other. We neither know strictly what God’s omnipotence and omniscience are (according to a more exact use of language, we ought to say, perhaps, “perfect power and knowledge”—power and knowledge such as would belong to what we are incapable of conceiving, a perfect Being), nor do we know what human free-will is in itself. It is a necessary postulate if there is to be any synthesis of human life at all; for without it there can be no distinction between good and bad at all. But we do not really know more than that it is that hypothetical faculty in man by virtue of which he is a responsible agent.
To be conformed . . .—The final cause of the whole of this divine process is that the Christian may be conformed to the image of Christ—that he may be like him not merely in spirit, but also in that glorified body, which is to be the copy of the Redeemer’s (Philippians 3:21), and so be a fit attendant upon Him in His Messianic kingdom.
Firstborn among many brethren.—The Messianic kingdom is here conceived of rather as a family. In this family Christ has the rights of primogeniture, but all Christians are His brethren; and the object of His mission and of the great scheme of salvation (in all its stages—foreknowledge, calling, justification, &c.) is to make men sufficiently like Him to be His brethren, and so to fill up the number of the Christian family. The word “firstborn” occurs in a similar connection in Colossians 1:15, “firstborn of every creature” (or rather, of all creation), and in Hebrews 1:6, “When he bringeth in the first-begotten (firstborn) into the world.” It implies two things—(1) priority in point of time, or in other words the pre-existence of the Son as the Divine Word; and (2) supremacy or sovereignty as the Messiah. The Messianic use of the word is based upon Psalm 89:27, “Also I will make him my first-born, higher than the kings of the earth.”
Among many brethren.—Comp. Hebrews 2:11 et seq., “He is not ashamed to call them brethren,” &c. There is a stress on “many.” The object of the Christian scheme is that Christ may not stand alone in the isolated glory of His pre-existence, but that He may be surrounded by a numerous brotherhood fashioned after His likeness as He is in the likeness of God.Romans 8:29. For whom he did foreknow — As truly repenting, believing, and obeying the gospel; he also did predestinate, to be conformed to the image of his Son — That is, it was his foreappointment, or predetermination, will, and pleasure, that as Christ was, they should be in this world, 1 John 4:17, namely, holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners, Hebrews 7:26; that they should have in them the mind that was in him, and should walk as he walked. But the word προοριζω, is literally, prius definio, to define, or describe beforehand; and may be understood of God’s foretelling, by the Old Testament prophets, that the disciples of the Messiah, when he came, should resemble him, and of their describing them as persons conformed to him. Thus interpreted, the meaning of the verse will be, Whom he foreknew he also described beforehand, as being conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren — That is, the head and captain of all the adopted children of God, among whom he will for ever shine, distinguished from them all in rays of peculiar glory. Observe, reader, a conformity to Christ’s image in spirit and conduct, is the mark of all those who are foreknown, and will be glorified.
(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.
whom he did foreknow he also did predestinate—foreordain. In what sense are we to take the word "foreknow" here? "Those who He foreknew would repent and believe," say Pelagians of every age and every hue. But this is to thrust into the text what is contrary to the whole spirit, and even letter, of the apostle's teaching (see Ro 9:11; 2Ti 1:9). In Ro 11:2, and Ps 1:6, God's "knowledge" of His people cannot be restricted to a mere foresight of future events, or acquaintance with what is passing here below. Does "whom He did foreknow," then, mean "whom He foreordained?" Scarcely, because both "foreknowledge" and "foreordination" are here mentioned, and the one as the cause of the other. It is difficult indeed for our limited minds to distinguish them as states of the Divine Mind towards men; especially since in Ac 2:23 "the counsel" is put before "the foreknowledge of God," while in 1Pe 1:2 "election" is said to be "according to the foreknowledge of God." But probably God's foreknowledge of His own people means His "peculiar, gracious, complacency in them," while His "predestinating" or "foreordaining" them signifies His fixed purpose, flowing from this, to "save them and call them with an holy calling" (2Ti 1:9).
to be conformed to the image of his Son—that is, to be His sons after the pattern, model, or image of His Sonship in our nature.
that he might be the first-born among many brethren—"The First-born," the Son by nature; His "many brethren," sons by adoption: He, in the Humanity of the Only-begotten of the Father, bearing our sins on the accursed tree; they in that of mere men ready to perish by reason of sin, but redeemed by His blood from condemnation and wrath, and transformed into His likeness: He "the First-born from the dead"; they "that sleep in Jesus," to be in due time "brought with Him"; "The First-born," now "crowned with glory and honor"; His "many brethren," "when He shall appear, to be like Him, for they shall see Him as He is."purpose of God, he thinks good, in what follows, to pursue that subject, and a little to enlarge upon it.
Whom he did foreknow; i.e. with a knowledge of approbation; for otherwise, he foreknew all persons and things: or, whom he did foreknow for his own, John 10:14,27 Ro 11:2 2 Timothy 2:19. This foreknowledge of God is the ground of our election: see 1 Peter 1:2.
He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son; whom he was pleased to approve of, and to pitch his free love and favour upon, he severed from the common lump and mass of mankind, and did appoint them
to be conformed to the image of his Son; i.e. to be conformed to him in holiness and sufferings here, and in glory hereafter: see 1 Corinthians 15:49 2 Corinthians 3:18 Ephesians 1:4-6 Philippians 3:20,21 1Jo 3:2.
That he might be the first-born among many brethren; this is the limitation of the forementioned conformity; though there be a likeness in us unto Christ, yet there is not an equality; he still retaineth the dignity of the first-born, and hath a double, yea, a far greater portion; he is Head and Ruler of all the family in heaven and in earth, Psalm 45:7,8.
he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son; having perfect, distinct, special knowledge of them, joined with love to them, he predetermined, or fore-appointed them in his eternal mind, in his everlasting and unchangeable purposes and decrees to this end, conformity to the image of Christ; which is not to be understood of the Spirit of Christ: God's elect indeed are chosen to be holy, and through sanctification of the Spirit, but are never said to be conformed, made like to the Spirit, nor is the Spirit ever called the image of Christ; but this designs either likeness to Christ as the Son of God, or conformity to him in his human nature. There is indeed a great disparity between the sonship of Christ, and of the saints; he is the eternal and natural Son of God, he is the one and only begotten Son, they are adopted ones, yet in some things there is a likeness; as he is the Son of God, so are they the sons of God, though not in the same sense; as he is a beloved Son, so are they; as he is the firstborn with respect them, they are the firstborn with respect to angels; as he has an inheritance, so have they; moreover, he has a very great concern in their sonship; the predestination of them to it is by him; the blessing itself is founded on union to him, on their conjugal relation to him, and his assumption of their nature; it comes to them through his redemption, and is actually bestowed on them by him; and this conformity to Christ as sons, will mere fully appear hereafter, when they shall be like him, and see him as he is: or this may be understood of the saints' conformity to Christ in his human nature, both here and hereafter: here in holiness; the image of God was in in his first creation, this is defaced by sin; and in regeneration, the image of Christ is stamped, his grace is wrought in them, his Spirit is put into them, to enable them to walk in him, and after him: this will be complete hereafter, and will consist in perfect holiness, being freed from the very being, as well as the power and guilt of sin; in perfect knowledge of everything that will tend to their happiness; and in glory like to Christ, both in soul and body:
that he might be the firstborn among many brethren; the persons among whom Christ is the firstborn are described by their relation, "brethren"; to one another, being related to the same Father, regenerated by the same grace, taken into the same family, and heirs of the same glory; and to Christ, which relation, as brethren to him, is not merely founded on his incarnation, but in their adoption; and which is evidenced by their regeneration, and doing the will of his Father; an which relation he owns, and is not ashamed of: they are also described by their number, "many"; for though they are but few, when compared with the world; yet they are many, a large number, considered by themselves; and among these, Christ is the "firstborn"; he is the firstborn of God, the begotten of the Father, he is the first begotten, and as such he is the only begotten; he is the firstborn of Mary, she had none before him, and he is the only one that ever was born in the manner he was; he is the first begotten from the dead, his resurrection is called a begetting, and he was the first in time that rose from the dead by his own power, and to an immortal life, and the first in causality and dignity. Christ is the firstborn with respect to all creatures in general; he was begotten of the Father before all creatures were; he is the first cause of them all, the governor, basis, and support of them: and he is the firstborn with respect to the saints; who are of the same nature with him, are made partakers of the divine nature, are sons in the same family, though not in the same class of sonship: moreover, this character may regard not so much birth as privilege which belongs to Christ as Mediator; who, as the firstborn had, has the blessing, the government, the priesthood, and the inheritance; all which is owing to, and is one end of divine predestination. The Cabalistic (m) writers among the Jews give the name of "firstborn" to the second Sephira, number, or person, "Wisdom", which answers to the Son of God.For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Romans 8:29-30. More detailed development and expression of τοῖς κ. πρόθ. κλ. οὖσιν,—as a continued confirmation of the οἴδαμεν, ὅτι κ.τ.λ. “For this divine plan of salvation advancing from the πρόθεσις to the πλῆσις, leads the Christian safely and surely to the δόξα;” hence it is not conceivable that anything whatever, in opposition to this plan, should exercise other than a beneficial influence upon them (Romans 8:31 ff.).
προέγνω] foreknew, namely, as those who should one day, in the way of the divine plan of salvation, become σύμμορφοι τῆς εἰκόνος τ. υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ. That this character, in which they were foreknown by God, presupposes the subjection to faith (the ὑπακοὴ πίστεως Romans 1:5), was self-evident to the Christian reader. Erasmus aptly remarks: “Non temere elegit Deus quos elegit, novit suos multo antequam vocaret.” The text merely gives the terminus of the ΠΡΟ in ΠΡΟΈΓΝΩ and ΠΡΟΏΡΙΣΕ quite indefinitely, namely: before their calling. More precise definitions, therefore (e.g. that of Tholuck: “before the foundation of the world,” though in itself correct, Ephesians 1:4; Ephesians 3:11), should not be here given. The taking of the πνοέγνω in the sense of prescience, demanded by the signification of the word, has been followed (though with various, and in part very arbitrary, attempts to supply that, as which the persons concerned were foreknown by God) by Origen, Chrysostom, Augustine, Ambrosiaster, Jerome, Theophylact, Oecumenius, Erasmus, Paraphr., Toletus, Calovius, and others, including Reiche, Neander, Tholuck, Reithmayr, Maier, Philippi, van Hengel, Hahn, Ewald, Weiss, and others. The question whether this exposition or the other of the pre-election (Calvin and others, including Rückert, Usteri, Köllner, de Wette, Fritzsche, Krehl, Baumgarten-Crusius, and Lamping), is the true one, cannot be got rid of by mixing up the two conceptions (Umbreit); nor is it to be decided by dogmatic presuppositions, but simply by the usage of the language, in accordance with which προγ. never in the N. T. (not even in Romans 11:2, 1 Peter 1:20) means anything else than to know before-hand (Acts 26:5; 2 Peter 3:17; Jdt 9:6; Wis 6:13; Wis 8:8; Wis 18:6). Comp. Philippi in loc., and his Glaubenslehre, IV. 1, p. 117 ff., ed. 2. That in classic usage it ever means anything else, cannot be at all proved. See, on the contrary, Hom. Cer. 258; Xen. Ap. 30; Plat. Rep. p. 426 C; Theaet. p. 203 D; Tim. p. 70 C; Eur. Hipp. 1072; Dem. 861. 13; Lucian, Prom. 20. Comp. also πρόγνωσις and ΠΡΟΓΝΩΣΤΙΚΌς. An appeal is made to the familiar use of ΓΙΝΏΣΚ. in the sense of judicial cognizance, or even of other resolutions and decisions (Herod. iv. 25, i. 74, 78; Thuc. iv. 30, iii. 99, and many other instances). But, in the first place, it is never in this sense joined with the accusative of the person without an infinitive; and secondly, there is no such precedent of usage for the compound προγινώσκειν, current as it was in Greek authors; for the few passages in which it means to take forethought about something (Thuc. ii. 64. 5; Xen. Cyr. ii. 4. 11, with a very doubtful reading) are not suitable for comparison, either as regards the sense, or as respects the union with the personal accusative in our passage. The incorrectness of this explanation is confirmed, moreover, by the analogy of the following clauses, which always add another and different idea to the one preceding. The right interpretation remains, therefore: praecognovit (Vulg. = praescivit), which, however, is neither to be altered, with Augustine, Vatablus, Grotius, Estius, and others, into approbavit jam ante, to which view also Tholuck and Rückert incline (see on Romans 7:15); nor to be taken, with Hofmann, in that sense of γινώσκειν which obtains in 1 Corinthians 8:3; 1 Corinthians 13:12, Galatians 4:9, 2 Timothy 2:19 (an appropriating cognizance of what is akin and homogeneous, according to Hofmann). The latter, to which also Delitzsch ultimately comes, Psychol. p. 39, is incorrect, because in accordance with it the πρόγνωσις would be a relation of communion already entered into actively by God, which would necessarily include the προορισμός, and consequently exclude the latter as a special and accessory act. For to suppose that Paul, with προέγνω and προώρισε, does not mean two acts following each other in succession, but asserts the former of the persons, and the latter of the character ascribed to them (Hofmann), is wholly groundless in presence of the clearly progressive description of the apostle. The right view, since faith is the subjective ground of salvation, is that held by Calovius and our older dogmatists: “quos credituros praevidit vel suscepturos vocationem.” It is God’s being aware in His plan, by means of which, before the subjects are destined by Him to salvation, He knows whom He has to destine thereto. Comp. on Romans 11:2.
καὶ προώρισε] them He destined also beforehand. To what? συμμόρφ. τῆς εἰκ. τ. υἱ. αὐτ.: to be conformed to the image of His Son, i.e. to be such as should present the image of His Son in their conformation. From the following εἰς τὸ εἶναι κ.τ.λ. it is plain that Paul here means the same which in Romans 8:23 he has designated as υἱοθεσίαν, τὴν ἀπολύτρωσιν τοῦ σώματος ἡμῶν, consequently the glory to which God has predestined them, the state of the μέλλουσα δόξα (Romans 8:18), so far as this shall be the same (even in respect of the glorified body, Php 3:21, 1 Corinthians 15:49) as that which the exalted Christ has. Comp. 2 Corinthians 3:18, 1 John 3:2. The fellowship in suffering (Calvin, Grotius, Calovius, and others) is here remote. What Paul has in view must be the same as he denotes in Romans 8:30 by ἐδόξασε, consequently the conformitas gloriae. This very thought of the entire glorious appearance, which he means, has suggested the vivid expression συμμόρφ. τ. εἰκόνος; wherefore we are not, with Chrysostom (ὅπερ γὰρ ὁ μονογενὴς ἦν φύσει, τοῦτο καὶ αὐτοὶ γεγόνασι κατὰ χάριν), Theophylact, Bengel, and others, to refer it to the present υἱοθεσία. Theodoret has the right view. The conformity of the inner being is not conveyed in the expression (Hofmann understands it as included), but is the moral presupposition of the glory meant.
σύμμορφος (Lucian, Amor. 39), in Php 3:21 with the dative, here with the genitive. See Bernhardy, p. 171; Kühner, II. 1, p. 295.
εἰς τὸ εἶναι κ.τ.λ.] Not an inferential clause (see on Romans 1:20), but—as the very notion of προώρ. embraces the purpose—the final aim of προώρ. συμμόρφ. Nor is the main thought contained in ἐν πολλ. ἀδελφ., as de Wette very arbitrarily supposes; but, on the contrary, Paul contemplates Christ as the One, to whom the divine decree referred as to its final aim. Christ was to fulfil His lofty commission not merely by standing in the relation of His glory to the Father as the μονογενής, but by being the First-born among many brethren, i.e. among many who through Him, the essential and primordial Son of God, should, as adopted υἱοὶ Θεοῦ, and consequently in so far as His brethren, have attained to the same δόξα of sharing the possession of the dignity and privilege (Colossians 1:18) of the First-born. Comp. also Hebrews 1:6, and Lünemann in loc.
ἐκάλεσε] Like κλητοῖς in Romans 8:28. For those who despised the invitation to salvation conveyed to them through the preachers of the gospel did not belong to the called, whom God προέγνω and προώρισε; the following τούτους κ. ἐδικ. also presupposes that the calling has been attended with the result of the ὑπακοὴ πίστεως. Comp. on Romans 8:28. Hence the divine saving grace is to be conceived as working by means of the word on those who become called, namely, in opening and preparing the heart for the reception of the word, Acts 16:14; Php 1:6; Php 1:29; John 6:44. God has fore-known those who would not oppose to His gracious calling the resistance of unbelief, but would follow its drawing; thereafter He has fore-ordained them to eternal salvation; and when the time had come for the execution of His saving counsel, has called them, etc. (Romans 8:30). With the κλῆσις begins the execution of the προορισμός in accordance with the πρόγνωσις; and the subjects concerned are, in contrast to the multitude standing outside of this divine process of salvation, the ἐκλεκτοί (Romans 8:33).
ἐδικαίωσεν] Justification is consequently the sole ground of the glorifying; sanctification is added to it, in order that the justified may attain that goal in the way that God desires.
ἐδόξασε] Justification, as a divine act of imputation, is really (not merely ideally or in principle, in opposition to Lipsius, Rechtfert. p. 48 f.) accomplished; but the glorification falls to the future (Romans 8:21; Romans 5:2, and constantly in N. T.; comp. also 1 Corinthians 2:7, Romans 9:23). Notwithstanding, the aorist neither stands for the future nor for the present (in opposition to Köllner; see Herm. ad Viger. p. 746); nor does it express anywhere in the N. T. a habit, as Flatt thinks—against which view, in the present instance, the analogy of the preceding aorists is decisive; but it represents the de facto certainly future glorification as so necessary and certain, that it appears as if already given and completed with the ἐδικαίωσεν. “Whom He has justified, them He has—viewing the relation from its final aim—therewith also glorified.” See Herm. ad Viger. p. 747; Kühner, II. 1, p. 142. In order thus to place the glorification on the same platform of certainty with the προέγνω, προώρισε, ἐκάλεσε, and ἐδικ., Paul selected the proleptic aorist. On the other hand, the triumphant flow of the great chain of thought and the thoroughly Pauline boldness of expression (comp. on Ephesians 2:5) are misapprehended, if the act be regarded as accomplished only in the decree of God (Grotius, Reiche, and Umbreit); or if the expression be referred to the glory of God possessed “at first only inwardly and secretly” (Hofmann), or to “repute with God” (Märcker), or to the bestowal of grace and υἱοθεσία here below (Chrysostom and his followers, Ambrosiaster, Pelagius, and Erasmus), to which also van Hengel adheres, appealing to Romans 8:29 f. These verses give the proof that God in all things co-operates for good with the called. They show how His gracious purpose, beginning with foreknowledge and foreordination perfects all that concerns them on to the final glory. οὓς προέγνω: those whom He foreknew—in what sense? as persons who would answer His love with love? This is at least irrelevant, and alien to Paul’s general mode of thought. That salvation begins with God, and begins in eternity, are fundamental ideas with him, which he here applies to Christians, without raising any of the problems involved in the relation of the human will to the Divine. He comes upon these in chap. 9, but not here. Yet we may be sure that προέγνω has the pregnant sense that γιγνώσκω (יָדַע) often has in Scripture: e.g., in Psalm 1:6, Amos 3:2 : hence we may render, “those of whom God took knowledge from eternity” (Ephesians 1:4). καὶ προώρισεν κ.τ.λ., “he also foreordained to be conformed to the image of His Son”. This conformity is the last stage in salvation, as προέγνω is the first. The image is in import not merely spiritual but eschatological. The Son of God is the Lord who appeared to Paul by Damascus: to be conformed to His image is to share His glory as well as His holiness. The Pauline Gospel is hopelessly distorted when this is forgotten. εἰς τὸ εἶναι αὐτὸν πρωτότοκον ἐν πολλοῖς ἀδελφοῖς: the end in all this is the exaltation of Christ. It is implied in πρωτότοκον that He also is regarded as only having attained the fulness of His Son-ship through the resurrection (cf. Romans 1:4, and Colossians 1:18 πρωτότοκος ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν). The idea of Christ’s dignity as firstborn among many brethren who all owe their salvation to Him is sublimely interpreted in Hebrews 2:10-13. The Apostle now resumes the series of the Divine acts in our salvation. οὓς δὲ προώρισεν, τούτους καὶ ἐκάλεσεν. The eternal foreordination appears in time as “calling,” of course as effectual calling: where salvation is contemplated as the work of God alone (as here) there can be no breakdown in its processes. The next stages are summarily indicated. ἐδικαίωσεν: God in Jesus Christ forgave our sins, and accepted us as righteous in His sight; ungodly as we had been, He put us right with Himself. In that, everything else is included. The whole argument of chaps. 6–8 has been that justification and the new life of holiness in the Spirit are inseparable experiences. Hence Paul can take one step to the end, and write οὓς δὲ ἐδικαίωσεν, τούτους καὶ ἐδόξασεν. Yet the tense in the last word is amazing. It is the most daring anticipation of faith that even the N.T. contains: the life is not to be taken out of it by the philosophical consideration that with God there is neither before nor after.29. For] The word introduces a fuller account of the “Call according to Purpose.”
he did foreknow] Same word as Romans 11:2; 1 Peter 1:20 (E. V. “foreordained”). The noun occurs Acts 2:23; 1 Peter 1:2.—Comparing this passage with 2 Tim. quoted above, it is clear that the foreknowing is of persons, not of merit in those persons. It thus nearly approaches in meaning here to sovereign Choice of souls. See too Romans 11:2, and cp. with it e.g. Deuteronomy 7:7-8.—Fully to understand and estimate such Foreknowledge, we should need to be the Eternal Being Himself. But our recognition of the extreme mystery should dispose us more, not less, to bow to the revelation of the fact. It is surely dangerous, if only in view of the context and tone of this great passage, (where all is made to bear on the safety of the children of God,) to attempt explanations which lower the idea of a sovereign choice to life and glory.—Cp. on the general subject, (on which it is obviously best to keep as close to Scripture as possible,) John 6:37; John 6:39; John 6:44; John 6:64-66; John 17:2; Ephesians 1:4; and below, Romans 9:11, &c., Romans 11:5; Romans 11:7; Romans 11:28.—See further, Appendix G.
did predestinate] Lit. defined beforehand; “marked out, set apart, ordained beforehand.” Same word as Acts 4:28; (E. V. “determined;”) 1 Corinthians 2:7; (E. V. “ordained;”) Ephesians 1:5; Ephesians 1:11. All idea of blind destiny must be excluded; the “pre-ordination” is the act of the Living and Holy God. But while we can thus repose on its justice, it is none the less real, effectual, and sovereign.
to be conformed, &c.] Here is the special regard of the pre-ordination; not merely escape from doom, but sanctity, the likeness of Christ. See Ephesians 1:4. All the great Doctrines of Grace are, in Scripture, connected with holiness as their supreme aim.—The “conformity” here is illustrated by 2 Corinthians 3:18; 1 John 3:3. It is incipient here, entire hereafter. It is a spiritual likeness; for while the son-ship is in one respect adoptive, in another it is generative. See on “adoption,” Romans 8:15.—The Gr. implies a real and permanent likeness.
firstborn] Same word as Colossians 1:15; Colossians 1:18; Hebrews 1:6; Revelation 1:5. He is prior (1) as to time, “begotten before the worlds,” eternally the Son; (2) as to dignity; “in all things pre-eminent.”
many brethren] Cp. Hebrews 2:10-17; a passage remarkably parallel in some respects. See also Matthew 12:48-50.Romans 8:29. Προέγνω) He foreknew. Hafenreffer translates it—He formerly acknowledged. πρόθεσις, the purpose, comprehends πρόγνωσιν, foreknowledge, and προορισμὸν, predestination, for calling is annexed both to the former (πρόθεσις) and to the two latter (πρόγνωσις and προορισμός), Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 1:9, where however θέλημα, His will, is in a more extensive sense, than predestination, and assuredly predestination accompanies foreknowledge, for foreknowledge takes away rejection or reprobation [casting away]: ch. Romans 11:2. Moreover reprobation [casting away] and predestination are opposed to each other.—προώρισε, συμμόρφους, predestined, (to be) conformed) He declares, who they are, whom He foreknew, namely, those who are conformed. This is the character of those [impress of God’s seal on those: referring to seal, 2 Timothy 2:19], who were foreknown and are to be glorified, 2 Timothy 2:19; Php 3:10; Php 3:21.—τῆς εἰκόνος, to the image) construed with συμμόρφους, although σύμμορφον, Php 3:10, governs the dative. Here it has more the power of a substantive with [followed by] the genitive. This likeness [conformity to His Son’s likeness] constitutes the very adoption of sons itself, not the cross or glory; for this [the glory] follows only after [not till after] justification; concerning which, see Romans 8:30 : but they who are the sons of God are the brethren of Christ [at an earlier stage in the successive links, viz. Romans 8:29]. Conformity to His cross or His glory is the consequence that follows in the train of conformity to the Son of God, Galatians 4:19. So Ephesians 1:5, predestinating us unto the adoption of sons (children).—εἰς τὸ) The cause, why predestination is conjoined with foreknowledge, namely, Christ ought to have many brethren; but this multitude of brethren would fail, or at least would be diminished, if there were foreknowledge without predestination. Predestination overcomes everything that obstructs the salvation of believers, and changes adversity into prosperity.—εἶναι) that He might be, and might be seen to be.—πρωτότοκον, the first-born) The glorious resurrection of Christ, and of believers, is itself a kind of generation [the regeneration], Matthew 19:28.Verses 29, 30. - For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. And whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. Thus is introduced the doctrine of predestination. This is indeed a principal passage on which theological theories with regard to it have been built. It, with the context, is the basis of the definition of predestination in Art. 17. It is, therefore, of great importance to consider carefully what the apostle here really says, and appears most obviously to mean; it being the duty of the expositor to pay regard to this only, in view of the language used, the way it is introduced, and any cognate passages that may throw light upon it. We may observe, in the first place, that it is plain that more is spoken of here than national election, or predestination to a state of privilege, which is the subject especially treated in ch. 9. Individual predestination is in view; and this not to gospel privileges only, but also carrying with it the result of glory. But it still remains to be seen whether such predestination is regarded as
(1) absolute, i.e. irrespective, with regard to its final result, of the condition of man's use of grace given; and, if so, whether
(2) arbitrary, i.e. irrespective of the Divine foreknowledge of what men would be, and themselves deserve. The Calvinistic view is that God from all eternity, of the mere good pleasure of his will, selected certain persons out of mankind to be the heirs of glory; the Arminian is that he foresaw from all eternity who would, in the exercise of their own free-will, respond to his purpose, and, in virtue of such foreknowledge, preordained them to glory. It is hardly necessary to consider whether there is any countenance given to the view that predestination ensures salvation, however a man may live; the obligation of actual holiness in Christians being (as we have seen) so strongly insisted on all along. If, then, the Calvinistic theory should appear to be supported, it must be with the proviso that predestination of necessity carries with it the grace of perseverance in good works, or at any rate a true conversion before the end, as well as final glory. Let us, in the first place, observe the way in which St. Paul introduces the subject, so as better to understand his drift. He has been speaking of the trials and imperfections of the present life, and urging his readers not to be discouraged by them, on the ground that, if they continue to "live after the Spirit," these things will by no means hinder, but rather further, the final issue. To strengthen this position he introduces the thought of God's eternal purpose; in effect thus: Your being in the state of grace in which you now feel yourselves to be, is due to God's eternal purpose to call you to this state, and thus in the end to save you. It is impossible that the circumstances in which he places you now, or any power whatever, should thwart God's eternal purpose. But it is not of necessity implied by anything that is actually said that the persons addressed might not themselves resist the Divine purpose. In fact, their own perseverance appears to be presupposed already, and they have been urged to it all along, as though their use of grace depended on themselves. Hence the apostle in this passage does not really touch the theoretic questions that have been raised by theologians, his purpose being simply the practical one of encouraging his readers to persevere and hope. We may now examine the successive expressions in the passage, and see what they imply. In ver. 28 the context shows πάντα to have especial reference to external circumstances of trial, and not at all to men's own sins. Calvin, commenting on it, quotes St. Augustine as saying, "Peceata quoque sua, ordinante Dei providentia, sanctis ideo non nocere ut potius corum saluti inserviant;" but while he assents to this proposition, he denies, with truth, that any such meaning is intended here. It may be observed, in passing, that Augustine's proposition, though it sounds strange, may, in a certain sense, be accepted as true: "We must continually err in order to be humble; our frailty and sins are the tools that God uses" (General Gordon's 'Letters to his Sister,' p. 371). Further, τοῖς κλητοῖς cannot be understood as limiting τοῖς ἀγαπῶσι τὸν Θεὸν, as though among those that love God only some are "the called;" nor can κατὰ πρόθεσιν be understood as limiting κλητοὶ, as though even of the called not all are called with the purpose of saving them. Only a preconceived idea could surely have suggested such an interpretation of the verse. In ver. 29 (γιγνώσκειν bearing the sense of "to determine," as well as of "to know") προέγνω may possibly mean "predetermined" rather than "foreknew." Elsewhere in the New Testament, when used of men, it has the latter sense (Acts 26:5; 2 Peter 3:17). When used of God, it may, as here, have either meaning (cf. Romans 11:2; 1 Peter 1:20); but in the text last referred to the first meaning seems more probable. So also of πρόγνωσις in Acts 2:23 and 1 Peter 1:2. The distinction would not be of much importance but for the fact that the sense of "foreknew" has been pressed in support of the Arminian view; viz. that Divine predestination was consequent on the Divine foreknowledge of what men would be. It would not, indeed, really prove this view, since it might only mean that God knew beforehand the objects of his intended mercy. Calvin, though translating praecognovit, strongly rebuts the Arminian inference, saying, "Insulsi colligunt illi, quos dixi, Deum non alios elegisse nisi quos sua gratia dignos fore praevidit." Again, "Sequitur notitiam hanc a bene placito pendere, quia Deus nihil extra seipsum praeseivit quos voluit adoptando, sod tantum signavit quos eligere volebat.' Προώρισε (which might, perhaps, be better rendered preordained, which is its proper meaning, so as to avoid the necessary idea of irresistible destiny which is commonly associated with the word predestinate) must be taken, not absolutely, but in connection with συμμόρφους. That the elect should in the first place be "conformed to the image of Christ" is all that is, here at least, denoted as preordained by God. The expression, συμμόρφους τῆς εἰκόνος, etc., may be understood, from the preceding context, to refer, primarily at least, to participation in Christ's sufferings (cf. Hebrews 2:10). Coming to ver. 30, we find the following sequence:
(1) eternal foreknowledge (or eternal purpose),
(2) preordination to fellowship with Christ,
(3) calling (to acceptance of the gospel),
(5) glorification. Ἐδικαίωσε (4) means the participation in God's δικαιοσύνη, the passing into a "state of salvation" through faith in baptism. But what is meant by ἐδόξασε (5) has been a subject of discussion. Some, in view of the aorist, not future, tense of the verb, understand it of sanctification subsequent to justification, regarded as participation in the glory of the Divine holiness. Others, in view of the significance of the word itself, understand future glory, the aorist being accounted, for by the apostle's taking in one view the whole process of salvation with its final result, which is contemplated as accomplished. Perhaps both ideas are included, present sanctification being regarded as the commencement and earnest of the full glory to be revealed in "the sons of God" hereafter. In any case, we are not bound by what is here said to conclude that final glory of necessity follows the previous stages. For the apostle may be only setting forth the process and result when grace is not resisted. But certainly he implies that, when the result is glory, all is to be traced, not to man's initiation or deservings, but to Divine grace, and the Divine purpose of mercy from eternity. In the remainder of this chapter the apostle rises into a strain of glowing eloquence, into a very song of triumph, in view of the assured hope of faithful Christians. Faithfulness, be it once more observed, is presupposed throughout the passage, which is quite wrongly understood as encouraging confidence in any on the ground of their conviction that they are certainly, even in spite of themselves, predestinated to glory: it only encourages perseverance in spite of trial on the ground of our feeling that, if we do persevere, we cannot fail, because God is on our side, and it is his eternal purpose to save us.
Five times in the New Testament. In all cases it means foreknow. Acts 26:5; 1 Peter 1:20; 2 Peter 3:17; Romans 11:2. It does not mean foreordain. It signifies prescience, not preelection. "It is God's being aware in His plan, by means of which, before the subjects are destined by Him to salvation, He knows whom He has to destine thereto" (Meyer).
It is to be remarked:
1. That προέγνω foreknew is used by the apostle as distinct and different from predestinated (προώρισεν).
2. That, strictly speaking, it is coordinate with foreordained. "In God is no before." All the past, present, and future are simultaneously present to Him. In presenting the two phases, the operation of God's knowledge and of His decretory will, the succession of time is introduced, not as metaphysically true, but in concession to human limitations of thought. Hence the coordinating force of καὶ also.
3. That a predetermination of God is clearly stated as accompanying or (humanly speaking) succeeding, and grounded upon the foreknowledge.
4. That this predetermination is to the end of conformity to the image of the Son of God, and that this is the vital point of the passage.
5. That, therefore, the relation between foreknowledge and predestination is incidental, and is not contemplated as a special point of discussion. God's foreknowledge and His decree are alike aimed at holy character and final salvation.
"O thou predestination, how remote
Thy root is from the aspect of all those
Who the First Cause do not behold entire!
And you, O mortals! hold yourselves restrained
In judging; for ourselves, who look on God,
We do not known as yet all the elect;
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