And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
The apostle has indicated the hope of the future glory, in comparison with which all suffering now is as nought. He has also shown how, this hope is no vain imagining of a diseased mind, but the inspiration of God's Spirit. And now he goes on to show that, since this divinely inspired hope corresponds with the great purpose of God concerning us, all things which enter into God's plan for our governance, including apparently evil things which are suffered by him to befall us, must ultimately subserve his purpose and be for the fulfilling of our hope. All this, assuming that we "love God;" thus any carelessness or sin of ours is utterly excluded from the reckoning. It is, indeed, this inward principle of love which transmutes the evil into good, and prepares for the final glorifying. We have, then - the purpose; the process.
I. THE PURPOSE. God's purpose concerning man dates back to the eternal past, for to God's mind all things are ever present. But, objectively, it dates back to the wreck of the primal purpose in man's transgression and death. On the first purpose a second purpose was built; out of the wreck of the old race a new race should be formed.
1. The Firstborn. Since the first man had betrayed his trust, and become the progenitor of a fallen race, there should be a second Man, the Lord from heaven. He should be God's own Son, for the redemption-work was one which needed the powers of Divinity; he should be man's Son also, one in whom the nature of the race might be concentrated, who might therefore redeem men, as God, but through the medium of a true humanity. He should humble himself, be shorn of his splendour, suffer and die, being baptized with blood for the remission of our sins; he should also, "dying, draw the sting of death," and, rising as the Firstfruits of a justified race, pass into the heavens as our Forerunner. Being perfect in all things as Son of man, obedient to the Father, and having performed a perfect work, he should enter perfected into life, glorified with the glory which he had with the Father before the world was.
2. The many brethren. Such was God's purpose in his Son. But, glorifying his Son, he should also "bring many sons unto glory" (Hebrews 2:10); for the Son, "having been made perfect," should become "unto all them that obey him the Author of eternal salvation" (Hebrews 5:9). For them he suffered, and therefore they also must suffer, "becoming conformed unto his death" (Philippians 3:10); but, just as he passed through death unto life, so they also, dying with him, should with him "attain unto the resurrection from the dead" (Philippians 3:11). "Conformed to the image of his Son:" yes, this was God's purpose in Christ for man, the inward conformation of consummate holiness, and the outward conformation of consummate happiness.
II. THE PROCESS. Those, then, who by their own free choice should become Christ's people - for all others are here left out of account - were foreknown and foreordained by God, "according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus," as sharers together with him in the perfect adoption of sons of God. Now, such a purpose, formed by God, and formed m the eternal past - such a purpose concerning believers and faithful ones (for, as above, all possible misuse of freedom on the part of man, whether for rejecting. God's grace, or for casting away a grace received, is here warred, and it is assumed that the purpose formed by God is embraced and adhered to by man) - such a purpose cannot fail of its result, but the process of God's working must issue in its complete accomplishment.
1. Called. The summons in accordance with the purpose. God calls his people, by the outward Word, by the inward Spirit; or, in other words, invites them, summons them, to enter into life. Can his Word be broken? Can his Spirit deceive? He means what he says, and, responding to his call, his people have a guarantee which is more sure than the pillars of the universe (Matthew 24:35).
2. Justified. The virtual instatement in accordance with the purpose. Calling them, he justifies them. There is a Name which destroys all guilt, and acquits for ever, and upon them this Name is named. They are "in Christ Jesus," and "there is therefore now no condemnation." From darkness into light; from death unto life. And the justification is the pledge and beginning of all blessings in Christ that shall tend to the consummation of the life. It carries with it the regeneration of our nature; it supplies the power that shall issue in our complete sanctification; and it points unfalteringly through all the tears and darknesses of the intermediate discipline to "the revealing of the sons of God."
3. Glorified. The actual instatement in accordance with the purpose. This "revealing of the sons of God" is so assured to us, that it is spoken of here as though already an accomplished fact. Yes, all things must be made consistent and harmonious at last; the discord must be done away; the blessedness of the saved spirit must be wedded to the blessedness of a saved world, and so "all things be made new." Such shall be the culmination of the process by which God's purpose shall be fulfilled. The lesson insisted on is this: God will let nothing thwart him. Only love him, throw yourself into the current of his good purpose, and all things shall be made good to you. Opposition there may be, affliction there may be; but God in Christ shall triumph - triumph in you. The very hindrances shall become helps, the enemies unwitting friends. Yes, "we know that all things," etc. - T.F.L.
Parallel VersesKJV: And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.