Salvation From God’s Perspective
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Romans 8:28f . . .of those who love God:
We must love God. “He who does not love God is a beast with a man’s head” (Watson). Loving God is the secret of all spiritual and inner peace. It alone can forestall resentment and murmuring in times of trouble.
The more we love Him, the more we will trust Him. Love acquiesces in His Providence, plus thanks and praises Him in all He is doing.
The essence of love is self-denial. Thus, loving God means to be more concerned about His plans than ours. Love vindicates the beloved, and will cause us to defend His honor on all occasions. Can we say, whatever burden we bear, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (PH 4:11b)? If troubles come, can we pray, “Not my will, but Thine, be done”?
We can measure our love for God by weighing how well we react to adversity. Do we respond to tribulations as Job did, or as Job’s wife did? Both lost their children and wealth, but they reacted differently. “Job did not sin or blame God for anything” (Job 1:22b). He said, “Even if He kills me, I will hope in Him” (Job 13:15a). Job obviously loved God.
His wife did not react as well. She told Job, “Do you still retain your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9). Job told her, “You speak as a foolish woman speaks . . . Should we accept only good from God and not adversity?” (Job 2:10a). God grant us the ability to face dark times praying, “I do not understand, but I know You work all things together for good”.
We will have mastered Paul’s intent for our lives in this text when we can say in any given trial with Job, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21b).
Love is the atmosphere in which God’s oversight of our lives works for the best. Because He loves us, He works things together for our good. Because we love Him, we acquiesce in His decisions.
If we do not love God, we may soon find ourselves resenting what is happening in our life. Pain, sorrow, tribulation, and suffering can easily spur us toward anger and rebellion. One of the best barometers of our love for God is how we respond to the rough situations in life.
Will we continue to love God no matter what happens to us? Can we think of any disaster that might cause us to stop serving the Lord? Do we love God because He is God, or do we love Him for what He gives us?
Alexander the Great said, “Hephaestion loves me because I am Alexander; Craterus loves me because I am King Alexander.” In other words; the first loved him, the second loved his gifts. I fear many believers love God’s gifts but not Him. Affliction tests our devotion.
Let me clarify. All believers suffer anguish and heartache when a heavy blow is dealt to them. Many fine saints find themselves reeling at times and almost questioning God. We stagger under the brunt of affliction.
People are not made of cast iron. Being a Christian does not make us cease being human. We struggle with affliction, but after a while, once the dust settles, believers should always end up with a spirit of submissive surrender to whatever happens in their life.
Romans 8:28g . . .those who are called according to His purpose.Till this phrase, Paul has presented in chapter 8 the concept of salvation from our human viewpoint. From our perspective, we see salvation as our adoption, freedom from condemnation, release from bondage to fear, a walk after the Spirit rather than after the flesh, the means whereby the Spirit can come help our infirmities, and what we groan to see completed.
The next phrases present salvation from God’s point of view. Properly understanding His perspective is our best source of assurance regarding our salvation.
The phrase “those who are called according to His purpose” defines the prior words, “those who love God”. Paul wanted us to know our love for God is not a source of merit. We have no ground on which to boast.
Our love springs solely from the fact He first loved us. Our love for God is a gift from Him. He initiated it.
The fact we love God demonstrates we are among those whom God has called to achieve a definite purpose. God has a specific reason for saving sinners. He has set His mind to accomplish a plan regarding His people that nothing can thwart.
Our lives follow a certain course of action. They have direction and purpose. The next two verses reveal this purpose for our lives.
Romans 8:29a For those He foreknew. . .
Nothing is ever unexpected by God. No one’s conversion surprises Him. Salvation is not an accident. Before the world was created, God knew who would be His.
Due to His foreknowledge, God always knew Jesus’ blood would not be spent in vain. His life would not be given for naught. There will always be a people belonging to Jesus. This fact has been foreknown forever.
Romans 8:29b . . .He also predestined. . .
Predestined means designated in advance. In this context the word is used to mean God designated a purpose for everyone He foreknew. From the first, God has had a purpose for His people and has carried out that plan.
It is important to note Paul presented this topic in a discussion of salvation. The word “predestined” should never be used with regard to lost people. It is a doctrine solely for the comfort of believers.
God has a specific purpose for His people. This is logical. Everything in God’s creation has a purpose. The sun was given a preset purpose: to light the earth. God predestined the stars and moon to give light by night.
God predestined people in general would multiply and have dominion over the earth. For believers in particular, God has a predestined purpose.
Romans 8:29c . . .to be conformed to the image of His Son,. . .Christians are predestined to be conformed to the image of God’s Son. The Father intends to make us like His Son.
The ultimate purpose of salvation is neither our personal benefit nor our safety. We were not saved primarily to be able to enter Heaven. Rather, the purpose of salvation is that we might be made like Jesus. This is the “good” of verse 28, being conformed to the image of Jesus.
It is imperative we recognize this conforming to Christ’s image is not optional. It will occur to believers, without doubt.
Some say belief in predestination and eternal security encourages sin. No! The very essence of this doctrine is that people are to be conformed to the image of Jesus. Predestination declares the saved are secure; it also declares if there is no conformity to Christ, there is no salvation.
God the Father thinks of us in terms of our relationship to His Son. Our being conformed to the image of Christ is paramount in the mind of God. This is what God is about in our lives. He wants to make us like Jesus. Holiness matters most.