Romans 8:28-30 (NIV) 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
I’ve been waiting a long time for this. My first sermon as an ordained pastor. It’s a little different than I pictured it in high school. You see when I first knew I wanted to become a pastor I saw in the future my first sermon as a grand affair. I would make an entrance like some sort of athlete or entertainer. And then all sorts of pyrotechnics would go off. As I revealed myself as the pastor of everyone’s dreams, the congregation would explode in to cheers. “Yeah Jake, You’re so awesome.” As I’m sure you’ve discovered, there are about a million things wrong with this illusion. The grandest one being that it’s not about me! Over time, I pushed that selfish idea away and still work at it. And in doing so reality comes in a little clearer. The focus is not on me, nor is it on you. It is on God. We’re going to take a look at how God chose us for salvation. We had nothing to do with it.
Our text for today comes from Romans chapter 8. Paul wrote this letter to those in the Christian churches located in Rome. His purpose was to: 1. Prepare the way for his coming visit to Rome. 2. Explain the relationships between Jew and Gentile. 3. (and most importantly) Present a basic system of salvation to the church. In chapter 8 in particular Paul talks about the Christian life through the Spirit and present sufferings, as well as future glory. We’ve heard some of those things in recent weeks such as a longing to be with Christ and the desire and effectiveness of prayer. Now Paul turns to give the Romans another certainty, something they can hold on to.
He tells them and us today we have been called by God. In other words, we have been made believers by God. But why would he do that? I mean look at us. The Christians in Rome back then barely understood who Christ was. The Gentiles barely understood sin and grace and abused their Christian freedom. The Jews in the congregation thought they were better than the Gentiles and more righteous before God, even though they weren’t. Paul had to walk these people slowly through the most basic of Christian doctrines. Surely they didn’t deserve to be called. What about us? Do you know your God? Have you made time for him this week? Did you pray often, laying on him your cares and worries? Did you read your Bible every day, or even open it this week? Did you trust him to take care of you without a single worry? I didn’t do all those things. I’m assuming you didn’t either, at least not perfectly. We don’t deserve to be called by God because we have evil inside of us. Paul tells us again in Romans 7:17 “it is the sin living in me” that does wrong.
But despite all the evil that is living inside of us God has still called us to the faith. Only a gracious and loving God could do that. God has always loved his people despite our shortcomings. But he does more than that. He promises to work all things out for our good. That doesn’t mean bad things won’t happen, but it does mean God’s control over evil is so complete that he can even claim evil for his own purposes. He will use both the good things and the bad things to keep us secure in our faith. He has chosen to keep us secure in our salvation.
This past week I talked to someone who had a special page in the front of her Bible. It said something along the lines of “the salvation history of _________.” The blank was so she could write her name in, which she gladly did. It illuminated a point God wants us to know. He has called you as an individual. He has chosen you to have faith. He works things out so they can lead to your spiritual well-being. God has written you into his plan because he cares for you and has chosen you for a purpose.
God has always had a great plan. Paul tells us “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” God has had you in his thoughts and in his heart before time began. And he took action. He decided he would bring some of you to the faith when you were born and were baptized. He brought you up with God’s Word so you would be knowledgeable and strong in it. He decided he would bring some of you to the faith later on in life so you would not take his grace for granted and better understand how to bring others to the faith. And he decided that some who are not yet believers will become believers as their stiff hearts towards God will melt into thankfulness and understanding. He chose all of them and he is in control of everything.
Thankfully, it’s not like gym class, where you might get picked first or last, or you have to be good at believing to receive God’s grace. It’s more like a perfect family. You don’t have to earn your way in to be loved and cared for. God adopted all of us. God chose all his believers to be part of his plan. He overlooked nothing and missed no detail in his plan and placed a specific destination for us. God called all believers, the elect, for a special purpose: “to be conformed to the image of his Son that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”
Humans were once conformed to the image of God. Adam and Eve were created in the very image of God, but it was all lost with sin. Through Christ that image can be regained. He gave us an invitation through his Word and sends the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts so we can be fitted to the pattern of existence that Christ established and modeled. Through Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and simply reading and hearing the Word, we become more like Christ. These are the avenues God has decided to work in us through. We will never be just like Christ because Jesus was and still is perfect. However, he is willing to share his privileges and perfect status with his believing brothers and sisters.
It is important to note the status comes from Jesus. The focus is on Christ, not ourselves. At the beginning of this sermon I shared a selfish vision of the beginning of my service to you. But the focus is not on me. It’s on Christ. I can’t save you. I can’t even save myself. Only God can. You can’t save yourselves either. So often we try to do good deeds and think we can earn our way into God’s grace and into heaven. That doesn’t work. Romans 3:10 tells us, “There is no one righteous, not even one.” Other times people try to balance out our bad sins with good deeds or even show God someone else who we deem more sinful than ourselves. “Look God, look, I’m way more faithful than this guy.” These ploys don’t work either. For we are told in Romans 6:23 “The wages of sin is death.” As humans we so often focus on ourselves and turn into the me monster. “Me, me, me, me. Oh and did I forget to mention ME!?” The point is we can’t focus on us. Cause me isn’t good enough. We need a he. We need Jesus. Ephesians 2:6-9 clarifies this. “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Our status comes from Christ, not ourselves. Romans 5:15 states, “For the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!” Verse 30 of our text tells us what exactly this means. After we were predestined and called, we were justified and glorified. Justified means that we are no longer proclaimed guilty before God. In a bloody sacrifice, Jesus, the one perfect man, gave his life for ours so that we might share in his perfect status. The payment was accepted since Jesus was true God as well as true man. Because of this we are saved in Jesus through the faith we have in him. God secured our salvation through his son, Jesus. And now we are glorified. In other words, we have only good things to look forward to. When we die, we will receive a new body and enter into paradise and participate in Jesus’ eternal glory.
Our salvation is secure. God controls this process the whole way working all things for our good. He chose us for our salvation from before time and will carry it out beyond the end of time. God foreknew us and predestined us, choosing us as his own. He called us to the faith through the Holy Spirit and justified us through his Son, Jesus Christ. Because of his death and resurrection, we will experience glorification when our days on this side of heaven are over. God tells you this so you have the certainty. We can rejoice because our salvation is in his hands. And honestly, who would you rather trust? Amen.