The King's Ransom (Romans 8:28-30)
February 13, 2011 Speaker: Bryce Morgan Series: Under Control: The Wonders and Workings of God's Reign
Passage: Romans 8:28–8:30
I. A Royal Rescue
This is how the headline read a little over four months ago:
“Prince William Makes His First Royal Rescue—Associated Press—Oct. 5th, 2010:
Britain's Prince William has completed his first mission as a Royal Air Force search-and-rescue helicopter co-pilot, plucking a stricken worker from an offshore gas rig, his office said Tuesday.
The 28-year-old, who is second-in-line to the British throne, was among the crew of a Sea King helicopter called to a rig in Morecambe Bay, off the coast of northwestern England, on Saturday.
William's office said the crew flew through "squally winds" and mild turbulence to collect the rig worker, who had a suspected heart attack, and transport him to a waiting ambulance.”
Now, while this is a commendable accomplishment for William, I’m not sure it really mattered to the rig worker who was rescued that the co-pilot was a prince of England. What mattered most to that man was not William’s pedigree, but his piloting.
But had this rig worker lived 500, or 600, or 700 years ago, and found himself, in that era, in a similarly life threatening situation, it would be mean something quite different if he received this kind of news: “The prince of England is coming to rescue you!”
The radical difference, of course, comes from the fact that, long ago, the prince of England was more than a figurehead; more than just a star in the tabloids. When the prince of England was coming to your aid, it meant the power and authority of the King was now on your side.
This morning, we need to talk about another “royal rescue”, one that hits much, much closer to home. Turn with me to Romans 8:28-30.
This morning we are continuing the three-part series we began last week, a series in which we are exploring what the Bible teaches us about the fact that God has everything “under control”.
Last week, we grappled with this mammoth, mind-boggling notion that everything that happens is part of God’s plan for the universe. God is the King, and as the King, He is, from His throne, accomplishing His will.
As we talked about last time, the Bible presents this radically huge concept, not in order to let people off the hook, or to tell us our everyday decisions don’t matter, or to portray human beings as puppets, or to portray God as the author of evil. No, God’s word is clear that none of these things is true.
The Bible reveals to us the workings and wonder of God’s reign in order to comfort us and humble us and reassure us and inspire worship in us, especially when life seems to be “out of control”.
This morning, we need to continue exploring the wonder of God’s reign as King, and especially what that tells us about the rescue all of us desperately need.
II. Our Absolute Need for an Absolute Rescue
But before we look in-depth at Romans 8, I want to very quickly give you a clear description of our condition in regard to sin. The man on the gas rig needed to be rescued because of an apparent heart attack. But our need for spiritual rescues stems from a far more serious condition. This is how the Bible describes it:
First, we are spiritually dead: Ephesians 2:1 says, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked…”
Second, we are spiritually blind: Jesus says in John 9:39-41: “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.”
Third, we are spiritually enslaved: Paul writes in Romans 6:17, 18: But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin…have become slaves of righteousness.
Fourth, we are spiritually hostile: As slaves of sin, Romans 5:10 calls us “enemies of God”, and Colossians 1:21 describes us as “alienated and hostile in mind”.
Did you notice the absoluteness of the imagery used to describe our desperate condition? It’s not that we have a sprained ankle, or are nearsighted, or are co-dependent to sin, or have some diplomatic misunderstanding with God because of sin, that we simply 'agree to disagree'. No! We are dead, blind, enslaved, and hostile.
If that’s not enough, the Bible clearly teaches us that our minds, our hearts, our consciences, and our bodies, that is, every part of us is corrupted by sin.
Now, let me use two passages to build a bridge for us over to our main passage here in Romans 8:28-30. It’s precisely because of our desperate spiritual condition that Paul writes in Romans 3: For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
And Paul emphasizes the limitations of our condition in Romans 8:7, 8. He writes: For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Now, in light of our desperate, desperate condition, we have to ask…any sane, any thinking person would ask, “Then what can we do? If we can do nothing, what hope is there for us? And even if we could be reconciled to God, what hope do we have that we will not mess everything up; that we will not fall back into spiritual death, blindness, slavery, and hostility?”
III. The Passage: “Called According to His Purpose” (8:28-30)
Keep those questions in mind, and now that we’re here in Romans 8, look with me at verses 28-30:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
Let me point out right away the fact that there are two related ideas in verses 28 and 29 that we are going to explore next week, but not this morning. These two ideas correspond to two phrases in this passage. The first is from verse 28: for those who love God all things work together for good. The second is from verse 29: to be conformed to the image of his Son.
I think it's enough for us to point out this morning that verse 28 is picking up on and building on what Paul wrote in verse 18: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Yes, we suffer in this life. But God can even use our suffering to bring about His glorious and good purpose for our lives.
This morning, what I hope we can see here, what I hope we will see more clearly, is that Paul is describing in these verses a “royal rescue”. Jesus talked about this rescue in these terms: after calling His disciples to serve one another, he told them, For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)
A “ransom”. A ransom is a buy back price. Jesus paid with His own life to buy us back from the power of sin and death.
Usually the phrase “a king’s ransom” is used to describe an amazingly big sum of money. But this morning, I’d like to use that phrase to describe an amazingly big salvation. God, the King of all creation, wants to rescue us; he wants to ransom us from our desperate condition.
So what do these verses in Romans 8 teach us about this “king’s ransom”?
Well in verses 29 and 30, Paul is revealing to us one of the biggest vistas in all of Scripture on what the writer of Hebrews calls “such a great salvation”. And we see from these verses, this rescue is like a diamond with five stunning sides, five facets.
A. Those Foreknown (8:28)
Look at the first side of this amazing jewel. Verse 28: For those whom he foreknew...
What does it mean that God “foreknew” us? Well it means He knew us ‘before’. Before what though? Well, Ephesians 1:4 and I Peter 1:20 seem to teach us that “before” here means “before the foundation of the world”. Before God created the universe.
The Bible teaches us that God clearly has foreknowledge, that is, He knows beforehand what is going to take place, AND he knows, beforehand, every person who has ever lived or will ever live. Some in one sense, “Those whom he foreknew” is every single human being.
But when it talks here about “those whom he foreknew”, the context points to the fact Paul is not simply speaking about God's knowledge of them, but more so, his relationship with them. The word “know” in the Old Testament, and therefore, in Hebrew culture often communicated the idea of relational familiarity. It’s like when we say, “Well I know of Barak Obama, but I don’t know him personally.”
But God foreknew those who belong to Christ through faith. This was not simply informational awareness. God had a relational familiarity with them before the world was ever created. If you belong to Jesus Christ through faith, then your relationship with Him has been a reality in the mind of God from countless ages. Isn’t that amazing?
B. Those Predestined (8:29)
We also see that this aspect of foreknowledge is unique because it leads to another facet in the brilliant diamond of the king’s ransom: For those whom he foreknew he also predestined…
The word “predestined” in the original Greek has two parts: the prefix means “before or beforehand”, and the main verb means “to appoint” or determine”. This is the same word used by Luke in Acts 4, verses 27 and 28:
...For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. (Ac. 4:28)
Notice in Acts 4:28 that the foundation for God's 'pre-determination' was His “hand” and His “plan”. So in Romans 8:29, the “hand” and “plan” of God predetermined or pre-appointed those whom God foreknew.
This is confirmed in many places throughout the New Testament, including Ephesians 1, where we read: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will...
If you belong to Jesus Christ by faith, then your salvation was not a spur of the moment, impromptu, 'off the cuff' kind of rescue.
On February 23rd, 1945, the 11th Airborne division and a group of Filipino guerrilla fighters attacked the Japanese prison camp of Los Banos about 40 miles southwest of Manila. Having lost control of Manila, the Japanese were planning to execute all 2,147 prisoners being held at the camp. But allied forces were able to wipe out all Japanese forces, cut off any potential reinforcements, and evacuate the camp by noon, and all without one prisoner or American casualty. In war colleges, the operation at Los Banos is taught as the most perfectly planned and executed rescue by American forces in military history.
But that rescue pales in comparison to the King's ransom, which was perfectly planned before the foundation of the world, and perfectly executed by the power of God!
If you are a Christian, then God knew you long before the world. And to make that relationship a reality in the world, God predestined, He predetermined that you would not only belong to Jesus Christ, but as we see here, that you would become like Jesus Christ.
C. Those Called (8:30)
But look at what we see in verse 30. Paul picks up where he left off in verse 29. As he slowly spins that jewel again he writes: And those whom he predestined he also called...
What does it mean that God called us? Well, the first thing we need to do is distinguish between this call and the call Jesus talked about in Matthew 22:14 when he said: “For many are called, but few are chosen.”
That “call” has to do with the proclamation of the gospel, the Good News. The “call” that Paul is talking about here in Romans 8:30 refers to what God does inside of us when that Good News is proclaimed.
In John 6:44, Jesus talked about this call when He said: No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.
In Acts 16:14, this drawing or calling is illustrated when Paul shared the gospel with Lydia in Philippi. We read that the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.
And three chapters earlier in Acts 13:48, Luke connects predestination and calling when he writes: And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. God's predetermination is referred to by the word “appointed” and God's powerful calling is evidenced in the word “believed”.
The King's ransom is not only perfectly planned, it is perfectly executed. If you believe, if I believe, then we believe because God called us. Saving faith is not something we generate. It is, as Ephesians 2:8 reminds, it is a gift. It is the result of God's calling. Just as Jesus called to Lazarus and Lazarus awoke to new life, we too are awakened to new life by the King's powerful call.
D. Those Justified (8:30)
But look at the next side of this jewel, look at the next link in this chain: And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified...
Being justified is the very thing Paul talked about back in chapter 3 of this same letter. In talking about Jews and Gentiles, Paul writes, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus... (vs. 23, 24)
Pastor James Boice said that justification is... the judicial act by which God declares sinful men and women to be in a right standing before him, not on the basis of their own merit, for they have none, but on the basis of what Jesus Christ has done for them by dying in their place on the cross.
Our right standing with God is not based on any righteousness we have in ourselves. It is completely based on Jesus' righteousness. When God calls us and ignites the flame of faith in our hearts, we do not become righteous; but we are declared righteous because of what Jesus gives us.
To be justified is to be forgiven. To be justified is to be set free by the King's ransom.
E. Those Glorified (8:30)
The final side or facet of this diamond of salvation is found right there at the end of verse 30:
And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
Glorifed? What exactly does it mean to be glorified? Well, this is where the context can help us. Look at verses 18-21:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
As we see here, glory is not only something that will be revealed to us. It will be something revealed through us.
I Corinthians 15 tells us that our mortal body is like a seed “sown in dishonor; [but] it is [to be] raised in glory.” Here's the key: I Corinthians 15:49: Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust [i.e. Adam], we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven [that's Jesus].
Remember Romans 8:29? For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son. God wants to make us more and more like Jesus. And the completion of that process is called “glorification”.
But wait a minute. Everything we've just talked about in regard to being glorified has to do with the future. It has to do with something that hasn't happened yet. So why does Paul write about being “glorified” in the past tense?
I like how one commentator expressed what I believe is the most reasonable explanation of Paul's choice of the past tense:
“...Paul is looking at the believer's glorification from the standpoint of God, who has already decreed that is should take place. While not yet experienced, the divine decision to glorify those who have been justified has already been made; the issue has been settled.” (Douglas Moo)
III. A Right Response to a Royal Rescue
Brothers and sisters, friends, what Paul has given us here is a beautiful picture of God’s absolute rescue in light of our absolute need. This is a royal rescue! This is the news, not that “the Prince of England is coming to save you”, but that the King himself, “the King of all creation is coming to your aid!”
In times of doubt and struggle and weakness and temptation, when we are foolishly led to believe that our hope somehow rests on our ability, the word of God reminds us that when it comes to our salvation from sin and death, our salvation for God, the word reminds us that God, the King, has it all “under control”.
It’s one thing to talk about the reign of God, about the fact that God accomplishes His will in all things…it’s one thing to talk about that in an abstract way. But it’s quite another thing to know personally that you have been ransomed, completely ransomed, by the power and authority of the king.
The 19th century Scottish missionary Robert Haldane wrote:
“Could anything, then, be more comforting to those who love God, than to be in this way assured that the great concern of their salvation is not left in their own keeping? God, even their covenant God, has taken all of it upon himself. He has undertaken for them. There is no room, then, for chance or change. He will perfect that which concerns them.” (Robert Haldane)
But when we think on these things, many times our tendency is to dwell, not on what has been revealed, but on what we don’t understand. “Wait a minute, “I chose God. He didn’t choose me…hold on, what about my free will…how could God choose some and not others…so I don’t have to do anything…just let go and let God?”
Those are common and understandable questions. But we need to embrace everything God’s word teaches us. We are spiritually dead and blind; we are enslaved to sin; we are hostile to God. The issue is not our free will. Since we have the ability to love, to have faith, to be devoted, we have the ability to serve God. In one sense, the issue is not that we can’t. The issue is that we won’t.
We will give our love to anyone or anything but God. We will put our faith in anyone or anything but God. We will be devoted to anyone or anything but God. No, we need a radical intervention. We need the King’s ransom.
James Boice writes:
“When we are first saved we think naturally that we have had a great deal to do with it, perhaps because of wrong or shallow teaching, but more likely only because we know more about our own thoughts and feelings than we do about God. But the longer one is a Christian, the further one moves from any feeling that we are responsible for our salvation or even any part of it, and the closer we come to the conviction that it is all of God.” (Boice)
And when we accept the reality of this beautiful jewel, our will should not be passified; it should be energized. We love and serve God with passion, knowing that we can because He first loved and served us through Jesus Christ, AND knowing that “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)
I think the great reformer Martin Luther expressed well the real issue here:
“Therefore, it is not irreverent, inquisitive, or trivial, but helpful and necessary for a Christian, to find out whether the will does anything or nothing in matters pertaining to eternal salvation.…For if I am ignorant of what, how far, and how much I can and may do in relation to God, it will be equally uncertain and unknown to me what, how far, and how much God can and may do in me.… But when the works and power of God are unknown in this way, I cannot worship, praise, thank, and serve God, since I do not know how much I ought to attribute to myself and how much to God. It therefore behooves us to be very certain about the distinction between God’s power and our own, God’s work and our own, if we want to live a godly life.” (Martin Luther)
How should we respond to the reality of this royal rescue? We should respond with thanks, savoring the fact that God did, is doing, and will do that which we could not. We should respond with reassurance, resting in the reality that God has everything under control, resting in the sweet truth that our relationship with God is not built on the quicksand of my ability. We should respond with faith, stepping out to obey, stepping out to love, stepping out to speak with the empowering knowledge that God is at work in us and through us to accomplish His will.
Our confidence must be in the power of God, and the cross should always stand to remind us of that fact. That’s exactly what Paul goes on to tell us in Romans 8. Look at verse 31…
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? [He will complete His work…He will accomplish His purpose…Do you trust Him?…have you responded to this message?]
[This morning, we need to go reassured and renewed in the truth of verses 38 and 39] For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
More in Under Control: The Wonders and Workings of God's Reign
February 20, 2011God Meant it for Good (Romans 8:28, 29; Genesis 50:15-21)
February 6, 2011He's Got the Whole World in His Hands (Daniel 4:34-37)