People like to know that there is a reason for things. We want to believe that life has a purpose. A question which likely occurs at some point in everyone’s life is: Why am I here? Why is often the most difficult question to answer. Attempts to answer it are seldom completely satisfactory. Paul in this passage may be giving at least a general explanation. D.G. Barnhouse comments:
“Beyond all the doctrines that are linked with this text there is the very practical truth that we may have the absolute assurance that the plan of our own individual life has been fixed in God. He is pursuing a definite purpose leading to a definite end, and we may live in quiet assurance that all is well with us, even though we are passing through deep waters.
It is possible, here and now, for us to know that all things work together for our good. To lay hold upon this fact is to calm the turbulence of life and to bring quiet and confidence into the whole of life.”
Indeed verse 28 begins with “we know” and not we guess or hope or wish. This strong assurance is given to those who love (agape) God. The words Paul writes are rich in meaning. Purpose can also be translated “design” and being called describes “being invited.” Chuck Swindoll points out: “Throughout Romans, Paul used the term “good” almost exclusively in a moral sense. “Good” is that which pleases God because it reflects His nature and conforms to His original created order.” Putting these words together, we understand that by God’s design we are invited to reflect His good nature and thereby please Him.
Paul lays out how this happens in verses 29-30. It starts with “whom He foreknew.” This is much more than just advanced knowledge. It says that God knew us intimately before we were born, which describes a scrutinizing knowledge that goes beyond mere awareness. As Douglas Moo explains: “When God knows a person, he does not learn some information about that person; rather he comes into relationship with that person.”
With this foreknowledge God has “foreordained” (determined, appointed) us to be conformed to the image of His Son. Chuck Swindoll states this truth: “Those the Lord knew intimately and actively beforehand, He appointed in advance to become like Jesus in their character.” So why are we here? What is the purpose of life? God invites (calls) us to grow to become more like Christ.
Paul continues the outline of God’s design in verse 30. God has appointed us to be called, justified, and ultimately glorified. Justified by Christ’s sacrifice, we are being conformed to His image so that we may be glorified and thus glorify God. Our response to God’s invitation (calling) demonstrates the goodness of God’s plan for our lives. D.G. Barnhouse summarizes our calling:
“The inward call of God is the effect of His eternal predestination and purpose to conform those whom He has chosen to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.”
“The inward call is the voice of the Holy Spirit within the heart of those whom God has chosen unto Himself before the foundation of the world. It is a voice that speaks with the power to wake the dead, to bring life to the believer. Those who have been thus called are alive in Christ.”
next: Romans 8:31-34