on Romans 8 :29
For whom he did foreknow, etc. - "In this and the following verse the apostle shows how our calling is an argument that all things work together to advance our eternal happiness, by showing the several steps which the wisdom and goodness of God have settled, in order to complete our salvation. In order to this he first gives us, in this verse, the foundation and finishing, or the beginning and end, of the scheme of our redemption: For whom God did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son. To foreknow, here signifies to design before, or at the first forming of the scheme; to bestow the favor and privilege of being God's people upon any set of men, Romans 11:2. This is the foundation or first step of our salvation; namely, the purpose and grace of God, which was given us in Christ Jesus, before the world began, 2 Timothy 1:9. Then, he knew or favored us; for in this sense the word to know is taken in a great variety of places, both in the Old and New Testaments. And as he knew the Gentiles then, when the scheme was laid, and before any part of it was executed, consequently, in reference to the execution of this scheme, he foreknew us. This is the first step of our salvation, and the end or finishing of it is our conformity to the Son of God in eternal glory, Romans 8:17, which includes and supposes our moral conformity to him. When God knew us, at the forming of the Gospel scheme; or, when he intended to bestow on us the privilege of being his people; he then destinated or designed us to be conformed to the image of his Son; and, as he destinated or determined us then to this very high honor and happiness, he pre-destinated, fore-ordained, or pre-determined us to it. Thus we are to understand the foundation and finishing of the scheme of our salvation. The foundation is the foreknowledge, or gracious purpose of God; the finishing is our being joint heirs with Christ. Now, our calling or invitation (see on Romans 8:28 (note)) stands in connection with both these.
1. It stands in connection with God's foreknowledge; and so it is a true and valid calling: for we are called, invited, or chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, who may bestow his blessings upon any people, as may seem good in his sight, 1 Peter 1:2; consequently, we have a good title to the blessings of the Gospel to which we are called or invited. And this was to be proved, that the Jew, to whom the apostle particularly wrote, might see that the Gentiles being now called into the Church of God was not an accidental thing, but a matter which God had determined when he conceived the Gospel scheme. Thus our calling is connected with God's foreknowledge.
2. It stands also in connection with our being conformed to the image of his Son; for we are invited by the Gospel to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 Thessalonians 2:14. And therefore, supposing, what the apostle supposes, that we love God, it is certain, from our being called, that we shall be glorified with the sons of God; and so our calling proves the point, that all things should work together for our good in our present state, because it proves that we are intended for eternal glory; as he shows in the next verse. For we must understand his foreknowing, predestinating, calling, and justifying, in relation to his glorifying; and that none are finally glorified, but those who, according to his purpose, are conformed to the image of his Son." Taylor.
The first-born among many brethren - That he might be the chief or head of all the redeemed; for His human nature is the first fruits of the resurrection from the dead; and He is the first human being that, after having passed through death, was raised to eternal glory. See Dr. Taylor.
on Romans 8 :29
For whom he did foreknow - The word used here προέγνω proegnō has been the subject of almost endless disputes in regard to its meaning in this place. The literal meaning of the word cannot be a matter of dispute. It denotes properly to "know beforehand;" to be acquainted with future events. But whether it means here simply to know that certain persons would become Christians; or to ordain, and constitute them to be Christians, and to be saved, has been a subject of almost endless discussion. Without entering at large into an investigation of the word, perhaps the following remarks may throw light on it.
(1) it does not here have reference to all the human family; for all are not, and have not, been conformed to the image of his Son. It has reference therefore only to those who would become Christians, and be saved.
(2) it implies "certain knowledge." It was certainly foreseen, in some way, that they would believe, and be saved. There is nothing, therefore, in regard to them that is contingent, or subject to doubt in the divine Mind, since it was certainly foreknown.
(3) the event which was thus foreknown must have been, for some cause, certain and fixed; since an uncertain event could not be possibly foreknown. To talk of a foreknowing a contingent event, that is, of foreknowing an event as certain which may or may not exist, is an absurdity.
(4) in what way such an event became certain is not determined by the use of this word. But it must have been somehow in connection with a divine appointment or arrangement, since in no other way can it be conceived to be certain. While the word used here, therefore, does not of necessity mean to decree, yet its use supposes that there was a purpose or plan; and the phrase is an explanation of what the apostle had just said, that it was "according to the purpose of God" that they were called. This passage does not affirm why, or how, or, "on what grounds" God foreknew that some of the human family would be saved. It simply affirms the fact; and the mode in which those who will believe were designated, must be determined from other sources. This passage simply teaches that he knew them; that his eye was fixed on them; that he regarded them as to be conformed to his Son; and that, thus knowing them, he designated them to eternal life. The Syriac renders it in accordance with this interpretation: "And from the beginning he knew them, and sealed them with the image of his Son," etc. As, however, none would believe but by the influences of his Spirit, it follows that they were not foreknown on account of any faith which they would themselves exercise, or any goodworks which they would themselves perform, but according to the purpose or plan of God himself.
He also did predestinate - See the meaning of the original of this word explained in the notes at Romans 1:4; see also the Acts 4:28 note; and 1 Corinthians 2:7 note. In these places the word evidently means to determine, purpose, or decree beforehand; and it must have this meaning here. No other idea could be consistent with the proper meaning of the word, or be intelligible. It is clear also that it does not refer to external privileges, but to real conversion and piety; since that to which they were predestinated was not the external privilege of the gospel, but conformity to his Son, and salvation; see Romans 8:30. No passage could possibly teach in stronger language that it was God's purpose to save those who will be saved. Ephesians 1:5, "having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ unto himself." Ephesians 1:11, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will."
To be conformed to the image of his Son - To resemble his Son; to be of like form with the image of his Son. We may learn here,
(1) That God does not determine to save people, whatever their character may be. The decree is not to save them in their sins, or whether they be sinful or holy. But it has primary respect to their char acter. It is that they "should be" holy; and, as a consequence of this, that they should be saved.
(2) the only evidence which we can have that we are the subjects of his gracious purpose is, that we are "in fact" conformed to the Lord Jesus Christ. For this was the design of the decree. This is the only satisfactory proof of piety; and by this alone can we determine that we are interested in his gracious plan of saving people.
That he might be the first-born - The first-born among the Hebrews had many special privileges. The idea here is,
(1) That Christ might be pre-eminent as the model and exemplar; that he might be clothed with special honors, and be so regarded in his church; and yet,
(2) That he might still sustain a fraternal relation to them; that he might be one in the same great family of God where all are sons; compare Hebrews 2:12-14.
Many brethren - Not a few. The purpose of God is that many of the human family shall be saved.
on Romans 8 :29
8:29 Whom he foreknew, he also predestinated conformable to the image of his Son - Here the apostle declares who those are whom he foreknew and predestinated to glory; namely, those who are conformable to the image of his Son. This is the mark of those who are foreknown and will be glorified, 2Tim 2:19. Php 3:10,21.