Paul discusses predestination and “the called” in verses 28 through 31 of Romans chapter 8.
I’ve heard several explanations for this passage. Some maintain that it proves that God knew in advance who would become Christians. Others maintain that Christ died for a select group of people who are subject to an irresistible calling from God. I will give you my take on this passage.
First of all, in verse 28 Paul identifies who the Christians are: those who love God.
Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
God says that if you love Him, you will keep His commandments. Paul refers to those who “love God” as “the called”. I believe “the called” here is a subset of everyone who is called, but I’ll get to that later.
Verse 29 is the key verse. Let’s take a look at it.
Romans 8:29 “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”
Who does Paul mean when he says “For whom he did forknow…”? Is there anyone who has lived or who will ever live that God did not forknow? I believe that God forknew everyone who has or ever will live. I believe that Paul, when he says “for whom he did forknow” is referring to the human race as a whole. Forknow means “to have knowledge of beforehand.” God forknew not only those who would become Christians, but everyone.
The next part of the verse says what God did to these that he forknew: “…he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son…” The word predestinate is English for the Greek word proorizo, which means to decide beforehand. God knew you before you were born. He intended ahead of time, before you were born that you would be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. Consider this in light of a couple verses:
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
Paul said in Romans 8:17 that if we are Christians, we are joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. Paul refers to this in verse 29 also when he says “that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”
God knew we would come into this world before we did. It was God’s intention that no one would perish, but everyone would be conformed to the image of His Son, and that we would all be joint-heirs with His Son. Paul continues this point in verse 30.
Romans 8:30 “Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”
Those who God did predestinate encompasses everyone, not just Christians — when taken in light of verse 29. Those who God knew of ahead of time, he called those people. The Greek word used for “called” is kaleo, which means invited. When you were brought into this world, God invited you to be His heir. He invited you to be conformed to the likeness of His Son. The invitation was more than that though. It was an invitation to be justified from your sins, and to be glorified before Him.
Keeping in mind that Paul is writing the book of Romans to Christians, Paul admonishes these Christians that we have nothing to fear. Verse 31 drives the point home that if God knew of us before we were born, and intended to make us joint heirs, He is on our side. He is with us no matter where we go. With this in mind, we can have peace within and not be afraid.