"Predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren."—Rom. 8:29.
Scripture teaches us a personal election. It does this not only in single passages: its whole history of the working out here in time of the counsels of eternity proves it. We see continually how the whole future of God’s kingdom depends upon the faithful filling of His place by some single person: the only security for the carrying out of God’s purpose is His foreordaining of the individual. In predestination alone the history of the world and of God’s kingdom, as of the individual believer, has its sure foundation.
There are Christians who cannot see this. They are so afraid of interfering with human responsibility, that they reject the doctrine of divine predestination, because it appears to rob man of his liberty of will and action. Scripture does not share this fear. It speaks in one place of man’s free will as though there were no election, in another of election as though there were no free will. Thus it teaches us that we must hold fast both these truths alongside each other, even when we cannot understand them, or make them perfectly to harmonize. In the light of eternity the solution of the mystery will be given. He who grasps both in faith will speedily experience how little they are in conflict. He will see that the stronger his faith is in God’s everlasting purpose, the more his courage for work will be strengthened; while, on the other side, the more he works and is blessed, the clearer it will become that all is of God.
For this reason it is of so much consequence for a believer to make his election sure. The Scriptures give the assurance that if we do this, "we shall never stumble" (R.V.). The more I believe not only in general that I am elected of God, but see how this election has reference to every part of my calling, the more shall I be strengthened in the conviction that God Himself will perfect His work in me, and that therefore it is possible for me to be all that God really expects. With every duty Scripture lays upon me, with every promise for whose fulfilment I long, I will go to find in God’s purposes the firm footing upon which my expectations may rest, and the true measure by which they are to be guided. I shall understand that my life on earth is to be a copy of the heavenly life-plan, that the Father has drawn out, of what I am to be on earth. Christian! make your calling and election sure; let it become clear to you that you are elected, and to what: "If ye do these things, ye shall never stumble." Quiet communion with God on the ground of His unchangeable purpose imparts to the soul an immoveable firmness that keeps from stumbling.
One of the most blessed expressions in regard to God’s purpose concerning us in Christ is this word: "Predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son." The man Christ Jesus is the elect of God; in Him election has its beginning and ending. "In Him we are chosen;" for the sake of our union with Him and to His glory our election took place. The believer who seeks in election merely the certainty of his own salvation, or relief from fear and doubt, knows very little of its real glory. The purposes of election embrace all the riches that are prepared for us in Christ, and reach to every moment and every need of our lives. "Chosen in Him that we should be holy and blameless before Him in love" "it is only when the connection between election and sanctification is rightly apprehended in the Church that the doctrine of election will bring its full blessing" (2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2). It teaches the believer how it is God who must work all in him, who will work all in him, and how he may rely even in the smallest matters upon the unchangeable purpose of God to work out itself in the accomplishment of everything that He expects of His people. In this light the word "Predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son" gives new strength to every one who has begun to take what Christ is as the rule of what he himself is to be.
Christian! would you in very deed be like Christ, fix your mind upon the thought of how certainly this is God’s will concerning you; how the whole of redemption has been planned with the view of your becoming so; how God’s purpose is the guarantee that your desires must be fulfilled. There, where your name is written in the book of life, there stands also, "Predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son." All the powers of the Deity which have already wrought together in the accomplishment of the first part of the eternal purpose, the revealing of the Father’s perfect likeness in the man Christ Jesus, are equally engaged to accomplish the second part, and work that likeness in each of God’s children. In the work of Christ there is the most perfect provision possible for the carryinc, out of God’s purposes in this. Our union to Christ, held fast in a living faith, will be an all-prevailing power. We can depend upon it as something ordained with a divine certainty, and that must come if we yield ourselves to it. Has not God elected us to be conformed to the image of His Son?
It can easily be understood what a powerful influence the living consciousness of this truth will have. It teaches us to give up ourselves to the Eternal Will, that it may, with divine power, effect its purpose in us. It shows us how useless and impotent our own efforts are to accomplish this work: all that is of God must also be through Him. He who is the beginning, must be the middle and the end. In a very wonderful manner it strengthens our faith with a holy boldness to glory in God alone, and to expect from God Himself the fulfilment of every promise and every command, of every part of the purpose of His blessed will.
And where does this likeness to Christ consist? In Sonship. It is to the image of His Son we are to be conformed. All the different traits of a Christ-like life resolve themselves into this one as their spring and end. We are "predestinated unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ." It was as the Son Christ lived and served and pleased the Father. It is only as a son with the spirit of His own Son in my heart, that I can live and serve and please the Father. I must each day walk in the full and clear consciousness: like Christ, I am a son of the Most High God, born from above, the beloved of the Father. As a son the Father is engaged to provide my every need. As a son I live in dependence and trust, in love and obedience, in joy and hope. It is when I live with the Father as a son, that it becomes possible to make any sacrifice and to obey every command.
Believer! take time and prayer to take in this truth, and let it exercise its full power in your soul Let the Holy Spirit write it into your inmost being, that you are predestidated to be conformed to the image of His Son. The Father’s object was the honour of His Son, "that He might be the firstborn among many brethren." Let this be your object too in all your life, so to show forth the image of your Elder Brother, that other Christians may be pointed to Him alone, may praise Him alone, and seek to follow Him more closely too. Let it be the fixed and only purpose of your life, the great object of your believing prayer, that "Christ be magnified in my body." This will give you new confidence to ask and expect all that is necessary to live like Christ. Your conformity to Christ will be one of the links connecting the eternal purpose of the Father with the eternal fulfilment of it in the glorifying of the Son. Your conformity to Christ becomes then such a holy, heavenly, divine work, that you realize that it can come only from the Father, but that from Him you can and shall most certainly receive it. What God’s purpose has decreed, God’s power will perform. What God’s love has ordained and commanded, God’s love will most certainly accomplish. A living faith in His eternal purpose will become one of the mightiest powers in urging and helping us to live LIKE CHRIST.
O Thou incomprehensible Being, I bow before Thee in deepest humility. It has been such a strength to know that Thy Son has chosen me, in order to send me into the world as Thou hadst sent Him. But here Thou hast led me still higher, and shown that this mission to be as He was in the world was from eternity decreed by Thyself. O my God, my soul bows prostrate in the dust before Thee.
Lord God, now that Thy child comes to Thee for the fulfilment of Thy own purpose, he dares confidently look for an answer. Thy will is stronger than every hindrance. The faith that trusts Thee will not be put to shame. Lord, in holy reverence and worship, but with childlike confidence and hope, I utter this prayer: Father, give me the desire of my soul, conformity to the image of Thy Son; Father, likeness to Jesus, this is what my soul desires of Thee. Let me, like Him, be Thy holy child.
O my Father, write it in Thy book of remembrance, and write it in my remembrance too, that I have asked it of Thee as what I desire above all things, conformity to the image of Thy Son.
Father, to this Thou hast chosen me; Thou wilt give it me, to Thine own and His glory. Amen.