What is God’s purpose for your life?
Do you know?
What is keeping you from pursuing God’s purpose for your life?
In Romans 8:28-30, God gives a synopsis of His purpose in each of our lives. As we look at these verses, we will see how He works in all things for our good. This passage uses words like “called,” “foreknew” and “predestined;” therefore, we will take some time to try to understand these words in the context of God’s purpose for our lives.
Romans 8:28 is often quoted for its magnificent promise that God causes all things to work together for good. The full text of the verse is:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
From this verse, we see that the promise is for those who are called according to His purpose.
The first thing we will look at concerning God’s purpose for our lives is His calling. What does it mean to be called according to His purpose?
First, we will consider the word “called.”
In Romans 8:28, the Greek word Paul uses is “κλητοῖς” (kletois), and it means called or summoned and it is also used of invitations. In the Bible, we have a number of examples of people who were called by God. Abraham was called by God to be the Father of those of like faith. Moses was called by God to lead God’s people out of Egypt. David was called by God to be the king of Israel. The Apostles were called by God to establish the Church. Each of these people was selected for a special task and for a special time. Paul speaks of himself as being “set apart” for the gospel (Romans 1:1). We see in these examples God’s call for a special purpose.
In other places, the Bible speaks in terms of an invitation. In His story of the King who gave a banquet, Jesus spoke of those who were invited to the banquet and used the word “called.” He concluded by saying, “Many are called but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14, ESV) This shows the call as an invitation. As an invitation, the call has gone out into the entire world for all people everywhere to accept Jesus Christ as Savior. Everyone is invited to come to Jesus for salvation. However, not everyone is called to be a Moses or a prophet or an Apostle. Therefore, it is important to distinguish what kind of calling we are talking about, an invitation or a calling for a purpose.
In his introduction to the book of 1 Corinthians, Paul says, “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints ...” () In this case, the believers in Jesus Christ gathered at Corinth are said to be “called to be saints.” In the book of Ephesians, believers are encouraged to walk in a manner worthy of our calling. (Ephesians 4:1) From the example in 1 Corinthians and Ephesians, we can conclude that all believers in Jesus Christ have received a calling to be saints, or for a purpose.
If you are not yet a believer, God is calling you to be saved. This is an invitation. Jesus said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'” ()
If you are a believer, God is calling you with a purpose, to be a saint. In Romans 8:29 the purpose is stated: “...to be conformed to the image of his Son...”
Could a misunderstanding of this calling be what is holding you back from pursuing God’s purpose for your life? Have you realized that this is His calling and purpose in your life?
For each person, this purpose will be worked out in different ways. In other words, each of us is in a different set of circumstances at any given time. In order to understand this, we need to consider the word predestined and what it means.
Romans 8:29 says:
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. ()
The first thing we see in this verse is that those He foreknew, He also predestined. This is hard to understand in the sense that God knows everything and He knows everybody. However, Scripture makes it clear that not everyone will be saved. Therefore, this foreknowledge shows that it is somehow related to the predestination and goes beyond the knowledge of facts or details. Relationship is also referred to as “knowledge.” There is much Scriptural evidence for God establishing His relationship with His people before they are born. Psalm 139 is a good example where it says:
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. ()
Another example is God’s calling of Jeremiah as a prophet. In Jeremiah 1:5, He says:
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations." ()
God knew Jeremiah in the sense of relationship. God knows every fact and detail about every person. However, He is implying knowledge that goes beyond the details of Jeremiah’s existence. Therefore, we can assume He is talking about relationship. We find this knowledge of relationship in the New Testament when it says:
This relationship is decided beforehand by God. The Greek word used in Romans 8:29 for “predestined” is “προώρισεν” (prohorisen). “προώρισεν” is made up of two words: “pro” which means “before,” and “horizo” which means to set boundaries or limits. Therefore, it is translated to foreordain or predetermine.
According to Romans 8:29, what God has predetermined for those whom He foreknew is that they should be conformed to the image of His Son. This is why we know, as Romans 8:28 tells us, that God causes everything to work together for our good.
If we consider the life of Moses as an example, we will see that he did not receive his special calling until He was 80 years old. However, God was at work in Moses’ circumstances and life from before he was born. Moses was called according to God’s purpose; therefore, God worked in his circumstances.
Predestination is a topic that has not been agreed upon since before Jesus was born. As a teaching and as a subject, predestination has a long history. Controversy usually centers on the subject of free will.
Do we have a choice?
The Bible ends with an invitation. It says:
The Spirit and the Bride say, "Come." And let the one who hears say, "Come." And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. ()
This invitation is for anyone who desires to come. In Joshua 24:15 it says:
“And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” ()
In this verse, there is a clear call for the people to make a choice.
Here again, let’s use Moses as an example. He was called by God to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. He was used by God to give the Law, and yet he was not able to enter into the Promised Land because he chose to disobey God.
We are called upon to choose, we have choices to make and we are held responsible for our choices. We should not think that predestination and free will are mutually exclusive. Although we cannot explain or understand how this works, the Scriptures teach both.
Trying to force the either/or can be a source of error. For example, we cannot say God is either One or He is Three. He is both One and Three. Another example is the person of Christ. We cannot say He is either God or man. He is both God and man.
In Philippians, we have two verses that seem to teach opposites right next to each other. Philippians 2:12-13 says:
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. ()
Here in these verses we are instructed to work out our salvation with fear and trembling for the very reason that it is God who works in us, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. An either/or mentality will not work here. This calls for a both/and approach.
In Romans 8:29, it says that God predestined us to be conformed to the image of His Son. This comes in a chapter that calls on us to walk by the Spirit so that we can put to death the deeds of the body (Romans 8:13), and it comes right after a verse that tells us the Spirit helps us to pray according to God’s will. In other words, this was written to give us hope and courage in a world that is under the control of our enemy and in which we suffer. God’s predestination of us should give us courage to pursue God’s purpose for our lives.
What is keeping you from pursuing God’s purpose for your life? Look at the certainty with which Romans 8:30 speaks of our future.
And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. ()
Romans 8:18 says that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us, and here in verse 30 it speaks of those glories as if they already are revealed in us.
Scriptures contain much instruction for us to be holy as God is holy, to be imitators of God as beloved children and to walk in a manner worthy of our calling. However, we are not saved by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to God’s mercy.
God’s purpose is for us to be conformed to the image of His Son, but this is worked out in different circumstances for each one of us. Sometimes our circumstances are hard to understand and at times our way lies through paths of suffering. This is why God gives us the encouragement that He works all things together for the good of those who are called according to His purpose. In light of God’s purpose, the knowledge of God’s predestination is there so that we can have courage and never give up hope.
Jesus serves as an example of this. Isaiah 53 speaks in the past tense while it prophesies of things that were at the time in the future. This is because as Acts 4:28 says, God had determined beforehand that these things should happen. It was confidence in the Father’s plan that gave Jesus the courage and the strength to go through the Garden of Gethsemane. Confidence in God’s purpose and plan for us will give us the courage to take up our cross daily and follow Him.
Perhaps this is what has been holding us back from pursuing God’s purpose for our lives, a lack of courage because our faith is weak. Each person must answer what is holding him or her back. God has given us each the confidence that we need to courageously pursue His purpose for our lives.