What does Romans 8:29 mean?
ESV: 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.
NIV: For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
NASB: For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters;
CSB: For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
NLT: For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
KJV: 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.
NKJV: For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
Verse Commentary:
We Christians did not stumble into this relationship with God. Paul means to comfort us in our waiting and suffering as we long to be with God and be glorified by Him. He has just described believers as people who are called according to God's purpose. Now Scripture will talk about what that means. In doing so, this passage begins to introduce one of the most controversial and contentious ideas in all of theology: that of predestination.

Paul begins by saying our calling to serve God's purpose goes all the way back to "before." He writes that God "foreknew" those who are now brothers and sisters of Jesus, because they have become the children of God by faith in Jesus. The word "foreknew" means that God, in some way or sense, knew each Christian before we knew Him.

Based on this sense in which He "foreknew" us, God predestined—determined, appointed, or ordained in advance—those who are saved to be conformed to the image of Jesus. Paul says it even more plainly in Ephesians 1:4, "He chose us in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him."

Much of the controversy over this passage deals in whether or not God allows human free will to be a part of this choice, or whether God's actions are totally unilateral. So far as it goes for this specific statement, that level of detail is irrelevant. Chapter 9 will further discuss this concept, in ways which are more strongly influenced by how predestination is interpreted.

The bottom line of this particular verse is that we can stand secure. We can know, as those now in Christ, that God's purpose for us has always been that we should become like Christ. God had scheduled our entry into His family long before we were ever born. If God knew about us before we were born, and arranged for our salvation, He certainly knows about our trials and sufferings now, and what lies ahead. That should provide us with great comfort as we wait to be with our Father forever.
Verse Context:
Romans 8:18–30 talks about the participation of Christians in the everyday suffering experienced by all of creation. We all groan together as a woman in labor while we wait for God to reveal His children. As His children, we are waiting for the Father to complete our adoption by redeeming our bodies so that we can be with Him. God's Spirit helps us in the season of waiting by taking our unformed prayers to God. We trust that God uses every circumstance in our lives for His purposes and that He has chosen us long ago to be His children.
Chapter Summary:
Romans 8 begins and ends with declarations of the Christian's absolute security before God. There is no condemnation for those in Christ, and nothing will ever be able to separate us from His love. Having believed the gospel, we now live in the Spirit of God. That allows us to call God Abba Father. We suffer with Christ, and we suffer along with all creation while we wait for God to reveal us as His sons. With the help of the Spirit, we are confident that God is for us and loves us in Christ.
Chapter Context:
In Romans 7, Paul revealed his frustration of trying to do good only to be thwarted by his sin. He begins Romans 8, though, with the triumphant statement that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. We live in the Spirit, and we relate to God as a child does to a father. The Spirit helps us in this season of suffering along with all of creation while we wait for our adoption to be complete with the redemption of our bodies. We are confident, though, that God is for us and nothing can separate us from His love.
Book Summary:
The book of Romans is the New Testament's longest, most structured, and most detailed description of Christian theology. Paul lays out the core of the gospel message: salvation by grace alone through faith alone. His intent is to explain the good news of Jesus Christ in accurate and clear terms. As part of this effort, Paul addresses the conflicts between law and grace, between Jews and Gentiles, and between sin and righteousness. As is common in his writing, Paul closes out his letter with a series of practical applications.
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