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.Romans 8:29 (KJV)
Predestinate – For a moment, imagine that Paul’s letter to the Romans is not about you. It wasn’t written to you or any other 21st century Christian. Paul, in all his letters, is writing to/about two main factions; the house of Judah (Jews) and the house of Israel (Israelites divorced from God [Jeremiah 3:8] whom are now Gentiles). In this letter, Paul is addressing the latter group of people.
These are people who were a part of God’s chosen. The house of Israel included 10 tribes. But along the lines, they worshiped so many other gods, and committed spiritual adultery, that YHVH divorced them. Once the letter of divorce is given to the wife, it’s a done deal. The husband can never take back the divorced wife again, even if he wanted to (Deuteronomy 24). So now, how can God possibly redeem the 10 tribes?
So the word in Greek is proorizō which means “predetermined or decided beforehand.” So if we remove ourselves from this letter – I know our paradigm makes it hard – and think about the people of which Paul is writing, how does this change? Well for one, we aren’t the people who were predetermined to be the image of God’s son. <- wait, that’s lower case (s)on, why? (although we can be now).
Ahhh… there’s a few ways to look at this verse. First, the original Greek didn’t have capital letters. Every time you see a capital, it was added by the translators. Second, here’s where we can go two different ways.
Israel was considered God’s son. And being that the nation of Israel was predetermined (a long time before Paul’s letters) to be God’s chosen people, it is Israel that God foreknew. Look at what’s happening between these two verses:
1 When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.Hosea 11:1-2
2 As they called them, so they went from them: they sacrificed unto Baalim, and burned incense to graven images.
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.Romans 8:30
Israel was God’s son whom He called (predestined). Paul is referencing Israel here in relation to the prophet Hosea’s words. God had called them, justified them, and glorified them. But alas, they failed, lost that calling, and were divorced. So now, through Yeshua’s death, this house of Israel can again return to become a part of God’s chosen people.
Let’s agree that Paul is talking about being conformed to the image of Yeshua in this verse. This is the more commonly understood interpretation. This doesn’t change that Paul is not writing about you and I. He’s writing about the Israelites (house of Israel) who were divorced and became Gentiles. These are still the people who God foreknew and foreordained to be His chosen. And God always wanted them to be his light in the world. He wanted them to keep the law perfectly and set the example for others. But they failed. Yeshua came and did exactly what God always wanted. Yeshua proved that man can keep the law blamelessly.
And so now, those people whom God already chose, whom He intended to live like Yeshua did so that they might be the firstborn, can now return again to take their predestined (preordained) position as God’s chosen people.
It’s not about you
It’s difficult to do, to remove yourself from the text. I struggle with it as well. We need to read the words and understand who they were intended for, and whom they reference. It has always been about the 12 tribes – God’s chosen people. We can learn from their experiences and choose to become a part of them. In which case, their history becomes our history too. But you and I are not a predestined people who God foreknew – that reference is for Israel alone.