Much has been written about what Jesus does, and rightly so. But what about the Father’s role? Romans 8:29-30 tells about five things the Father does.
Let’s begin this two-part series by examining closely Romans 8:29-30 in the context of what the Father does.
“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. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”
Paul writes about “God” in the previous verse, so the pronoun He in verse 29 refers to God. In the book of Romans, Paul uses “God” when referring to God the Father and uses “Christ,” “Christ Jesus,” “Jesus Christ” or “Jesus” when referring to the Son of God. Both God the Father and Jesus are members of the one God family (see “Jesus, the Son of God” and “God Is Love”), but Paul’s way of referring to each helps us understand the different tasks that each fulfills.
So, this passage indeed tells us about things that the Father does. There are five distinctly separate points. Let’s carefully examine each one.
- Foreknew: Foreknowledge comes from the Greek word proginosko, from which we derive the word prognosis. At times God foreknew an individual’s parents before He called or chose the individual from the womb. John the Baptist was an example of this (Luke 1:13). The prophet Jeremiah was another (Jeremiah 1:4-5). God foreknew ancient Israel as a nation, when it was just a group of people enslaved in Egypt (Romans 11:2).
But foreknowing in Romans 8:29 has to do with the process of spiritual salvation. The Bible doesn’t say precisely what God foreknew, but the conclusion of this passage (“glorified”) shows that God would be calling a person to become part of the select firstfruits in His eternal family. The Father undoubtedly carefully and thoroughly analyzes everything about a person before making the decision to call him or her. He gets to know people intimately before calling them.
In a medical context, a prognosis is often expressed as an individual’s probability of recovery from some condition or treatment, such as a 50-50 chance or 60-40 chance. But God’s foreknowledge is not that kind of prognosis. He would not call someone unless He was sure that person had the likelihood of responding to God’s invitation. (Read our article titled “Called and Chosen.”)
- Predestined: Closely related to foreknew, predestined is from the Greek proorizō, meaning “to determine or decree beforehand” (Spiros Zodhiates, Complete Word Study Dictionaries, 2003). There have been countless debates over what God predetermines. Many claim that He predetermines every decision and action each person makes in life, including whether the person will be saved or condemned—all before the person is even born! That is completely erroneous.
The passage in Romans 8:29 is not speaking of God predetermining one’s choices or one’s ultimate success or failure. It means simply that, on the basis of what He foreknew about a person, God predetermines to call that person to salvation at a particular time. God does not take away the person’s free will, meaning God does not force the person to accept or to remain faithful to God’s calling.
God predetermines what one will become, if a person accepts and remains faithful to God’s calling before Christ’s return. That is, the person will become one of the “firstfruits” of God’s spiritual harvest of humanity (James 1:18). Firstfruits is an agricultural term referring to the first ripened portion of the crop, and James uses this term in reference to those who would become the first sons and daughters of God, after Jesus, who is the “firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29).
But God does not predetermine whether a person will be successful. God does everything He can, as does Jesus Christ, to make it possible for someone who is called to succeed. Yet the individual must make the necessary choices and remain faithful to them.But God does not predetermine whether a person will be successful. God does everything He can, as does Jesus Christ, to make it possible for someone who is called to succeed. Yet the individual must make the necessary choices and remain faithful to them. (See “Predestination: What Is It?” and “Free Will: What Is It?” for a full explanation of these subjects from the Bible.)
Predestination in these verses from Romans 8 is another step in God’s perfect plan of salvation for all of mankind. It refers to God’s decision to call, as well as to the timing of His calling.
- Called: The Father then, at the best time for the individual, calls him or her, which means God draws that person to His Son, Jesus Christ. God calls by giving an individual the ability to begin to understand the spiritual truth of the Bible through the power of His Holy Spirit. The person may have much, some or even no knowledge of the Bible, before being called. Spiritual understanding can only be given by God. Jesus personally confirmed this, explaining that the Father’s call is the only way a person can come to Christ and become a Christian (John 6:44).
(See “God Calling!” for a more complete explanation of how God calls. This article explains how you can determine if He is calling you.)
- Justified: To be justified means that when God acquits and absolves us of all blame and guilt for our sins, we become just and innocent in His sight. Justification comes as a result of God’s initiative toward us through His grace, and by our faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ. (For more information, read the article “What Is Justification?”)
There is no sidestepping the fact that everyone has sinned and that the penalty for sin is death. Read “Effects of Sin,” which explains not only this, but also the way to God’s grace and forgiveness. The opportunity for us to have a fresh start (after we acknowledge we have sinned and have turned from sin) is possible only through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. While the Son works closely with the Father in many vital aspects of justification (Romans 3:24; 5:9; 1 Corinthians 6:11), the Father takes the lead (Romans 8:30; John 6:57).
The Father accepts Christ’s sacrifice in our stead, whereby the Father can forgive our sins. This type of forgiveness, wiping out the guilt for our entire past, takes place first at baptism. Then we must continue to repent and request forgiveness for sins and mistakes as we make them throughout our Christian lives.
Christians will still have human nature, and they will still be subject to temptation. They will sin. Therefore, they will need to continue to repent and ask God’s forgiveness. Jesus’ sacrifice covers those sins too. It is not necessary to have more than one valid baptism. But it is necessary to repent each time we become aware of our daily sins.
(Some have been baptized, but not forgiven of their sins. That is, their baptism was not valid. Consider the information in “Rebaptism: Why Would You Be Baptized Again?”)
- Glorified: This speaks of the ultimate potential of one foreknown, predestined and called of the Father. When Jesus returns, the Father will change the faithful saints from flesh and blood to immortal spirit—to be glorified. Many scriptures show that Christ is intimately involved in this, as well; but again, Paul indicates in these verses in Romans 8 that the Father takes the lead in creating His sons and daughters (compare 1 John 3:1-2).
Paul, the author God inspired to write Romans 8:29-30, applies two Old Testament promises to those who respond to and remain faithful to God’s calling: “‘Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.’ ‘I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty’” (2 Corinthians 6:17-18).
In Part 2 of “What Does God the Father Do?” we will look at tasks brought out by other parts of the Bible.