“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 within a large family.” Romans 8:29
We are predestined for one basic thing: to be conformed to the full humanness expressed in Christ. In him we have a vision of what God intended us to be: conformed to the image of his Son. This is God’s goal for each of us. He is creating a family in which Jesus is central, but a family to be conformed to Christ. Our heart’s cry should be as expressed in the verse of Thomas Chisolm:
Oh! To be like Thee, blessed Redeemer, This is my constant longing and prayer; Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures, Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
In the text the two difficult words “foreknew” and “predestined” are not to be separated from the phrase that follows, “conformed to the image of his Son.” God has a definite plan. He intends that the incarnation should be followed by many adopted children, who are to be like Christ. As we become believers, we discover that we are predestined in Christ to be conformed to his image. It is a preplanned identifying with Christ in faith, the basic result is already determined; we will be conformed to his image.
Predestination can be considered almost mechanical and deterministic, like the joke of the man who fell down the stairs, got up, dusted himself off, and said, “Well, I’m glad that’s over.” More dynamic ways to think of this term are relational ways of understanding it. The nature of a child born into a family will be determined by the genes of the family line. But he still has responsibility for the person he becomes. Those born into the family of God are foreknown to have Christlike gifts. The believer is predestined to be conformed to Christ, but this is realized by an appropriating faith. We should rejoice in this, the work of God’s grace, not react as though it undercuts our responsibility.