And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 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 (Rom 8:28-29).
Here is a thought I had recently concerning the word proginosko (“for whom He foreknew”) in Romans 8:29. My interpretation is different than anything I ever seen (including the new commentary by Zane Hodges on Romans), but it makes sense to me.
Romans 8:29 is preceded in v 28 by the words, And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. I believe that a proper understanding of the phrase those who love God opens up the point of vv 28-29.
The same expression is found in 1 Cor 8:3 where Paul says, But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him. Notice that for a believer to be known by God is conditional: if anyone loves God… Not all believers love God all the time. It is the believer who loves God who is known by Him. I believe this means that the believer who loves God is destined to rule with Christ if he perseveres in his love for God.
Romans 8:28-29 is discussing those who love God, that is, those who will ultimately rule with Jesus, the firstborn among many brethren.
I believe it is a mistake to understand Rom 8:28 to be saying that God works all things together for God for all believers. He only works all things together for believers who love Him. All things do not work together for good for the believer that is in the spiritual far country (Luke 15:11-32).
So I suggest that God’s foreknowledge in Rom 8:29 concerns ruling with Christ. God knows in advance who, among those who believe in Jesus, love Him, and He has predetermined that those believers will be conformed to the image of Christ in the sense that they might rule with Him forever.
But won’t all believers be conformed to His image (1 John 3:2)? Yes, we will. But Paul is not talking about all believers in Rom 8:28-29. He is talking about believers who love God and who will rule with Christ if they persevere in their love for God (cf. 2 Tim 4:8, “to all who have loved His appearing”). Indeed, Paul might mean more here than mere conformity in terms of sinlessness and moral purity (cf. 1 John 3:2). Possibly Paul might have in mind conformity that extends to sharing in Christ’s status as Ruler in the life to come.
Believers who persevere in their love for God have been predestined to rule with Christ forever. God has predetermined that co-ruling with Christ is reserved for those who persevere in their love for Him. That makes a lot of sense to me, a math professor.