Romans 8:29 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.
When we carefully walked through verse 29 of Romans 8, we saw that there was more than a few questions that rose to the top, namely:
What did God saw in us? We now know that he didn’t see anything good, righteousness or lovely. What he saw was my traitorous sin and depraved wickedness. But in His power, goodness, and love, He saved me. Not by my own will, mind, or righteousness, but in his grace alone.
How did God save us? We now see that it was by the perfect life, sacrificial death, Spirit-powered resurrection, and glorious ascension of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to the right hand of the Father where He alone rules and reigns over heaven and earth is actually how we are saved.
By whom we are saved? Again, from the sovereign grace of the Father, through the blood-drained and broken body of Christ upon the cross, by the power and might of the Spirit. In other words, God.
Why did God save us? Again, it was not because we were good or made the right decision or merely born into the right family, but for the glory of God which is the fullest, maximum infinite display of everything that God is—holiness, love, righteousness, just, mercy, and grace, just to name a few.
So by the term “firstborn among many brothers”, we can then ask this question:
To whom are we saved?
Not to Sunday School this and end it quickly, but the immediate and correct guess would be Jesus Christ. If God is our Father, Christ is His Son, and we are adopted by him into his family, that would no doubt make Christ, what older, dead white guys would rightfully call, our Elder brother.
Remember Romans 8:14–17 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
And just so we are clear: the term firstborn might be a weird adjective to describe the Word of God who has always been from eternally past. But remember that Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End 1—the creator, founder, begetter, and perfector of our faith.
And since he proceeds everything, in a strange, “outside-of-time” way, it is the firstborn, founder and perfector of all the faith of the saints, both in the New and in the Old Testament. 2
So, we see He is first and preeminent. But God did not just merely save us in order to be first. Let’s take a look at the promises of God:
More than just merely saved from Hell and sin but to the presence of God himself: Psalm 16:9–11 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence, there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
That we won’t simply die in sin, or stay the same but we will look like Him: Psalm 17:15 As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.
That once belong to Him, no one can take us away from him: John 10:28–30 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
We are saved to God forever and ever. Amen.
But here is the real kicker: not only are we saved to Him, the one who is firstborn, forever but also to one another i.e. the brethren.
In a strange sense, the salvation plan of God was two-fold: to himself forever and to each other forever.
Now, if you grew up in church, you have heard this verse thrown out just in mere passing that is sometimes used as some sort of heavy-handed law of God. “Don’t you dare miss church OR ELSE!” And I am going to repeat it here just to get it out of the way but not in mere passing but within context. Let us look at the entire passage.
Hebrews 10:19–25 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
We are to meet together not to throw guilt, shame, and condemnation at one another but to build up each other in encouragement. (Sounds familiar? That’s why we have the gifts of the Spirit, particular with the gifts of encouragement and prophecy. 5)
Let us not neglect the meeting of the saints so that we can encourage and lift up one another and we do so not just by sincere encouragement, and prophesy that is tested by the word of God but primarily by the exposing of our sin by the law of God and the ocean of grace and love that awaits for us within the gospel of His blessed Son, Jesus Christ.
On the flipside of that: when the church fails to do that, in other words, when it fails to be a safe place for the saints, what are we to do? Then neglect meeting with one another.
Listen, we are the Bride. You are saved to the family of believers. You are not alone. I totally understand that if you need to depart and take it easy for a time but don’t totally close yourself off. Keep in touch. Let people know if you need help. Reach out. Allow those who you feel are safe to reach out and help and continue to encourage you.
I have seen too many people who just depart without saying a word to leaders or even to one another. And then they end up all alone. A sheep that stands alone in the world is the easiest prey for the wolves. They will come and devour you.
Maybe leaders are not safe either. God acknowledges this. In John 10, Jesus calls shepherds who turn and run at the first sight of danger not actual shepherds but just mere hired hands. But in Jeremiah 23, the Good Shepherd looks after his sheep and if those in charge of the sheep fail to do their job, he will remove them and set up new shepherds. I know that it seems as though those in power always remain in power and seem to be untouchable. But not in His church. And what we are witnessing in America with the cleaning out the house, we are seeing that in His church as well.
Ephesians 3:7–13 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.
Paul will elaborate on the church as a mystery that is similar to marriage with Christ and His Bride later on in chapter 5 starting at verse 20.
This all falls back on what Christ proclaimed to be the greatest and second greatest commandment:
Matthew 22:36–40 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Jesus Christ will one day return. Until then, He sits on the throne at the right hand of God. He didn’t leave us as orphans but sent His Spirit, who is God, to come dwell in our hearts forever in an unbreakable love.
But we are saved just to stand in this world cold and alone. God is so good and so loving to save us to one another. Sometimes, the church is not perfect. Sometimes, it incredibly messy and painful. I have seen terrible pain and abuse in the church. But only by God’s grace, I cannot quit His Bride. For me to leave Her would be like me giving up on her. And I cannot. She is the bride of Christ, who, and as crazy as this might seem, will be adorned in splendor, beauty, and perfection for Her Bridegroom.
We are saved to Him and to each other. That is all-incredible love.
Series: Intrigued by the postmodern oft-used answer of “God is love”, by just by digging a little deeper, what I have learned is that people usually mean, “Love is God”. So we then have to ask, what is love? This series is my attempt to answer that question as theologically and biblically as possible.