Doctrine to Live By
Generally Reformed Theology incorporates a scheme of faith that draws its origins back to the Protestant Reformation of the 16th Century and is a cornerstone to the work of Latimer Trust. This is but a steppingstone for the Reformers who tracked their beliefs back to the Bible as made clear in the principle of “sola scriptura”.
Reformed theology has from the start held to the importance of the authority of Scripture to shape the churches life when dealing with great matters of faith and practice. In this brief paper, I would like us to explore a great triangle of faith that helps shape and direct the Christian’s life with the help of Paul’s letter to the Romans and some verses from chapter 8:28-30. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[i] have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”
What did you expect the Christian life to be like? Are you ready to handle hard times? These few verses with the help of some reformation thinking can help us deal with what life might drop into our lap both the good and the bad. Now remember that Jesus said that there are some who receive the word with joy, but their faith is only temporary. When suffering or persecution comes and impacts their new life, they fall away (Matt. 13:20-21). They didn’t anticipate troubles or understand how to handle them. They thought they were committing themselves for victory not suffering. They wanted wealth, not persecution. These people turn away when the hard times come. What should we do? Will you allow the the reformation truth comfort and help you. Remember hard times are like mountains. Surprisingly, God is going to always take you the way of mountains and not the country lanes, if we are to grow and become like Christ! To help us understand these verses please use the diagram below to help you. The first thing to notice is:
1. The Purpose of God v28
We are going to start with the top of the triangle. This point, we’ll call The Purpose of God. If I am to live the Christian life, to please God, then I must first understand the eternal purpose of God. God says we know that all things right now are working together for good. By the way that good is not the good of comfort and luxury, but the good of God’s purpose. Paul goes on to say that all things are working together to achieve that purpose, but notice it is “for those who are called according to his purpose.” Paul says, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son,“ In a nutshell, this is the eternal purpose of God. What is it that God is trying to achieve? It is this: that we might become like the image of his Son. God longs to change the inner you and me to be like Jesus. It means that God’s purpose is that we become like the Lord Jesus. That is the eternal purpose of God for every believer.
Salvation is simply God restoring the image of humankind lost in the fall. The Bible says that we were created in the image of God. The image of God is man’s capacity to know God, to worship God, and to have fellowship/friendship with God. Only men and women are made in the image of God. Only men and women have the capacity to know God, to worship God, and to be friends with God. You never saw a dog bowing his head and thanking God for his dog food. You never saw a cow mooing to praise God. Only mankind has an unquenchable desire for God because mankind was made in God’s image. That image was not destroyed by the fall; it was twisted by the fall.
Paul says that you and I have been predestined to be conformed to the image of God’s son. That is God’s purpose for everyone in Christ. The word purpose means to plan. He is working this out in two ways: First the future. Let me say there is going to be a day when everyone who has ever been saved will be exactly like Jesus. This is a promise for the future. In the twinkling of an eye, we will all be changed into his glorious likeness. Second the Present. This is the second way we are being changed. It’s in the here and now. Today, God is shaping us into his image. When we became a Christian, the Holy Spirit immediately came to live us and start the restoration work. The ministry of the Holy Spirit is to reveal Jesus to us through the Word and other ways. This will be one step at a time into the likeness of Jesus. Let me say this does not happen via some mega experience. We are changed into the likeness of Jesus bit by bit. This is Holy Spirit’s lifetimes work. The Purpose of God
Tomorrow, in the next instalment of this article, Peter will explain the other two points of the diagram. The predestination of God and The providence of God before drawing to a conclusion.