"For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of Him who hath subjected the same in hope. Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body." Romans 8:19–23.
Now we have received the firstfruits of the Spirit. That does not mean that we are now to receive only a little of the Spirit but that we get the Spirit as the firstfruits or the advance money—the earnest—of our inheritance. Paul proves this in Ephesians 1:13, 14: "In Whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in Whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession unto the praise of His glory." Then, having the Spirit of God and being the sons of God is entering upon the riches of our inheritance now. We begin to share the riches of that inheritance now; and if we continue to be the sons of God, we continue in our inheritance right along through eternity, the only difference being that when the Son of God comes, we shall have the full inheritance and glory of it.
By looking at these promises this way, we can see how it is that heaven begins right here on earth. If we really take hold of these things by faith, we can carry the Spirit of God with us; and we shall know the peace and joy of heaven.
"For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit maketh intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered." Romans 8:24–26.
I have been at our meetings and have heard one after another arise and bear testimony and close with the words, "Pray for me." Christ Himself prayed for us; and the Holy Spirit Itself is making intercession for us, with groanings that cannot be uttered. Brethren, while we can ask for others to pray for us, cannot we take hold by faith and appropriate the prayers that are being continually offered for us in heaven above? Even if the brethren do not pray for us, we have the joy and comfort of knowing that Christ and the Spirit are praying for us.
For myself, I can understand these things and draw encouragement out of them just this way: I go to God and lay my soul open before Him and ask Him to give me—what shall I ask for? Sometimes the words are gone, and I can think of nothing, only an inexpressible desire for something more than I have; but the Holy Spirit knows what I need and knows the mind of God. It knows just what God has to give me; and so it makes intercession for me, and God gives exceeding abundantly above all that I can ask or think. The Spirit of God takes those thoughts that we cannot put into words and can scarcely think and transmutes them into words and petitions before the throne of God. He that searcheth the hearts of men knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit.
I am persuaded that a great many of us make a great mistake in this matter of searching the heart. We hear brethren saying that they "are going to search their hearts and put away all of the evil things that they can find to be in them." Says Jeremiah, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings." Jeremiah 17:9, 10. We are here on earth and in a sinful condition. We admit that we are not in that spiritual condition that we ought to be so we will search our hearts and put away all of the wickedness that we can find in them. We cannot do it, for the heart will deceive us every time. Yet God can search the heart, and He does; and if we will take the result of His searching, great will be our joy. For it is the Comforter Who brings these sins to our hearts that the Lord hath searched out, and this very act of bringing our sins before our eyes is a part of the comfort of God. Yes, by the very work of making known our sins to us, God gives us comfort.
Now we come to the most blessed and the most glorious part of this most glorious chapter.
Nothing Bad Happens to the Christian
"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the Firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified." Romans 8:28–30.
The twenty-eighth verse is quoted wrong very often and applied wrong, very much more often, just by the changing of tense. People read it, "We know that all things will work together for good to them that love God." But that is not what Paul says. He says that all things work together for good, at the present time, for those who love God. "But," says one, "I do not know that they do." Well, just take hold of this Scripture and believe it; and then you will know it. The only way that we can know is by believing the Word of God. We shall then find that all things do work together for good to them that love God. This is the joy of the Christian—that there cannot anything bad happen to him.
Some say, "There is a special class to whom this is so." Yes, that is true; there is a special class, and that special class is composed of those who love God. We know whether we love God or not, therefore we know whether we can appropriate this promise or not. Is there not reason enough to love God? Some say, "I want to love God more. I know that I do not love Him enough." How absurd this is, just as if the love of God was a duty that we could drive ourselves to perform. Love cannot be forced; the very act of forcing a person to love another would show that there was not any love at all. How do we love any object for which we do have affection? Simply because it is lovable in our eyes; and the more we know of that thing we love, the more we love it. Then the more we know of God, the more we shall love Him. As we come to His Word, from which we must get our knowledge of Him, we see the wideness of the mercy of God; and we cannot help loving Him. Why cannot we help loving Him? Because He first loved us. Then, if we would love God more, study His love more as it is revealed in His Word.
Now how about this class—"To them who are the called according to His purpose"? Here we have the matter of "calling," and that causes some to be discouraged sometimes. A brother will say, "Perhaps I am not called, I am not at all sure that I am; and therefore it does not work good for me." That matter of "calling" can be settled very easily. Who has God called? "And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." Revelation 22:17. The call is to every man and woman and child on earth.
Now we are "called" and "elected." Sometimes we get wonderfully afraid of that word elected. Is there any need to be afraid of that term? No. For every individual can be a candidate, and every candidate can be elected. In II Timothy 1:9 we read, "Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." Mark you, His own purpose is a purpose of grace; and the free gift by grace comes upon all unto justification of life. Now note what the election is:
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love. Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved." Ephesians 1:3–6.
Therefore, just the moment that you give up self and take Christ instead, you have everything that Christ has to give. So since we have given to us by God Himself all of the blessings that can be given to deliver us from sin and to turn us from our iniquities (see Acts 3:26), we can have joy and peace in Him. Peter says, "According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue." 2 Peter 1:3. Everything that is necessary for life and godliness is given unto us in Christ.
"For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate. Being predestinated according to the purpose of Him Who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will." Sometimes the position is taken that God did not know what man was coming to when He made him; and if He did know, then He ought not to have made him at all or He ought to have stopped him from going in the way that he has gone. God does know; He foreknows, and He knows the end from the beginning. "Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world." Acts 15:18. God has not changed a hair’s breadth from the plan which He knew before the world began. And there is no power in all of the universe that could make Him change.
Did God know that Adam was going to sin, and does He know whether we will be saved or not? Yes, He knows all about it—who will be saved and who will be lost. Then how can it be that we are free? I do not know, and it does not make any difference. I know from His Word that I am perfectly free to have salvation and to have it when I want it. I know at the same time that God knows whether I will take it or not. I cannot understand how these two things can be; but God knows, and He is not unjust, so it is all right. There is not an angel in heaven who knows how it can be, but they know that it is so.
Some say that if He did know, He would be responsible for our being saved or lost, so He does not exercise His power to know and therefore releases Himself from that responsibility. That is bringing a fearful charge against God. It really throws all of the responsibility of man’s ruin upon God and charges Him with trying to shirk it. If He chooses not to know certain things, how is it possible for Him to know what He wants to know and what He does not want to know? The very statement that He wills not to know certain things proves that He must know them in order to know that He does not want to know them, and this is an utter absurdity. God does not have to count and calculate and figure to arrive at conclusions. He is God, and knowledge is in Him and begins and ends in Him. Past, present, and future are all present with God. He lives in an eternal now. We cannot understand how that can be, but that does not matter. He says it is so, and we believe Him.
That He is the eternal God constitutes the strength of the fact that He is our refuge. It is the eternal God who has had charge of our ways in the past, and we have confidence in His leading. If He had not known the past and the future, how could I have known whether He was leading me right or not? Job says, "He knoweth the way that I take." Job 23:10.
He leads us in the way that we should go. He looked over the ages and saw just who would have the inheritance, and He is preparing it for him. What would you think of a man, to put the thing on a very low plane, who got a lot of stones together and commenced to build a house? You ask him what kind of house he is going to build. "Why," he says, "I do not know. I am going to put these stones and timbers together and then see what kind of house will come of it." Such talk as that would be foolishness. Before a man starts in to build a house, he knows just how it is coming out; he knows exactly how it will look when it is finished. When God laid His plans in ages past, do you not think that He knew what kind of earth He was gong to have? He knew what kind of earth it was going to be, and He had a purpose in making it. He created it to be inhabited.
Not only did He know what kind of place it was going to be, but He knew what kind of men were going to dwell in it; and He had every one of them named. Those men whom God saw that He would have to inhabit the earth, when He laid His plans for it in ages past, were to be good and holy men; and that same earth, when this little experiment of sin is worked out, will be inhabited by just exactly the persons whom God saw would inhabit it; and they will have the names that He gave them in ages past.
In Revelation 2:17 we read, "And will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it." Now it is not to be supposed that over in the kingdom of God we will not know each other’s names, to be able to pronounce them. In the Bible, every name signified something. Jacob was the "supplanter;" Israel, the "prince of God;" Abraham, the "father of many nations;" Sarai, a "contentious woman;" and Sarah, a "princess." The name signified the character of the individual.
Now while all of the redeemed are to have the perfect character of God, yet that character is so perfect and so broad that there is room for each to have a distinct character. Why is it that no one will be able to understand the name of anyone else? Because no two persons will have had the same experience in developing character. No two persons have been led in the same way and have had the same experience or trials.
Our Freedom of Choice
Man fell, but every man who lived directly after the Fall could have accepted the proffered salvation if he had wished and could have been one of those persons whom God saw when He laid the plans for the earth. If that had been so, the earth would have been filled and the work closed up long ago. Would that have been unjust to us? For in that case we would have been unborn and therefore left out. No, it would have been no more unjust than it will be unjust to close the work in a few years from now and leave out possible nations yet unborn.
Now God foreknew us in Christ; and in Him, in the beginning, we were predestinated to just such a place in the earth in its state of purity as God wants us to have. I am so thankful that we may have Christ, if we will; and if we will believe Him and trust in Him, we know that we are predestinated to a place in His kingdom. God hath "predestinated us according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will." Cannot you see that all things work together for good to them that love God?
How do I know that I am a child of God? He loved me, and He bought me; and I gave myself to Him, therefore I am His. Now I am in Christ, and it matters not what happens to me. There is not a bad thing that can come upon me; for everything that does come, God will work it for my good; and not only will He do it, but He does do it. He does it that He may develop my character and fit me for what He is preparing for me.
Satan may concoct some wicked scheme against me—influence some man or government to do something that is calculated to destroy me,—but God takes those wicked schemes and out of them He brings good for me, and by them carries me along to the desired haven. Therefore, the Christian has no business to be complaining.
No Cause for Complaint
There is no one who would think of complaining when he was having a good time. But the Christian is having a good time all of the time, for all things work together for good to him. When we look at things in this way, we can praise God no matter what happens.
Joseph’s brethren sent him down to Egypt with no other intention than to destroy him, and yet we are told by the psalmist that, "God sent a man to Egypt." Psalm 105:17. Those brethren of his were working out the evil of their hearts; and at the same time, God sent him down according to His will. We cannot understand how this can be, but we know that it was so.
Caiaphas asked if It were not better that one man die than that the whole nation perish, expressing the sentiment of the worldly-wise, scheming politician. Yet at the same time, in those very words, God was speaking in prophecy. There is not a wicked person, not even the devil himself, but God makes him and his wickedness work out His own eternal purpose. There is a world of comfort in the thought that this is the kind of God that we serve.
"What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?" Romans 8:31.