And we know that in all things
God works for the good of those who love Him,
who have been called according to his purpose.
For those God foreknew
He also predestined
to be conformed to the likeness of his Son,
that [Christ] might be the firstborn among many brothers.
Romans 8:28-29 NIV
Like many followers of Christ, I’ve read the passage for today’s post many times over the years. It may be, in fact, one of the most-quoted verses of the New Testament when life throws curveballs at God’s children. But for the born-again Christian, Romans 8:28 isn’t the end of the story.
That’s right: there’s more. And it recently struck me that the more portion of the story largely turns around the axis of a beautiful paradox. You have to see this.
Christ bore our death marks so that we – you and I – could bear His birthmarks.
Scars from the driven nails, the pierced side, the beaten flesh, the bloodied scalp. He bore every one of them for every one of us. And the result is astounding.
The same Apostle Paul who declared that all things God works together for the good of those who love Him immediately followed through with a statement that clarifies and sheds light on the path of the Christ-follower’s being conformed to the likeness of [God’s] Son in verse 29.
If these verses were intended to be read as a unit and not independent of each other – as interpreters believe they were – they reveal an immense truth about Christ’s life and ours. Think about it for a moment if you will in light of the conclusion Paul makes in Romans 8:30:
- He foreknew us individually.
- He predestined us as His own.
- He called us as His disciples.
- He justified us on the Cross.
- He sealed us through the Resurrection.
Together with the Savior’s sacrificial death and resurrection they assure us, as recipients of Jesus’ grace through faith, that through the death marks of His crucifixion – which preceded His resurrection – He carved these five beautifully untouchable birthmarks into our hearts to encourage, sustain and see us through the all things addressed in verse 28.
These birthmarks travel with us in this life. They remind us not so much of whowe are but of Whosewe are. They stay right there in place through the aforementioned all things: the sicknesses; the disappointments, the nail-biting decisions, the deaths of loved ones, the rejections, the pain, the suffering, the sorrowful repentances and pleas for forgiveness of sin.
In the midst of every last bit of the chaos and the confusion, God molds, melds, shapes the Christ-follower in order to – don’t miss this – conform us into His likeness.
This very conformity, this glorification, is the good of which Paul speaks in verse 28. Man and woman were created in God’s own good and perfect image but the image was marred in the fall to sin that took place in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 1-3). When Jesus returns, His followers will be restored to that good and perfect image (1 John 3:2).
As we wait for His return in the here and now, our birthmarks remain etched into our DNA to remind us that each trial we experience, each fire we walk through, each storm we withstand is experienced, walked through and withstood with Him. For some of those times He’s at our side; through others we’re in His arms. But make no mistake: He’s there, fully involved in our lives.
Bending. Filing. Forming us bit by bit into reflections of His own image.
Working all things out for good.
– Copyright 2019, Carole Anne Hallyburton. All rights reserved.