Rom. 8:29-30 reads:
“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.”
This is something He “promised before time began” (Tit 1:2). In other words, in eternity past, before anything was created God determined to begin and to finish His redemptive plan. People were chosen. Their names were written down that they might be brought to faith, to godliness, and to glory. God promised this before time began.To whom did God make the promise? This was before time, and therefore before creation. So there weren’t any people or other creatures around. So who did God make this promise?
We find the answer in 2 Timothy 1:9 where we read that:
“God saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.”
Paul says God’s eternal purpose, the promise that was made before the beginning of time, “was given to us in Christ Jesus.” The eternal promise of our salvation, involved a promise made by the Father to the Son before time began. This is a staggering reality. Jesus refers to it in His high priestly prayer in John 17:24:
“Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.”
Love always seeks to express itself. And in a demonstration of His perfect love for His Son, the Father made a promise to the Son. He promised the Son a redeemed people justified, sanctified, and glorified. He promised to bring the redeemed to ones to glory, that they might dwell in the very place where Father and Son have dwelt since before time began, in the very realm of God. And this collective body of called out ones a people for His name (Acts 15:14) from every tribe and people and tongue and nation (Rev. 13:7) would form a living temple for the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:21-22), becoming the very dwelling-place of God.That is the eternal promise the Father made to the Son. This is an expression of His love. Every individual who has received Jesus into their lives as Lord and savior is a love-gift from the Father to the Son. (John 6:37)
There is an important teaching here. The redeemed are chosen and given to the Son by the Father as a gift. If you are a believer, it is not because you are cleverer than your unbelieving neighbors. You did not come to faith through your own cleverness.
You were drawn to Christ by God the Father (John 6:44, 65). And every individual who comes to faith is drawn by God and given as a love gift from the Father to the Son, as part of a redeemed people—the church—promised to the Son before time began.
The full significance of God’s eternal purpose becomes clear as it is unfolded to us in the book of Revelation. There we get a glimpse into heaven, and what do you suppose the triumphant church is doing there? What occupies the glorified saints throughout eternity? They worship and glorify the Lamb, praising Him and serving Him—and even reigning with Him (Rev. 22:3-5). The collective body is pictured as His bride, pure and spotless and clothed in fine linen (19:7-8). They dwell with him eternally where there is no night, no tears, no sorrow, and no pain (21:4).
And they glorify and serve the Lamb forever. That is the fullness of God’s purpose; that is the reason the church is His gift to His Son.
Now this eternal promise involved a reciprocal promise from the Son to the Father. Redemption was by no means the Father’s work alone. In order to accomplish the divine plan, the Son would have to go into the world as a member of the human race and pay the penalty for sin. And the Son submitted completely to the Father’s will. That is what Jesus meant in John 6:38-39:
“I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.”
So the Son submitted to the Father’s will, demonstrating His love for the Father. And the building of the church is therefore not only the Father’s expression of love to the Son, but also the Son’s expression of love to the Father. We are Christ’s.
There’s one thing more worth noting about the Father’s eternal plan with regard to the church. He also determined that they would be made like the Son. We’re being transformed to Christ’s image (Gal. 4:19). And the good news is that this goal will be achieved. The church will emerge from all her trials triumphant, glorious, spotlessly arrayed to meet her Bridegroom.
How can we not rejoice in the prospect of that? How can Christians possibly be apathetic about the church?
When the Son brings the church to glory and the Father gives them to the Son as His eternal love gift, then the Son will turn around and give everything, including Himself, back to the Father.
This is a mind-boggling look at our future. This is God’s plan for the church. We are a people called out for His name, redeemed, conformed to His Son’s image, made to be an immense, incomprehensible, all-surpassing expression of love between the Persons of the Trinity.
The church is the gift that is exchanged. This is God’s eternal plan for the church. We ought to be profoundly grateful, and eager, and thrilled to be a part of it.