The aim of Church gathering - "to be conformed to the image of his Son"
In Rom. 8:29,30 the apostle Paul describes the procedure of Church gathering - its purpose and manner. The goal is 1) "[to be] conformed to the image of his Son" 2) "that he might be the firstborn among many brethren" (OGIB). To connect these two elements, the apostle uses the Greek eis, which is a preposition of purpose. The fulfillment of the purpose set out in the first part as 'being conformed to the image of his Son' automatically leads to the fulfillment of the other purpose, which is to recruit brothers for our Lord. Of course, this is not physical brotherhood. Jesus declares that 'whoever may do the will of his Father who is in the heavens, he is his brother' (Mt. 12:50 YLT). In turn, doing the Father's will is possible only for those whose characters have been shaped into the image of Jesus Christ in full obedience to God. Hence Rom. 8:29 does not speak about two different purposes, but one - the transformation of characters of the elect in the image of Jesus Christ - which will mean at the same time fulfilling the conditions of our brotherhood with the Lord.
Similar conclusions can be drawn from the analysis of the Greek eikon, which in Rome. 8:29 has been translated as image (OGIB). Paul writes that we are "[to be] conformed to the image [eikon] of his Son" (Rom. 8:29 OGIB). Although eikon appears in the New Testament many times in different contexts, it is worth considering what about our transformation into the image of Jesus Christ says 2 Cor. 3:12-18. The Apostle writes about the Jews who do not accept Jesus Christ that "their minds were hardened" because "a vail upon their heart doth lie" - a veil of misunderstanding caused by the literal reception of the Mosaic Law (YLT). The removal of the veil is possible only through conversion to Jesus (2 Cor. 3:16), which also has an effect on the hearts and minds of the elect. By accepting Jesus Christ "we all, with unvailed face, the glory of the Lord beholding in a mirror, to the same image [eikon] are being transformed, from glory to glory" - the mind ceases to be 'hardened', but is increasingly transformed to reflect the graces that the Lord Jesus possessed and whose pattern he showed through his faithful service (2 Cor. 3:18).
Importantly, our transformation is possible "by the spirit of the Lord" (2 Cor. 3:18 YLT). The spirit of Jesus Christ is a spirit of sacrifice (Rom. 1:4). With the same spirit of sacrifice that was manifested in our Lord, we serve the Gospel on his model and reform our characters following the pattern of his perfect character. Seeing his consecration, we are motivated to undertake our sacrifice, as stated in 2 Cor. 5:14,15. This is the action of the spirit of sacrifice - the sacrificial agape love in the elect. Why in the elect - because the spirit of sacrifice is a gift from God. Although God "doth now command all men everywhere to reform" (Acts 17:30 YLT), the basis of this universal conversion is not sacrificial love, but obligatory love (Greek eusebeia - piety). In this way, knowing our obligations to God, we turn away from sin to practice righteousness.
Stages of Church gathering - foreknowledge and predestination
In the examined passage of Rom. 8:29,30 the apostle Paul mentions several stages that are to lead us to our identification with the image of the Lord: foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification and glorification. We cannot say much about the first two elements on the basis of the Bible. Certainly not that we know the criteria for which God foreknows and predestines some and not others. Proginosko, which in the English translations of the Bible is translated as 'foreknowledge', in the original is a composite of two elements: pro - before, first, and ginosko - to get to know, learn, acknowledge. Therefore, God is preestining those whom he has first known or recognized. However, this is not knowing in our understanding of the word. God does not have to learn anything - he does not have to do any work in the direction of knowing - because he knows everything (Prov. 15:3,11; Heb. 4:13). It seems that foreknowledge is not so much factual knowledge as it is a positive assessment of the person (recognition).
This is the direction confirmed by the prophet Nahum, who writes that God "knoweth those trusting in Him" - and therefore kindly judges them (Nah. 1:7 YLT). Similarly to Moses God says: "I have known thee by name [I know your character], and also thou hast found grace in Mine eyes" (Ex 33:12 YLT). Here, too, foreknowledge is associated with good judgment and special attention given to the person of Moses by God, who then commissioned the prophet to bring the chosen nation out of captivity. God enters into relationships with people he knows. "if any one doth love God, this one hath been known by Him" (1 Cor. 8:3 YLT). If we love God, it is only because we have been recognized by Him and this grace of approaching Him has been made available to us. Similarly Gal. 4:9 - "and now, having known God - and rather being known by God..." (YLT). Interestingly, also of our Lord Jesus it is said that as our sacrifice he was "foreknown [proginosko] before the foundation of the world" (1 Pet. 1:20 YLT). One can thus read proginosko as a positive evaluation of man by God, recognizing one as a proper tool for fulfilling the Divine plan.
It seems that foreknowledge can be seen in the above sense as a synonym of election. In Rom. 8:29,30 the apostle Paul writes about foreknowledge and predestination, but for example in Eph. 1:3-6 he writes about election and predestination. The concept of election concerns the indication of a particular candidate; foreknowledge, similarly, has an element of choice associated with certain traits that the candidate possesses and which others do not. The candidates who are thus foreknown/elected are predestined. The meaning of predestination seems to be clear. In Rom. 8:29 we read that "whom He [God] did foreknow, He also did fore-appoint [preestine], conformed to the image of His Son" (YLT). We are therefore talking about setting a goal. Similarly, the same goal was shown in Eph. 1:3-6 regarding election and predestination as being "holy and unblemished", which is essentially a repetition of the purpose stated in Rom. 8:29. Our identification with the image of the character of Jesus Christ will mean that we will be "holy and unblemished". In conclusion, God foreknows (elects) some and sets a goal for them (predestines them) to develop character in the image of Jesus Christ.
Stages of Church gathering - calling, justification and glorification
Then the apostle Paul says in Rom. 8:30 that God, "whom he did predestinate, them he also called" (YLT). Greek kaleo literally means to call or to invite. God, therefore, invites those whom he has elected and predestined. The basic way in which God calls is the announcement of the Gospel. On the other hand, the Gospel is preached to everyone, not just to the elect. The elect, however, receive an invitation of a very special kind, namely, those who repent receive the spirit of the sacrificial love agape through which they experience a new birth (Acts 2:38, Rom. 5:5, Col. 3:15). Agape is the proper tool through which God allows his elect to develop character in the image of Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul writes that in this way we are 'compelled' to live not for ourselves but for Christ (2 Cor. 5:14,15). By making the same sacrifice for the truth that he has undertaken, we are shaped on the same pattern of obedience to God, and we are increasingly identifying ourselves with his character (Jn. 18:37; Rom. 12:1).
At this point, we move smoothly to the subject of justification because developing a character in the image of the Lord actually means justification - a process of genuine correction up to full compliance with God's justice. An indispensable condition of justification in this sense is the birth of the spirit of divine love, as evidenced by the apostle Paul in Phil. 1:9-11 and Phil. 3:8-11. That is why in Rom. 8:30 we read that we are justified - we do not justify ourselves, but God does it through His spirit in the elect. It is also worth emphasizing here that the justification Paul teaches about as a consequence of calling, does not mean reckoning of justification. This is an unbiblical teaching, which has its source in an interpretation of Rom. 4:3 inconsistent with the text of the original. The purpose of calling is not to reckon righteousness, but to make one righteous indeed.
The need for the work of justification in the elect is related to the next - and last - stage mentioned in Rom. 8:30, i.e. glorification. The purpose of the evangelical calling is to gather a class of believers who will occupy the highest positions next to Jesus Christ in the coming Kingdom - the positions of kings and priests in the glory of the Divine nature (1 Pet. 1:3,4, 2:9; Rev. 5:9,10). This is a high reward, but also one that will not be easy to achieve, as the apostle Paul states in 1 Cor. 9:24-27. Kings and priests with the Lord will be only those who achieve the appropriate level of development required by God. Therefore, the justification spoken of in Rom. 8:30 must be a real process, not just reckoned. It must also be a process carried out to a level that will be appreciated by God. Neither election nor predestination, nor even calling, are yet a guarantee of obtaining this reward, but they are a chance for us to profitably utilize the day of salvation in which we are still present (2 Cor. 6:1,2).