Romans 8:28

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." ESV. My emphasis. [purpose/prothesin].

What is the "purpose" of His calling? In Romans 8:30 "called" leads to "justified" and "glorified". Are justified and glorified ends in themselves or means to fufil this "purpose"?

Matthew 12:4

"he [David] entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat." My bracket. [Presence/protheseos].

Was the purpose of the "bread of the Presence" the same purpose as in "called according to his purpose"? Or to put that another way: What do Romans 8:28 "purpose" and "Presence" have in common seeing that they come from the same Greek word stem?

6 Answers 6


The noun prothesis originates from the verb protithémi (Strong’s 4388), which is formed by combining the preposition pro (Strong’s 4253), meaning before (literally, before the face of), and the verb tithémi (Strong’s 5087), meaning to place, lay, set. In a more concrete usage of prothesis, it refers to the “bread of the Presence” that is placed in the tabernacle “before” the Lord (Ex 25:30). In a more figurative/abstract usage of prothesis, it means purpose, or something that is set forth or determined in advance.

Reflecting on the OP’s question, I believe there is a connection between the two meanings. The “bread of the Presence” was continually offered on a table set with dishes, bowls, etc. in the tabernacle, according to the stipulations of the old covenant (cf Ex 25:23-30). On its symbolic meaning, here is Matthew Henry's commentary:

This table, with the articles on it, and its use, seems to typify the communion which the Lord holds with his redeemed people in his ordinances, the provisions of his house, the feasts they are favoured with. Also the food for their souls, which they always find when they hunger after it; and the delight he takes in their persons and services, as presented before him in Christ. – Matthew Henry's commentary on Ex 25:30

The bread and the table set as though for a meal/feast can thus be viewed as an earthly representation, a prefiguring of the fellowship and communion with God through Christ. If this is indeed what God purposes for men, then called, justified, and glorified are not ends in themselves but crucial steps toward the fulfilling of that purpose.


According to BDAG, the Greek noun πρόθεσις (prothesis) has two meanings:

  1. setting forth of something in public, setting forth, putting out, presentation, eg, Matt 12:4, Mark 2:26, Luke 6:4 = "loaves of presentation"
  2. that which is planned in advance, plan, purpose, resolve, will, eg,
  • (a) of humans: 2 Tim 3:10, Acts 11:23, 27:13.
  • (b) of divine purpose: Rom 8:28, 9:11, Eph 1:11, 3:11, 2 Tim 1:9, etc.

Note that these two meanings neatly divide between the Gospels and the writings of Paul and Acts. That is, of the 12 occurrences of this word

  • the three that occur in the gospels refer to the "loaves of the presentation" (sometimes incorrectly translated, "bread of the presence")
  • the nine in the writings of Paul and Acts refer to some plan/purpose of either humans or God.

More specifically, God's divine "purpose" in the writings of Paul is clearly set out with the following features:

  • Rom 8:28 - all people are called according to God's purpose/intent
  • Rom 9:11 - God's purpose/intent existed before the twins (Jacob and Esau) were born
  • Eph 1:11 - we were chosen according to God's purpose/intent
  • Eph 3:11 - God's eternal purpose is made manifest in Christ Jesus
  • 2 Tim 1:9 - we are saved, NOT because we are good or have good works, but according to God's purpose/plan and grace

The divine purpose and salvation plan of God is stated explicitly:

1 Tim 2:3, 4 - This is good and pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Further, we are also told that this salvation plan was created/formulated, "before the foundation of the world", 1 Peter 1:20, Eph 1:4, John 17:24, Matt 13:35.

  • +1 -- I was about to give an answer, but looking at yours decided it summed the answer up.
    – Perry Webb
    Jun 24, 2023 at 23:39
  • @PerryWebb - please do not let my answer stop you. Your answer would, I am sure, be very instructive.
    – Dottard
    Jun 24, 2023 at 23:41
  • It wasn't your answer that stopped me, other than realizing my answer would go beyond was the op was asking. BDAG gives the main answer to the op's question.
    – Perry Webb
    Jun 25, 2023 at 0:04

As in Dottard's answer, BDAG answers your question:

πρόθεσις, εως, ἡ (προτίθημι) ① setting forth of someth. in public, setting forth, putting out, presentation ... ② that which is planned in advance, plan, purpose, resolve, will ... -- Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). In A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 869). University of Chicago Press.

Why does προθέσεως fit the first meaning in Matthew? The phrase τοὺς ἄρτους τῆς προθέσεως (from Matt. 12:4, NA28) translates the phrase לֶ֥חֶם פָּנִ֖ים (Exodus 25:30, MT) Thus προθέσεως equals פָּנִ֖ים, which means front or in the face of and translated presence. From Exodus 25:30, this means in God's presence.

And you shall set the bread of the Presence on the table before me [God] regularly. (ESV)

Why does πρόθεσιν have the second meaning in Romans 8:28? First look at ὅτι in the following verse. It can mean that or because. To mean that it would need to connect to Οἴδαμεν (we know) which already has a ὅτι following it. Thus, we would need a conjunction, such as καὶ, to connect both together. The meaning for, because makes sense. This gives the context of purpose for πρόθεσιν. How about the preposition with πρόθεσιν?

κατά ... B. w. acc. ... ④ marker of intention or goal, for the purpose of, for, to ... ⑤ marker of norm of similarity or homogeneity, according to, in accordance with, in conformity with, according to* ... -- Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). In A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 512). University of Chicago Press.

While BDAG assigns meaning five here, meaning four also fits well. Meaning five is easier to translate and essentially ends up with the same meaning as four by the nature of five's meaning.

Dottard answers with examples of how πρόθεσις is used in the New Testament. Here I've emphasized why these two passages have the two different meanings.

To answer your question:

What is the "purpose" of His calling? In Romans 8:30 "called" leads to "justified" and "glorified". Are justified and glorified ends in themselves or means to fulfill this "purpose"?

The purpose of His calling is to be conformed to the image of His Son. Justified and glorified fits this purpose. Consider the following:


We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19, ESV)


Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2, ESV)

  • Can we say that the showbread is God's promise to Abraham set forth in the Temple and calling is that promise in action in the world? The showbread a witness/setting forth of a promise to be fulfilled, and "calling" the setting forth of that promise in its enactment?
    – C. Stroud
    Jun 25, 2023 at 11:13
  • That's another question to ask?
    – Perry Webb
    Jun 25, 2023 at 12:10

Proposal, Proposition, Intention

First, search the basic meaning of the word. Strong's G4286 πρόθεσις prothesis (pro'- the-sis) n.

  1. a setting forth.
  2. (figuratively) proposal (intention).
  3. (specially) the show-bread (in the Temple) as exposed before God. KJV: purpose, shew(-bread)

It comes from G4388 προτίθεμαι pro+tithemai (pro-tiy'-the-mai) v.

  1. to place before.
  2. (for oneself) to exhibit.
  3. (to oneself) to propose (determine).

Which shows the word means proposition, determination, intention (the Apostolic Polyglot Bible often has intention for this word). It is commonly used for the shewbread. NLT using plan in Eph 1:11, 3:11; 2Tim 1:9 is questionable because plan/counsel has a different word G1012 βουλή boule, cf. Eph 1:11 RV "in whom also we were made a heritage, having been foreordained according to the purpose (prothesin) of him who worketh all things after the counsel (boule) of his will".

Thayer's lexicon has two points on prothesis: πρόθεσις, προθέσεως, ἡ (προτίθημι);

  1. the setting forth of a thing, placing of it in view (Plato, Demosthenes, Plutarch); οἱ ἄρτοι τῆς προθέσεως (Vulgate panes propositionis), the showbread, the Septuagint for לֶחֶם הַפָנִים (Exo 35:13; Exo 39:18 (Exo 38:36); 1Ki 7:48 (34)), and לֶחֶם הַמַּעֲרֶכֶת (1Ch 9:32; 1Ch 23:29); twelve loaves of wheaten bread, corresponding to the number of the tribes of Israel, which loaves were offered to God every Sabbath, and, separated into two rows, lay for seven days upon a table placed in the sanctuary or anterior portion of the tabernacle, and afterward of the temple (cf. Winer, RWB, under the word Schaubrode; Roskoff in Schenkel see p. 213f; (Edersheim, The Temple, chapter ix., p. 152ff; BB. DD.)): Mat 12:4; Mar 2:26; Luk 6:4 (οἱ ἄρτοι τοῦ προσώπου, namely, Θεοῦ, Neh 10:33; ἄρτοι ἐνωπιοι, Exo 25:29); ἡ πρόθεσις τῶν ἄρτων (the rite of) the setting forth of the loaves, Heb 9:2.
  2. a purpose (2Ma 3:8; (Aristotle), Polybius, Diodorus, Plutarch): Act 27:13; Rom 8:28; Rom 9:11; Eph 1:11; Eph 3:11; 2Ti 1:9; 2Ti 3:10; τῇ προθέσει τῆς καρδίας, with purpose of heart, Act 11:23.*

The word, thus, should be understood as intention or proposition.


OP asked,

"what is the purpose of His calling and what do purpose and presence have in common seeing they came from the same Greek word stem.

God has a purpose for the twelve tribes of Israel who is always before His presence . His purpose for them will be manifested to the nations of His great salvation in the coming age.

The same is true for the body of Christ, who is always before His presence, and His purpose will be manifested, not only on earth through them, but in the Celestial realm as well.

Ephesians 1:3-5 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the One having blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world for us to be holy and blameless before Him, in love having predestined us for divine adoption as sons to Himself through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will.

We know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined, He also called; Romans 8:28-30

Both Israel was called to be His son as well as the body of Christ mentioned in Romans and Ephesians. Both are sons that God called, and purposed, according to His will.

It has always been in his eye, His presence, and He has been working towards a goal through His sons, who will be glorified and conformed to His image in Christ.

He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His presence.

The word for presence in Ephesians 1:4 is katenópion

(from 2596 /katá, "down, exactly according to," intensifying 1799 /enṓpion, "in the eye, i.e. in the presence of") – properly, "down in the eye," i.e. in someone's direct, concentrated gaze; "in the very presence of," especially being "in the very full (decisive) presence of" 2714 /katenṓpion ("in the presence of") refers to God – the all-knowing one who always acts in conjunction with all He knows (which is always absolute knowledge)


The word "his" does not appear in the Greek wording of ROM 8:28. The word "his" was added to the text of the KJV as a referent to the biblical Greek word θεὸν ("God"). It is also in every English Bible translation at which I have looked; however, its addition into the text of this verse is a minor variant and does not alter its meaning.

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