Unpacking the Golden Chain of Salvation (Romans 8:28-30)
May 8, 2012
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
God chose (foreknew) unbelieving individuals and eternally decreed (predestined) that they would be adopted as God’s children. He not only eternally decreed the salvation of these unbelieving individuals, he also drew them to Christ by irresistible grace through new birth (called), after he gave them faith through regeneration he forgave their sins (justified) and will certainly, without any qualifications, raise them from the dead and give them eternal life (glorified).
As we jump into these encouraging verses it is always helpful to take a look at the context. The second part of Romans chapter 8 discusses the believers hope for the eventual resurrection of his body at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. This is the concluding section in a long summary of the main aspects of the Christian life. In chapters 1-3 (roughly) Paul discusses the corrupt and fallen nature of Man and their need for salvation. In Chapters 4 and 5 he shows that the forgiveness of sin and right-standing with God comes through Jesus Christ and is received by faith. Then in chapters 6 through the first half of 8 he discusses how the believer is freed from the controlling power of sin by the indwelling Spirit of Christ. We will begin our detailed discussion in Romans 8 verse 1.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”
It cannot be emphasized enough that the book of Romans as a whole, and the 8th chapter in particular is written to believers. It is not written to the world, but to the Church. God is not writing to certain individuals, but to all those who have come to faith in Christ and have already become members of his Body. Whatever warnings or promises are presented in this chapter, they are given to the people of God, not unbelievers. It is crucial that we understand this from the beginning.
“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give live to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”
This is a great summary of the hope that Paul will now turn his attention to in the rest of chapter 8. The Christian hope is not merely for our spirits to “go to heaven after we die,” but for our physical bodies to be raised from the dead when Jesus returns from heaven. God didn’t just come to save our souls; he came to redeem every part of our nature. Paul tells us it is the Spirit of God dwelling in us that gives us reason to hope. It was the Holy Spirit that raised Christ from the dead and he will also be the one to raise us up.
“So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”
Paul continues to encourage the Christians in Rome that the presence of God’s Spirit in their lives is an assurance that their bodies will be raised up at the Second Coming of Christ. But he has not yet finished with the topic of sanctification (i.e. growing in holiness, experiencing a transformation of character) that he began in chapter 6. He tells us that not only is the Spirit’s presence a reason for hope, it is also a reason for active obedience to God. He tells us that since God gave us the gift of his Spirit through faith in the cleansing blood of Jesus, we are now “debtors” to submit our lives to the Holy Spirit. To whom much is given, much is required! Since God has given us the Spirit “in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us,” we are obligated to walk out that righteous standard (Rom. 8:3).
The transformation of our character will not happen automatically or irresistibly. We must be sanctified in the same way we were justified. We received the forgiving grace of God through faith. And as believers we must continue to receive the grace of God through faith. The enabling power of the Holy Spirit to overcome sin’s power in our lives must be applied by submission to that same Spirit. One who believes in Jesus Christ cannot claim to be a “child of God” unless he is “led by the Spirit of God” (vs. 14). Being transformed into the character of Jesus is an active process. We can only become like Christ through the power of God, but his power must be received through faith. We cannot do what God does, namely changing our hearts and renewing our minds from day to day. But God will not do what he has decided we must do, namely actively submit to the sanctifying grace of the Spirit through a living faith. Sanctification is not automatic. Though it is done by the power of God, it is done in cooperation with the faith and submission of man.
We might feel like rejecting this truth and say that God should just do it without requiring any participation from us, but “Who are we to answer back to God?” “God is in the heavens and does as he pleases,” we must surrender to his wisdom. We might cry “foul” and say, “Salvation is by grace alone!” And so it is, but that saving grace is received through faith alone. Again I hear an objection, “But you are saying that Man’s faith ‘helps’ God’s grace!” On the contrary, faith is the only “work” that man can do in that gives God all the glory (Rom. 4:20). It was for this reason that God chose faith, and not the works of the law, as the means of receiving God’s grace. “That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring” (Rom. 4:16). But, alas, Calvinism’s devotion to monergism has made us digress;-)
Besides telling us that sanctification is done only with the participation and cooperation of believers, Paul also lets us know that glorification (i.e. the resurrection and exaltation of believers with Christ) is not unconditional. In 8:13 he promises believers, “If by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” In the same verse he warns believers, “If you live according to the flesh you will die.” In verse 17 he promises the Christians in Rome that they will be “glorified with” Christ. But he makes sure to let them know that their exaltation with Christ is conditional on their willingness to endure suffering with him in this present age. As Christ said, it is those that endure to the end that will be saved. Only by losing our lives can we hope to save them.
In these few verses Paul makes it abundantly clear that our glorification with Christ is dependent on our progress in sanctification. And our sanctification is dependent on actively submitting to the Spirit’s leading. Reformed Theology will try to make all of this hypothetical by saying that those who were unconditionally chosen by God from all eternity could never do anything other than persevere in holiness. This unbiblical theology tries to tell the saints that they can never “die” if they are truly the elect. We cannot stand for this! We cannot accept that the plain warnings of the God of truth are a mere formality. God does not waste his words. As our loving Shepherd he warns us, as he did the first couple in the Garden, “You will die.” Satan tried to tell them that God’s warning was hypothetical, and they believed it. We will not make the same mistake as them.
“For I consider that the sufferings of the present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
In verse 18 Paul begins the next section of his teaching. This is the section where will find the verses known as the “Golden Chain of Salvation.” We will notice that Paul is contrasting the suffering of Christians in this present age with the glory that they will receive at the return of Christ. The Church in that time, and in our time in most of the world, suffers opposition from every angle. They could easily feel besieged and overwhelmed. These demonic attacks came in order to discourage them and seek to overturn their faith. But Paul wants to encourage them that these are “light and momentary” troubles. But the glory that will be revealed at the coming of Christ will last forever.
In verses 19-22 he speaks about the longing of all of creation to be set free from the corruption that came from the sin of our first parents. It is God’s plan, not only to redeem our bodies, but even to renew this fallen physical universe. Paul tells us that in some sense, the creation itself is longing for this redemption.
“And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
Paul here turns to the longing in the believer’s heart. We thank God we have been forgiven of our sin, and freed from its power over our lives, but we are still ever troubled by its presence. The corruption of the world and the temptations we face on a daily basis make us long for the complete eradication of sin’s presence. We long to experience the complete redemption of our bodies and the absolute freedom it will bring. We are painfully aware that we are still waiting for the fullness of our salvation.
With the clear knowledge that we have not arrived and that we still see through a glass dimly, we are tempted to feel hopeless. After all, how can we overcome all the forces that assail us? The world, the devil and even the un-renewed aspects of our earthly nature are always seeking to destroy us. We seem to be outnumbered and outgunned. But it is here that Paul will reveal to us the reason we have for hope!
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
It is not just us that longs to be transformed and finally free, but the Spirit of God himself is longing for this very thing. Many see in these verses the charismatic gift of speaking in tongues. But the problem with that is that tongues are spoken out, but the groaning of the Spirit in this passage is “too deep for words.” No, it is not the gift of tongues being spoken of here, but the inward renewing of the Holy Spirit. God is working deep in our hearts bringing change to our mindsets, perspectives and priorities. We cannot search our hearts to their very depths, but God’s Spirit can. And as he digs deep into the thoughts and intents of our hearts he cries out for transformation according to the will of God.
We will soon get to verse 29 which reveals exactly what “the will of God” is for his people, namely that we be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ, but here we just want to note that we are not working alone. We are not just “trying” to become better people. We are not just following a set of religious rules that can only clean the outside of the cup; no, we are being transformed from within by God’s powerful Spirit.
“Therefore, my beloved, … work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
These two verses are a great summary of what we have seen so far in Romans chapter 8. In verses 12-17 we were told to work out our salvation by actively submitting to the Spirits leading. And now here in verses 26-27 we are realizing more fully why we must “strive for holiness.” Philippians verse 13 does not make verse 12 unnecessary; instead it is given as the reason to “work out” out our salvation. Both here and in Romans 8:12-17 Paul uses the work of God as the thing that obligates believers to strive for holiness. But if we look at it in another way, we can see that not only does it obligate us, but it also encourages us. After all, if God is working transformation “within us,” we have hope that our “working it out” will be effective. The fact that God’s Spirit is “groaning” and “interceding” within us, gives us hope that we are not laboring in vain. We can strive for holiness with all of our energy because we are sure that we are not striving alone!
Now that we have the context clear, let’s start unpacking!
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
We must once again note that this verse was written to, and about, the Church of Jesus Christ. It is written about “the saints,” “those who love God,” and “those whom he foreknew” (vs.27-29).
In the Old Testament God had a chosen people, they were chosen through Abraham, before even one of them was born. God desiring to make a people chose one man and appointed him as the father of a nation. In Abraham, God chose the nation of Israel. In the New Testament we are told that God chose to create a people through Jesus Christ before the world even started. Speaking to the church in Ephesus Paul says, “He chose us [the Church] in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” The Church is “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” (1 Pet. 2:9). Speaking of the Church Paul writes, “God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew” (Rom. 11:2).
The term, “foreknew,” is the first link in the chain. God chose a people. In 1 Peter 1:20 we are told about Christ that, “He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times.” From this use of the term “foreknown” we can see that it is more than just knowledge about someone, but the choosing of someone for a particular purpose. God didn’t look into the future and know Christ; instead he knew him before the world began and chose him for a certain purpose.
Calvinism teachers would surely have no problem with my understanding so far of the verses under consideration. But it is as important to note what has not been said as much as what has been said. This passage only declares that God has a chosen people. It doesn’t say how they were chosen. It doesn’t teach that they were chosen “because of their faith,” but neither does it teach that they were chosen “unconditionally,” it simply does not say.
To understand how God chose his people through Christ we would have to look elsewhere in scripture. For those interested in understanding what the Bible teaches about that you can refer to the previous posts about the various aspects of predestination: Who? & How? or the post about Ephesians Chapter 1. A common error of Calvinists is that whenever the Bible speaks of God “choosing a people” they say, “Aha, Unconditional Election.” But the biblical doctrine of Election is a far cry from the Calvinistic doctrine of Unconditional Election. Romans 8:28-30 simply say that God chose a people! We would be unwise to use this verse to teach how he chose them and on what grounds. The Golden Chain of Salvation does not include the doctrine of Unconditional Election.
Before we move on we must clarify the meaning of phrase used in Romans 8:28; “All things work together for good.” This phrase is translated differently in different English Bible versions. In the English Standard Version quoted above it give the impression that things “just happen” to work out alright for the saints. This is a regrettable translation. We don’t believe in karma, but in God. So in this case the NIV comes closer to what Paul surely had in mind, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those….” This translation makes it clear that things “work out” for the believer because God is actively working for his benefit.
This translation continues the thought Paul began to present in the previous verses. It is not just we who long for redemption and strive for transformation into the image of Christ, but so does God’s Spirit. In verse 27 we were told that the Spirit intercedes “according to the will of God.” And in verse 28 we are told that the saints have been called “according to his [God} purpose.” It isn’t until we reach 29 that we see just what that “will” and “purpose” is. Whatever the world throws our way, God will use it to fulfill his ultimate purpose.
In the book of Genesis we read about how Joseph was treated by his brethren. Though God had chosen their brother to rule all of Egypt and save their family, they rejected God’s plan and betrayed Joseph. Though this was contrary to the will of God, it didn’t matter. God’s wisdom is infinitely resourceful. He is able to use the rebellious acts of men and demons to bring about his purposes. Whatever people might do to thwart God’s plans, God’s ultimate purpose will prevail. He is able to allow men to rebel without getting nervous that his plans will fail. He doesn’t need to control all the acts of men and demons in order to ensure victory, as the master chess play he is always many moves ahead of his opponents. So though Joseph’s brothers tried to destroy God’s plan, he just used their sins to fulfill it. This is why Joseph could say, “Even though you planned evil against me, God planned good to come out of it” (Gen. 50:20).
In the same way, though the world seeks to destroy the Church, Jesus says the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Not because the Church is so wise and powerful, but because God is on their side fighting for them. And as individuals striving for holiness and longing for the redemption of our bodies, we can know that whatever suffering comes our way, God will turn it about for our good. In order to understand just what “good” means in verse 28 we have to consider what the word “predestine” means in verse 29, as well as what exactly what it is that God has predestined.
When the word “predestined” is infused with the fatalism of Calvinism’s “divine decrees” it has an ominous tone indeed. But though Reformed Theology speaks of it in that sense, the Bible does not. “Predestined” simply means to determine something ahead of time. It is the teaching of the Bible that God did not create a world of men, endowed with the ability to rebel against him, without first determining how he would provide them a way back into peaceful fellowship with himself. God is not an absentee father that has children with no intention of watching over them, providing for them or guiding them to righteousness. On the contrary, God created the world and took responsibility for it from the very beginning. He laid the foundation of the world knowing that it would cost the life of his one and only Son. This is how a good God could create a world where sin was all but inevitable.
So, did he merely create a way for the prodigal sons to return and work for him as his servants? Such a plan would never be worthy of our God or of the price that Christ paid to accomplish it. No, he planned something much greater. The returning prodigals were “predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” God determined beforehand that that the saints would not just be servants, but the children of God.
1 John 3:1-2
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are…. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”
John here not only confirms that God planned to make us his children, but also that what we are waiting for has not yet come. We will not be “like him” until we see him “as he is” when he returns to receive us unto himself at the Second Coming. Being conformed to the image of Christ does not merely mean that we are transformed into a likeness of his character. Romans 6:4 teaches that our union with Christ is the reason that our character can be changed into one resembling Jesus. But Romans 8:11 and 8:16-17 point out that the image of Christ that we will ultimately bear is the image of the risen and exalted Christ.
In Romans 8:29 Paul is telling the church in Rome that God planned long ago to glorify the saints as his children. He didn’t just plan for them to be his servants, but he determined that those who believe in the Gospel and suffer with Christ, enduring until the end would reign with him on his throne (Rom.8:17, Rev. 3:21). The saints have become heirs of God through Jesus Christ and will reign with their Father forever and ever. This is the inheritance that God predetermined for his people. He “predestined” His people to become co-heirs with Christ. Not only will we be resurrected as Christ was, we will also be exalted to places of authority. So what about the suffering caused by this rebellious world mentioned in Romans 8:18? “It is not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us!”
Once again we must note what has not been said in this passage. This passage in no way teaches that certain individuals have been unconditionally predestined to become members of God's people, instead it teaches what he would do for his people. Whereas foreknow speaks of the people he chose, predestine speaks of what those chosen people will experience. Foreknow talks of choosing a people, predestine tells what they are chosen for.
After God chose a people in Abraham, he predetermined what their inheritance would be. He told Abraham that his descendants would inherit the land of Canaan. Before the nation even existed, God “predestined” what they would receive from his hand. What goes for God’s Old Testament people goes also for his New Testament people. When God chose to create the Church through Jesus Christ before the world began, he also determined what their Promised Land would be. “He predestined us [the Body of Christ] FOR adoption as sons through Jesus Christ” (Eph. 1:5). In him [Christ] we [the saints] have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11). We were chosen IN Christ, we were chosen FOR adoption. We were chosen through our connection with Christ through faith, and in him we receive the inheritance of sonship.
The Golden Chain in no way teaches that certain individuals have been predestined to believe in Jesus Christ. Instead it teaches what God had predetermined would be the inheritance of the Church he foreknew (chose) in Christ. It tells us what he predestined for his Church corporately, and the saints individually. God always planned to create a people that would become his glorified children so that Christ would be “the firstborn among many brothers” (8:29). This is what was predestined by God for his people.
“Called” is another word that Calvinism fills a meaning beyond what the Bible gives it. In Matthew 22:1-14 Jesus tells a parable about a wedding feast. This parable is meant as a rebuke on the Jewish nation for not receiving the Messiah. In it Jesus is foreshadowing that soon God will invite the Gentiles into the kingdom while leaving Israel in her blindness.
The feast was ready, but those who were invited had not come, so the master of the feast told his servants to go out and invite anyone they happened to meet. Many indeed answered the call, but one guy who came showed up dressed in inappropriate attire for such a formal occasion. This man was thrown out. Then Jesus turns from the language of the parable to more theological language. He says, “For many are called, but few are chosen” (vs. 14). He uses the term “called” to correspond to the parable’s word “invite.” By doing this Jesus gives us a clear meaning of the word we will now be dealing with in Romans chapter 8.
When someone is invited to something it carries a couple meanings with it. Firstly it conveys the meaning of being welcome. If we are invited to someone’s party, no one can accuse us for showing up. If someone says “Hey, what are you doing here?!” we will simply produce our invitation and all will be satisfied. The invitation proves that we are welcome. We cannot be accused of crashing the party. But as the parable shows, being invited is also an honor that must be valued. Those men who were invited but didn’t show up, or the man who didn’t feel responsible to make any effort to make himself presentable, were all rejected as unworthy of the invitation. Though they had been invited, they were not found worthy of the invitation, so it was revoked. The word “called,” like the word, “invited,” means that one is welcome to join in but also responsible for properly valuing the honor he has received.
“Called” is often used in Paul’s letters in such a way that makes people think that those who answer the invitation of the Gospel are somehow more specifically invited than those who did not respond. Calvinism teaches that there are two calls. One is the “general call.” Reformed Theology says that this is the invitation of the Gospel, and it is for all men. But the other kind of call is the “effectual call.” Calvinists teach that this is a special inward call that only the “elect” are given. God is believed to work in their hearts in such a way that they cannot resist. Through the “effectual call” people are drawn irresistibly to faith in Christ.
Paul often calls the saints “the called.” This gives many the impression that these saints were called in a way that unbelievers were not. For this reason Calvinism has made a distinction between the two kinds of calling mentioned above. Reformed Theology explains that only those who received the “effectual call” are given the title “the called.” The second group hears the Gospel, but since they have not been predestined for salvation God doesn’t call them with irresistible grace. So without this enabling grace they remain in their sins and are not rightfully designated as “the called.”
But the need for this distinction is a simple misunderstanding of why Paul labels the churches he writes to with this honorable title. Israel had always thought they were special in God’s kingdom. They didn’t understand the predestined plan of God to make a holy people from all nations. So when the Gentiles began receiving the Gospel and becoming “co-heirs” with Israel, many Jewish unbelievers and even Jewish believers cried foul (Eph. 2:19). They claimed that Gentiles could never share an inheritance with Israel as God’s people. But as an Apostle with a pastoral heart, Paul wrote many of his letters to his Gentile churches in order to encourage them that they were every bit as much a part of Israel as their Jewish brothers in Christ. For this reason he had the habit of calling them “the called,” or more clear yet, “the invited.” This encouraged them that they were not party crashers.
When Paul uses the term “the called” he is not emphasizing that those individuals were called and others were not. Instead he is emphasizing that they are legitimate members of God’s household. They are not second class citizens and God’s kingdom. They are the invited of Jesus Christ and have every right to be part of “the Israel of God”! (Gal. 6:16)
We have covered the first 3 links in the Golden Chain of Salvation. Let’s now sum up what we have learned by paraphrasing Romans 8:28-29
“We know that God works in all things to bring about his good purpose in the lives of the people he chose. After all it was because of his wonderful plan that they were invited in the first place; they certainly didn’t create the plan or invite themselves to be a part of it. He always planned for his people to be share in the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus Christ. This is how God planned to create a family with many children.”
In verses 26-27 we were first introduced to the idea that we are not alone in longing for resurrection and exaltation. Paul tells us that God’s Spirit is also working inside of us trying to lead us to that glorious end. Verses 28-29 go a step further. They tell us that since the Spirit intercedes “according to the will of God” we can know that God himself wants us to become like Jesus in every way. Not only does God want this for us, it was him that planned it. When God chose (foreknew) his people, he also planned (predestined) this glorious inheritance for them. God created the world so that Christ would be exalted and that in him many sons and daughters would come to glory. God wasn’t just creating a kingdom, but a family. And he wasn’t just creating a family; he was creating a royal family.
This leads us to the verse that summarizes Paul’s point in chapter 8. Remember he had already presented the Romans with the conditions God requires for ultimately sharing in Christ’s inheritance, namely active and faithful growth in holiness by the power of God’s Spirit. He then took into consideration the struggle and opposition they were facing from the world, as well as the longing in their heart for true and lasting freedom. Without sugar coating their experience he let them know that they had not yet received what they were looking for and told them they would need to wait patiently for it. He then begins to encourage them by letting them know they are not alone. He assures them that the Spirit of God has the same goal as they do, namely their exaltation with Christ. But then he goes even further and lets them know that the Spirit was seeking this because it was the will of God himself!
But God’s word doesn’t stop there. The fact that God wants the saints to finish the race of faith is wonderful, but there is more. It is not just something that he wants, but something he has always wanted. God predestined, that is planned before, this wonderful inheritance for the saints. Though this passage does not tell us exactly when he made this plan, we know from the first chapter of Ephesians that it was before the creation of the world. God chose a people and planned ahead of time that they would become his exalted and reigning children! What a plan!
But that is not all these wonderful verses tell us. They say that after he chose his people, and planned a glorious inheritance for them, he also invited them to this wonderful wedding feast! He didn’t just get it ready and then wait for people to come; instead he actively “called them according to his purpose.” God didn’t just plan and prepare the feast, he sent people with the good news of forgiveness through Jesus Christ (Matt. 28:18-20). He commanded his servants to “compel people to come in, that my house may be filled” (Luke14:23). “He came to his own, and his own people [Israel] did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood [not born his people] nor of the will of the flesh or the will of men [by inviting themselves], but of God. After believing they were included in Christ (Eph. 1:13).
But after inviting the saints he did something even more wonderful, he actually “qualified” them “share the inheritance of the saints in the light” (Col. 1:12). How did he qualify them for such an inheritance? He justified them through the blood of Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:9). He didn’t just pay for their salvation, but he paid an unthinkable price for it! The blood of the eternal Son of God was shed so that through faith they might “receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness” (Rom. 5:17). Wow! What an awesome salvation!
We are not just hoping irrationally that we can somehow fight the fight of faith and finish the race. The odds seem to be stacked against us, but we must realize that the battle is the Lord’s. He fights for us! He is our Salvation! God Not only planned (predestined) an inheritance for his chosen people; he also works to bring it to pass. “In all things God works for the good of those who love God.” After planning their inheritance, he actively invites (calls) them to come and share in the glory of his beloved Son. After inviting them he gives them the free gift of righteousness (justifies) through the precious blood of the lamb.
But there is one more link in the chain. How can we be sure that we can attain to it?
Romans 8:31-34 (Glorified)
“What shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”
The last link in the chain is that which we are still hoping and longing for. We are longing to be finally and completely conformed to the image of the risen and exalted Son of God. We long for it actively pursuing holiness and walking in hope, but what is the ground of our hope? It is this; God is fighting on our side! Since God is for us, then no persecution from men or demons can stop us. All the opposition of this world can’t stop God from working on our behalf! He planned it, he is working on it, and he will not change his course. This is the eternal purpose he has for his people. Though the world, like Joseph’s brothers come against God’s people, God will turn even their attacks into ways that will ultimately work out his good purpose for his children. God is committed to this course. The price he paid to fulfill it proves this. God paid the price of Christ’s blood to justify us, what is he not willing to do in order to see us glorified? Not only has God planned glory for his people and poured out his Spirit to sanctify them from within, but he also set his Son at his right hand to intercede for us. Let all the hordes of hell come, they will not prevail against the Church!
God chose a people. God predestined an inheritance for his people. He invited them to become his people. He sacrificed his Son to qualify them for it. What will hinder him from conforming them completely into the image of Jesus Christ?!
This is the Golden Chain of Salvation. God planned and is working on our salvation, and he will not be deterred from his eternal purpose. God will do what he has purposed. But what Calvinism refuses to acknowledge is whether we like it or not, God will not do what he requires men themselves must do. In verses 28-30 we read only of the things God does, but Man’s role is not mentioned. God calls, God justifies, God glorifies. The reason man’s role is not mentioned in 8:28-30 is because from chapter 4 through the first half of chapter 8 Paul already talked so much about it. In chapter 4-5 we are commanded to believe. In chapters 6-8 we are commanded to present the members of our bodies to God as his slaves and by the Spirit put to death the misdeeds of the body.
The Romans would never interpret these few verses the way Reformed Theology does simply because they read the rest of the letter and took it seriously. Paul ended the first half of his letter for just that reason. They had been mediating on what God required of men from chapter 4 all the way through chapter 8. Paul graciously provided them with the encouragement they needed by reminding them that they were not in this alone. God was working in them to will and act according to his will, So they could work out their salvation in hope that they could finish the race.
Foreknew – God chose a holy people
Predestined – God planned an inheritance for his people
Called – God invited individuals to be part of his people through the Gospel
Justified – God qualified his people through the blood of Christ
Glorified – God will exalt his people with Christ
The Golden Chain of Salvation has a latch on it that makes it into a beautiful necklace. This latch, where God’s amazing grace meets with the saints’ living faith, is the part of the chain that Calvinism chooses to ignore for philisophical and theological reasons. Calvinism’s error is found in assuming that God’s work somehow swallows up Man’s role in salvation. For this reason they refuse to acknowledge the entire chapter in which the Golden Chain is found. But the truth stands, Man cannot do what God does, and God will not do what Man must.