Romans 8:28 is one of the most precious verses of Scripture to believers. And it is inseparable from Romans 8:29-30 which reminds us that God’s plan is an eternal one.
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. 29 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. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
Some have called Romans 8:29-30 the Golden Chain of Redemption. Each link is connected to the other in such a way as to form an unbreakable chain that ought to encourage the believer and bring tremendous comfort to any weary Christian soul.
No matter what happens in the Christian’s life, there is an unbreakable plan that God has decreed from eternity past. This is good news indeed. Let’s now consider this golden chain of redemption. There are 5 links. It begins in Romans 8:29. The first link is:
For those whom He foreknew… Now, some want to suggest that foreknowledge means God knows who will choose them and then in response chooses them. Of course, that’s not in the text is it?
The text says He foreknew those, that is, a people. Yes, God does know all choices. But the text doesn’t say He knew choices. Rather, He knew a people. If foreknowledge means God predestined those already predisposed to choosing Him, then that rips the whole text apart. For God to predestine those who already destine themselves would be illogical and do injustice to the text.
God doesn’t choose those He knows will be Holy anyway. That makes grace no longer grace. So, what does foreknowledge mean?
I agree with Matthew Henry who said, “God’s foreknowledge of the saints is the same with that everlasting love wherewith he is said to have loved them. God’s knowing his people is the same with his owning them.” God fore-loved a people. That’s step 1 in this unbreakable path of redemption.
The word “predestined” is used in both v.29 and v.30. The English word will suffice for our understanding. It simply means to be “destined” beforehand.
So, what do we do with this word that has stirred up no small amount of controversy? Do we leave it out of the Bible? Do we allow it to fuel heated debates? Or do we let it comfort us?
God did not have to reveal the glorious truth of predestination to us, but He did. Why? Well, first, to magnify His glory! But also so that we would be comforted by His sovereignty and humbled by His grace. So, here’s what the biblical teaching of predestination really does. It takes salvation out of my hands. It takes it out of your hands.
It takes salvation out of your neighbors’ hands. It takes it out of the nations’ hands. And it places it solely in the hands of our sovereign and gracious God.
As John Bunyan wrote, “To be saved by grace supposeth that God hath taken the salvation of our souls into his own hand; and to be sure it is safer in God’s hand than ours.”
Whose hands do you want salvation in, anyway? I trust God. I trust that God will get this right. I trust that at the end of the ages not one person will be able to accuse God of being unfair to them.
Quite the contrary – There will be many who can only praise God for bestowing His grace when all they deserved was wrath.
From eternity past God elected a particular people in Christ who were undeserving of His grace, but He chose them anyway, unconditionally, to the praise of His glorious grace and He predestined them to be conformed to the image of his Son.
God fore-loves a people. God predestines those people for conformity to Christ. And in time, God calls His people effectually. Like Lydia, He opens their heart to receive the gospel. Through the heralding of the gospel God calls those He foreknew and predestined in a way that they actually come to Him.
There is a genuine general gospel call that goes at to all men. There is a real and genuine desire for the salvation of every person who has ever lived in God in the sense that He does not delight in the death of the wicked.
We can sincerely tell all sinners that God desires they repent of their sins and believe His blessed gospel. It is our job to call all persons to repentance and tell them if they will turn from their sins and turn to Christ they will be saved.
God uses the general call of the gospel to effectually call those whom He predestined (v.29). The effectual call is where the Holy Spirit brings a dead heart to life to see the riches Christ .
The gospel call is our part. The effectual call is up to God. We preach the work of Christ – His bearing our sins on calvary as our atoning sacrifice – we preach this as a sufficient work for all persons. And we call all person to repent and place their faith in Christ. And then we trust that God is going to use that to effectually call His own to Himself.
God’s sovereign call results in a sinner choosing Christ in faith. Everyone who is in Christ chose Christ. Yes, God chose them, but in time, in response to God’s sovereign call, they chose to place their faith, which itself is God’s gift, in Christ.
And through grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone we are justified. We are counted righteous in Christ. God justifies the ungodly. We are imputed with Christ’s righteousness. Our account was credited to Christ on the cross and His account is credited to us in time when we place our faith in Him.
This is why when we preach the gospel we do call sinners to trust in, to choose, to turn to Jesus in faith. Why? Because God doesn’t drag sinners unwillingly to Himself. Rather, His effectual call results in their placing their faith in Christ and God justifying the sinner.
This is the end journey of redemption. That state where we are finally free from all sin in resurrected bodies, glorified and reigning with Christ forever.
And it’s important here that we walk backward for a moment to understand the fullness of these promises. Those glorified are those justified. Those justified are those called. Those called are those predestined. Those predestined are those foreknown.
All those justified will be glorified. All those called will be justified. All those predestined will be called. All those foreknown will be predestined. This is a beautiful and unbreakable chain!
Allen S. Nelson IV is an M.Div student at GBTS and Pastor of Perryville Second Baptist Church in Perryville, AR. He and his wife Stephanie married in 2006 and have 5 children. He is the author of From Death to Life: How Salvation Works and Before the Throne: Reflections on God’s Holiness. Besides curating Grace Abounding he also writes regularly at ThingsAbove.Us. You can follow him on twitter: @cuatronelson.
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