The Golden Chain of Salvation
“Those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son… And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”- Romans 8:29-30
Paul brings his discussion on life in the Spirit to a glorious climax in today’s passage. Our indwelling by the Spirit signifies that we are adopted as God’s children and not condemned, for the Holy Spirit cannot dwell within the person He sees as unholy and whose sin has not been atoned for (Rom. 8:1-17). Additionally, possessing the Holy Spirit shows that we will enjoy our full inheritance in glorified bodies in a new heaven and earth. He prays for us that we would persevere, and He assures us that God works all things together for our good if we love Christ (vv. 18-28). But there is one more reason to be confident in the Spirit’s work and our final, glorious end, and that is the work of God in salvation.
Romans 8:29-30 features the sequence known as the golden chain of salvation, the inviolable order in which our Creator saves His people. Although this chain does not specifically mention everything that God does in redeeming us (we do not find the word sanctification in this passage), it does tell us that salvation is from start to finish a work of the Lord. It is not that God initiates our salvation and we complete it by our obedience. Our service to God is important and even a preparation for heaven, but it does not merit heaven or get us there finally. God and God alone saves. He starts the work and finishes it without any help from us.
First, God foreknows His people (v. 29). This does not mean that the Lord looks down “the corridors of time” and foreknows something about us such as the decision we will make when we hear the gospel. He does, of course, know these things, but these things are in a sense incidental. When Paul says God foreknew us, he is speaking of God’s knowledge of us as persons. He is speaking of His decision to enter into a relationship with us, to set His love on us (9:13). It is because He chose to love us that we will believe. Only those whom God chooses to love in this special way can be saved, and all those whom He has chosen to love in this way will be saved. Dr. R.C. Sproul comments in his book Romans, “We could reasonably translate this text [Rom. 8:29], ‘Those whom he foreloved [those whom he knew in a personal, intimate, redemptive sense from all eternity] he predestined.’”
The Lord’s predestination of us ensures His call and justification of us, and that in turn ensures our final glorification (v. 30). We are entirely in God’s hands from eternity past. He chose to love us, to declare us righteous in Christ, and to adopt us. All those whom God justifies will be glorified. If we are in Christ now, we are in Him forever.
Augustine of Hippo comments on today’s passage that “God elected believers in order that they might believe, not because they already believed.” God’s choice of us precedes in every sense our choice of Him. If the Lord had not chosen us, we never would have chosen to believe in Him, and because He chose His people without any view to their own merits or choices, His people will certainly believe. His predestination of us means we are His forever.
Passages for Further Study
2 Thessalonians 2:13