God’s Golden Chain of Salvation, Part 4 – Romans 8:29

I want to begin reading in verse 29, the title of this again, is “God’s Golden Chain of Salvation, Part 4.” “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His son, so that He would be the first born among many brethren, and these whom He predestined He also called, and these whom He called He also justified. And these whom He justified, He also glorified.” What we see very clearly here is that in matters of salvation God always finishes what He starts. In a work of grace, God never instigates and starts a work of salvation, but that He does not finish it all the way to the end. God never walks away from the project. He never walks off site. God never saves someone initially, but that he doesn’t always save them ultimately.


So, that is the focus as we come to the end of verse 30. This is really what we would call the eternal security of the believer, that a true believer who is justified will never become unjustified. A true believer who is saved will never return again to be lost. And that is crystal clear from this passage.


Here are the last two links now in this golden chain of salvation. And let me just give you five words about this golden chain of salvation by way of introduction. First of all is the word “divine.” This is all God. This is not God and man. This is pure divine saving work. I mean, you can see that where he says “He foreknew,” “He predestined,” “He called,” “He justified,” “He glorifies.” It’s not we; it’s He. So, first is “divine.” It’s a hundred and ten percent God.


Second is “eternal.” It starts in eternity past. It consummates in eternity future. It spans the horizon of time, and so this is an eternal chain from eternity past to eternity future. Third is the word “saving.” This all deals with God’s saving grace. It has nothing to do with service. It has nothing to do with ministry. There will be application for service and application for ministry, but this deals with matters of our having a right standing before God.


Fourth is the word “exclusive.” This deals with a very exclusive group of people within the larger mass of humanity. There is a smaller concentric circle inside the larger circle, and it is those whom He foreknew, those whom He predestined. It’s an exclusive work of God’s grace.


And the last word is “irrevocable.” This chain has been forged upon the anvil of the sovereign will of God, and it cannot be broken. Those whom He foreknew, He also predestined, and whom He predestined He also called, etc. So, we should take great comfort in knowing that this is an unbreakable chain.


So, as I said, to this point we’ve looked at foreknowledge, which does not mean foresight, which means those whom God previously chose to love with a distinguishing saving love, those whom God chose to set His heart upon with electing love.


Then the word “predestined,” which means to “mark out on the horizon.” It’s out ahead of you in the journey, and it really means the destination is determined before the journey begins. Those whom He foreknew, He marked out their final destiny in eternity future.


Then the word “called;” and this is where it intersects with time. Those whom He foreknew and predestined, He now calls into fellowship with His Son within time. And for me, it was at one particular time. For you, it was at a different particular time, but for all of us it has become reality, all of us who know Christ. We all were going astray. Each of us went to his own way. God had to call us out of the world and call us out of our sin into relationship with Christ.


So now, we come to the word “justified.” And so, beginning in the middle of verse 30, this chain continues to extend with the same group. And in verse 30, we read, “And these whom He called, He also justified,” just to remind us that He is God the Father. Everything in salvation is flowing out of the fountain of God the Father. It is God the Father who justifies. Jesus does not justify us. It is God the Father who justifies us by imputing the perfect righteousness that was achieved by Jesus Christ in a sinless life and a substitutionary death. It is God the Father who takes that righteousness that was earned by Christ in His active and passive obedience. And it is God the Father who justifies us, God the Father who declares us to be the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. Verse 33 makes it very clear, which is where we will soon be, but verse 33, “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies.”


So, let us be very clear. Within the Trinity, it is God the Father who justifies us with the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. So, we see the trinitarian nature of salvation, and it’s made real in our lives when we exercise faith in Christ. And that’s the work of God the Holy Spirit. So, all three persons of the Trinity are at work in our salvation. That’s why when we baptize, we don’t just baptize in the name of Jesus Christ; we baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit because all three are a Savior. All three are actively involved in our salvation.


And in the act of baptism, that is testified and confessed, that it’s the Father who foreknew me and predestined me. It was the Son who secured my perfect righteousness, and it is the Holy Spirit who called me and converted me, really regenerated me and gave me saving faith. So, as we will see, verse 30 he says, “these whom He called, He also justified.” And with that word “justified,” we come back to what is the core doctrine really in the first eleven chapters of the book of Romans. It is the doctrine of justification by faith alone, also known as sola fide, and it’s the central truth. And the core verse in the book of Romans we all know is Romans 1:16 and 17, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; just as it is written, ‘The righteous man shall live by faith.'” So, this righteousness that is charged to our account, that is deposited into our account, that is declared to be ours, comes to us in this act of justification.


Now, before I move on, I want to just park here for a moment on justification because some of you weren’t with us a year ago when we were looking at Romans 3 and Romans 4. So, I see some smiles on some faces. It may have been more than a year ago. But I want to give you some words just to hang our convictions on regarding justification because it’s the core doctrine in this book of Romans regarding salvation.


First of all is the word “immediately.” When you’re justified, you’re justified immediately, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. It’s an immediate transaction, an immediate declaration that God makes. Sanctification is progressive; justification is sudden. It is immediate. You sit down lost; you stand up justified. You come to church lost; you leave justified, based upon faith alone in Christ alone.


Second word is “fully.” When God justifies someone, He justifies them fully, and no one around this table is more justified than anyone else. Now, some of us may be more sanctified experientially, but none of us is more justified than anyone else. We all have the same equal standing before God. So, it’s a glorious truth.


Third is the word “freely.” We are justified freely without cost. There is nothing that we can do to contribute to our salvation or to our justification. It is freely given by God, and it is freely received by us by faith alone. The fourth word is “undeservedly.” God does not justify good people. God justifies bad people. God justifies wretches. God justifies rebels who come to the end of themself and bow the knee and put their trust in Christ. God justifies thieves on the cross, on their deathbed when they put their faith in Jesus Christ.


Fifth is the word “vicariously.” We are justified because of the perfect obedience of someone else who stood in our shoes, who stood in our place, who lived the life that we should have been living but have not because of sin. This some other person has lived perfectly under the law in our place and died upon the cross in our place. So, justification is a matter of the vicarious imputation of the righteousness of another, Christ, to our account.


Sixth is the word “irrevocably.” And I want to use that again. I just love the way it sounds. Irrevocably. “Once justified, always justified.” The verdict will never be reversed. God will never rescind His justification. It is a permanent eternal justification.


And then finally, the word “perfectly.” God gives the perfect righteousness of Christ to us, which gives us a perfect standing of acceptance with God. So, this is an extraordinary matter that the gavel has come down in the courtroom of heaven, and the Supreme Judge has declared us to be righteous. And that is why verse 33 says, “Who can bring a charge against God’s elect?” There is only one seated on the bench, and all that matters is what God declares. It doesn’t matter what anyone else says. All that matters is what God says, and God declares us to be righteous.


“Who can bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies. Who is the one who condemns?” It’s a rhetorical question. The answer is, “No one can condemn those whom God has justified.” So, this really is at the heart of the gospel. No matter how sinful your past, no matter how guilty your soul, no matter how defiled your heart, God fully, freely, forever justifies those who are the least deserving when we believe in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.


And you may say, “Well, Steve, you don’t know how sinful my past is. I mean, I’m sitting around this table around one of these benches, and I look nice with my Bible open, but you don’t know about my life five years ago or ten years ago.” Well, let me just say to you, “You don’t know how gracious God is. And you don’t know the depth of His forgiveness and the fullness of the righteousness of Christ.” Where sin does abound, grace does much more abound. It mega abounds. It’s like the ocean of God’s righteousness, and you’re like a microcosm floating on the surface in your sin. There is more than enough righteousness to override any sin, all sin that you have ever committed.


So, this is at the very heart of the gospel. So, “Those whom He called, He also justified.” And this is an indicative statement. It’s a matter of fact. If you have believed in Christ this is true. You can put this on your tombstone, “Here lies a justified man.” It’s not in my notes, okay? Alright, we are having church here.


So, number five, we come to “glorification.” Here’s the last link. And what this golden chain is, it’s like two cliffs separated by a massive chasm, and this golden chain is just anchored on one side of the chasm, and it’s now anchored on the other side of the chasm, and it spans time. It’s anchored in eternity past, anchored in eternity future, and it’s forged with unbreakable links.


So, we come now to the anchoring of this golden chain in eternity future, in the courts of heaven, in the palaces of the New Jerusalem with God Himself. So, notice what it says at the end of verse 30. “And these whom He justified, He also glorified.” The “He” again is God the Father, and it’s like God the Father is the mighty Atlas, who has put this whole thing on His omnipotent shoulders. And it is God the Father who has upheld this entire saving enterprise. It’s the Father who sent the Son, the Father and the Son who sent the Spirit, but this is all God the Father’s doing. He is even the architect of the gospel, the author of this whole plan of salvation. And so, even to the end, we are reminded this is a work of God the Father.


The word “also” is very important. It’s not either/or; it’s both/and. “Those whom He justified, He also glorified.” And this word “glorified” deals with our future glory. It is you and me one day standing before the throne of God clothed in the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ standing faultless before Him. In fact, even in Revelation 2 and 3, it says we are seated on the throne with Christ, which is just too much for any of us to even take in, but the idea is, is what is true of Christ is true of us in the sense of acceptance with the Father. And the Father deeply loves the Son, and the Father deeply loves those who are in the Son, and so we are glorified.


Please note the verb tense here too, past tense. We’re not even there yet. It’s a done deal. In the eternal will of God and in the eternal mind of God, you already have both feet planted in heaven, firmly, nailed to the floor of heaven. It’s put in the past tense as a past reality. And in fact, this started in eternity past, and in that moment in eternity past, when He foreknew you at that split second, He also in His mind and in His will He also predestined you, called you, justified you, and glorified you, all at once. The reality of that did not take place though until time.


I don’t want to be misunderstood. You weren’t justified until you believed in Christ, but in the mind and the will of God it was a done deal because it was predestined. And so, with “glorified,” it’s put in the past tense. He’s writing to the saints in Rome. Their address is Rome. They are not even in heaven yet, but it is spoken of by Paul in light of the sovereign will of God. Now, I’ll use the word again, the “irrevocable” will of God.


Now, this is a truth that Paul introduced us to earlier just very briefly in Romans 5 and verse 2. At the end of the verse, Paul writes, “We exult in hope of the glory of God.” And he just touched it momentarily and then just kept going knowing that he will be bringing this up in greater detail in chapter 8. But just to remind you, he’s already put this card on the table. He’s already put this ball into play. And when he says, “We exult,” that means “we are excited.” I mean, we are pumped up about this. We are not stoic. We are not lukewarm. We are fervent and passionate. We exult in hope. And the word “hope” in the Bible does not mean “wishful thinking.” We have talked about this many times. It means a confident, steadfast assurance with deep conviction about the future. We exult in hope of the glory of God, and what that means is the certainty that we have of being glorified one day in the very presence of God.


Now, to be glorified means that we will have a glorified body, and we will have a glorified spirit or soul. A glorified body means that we will have a resurrection body. I mean, we will have to have a body that is perfectly adapted for our new environment in heaven. I mean, if we are going to worship God forever and ever and ever, I need an upgrade on my body. If I am going to look upon the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, I need glorified eyes. If I am going to hear Christ speak to me, I need glorified ears. If I am going to be on my knees singing His praises, I need glorified knees. And if I am going to serve Him, I need a glorified shoulder and glorified feet to carry out whatever assignments He is going to give me that will bring pleasure to me and promote His glory throughout all the ages to come. So, I need a glorified body that will be endued with limitless energy and power in order to carry out my eternal worship and my eternal service of God, right?


Further, a glorified soul, and by that we mean that what remains of our sinful flesh or sin nature will be eradicated in a split second in that moment, never again to have a selfish thought, never again to be jealous or to have envy, never again to have a false humility, never again to toot my own horn, to be boastful, never again to be self-dependent to the extent that even as a sanctified believer I still have lapses of self-dependence, to in that moment have only holy, pure, undefiled thoughts and affections and will.


Can you even imagine what this is going to be like and all intensified in our thoughts towards God, intensified in our love and devotion for God? That is why we will be filled with joy to overflowing. Yeah, it’s going to be great to walk on streets of gold and walk through gates of pearl. That is so secondary compared to seeing Christ and being with Him in this glorified state.


Now, here is a question. I know what some of you are thinking. Why did he skip over sanctification? We just went from justification to glorification. There are some smart guys around the table here. Some. And so, why did he pass over sanctification? Why no mention? Why do we just go from justification to glorification? I am going to give you three reasons why.


Number one: Paul is only mentioning those aspects of our salvation that are exclusively a work of God, a monergistic work of God. It means only one active operator. You must understand this about sanctification. It is what we call “synergistic,” meaning there are two active agents, God and us. And I would simply refer you to Philippians 2:12 and 13. Verse 12 says, “Work out your salvation in fear and trembling.” That is our responsibility. That is our duty. God worked it in; you work it out in fear and trembling. In other words, taking God very seriously as we pursue holiness. Next verse, verse 13: “For it is God who is at work within you both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” So, sanctification in this sense is a joint venture.


Now, God is the Author of our sanctification, capital “A.” Don’t misunderstand me, but we cannot come up with a passive view of sanctification and just say, “Well, let go and let God,” or “It’s all of grace. There is no responsibility on my part.” Or, “All my sanctification is, is just to look back at my justification,” which is a lot of what you hear today.


No, that’s bad theology. It’s called “antinomianism,” “against the law.” No, sanctification is our responsibility in the power of the grace of God, but it’s synergistic. So, in Romans 8:29 and 30, Paul is only mentioning those parts of salvation that are monergestic, God and God alone. We had nothing to do with being foreknown. We had nothing to do with being predestined. We had nothing to do with being called or justified or glorified. One hundred and fifty percent God; zero, minus zero for us, okay?


Not so with sanctification. When we stand before the Lord on the last day, even as a Christian, we are going to give an account of our time, our talent, our treasure. We are going to give an account to how I invested my life in the service of the Lord. So, we bear great responsibility in the choices that we make in our Christian life. So, that is the first reason why sanctification is not mentioned here. Paul is only addressing those parts that are God and God alone.


Second thing I would tell you, sanctification is mentioned indirectly. It is mentioned indirectly in verse 28 as the word “good.” The greatest good in your life is for you to become like the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s what sanctification is. It is for me and you to become more like our Savior and our Lord. And in verse 29, it becomes even clearer when he says, “to become conformed to the image of His Son.” That work has already begun. It began the moment you were regenerated, the moment you called upon God to save you, the moment you went through the narrow gate. You took the first step. You put your foot onto the narrow path that leads to life. And being conformed into the image of Christ began with the first step of that journey. As you now are headed in a new direction, you now have the mind of Christ, 1 Corinthians 2:16. You have a love for Christ. You have faith in Christ. I mean, that is what it is to be a Christian. I mean, you’ve put your trust in Christ. You are following Christ. You love Christ. You obey Christ. You serve Christ. You worship Christ. So, sanctification is mentioned in verse 28, in the word “good,” and verse 29, “being conformed to His image.”


And the third thing that I would add, and I have already touched on this. What we see in verses 29 and 30 in these five words, foreknowledge, predestined, called, justified, glorified, we’re all equally foreknown, equally predestined, equally called, equally justified, equally glorified. We are not all equally sanctified, in that some of us are being conformed to the image of Christ more than others. And that’s just a fact. Some remain in immaturity, spiritual immaturity. Paul says to the church at Corinth, you know, “I had to treat you like babes. By this point, you ought to be eating meat, but I am still having to feed you milk.” I mean, “After church, I am having to burp you. You know, you’re acting like a child, like a baby. You should have grown up by now.” So, some do grow up spiritually more than others. And so, for that reason sanctification is somewhat in a category all by itself.


Now, I want to end with some application, because we have been hitting it hard on theology, and theology is all practical. There is no theology that’s not practical. There is no theology that’s only theoretical or philosophical. So, how should this change our life, okay? I’ve got some ways and I’m looking at the clock because I really want us to discuss this as well. But let me just get a few out on the table, and maybe we will finish it next time.


But number one: pride crushing. This is the ultimate pride crusher. God could have just as easily not foreknown you as foreknown you. There was nothing in me that made God love me. God didn’t love me because of me; he loved me in spite of me. He loved me because of Christ, and He loved me because that love welled up within the heart of God, and God chose to love me before the foundation of the world, before time began.


And we could just stop right there on application and go home and just meditate on that. I remember when I first came to understand this truth. I was reading a commentary on Romans by John Murray, the great Scottish professor. And when he explained what foreknowledge means, that it doesn’t mean foresight, I always played that foresight game, and when that rug was jerked out from underneath me, it brought me to my knees because I thought, as I am in seminary, I thought I was doing God is a wild favor by going to seminary and by going into the ministry.


Like, God got a lottery pick with me, you know. You know, I mean, look what all I have given up, you know, to come enter into the ministry. So, you know, unknown to my own heart, I mean there is a certain arrogance about that and stinking thinking, just pride. And when I saw this, honest-to-goodness without exaggeration, I don’t know that I hardly spoke for a week. It stunned me. It was like I had been electrocuted or something. And I realized it’s the total other way around. I hadn’t done God a favor on anything; God had extended mercy to me undeservedly.


And if you’re in Christ today, I can tell you as a fact that God chose to love you, and He was under no obligation to love you. And God could have just passed me over. He could have passed you over and just left you in your sin. That I understand. For God to love me and God to love you, that I don’t understand. I understand the Passover. I don’t understand that God would love me because there’s nothing lovely inside of a train wreck to love.


So, number one, it’s a pride crusher, and it’s an oxymoron to be a proud Reformed believer. That is like a heavenly devil or something. I mean, it’s just a total oxymoron. It’s like postal service, just an oxymoron. A dead live oak, you know. I mean, it’s just for my tree guys over here. So, a proud Reformed believer is the ultimate oxymoron. We should be so brought to our knees, and let me just tell you this, and we never get over it. And even as I come back to a passage like this, it still just shocks me that I do believe this and this is true.


And I’ll just add this as a footnote. This is so antithetical. You understand what antithetical means, total opposite of the way the natural mind thinks. This has to be divine revelation because human reason would never come up with this.


Second is this is worship inspiring. High theology produces high doxology. Crummy theology, you’re going to have some really good mood music in church to make that float.


This, we could worship God in the hull of the Mayflower. This, we could be in the catacombs of Rome getting ready to be led to the lions in the colosseum and still be able to sing the praises of God. This is the ultimate. Let us rise up and give glory to God that He chose me before the foundation of the world to be with Him forever, and He would not take no for an answer within time. And though I may have pushed back and pushed back and pushed back a few times, in the day of His power, He brought me to Himself and washed all my sins away, and He clothed me with the righteousness of Christ. I need to be singing the praises of God forever and ever and ever. This is the ultimate giving glory to God. There is no part that I sing duet with God in this, okay? This is all God in the spotlight. This is all praise going to God.


And as I’ve told you, that is why when we get to heaven that crown is going to be in your hand for a millisecond. I mean, it’s going to be cast back at His feet so quickly because you know exactly how it is that you got there. It was all of His grace.


Third, it is holiness producing. We have seen that the whole purpose of predestination is to conform us into the image of His Son. You see that in verse 29. This whole eternal purpose of God is to make us like His Son so that the Son would have people in heaven that bear His image without the flaw of a sin. So, how can we live in the world and be like the world if we know we have been chosen out of the world from before the world? I mean, this causes us to want to be so different; not odd, just different, in the way that we conduct ourselves in personal holiness, godliness, purity of mind, of tongue, of actions. This will put high octane in your tank as you pursue holiness.


Fourth, it is evangelism igniting. Listen, there are people that God is going to save. Whether you take the gospel to them or not, God will have somebody get the gospel to every one of His elect. This so liberates us and frees us up. In this sense, no one is impossible to be saved. Whoever you think is the furthest person away from God would never be saved, I want you to know, in a heartbeat, God can bring them to Christ. And so, as we bear witness of Christ, as we give our testimony, as we tell others about the gospel of Christ, we need to have confidence. We almost ought to be overconfident, not in a self-dependence way, but in a God-confident way that there are people whom God is going to save. And we can be a part of that. And so, this is evangelism igniting.


Some people think that this pours, you know, cold water on the hot flames of evangelism. No, it’s the total opposite. This actually pours gas on the fire of evangelism. It makes us want to worship because there are hearts that God will conquer, and no resistance can thwart it.


Fifth it’s missions motivating. These elect are all around the world. I can’t even imagine being a missionary and going to Russia, going to China, going to some hardcore Afghanistan, Pakistan. If I didn’t believe in the doctrine of election, if I thought it was going to be dependent on me and my presentation and me being able to arm twist and compel, no. God has His elect all around the world.


When William Carey who launched the modern missions movement got on a boat, left England, and sailed to India, there were some people on board he found out who did not believe in this doctrine of election. He threatened to have the ship turn around and go back to England. You are going to ruin the mission field if you don’t believe in the doctrine of election because you are going to give up after three years. You know how long Carey went until he saw his first convert? Seven years. What kept his feet nailed to the floor? It was the doctrine of sovereign election, that there is a people whom God will save.


Well, let me tell you this. His first wife died. First of all, she went insane. Then she died. His son died. He remarried. The second wife died. His second son died. He translated the New Testament into Sanskrit, which was a monumental task, and it burned up in a fire. He had to start all over from scratch. He was there for forty-three years and never took a sabbatical, forty-three years and never came back to England. David Livingstone at least came back once from the heart of Africa. What welded his feet to the mission field? It was the higher purposes of the eternal will of God that there is a people in India whom God will call out and save. It emboldened him to bear witness for Christ.


Number six, ministry launching. As I have already said, these truths energize our service. They motivate us to want to serve God because when you understand these truths you don’t want to be a benchwarmer. You don’t want to be passive. You want to live your life with a sense of destiny, a sense of eternal destiny, that God will go before us and God will open doors and God will cause ministry to happen. These truths, it’s like we are riding a wave of destiny and it causes us to not sit but to serve the Lord.


Number seven, assurance giving. These truths produce true assurance of salvation. You say, “How so?” Because you would never be pursuing the Lord, except God first pursued you. And you would have never laid hold of Christ, except God first laid hold of you. And it brings deep assurance to your soul. You realize, I would never be pursuing Christ, I would never be loving God, except these truths are actually true that God has initiated this in my life. I would have never initiated this. This all started with God.


Number nine, it’s eye-opening. And I’ve already mentioned this. When you see these five links in this golden chain, you see five hundred other things in the Bible. This is what we call a “telling doctrine,” in that it reveals so much more than just our understanding of these truths. This now enables us to see really much of the rest of the Bible with an eternal perspective, from God’s perspective. We now can see somewhat in a limited way but as God sees salvation and history.


And tenth, it’s joy enlarging. I’ll just tell you this. It’s like getting saved all over again to come to the knowledge of this truth. It really is. I wish I had a nickel for every person who has come up to me and said that very sentence. “Steve, this is like getting saved all over again.” In fact, because I was saved as a younger child. Now as an adult and to see these truths, I think my joy is even greater. Well, as an adult you have a greater capacity for joy. But Jesus said in John 15:11, “These words I have spoken unto you that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be made full.” Five verses later, He says in verse 16, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and ordained that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain. And whatsoever you ask in My name that will I do.” So, this just takes a bathtub of joy and just pours it into the thimble of our heart until it just floods our soul and overflows in our lives.


So, these truths are not intended for us just to sit in an ivory tower and contemplate and meditate these until we just fossilize. No, these truths are intended for us to be humble worshipers who are serving the Lord, witnessing for Christ, either going to the mission field or supporting missions. It puts pep in our step, glide in our stride. I mean it just puts joy in our heart to know that God’s got this whole thing wired on my salvation.


And I’ll tell you what, it makes a difference when you come to the end of your life, and the doctor says you need to get your affairs in order, and the doctor says you’re probably going to want to call your loved ones. And the reality that “My time here is over,” as you are staring death eyeball to eyeball to know how certain it is, what is on the other side of the door, that you will be immediately transported into His presence. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. And the transformation that will take place in your life, we are barely going to recognize you in heaven. But we will have glorified eyes and a glorified mind, so we will figure it out. We will know one another. In fact, we will finally really know one another, because there will be no misunderstandings.