Lesson 30: Romans 8:29-30
Secured by the Golden Chain
by Bob Burridge ©2011
The book of Romans tells about God’s eternal plan for the salvation of his people. It shows an amazing plan that was accomplished by Christ, and is applied by the Holy Spirit. As Christians we are thankful for being forgiven and having our souls set free, but an agonizing struggle continues with the stubborn remains of sin in our lives. We live in a world full of lies, anger, and tragedy. Yet through it all, God lays out a way of life for his children, a way of Christian optimism. It is not the self-deceiving wishful thinking of the world’s optimism. It is based upon revealed reality: the unfailing and perfect promise of God.
Our last study was Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
The “good” promised is not earthly riches, freedom from disease, or safety from crime. It is not that you will never lose a loved one, or have to endure some horrible experiences. There is while we endure these things hard times, an amazing inner peace from Christ that surfaces when we most need it. Also, there is the future hope Paul had just been writing about, our inheritance in glory.
God tells us that everything works together to produce this good. Our Sovereign God uses even our sufferings, weaknesses, and failings to help us grow in Christ. This makes us spiritually stronger here, and prepares us for our place in glory. This consolation through our times of suffering is not promised to everybody. This verse only assures it to those who love God, and are called according to his purpose.
In the next two verses Paul shows how sure that promise is. Romans 8:29 and 30 describe what is often called “The Golden Chain”.
“For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”
There are five links in this chain. They show an unbreakable connection that secures us to God’s blessing eternally. This certainty is anchored on one end in the eternal love and decree of God. It is attached at the other end to the promise of glory forever. The chain can never be broken. Each link is forged from the promises of God. This makes the chain infinitely secure. It binds each of God’s children to an infallible future, eternal glorification in Christ.
The chain begins with its anchor in God’s eternal decree.
29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
It all begins in God’s foreknowledge of those he promises to glorify. The word “to foreknow” is a verb formed from the Greek root word prognosis (προγνοσις); We use it as a medical term. A prognosis tells a patient in advance how his condition will progress. However, there are different kinds of foreknowing in the Bible.
Sometimes it means simply knowing about something in advance. That can’t be what it means here. It would make no sense. God knows all things in advance. He knows all people in advance, but all people are not predestined to become like Christ. They are not all justified by Christ headed for glory in the last day. Paul did not write, “because of what God foreknew he predestined…” He wrote, “for whom he foreknew he predestined”
Besides, it would make no sense that God looked ahead to see what happens in time to decide what he should eternally purpose to happen. God knows all things eternally and unchangeably. There cannot be a time when God made up his mind based upon things that could only happen after his creation of the world.
What would God look for to decide who to predestine to Christ? Would he look ahead to see their faith? That could not be. In Acts 13:48 it says ” as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” Therefore faith is the result of God’s appointment. It cannot be its cause. The cause cannot be based upon the result, or the result would be the cause. This would contradict Acts 13:48, and would make humans the determiners of the mind of God.
Would God look ahead to see their good works? That could not be either. Ephesians 2:10 says “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. ” Again, our works are the result of God’s preparing us before hand in Christ, not its cause.
Paul writes in 2 Timothy 1:9 that God “… saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began”
The meaning here obviously includes some kind of selection of certain ones only. God is often said to specially know his people in a way different than the way knows all others.
John 10:14 , “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.”
1 Corinthians 8:3, “But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him.”
Romans 11:2, “God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. …” This is a special reference to Israel, God’s chosen nation before the time of Christ. Here his foreknowledge is defined as that special relationship that marked them out from other nations.
Matthew 7:23, “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ Certainly this verse does not mean that God was ignorant of the existence of unbelievers. It cannot mean that the all knowing God discovers that some existed he did not know about. It can only mean one thing. God has specially known some people in a way that makes them his own. Those who are not his own he does not know in this special way.
This first link in the chain means that God set his heart to know some specially as His own. He did this from the beginning, before anyone had done good or evil.
This means that God’s “foreknowing” is his loving us and choosing us by grace alone. That is how God has always expressed himself toward his people. In Jeremiah 31:3 the LORD said, “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.”
Those God has known specially beforehand he has predestined. Predestination is another of those words that people struggle with. I have heard Christians say that their church does not believe in predestination. How can that be? Here it is in our Bibles. The word appears in many other verses too. Most likely those who deny this statement of Scripture redefine the word to allow for certain assumptions they have made.
The word verse clearly means that God made a determination about the people he foreknew as his own. The purpose of this predestination is that his people would be conformed to the image of Christ.
Humans were originally created in the image of God to represent him in the world. When Adam sinned that image was badly marred in us all. Instead of subduing all things for God’s glory, humans began abusing things for their own pleasure. In this fallen condition they ignore the Creator’s glory and purpose in all things. Their power is used to advance their own agenda and interests instead of the Kingdom of God. Their morality, sense of justice, and concept of truth, are based upon standards contrary to those God has revealed to us.
God purposed that through Christ those he foreknew would be restored to being able to show God’s image to the world. Our predestination is not only to get us to heaven, or to make us believe. It is so that we might progress in holy living, shaped by the model of Jesus. In 1 Peter 1:1-2 the Apostle spoke of God’s foreknowledge and choosing with reference to how he makes them obedient. Peter addressed his letter , “… To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied.”
God brings his decree into the individual’s life by a special calling.
Romans 8:30a, “Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; …”
This is the third link in the chain. All those God has foreknown as his own, and predestined to be like Christ He calls to himself so that this sanctifying change will take place in them.
There are two distinct types of calling mentioned in God’s word. One kind of calling in Scripture is not just to those predestined to life in Christ. Jesus said, “many are called but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). The call Jesus spoke about there was the outward call that invites individuals to become believers. He makes it clear that God has not chosen all those who are invited in this way. The outward invitation saves no one, and is not the link in this golden chain. So the call here is the one by which those who are chosen beforehand are assured to also be justified.
In Romans 1-3 we saw that no fallen human can respond to the gospel call on his own. Men love to be religious, and to do things that improve their opinion of themselves. They will not admit they are offensive to God, or that their only hope to be avoid condemnation in the judgment is the death of Jesus in their place, and the grace of a sovereign God who alone can change them. As Jesus said in John 6:44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
There is also this special call internally by the Spirit. It changes a person’s standing with God. When the Holy Spirit calls inwardly the person most gratefully comes. God in this special calling transforms the heart. He gives the person spiritual life, and the ability to know and to trust the words of God. This is “regeneration”. It is what the Bible means when it speaks of being “born again.”
When the Spirit gives us life, we can no more resist this call than a creature could resist his own creation.
The next link in the chain is justification.
Romans 8:30b. ” … whom He called, these He also justified; …”
“Justified” is a legal term. It is a declaration of innocence by a court. In this case it is the judgment of God that through Christ our debt is fully paid. This is the great theme around which Paul builds the whole book of Romans. In 1:17 he quoted Habakkuk 2:4 that “the just shall live by his faith”
God’s own holy nature makes it impossible for him to set aside guilt without its deserved punishment. That is what Jesus came to do for those God had foreknown as his own. When those called by the Spirit are justified, the work of Jesus Christ is applied to them. The righteousness of Jesus is credited to the sinner, and the sinner’s guilt is considered paid for by the Savior.
When the offense is removed, it removes the moral barrier between them and God. They are restored to fellowship with him, and are promised his blessing forever.
Then there is the final link in the chain.
Romans 8:30c, “… and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”
This is the great hope, the consolation that keeps us looking ahead while we struggle here. One day the work of God in our hearts will be completed. We who have been called to the Savior by grace will be received into eternal glory. We will be changed, in body and soul, to live in the presence of the Lord forever.
This is so certain, that Paul puts it in the past tense as if it is already a “done deal”. God who sees the end from the beginning assures us that our final blessing is assured. No believer will come short of this final blessing.
This is an unbreakable chain. Its links are more precious than gold. Who are those who are to be glorified? those same ones God has justified. Who are those God justifies? Those same ones he has called to himself. Who does God call? Those same ones he has predestined to become like his Son. Who does God predestine in this way? Those same ones foreknown by him from the beginning.
It is all by grace. Nothing of our own merit enters into it at all. There is nothing that should make us proud or secure in ourselves. The undeserved love of God has set us free through Christ. That is the plain truth of it.
Titus 3:5 says, “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit”
Have you experienced that call of God on your heart? Has his Spirit convicted you of your hopeless condition, and humbled you before your maker? Has he filled you with awe at the gracious sacrifice of Jesus Christ to redeem those totally unworthy? Has he stirred you to trust in that work of the Savior? Do you want to learn to be like him?
If so, that middle link assures you of that to which it is attached on both sides. You can be certain that God has loved you for all eternity. You would not experience those dispositions in your heart if you had not been called inwardly by the work of the Holy Spirit as the work of Jesus Christ brings new life to what was spiritually dead. It assures you that in God’s eyes you are now justified, and one day will be received into glory to live forever in the house of the Lord.
When you struggle with hard times, face tragedy and disappointments, When you falter and sin against the God you love — hang on to this golden chain. It is anchored in the ancient love of God on the one end of the chain, and is tethered on the other end to the promises of eternal glory. It assures you that what our heavenly Father brings us through works toward what is truly good. It helps you mature into the spiritual child God is making you to be, and it fits you for your place in eternal glory.
There is no suffering of this present world that can cast even a dim shadow when we stand in the light of this astounding promise. To hold on to your doubts you must assume the absurd, that God fails to justify those he predestined and called to be made like Christ. God himself rules out the possibility that anyone who is justified by his grace could fail to be ultimately glorified.
Dr. Haldane commented on this verse saying, “It is impossible to find words which could more forcibly and precisely express the indissoluble connection that subsists between all the parts of this series, or show that they are the same individuals that are spoken of throughout.”
From commencement to consummation, the promise of God stands sure. No greater consolation to the struggling believer is imaginable.
(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)