Glory Forever

Glory Forever

(Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 107)
by Bob Burridge ©2012

Sometimes people are not able to deliver what they promise. They might have the best of intentions, but things come up that keep them from following through. We all have to handle the unexpected and deal with things that break down. Sadly, there are also times when people never intend to fulfill their promises.

It hurts when that happens with family and friends. No one likes to be forgotten when someone says they will come by and pick you up to give you a ride. It’s discouraging if someone was going to get something for you at the store, but came home without it.

It can become a more serious problem when national or world leaders fail to deliver on their promises. Voters are commonly skeptical of political campaign promises and commercials. When trust is violated or little is done to accomplish important things, people suffer. Even international treaties, agreements, and sanctions have little impact if they are not enforced responsibly. It makes terrorists and rogue nations more bold in their oppression and attacks. Broken promises or protections that never come cause doubt and mistrust.

It’s one thing to say what you want to do, what ought to be done, or even what you plan to do. However, it is another thing completely to make those things actually happen. We need to be careful not to assume that God’s promises are unreliable that way. God can do all he promises, and he never fails to do so. This is why we pray with great confidence.

The answer to Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 107 is, “The conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer, which is, For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen, teacheth us to take our encouragement in prayer from God only, and in our prayers to praise him, ascribing kingdom, power, and glory to him; and, in testimony of our desire, and assurance to be heard, we say, Amen.”

Some modern translations do not
include this last part of verse 13.

There isn’t a museum or vault where the actual original copies of the Bible books are kept. In God’s wise providence, we no longer have them. There were no printing presses or copy machines at the time of their writing so each copy was done by hand. Very quickly the books of the New Testament spread to Asia Minor, Europe, Asia, and Africa. We have over 5,000 ancient manuscripts that preserve the New Testament text. Some papyrus fragments date back to the first century, about the time of the original writing.

By comparing the copies from different ages and from different parts of the world, the copying errors can be confidently identified and eliminated. Dr. B. B. Warfield counted that about 95% of the variations in the copies are just isolated errors. Most are just misspellings, or a word left out or sometimes duplicated.

Once in a while a marginal note by a commentator was copied into the text of one or two manuscripts. Sometimes in regions like Alexandria exiled heretics tampered with the text in a few places. However, it is not difficult to recognize these changes by comparing with the other copies.

This last part of Matthew 6:13 is found in almost all the Greek texts known. It is found in manuscripts from all regions, including the carefully preserved Byzantine copies. These words are quoted by some of the early church writers so we know they cannot be a late addition.

These words are missing from one old copy from Alexandria, and another from Europe. It is also missing from 6 later copies probably made from the earlier one in Alexandria. A few early translations into Latin and Syriac change the text around some or add words. However, of the thousands of copies available, there is unanimity that these words belong there.

Some modern commentators and translators, based upon this rather thin evidence, leave the words out. Many scholars, myself included, find no reason to doubt their authenticity.

Can we be sure that these are the faithful and true words of God? There is a way to authenticate the truth of these words without having to base our decision upon the study of ancient manuscripts. This is not the only prayer in the Bible where these words occur. They are also found in the prayer of King David in 1 Chronicles 29. Most of the Lord’s prayer seems to be based upon this prayer of David. In verses 10-13 we see all the support we need to pray with confidence, “thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever”. David’s prayer goes this way, “Blessed are You, Lord God of Israel, our Father, forever and ever. Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, The power and the glory, The victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, And You are exalted as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, And You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; In Your hand it is to make great And to give strength to all. Now therefore, our God, We thank You And praise Your glorious name.”

These ideas and words are also found in other portions of Scripture. Paul wrote them in 2 Timothy 4:18, “And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!”

The same things are said about God in Psalm 145:11-13, “They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom, And talk of Your power, To make known to the sons of men His mighty acts, And the glorious majesty of His kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And Your dominion endures throughout all generations.”

These things are obviously true about God, so it is no surprise they appear in these inspired prayers. It makes sense that Jesus would include them in this model prayer he gave us too. It is a proper thing to include in our prayers as well.

This closing doxology is a fitting
end to this model for prayer.

The Lord had just given seven petitions, things we should pray for regularly.

  1. that God’s name will be hallowed, treated with holy awe and respect.
  2. that his Kingdom will advance displaying his Sovereign rule and power.
  3. that God’s revealed will should be done on earth as it is in heaven.
  4. that your daily needs will be provided by God who controls all things.
  5. that you will be forgiven for your sins through the work of Jesus Christ.
  6. that you will not be taken in by temptation to satisfy your needs immorally.
  7. that you will be delivered from the evil one, who wants to see you fail.

The model prayer concludes with confidence that God can deliver on the things we ask him to do. His is the Kingdom where he rules all things. His is the power and the glory. These eternal qualities can never fail, they have no end.

These qualities speak to God’s abilities. If God truly rules as King with infinite power, then there is the wonderful and glorious hope that cannot possibly fail to accomplish all the Creator’s holy will. Our petitions are not in vain. They come to a God who redeems and loves his children. He directly made and sovereignly rules over all things, even over those who defiantly dare to be evil.

We call this type of expression used in these concluding words of the prayer a “doxology”. Literally, it means they are words of glory. They remind us of the wonders of our Lord. David’s prayer honors God in his greatness, power, glory, victory and majesty. It says that he is the source of all riches and honor that any other creature might enjoy. He reigns as King with all power and might.

There are no accidents, no changes in his plans. He is our Sovereign God. He is the one who can actually do what you need him to do, and what he says, he will do. He is not just a theological idea. He is the one and only Living, Sovereign Lord.

God’s Majesty and Glory continue forever.

As it says in the Shorter Catechism, God is infinite, eternal and unchangeable. His kingship, power and glory are as eternal as he is. It is his Nature. It is what he is.

God has no beginning, and will have no end. Through all eternity he remains the same. Psalm 90:2 tells us, “Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever You had formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.”

God’s people have often responded
to his glory by saying, “Amen.”

This is an ancient custom that continues today. When David had the recaptured Ark of the Covenant brought back to the Tabernacle in Jerusalem, he wrote a dedication Psalm which is recorded in 1 Chronicles 16:8-36. It ends this way, ” ‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel From everlasting to everlasting!’ And all the people said, ‘Amen!’ and praised the Lord. ” When true and good things were said about God, his people showed their agreement by saying “Amen”.

“Amen” is a Hebrew word, amaen (אמן). It means “to confirm, to support, to be firm, to be sure, to be true.” The Greek New Testament writings used this same word, amaen (αμην) but wrote it in their own alphabet. We have brought this Hebrew word into English language unchanged except for the pronunciation.

Since God is truth, amen is often used as a name for God. Deuteronomy 7:9 uses a form of this word when it says the “Faithful God” hael hane-eman (האל הנאמן). Isaiah 65:16 twice speaks of the “God of Truth”, “the God of Amen,” Elohae-amaen (אלהי אמן). In Revelation 3:14 Jesus Christ is called “the Amen,” ho amaen (ὁ αμην).

When you put “Amen” at the end of your prayers, it keeps this same basic meaning. Not all prayers in the Bible end with an “Amen,” but when it is there, it wraps up the prayer by saying the word “truth.”

When you close your prayer that way, you are saying that everything in your prayer is offered sincerely and is true. It is all the honest hope and desire of your heart. It means you are confident that the promises your prayer rests upon are true. They must be because God’s word is a solid and certain foundation, and God cannot lie.

When you consider all the things you should ask for in prayer, all 7 petitions in this model Jesus gave us, and agree that the God you pray to is the all powerful and eternal King, and affirm that in Christ he loves you and redeemed you with an infinitely great price, you speak an amazing truth! God can deliver on all the things you are told to pray for. Prayer should be a thankful time of confidently resting your concerns upon God himself.

Use this prayer as a daily guide.

With confidence bring every need and praise to the Creator all through the day. Make sure you, your children and friends know this model prayer by heart. Make this model prayer a pattern to follow whenever you speak with your Redeemer. It should be a part of everything you do throughout every day. Prayer should be more regular than eating. Three meals a day is enough for basic nourishment, but it is not enough for prayer.

Start the day talking to the one who brought you through the night and who has planned the day ahead. Pray in humble thanksgiving every time you receive his provisions of food, your paycheck, or meet a new friend. Bring your needs to him and those of any others God brings to your mind. Your intercession makes you part of the means by which God powerfully fulfills his promises in the lives of others.

Have family times of worship which include prayer for one another. Teach your children to pray. End the day thanking God for every opportunity, for being your loving Shepherd through the rough times, and for every skill and ability you were called upon to use that day.

Since God ordained prayer as a means by which he unfolds his providential care and plan, it is tragic that some neglect this important duty. They leave it to others.

Are you sometimes too busy to engage in what really makes a difference? Do you not believe that God can and will deliver on the promises he made? Has Satan and your fallen heart pulled the wool over your eyes once again? Never let the evil one have little victories in your life.

Make it a point to pray for your prayer life. Use this awesome model our Lord gave you, expand upon it, fill it out with specifics. Engage the enemy with a power he cannot resist or overcome. Be an active advancer of the Kingdom of Grace right now here on earth.

When you finish your prayer, rest back and consider the certainty behind it all because God is All Mighty! Then, really meaning it, think or say a good hearty, “Amen!”

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Index of Lessons in the Westminster Shorter Catechism

A Most Wonderful God

Lesson 44: Romans 11:33-36

A Most Wonderful God

by Bob Burridge ©2012

The most skilled Bible teachers, Theological Professors, and Pastors from the English speaking world, gathered at Westminster in the mid 1600’s. Their job was to examine Scripture to test every doctrine believed by the church. It came time to write their definition of God for the catechism they were preparing. Having already examined the facts of Scripture, it was time to find the right words to express such an awesome reality. So first they turned to seek direction from God in prayer. The assembly asked the youngest delegate to lead them. This would have been the Scottish Pastor George Gillespie of Edinburgh. It is said that in his prayer he addressed the Lord as, “God who is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.” His words became the definition they had been seeking for Shorter Catechism Question 4.

The matter of God’s infinite nature is obviously more than just complex. It is absolutely beyond our full comprehension. However, God has made himself known in ways we can be made able to understand. He reveals himself in creation, in his acts of providence, in man’s moral conscience, and most clearly in his word.

The nature of God is the most fundamental truth in all the Universe. It is to be studied, and the results made known to others. Paul and the other writers of Scripture make no attempt to avoid the issue. Though humbled by the problem, they sought to express God’s nature in careful terms. They were directed by the Holy Spirit to say a great deal about the matter without error.

To know God’s nature better, is to know your Creator, Lord, and Redemption better. It is to appreciate more completely the hope of salvation and the way of sanctification. It is to help us develop right attitudes and behaviors toward the things we face in life every day.

This is a hard subject. Not that it is hard to know what God says, but it is admittedly hard to comprehend it all. Paul summarizes the glories of God in a most poetic but absolutely fact filled passage. Romans 11:33-36 is a response of praise at the end of the first eleven doctrinal chapters of the book.

First, the Apostle is overwhelmed by the depth of the wonders of God.

Romans 11:33, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!”

Here Paul exclaims about the depth of the riches of God’s wisdom and knowledge. Translators are somewhat divided about how Paul expressed himself here. Either he is amazed at the depth of the riches which come from God’s wisdom and knowledge, or he is amazed and the depths of God’s riches, wisdom and mercy. It is a technical issue not really differing much in substance. There is no question about what he meant. Either way we translate it, it means that the nature of God is amazingly deep!

I remember when I loved to dig holes. Specially when I was a pre-schooler. I had a good sized area behind the house, on the side of our porch that was my play area. I had a swing set there so the ground was pretty well trampled down to the bare dirt. We lived in an upper story flat. It belonged to my grandfather who loved to fix up the yard and keep a nice garden. He took it very seriously. Once he ordered a truck load of soil and had it dumped in the corner of my play area. It was out of the way, and out of sight, so he could leave it there until he was ready to use it. But when I saw it I was thrilled! “A dirt pile!” He had a grandfather’s heart toward me though, so he gave me permission to dig in it, and in time he abandoned the pile to me, and ordered more soil for his garden.

I’d spend hours out there, sometimes with my friends, just digging and hauling the dirt around in my little toy trucks. I remember my mom saying that someday I’d dig all the way to China. I took her literally and suspected that if I dug deep enough I’d break through into some exotic underground city of Chinese people. I never did. But a few times I got so deep that I could stand down in the hole waist deep. I always thought it was amazing to see guys along the roads digging so deep they were in over their heads. I never quite made it that far, but I kept trying. That’s the image I always picture when I think of things being deep. I kept shoveling out dirt, but somehow China was always a long way off.

When we talk about deep things about God it’s even more of a dig than reaching China [which now I understand is a little under 8,000 miles down, and through some pretty rough and hot digging.] This verse tells us that God’s wisdom and knowledge, and the richness of all his glories, are deep beyond our comprehension. Generally, wisdom is more the right use of information, and knowledge is the information itself. Both are unbounded in God. He knows everything about all things, all the time.

Since his wisdom knows no limits we say it is infinite. Infinity is a mathematical concept invented to help solve some otherwise impossible problems. If you had a line that started right in front of you and it extended out infinitely, you could cut a piece off the end of that line, and it would still extend into infinity. You could cut a mile off of it, and it would still reach out forever. You could cut off the whole distance through the earth to China, and it would still go on infinitely. In fact you could cut off billions of light-years, and it would still go on infinitely!

God does not only know all the facts we can name about the whole universe and its history. He knows about an infinite number of things which we don’t even know about. If we studied all our life times about the things God has made known, about the things we can see, or measure, still his knowledge is infinitely greater. All the wisdom of the ages is but a small piece on the near end of the line of God’s infinite wisdom. All the riches of God that we can name are but infinitesimal, compared with his vast treasures.

When I was growing up in that upstairs flat in Buffalo, we had a big family Bible laying out on the coffee table in the living room. One of the verses I found there always fascinated me. It was Psalm 139:6, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.” (KJV)

There are many other verses that express the same thought. Psalm 139:17 says, “How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them!” This is a central fact of Scripture.

Then Romans 11:33 tells us that God’s judgments are unsearchable. His judgments include his rule over all things, his decrees and the purposes behind them. They include providence by which God directs all things to work together for his own glory. All these things are beyond what we can search out and discover.

Today, when we want to find out about something we use the internet. There are search engines which are web sites with programs that search through the millions of web pages to find what we want to know. They make encyclopedias and almanacs seem as archaic as horse drawn buggies. There is so much information available that if you aren’t precise about what you are asking for, you might end up with an unworkable pile of information.

For example, when I asked what is the diameter of the earth it listed 101,387,038 web sites all of which dealt with the subject in some way. Because of the way I asked, my answer in kilometers and miles was at the top of the list. But overwhelming results like that are nothing compared with all the judgments of God through which we might hope to search.

God’s ways are unfathomable. The verse here in Romans says “… His ways past finding out!” Literally the reference is to the impossibility of following a trail, or footprints. All that God is pleased to do, all the things that promote his glory, are impossible to trace out. The reasons behind them are vastly beyond our ability to follow along, or to grasp fully. Our finite minds can much less hold all the majestic truths about God than juice glass can hold all the oceans.

Next, the Apostle shows how far short
of these glories every creature falls.

Romans 11:34, “For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor?”

His question makes it clear that the answer is, “no one”. No creature knows the mind of God. Since God’s understanding is infinite, his mind will always be beyond us.

On the one hand we are finite creatures. The infinite is always beyond our comprehension. Our brains are of limited size and capacity. We can only process the information we know in limited ways.

On the other hand we are fallen beings. Sin has effected every human mind. Even if we are born again in Christ, we never overcome all moral corruption in this life. What we see in nature, and even what we read in the Bible, is imperfectly understood. Our outlook is hindered by self-interest and neglect of God’s holy glory.

Sin prejudices our minds against God’s awesome revelations. Its the ultimate foolishness to think we can improve upon what the Bible says by adding our own conjectures and theories.

This Book of Romans deals with such profound truths as: depravity, election, saving grace, reprobation — deep truths! These are ideas which go against our own fallen intuition.

False religion tries to dream up theories which attempt to explain away God’s Sovereignty and make the infinite seem more graspable to us mere creatures. Romanism, Fatalism, Pelegianism, Arminianism, Amyrauldianism, and so many others all begin by presuming to know enough to be able to reconcile hard truths with humanly imagined models. The Reformed approach is to let the facts revealed in the Bible stand on their own, and to resist elevating our theories to the level of doctrine.

The Canons of Dort wisely warn us (in Head 1, Article 14), “As the doctrine of divine election by the most wise counsel of God … is clearly revealed in the Scriptures … so it is still to be published in due time and place in the Church of God … provided it be done with reverence, in the spirit of discretion and piety, for the glory of Gods most holy Name, and for enlivening and comforting His people, without vainly attempting to investigate the secret ways of the Most High.”

It hurts needy souls and feeds heresies when we pervert the character of God to make him seem more controllable or limited by the imaginations of man.

No creature can be God’s counselor. How dangerous and foolish to think that God listens to us in deciding how his universe will unfold and bring him glory. God is independent. He needs no supervision or direction by his creatures.

The arrogant small mind of fallen man often thinks, “If only God would do this my way.” We pray as if we knew better what should happen, as if we would improve things if we could get God to change the course set by him eternally. We need to take the advice of James 4:15 … Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that.”

In ancient times, Job dared to challenge God’s treatment of him and his family. Then the Lord asked him if he understood the complexities of the universe. In Job 38:1-5 we read, “Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said: ‘Who is this who darkens counsel By words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?’ ”

The Lord went on, until in chapter 42 Job was humbled and responded in verses 2-3 saying, “I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”

David, in Psalm 131, understood that before God he was but a child in his understanding. There he wrote, “LORD, my heart is not haughty, Nor my eyes lofty. Neither do I concern myself with great matters, Nor with things too profound for me. Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, Like a weaned child with his mother; Like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the LORD From this time forth and forever.”

How vain for men to dare to speculate beyond what is revealed. The inability of our own limited minds to explain God to our own satisfaction is no test for truth. Who are we to judge what God has said by a standard invented by fallen creations?

The Apostle Paul himself dared not to speculate yet he had the unparalleled privilege of direct revelation from the Holy Spirit. No human could better have known the flow of thought and intent of the verses of Romans, yet here he humbles his own mind before these incomprehensible realities.

The combined intellectual ability of all men and angels could never come close to the infinite.

No creature can obligate God.

Romans 11:35, “Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?”

No creature can do anything that obligates God to some return or reward. This has been Paul’s message in the first 11 chapters of Romans. Man could never merit election from his justly deserved damnation. He cannot earn his calling to sonship, his justification from sin, or secure his sanctification in holiness. The Creator owes nothing to his creatures. All blessing is from divine mercy alone. In Job 41:11 the Lord said, “Who has preceded Me, that I should pay him? Everything under heaven is Mine.”

Next, the Apostle directs us to the foundation for God’s absolute wonder.

Romans 11:36, “For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.”

God is the origin of all things, the means by which all things happen, and the goal toward which all things move. Charles Hodge writes, “it is for the display of his character everything exists, and is directed, as the highest and noblest of all possible objects.” Robert Haldane calls this “… the grand truth which lies at the foundation of all religion.” All things are from, through, and to God.

The Apostle ends this chapter by exclaiming the glory of God. Glory is his “weighty majesty”, the display of which is the ultimate purpose of all Creation.

Philosophers put man’s happiness as the greatest human good. In contrast, the Bible reveals to us that the greatest good is to proclaim God’s glory. This is why our own self-glory is so wicked and immoral. It takes from the Creator the honor toward which he designed all things. To steal God’s glory is the most horrible theft in all the universe.

The Shorter Catechism begins by teaching us that, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

No enjoyment or happiness can ever be independent of first bringing glory to God. And God cannot be duly glorified, that it does not bring us the greatest happiness in being part of proclaiming that glory. All attempts at happiness that do not begin with directing glory to God produce only an imitation of happiness to the hurt and deception of the soul.

Paul tells us that God’s glory is forever. Even in eternity we will never be able to understand the infinite mind of God. Our wisdom will never equal his counsel. In heaven we will certainly learn more than we can possibly now imagine. However, we will be made able to grasp an immense piece of God’s infinitude. God’s wisdom and knowledge will always extend out beyond us forever. Therefore we will always be learning, always be growing, always improving. We will never exhaust the inexhaustible.

Paul concludes with an “Amen”. The Greek word Paul uses is amaen (αμην), which comes from the Hebrew word ahmaen (אמן). That root word means to affirm or to support something as true. Here Paul adds this word to affirm all he has said, to exclaim the wonders he beholds in God as he really is. It is the truth. When we say “amen” it means we solemnly declare that we are in humble agreement with what was said, that it is true as seen by the mind of God as revealed to us.

This high view of God is the groundwork upon which every belief and conviction must stand. This most awesome truth is also the most comforting of facts. As those redeemed by Grace, on the basis of the work of Christ, through a faith implanted into our hearts, we ought to honor God who is able to make us triumph regardless of our inabilities and in spite of all our fears.

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Back to the Index of Studies In Paul’s Letter to the Romans

Secured by the Golden Chain

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.)

Back to the Index of Studies In Paul’s Letter to the Romans