God called Abram to become the father of a family which would be as numerous as the stars in the sky. He did not choose to enlighten Abram’s understanding or ours. In the same manner, when he called us to follow him he didn’t give an explanation as to why we are called, nor is he required to. I am grateful that we can find in the Bible the basic information we need. How do we get to be children of God? John at the beginning of his gospel tells us that when Jesus came into the world he was rejected by his own people. People who are not born physically instead they are born spiritually by the will of God. Paul gives us a more comprehensive explanation. Let’s look at, Romans 8:28-30, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
At the beginning of the chapter, Paul gives comforting assurance to those who are in Christ Jesus who do not suffer condemnation. For these God makes all things work together for good. There are three facts that we must accept in order to understand what God is up to on our behalf.
First, Paul speaks of all things not just good things.
Our relationship to God is reflected in the traditional marriage ceremony. Each spouse is asked to promise to love and cherish, to honor and sustain, in sickness as in health, in poverty as in wealth, in the bad that may darken your days, in the good that may light your ways, and to be true to your mate in all things until death alone shall part you. In sickness as in health — in poverty as in wealth — in the bad and the good so long as you both shall live.
Second, it is only those who love God, or will love God, that all things work together for good. And, third, they love God because he first loved them.
The Holy Spirit impressed Paul to include the words, “for those who are called according to his purpose.”
A good paraphrase of this verse would be: “We know that to those who love God and do so because of God’s work in them, as determined by his sovereign, elective purpose, all things work together for good.” (William Hendrickson, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans.) This approach maintains human responsibility while God keeps the glory.
God’s love for us encourages us to return that love to him and to share with other people. We love God because he loved us first. He loves us for his purposes and we may never know why. We should rejoice that he allows us to love him. There are times when we are baffled by events because we can’t see what God sees. A good illustration is the story of Joseph. He was sold into slavery by his brothers and spent some time in prison even though he was unjustly charged. He was in the right place at the right time. As a consequence he became the Prime Minister of Egypt. In that position he was able to provide for his large family during seven years of famine. After his father, Jacob, died his brothers came to him in fear that he was going to punish them for his years as a slave. His reply probably was confusing to them. Here’s what Joseph answered them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Genesis 50:19-20).
We see two wills at work here. Joseph’s brothers acted out evil and God brought good out of it. It wasn’t just a matter of God taking advantage of the situation. In fact, it was God setting up the situation all along. Joseph explained to his brothers that God meant it for good. God allowed the evil circumstances in order to carry out his plan.
Let’s look at the story of Joni Erickson Tada. She was a normal young girl who grew up in a very active family. When she was 17 years old she dove into a creek and became a quadriplegic. She had to struggle through long periods of depression and pain. Occupational therapy gave her some handles and gave an outlet to her suffering. She learned to paint by holding a brush between her teeth. She has written books, hosted inspirational radio and television programs. One time she said “God permits what He hates to achieve what He loves.”
No one can ever truly love God unless that person is effectively called by God. Those people who are effectively called according to God’s purpose are called to be saints. Meaning they are set apart to God. They are those whose hearts and minds were so thoroughly influenced by the Holy Spirit that they became aware of their sinfulness and began to understand their need of Christ. As a result, they embrace him as their Lord and Savior.
In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians he wrote, “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:” (1 Corinthians 1:2).
In his letter to the Philippians Paul wrote, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13). We can see over and over again that the business of our salvation is in God’s hand. Yet, we are to work out our salvation. At first glance this sounds like we are to earn our salvation in some way. That is definitely not what is meant here. Have you ever seen bread being made from scratch? A key ingredient might be yeast or some other rising agent. It is very important that the rising agent be spread throughout the loaf. In order for that to happen the baker must “work it out”! We need to work our salvation so that it will be spread throughout our lives. It is after all, God who works in us. The day-to-day difficulties in our lives are simply the rising agent being kneaded out, or spread out, through our lives.
Let’s move ahead with Romans 8:29. Now we come in contact with what is called “The Golden Chain” or, “The Salvation Chain”! The chain of salvation that Paul has presented to us is not just those things that are happening around us each day. He is presenting us with something that happens in our lives from the deep recesses of the past into the glorious future he has prepared for us. It’s important to recognize that every link in this chain is an act of God. We are not being presented with steps to take to gain salvation. We are being presented with a process that God has done for us. Look at what the chain really represents! Who did what to give us salvation?
“Whom he foreknew”
“he also predestined”
“he also called”
“he also justified”
“he also glorified”
Let’s look at each of the five links in the chain.
The popular approach to foreknowledge goes like this. God created all things and looks ahead throughout history and discovers all of those people who will place their faith in him. With that knowledge, he chooses or elects them.
That’s not it. That concept cannot be found anywhere in Scripture. According to Scripture even faith is God’s gift. No one can work it up and as a result please God!
Let’s look at Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
In order to understand the opening statement we need to remind ourselves of chapter 2 verse one, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins…” Now we look at chapter 1 verse 3, and following. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved,
We have been blessed by God the father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Remember, “we were dead”! Dead people are helpless and hopeless. We cannot raise ourselves from the spiritual death we are born in. When Paul talks about election in his letter to the Ephesians there is nothing said about any type of foreknowledge of our choosing to believe in order to be saved. Instead the foreknowledge mentioned in Romans 8:29 refers to divinely active delight. Something that is done in his own ruling pleasure. God has set his love on certain individuals and it was before any were born that he did so.
Let’s look at Scripture. Speaking of Abraham God said, “For I have chosen (known) him so that he may direct his children and his household after him” (Genesis 18:19). God said to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, Before you were born I set you apart” (Jeremiah 1:5). These are just examples of what can be found throughout Scripture.
In order for spiritually dead people to make any decision they have to be given spiritual life. They can’t work it out on their own. It is God’s work on our behalf that gives us salvation. Also, God’s word repeatedly affirms that God knows the people who are his before the foundation of the world!
“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers”. (Romans 8:29). God the Father knew before the creation of the universe who would be his children and who would refuse. This is a very difficult concept. Many times people are offended about the idea that God might choose to send someone to hell. After all, the Bible teaches that he is a God of love, doesn’t it?. I hope you will listen carefully when I say God does not send people to hell. In fact, the Bible teaches that hell was created for the devil and his angels. Everyone is born separated from God. That is part of our inheritance, our forefathers.
Paul wrote to the Ephesians “we who first hoped in Christ have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:12). Just before this Paul had written that God chose us in Christ and to the Thessalonians Paul says that they believed the gospel when he preached it and that was evidence to him they had been chosen. God has predestined those who are chosen to be conformed to the image of the Son.
And since they are known by God and predestined to be shaped like the Son. Further evidence they are children of God is that God called and they responded. Having been born in sin and separated from God we need very much to have the charges against us removed.
That’s what this word “justified” is all about. The Bible uses the verb justify as a legal declaration by God that we have been declared righteous. Part of the work Jesus did on the cross was designed to solve that problem. 2 Corinthians 5:21 gives us a great amount of hope! “For our sake he (God the Father) made him (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
We have no righteousness of our own. Isaiah 64:6 tells us, “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” The best we can do measures up to dirty clothes at dress-up party.
The final link in the chain of salvation “those whom he justified, he also glorified.”
All of the verbs in this chain are the same tense. Every link has already happened in God’s viewpoint. Obviously God has, in the past, foreknown us. He has predestined us. He has called us and justified us. Most commentators have difficulty with God having glorified us. After all, they would question, Glorification has to do with our receiving a Glorified body like our Lord Jesus’ body. Tey are sure that can only happen at the end.
Well, Jesus said “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one. John 17:20-22. Note that Jesus did not say, “I will give them the glory you gave me. He said, “The glory that you have given me I have given to them.” Being glorified does not have to await the end. Paul assured the Ephesians 2:4-7, But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
We were dead in trespasses and sin but now, based on our faith in Jesus Christ, we are raised up with him and we are seated with him in the heavenly places. These are some of the most encouraging passages of Scripture I know.
All scripture quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2016. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.