29 Mar The Golden Thread of Salvation Part 1
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 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. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died— more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Paul then grounds our hope in the fact that the goodness of God will ultimately rule in the doctrine of predestination, saying in Romans 8:29-30, “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. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” Some theologians call this section the “golden thread” of salvation. To fully appreciate each of these enormous truths, we will examine them briefly in succession.
God foreknew us which is, “A biblical term (from Greek prognōsis) that literally means ‘to know in advance.’” (Stanley Grenz, David Guretzki, and Cherith Fee Nordling, Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 53.) How one defines foreknowledge is incredibly important because in many ways it determines one’s view of predestination. James Arminius asserted that God foreknew “from all eternity those individuals who would through his preventing [i.e., prevenient] grace, believe, and, through his subsequent grace would persevere . . . [and] he likewise knew who would not believe and persevere.”(James Arminius, The Writings of James Arminius, trans. James Nichols, 3 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1977), 1:248.) Likewise, John Wesley speaks of foreknowledge, saying, “Salvation begins with what is usually termed (and very properly) preventing [i.e., prevenient] grace; including the first wish to please God, the first dawn of light concerning his will, and the first slight transient conviction of having sinned against him.” (John Wesley, The Works of John Wesley, 14 vols., ed. T. Jackson (1831; repr., Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1979), 6:509.)
This is a redefinition of foreknowledge. Foreknowledge does not mean that God simply looked down the corridor of history and saw who would choose him, which in turn compelled him to choose them. God is eternal, and thus the concept of God gazing into the future as we do is nonsensical. God stands outside of time, rules over time, and works in time as he deems fit. Additionally, by saying that God foreknew us, the Bible is speaking of more than cold, hard facts; rather, God lovingly longed to pursue us for relationship before we were even born. Examples of this language regarding relationship abound throughout Scripture and show that God knew us and loved us before time began, which is far more personal and intimate than simply knowing what choices we would make. (Jer. 1:5; Amos 3:2; Matt. 7:23; John 10:14; Gal. 4:9.) Replying to the Arminian/Wesleyan definition of foreknowledge, theologian Paul Jewett says, “The answer is simply that these texts do not say, ‘Whom God foreknew would
believe, he predestinated,’ nor that we as Christians are ‘elect ac- cording to the foreknowledge which God has of our faith.’” (Paul K. Jewett, Election and Predestination (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1985), 70.)
God predestined the elect to be made like Jesus, who was himself predestined to be the Savior of predestined people. By predestined I mean that God chose in advance that some people would be granted eternal life through Jesus by grace. This does not lead to loose, immoral living that tramples upon the grace of God; rather, it results in increasing holiness. Predestined people are chosen to be more and more like Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Predestined people are saved from sin to Jesus, not saved by Jesus to sin.
Regarding when a Christian is predestined, the Bible repeatedly and emphatically teaches that God sovereignly chose the elect he would save in eternity past:
- Ephesians 1:4-5 – He chose us in him before the foundation of the world.
- 2 Timothy 1:8-9 – Do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord…but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.
- Revelation 13:8 – All who dwell on earth will worship it, every one whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.
- Revelation 17:8 – The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come.
How is it comforting to know that God, your perfect Father, has had a plan for you since the foundation of the world?
This is an excerpt from Pastor Mark’s Romans 8-9 commentary Duck Duck Doom. You can get a free e-book copy by clicking here or get a physical copy for a gift of any amount during the month of March here.
To find the new, free Romans 6-11 digital study guide for individuals and small groups, hear Pastor Mark’s entire sermon series on Romans, or find a free mountain of Bible teaching visit realfaith.com or download the Real Faith app.