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.
God sought you out and called you from spiritual death to life, much like Jesus who called the dead Lazarus to come forth from the grave by name. Often, this calling is done by God through a Christian empowered by the Holy Spirit to preach the gospel, plant a church, or simply introduce someone to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
As a pastor, I have found when I teach on predestination someone invariably asks, “How do I know I am predestined by God for salvation?” Most often it is asked by people who love God and have a very tender conscience that takes sin seriously. I often tell them that if someone asks this question, the odds are that he or she is elect. After all, non-elect people tend not to care. If you hate sin and love Jesus, you are elect—the Spirit of God has regenerated your heart to even care about whether you belong to Jesus as evidence of being called by God.
Predestined people who are regenerated by the Holy Spirit through the gospel are also justified in the sight of God. This means that although they are guilty sinners, God declares them just and righteous in his sight because of the sinless life, substitutionary death, and bodily resurrection of Jesus in their place for their sins. Those people who are predestined by God are all brought to saving faith in Jesus Christ at some point in their life.
Some people will protest that if people are taught that their salvation is a predestined gift of grace they cannot merit or un-merit, then they will live sinful lives and abuse that grace. Yet such criticism overlooks the fact that we are predestined to Jesus and to new life with, like, for, through, and to him! Any idea that predestination is anything less could in fact lead to sinfully loose living, as if predestination simply assigns Jesus to follow me around with a shovel, picking up the messes I make instead of changing my life completely.
When Paul speaks of predestination, he stresses not only how we are saved (predestination) but also to whom we are saved (Jesus), by whose power we now live (Holy Spirit) new lives saved from sin and to newness (holy living), as the following verses illustrate.
- Romans 8:29 – 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.
- 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5 – For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.
- Titus 1:1 – Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness…
We have been predestined to a new life with Jesus because of Jesus for Jesus and to Jesus!
Predestined Christians will persevere with Jesus until the day of their glorification when, following their death, they will receive their glorified, resurrected bodies to live forever with Jesus in his eternal kingdom, free from the presence and power of sin forever. In this vein, John Calvin, after preaching his last sermon and being carried home to die, wrote in his will, “I have no other hope or refuge than His predestination upon which my entire salvation is grounded.” (Stickelberger, Calvin, quoted in Storms, Chosen for Life, 52.)
Thus, the thread of salvation from predestination to glorification creates a seamless garment. This golden thread shows that the entirety of salvation began in eternity past—with God choosing us and being faithful to complete his purposes throughout history—and continues all the way to our perfection in the eternal state. Accordingly, Hebrews 12:2 speaks of Jesus as the “founder [or ‘author’ in the NIV] and perfecter of our faith.” In Romans 8, Paul concludes by rightly worshipping God for his great love as shown in his work of predestination in eternity past, which gives us comfort in the present and assurance for our final salvation in the future. He bursts forth in praise to God for the assurance we have as Christians—that nothing can separate us from the goodness of God whose love for us cannot be thwarted! This is what Paul echoes in Philippians 1:6, “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” In eternity past, God chose you, one the day of your salvation God changed you, and His work will not cease or fail until He is finished with you. This is the bedrock hope of the Christian – that God who started His plan and purpose for me in eternity past will see it through to completion in eternity future!
Paul thus establishes that God is sovereign over all of history as well as sin, while he is also loving and good to save some ill-deserving sinners.
How did God call you? What do you look forward to in your glorified state?
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.