Finding Rest in God Alone Part 2 – Romans 8:29-30
Pastor Mark Hardy January 20, 2013
I received Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord when I was young, but for many years I struggled off and on with the fear of losing my salvation. Those times were very distressing and painful for me. I can remember feeling deeply grieved over the reality of sin in my life and because at times I couldn’t seem to deal with it or didn’t want to, I didn’t have the subjective assurance of my salvation that the Holy Spirit wanted to give me. And since during those years I often let my feelings control me instead of the Word of God, I forfeited the objective security of my salvation that God’s truth could bring.
There are many passages in Scripture that teach those who are genuinely saved are eternally saved and never in danger of losing their salvation. But Romans 8:29-30 is perhaps the clearest and most explicit presentation of this truth in all of God’s Word. This is what we are going to be looking at this morning as we continue on in our study of Romans 8. Turn there with me in your Bible.
In Romans 8:29-30 we see five unbreakable links in God’s chain of salvation that should give all of us as believers the certainty that we are eternally secure in Jesus Christ.
The first unbreakable link is this:
I. God’s Foreknowledge of believers’ Salvation
A. Look at v. 29: For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.
1. Having shown in v. 28 that by God’s sovereign providence and unstoppable purpose He orchestrates everything in our lives as believers’ to work together for our good, the word “for” (gar) in v. 29 shows that Paul now sets out to explain and support what he has just said.
2. He does this by giving in vv. 29-30 some sample milestones in God’s order of salvation. In these two verses Paul uses five key words as “links in a metal chain” to create what theologians have called God’s “Golden Chain of Salvation.”
3. These links are both logical and chronological. Each link is “logical,” in that, each is connected and dependent on the preceding link(s), and then becomes the basis for the next link. Thus binding these five links together in an unbreakable chain.
4. And each link is “chronological,” in that, together they give the sequence of God’s work of sovereign grace in the salvation of the believer.
5. Paul traces this unbreakable “golden chain of salvation” from its beginning in eternity past; its coming into present time, space, and history; and its ending in eternity future. And at every point the One who accomplishes each of these five great acts is God Himself, for it is “He” alone who foreknew, predestined, called, justified, and glorified.
6. We have already seen in our earlier studies of Romans that Paul does not deny or minimize the importance of the human responsibility of faith, but his primary emphasis now is on God’s sovereignty in salvation. Since the overall theme of 8:28-39 is security, if any of our eternal security depended on us it would be tentative at best.
B. Notice again that the first link is God’s foreknowledge of believers’ salvation. Paul says, “For those whom He foreknew…”
1. Now of all the links in God’s chain of salvation this first link is the most controversial. I know that there are good Christians who deeply love God and His Word on both sides of this issue so I want to sensitively say what I believe the Scripture says knowing that we as believers can agree to disagree in an agreeable way.
2. Some believe that the word “foreknew” (proegno) or foreknowledge here means that since God is omniscient or all-knowing, He looked down through the corridor of time and knew in advance those who were going to believe in Him. And on the basis of knowing their faith, He then predestined, called, justified, and glorified them.
3. Now this view is very attractive in that it doesn’t give the impression that God saves some and not others. But I don’t believe this is what the text says for at least four reasons:
4. First, in the seven occurrences of the word “foreknow” in the New Testament, only two mean “to know beforehand,” and in both cases the word refers to man’s foreknowing (Acts 26:5; 2 Pet. 3:17).
5. However, the other five occurrences refer to God’s foreknowing (Acts 2:23; Rom. 8:29; 11:2; 1 Pet. 1:2, 20). In each of these salvation contexts the word “foreknow” means to pre-appoint, pre-determine, and foreordain.
6. For example, in 1 Peter 1:2o we read, “For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you.” God the Father didn’t merely know beforehand that Christ was going to be the Savior of the world, but He pre-determined Him to be.
7. Second, although it is true that the omniscient God knows everything about everyone (Isa. 46:10), notice that the recipients of His saving work are called here “those whom” and “these whom,” which refers back to the believers in v. 28 who are “those who love God,” “those who are called.” This shows that God’s foreknowing was not certain facts about people (e.g. their faith) but rather the people themselves, whom He then predestined, called, justified, and glorified.
7. Douglas Moo is correct when he states, “Paul does not say that God knew anything about us but that he knew us, and this is reminiscent of the Old Testament sense of “know.” (pg. 532-33).
8. In both the Old and New Testaments when we are told that God “knew” people it always refers to those whom He set His affection and favor upon, loved intimately, and had chosen for Himself. For example: God said about Abraham in Genesis 18:19, “For I have chosen him…” The word “chosen” (yada) here is the Hebrew word “know.”
9. In Jeremiah 1:5 God did not merely know beforehand that Jeremiah would be a prophet, but He knew him intimately in that He lovingly chose him to be a prophet before he was born.
10. God declared to the children of Israel in Amos 3:2, “You only have I chosen (i.e. known) among all the families of the earth…” God had full knowledge of all the other nations but He set his covenantal love only on Israel.
11. Jesus said in John 10:14-15, “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father…” (Ex. 33:17; 1 Sam. 2:12; Ps. 18:43; Prov. 9:10; Hos. 13:5; Matt. 7:23; Rom. 11:2; Gal. 4:9; 2 Tim. 2:19; 1 Jn. 3:1)
12. Therefore, God’s foreknowing is not merely His knowing beforehand what people will do, it is setting His affection and favor upon the people themselves, loving them intimately, and choosing them for Himself.
13. Third, if God merely looked into the future and predestined those whom He knew believed in Him first, then the basis of our salvation would be our own merit not the grace of God.
14. But Acts 13:48 says, “…and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” They were not appointed to eternal life after they first believed, but they believed only because God had previously appointed them.
15. Fourth, because of the total depravity and total inability of man, absolutely no one can or will desire, seek, or choose God on their own. Unregenerate people are not merely spiritually sick, they are spiritually dead and are the hostile enemies of God (Rom. 3:10-18; 5:10; 8:7; 1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 2:1, 3; Col. 1:21).
16. Therefore, the only true saving faith that God would see as He looked down through time would be the faith in Jesus Christ that came from Him because He had set His loving affection on those people and chosen them. For Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Jn. 3:3-8)
17. Jesus said in John 6:37, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” But He also declared in v. 44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him…” (v. 65; Jn. 1:13)
18. John MacArthur said it this way, “Salvation is not initiated by a person’s decision to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Scripture is clear that repentant faith is essential to salvation and is the first step that we take in response to God, but repentant faith does not initiate salvation. Because Paul is here depicting the plan of salvation from God’s perspective, faith is not even mentioned in these two verses.” (pg. 494)
19. We are not Christians first because of what we decided about Christ but because of what God decided about us before the foundation of the world. We are able to choose Him only because He first chose us, “according to the kind intention of His will” (Eph. 1:5, 9, 11).
20. For Jesus proclaimed in John 15:16, “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit…”
C. Now since God’s foreknowing has to do with His choosing of those upon whom He has set His covenantal love, when did He do this?
1. This took place in eternity past. For Ephesians 1:4 says, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world…” And 2 Timothy 1:9 states, “Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.” (1 Pet. 1:20; Rev. 13:8; 17:8)
2. Therefore, God’s foreknowing means that salvation is all by God’s grace and it is due to His loving choice solely on the basis of His divine will and purpose “from all eternity.”
3. We will never fully understand with our finite minds the seemingly contradictory truths of God sovereignty in salvation and man’s responsibility, such as His choosing some for salvation and yet giving the promise of Romans 10:13 that, “…WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.” Our job is to simply believe all of what God’s Word says and live with the tension.
4. Everyone who truly wants to be saved can be, the problem biblically is that no unbeliever wants or seeks for God (Rom. 3:11). And therefore, it is only because of God’s loving choosing and drawing that we can have hope that anyone at all will be saved.
5. Since we don’t know whom God has foreknown, we must continually obey the Great Commission by praying for the lost and sharing the gospel with a lost and dying world.
6. Salvation is open and available for all. And since man is responsible, unbelievers are eternally condemned not by God’s foreknowledge and predestination, but by their own unbelief.
7. John MacArthur said it like this, “Every believer is indebted solely to God’s grace for his eternal salvation, but every unbeliever is himself solely responsible for his eternal damnation.” (pg. 499)
8. Now the remaining four links logically follow from God’s gracious and loving choice as He then completes the process He has begun.
9. The second unbreakable link in God’s chain of salvation is this:
II. God’s Predestination of believers’ Destiny
A. Look again at v. 29: For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.
1. The word “predestined” (proorisen) literally means “to mark out ahead of time, pre-appoint, predetermine, and foreordain.” Once more, the “before” (pro) means “before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4-5).
2. In all six occurrences of this word in the New Testament (Acts 4:27-28; Rom. 8:29, 30; 1 Cor. 2:7; Eph. 1:5, 11), God is the One who is predetermining certain people or events to a desired result.
3. There is a distinction between the words “foreknew” and “predestined.” Whereas “foreknew” highlights God’s covenantal love for those people whom He has chosen to save, “predestined” stresses the ultimate destination, goal or destiny those chosen people are predetermined to reach.
B. Paul then goes on to show that the believer’s destiny includes a twofold purpose.
1. The first purpose is to conform believers to Christ. Look again what Paul says, “…For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son…”
2. The word “conformed” (summorphous) means to have the same or similar form as someone or something else in a real and permanent way not temporary and superficial.
3. Here we see that God determined before the foundation of the world that the believers’ ultimate goal or destiny would be their conformity to the “image” (eikonos) or likeness of Jesus Christ. This is because Jesus Christ is innately and perfectly the image of God (2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3a)
4. Man was originally created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27), but the fall of man into sin distorted that image. Although the image was not lost in the fall (Gen. 9:6; Jam. 3:9), it was morally mutilated beyond renovation.
5. But here we see that all those who have been foreknown are predestined to be conformed to Christ’s image. And this conformity takes place both now and in the future.
6. Right now from the moment of our salvation until we breathe our last breath, we as believers are daily being spiritually conformed more and more into the image of Christ through the lifelong process of sanctification. This is what God is always up to in our lives.
7. In 2 Corinthians 3:18 we read, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (Rom. 12:1; 2 Cor. 4:16-17; Gal. 4:19; Eph. 4:32-5:2; Col. 3:9-10; Phil. 3:10)
8. Our conformity to Christ’s image is also in the future. There is coming a day at the resurrection of our bodies, for those who aren’t alive when Christ returns, when we will be perfectly glorified in both soul and body at Christ’s Return. At that time we will be instantly like Christ both inwardly and outwardly in our glorified body.
9. For 1 Corinthians 15:49 says, “Just as we have borne the image of the earthly, we will also bear the image of the heavenly.” And Philippians 3:21 states that the Lord “…will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.” (Rom. 6:5; Heb. 2:9-11; 1 Jn. 3:1-4)
10. But until then, as we saw in v. 28, God is sovereignly orchestrating everything that enters into our lives to work together for our good. And according to God’s definition of “good,” this doesn’t mean our comfort but our Christlike character, so that we will better represent and reflect Christ in the world.
C. The second purpose is to make Christ preeminent. Paul goes on to say, “…so that He (i.e. Christ) would be the firstborn among many brethren.”
1. Glorifying Jesus Christ by making Him preeminent is God’s supreme purpose for bringing sinners to salvation. We see this in the word “firstborn,” which doesn’t mean first in existence but rather first in position.
2. To be “firstborn” (prototokos) speaks of being supreme, foremost, and preeminent. Jesus Christ is the preeminent One in prestige and power.
3. This is why the end of Colossians 1:18 declares, “…so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.”
4. Notice again that Jesus Christ is “… the firstborn among many brethren.”
5. The “many brethren” here refers to believers. This is the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant, in which “all the families of the earth” were “blessed” in him (Gen. 12:3).
6. God’s predetermined purpose is to make believers like Jesus Christ in order to create a new redeemed and glorified humanity who will forever glorify the Preeminent One with the glory He has given us (Rev. 4:10-11).
7. John Piper aptly stated, “God appointed us to share the greatness of the Son so that the Son might be exalted as the greatest among the great.” (Ricks notes pg. 208)
8. Now whereas the first two links of the chain are anchored in eternity past, the next two links show God’s sovereign plan coming into time, space, and history.
9. The third unbreakable link in God’s chain of salvation is this:
III. God’s Calling to effect Salvation
A. Look at the first part of v. 30: and these whom he predestined, he also called… (Stop there)
1. This is where God’s eternal plan directly intersects our lives in time, space, and history. As we already saw in v. 28, the word “called” (kletois) here is not the general, external call or invitation to everyone to believe the gospel, but is the special (or particular), inward call or summons, known as God’s “effectual call.” This is when God through His Spirit actually draws those whom He has chosen to Himself in salvation. (2 Thess. 2:13-14; 2 Tim. 1:9)
2. The Holy Spirit does this by opening this person’s spiritually blinded eyes to the gospel of Jesus Christ, convincing him of his sin and his need of a Savior, renewing his will to have the desire to seek for God in Christ, and then spiritually enabling him to receive Christ by faith, so that he actually becomes a born-again Christian.
3. Because sinful man would never come to God on his own, God’s effectual call not only precedes man’s choice but it is what makes man’s choice possible and effective.
4. The fourth unbreakable link in God’s chain of salvation is this:
IV. God’s Justification of believing Sinners
A. Look again at v. 30: and these whom he predestined, he also called; and these whom He called, He also justified… (Stop there)
1. Here we see that all those whom God effectually calls will be justified. No doubt about it!
2. Justification or the righteousness of God is initial salvation and has been a major theme of this letter. Remember that people are justified or saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone not by works (Rom. 3:20; 5:1; Gal. 2:16; Phil. 3:7-9).
3. Now to be “justified” (edikaiosen) means that the believing sinner is declared righteous by God, placed in a position of being right or acceptable before Him, and clothed in the very righteousness of Christ (2 Cor. 5:21).
4. Now whereas the first two links of the chain are anchored in eternity past, and the second two links show God’s sovereign plan coming into time, space, and history, the final link ends in eternity future.
5. The fifth unbreakable link in God’s chain of salvation is this:
V. God’s Glorification of every Believer
A. Look at the end of v. 30: and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
1. As we already saw, to be “glorified” (edoxasen) is just another way of saying that one day in the future every believer will be perfectly conformed to the image of Christ in both soul and body in heaven. Again there is no doubt about it!
2. Why? Because all five of these key words or links—foreknew, predestined, called, justified, and even being glorified in the future—are in the past tense in the Greek (aorist active indicative). This means is that from God’s perspective, He views each one of these five actions by Him as an accomplished fact, an already done deal.
3. What an encouragement to know that our future glorification, though it is considered an object of hope (Rom. 5:2), is viewed by God as if it has already become a reality. In other words, what God has begun He is going to finish (Phil. 1:6).
4. From the beginning of our salvation in eternity past to its end in eternity future, it is God’s work, not our own. Therefore, absolutely no one whom God foreknows will ever fail to be predestined, called, justified, and ultimately glorified by Him.
5. No one will ever fall between the cracks because there are no weak links in God’s unbreakable chain of salvation. What God has already done for us is the basis of our eternal security, and this is why it is impossible for true believers to ever lose their salvation.
In closing, Thomas Schreiner summarized this passage well, saying, “Believers are assured that everything works together for good because the God who set his covenantal love upon them, predestined them to be like his Son, called them effectually to himself, and justified them will certainly glorify them.” (pg. 455) Do you have that certainty this morning?
It is this certainty that enables us to rest in God alone in the midst of the difficulties, sufferings, and afflictions that we face in this life. For we know that we are eternally secure in God and that He is sovereignly orchestrating all things together for our good and His glory.