A Reformed devotional on Romans 8:28-30 by Jack Kettler 2012
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose 28. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren 29. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified 30. Romans 8:28-30
Verse 28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
This verse is a much loved and often quoted passage of Scripture by Christians through out the ages.
The verse starts with an affirmation of certainty, “And we know.” This certainty is a comfort that the believer is under the direction of a sovereign, omniscient God who has predetermined the salvation of believers, and has also has appointed the “all things” that shall bring salvation to its ultimate realization in Christ.
The next phrase, “all things” would include all afflictions and trials; and even persecutions that we experience are all for our benefit. In fact, the “work together for good” means that these trials strongly contribute to our good. Trials in the life of the Christian build maturity and strong characters in Christ. The passage does add a qualification, “for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” This qualification restricts this certainty and comfort to the believer only.
Charles Hodge, the Principal of Princeton Theological Seminary between 1851 and 1878, and Presbyterian Systematic Theologian comments are most helpful:
VERSE 28. And we know all things work together for good to them that love God, etc. This may be regarded as virtually, though not formally, an inference from what Paul had taught concerning afflictions. As they are comparatively insignificant, as they call forth the exercises of hope, and
give occasion for the kind interposition of the Holy Spirit, far from being inconsistent with our salvation, they contribute to our good. It seems, however, more natural to consider the apostle as presenting the consideration contained in this verse, as an additional reason why the afflictions of this life are not inconsistent with our being the sons of God. These afflictions are real blessings. All things, as is usually the case with such general expressions, is to be limited to the things spoken of in the
context, i.e. the sufferings of the present time. See 1 Corinthians 2:15, where the spiritual man is said to understand “all things;” Colossians 1:20, where Christ is said to reconcile “all things unto God;” and Ephesians 1:10, with many other similar passages. Of course it is not intended that other events, besides afflictions, do not work together for the good of Christians, but merely that the apostle is here speaking of the sufferings of believers. “Tenendum est Paulum non nisi de rebus adversis loqui: acsi
dixisset Divinitus sic temperari quaecunque sanctis accidunt, ut, quod mundus noxium esse putat, exitus utile esse demonstret. Nam tauletsi verum est, quod ait Augustinus, peccata quoque sua, ordinante Dei providentia, sanctis adeo non nocere, ut potius eorum saluti inserviant; ad hunc tamen locum non pertinet, ubi de cruce agitur.” Calvin.
Those to whom afflictions are a real blessing are described, first, as those who love God; and secondly, as those who are called according to his purpose. The former of these clauses describes the character of the persons intended, they love God, which is a comprehensive expression for all the exercises of genuine religion. The latter clause declares a fact, with regard to all such which has a most important bearing on the apostle’s great object in this chapter, they are called according to his purpose. The word called, as remarked above, (1:7,) is never, in the epistles of the New Testament, applied to those who are the recipients of the mere external invitation of the gospel. It always means effectually called, i.e. it is always applied to those who are really brought to accept of the blessings to which they are invited. 1 Corinthians 1:24, “But to those who are called,” i.e., to true Christians. Jude 1, “To those who are sanctified by God the Father, and are preserved in Jesus Christ, and called,” 1 Corinthians 1:2, etc. The word is, therefore, often equivalent with chosen, as in the phrase “called an apostle,” 1 Corinthians 1:1; Romans 1:1; and “called of Jesus Christ,” Romans 1:6. And thus in the Old Testament, “Hearken unto me, O Jacob, and Israel my called,” Isaiah 48:12; see Isaiah 42:6, 49:1, 51:2. Those who love God, therefore, are those whom he hath chosen and called by his grace to a participation of the Redeemer’s kingdom. This call is not according to the merits of men, but according to the divine purpose. “Who hath 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 us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” 2 Timothy 1:9; Ephesians 1:11; Romans 9:11. The design of the apostle, in the introduction of this clause, seems to have been twofold. First, to show, according to his usual manner, that the fact that some men love God is to be attributed to his sovereign grace, and not to themselves; and, secondly, that if men are called, according to the eternal purpose of God, their salvation is secure. By this latter idea, this clause is associated with the passage that follows, and with the general object of the chapter. That the calling of men does secure their salvation, is proved in verses 29, 30.
13. All events are under the control of God; and even the greatest afflictions are productive of good to those who love him, ver. 28.
14. The calling or conversion of men, involving so many of their free acts, is a matter of divine purpose, and it occurs in consequence of its being so, ver 28.
11. Those who are in Christ, who love God, may repose in perfect security beneath the shadow of his wings. All things shall work together for their good, because all things are under the control of him who has called them to the possession of eternal life according to his own purpose, ver. 28.1
Verse 29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
“For whom he did foreknow,” προέγνω (proegnō) foreknow meaning to know beforehand and comes from a combination of pro and ginóskó. The correct understanding of foreknow has been the subject of many disagreements in church history. The foreknowledge of God here (prescience) is not just limited to God's divine knowledge of all future events. What is more, it is connected to προώρισεν (proōrisen) and means to predetermine, foreordain. This most importantly, pertains to our salvation in Christ.
As mentioned, there have been numerous disputes in church history over foreknowledge and its relationship to predestination. Why? It is because of the sinful pride of man and his continuous attempt to smuggle into salvation his own merit. Man does this because it allows him to take pride in his actions. The doctrine of predestination more than any other teaching of Scripture takes salvation out of man's hands and places it in God's control. Men do not like God's control. The cause of God's choosing or predestination is found in Him. If we insist that we played a part in God's choice, then human merit is brought into the picture and God is robbed of His glory.
The Scriptures teach that man cannot merit his salvation See my study on Is Faith the Gift of God in Ephesians 2:8? at: http://www.undergroundnotes.com/Ephesians2.html. This study shows that even faith is the gift of God. There is simply no room for human boasting!
Let us consider the comments by the Puritan John Gill regarding foreknow:
For whom he did foreknow,.... The foreknowledge of God here, does not intend his prescience of all things future; by which he foreknows and foretells things to come, and which distinguishes him from all other gods; and is so called, not with respect to himself, with whom all things are present, but with respect to us, and which is eternal, universal, certain, and infallible; for in this sense he foreknows all men, and if this was the meaning here, then all men would be predestinated, conformed to the image of Christ, called by grace, justified and glorified; whereas they are a special people, whom God has foreknown: nor is this foreknowledge to be understood of any provision or foresight of the good works, holiness, faith, and perseverance of men therein, upon which God predestinates them to happiness; since this would make something out of God, and not his good pleasure, the cause of predestination; which was done before, and without any consideration of good or evil, and is entirely owing to the free grace of God, and is the ground and foundation of good works, faith, holiness, and perseverance in them: but this regards the everlasting love of God to his own people, his delight in them, and approbation of them; in this sense he knew them, he foreknew them from everlasting, affectionately loved them, and took infinite delight and pleasure in them; and this is the foundation of their predestination and election, of their conformity to Christ, of their calling, justification, and glorification:
for these he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son; having perfect, distinct, special knowledge of them, joined with love to them, he predetermined, or fore-appointed them in his eternal mind, in his everlasting and unchangeable purposes and decrees to this end, conformity to the image of Christ; which is not to be understood of the Spirit of Christ: God's elect indeed are chosen to be holy, and through sanctification of the Spirit, but are never said to be conformed, made like to the Spirit, nor is the Spirit ever called the image of Christ; but this designs either likeness to Christ as the Son of God, or conformity to him in his human nature. There is indeed a great disparity between the sonship of Christ, and of the saints; he is the eternal and natural Son of God, he is the one and only begotten Son, they are adopted ones, yet in some things there is a likeness; as he is the Son of God, so are they the sons of God, though not in the same sense; as he is a beloved Son, so are they; as he is the firstborn with respect them, they are the firstborn with respect to angels; as he has an inheritance, so have they; moreover, he has a very great concern in their sonship; the predestination of them to it is by him; the blessing itself is founded on union to him, on their conjugal relation to him, and his assumption of their nature; it comes to them through his redemption, and is actually bestowed on them by him; and this conformity to Christ as sons, will mere fully appear hereafter, when they shall be like him, and see him as he is: or this may be understood of the saints' conformity to Christ in his human nature, both here and hereafter: here in holiness; the image of God was in in his first creation, this is defaced by sin; and in regeneration, the image of Christ is stamped, his grace is wrought in them, his Spirit is put into them, to enable them to walk in him, and after him: this will be complete hereafter, and will consist in perfect holiness, being freed from the very being, as well as the power and guilt of sin; in perfect knowledge of everything that will tend to their happiness; and in glory like to Christ, both in soul and body:
that he might be the firstborn among many brethren; the persons among whom Christ is the firstborn are described by their relation, "brethren"; to one another, being related to the same Father, regenerated by the same grace, taken into the same family, and heirs of the same glory; and to Christ, which relation, as brethren to him, is not merely founded on his incarnation, but in their adoption; and which is evidenced by their regeneration, and doing the will of his Father; an which relation he owns, and is not ashamed of: they are also described by their number, "many"; for though they are but few, when compared with the world; yet they are many, a large number, considered by themselves; and among these, Christ is the "firstborn"; he is the firstborn of God, the begotten of the Father, he is the first begotten, and as such he is the only begotten; he is the firstborn of Mary, she had none before him, and he is the only one that ever was born in the manner he was; he is the first begotten from the dead, his resurrection is called a begetting, and he was the first in time that rose from the dead by his own power, and to an immortal life, and the first in causality and dignity. Christ is the firstborn with respect to all creatures in general; he was begotten of the Father before all creatures were; he is the first cause of them all, the governor, basis, and support of them: and he is the firstborn with respect to the saints; who are of the same nature with him, are made partakers of the divine nature, are sons in the same family, though not in the same class of sonship: moreover, this character may regard not so much birth as privilege which belongs to Christ as Mediator; who, as the firstborn had, has the blessing, the government, the priesthood, and the inheritance; all which is owing to, and is one end of divine predestination. The Cabalistic (m) writers among the Jews give the name of "firstborn" to the second Sephira, number, or person, "Wisdom", which answers to the Son of God..2
Verse 30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
Many expositors have described the sequence of salvation in this verse as a golden chain with five links when adding the word foreknow from verse 28. You have God foreknowing; predestinating; calling; justifying; and glorifying. We should note that all these actions are salvitic in nature, wherein God is acting upon man. It will be beneficial to list some brief definitions or explanations of each of these links in the chain.
Predestination: is the gracious act of God by which he determines to save a people for himself.
Calling: when the Scripture uses the term “calling,” there is no evidence that this particular call of God to salvation depends on a human response for its efficacy.
Concerning justification, the Westminster Confession of Faith reads:
Those of whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth: not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.
Glorification: is the acquisition or attaining the goal to which God's elect were predestinated.
In this next lengthy but extremely edifying quote, Reformed commentator Robert Haldane has much to say about this verse:
Ver. 30. — Moreover, whom He did predestinate, them He also called; and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified.Moreover, whom He did predestinate, them He also called — Here theApostle connects our calling, which is known, with God’s decree, which is concealed, to teach us that we may judge of our election by our calling 2 Peter 1:10. For Paul says, they whom God hath predestinated He hath also called and justified; so we may say, those whom He hath called and justified He hath elected and predestinated. If God hath called us, then He hath elected us. Paul had spoken of God’s predestining His people to be conformed to the image of His Son: He now shows us how this is effected.
They are to be molded into this likeness to their elder Brother by being called both by the word and Spirit of God. God calls them by His grace, Galatians 1:15, — that is, without regard to anything in themselves. Effectual calling is the first internal operation of grace on those who are elected. They are not merely called externally, as many who are not elected. The scriptures speak of the universal call of the Gospel, addressed to all men; but this is not inseparably connected with salvation; for in this sense the Lord has said that ‘many are called, but few are chosen.’ At three periods, all mankind were called. They were called through Adam; they were called by Noah; and, finally, by the Apostles, Colossians 1:23; yet how soon in each period was the external call forgotten by the great body of the human race ‘They did not like to retain God in their knowledge.’
In the passage before us, and in various other places, as in verse 28, it is effectual calling that is spoken of. This calling, then, signifies more than the external calling of the word. It is accompanied with more than the partial and temporary effects which the word produces on some, and is always ascribed to the operation of God by the influence of the Holy Spirit. Even when the external means are employed to most advantage, it is God only who gives the increase, 1 Corinthians 3:6. It is He who opens the heart to receive the word, Acts 16:14, — who gives a new heart, Ezekiel. 36:26, — who writes His law in it, — and who saves His people, not by works of righteousness which they have done, but by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost, Titus 3:5.
That which is meant, then, by the word called in this passage, and in many others, is the outward calling by the word accompanied with the operation of God, by His Spirit, in the regeneration and conversion of sinners. When Jesus Christ thus calls, men instantly believe, Matthew 4:19. Grace — the operation of the favor of God in the heart — is communicated, and the sinner becomes a new creature. Regeneration is not a work which is accomplished gradually; it is effected instantaneously. At first, indeed, faith is often weak; but as the new-born infant is as much in possession of life as the full-grown man, so the spiritual life is possessed as completely in the moment of regeneration as ever it is afterwards, and previous to that moment it had no existence. There is no medium between life and death: a man is either dead in sin, or quickened by receiving the Holy Spirit; he is either in Christ, or out of Christ; God has either begun a good work in him, or he is in a state of spiritual death and corruption. By means of the word, accompanied by His Spirit, God enlightens the understanding with a heavenly light, moves the will and the affections to receive and embrace Christ, and forms in the heart His image and the new man, of which the Apostle says that it is created in righteousness and true holiness. God says, ‘Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.’ He prophesies upon the dry bones, and the Spirit enters into them. Thus the same grace that operates in the election of the saints is exercised in their calling and regeneration, without which they would remain dead in trespasses and sins. ‘No man,’ says Jesus, ‘can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me, draw him.’
All who are elected are in due time effectually called, and all who are effectually called have been from all eternity elected and ordained to eternal salvation. Effectual calling, then, is the proper and necessary consequence and effect of election, and the means to glorification. As those whom God hath predestinated He hath called, so He hath effectually called none besides. These words before us, therefore, are to be taken not only as emphatical, but as exclusive. Consistently with this, we read of the faith of God’s elect, Titus 1:1, as that which is peculiar to them. With this calling sanctification is inseparably connected. It is denominated a holy calling. ‘Who hath saved us and called us with an holy calling, 2 Timothy 1:9. The Author of it is holy, and it is a call to holiness. ‘As He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation,’ 1 Peter 1:15. ‘Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light,’ 1 Peter 2:9. It is a calling into the grace of Christ, Galatians 1:6. In this effectual calling the final perseverance of the saints is also secured, since it stands connected on the one hand with election and predestination, and on the other hand with sanctification and glorification. ‘The gifts and calling of God are without repentance.’ Calling, as the effect of predestination, must be irresistible, or rather invincible, and also irreversible.
The Church of Rome perverts the meaning of this calling; for, instead of considering it as accompanied with the communication of life to the soul, they view it merely as an act which excites and calls into action some concealed qualities in man, and awakens some feelings of holiness that are in him, and some virtues which he possesses, to receive the grace that is proclaimed to him. In this way it must not be said, with the Scripture, that God communicates life to those who are dead in trespasses and sins, and regenerates them, but that He only aids their weakness, and calls forth their own exertions.
If it be inquired whether God calls all men with a calling sufficient for their salvation, that is to say, if He gives to all grace sufficient to save them, it is replied, that this calling may be considered as sufficient or insufficient in different points of view; for the sufficiency of grace may be considered either on the part of God or of man. On the part of God, it must be said that His general calling is sufficient, for God having created man upright, with a disposition to obey Him, if we consider this general calling connected with that original perfection, there can be no doubt that it is sufficient. But, on the part of man, viewed in his natural state of corruption, assuredly the outward call is not sufficient, unless accompanied with the internal operation of the Holy Spirit, to enlighten the eyes of the understanding, and to open the heart to receive the calling of God, any more than if Jesus Christ had spoken to a deaf or dead man, without removing his deafness, or imparting to him life. If the voice of Jesus calling Lazarus had been unaccompanied with His power, it would not have been sufficient to raise him from the grave. The calling, then, which is not accompanied with the power of the Spirit of God, is not sufficient in regard to man, while man is inexcusable, and has no just ground of complaint, for he resists that call which, unless he was a sinful creature and an enemy to God, would be sufficient. He is, as the Psalmist says, ‘like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear; which will not hearken to the voice of the charmers, charm they never so wisely.’
If, again, it be inquired whether men can resist the calling of God, it is evident that, when the calling is only external, and unaccompanied with the internal operation of the Spirit, they can, and always will, resist it, Genesis 6:3; Acts 7:51. But when the calling is, at the same time, internal, — when God regenerates men, and makes them new creatures, — the question, if they can resist this, is altogether nugatory; for it is as if it were inquired if a man could resist his creation, or a dead man his being brought to life. God here acts by His almighty power, without, however, forcing our will; for communicating to us spiritual qualities, He gives us to will and to do of His good pleasure. It is therefore absurd to say that a man can resist this influence by the hardness of his heart, since it removes that hardness, and is the converting of hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. In opposition to this, the saying of our Lord is stated as an objection: ‘Woe unto thee, Chorazin! Woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.’ On this it is to be remarked, that the reference here is to Christ’s miracles, not to His preaching; and what is said of Tyre and Sidon is by comparison, what is meant being, as it seems, that the hardness of heart of those of Chorazin and Bethsaida surpassed that of Tyre and Sidon, and that if such miracles had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would not have had so little effect as upon the former, although it is not said that the latter would have repented unto life, or that they could have been conferred to God except by the operation of His Spirit. Here the declaration of our Lord in the same context is decisive: ‘At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things (the truths of God which He proclaimed) from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.’ And this He resolves, not into the difference found in man, but into the sovereignty of God. ‘Even so, Father; for so it seemed good in Thy sight.’ And He immediately adds, ‘Neither knoweth any man the Father save the Son, and He to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him.’ This must refer to an internal revelation; for as to that which was solely external, Jesus was declaring it to all. Jesus Christ knew from the beginning who they were that would believe and who would not believe, because He knew who they were whom the Father had given Him and would draw unto Him. And it is this eternal decree which He here shows is the rule of God’s calling, according to which the Son is or is not revealed: ‘Ye believe not, because ye are not of My sheep, as I said unto you.’
And whom He called, them He also justified. — They whom the Holy Spirit effectually calls by the Gospel to the knowledge of God are also justified. They are ‘ungodly,’ Romans 4:5, till the moment when they are called; but, being then united to Christ, they are in that moment justified. They are instantly absolved from guilt, and made righteous, as having perfectly answered all the demands of the law, for by Him it has been fulfilled in them, verse 4. To justify signifies to pronounce and account righteous such as have transgressed, and forfeited the favor of God, as well as incurred a penalty, conveying to them deliverance from the penalty, and restoration to that favor. And they who are thus accounted righteous by God, must be righteous, for God looks upon things as they really are; as, being one with Christ, they are perfectly righteous. ‘Justification,’ says Luther, ‘takes place when, in the just judgment of God, our sins, and the eternal punishment due to them, are remitted, and when clothed with the righteousness of Christ, which is freely imputed to us, and reconciled to God, we are made His beloved children, and heirs of eternal life.’ The connection between calling and justification is manifest, for we must be united to Christ to enjoy the good derived from Him. We must be members of Christ that His obedience may be ours that in Him we may have righteousness. Now, he is by our calling that we are brought into His communion, and by communion with Him to the participation of His grace and blessing, which cannot fail to belong to them who are with Him one body, one flesh, and one spirit. Those who are called must therefore be justified. They who are the members of Jesus Christ must be partakers in His righteousness, and of the Spirit of life that is in Him. Whom He calls He justifies. This proves that there are none justified till they are called. We are justified by faith, which we receive when we are effectually called.
Whom He justified, them He also glorified. — A man is justified the moment He believes in Christ; and here being glorified is connected with justification. No believer, then, finally comes short of salvation. If he is justified, he must in due time be glorified. To be glorified is to be completely conformed to the glorious image of Jesus Christ; when we shall see Him as He is, and be made like unto Him, enjoying that felicity which the Psalmist anticipated: ‘Thou wilt show me the path of life; in Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.’ The glorifying of the saints will have its consummation in the day of the blessed resurrection, when their bodies shall be made like unto the glorious body of Jesus Christ; when that natural body, which was sown in corruption, in dishonor, in weakness, shall be raised a spiritual body in corruption, in glory, in power. Then death will be swallowed up in victory, all tears shall be wiped away, the Lamb will lead and feed them, and God shall be all in all.
In this verse glorification is spoken of as having already taken place, because what God has determined to do may be said to be already done. ‘He calls those things that be not as though they were.’ The Apostle does not say that those whom God predestinates He calls, and that those whom He justifies He glorifies; but, speaking in the past time, he says that those whom God did predestinate, them He hath also called, and justified, and glorified. By this he expresses the certainty of the counsel of God. In the same way, in the Old Testament, things future were spoken of as already accomplished, on account of the infallibility of the promises of God; so that, before Jesus Christ came into the world, it was said, ‘Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.’ And He Himself speaks of what is future as already accomplished. ‘I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do.’ ‘Now I am no more in the world,’ John 17:4, 11. In like manner the Apostle speaks here of glory as already come, to show how certain it is that those who are called and justified shall be glorified. And this is in accordance with the object he has in view, which is to console the believer amidst his afflictions. For when he thus suffers, and all things appear to conspire for his ruin, and to be opposed to his eternal salvation, he is represented as already glorified by God, and during the combat as having already received the crown of life.
The plan of salvation is here set before us in its commencement, in the intermediate steps of its progress, and in its consummation. Its commencement is laid in the eternal purpose of God, and its consummation in the eternal glory of the elect. He calls those whom He hath predestinated to faith in Christ, to repentance and to a new life. He justifies by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ those whom He hath called; and, finally, He will glorify those whom He hath justified. The opponents of the doctrine contained in this passage distort the whole plan of salvation. They deny that there is any indissoluble connection between those successive steps of grace, which are here united by the Apostle, and that these different expressions relate to the same individuals. They suppose that God may have foreknown and predestinated to life some whom He does not call, that He effectually calls some whom He does not justify, and that He justifies others whom He does not glorify. This contradicts the express language of this passage, which declares that those whom He foreknew He predestinated, that those whom he predestinated them He also called, that those whom He called them He also justified, and that those whom He justified them He also glorified. 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.
The same doctrine is in other places explicitly taught: ‘Of Him’ (by God, according to His sovereign election) ‘are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God’ (by the appointment of God) ‘is made unto us wisdom’ (in our calling), ‘righteousness’ (by the imputation of His righteousness), ‘sanctification’ (in making us conformed to His image), and ‘redemption’ (in giving us eternal glory). ‘These truths are also declared in 2 Thessalonians 2:13. ‘God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth whereunto He called you by our Gospel to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ It is, indeed, often objected to the doctrine of grace, that, according to it, men may live as they list; if they are certainly to be saved, they may indulge in sin with impunity. But, according to Paul’s statements in this chapter, all the doctrines respecting the salvation of the elect are indissolubly connected, and a single link in the chain is never wanting. He who has ordained the end, has ordained the means. He who has chosen them in Christ, from before the ‘foundation of the world, has chosen them through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth, 2 Thessalonians 2:13. If they are predestinated to be conformed to the image of the Son, they are in due time called by the word and Spirit of God. If they are called, they are justified, so that there is no unrighteousness to stand in the way of their acceptance. If they are justified, they will also be glorified in the appointed season. How fatally erroneous, then, is the opinion of those who say that, if we are predestinated, we shall obtain eternal glory in whatever way we live! Such a conclusion breaks this heavenly chain. It is vain for human ingenuity to attempt to find an imperfection in the plans of Divine wisdom in ordering the steps in the salvation of His people: ‘the word of God effectually worketh in them that believe,’ 1 Thessalonians 2:13.
In the passage before us, we see that all the links of that chain by which man is drawn up to heaven, are inseparable. In the whole of it there is nothing but grace, whether we contemplate its beginning, its middle, or its end. Each of its parts furnishes the most important instruction. If we are elected, let us feel and experience in ourselves the effects of our election. If we are called, let us walk worthy of our vocation. If we are justified, let us, like Abraham show our faith and prove our justification by our works. If we shall be glorified, let us live as fellow-citizens of the saints, and of the household of God. Let our conversation be in heaven, and let us confess that we are pilgrims and strangers on the earth.
In looking back on this passage, we should observe that, in all that is stated, man acts no part, but is passive, and all is done by God. He is elected, and predestinated, and called, and justified, and glorified by God. The Apostle was here concluding all that he had said before in enumerating topics of consolation to believers, and is now going on to show that God is ‘for us,’ or on the part of His people. Could anything, then, be more consolatory to those who love God, than to be in this manner assured that the great concern of their salvation is not left in their own keeping God, even their covenant God, hath taken the whole upon Himself. He hath undertaken for them. There is no room, then, for chance or change: He will perfect that which concerneth them.
The same great truths are held forth in every part of the new covenant which God makes with His people, Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 8:8-12. It consists exclusively of absolute promises on the part of God, and from beginning to end is grace and only grace. But does the doctrine of grace encourage licentiousness? To assert this directly contradicts the Scriptures, which show that grace has the very opposite tendency. ‘The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world,’ Titus 2:11, 12. Such is the testimony of God. ‘The grace of God manifests His love, and produces love in us, which is the first-fruit of the spirit, and the foundation of all acceptable obedience.
Let every believer glory in this grace of God by which he is predestinated, and called, and justified, and glorified. This is all his consolation and all his joy, for it is an indissoluble chain, which neither the world nor the powers of hell can break. Does he feel a holy sadness for having offended God, a holy desire to struggle against the corruptions of his heart, and to advance in the work of sanctification? does he hunger and thirst after righteousness, and is he seeking to put on the new man, and to possess more of the image of Christ? Let him conclude, from these certain marks of his calling, that he is justified, the righteousness of Christ being imputed to him, and that his happiness is as certain as if he was already glorified. But, on the other hand, let none abuse these doctrines. No one shall be glorified who does not previously partake of this holy calling. Let no one attempt to take away any of the parts of this chain, and to pass from election without the intermediate steps to glory. Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.3
Let it be widely proclaimed:
“To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen” Romans 16:27.
Mr. Kettler is an ordained Presbyterian Elder and the owner of http://www.Undergroundnotes.com where his theological, philosophical and political articles can be read. He has worked in corporate America for over 30 years and is now realizing his dreams as a successful home business entrepreneur. Permission is hereby granted to reprint this article as long as my web site is retained in the biographical information.