And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.Romans 8:28-30 NIV
This is a very interesting passage that has long intrigued me. The first verse of it is one that I have oftentimes heard quoted by many, including myself, as an encouragement to believers facing, or potentially facing, challenging times. But taken as a whole, this passage has a lot to say about what God is doing in his creation. This passage is frequently referred to as the Golden Chain of Salvation, identifying what God has done in our salvation.
God knows me. He knew me before I was even born. And, as hard as it is to wrap my head around, he knew me even before he created the universe. All that I have done, all that I am, and all that I will be, God has always known. And that is true of everyone who will ever inhabit this planet.
But this passage is not addressed to everyone. Rather, Paul is referring to those who are also predestined, called, justified, and glorified–to those who are God’s people, his chosen ones. Before God created me, he knew that I would be his, and has acted to prepare me to live with Him through eternity.
God has predestined me, as well as all those he foreknew. Predestination is almost a bad word because it conjures up images of being a puppet in the hands of the puppeteer; with everything I do being at the direction of the puppet master. But that is not what Paul is referring to here.
Here predestination refers to the end result. We are being conformed to the image of Christ, God’s Son. This seems to allude back to the Genesis 1 creation account, where men are created in God’s image. While you might argue that sin has spoiled that image of God in us, God is working to restore it in his chosen ones.
In all things, God works for our good; God is conforming us to the image of Christ. No matter what might happen to me in this life, I can be assured that God will use that to conform me more closely to his image. I am not promised that life will be enjoyable during my time here. But I am promised that God is using it to prepare me for something much better.
The ones whom God has foreknown and predestined have also been called by God, invited into his family. Is God’s call resistible; can I choose not to respond? I am not a Calvinist, but this verse seems not to allow for any option other than to respond because all who are called are also justified.
But could it be that God only calls those that he knows will respond? If God knew me before the creation, then he knew how I would respond to him if called. God works for the good of those who love him and who have been called. Is the order of these terms significant; love and then called? I do believe so; God calls all of those he knows will respond in faith and love. And thus, the question about resisting his call is meaningless.
God has done for me what I was incapable of doing myself. As the judge, he has declared me to be in right standing before him. Left to myself, there is no way I could ever have achieved that state.
God does not offer justification to me only after I have done my part, satisfying him that I have put forth the appropriate effort. Actually, he does not offer justification to me at all. He just does it. If God has called, he has also justified. It is part of a package deal.
We often times consider glorification to be something that occurs to the believer at the end of this life. But I find it interesting here that Paul expresses it more in the past tense; it is a transition that has already occurred. But how can this be?
An expression that Paul used repeatedly is “in Christ”; I am in Christ. If Christ has been glorified, and I believe he has, then I also have been, since I am in him. I do not experience it in my earth suit, but do eagerly look forward to that time when I leave this flesh behind and experience the fullness of what has been given to me.
Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! – 2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV