The Golden Chain
Links On The Chain

In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 41b of 83

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. 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” (Romans 8:29-30).

[We saw previously that the context of this famous passage is Paul’s declaration that God is working all things together for the good of God’s elect (v. 28). Verse 29 begins with the word ‘for’ as Paul is really enlarging on how God does what He has promised to do. In this second instalment on our exposition, we continue by looking at the steps which the Lord takes for our good. —JJL]

2.   What Are the Steps?

a.   The first step is ‘foreknow’: “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate…” (v. 29), says Paul.

What does that mean? There are some who say that what that means is that God foresaw who those people are who would eventually believe in Christ and become His children.

But this is not what Paul says at all! Paul does not say: “Those who God knew would believe.” He is simply speaking about those whom God knew beforehand.

Paul is speaking about those whom God has chosen or elected before the foundation of the world.

The word translated ‘foreknow’ is translated ‘foreordained’ in 1 Peter 1:20. There Peter speaks of Christ as being “foreordained before the foundation of the world.” He is not saying that God the Father knew what Christ would do. He is speaking about how God the Father appointed Christ to be the representative of His people.

Therefore, the words, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate…” (v. 29) can equally be translated “for whom he did elect, he also did predestinate…

Who are these who are elected? They are those whom God marked out before the foundation of the world to be His children. In chapter 9 of this epistle, Paul would speak of them as “the vessels of mercy, which [God] has afore prepared unto glory” (Rom 9:23).

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul speaks of them as those who have been chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4).

They are chosen not according to whether they would be righteous or good. No, no; there is none righteous, no not one. There is none who would do good or seek God by themselves (Rom 3:10-12). They are chosen solely according to God’s eternal purpose (v. 28) or according God’s good pleasure and sovereign will (Eph 1:5, 9).

We saw in the last sermon that God has an eternal plan for the world. From all eternity, He has a plan. In this plan, He intended to make man. He knew precisely how many persons He would make. And He also decided then how many He would bring to heaven to enjoy fellowship with Him forever. These would be the vessels of His mercy. These are those He gave to Christ to be His people. These are those He “ordained to eternal life” (Acts 13:48). “The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his” says Paul (2 Tim 2:19).

This then is the first step that God took to do good to us. He marked us out; He elected us. He foreknew us.

b.   The second step is ‘predestinate.’ “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate.” To predestinate is to predetermine or to decide before hand. In Acts 4:27-28, there is a prayer of the disciples recorded in which they refer to how the Jews conspired against the Lord Jesus. They say:

“…the people of Israel, were gathered together, 28 For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done” (Acts 4:27-28)

The word translated ‘determined before’ is the same word translated ‘predestinate’ in our text. ‘Predestinate’ therefore speaks of a plan of what things should be done.

Paul is therefore speaking of how God has not only elected us, but also marked out our steps.

·  He has pre-determined when and where we would be born.

·  He has pre-determined how we would be brought up.

·  He has pre-determined how exactly we would come to hear the Gospel and who would bring the Gospel to us.

·  He has pre-determined when we would begin to attend church, which church we would attend, etc.

He has predetermined all these things for His elect to the end that we might be conformed unto the image of Christ! The goal of predestination is Christ-likeness.

And God does not only have a goal, and then leaves it to fulfil itself. He made a plan in eternity. And in the fullness of time God begins to carry out His plan. He brought us into this world, and He directed everything around us to ensure that we came to a saving faith in Christ. He ensures that we would be conformed to the image of Christ by faith in Him.

God, you must understand, leaves nothing to chance. Because there is no such thing as chance! If you are a believer today, you are one because God predestinated you to become a believer. It was not because you were at the right place at the right time and therefore you became a believer. No, no, if you were at the right place and the right time, it was because God has ordained that you should be there at that time.

If God has not predestinated you to be saved, you would not be saved. In fact, even if you were at the right place at the right time, you would not be saved. Many persons may be hearing the same Gospel message. But only a few will repent of their sin and believe in Christ. The rest fall asleep or mock the message and the preacher. Why? Because man by nature cannot come to a saving knowledge by himself. Only those whom God has elected and predestinated would be enabled to believe. “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Mt 22:14) says our Lord.

When the Gospel is preached, a general call to repentance and faith is issued. But only a chosen few are called in a special way that is irresistible. This is what Paul means when he says:

c.   “Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called” (v. 20). This is the third step of our salvation.

Every Christian is called unto faith through the preaching of the Word. We are called when the preacher reminds us of our sin and of the possibility of salvation in Christ.

We are called when the preacher exhorts us to repent of our sin and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. But we must remember that “many be called, but few chosen” (Mt 20:16). We cannot by nature believe and obey the call of the Gospel. The Lord Jesus told Nicodemus, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn 3:3). Paul, writing to the Ephesians, reminds us that we are dead in sin and trespasses.

So in order for us to be converted, God must first work in our heart. He must replace our stony heart with a fleshly heart. He must implant spiritual ears in our hearts that are enabled to receive Christ presented in the Gospel.

Theologians call this the ‘effectual call.’ The preaching of the word is known as the ‘external call.’ The external call goes out to all, but for those God has not elected unto life, the word simply falls, as it were, on deaf ears.

Those who have been elected, however, are like Lazarus lying, rotting in the tomb. They cannot respond to the Gospel by themselves. But as the call comes through the preaching of God’s Word, the Holy Spirit makes them spiritually alive so that like Lazarus they could obey Christ.  At that point they would find Christ altogether lovely; they receive God’s word with gladness and repent of their sin and believe in Christ as their saviour and Lord.

When that is done, then God undertakes the next step to justify them.

d.   “Whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified.’‘

To be justified is to be declared righteous. We are justified in Christ when by faith we confess our sin and embrace Christ Jesus as our Lord and Saviour.

Now, when we are declared righteous, we are made to know that God does not condemn us as we deserve, for He has accepted the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf. Instead, He looks upon us as clothed with the righteousness of Christ.

We continue to be full of sin because of the old man. We have a remnant of corruption remaining. So the apostle Paul exhorts us to mortify the deeds of the flesh. We must continue to kill whatever sinful things crawl out of our old man.

Because of these things we are not fit to have fellowship with God. But thank God Christ has given us His cloak of righteousness. With this cloak of righteousness, God looks upon us as righteous rather than as sinners. Therefore, there is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.

Therefore, even in this present life we can begin to enjoy and glorify God though everything that we do is tainted with sin.

But thank God that He is, —as we saw,— daily making us conform more and more unto the image of Christ. He is sanctifying us by His Spirit through all the circumstances in our lives. And moreover, our imperfection is not permanent for…

e.   For “whom [God] justified, them he also glorified” (v. 30). To glorify is to impart glory and honour. We have already seen this when we saw earlier that the climax of the good that God is doing to us is to glorify us.

At the last day when Christ is revealed in all His splendour and glory, then we too will appear as His saints in all splendour and glory. We shall be like Christ (1 Jn 3:2).

How certain are we that this will happen? So certain that we can speak of it in the past tense! Notice how Paul does not say “them he shall also glorify” but “them he also glorified.”

Those whom God has elected and predestined will receive all that God has determined from eternity to give them.

Dear reader, do you believe and love the Lord? If you do, then you can have the assurance that all things are working together for your good; and you can also have the assurance that God will bring you unto eternal glory. This is the doctrine that the Holy Spirit would have us learn from our text.…

…to be Continued Next Issue

—JJ Lim