The Golden Chain
What Is Good For Us?

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 41a 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 “All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28).

We noted that this glorious promise is reserved only for God’s elect. Those who love God are those who are ‘called according to [God’s] purpose.’ Those who are called according to God’s purpose are God’s elect.

We saw that all things are working together for God’s elect because God has not only planned to do good to them but He is single-handedly working out His plan for their good.

But what does Paul mean by ‘good’? Most of us have an intuitive idea of what is good. But what exactly does Paul mean by good?

In the eyes of a foolish child, it is good if he has everything he desires to have. He thinks that the best thing that could happen to him is if his parents let him buy what he wants, eat what he wants, play what he wants, and do not require him to do any housework, homework or catechism work. But we know that this is foolish thinking. What is good for the child is not what the child thinks is best for him, but what his parents thinks is good for him.

So too in our lives: What is good for us is not what we think is best for us, but what God our heavenly Father thinks is best for us.

But what does God our heavenly Father thinks is best for us? Well, the answer is found in our present text. Paul is giving us his answer even as he reveals to us something of what God has done, is doing and will do in the lives of His children.

This passage is a famous one that you will find in every systematic theology. A systematic theology is a book that compiles all the doctrines in the Bible in a systematic way. Inevitably, you will find Romans 8:29-30 in a section dealing with the doctrine of salvation. This is so, because this verse gives us a picture of the most important steps which are involved in our salvation. Theologians call it, the ordo salutis, or the “order of salvation.”  The Puritans, such as William Perkins, call it the “Golden Chain.” Every link in this chain represents a step that God takes for our salvation. And this chain cannot be broken. One link will lead to the next link.

We may say that promise in Romans 8:28 is the bright sparkles on the chain that is seen on the chain as it reflects the glory of the Sun. The promise of Romans 8:28, in other words, is set in the context of what God has done and is doing for our salvation.

But let’s begin our study, therefore, by looking at the sparkle on the chain, and answering the question:

1.  What is Good for Us?

Paul has just stated that all things work together for the good of God’s children. Now in verse 29, he says:

“For [because] 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” (Rom 8:29).

Can you see how this statement explains what Paul considers to be good for us? He has just spoken about how all things work together for the good of God’s children, now he is explaining how this is so: “For [because] whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son…

We will look at the words ‘foreknow’ and ‘predestinate’ in a moment. But do you see how God is working towards a goal. What is the goal? It is that we might “be conformed to the image of [God’s] Son.”

God’s goal for us is that good may come to us. What is good for us? What can be better than conformity to the image of Christ? Christ is the God-Man. He is the perfect man.

As the children of God, do we not all desire to be perfect as Christ is perfect? Do we not all desire to glorify and enjoy God as Christ glorifies and enjoyed His Father?

Think for a moment? What do you really want in your life? What would you consider to be perfect for you?

·  Is it that you will look handsome or beautiful? You know that physical beauty is skin-deep and fleeting!

·  Is it that you would have a lot of money? You know that you will lose everything when you die!

·  Is it so that you will have more pleasure? You know that the pleasures of this world are fleeting!

·  Is it so that you will have the praises of men? You know that if you have the praises of men but not the praises of God, then eternal condemnation will await you!

What would be perfect for you? In the final analysis, is it not that you will be like Christ, and glorifying and enjoying God as He did?

This is what God is doing in making all things work together for our good. God is bringing all things to pass according to His wisdom and power in order that we may be conformed to the image of Christ. This process is what theologians call ‘sanctification.’ When God sanctifies us, He is essentially making us more and more like Christ!

And He is doing so, says Paul, that Christ ‘might be the first born among many brethren.’ That is to say: He is making us like Christ not only for our good, but for the glory of Christ. For when we are made conformable unto Christ, then Christ is displayed to the world as the pre-eminent firstborn among many brethren.

b.  God is working every minute and every moment in your life to orchestrate all things and events for your sake so that you will be made conformable unto His Son.

And not only is He doing so, He is also perfecting it. “Moreover,” says Paul, “whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”

God has not only ordained that we conformed more and more to the image of Christ. He has determined that we will be perfected one day. We will be glorified. We will be indeed like Christ. We will share in Christ’s moral perfections.

We can never be hundred percent like Christ because He is the God-Man whereas we are but man. But we can be as perfect as mere man can be. We can have as much glory as Christ can have as man. We will be made kings and priests! We will be given crowns: crowns of life, of righteousness and of glory. We will be glorified. “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory” (Col 3:4) says Paul to the Colossians. We shall appear with the glory of Christ.

c.   God is today directing all things and all events,— whether great or small, whether expected or unexpected, or good or bad in our eyes,—for our good. Our life is a symphony. God is the director. He is directing every part of the symphony for our good. More specifically, he is directing the symphony so that at every moment, the sound that is heard is Christ-likeness.

He is using every instrument to make us conform unto the image of Christ. And in so far as we are not yet perfected, we know that the symphony must go on. It is playing on to a grand-climax.  This grand-climax will be reached when the trumpet sound and Christ is revealed. Then the last note is played, and every instrument of the symphony of our present life is stilled; and then… we shall appear with Christ, fully conformed unto His image.

What a glorious day that will be!

But what assurance do we have that we will reach that day? Our assurance lies in the fact that God himself is taking us step by step unto that day.…

…to be Continued Next Issue

—JJ Lim