What Does "All Things Work Together for Good" Mean? - Part 3

The Golden Chain of Salvation

Romans 8 concludes with a list of profound theological terms all directed towards the same group of people. Verse 30 reads, "And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified." Theologians often refer to this verse as the "golden chain" of salvation, a brief description of the ordo salutis, or order of salvation. Each of these five links applies to the same set of people. God does not call some and justify others. Instead, those He foreknows, he also predestines, calls, justifies, and glorifies. Each step is a "successive unfolding—all is beheld as one entire, eternally completed salvation."1

"Foreknowledge" (Προγινώσκω) means to "be made known in advance to."2 This verb suggests something deeper than God's omniscient knowledge of the future and who will choose Him. Biblically, when God "knows" someone it implies relational intimacy and love. That is why when Jesus states, "I never knew you,"3 He is not confessing His lack of knowledge of certain people's existence. Instead, Christ is suggesting that a close relationship does not exist. When God foreknows, He actively places His love on the individual.

"Predestinate" (προορίζω) refers to God's "foreordaining" choice.4 The Greek defines "predestination" as "determining a horizon and to set out for it."5 It implies that God has set a common destination for all believers. This eventual end is a state of total holiness, or being completely "conformed to the image of his Son." This divine target is absolutely fixed. It was planned in eternity past and will be experienced by all believers in eternity future. Next, Paul returns to the idea of "calling" (καλέω). The Greek definition reveals a depth of intimacy. It is defined as "to refer to the proper name of something call, give attribution summon, tell a person to come and gather."6 God's call is both personal and effective. Once He sets His love on an individual, it will lead to glory.

In Paul's day, the term "justified" (δίκαιος) was a technical legal term. It means "conforming to law or custom, right, virtuous; to justify, pronounce just; righteous decree, just requirement."7 Once God "justifies" a sinner, He pronounces the individual as legally right or just. Justification is concerned with the believer's guilty record. Upon justification, one is "brought into the definite state of reconciliation already so fully described."8 Although his life is not yet sinless, his record or standing before God is that of perfect righteousness. Justification does not remove the presence of sin. It removes the penalty of iniquity. God treats the believer as if He lived perfectly, or like Christ.

Finally, the "golden chain" climaxes with the word "glorification." Glorification is the grand finale of the Christian life. It's the wonderful crescendo of God's foreknowledge, predestination, calling, and justification. This final glory (doxa) points to "expectation, opinion, reputation, honor, and glory."9 Once glorified, sin is finally eradicated from one's entire being. In justification, God views the believer as if he possesses the righteousness of Christ. In glorification, the Christian irreversibly becomes like Christ. God previously rid the penalty of sin, now He removes the presence of sin. Until this point, each link referred to an act in the past of the believer. In glorification, Paul shifts his focus to the believer's future. This final link occurs upon the death of a believer or Christ's eventual returns in glory. Thus, perfectionism or a life of perfect obedience is unattainable in this life.

Although glorification is a decidedly future event, Paul employs the past tense in verse 30. It would seem that Paul would write that God "will glorify" the believer. Although it is improper grammar, the verse communicates a profound theological truth. The tense of the word is both deliberate and glorious. Paul is asserting that glorification is an absolute certainty for the called. One commentator asserts, "In the mind of God, [glorification] has already been done — it is as certain as our justification... Glorification is irrevocable, it is absolutely certain. Nothing can cause it to fail, for it is the action of God."10 Paul uses "glorified" in the past because it is as certain as any of the previous links. From God's perspective, the glorification of His children is an established fact.

In the mind of God, the order of salvation is not a process of successive steps. They are simultaneous and binding. In other words, the links in the chain cannot be separated or broken. Furthermore, each link is primarily monergistic, or orchestrated, by God. God, not man, is the initiator in the whole salvation process. Paul returns to this thought at the end of chapter 8. He asserts, "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."11 Thus, the believer's assurance of salvation does not rest in his own merit or effort but God's grace.

1. Jamieson, Whole Bible.
2. Johan Lust, Erik Eynikel, and Katrin Hauspie. A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint: Revised Edition (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft: Stuttgart, 2003).
3. Matthew 7:23.
4. Thomas, New American Standard.
5. Keller, "The Christian's Happiness."
6. James Swanson and Orville Nave, New Nave's Topical Bible (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, 1994).
7. Ceslas Spicq and James D. Ernest, Theological Lexicon of the New Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994).
8. Jamieson, Whole Bible.
9. Spicq, Theological lexicon.
10. Jones, Romans, 202.
11. Romans 8:38-39.

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