Romans 8:29-30 A Golden Chain of Five Links

 

In our previous study of Romans 8:28, it tells us that “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” That is, God has a great and good purpose for all Christians and He is working in all the many detailed circumstances of their lives to achieve it. Wonderful as this verse is, the verses that follow are even more wonderful, for they tell how God accomplishes this purpose and remind us that it is God Himself who accomplishes it. The last reminder is the basis for what is commonly known as “eternal security” or “the perseverance of the saints.”

In spiritual matters we are all unbelievers. We are weak in faith. But we are taught in these great verses from Romans that salvation does not depend upon our faith, however necessary faith may be, but on the purposes of God. And it is the same regarding love. The apostle has just said that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him. But lest we somehow imagine that the strength of our love is the determining factor in salvation, he reminds us that our place in this good flow of events is not grounded in our love for God but on the fact that He has fixed His love upon us. How has God loved us? These verses introduce us to five great doctrines: (1) foreknowledge, (2) predestination, (3) effectual calling, (4) justification, and (5) glorification. These five doctrines are so closely connected that they have rightly and accurately been described as “a golden chain of five links.”

The most important of these five terms is “foreknowledge,” but surprisingly (or not surprisingly, since our ways are not God’s ways nor His thoughts our thoughts), it’s the most misunderstood. It’s composed of two separate words: “fore,” which means beforehand, and “knowledge.” So it has been taken to mean that, since God knows all things, God knows beforehand who will believe on Him and who will not, as a result of which He has predestined to salvation those whom He foresees will believe on Him. In other words, what He foreknows or foresees is their faith. Foreknowledge is such an important idea that we are going to come back to it again in the next study and carefully examine the way it is actually used in the Bible.

But even here we can see that such an explanation can never do justice to this passage. For one thing, the verse does not say that God foreknew what certain of His creatures would do. It is not talking about human actions at all. On the contrary, it is speaking entirely of God and of what God does. Each of these five terms is like that: God foreknew, God predestined, God called, God justified, God glorified. Besides, the object of the divine foreknowledge is not the actions of certain people but the people themselves. In this sense it can only mean that God has fixed a special attention upon them or loved them savingly. Foreknowledge means that salvation has its origin in the mind or eternal counsels of God, not in man. It focuses our attention on the distinguishing love of God, according to which some persons are elected to be conformed to the character of Jesus Christ, which is what Paul has already been saying.

Some may think that foreknowledge and predestination (the term that follows) mean the same thing, however the terms are not synonymous. Predestination carries us a step further. Predestination is also composed of two separate words: “pre,” meaning beforehand, and “destiny” or “destination.” It means to determine a person’s destiny beforehand, and this is the sense in which it differs from foreknowledge. As we have seen, foreknowledge means to fix one’s love upon or elect. It “does not inform us of the destination to which those thus chosen are appointed. This is what predestination supplies. It tells us that, having fixed His distinguishing love upon us, God next appointed us “to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.” He does this, as the next terms show, by calling, justifying, and glorifying those thus chosen.

The next step in this golden chain of five links is effectual calling. It’s important to use the adjective “effectual” at this point because there are two different kinds of calling referred to in the Bible, and it is easy to get confused about them. One kind of calling is external, general, and universal. It is an open invitation to all persons to repent of sin, turn to the Lord Jesus Christ, and be saved (see Matt. 11:28, John 7:37). The problem with this type of call is that, left to themselves, no men or women ever respond positively. They hear the call, but they turn away, preferring their own ways to God. The other kind of call is internal, specific, and effectual. That is, it not only issues the invitation, it also provides the ability or willingness to respond positively. It is God’s drawing to Himself or bringing to spiritual life the one who without that call would remain spiritually dead and far from Him.

The next step in God’s great chain of saving actions is justification. We have discussed justification in earlier studies and so we need not discuss it in detail here. Briefly, it is the judicial act by which God declares sinful men and women to be in a right standing before Him, not on the basis of their own merit, for they have none, but on the basis of what Jesus Christ has done for them by dying in their place on the cross. Jesus bore their punishment, taking the penalty of their sins upon Himself. Those sins having been punished, God then imputes the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ to their account.

What does need to be discussed here is the relationship of the effectual call to justification. Or to put it in the form of a question: Why does calling come between foreknowledge and predestination, on the one hand, and justification and glorification, on the other? There are two reasons. First, calling is the point at which the things determined beforehand in the mind and counsel of God pass over into time. Remember there is no time frame in God. What God simply decrees in eternity becomes actual in time. We are creatures in time. So it is by God’s specific calling of us to faith in time that we are saved. Second, Justification, which comes after calling in this list of divine actions, is always connected with faith or belief, and it is through God’s call of the individual that faith is brought into being. God’s call creates or quickens faith. It is the call of God that brings forth spiritual life, of which faith is the first true evidence or proof.

Glorification is also something we studied earlier. It means being made like Jesus Christ, which is what Paul said earlier. But here is something we must notice. When Paul mentions glorification, he refers to it in the past tense (“glorified”) rather than in the future (“will glorify”) or future passive tense (“will be glorified”). Why is this? The only possible reason is that he is thinking of this final step in our salvation as being so certain that it is possible to refer to is as having already happened. He does this deliberately to assure us that this is exactly what will happen. Paul wrote, “I always pray with joy…being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:4, 6); which is shorthand for what we are discovering in Romans. God began the “good work” by foreknowledge, predestination, calling, and justification. And because God never goes back on anything He has said or changes His mind, we can know that He will carry it on until the day we will be like Jesus Christ, being glorified.

I want to remind you again that these are all things God has done. They are important things, the things that matter. Without them, not one of us would be saved. Or if we were “saved,” not one of us would continue in that salvation. Do we have to believe? Of course, we do. Paul has already spoken of the nature and necessity of faith in chapters 3 and 4. But even our faith is of God or, as we should probably better say, the result of His working in us. When we are first saved we think naturally that we have had a great deal to do with it, perhaps because of wrong or shallow teaching, but more likely only because we know more about our own thoughts and feelings than we do about God. But the longer one is Christian, the further one moves from any feeling that we are responsible for our salvation or even any part of it, and the closer we come to the conviction that it is all of God.

It is a good thing it is of God, too! Because if it were accomplished by us, we could just as easily un-accomplish it – and no doubt would. If God is the author, salvation is something that is done wisely, well, and forever. God has set His love on us, predestined us to become like Jesus Christ, called us to faith and repentance, justified us, yes, and has even glorified us, so certain of completion is His plan. May He alone be praised!

Romans 8:29-30 Reflection Questions:

What does Paul mean by the phrase God “knew” His people in advance (v. 29)?

How can we explain this in a way that is consistent with God’s love, mercy, and justice?

What difference does it make in your life to know that you have been chosen by God?

Romans 8:28 All Things Working Together for Good

 

In our last study in Romans 8:26 Paul said; “We don’t know what we ought to pray for.” Now he writes, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him.” We don’t know! We know! The first knowing concerns the details of what God is doing in our lives; we do not understand these things. The second knowing concerns the fact of God’s great plan itself. Paul tells us that we do know this; we know that God has a plan. He teaches this quite simply. If God has “called [us] according to His purpose,” He must have both a purpose and a place for us in it. Moreover, we know that everything will obviously work together for our good in the achievement of that purpose. This is tremendous! Because of these truths this verse has been one of the most comforting statements in the entire Word of God for most Christians.

“We know that in all things God works together for the good of those who love Him.” But do we really know that? How is this possible when the world is filled with hatred and evil, and when good people, as well as evil people, suffer daily? When times are good – when we have steady jobs, when our families are doing well, when no loved one is sick, and there have been no recent deaths – in times like these, well, it’s easy to say, “We know that in all things God works together for the good of those who love Him.” But what about the other times; what about times like what’s going on in today’s world? In such times we need to be sure we know what we are professing and are not merely mouthing pious nothings.

This great text has some built-in qualifications, and we need to begin with them, and we’ll call them “boundaries.” (1) For Christians only. In this verse Paul is talking about Christians. So to read on to the closely linked verses that follow, it is saying that everything works for the good of those whom God has predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, those He predestined and called and justified and glorified. This is not a promise that all things work together for the good of all people. (2) To be like Jesus Christ. The second boundary to our text comes from the question: What is meant by “good”? What does “good” mean if it doesn’t mean rich or healthy or successful or admired or happy? The answer is in the next verse: “For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son,” in other words, to be made like Jesus Christ. (3) A good use of bad things. That leads to a third boundary for this text, and it comes from another question: Are the things used in our lives by God for this good end necessary good in themselves or only in their effect? The answer is the latter. God brings good out of the evil, and the good, in our conformity to the character of Jesus Christ. (4) Knowing rather than feeling. The fourth and final boundary for the meaning of this text comes in answer to still another question: What is our relationship to what God is doing in these circumstances? The answer Paul gives is that “we know.” He doesn’t say that we “feel” all things to be good. Most of the time we do not perceive the good things God is doing or how He might be bringing good out of the evil. The text simply says, “we know” it.

After having established these boundaries, we can turn joyfully to the one part of the text that has absolutely no boundaries whatever. It is the term “all things.” This tells us that all things that have ever happened to us or can possibly happen to us are so ordered and controlled by God that the end result is inevitably and utterly for our good. Even the worst things are used to make us like Jesus Christ. And what’s more, when we begin to look at this closely, we see that they are used not only for our good but for the good of other people as well.

In the Christian life there are times the events of our lives move forward quickly and we sense that we are making fast progress in being made like Jesus Christ. At other times events move slowly, and we seem to be going slowly ourselves or even slipping backward. Sometimes we seem to be going up and down with no forward motion at all. At such times we say that our emotions are on a roller coaster or that we can’t seem to get on track. Our lives have petty annoyances that spoil our good humor. Sometimes we are overwhelmed with harsh blows, and we say we just can’t go on. It may be true; perhaps we can’t really go on, at least until we are able to pause and catch our spiritual breath again. But God has designed this plan for our lives. That is the point. It has been formed “according to His purpose,” which is what our text is about, and it is because we know this, not because we feel it or see it, that we can eventually go on.

So, what can possibly come into our lives that can defeat God’s plan? There are many things that can defeat human planning, but not God’s plans. He is the sovereign God and His will is forever being done. Therefore, you and I can go on in confidence, even when we are most perplexed or cast down.

What can happen to me that can defeat God’s purpose? Can some thorn in the flesh? Something to prick or pain me? Paul had his thorn in the flesh, but God’s grace was sufficient for him and it was in his weakness that God was glorified. Sickness? Job had boils, but God glorified Himself in Job’s sickness and even matured Job. Death? How can death hurt me? “To be away from the body” is to be “at home with the Lord,” says Paul (2 Cor. 5:8). Therefore, my physical death will only consummate the plan of God for me. And as far as those who remain behind are concerned, well, God will work His will for good for them also. This is because “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him.

Romans 8:28 Reflection Questions:

Explain how God turned bad things in the lives of Joseph, Job and Peter, not only for their good but for the good of other people as well in their lives.

What are the various dimensions of the purpose to which we are called in verses 28-30?

Which of these dimensions strikes you most and why?

Weekly Seed of Faith 7/17/20

Seed of Faith – Jesus In My Heart   By Pastor Dave  

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,…” Ephesians 3:16

Dear Saintly Seed-Sowers,

Over the next few weeks, our Seed of Faith will be looking at Paul’s powerful prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21. I encourage you take this passage and read it over and over again for a week.  Allow the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart and strengthen you.  Here is the passage:

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21 NIV)

Slow down this week and ponder all of the possibilities of being filled with the power of God!

The Apostle Paul emphasizes the activity and the initiative of God, the Father. This is not our work or initiative or activity, it is not something we could ever accomplish on our own.  This work of love does not happen if we think more positively, do more good works, or work harder. The work belongs to God and is all about the superabundant gift of God called grace!

Paul tells us that this work begins INSIDE OF US—our “inner being”; we are being given strength and power through the Holy Spirit so that Christ will be able to “dwell in our hearts through faith” and we can become “rooted and grounded in love.” Have you ever thought of that?  The Holy Spirit helps Christ dwell in our hearts through the exercising of our faith. Christ takes root…and grounds us and establishes us and grows us in His boundless love.  WOW.

This prayer is also a model prayer representing the Trinity.  The Holy Spirit strengthening our inner being with His power, Christ dwelling in our hearts so that we are rooted and grounded in boundless love; a love that is so deep, so wide, so long and so tall that finally—we become filled with the fullness of Father Creator God

Alexander MacLaren, a famous minister in Great Briton, gave six sermons on this passage.  In his commentary on this passage, D. Martin Lloyd-Jones  took two hundred and sixteen pages to search out the meaning of these verses. I wish we had that kind of time!  This morning I would like for us to put to memory verse 19:

“to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

Where does the boundless love of God dwell?
 
“Where is the dwelling of God?” 

This was the question with which the rabbi of Kotzk surprised a number of learned men who happened to be visiting him. They laughed at him, “What a thing to ask! Is not the whole world full of his glory?” Then the rabbi answered his own question,  “God dwells wherever man lets him in.” [i]

What a powerful statement!  God dwells wherever we let God in! 

The questions for us today is:

·         where am I allowing God to dwell?

·         Am I being rooted and grounded more and more each day with the power of the Holy Spirit?

·         Is Christ dwelling in my heart?  In the original Greek, the word that Paul uses for “dwell” in verse 17 means “permanent residence, not a transitory stop along the way.”

Paul wants to encourage the people of Ephesus that even when times get hard, the road gets long, the way becomes difficult, the journey becomes too weary–don’t quit! Remain in the boundless love of Christ.

This brings me back to my homechurch long ago. I will never forget little Ben; he was all of 4 years old at the time.  He is the son of dear friends back in Illinois and Ben was going to have eye surgery.  On Sunday after worship, Ben’s family and a few friends gathered in the church office to pray for little Ben.  We formed a circle around Ben by holding hands and we went around the room and prayed.  We thought we were all done, when all of a sudden little Ben shouted, “Hey, what about me!?  I want to pray!”  We grabbed hands again and little Ben prayed, “Jesus, in my heart.  Amen.”  Wow!  What a prayer — “Jesus In My Heart.  Amen.”

So What?
This is what Paul is trying to remind the people of Ephesus, and you and me, today.  We are to keep Jesus in our hearts no matter what comes our way.  Let’s say it together — “JESUS, IN MY HEART!”

We are in uncharted waters. We’ve never been this way before but God has. The creator is not surprised. Ever watchful, ever guiding, we have a God who hears our cries. I just received a call from a dear friend. Her son started watching our online worship services and told his mom he’s rededicated his life to Christ. Sometimes, just those four words can still the storm: Jesus, in my heart. Sometimes, just those four words can build a bridge from chaos to peace: Jesus in my heart. Sometimes a little four year old’s prayer is more powerful than the pastor’s: Jesus, in my heart.

Thanks, Ben! God bless your heart!

Join us on Sunday at 10am Pacific time for our online service.  We are having a little sermon series on John 4 and Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well.  You join in the fellowship through a live chat, prayer time and worship.  The link for the live Sunday service is … theseedchristianfellowship.online.church

If you miss the online service, you can always go to our YouTube channel at The Seed Christian Fellowship and watch our YouTubes. or go to our website and click on icon for messages.

See you Sunday,

God loves you and so do I
Pastor Dave
www.theseedchristianfellowship.com

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