The “Golden Chain” of Salvation in Romans 8:29–30

Romans 8:29–30 states, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

Highlighted in bold above are the five “links” that make up what the Puritan John Arrowsmith (1602–1659) famously spoke of as God’s “golden chain…. a chain which God lets down from heaven that by it he may draw up his elect thither.”1

For the sheer sake of encouraging us in our salvation, I just want to briefly look at these five links in the “golden chain” of salvation. Each of the highlighted words above are verbs, and their actions are by God. The one who loves God knows himself to be recipient of these five actions, and the listing of these actions together explains how God works all things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Let’s define each link of the chain in the order as they are listed by Paul.

God foreknew—this the action of God in eternity past whereby He placed His special affection upon some in order for them to receive the benefits of salvation.

God predestined—this is the action of God in eternity past whereby He sovereignly and graciously made certain that those upon whom He had placed His eternal love would indeed receive salvation and its blessings.

God called—this is the action of God during the life of the sinner whereby He effectively and imperceptibly brings the sinner to Himself through the general call of the gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit, an effectual calling, which, as best I can understand, is simultaneously joined by the faith of the sinner.

God justified—this is the action of God at the moment of faith whereby God declares the believer righteous and forever treats Him accordingly.

God glorified—this is the action of God in the future wherein God will eternally deliver the believer from the presence of sin in the entirety of his being.

Paul does not list out every item in the order of salvation in Romans 8:29–30.2 What he does list, however, are some of the key actions of God related to our salvation to explain how all things ultimately work together for our good (cf. Romans 8:28). Knowing that we love God and that our salvation is secure from eternity past to future, we are encouraged that nothing can ever separate us from the saving love of God in Christ to us (Romans 8:31–39, especially 8:35 and 8:39). An unbreakable chain, indeed!

 

All quotes ESV.

  1. Armilla Catechetica: A Chain of Principles (1659; Edinburgh: Thomas Turnbull, 1822 reprint), 242. Available on Google Books. []
  2. Not listed are regeneration, repentance, faith, union with Christ, adoption, sanctification, preservation, or perseverance. []

An Overview of Romans

Romans was written in A.D. 57 during Paul’s three months in Corinth (“Greece”) in Acts 20:2–3. He had apparently received the funds promised by the Corinthians to help relieve the famine for believers in Jerusalem (Romans 15:25–26; cf. 1 Corinthians 16:1–4; 2 Corinthians 8–9). Paul hoped to visit the Romans on his way to Spain (Romans 15:28), and, in his eagerness to preach the gospel to them, gave them a letter explaining the gospel in full (cf. Romans 1:15–17).

After an introduction (Romans 1:1–17), Paul begins to explain the gospel in that all men naturally reject what they know of God’s power through His creation, resulting in God’s handing them over to sin (Romans 1:18–32). But, the Jews are no more faithful because they were given the Law—all men have sinned, something made obvious by the law and even by the conscience of the sinner (Romans 2:1–3:20).

The sinner can only be declared righteous by God through faith, whether he is a Jew or Gentile (Romans 3:21–31). Abraham believed and was declared righteous, and he didn’t even have the Law (Romans 4:1–25). So, one can have peace, grace, and rejoicing to know that he is reconciled to God through Christ (Romans 5:1–11). Just as death came to all through Adam’s sin, so also life and righteousness are to all who believe in Jesus Christ (Romans 5:12–21).

Having this saving grace, the believer is a slave to righteousness and should not think that he can just sin because he saved or because Christ has fulfilled the Law (Romans 6:1–21). The Law makes the believer very aware of his sin (Romans 7:1–25), but the Spirit enables him to live as pleasing to God (Romans 8:1–17). Since God’s salvation work for him from eternity past to future is certain, so also is his sanctification and perseverance (Romans 8:28–39).

Applying the gospel to national Israel, though Israel was given many privileges, her present unbelief is in line with the purposes of God (Romans 9:1–33). Rather than trying to secure eternal life by the Law as Israel has done, righteousness comes by faith and confessing Christ, which requires preachers of the Word (Romans 10:1–21). So, while Israel is presently rejecting Christ, the nation was yet chosen for salvation, and there is a remnant who believes right now (Romans 11:1–10). Israel’s rejection is not permanent—God will save and bring her back to the place of blessing just as He is doing for the Gentiles in this present age (Romans 11:11–36).

Those who know this saving mercy of God are responsible to live righteously in a variety ways: by presenting themselves as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1–2); by thinking of themselves according to their measure of faith (Romans 12:3–8); by loving, serving, being patient, and blessing others (Romans 12:9–21); by submitting to their authorities and paying their taxes (Romans 13:1–7); by loving each other and their neighbors (Romans 13:8–10); by living in light of Christ’s coming (Romans 13:11–14); and by welcoming each other as Christ has welcomed us, and doing so in spite of differing convictions in matters of Christian living (Romans 14:1–15:13).

In concluding his letter, Paul stated that he wrote boldly as an apostle of Christ and clarified his mission to preach where Christ was not known (Romans 15:14–21). He clarified his travel plans and asked for prayer (Romans 15:22–33). He commended Phoebe and gave greetings to many in Rome (Romans 16:1–16). Paul warned them to stay away from false teachers (Romans 16:17–20), and greetings were sent from his company to the Romans (Romans 16:21–23). Finally, Paul closed with a doxology (Romans 16:25–27).