“These whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified” (Romans 8:30).
Paul had just said that God is working all things for our good (v. 28), and that we will be conformed to Jesus’ image (v. 29). Continuing that thought, he explains that the plan of salvation is secure, and how God brings us into that conformity. The teaching in this sentence has rightly been called The Golden Chain of Salvation. Nobody can be at one link in this chain without all of the others being true. Anybody who is justified before God is so because they were first predestined by God, and because God followed through with His purpose to save them by also calling them. Anybody who is justified will by no means fall away, but God will complete their salvation and bring them into eternal glory. The verse could have the same meaning if it had only said, “all whom He predestined, He also glorified.“
Those predestined are also called
Just a tiny bit of common sense tells us that if God predestines people to be saved, then He will at least attempt to save that person. However, this verse is going even further and saying that God does bring about their saving faith. Questions like, “What if somebody whom God elects for salvation dies before God calls them?” don’t fit this picture.
There if often confusion here because the sentence just before this says that God predestines those whom He foreknew (v. 29). Many take that to mean that God looked ahead in time to see who would believe in Him, and then selected those people. This golden chain, however, puts the order differently, for otherwise Paul would have to say that those who are first called and justified are then predestined. Further, as will be shown below, the calling in this verse is effectual, meaning the people actually get saved. So how can God look ahead and see who will come if He has to call them in order for them to come in the first place?
Also, mere precognition is not the only way the Bible speaks of God’s foreknowledge. For example, the Bible says that God foreknew Jesus before the foundation of the world (1 Pet. 1:20), and that He foreknew the crucifixion (Acts 2:23). These uses of the term clearly show that God’s foreknowledge has a lot more to do with planning, providence and purpose rather than just foreseeing it happen before His eyes. Another way the Bible uses the term know is God’s covenantal love.1 Therefore we have a better alternative to understanding predestination in verse 30. It is just like the doctrine Paul expresses later on, that God’s choice does not depend on the will of man (Rom. 9:16) or anything good or bad they’ve done (9:11).God's foreknowledge has a lot more to do with planning, providence and purpose than just foresight Click To Tweet
From this link being part of the bigger chain we learn that there was never a soul whom God determined beforehand that He would save, that He did not follow up on that plan by also calling them. This is what we see during the preaching of Paul and Barnabas in Acts 13. After they had preached, we are told that “all who were ordained to eternal life believed” (v. 48).
Those called are also justified
This next link shines light on what kind of call is in mind here. This is obviously not the universal gospel call, because plenty of people hear the gospel and the command to repent, and yet are not justified. But this verse says that the called are justified. So Paul must be talking about a different kind of call–one that really does lead to justification. Just before this, Paul mentions “those who are called according to God’s purpose” (v. 28, emphasis mine). This is no thoughtless selection without any guidance or goal–it is according to a purpose.
In the next chapter, Paul speaks of those whom God prepares for destruction, and those He prepares for glory. After mentioning those whom God prepares for glory, Paul says, “even us, whom He also called” (Rom. 9:22-24, emphasis mine). By using the word “also,” Paul is linking this call with the working out of bringing these predestined-for-glory vessels of clay into glory.
Another example is in 1 Corinthians 1:24, where believers are labelled the called. THE called! Well is not everybody in the whole world called? Not in this way. We also learn of this call at Pentecost. The promises of God are bestowed upon “all whom the Lord our God will call to Himself” (Acts 2:39). Everybody in that crowd was called when the gospel was preached, but only the 3000 were called in this special way and received those promises.
This call is what is known as Effectual Calling. This is the work in the background when the Lord opens peoples’ hearts to respond to the message spoken to them (Acts 16:14). It is here that God grants the unbeliever both faith (Phil. 1:29) and repentance (2 Tim. 2:25). It is here that the Holy Spirit blows and regenerates them (John 3:6-8). Here, dead men are made alive by God (Eph. 2:1-5).
Those justified are also glorified
It would be quite disappointing if God only went as far as justification, and then we were left helpless to reach the future glory. Praise God that He does not drop out of the saving work here. Rather, He carries us along the whole way. God makes sure that all who are justified by faith make it to the glory to come.
You’ll notice I said future glory. Future glorification is the thought here because the rest of Romans speaks of glory in this way. Chapter 2 says that on Judgment Day, believers are looking forward to glory (vv. 5-7). In Chapter 9, Paul mentions vessels of mercy which were “prepared beforehand for glory” (v. 23). That glory is contrasted with the destruction of the vessels of wrath (v. 22).
Elsewhere in the Scriptures, this link of the chain is rooted in God’s power and faithfulness, rather than our own might. For example, John 10 says that God is holding us in His hand, and none can pluck us out. Paul says, “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). Now, this is not to take away a believer’s responsibility to hold on, or to fight the good fight of faith. But even our fighting is God’s work also! Paul told the Philippians to work out their salvation precisely because it is God who works in them (2:12-13).
This link is the whole point of the next section, from verses 31-39. Those who are justified are also given all things (v. 32), and are interceded for (v. 34). He then shows that absolutely no circumstance or opposing power can remove what we have in Christ. This hope is rooted in God’s love, and is on the grounds of Christ’s person and work. His work, in that all those for whom He dies cannot be condemned; His person, in that all those for whom He dies He also intercedes for as their Great High Priest.
For more about what “justification” means, see our post on The Traditional Doctrine of Justification.
You will notice that each of these verbs are in the past tense. This is “because all of these divine acts are eternal, and therefore simultaneous for the divine mind. All are equally certain.”2 So although none of us are glorified yet, and though there are many elect who are yet to be justified, Paul can speak of these in the past because it is set in stone.3
1 Schreiner lists Genesis 18:19, Exodus 33:17, 1 Samuel 2:12, Psalms 18:43, Proverbs 9:10, Jeremiah 1:5, Hosea 13:5, and Amos 3:2 as examples. Schreiner, Thomas R. Romans BECNT (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998) 452.