This is part of a series of posts in which I will be critiquing my old book, “Calvinist Verses? Responding to the Errors of Calvinism.” When I began writing that book at the beginning of 2012 I was an Open Theist and began to lean towards the Classical Arminian position some time during that year. The following is one of my old posts which was part of the previously mentioned book. This post was originally posted on 5/8/2012. My critique of the original post will be in bold.
For part one of this post click here,
for part two click here,
for part three click here.
We have covered the first 3 links in the Golden Chain of Salvation (i.e. foreknew, predestined, called). Let’s now sum up what we have learned by paraphrasing Romans 8:28-29
“We know that God works in all things to bring about his good purpose in the lives of the people he chose. After all it was because of his wonderful plan that they were invited in the first place; they certainly didn’t create the plan or invite themselves to be a part of it. He always planned for his people to share in the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus Christ. This is how God planned to create a family with many children.”
Let’s try to paraphrase it more accurately than that.
“We are certain that God works to fulfill the purpose He has for His people whom He called into a loving relationship with Himself. He chose to know them relationally before creation and He determined at that time what His purpose for them would be; namely to make them His children for all eternity through Jesus Christ.”
We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.
The final verse in the passage (verse 30) will sum up how He brings about that eternal purpose.
In verses 26-27 we were first introduced to the idea that we are not alone in longing for resurrection and exaltation. Paul tells us that God’s Spirit is also working inside of us trying to lead us to that glorious end. Verses 28-29 go a step further. They tell us that since the Spirit intercedes “according to the will of God” we can know that God himself wants us to become like Jesus in every way. Not only does God want this for us, it was him that planned it. When God chose (foreknew) his people, he also planned (predestined) this glorious inheritance for them. God created the world so that Christ would be exalted and that in him many sons and daughters would come to glory. God wasn’t just creating a kingdom, but a family. And he wasn’t just creating a family; he was creating a royal family.
Here let me emphasize the primary purpose for which God created the world. He created it to exalt His Son and to magnify His grace through His Son. We must note that God did not create the world for us. He created it through and for His Son. Not only our creation (i.e. existence), but also our recreation (i.e. salvation) is through and for Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ and God’s glory is the primary purpose of all things. God in His love for His Son determined to love a particular people (made up of particular individuals) and bring them to eternal glory through and for His Son. All things were created through and for God’s Son, and the new creation is through and for God’s Son. If you are saved, it was not primarily for your sake, but for Christ’s sake and for His glory.
And those whom He predestined, He also called; and those whom He called, He also justified; and those whom He justified, He also glorified.
This leads us to the verse that summarizes Paul’s point in chapter 8. Remember he had already presented the Romans with the conditions God requires for ultimately sharing in Christ’s inheritance, namely active and faithful growth in holiness by the power of God’s Spirit. He then took into consideration the struggle and opposition they were facing from the world, as well as the longing in their heart for true and lasting freedom. Without sugar coating their experience he let them know that they had not yet received what they were looking for and told them they would need to wait patiently for it. He then begins to encourage them by letting them know they are not alone. He assures them that the Spirit of God has the same goal as they do, namely their exaltation with Christ. But then he goes even further and lets them know that the Spirit was seeking this because it was the will of God himself!
But God’s word doesn’t stop there. The fact that God wants the saints to finish the race of faith is wonderful, but there is more. It is not just something that he wants, but something he has always wanted. God predestined, that is planned before, this wonderful inheritance for the saints. Though this passage does not tell us exactly when he made this plan, we know from the first chapter of Ephesians that it was before the creation of the world. God chose a people and planned ahead of time that they would become his exalted and reigning children! What a plan!
But that is not all these wonderful verses tell us. They say that after he chose his people, and planned a glorious inheritance for them, he also invited them to this wonderful wedding feast! He didn’t just get it ready and then wait for people to come; instead he actively “called them according to his purpose.” God didn’t just plan and prepare the feast, he sent people with the good news of forgiveness through Jesus Christ (Matt. 28:18-20). He commanded his servants to “compel people to come in, that my house may be filled” (Luke14:23). “He came to his own, and his own people [Israel] did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood [not born his people] nor of the will of the flesh or the will of men [by inviting themselves], but of God. After believing they were included in Christ (Eph. 1:13).
What I said in these few paragraphs is true, though I did not mean the same thing that I now believe the passage means. I was trying to downplay the biblical significance of the term “called” as I mentioned in the last post by redefining it as “invited.” But other than that, the paragraphs relate that God had an eternal purpose to create a people through His Son, and that in time He is bringing that plan to pass by calling them to faith in His Son.
But after inviting the saints he did something even more wonderful, he actually “qualified” them “share the inheritance of the saints in the light” (Col. 1:12). How did he qualify them for such an inheritance? He justified them through the blood of Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:9). He didn’t just pay for their salvation, but he paid an unthinkable price for it! The blood of the eternal Son of God was shed so that through faith they might “receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness” (Rom. 5:17). Wow! What an awesome salvation!
We are not just hoping irrationally that we can somehow fight the fight of faith and finish the race. The odds seem to be stacked against us, but we must realize that the battle is the Lord’s. He fights for us! He is our Salvation! God Not only planned (predestined) an inheritance for his chosen people; he also works to bring it to pass. “In all things God works for the good of those who love God.” After planning their inheritance, he actively invites (calls) them to come and share in the glory of his beloved Son. After inviting them he gives them the free gift of righteousness (justifies) through the precious blood of the lamb.
But there is one more link in the chain. How can we be sure that we can attain to it?
What shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
The last link in the chain is that which we are still hoping and longing for. We are longing to be finally and completely conformed to the image of the risen and exalted Son of God. We long for it actively pursuing holiness and walking in hope, but what is the ground of our hope? It is this; God is fighting on our side! Since God is for us, then no persecution from men or demons can stop us. All the opposition of this world can’t stop God from working on our behalf! He planned it, he is working on it, and he will not change his course. This is the eternal purpose he has for his people. Though the world, like Joseph’s brothers come against God’s people, God will turn even their attacks into ways that will ultimately work out his good purpose for his children. God is committed to this course. The price he paid to fulfill it proves this. God paid the price of Christ’s blood to justify us, what is he not willing to do in order to see us glorified? Not only has God planned glory for his people and poured out his Spirit to sanctify them from within, but he also set his Son at his right hand to intercede for us. Let all the hordes of hell come, they will not prevail against the Church!
God chose a people. God predestined an inheritance for his people. He invited them to become his people. He sacrificed his Son to qualify them for it. What will hinder him from conforming them completely into the image of Jesus Christ?!
And I must add, God will defeat our greatest enemy, our sinful wayward hearts. God in His faithfulness to His adopted children, but more importantly faithfulness to His own eternal purpose to glorify His only begotten Son and give Him a glorious Bride, will discipline them as the faithful and capable Father that He is. He will not allow them to stray too far but will write His law on their hearts by His Holy Spirit and bring them safely to eternal life. They must endure to the end to be saved, and He will ensure that they do.
Now to Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with rejoicing, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.
So, if you believe that you are among that number of God’s chosen children, then make your calling and election sure by running the race marked out for you with perseverance, trusting in His grace and looking forward to the goal of eternal glory with God’s only begotten Son.
Therefore, brothers, diligently make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never stumble. For in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly provided for you.
2 Peter 1:10-11
This is the Golden Chain of Salvation. God planned and is working on our salvation, and he will not be deterred from his eternal purpose. God will do what he has purposed. But what Calvinism refuses to acknowledge is whether we like it or not, God will not do what he requires men themselves must do. In verses 28-30 we read only of the things God does, but Man’s role is not mentioned. God calls, God justifies, God glorifies. The reason man’s role is not mentioned in 8:28-30 is because from chapter 4 through the first half of chapter 8 Paul already talked so much about it. In chapter 4-5 we are commanded to believe. In chapters 6-8 we are commanded to present the members of our bodies to God as his slaves and by the Spirit put to death the misdeeds of the body.
The Romans would never interpret these few verses the way Reformed Theology does simply because they read the rest of the letter and took it seriously. Paul ended the first half of his letter for just that reason. They had been mediating on what God required of men from chapter 4 all the way through chapter 8. Paul graciously provided them with the encouragement they needed by reminding them that they were not in this alone. God was working in them to will and act according to his will, So they could work out their salvation in hope that they could finish the race.
I do not disagree with the conclusion except that classical Calvinism does not ignore the responsibility of God’s children to persevere. It is true that some modern philosophically minded Calvinists don’t balance what they are saying, but commentators like Matthew Henry and Albert Barnes did. And even where such men failed to emphasize both truths (divine sovereignty and human responsibility), the Bible does not.
The fact that this passage in Romans 8 teaches is that though we began to run the salvation race when we came to saving faith in Christ, God began the race long before, in eternity. He was running for us long before we began to run, and now that we are running with Him, He will faithfully bring us to the finish line.
Foreknew – God chose a holy people
Predestined – God planned an inheritance for his people
Called – God invited individuals to be part of his people through the Gospel
Justified – God qualified his people through the blood of Christ
Glorified – God will exalt his people with Christ
Foreknew – God chose individuals to be part of His holy people before the beginning of the world
Predestined – God planned an inheritance of adoption for His people, each and every one, before they knew Him
Called – God invited individuals to be part of his people through the Gospel and converted them to Christ by the power of His Spirit
Justified – God qualified his people through the blood of Christ
Glorified – God will exalt his people, each and every one, with Christ
The Golden Chain of Salvation has a latch on it that makes it into a beautiful necklace. This latch, where God’s amazing grace meets with the saints’ living faith, is the part of the chain that Calvinism chooses to ignore for philisophical and theological reasons. Calvinism’s error is found in assuming that God’s work somehow swallows up Man’s role in salvation. For this reason they refuse to acknowledge the entire chapter in which the Golden Chain is found. But the truth stands, Man cannot do what God does, and God will not do what Man must.
I don’t believe that all Calvinists commit the error I accused them of when writing the above paragraph, but for those that do, I agree they must turn from such error.