Tag Archives: foreknowledge

Romans 8:30 – Triad of Assurance Complete

This text is often referred to as the “golden chain” of salvation.

  • Like and with verse 29, it is often used to argue for a certain doctrine of salvation.

 

The chain, which begins in verse 29, is this:

  • Foreknew
  • Predestined
  • Called
  • Justified
  • Glorified

 

Today we will try to understand verse 30 in context.

  • Laying aside any baggage we may bring to the verse.

 

Before we begin, it will help to remind us of our paraphrases of verses 28 and 29.

  • “We know that groanings and present sufferings do not negate or thwart God’s purpose of future glory for all believers” (vs. 28).
  • This is “Because God determined before the creation of the world to create by, in and through Jesus Christ – His preeminent Son – ‘a Christ-shaped family’ consisting of both Jew and Gentile” (vs. 29)

 

The question now is this:

  • What is verse 30’s relationship to the point Paul has been making in verses 28 and 29?

 

It seems to me the most likely answer to this is the most obvious.

  • Verse 30 completes what one might call the triad of assurance.

 

Specifically, verse 30 completes a triad that Paul has been building since verse 28.

  • (1) What we know about our future (vs. 28).
  • (2) Why we know this about our future (vs. 29).
  • (3) How the “what” and the “why” have legs (vs. 30).

 

Using our paraphrases, we can frame the third leg of the triad with the following question:

  • Given what we know about our future glory, and why we can be assured of its reality – given that God determined to make it so, not fate – how does God actually connect our “now” to our “not yet”?

 

 

Verse 30:

And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

 

Last week we dealt with the first two links of the so-called Golden Chain:

  • Predestined, and the thing that precedes it…
  • Foreknowledge

 

Both of these are wrapped in the fact that before creation God knew…

  • He would create for Himself a people in and through Jesus Christ.

 

With this in mind…

  • Let’s deal with the meat of verse 30 – called.
  • Greek “kletos”.

 

 

Called:

The BDAG defines “called” as follows:

  • Set apart or “choose for receipt of a special benefit or experience”.

 

When we dealt with this word in verse 28, we saw:

  • “Paul’s own audience would think of Israel as the people God had chosen…” – Craig Keener.

 

In other words, “called” is OT, ethnic Israel language.

  • God set apart Israel from the nations to be His people.
  • Israel was God’s inheritance.

 

But in Romans, Paul was turning this limited idea of “called” on its head.

  • Keener says the church at Rome would, “…recognize that Paul’s argument was designed to show that God was so sovereign that he was not bound to choose (with regard to salvation) based on Jewish ethnicity” – Craig Keener.

 

In other words, “called” is about God’s inclusion of the nations with Israel.

  • It is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham.
  • God has set apart Jew and Gentile to experience the Gospel and its benefits.

 

And importantly…

  • The idea behind this take on “called” is that it is corporate-centered.

 

But there is also a take on “called” that is individual-centered.

  • It sees “called” as really referring to an “effectual call” of a person in the salvation process.

 

An “effectual call” refers to God’s determining that an individual person will be saved.

  • It is a sure thing.
  • God has set apart this person “A” and made sure they respond with faith to the Gospel.
  • (And it is also, arguably, an individually minded idea that is anachronistic to the Bible).

 

Doug Moo thinks we are dealing with an “effectual call” in verse 30.

  • He says, it “…denotes God’s effectual summoning into relationship with him” – Doug Moo.

 

Let’s look at Paul’s use of “called” in Romans prior to our text to flesh this out some more.

  • Romans 1:1 (ESV) — 1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,
  • Romans 1:6 (ESV) — 6 including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,
  • Romans 1:7 (ESV) — 7 To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Paul is obviously an individual.

  • And as an individual, he was set apart by God to belong to Jesus Christ.

 

Was Paul set apart in such a way that he would not refuse to follow Christ?

  • We don’t know from this text, but it certainly seems like a possibility.
  • So this could be an example of an individual-centered effectual call.

 

You [in Rome] who are called” and “all those in Rome” are both corporate statements.

  • Corporately they were set apart by God to belong to Christ and be saints (a future promise).

 

These seem to be general comments about God’s purposes:

  • God has set apart Jews and Gentiles – even in Rome – to experience the Gospel and its benefits.
  • They “belong to Jesus Christ” and so will be “saints”.

 

What about our text?

  • Is it individually-centered or is it corporate-centered?
  • Romans 8:30 (ESV) — 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

 

It not only seems to be a corporate-centered use.

  • It seems to be even more broad than the “called” in Romans 1.
  • Paul’s message here is to all believers.

 

In fact, I think a context observation brings clarity.

  • Is Paul’s point in 8:28-30 to give assurance of individual salvation – we are effectually called?
  • Or is his point to give full assurance that “already” believers will be glorified?

 

I think it’s pretty obvious.

  • It’s the second.

 

BTW – The critique I would make is…

  • How can there be assurance if there is no effectual calling?
  • Great question.
  • In verses 28-30, I don’t think he addresses this question – so why read it into the text?

 

So why make Paul say more than he is saying?

  • Especially when he is not obviously saying anything more.

 

Moo and others do this because they have a certain presupposition about foreknowledge.

“If, then, [foreknowledge] means ‘know intimately,’ ‘have regard for,’ this must be a knowledge or love that is unique to believers and that leads to their being predestined. This being the case, the difference between ‘know or love beforehand’ and ‘choose beforehand’ virtually ceases to exist” – Doug Moo.

 

Moo’s presupposition is that foreknowledge equals predetermined.

  • Though he does hedge a bit when he says the difference between the two “virtually ceases to exist”.

 

We saw last week that foreknowledge does not necessarily lead to being determined.

  • And so the difference would not “cease to exist”.

 

Furthermore, given the fact that God knows all true facts – even the ones that don’t obtain (counterfactuals)…

  • God has knowledge of people that He had “a knowledge or love” for in a possible world, but who aren’t believers in the actual world.

 

Just like he had knowledge of David being handed over to Saul in a possible world that didn’t obtain.

  • This goes against Moo’s “must be a knowledge…that leads to their being predestined”.

 

We have also seen that the context here is not how person “A” is “saved”.

  • The context is why God’s people can have full assurance of a glorified future in the midst of sufferings.
  • And how this full assurance is grounded, generally, in the Gospel.

 

So, I just don’t see how our text can be taken as an effectual call.

  • Our text is concerned with how “already” believers can be sure that verses 28 and 29 will be an actual and real experience.

 

Given all this, I would paraphrase Paul’s use of “called” as follows:

  • The predestined were also “set apart by God to participate in, and experience the benefits of” the stuff of verses 28 and 29.

 

 

Rest of the Chain:

…and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

 

Paul then completes the chain by referring back to Romans 1-4’s emphasis on justification (Moo).

  • Romans 3:23–24 (ESV) — 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

 

An emphasis that is summed up in 5:1.

  • Romans 5:1 (ESV) — 1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Notice, just like last week’s emphasis:

  • The grounding of justification is “in Christ Jesus” and “through our Lord Jesus Christ”.

 

So those who were called are also justified – made right with God – in and through Jesus Christ.

  • A necessary reality, or “what”, to have the assurance of future glory.

 

And fittingly, Paul ends where he started off his Triad of Assurance.

  • …he also glorified
  • He also gave a new nature and new status.

 

So back to our question:

  • Given what we know about our future glory, and why we can be assured of its reality – given that God determined to make it so, not fate – how does God actually connect our “now” to our “not yet”?

 

Answer:

  • God connects the believers’ suffering “now” with the glorified “not yet”…
  • By making a way for those who love him to be made right with Him through the person and work of Jesus Christ.

 

To wrap this triad of assurance up, let’s finish up once again, with a paraphrase.

  • We know that groanings and present sufferings do not negate or thwart God’s purpose of future glory for all believers” (vs. 28).
  • Why? “Because God determined before the creation of the world to create by, in and through Jesus Christ – His preeminent Son – ‘a Christ-shaped family’ consisting of both Jew and Gentile” (vs. 29)
  • How? “Because God saw to it that His ‘Christ-shaped family’ was set apart to participate in, and experience the benefits of their future glory, by making them right with Him in and through our Lord Jesus Christ – not leaving their future up to fate or ethnicity” (vs. 30).

 

I think these paraphrases get at the meat of Paul’s meaning.

  • You will be glorified.
  • It is a certainty because God has made it a certainty.
  • Your future does not depend on you.
  • Your future does not depend on your current suffering and groanings.
  • Your future does not depend on fate.
  • It is Jesus Christ who secures your future.
  • This was always God’s plan.

 

Romans 8:29 – Future Assurance

We ended last week with a paraphrase of verse 28:

  • “We know that groanings and present sufferings do not negate or thwart God’s purpose of future glory for all believers.”

 

So this is what we know.

  • The question now is “why do we know this will happen?”
  • What is our assurance of this truth?

 

As we deal with verse 29, these are the right questions.

  • These are the questions Paul is contending with.

 

I agree with Bird:

“…we must refrain from reading into the text debates about divine sovereignty, the basis of election, and human free will. While the text no doubt raises the question for readers, even so, answering it is not Paul’s main concern” – Michael Bird.

 

So using our paraphrase, we can frame our question for exploring verses 29:

  • Why is it that groanings and present sufferings do not negate or thwart God’s purpose of future glory for all believers?

 

Paul’s answer:

  • Romans 8:29–30 (ESV) — 29 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. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

 

Today we will deal with verse 29.

 

 

Verse 29:

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.

 

The first and main thing he does to answer the question we raised is…

  • Connect us to Jesus Christ!

 

In other words:

  • Those who love God” (vs. 28).
  • Those who are called” (vs 28).

 

It is these that have full assurance of future hope/glorification because…

  • From the very beginning, the Father connected them to their future by way of Jesus Christ!

 

This is the idea behind being “conformed to the image of his Son” (vs. 29).

  • It is all about Jesus!

 

But what exactly did Paul mean with “he foreknew he also predestined”?

  • What was foreknown and predestined?

 

 

Foreknew:

Paul says “those” God “foreknew” (vs. 29) – who are those?

  • Those”, of course, are “those who love God” (vs. 28).
  • And they are “those who are called” (vs. 28).

 

What does it mean that he “foreknew” (proginosko) them?

 

Commonly, the word simply means, “know beforehand or in advance” – BDAG.

  • Simple enough.

 

There are some, however, that suggest that “proginosko” in verse 29 means more specifically:

  • choose someone beforehand” – BDAG.
  • In other words, “predetermine”.

 

Others critique this understanding of the word as being one read in light of:

  • “…later theological debates, such as…the debates of the Reformation era” – Craig Keener.

 

I think scholars like Doug Moo, Robert Jewett, and Michael Bird are right to pull back a bit from this specific meaning.

  • Moo says, “Paul does not intend to give a complete picture of his, still less of NT, soteriology” – Doug Moo.
  • (More on Moo’s view next week – he doesn’t pull back much).

 

This means the point of Paul’s use of “foreknew” in verse 29 is that:

  • God always knew…
  • He would, before the creation of the world…
  • Have a people for Himself.
  • A people who loved Him.

 

And, in keeping with Paul’s concerns, God knew:

  • This people would be “Gentiles as well as Jews” – Keener.

 

And God knew:

  • He would make both of them His people “through Christ” – Keener.

 

In other words, “foreknew” here is:

  • General language about the assurance of God’s mission to create a people for Himself.
  • This is not language about a system of salvation – like T.U.L.I.P.

 

 

Predestined:

What about predestined?

  • Is Paul saying that the method God would use to create a people for Himself would be predestination?
  • In other words, is Paul’s point that God makes Himself a people by predetermining and choosing them beforehand?

 

Again, I think Bird and others have a better handle of this text.

  • “Predestination here is not an absolute decree to elect some and not others…” – Michael Bird.

 

So what is predestined if not the people?

  • The thing that is determined and predestined beforehand is this…
  • Believers will be “…conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

 

In other words, it is both that:

  • Christ is to whom believers will be conformed.
  • Christ is to be the firstborn.
  • Christ, Christ!

 

God will create His people by conforming them to the image of Jesus Christ.

  • And Christ will be the means.
  • These are the things predetermined in verse 29.

 

 

Foreknew and Predestined Wrap-Up:

So the whole point of all this language for Paul is that…

  • God always intended to, is and will “create a Christ-shaped family, a renewed humanity modeled on the Son” – Michael Bird.

 

And in our text, Paul:

  • “…concentrates on that which God planned and purposed for them” – N.T. Wright.
  • The creating them through Christ…not on a method of salvation.

 

As we said earlier:

  • From the very beginning, the Father knew He would have, and connect believers to their future, by way of Jesus Christ!

 

This is why:

  • Going back to our paraphrase of verse 28…
  • “We know that groanings and present sufferings do not negate or thwart God’s purpose of future glory for all believers.”

 

Our future glory doesn’t depend on us.

  • It is God who creates and conforms us to Christ.
  • And we inhabit what God has always known and planned.
  • We “who love God” aren’t left in a vacuum, or to fate and the winds of chance.

 

I love how Robert Jewett sums this verse up:

“Paul’s aim here is not to establish and abstract doctrine of predestination…or to invite ‘reflection on the classic problems of determinism and free will’, but to reassure the vulnerable, harried believers in Rome that their lives and work have significance in the grand plan of God for the restoration of the creation through the recovery of ‘sonship’ by conforming to the image of Christ” – Robert Jewett.

 

So let’s deal with this conforming business.

 

 

Conformed, Image of His Son, Firstborn:

…conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

  • This is what the foreknowing and predestining are all about in verse 29.
  • As we said – it is all about about Jesus Christ.

 

But what does Paul mean with this language?

 

All of it relates back to things Paul as already discussed.

  • In other words, our glorification – our new nature and new status.

 

Let’s take a look:

  • Conformed, “symmorphos”, means this:
  • We are transformed into a “similar form, nature, or style” as something – BDAG.

 

And whose form or nature are we transformed into – who is the “something”?

  • “…the image of his son” – Jesus Christ.

 

This, once again, is language of:

  • Christification
  • Deification
  • Theosis

 

In other words:

  • “It is as Christians have their bodies resurrected and transformed that they join Christ in his glory…” – Doug Moo.
  • We are being and will be changed to be like Christ!

 

Or as Bird explains:

“Here Christology and ecclesiology converge as believers will one day become miniature Jesuses who reflect his image, just as Jesus reflects the image of God” – Michael Bird.

  • This stuff never gets old!

 

So, what is this “firstborn among many brothers” business?

 

The idea here is that Jesus as the new Adam…

  • Recovered what it was to be God’s image bearer.
  • He did what Adam and Israel failed to do.
  • He acted “as the true child of God” – Robert Jewett.

 

As the new Adam and the “true child of God”, Jesus was rightfully the:

  • “firstborn, the preeminent” of all believers – (Jewett).

 

And His resurrection, the first fruits of the believers’ resurrection…

  • Was the vindication of this fact.

 

Paul explains this in Colossians:

  • Colossians 1:18–20 (ESV) — 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent [same root as firstborn]. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

 

All of this focus confirms for us…

  • That it is Jesus Christ who is the main point of verse 29.

 

And Jesus’ role as “image” and “firstborn among many brothers”…

  • Is the ultimate foreknown and predestined fact that gives us hope in the midst of our sufferings…
  • And brings about our glorification.

 

Let’s wrap all this up with our paraphrases:

  • We know that groanings and present sufferings do not negate or thwart God’s purpose of future glory for all believers. (vs. 28)
  • Because God determined before the creation of the world to create by, in and through Jesus Christ – His preeminent Son – ‘a Christ-shaped family’ consisting of both Jew and Gentile. (vs. 29)

 

 

Rabbit Trail – God’s Foreknowledge and 1 Samuel 23:1-13:

It is worth pointing out a feature of God’s foreknowledge that is overlooked.

  • It’s a feature that works against the idea that “proginosko” necessarily means that God’s knowing the event beforehand equals Him actualizing the event or outcome – making it so.
  • In other words, that foreknowledge equals predestination.

 

In 1 Samuel 23, David asked God, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?” (vs. 2).

  • God said, “Go and attack the Philistines and save Keilah” (vs. 2).

 

David was afraid and asked again.

  • God said, “…go down to Keilah, for I will give the Philistines into your hand” (vs. 4).
  • David did and saved Keilah.

 

Then, Saul heard that David was at Keilah.

  • Saul said, “God has given him into my hand, for he has shut himself in by entering a town that has gates and bars” (vs. 7).

 

David hears that Saul is coming and he asks God:

  • Will the men of Keilah surrender me into his hand? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard?” (vs. 11).

 

God’s reply:

  • He [Saul] will come down” (vs. 11).
  • They [men of Keilah] will surrender you” (vs. 12).

 

So, what did David choose to do?

  • He left Keilah.

 

But what about the idea that God’s foreknowledge equals predetermination?

 

God knew beforehand two things that would happen.

  • (1) Saul would come.
  • (2) Keilah would hand David over to Saul.

 

But here is the thing:

“Neither of these events that God foresaw ever actually happened. Once David hears God’s answers, he and his men leave the city. When Saul discovers this fact (v. 13), he abandons his trip to Keilah. Saul never made it to the city. The men of Keilah never turned David over to Saul. Why is this significant? This passage clearly establishes that divine foreknowledge does not necessitate divine predestination” – Michael Heiser.

 

Now, it seems rather strange that God knows things in the future that don’t happen.

  • If an event doesn’t happen, what is it exactly that God foreknows?

 

God foreknows what philosophers call counterfactuals.

  • God foreknows what would happen in any situation if, for example…
  • David stays in the city or leaves the city.

 

This means that our choices matter!

  • It doesn’t mean, however, that God doesn’t use means to influence our choices.
  • In our 1 Samuel example, God used the truth of a counterfactual to motivate David to flee.
  • But it was David who chose to flee.