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.
The closing words of verse 28 lead on naturally to these verses – the link word ‘For’ connects these two verses with the ‘purpose’ mentioned at the close of verse 28. This is a word that refers to all that is related to the saving purpose of the triune God accomplished in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. Here then is a much more detailed account of God’s purpose for his believing people.
Sometimes I associate these words with our niece, Andrea, who died at the age of fifteen after a long struggle with cystic fibrosis. An intelligent, attractive girl, Andrea was a Christian and not afraid to die. When she was younger, I use to walk with her in the park where in the summer she loved to make daisy chains. She would pick and string the daisies together carefully and make a beautiful chain which she tried to place around her neck. The chain was fragile and never lasted long but it gave her much pleasure. Why mention Andrea’s daisy chain?
Not only could Andrea completely agree with these verses, but another reason is that these verses have been described as a ‘golden chain’ identifying all that God in his love has done, continues to do and will yet do for Christians. The chain is comprehensive and complete, covering all aspects of our salvation. There are five major links in this golden salvation chain, a chain which will never fade or break. Not even one link in the chain will be broken. Rather the chain created by our omnipotent God spans eternity, including what happens to us here in this life and beyond. He will not fail and there is nothing fragile about the chain. Each of the five links mentioned in this golden salvation chain relate to God’s action, not our own. We are of course responsible but God himself it is who takes the initiative, plans, accomplishes, applies, and successfully achieves this plan of salvation. Fantastic! That word is overused today but it describes how I feel in handling this golden chain.
Today we look at the first of these links – God foreknew us.
While Christians have disagreed about the significance of this verb (arguing if God saved us because of seeing our faith or not), here are some important points to reflect on today:
First, this verb describes what God did, not what we have done – not even our work in believing. The emphasis is on God throughout verses 29 & 30. This ought then to be a cause for praise rather than argument and discussion amongst us.
Second, we must notice that God foresees our faith because there is nothing God does not know. He is omniscient regarding the past, present, and future. We must acknowledge this, but it is only a tiny part of the picture, after all, faith is a gift from God, and it is the Lord who gives the grace to any sinner to trust Christ (Ephesians 2:8-10). It is the Lord’s work to raise anyone to spiritual life by the Holy Spirit and through Christ, in this we are totally dependent on him. Faith is a gift although we actively exercise it in Christ. But this faith is not given to everyone.
Third, Paul writes ‘For whom He foreknew‘. Who are these? They have already been described in the previous verse as those that ‘love God’. And even more. they are ‘the called according to his purpose‘. We are thrown back again on God’s initiative in calling and involving us in his purpose. Here is God’s choice and action concerning us sinners. It is humbling and astonishing that God should do this for a great sinner like myself.
Fourth, the verb also includes an aspect of delight and love. He does not merely foresee what we will do, nor does he only choose us to be saved, but he does this in love and with delight in his people. Often in the Bible the word ‘know’ is used with the significance of love as in Genesis 18:19, and Hosea 13:5. Here is love that is sovereign, undeserved, overflowing which embraces sinners sovereignly, giving them life and faith to come to Christ.
These verses should amaze and humble us, as they show that we are saved only because of God’s sovereign love and grace. Is there praise in your heart because of His sovereign love and choice of you?
Dr Eryl Davies (Heath Church Cardiff)