The “ordo salutis” – the order of salvation. These verses give us the golden chain of our redemption. Every link is crucial. Every link is precious and priceless. Every link is a necessary part of the whole. This is a golden chain which cannot be broken and O, how our hearts should well up in humble praise and ardent devotion to the God who has applied this strong and certain chain to our souls!
Four links are mentioned.
1. Predestination. “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born of many brethren.”
Matthew Henry writes, “All that God designed for glory and happiness as the end He decreed to grace and holiness as the way.” God intended to glorify a people unto Himself and in order to accomplish that He formed this salvific chain, beginning with His own unconditional election. It begins with those whom He foreknew – those whom He sovereignly set His love and favor upon. He did this not because of any good thing that He saw in them – no, He saw only sin and depravity. He did this not because of any worth or value that was intrinsic to them – no, even our most righteous deeds are but filthy rags. The very verse points out that we are predestined TO holiness not because of holiness.
God did this predestinating work simply because of His own good pleasure and marvelous mercy. To think anything other than that is to hold onto pride and to strip God of His sovereign glory. I have nothing to boast in but my God and His regenerating work in me.“For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son.” Wow!
The purpose of our predestination is given in this first link of the chain. We are predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ. We are predestined in order to be sanctified and made more like our blessed Savior. Henry states that in this initial step “we have God’s love restored to us and God’s likeness renewed upon us.” Predestination gets the ball rolling. It marks us out. It etches the Christ-like seal that is to be stamped upon us. We can’t conform ourselves to Christ – God can, and God does by the formation of this first and glorious link.
Election is not some “get out of jail free pass.” Election is NEVER an excuse to live as you please. Election is ALWAYS an enabling to live as Christ – to live conformed to His image and removed from our own. “None can know their election but by their conformity to the image of Christ; for all that are chosen are chosen to sanctification.” If you think you are among the “elect” yet desire to live as you please, then think again – even in light of this verse. Predestination is for the purpose of conformity to Christ. There is no getting around it and even our conformity to Him is not for our own glory or for a pat on our back but for His. “…that He might be the first-born among many brethren.” The chief and highest end of all of this is the glory of Christ.
“It is that Christ might have the honor of being the great pattern and might have pre-eminence. And blessed be God that there are many brethren; though they seem but a few in one place at one time, yet, when they come all together, they will be a great many. In spite of all the opposition of the powers of darkness, Christ will be the first-born among many, very many brethren.” (Matthew Henry)
God has foreknown us to predestinate us and all for the purpose of conforming us more to the image of Christ that we might bring Him glory. There’s the first link in the glorious golden chain. Every link of this chain points to God as the author and the perfector of our faith. It is HE who has foreknown and HE who has predestined. We will see the same God-centered focus in verse 29. Folks, the ONLY thing we bring to our salvation is our sin. Praise God for His sovereign mercy and for His pursuing and persisting redeeming love!
Paul informs us that those whom God has predestined, those who in the wise and holy counsel of His will He has been pleased to look upon in foreknowing love, those He has also called. Not only called with the external call of the gospel – for that call goes forth to all the world. We are to proclaim to the nations the gospel of Christ – “Repent and believe. Call upon the name of the LORD and you will be saved, you and your household.” We are to carry that external call to the ends of the earth. God however, is in the business of making a much more personal call – acall that can be heard by the deaf, a call that can be seen by the blind, a call that can be responded to by the dead. It is an internal, regenerating call. It is a call that is of wed to the Spirit of God. “The former comes to the ear only, this to the heart.”
It is an effectual call. For in this call the Spirit of God comes to us and gives our eyes the ability to see – and who would reject this free gift when they are truly able to see it for what it is? He gives us ears to hear the glorious melody of the riches that can be ours in Christ – who would flee from so great a hymn when they are truly able to listen to it’s notes? He gives us life to respond to that which alone can free us from eternal death and condemnation, and once we’ve been given true life we will open the package that He has offered to us rather than flee back to the rotting sepulchre that was our abode. The internal and effectual call of the Spirit of Christ always accomplishes it’s purpose. He always gets His man, or woman, or child. Apart from that internal working none of us would answer, for we are unable. With that internal working none of us will refuse. O, it is all of Him and how worthy He is of praise for His gracious calling to His elect.
He foreknew, predestined, called, and those whom He has done these things for, He has also justified. The Westminster Shorter Catechism defines justification in this way:
“Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein He pardons all our sins, and accepts us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.”
That pretty much sums it up. Grace, pardon, righteous imputation. By grace alone! Through faith alone! In Christ alone! To God alone be the glory! “All that are effectually called are accepted as righteous through Jesus Christ. They are no longer dealt with as criminals, but owned and loved as friends and favorites” (Matthew Henry).
- “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).
- Christ was “delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification” (Rom 4:25).
- “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom 3:23-24).
- “Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom 5:1).
- “But God demonstrates His own love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him” (Romans 5:8)
- “But do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of god? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you, but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor 6:9-11).
- “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” ( Titus 3:5-7).
Christ through foreknowing, predestinating, calling, and justifying mercy save His people. And He doesn’t simply save us partially but fully. The work which He began he will carry on until the day of completion (Ph 1:6). “Those whom He justified, these He also glorified.”
Listen to Mr. Henry’s words on this. “The power of corruption being broken in effectual calling, and the guilt of sin being removed in justification, nothing can come between the soul and glory. It is spoken as a thing done: He glorified, because of the certainty of it; he hath saved us. God’s design of love has its full accomplishment. This was what he aimed at all along – to bring them to heaven. Are they chosen? It is to salvation. Called? It is to His kingdom and glory. Begotten again? It is to an inheritance incorruptible. Afflicted? It is to work for them their exceeding and eternal weight of glory. The author of all these things is the same. God Himself hath undertaken the doing of it from first to last. This is a mighty encouragement to our faith and hope.”
Well said Sir Henry. The chain is linked for a purpose. It is a unit. It is whole that cannot be torn apart. No, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called, and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”
Take heart and find hope, Oh fainting saint. The chain is strong – omnipotently strong. The chain is sure – it is held together by immutability. The chain is safe – the grace, mercy, and lovingkindness of God has formed and fashioned it on your behalf. Not only that, but your Father – the pursuing, prevailing, and preserving Father – has placed that chain around your neck, around your heart, around your eternal soul as a securing emblem of His covenant promises to you. It is not by your doing that you are in Christ, “but by His doing you are in Christ Jesus.” (1 Cor 1:30) Therefore, rejoice believing one. Laugh with the joy that can only be known by the blood bought sinner. Shout aloud with the triumphant cry of the prisoner set free. Boast Oh sons and daughters of Zion – but “Let him who boasts, boast in the LORD. For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. AMEN.”