Thursday, June 22, 2017

Blessed Assurances of Salvation in Romans 8:28-31 - God's Purposes in Christ and The Gracious Call of the Spirit

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Romans 8:29-30a "For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called."


In the last post we began considering God's blessed assurances of salvation in Romans 8:28-31. We looked at the first "golden ring" of Paul's chain of five words in these verses: namely foreknowledge. We noted how this term could be rendered: "fore-loving" or "pre-loving". The great Baptist preacher, C.H. Spurgeon, notes about foreknowledge:

"We find that the word 'know' is frequently used in scripture, not only foreknowledge, but also for favor, love...". 

Spurgeon then states:

"In Romans 11:2 we read: 'God hath not cast away His people which He foreknew', where the same sense evidently has the idea of "fore-love", and so it is to be understood here."

Like mighty pillars of a great bridge sunk deep into the ocean, wherefore we cannot see their bottoms but nonetheless know their ability to uphold the bridge, so it is with these five pillars of blessed assurance in salvation: foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification and glorification. In today's post we are going to consider predestination and calling in Romans 8:29-30.  

God's Purposes in Christ - Romans 8:29
Romans 8:29 introduces us to the anchors of God's plan: foreknowledge and predestination. These words are not revealed in scripture to scare us, but rather to comfort us. Foreknowledge, as we've explored already, could just as easily be rendered "fore-loving" or "pre-loving". God's eternal pre-love of each believer before they were born and even before all creation is one of the foundations for blessed assurance. Another way we could state this first truth in Romans 8:29: God knows where you're at before you ever arrive at where you're at.  

So what about predestination? Predestination has to do with God "marking out" the boundaries of each and every individual Christian's life before they were born. Foreknowledge speaks of God's loving intent for each believer before they were born and predestination can be likened unto a set of blue prints. 

In roughly 100 places in the Bible we find the truth of God's elective purpose of grace as expressed in predestination. Such a truth, like God's foreknowledge, is not based upon anything the Christian would be seen to do but only upon God's choice for them based upon His love for them in eternity (Ephesians 1:4-5; 2 Peter 1:1-2). Ephesians 1:5 notes: "He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will." 

So why would God begin planning each believer's salvation in eternity? Paul tells us the point of plan in Romans 8:29: "to become conformed to the image of His Son". The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 explains for us God's total elective purpose in this regard: 

"Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God's sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility."

Predestination covers God's purposes which He has marked out for the Christian. Sometimes people err in thinking God has a parallel form of predestination for those who die in their sins, resulting in God sending some to hell and others to heaven. The doctrine of predestination only covers God's purposes for the Christian, whereas the sinner's choice to reject Christ and die in their sins lies as their choice and mistake (see John 3:17-18; Acts 13:46). 

Predestination in Romans 8:29 unfolds what is meant by "the purpose of God" in Romans 8:29. Notice how Paul emphasizes God's Sovereignty operating in the believer's life. God "causes" all things. Christ is the pattern and end goal of the believer's salvation in God's work of predestination. God is the Orchestrator of human affairs. Even when mankind sins, God can still use the foolish decisions of sinful men to achieve His ultimate purpose. 

Were it not for the Ultimate purpose of God at the end of Romans 8:28, and the assurances of foreknowledge and predestination in Romans 8:29, the entirety of life and salvation as we know it would fall to the ground. God is for the Christian, as stated plainly in Romans 8:31. This speaks of the goal God has established for you dear Christian to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.

Gracious Call Of The Spirit - Romans 8:30

So when it comes to the blessed assurances of salvation in Romans 8:28-31, we've noted God's pre-eternal love (i.e foreknowledge) and God's purposes in Christ (i.e predestination). But now what of that third assurance: The gracious call of the Spirit? This third link of the "golden chain of salvation" brings us from eternity past into this present world and the specific lives of individual sinners. The Holy Spirit comes to people in their sins and calls them to leave their love affair with unbelief and trust in Jesus Christ for their salvation (John 16:8-12).

The great author of the past, A.W Tozer, notes what takes place the moment the Spirit calls the sinner to salvation: 

"The moment the Spirit has quickened us to life in regeneration our whole being sense its kinship to God and leaps us in joyous recognition. That is the heavenly birth without which we cannot see the Kingdom of God."

When it comes to the Spirit's working in the human heart of calling the sinner to salvation, perhaps no clearer text can be found than 2 Corinthians 4:6 "For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." The Spirit was sent forth from heaven by the Father in the name of His Son, following the Son's ascension. Why? To call forth sinners, all who have ears to hear, to respond. The calling of the Spirit in Romans 8:29 assumes there to be hearts for Him to open. Unless those human hearts are exposed to the light of His grace, there will be no blooms to reach up to God and to receive His well-meant offer of salvation. 

Closing thoughts for today

So far we have considered three blessed assurances of Christian salvation as found in Romans 8:28-29 - foreknowledge (i.e God's pre-eternal love); predestination (i.e God's purposes in Christ) and calling (i.e The gracious call of the Spirit). I want to close out with this quote from a commentary on the Baptist Faith and Message that is edited by Charles S. Kelly Jr., Richard Land and R. Albert Mohler Jr:

"Throughout the history of the church, Christians have struggled to find the best way to reconcile God's Sovereignty and humanity's free will. Although Baptists have included believers who hold different understandings of how these truths are to be affirmed, we stand together on the great truth that God alone saved sinners. We are united in affirming both divine sovereignty and human responsibility. This is our common faith."

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