The “Golden Chain”: Romans 8:29-30

Above: Flower of the Laburnum (also called Golden Chain)

JP: Two worthwhile messages on this text:

Benjamin B. Warfield: Election


Read Rom. viii. 29, 30, and see “the golden chain” which, as a fine old divine, John Arrowsmith, puts it, “God lets down from heaven that by it he may draw up his elect thither.” “For whom he foreknew”–that is election, the setting upon his people with distinguishing preoccupation and love, according to the pregnant use of “know” in such a passage say, as Amos iii. 2, “You only have I known out of all the families of the earth” –“for whom he foreknew, he also foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son”-this is the high destiny prepared for us!–“that he might be the firstborn among many brethren: and whom he foreordained, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” Count these five golden links, all acts of God’s own, working our salvation, and note how they are welded together in one unbreakable chain, so that all who are set upon in God’s gracious distinguishing view are carried on by his grace, step by step, up to the great consummation of that glorification which realizes the promised conformity to the image of God’s own Son. It is “election,” you see, that does all this; for “whom he foreknew, . . . them he also glorified.” That fine old divine to whom we have just referred tells us further that “election, having once pitched upon a man, will find him out and call him home, wherever he be. Zacchaeus out of cursed Jericho; Abraham out of idolatrous Ur of the Chaldeans; Nicodemus and Paul out of the college of the Pharisees, Christ’s sworn enemies; Dionysius and Damaris, out of superstitious Athens. In whatever dunghill God’s jewels be hid, election will both find them out there and fetch them out from thence.” “Rejoice,” our Savior cried (Luke x. 20), “rejoice in this- that your names are written in heaven,” in, that is, the Lamb’s book of life (Rev. xxi. 27), which the same fine old divine counsels us always to remember, is “a book of love-the writing of our names in which is the firstborn of all God’s favors.”

James Boice: A Golden Chain Of Five Links


When I was writing about Romans 8:28 in the previous study, I said that for most Christians that verse is one of the most comforting statements in the entire Word of God. The reason is obvious. It tells us that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” That is, God has a great and good purpose for all Christians and he is working in all the many detailed circumstances of their lives to achieve it.

Wonderful as that verse is, the verses that follow are even more wonderful, for they tell how God accomplishes this purpose and remind us that it is God himself who accomplishes it. The last reminder is the basis for what is commonly known as “eternal security” or “the perseverance of the saints.”

Some time ago I came across an amusing but apparently true story. In 1966 the Hindu holy man and mystic Rao announced that he would walk on water. This attracted a great deal of attention, and on the day set for the feat a great crowd gathered around a large pool in Bombay, India, where it was to occur. The holy man prayerfully prepared himself for the miracle and then stepped forward to the pool’s edge. A solemn hush fell over the assembled observers. Rao glanced upward to heaven, stepped forward onto the water, and then immediately plummeted into the pool’s depths. Sputtering, dripping wet, and furious, he emerged from the pool and turned angrily on the embarrassed crowd. “One of you,” he said, “is an unbeliever.”

Fortunately, our salvation is not like that, because if it were, it would never happen. In spiritual matters we are all unbelievers. We are weak in faith. But we are taught in these great verses from Romans that salvation does not depend upon our faith, however necessary faith may be, but on the purposes of God.

And it is the same regarding love. The apostle has just said that in all things God works for the good of those who love him. But lest we somehow imagine that the strength of our love is the determining factor in salvation, he reminds us that our place in this good flow of events is not grounded in our love for God but on the fact that he has fixed his love upon us.

How has God loved us? Let me count the ways.

These verses introduce us to five great doctrines: (1) foreknowledge, (2) predestination, (3) effectual calling, (4) justification, and (5) glorification. These five doctrines are so closely connected that they have rightly and accurately been described as “a golden chain of five links.” Each link is forged in heaven. That is, each describes something God does and does not waver in doing. This is why John R. W. Stott calls them “five undeniable affirmations.”1 The first two are concerned with God’s eternal counsel or past determinations. The last two are concerned with what God has done, is doing, or will do with us. The middle term (“calling”) connects the first pair and the last.

These doctrines flow from eternity to eternity. As a result, there is no greater scope given to the wonderful activity of God in salvation in all the Bible.

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