Self-confidence is the backbone of our sinful condition. In our sin, we regard ourselves as righteous; apart from God, apart from grace. God’s grace crushes our spine of pride in His unfathomable love. The heart of the gospel dispels any foolish talk of human self-worth or boasting. The gospel is a message of certainty. However, it calls us to be completely uncertain about ourselves and unshakably certain about what God has done outside of us in Christ. Every step of our salvation is sure because Christ is our anchor amid the sorrows of sin and the accusations of Satan. We do not stand on a limb. No, our feet are firm on solid ground.
Paul gives his famous “golden chain of salvation” in Romans 8:29-30. Far from serving as fuel for needless controversy, God’s sovereign plan, unbreakable as it is, serves our worship of God and our assurance of final, eternal delight in Christ. These doctrines are less of a mallet and more of ballast; a help to the weary Christian heart. From beginning to end, God has written His plan of salvation for his people and did so before we had a chance to do bad or good. Bask in this certain salvation, accomplished by the objective gospel of Christ, and be driven to superior delight in the God who saves.
Our salvation began in eternity past. This word “foreknown” has been written off by many as mere precognition. Surely God looked down the corridor of time to see exactly how I would respond to the gospel in my own good sense. Thankfully God’s foreknowledge is more exhaustive. God’s omniscience and His omnipotence work in perfect agreement. God’s knowledge and His power to enact all that He pleases are never separate. Moreover, God’s “knowing” us before the foundation of the world is a kind of “foreloving.” God knew us as a husband knows his wife. This is an intimate love, indeed the very kind that human intimacy is to highlight. God’s foreknowing us serves our confidence in His promise to save because before we sinned once, God chose to save us.
God’s predestination and His foreknowledge are virtually inseparable. God’s foreknowledge is written as eternal plan in the mind of God in eternity past. Those whom He foreknew He predestined in such a way that they would without a doubt be saved. Their lives are guided under the special providence of God so that they will undoubtedly hear the gospel and be saved by the Holy Spirit’s effectual, internal work. We are far from the captain of our own souls. God in His love has predestined us that we might be holy and blameless in His sight (Eph. 1:3). God’s purpose in election serves gives confidence that His love is not based on anything seen in us but finding its single source in God’s good pleasure and terminating on His glory alone.
How can be be confident that we have been foreknown and predestined? Simple. The next domino in the sequence falls. All those elect of God are called in time and space. There are no hidden elect running around who are saved but act like devils. Election is proven by calling. This calling as our brothers of Beautiful Eulogy have so nicely put it is “not like an invitation that one might accept or reject. Instead its his effectual calling his drawing to Himself his elect.” All are called by the universal call of the gospel. But whosoever comes to belief does so only because the Holy Spirit breathes new life into their dead bodies. Fear that you will not continue? You did not even start on your own. God’s effectually calling, giving us new affections and desires for God and against sin, shows that we have been elected in God’s grace from before the foundation of the world.
Here redemption accomplished meshes with redemption applied. This doctrine of justification is what separates the gospel from all would-be competitors. What can save from wrath? Even our best post-regeneration works have enough sin in them to disqualify us from heaven forever. However, our good works serve as the fruit of the root that is justification. God declares us to be what are not: righteous. Not simply forgiven, but righteous. This is not because God is a liar. Instead, God can declare the ungodly just because Christ has become sin on their behalf and His perfect obedience is imputed to their account by the instrument of faith and repentance. Trusting and resting characterize justifying faith. We rest from even our greatest deeds, even Spirit-wrought ones! Justification is the objective, one-time declaration that we are united to Christ, adopted as sons into the family of God whom we once regarded as nothing in the flesh. Justification is certain. We do not waver in our union with God, even when our sin disrupts our comfort and communion with God. As children, our confidence is in God’s gracious provision of all that He requires. All other ground is sinking sand!
You may notice that sanctification is not mentioned in the “golden chain.” Well, glorification is the bookend to the process started in regeneration. Initial sanctification begets the progressive sanctification of the justified. We have been enabled to see and savor the glory of God (2 Cor. 4:1-5). Now we are being transformed from one degree of glory to the next as we with unveiled face behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 3:18). Glorification is the completion of God’s work. Is that not comforting to your soul, you who struggle so much with the remaining sin in your members? Even in your great warfare, the victory is sure. We fight, not to gain victory, but because in Christ we already have it. God has purchased us from every sin that would keep us from persevering to the end. Far from eliminating any motivation to fight, we are emboldened by the finished work of Christ to persevere ourselves as God’s preservation fleshes itself out in His animating us to do that which is good and pleasing in His sight (Heb. 13:21). Believer, your glorification is sure. God’s chain will not be broken just before its last link. He will complete what He started. Then, we will be like Him for we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2).
Rest and Fight
Paul erupts in doxology. If God has given us all things in Christ, will He not graciously continue to satisfy us in the morning with His steadfast love. God’s Spirit will continue to remind you of the great gospel of grace in order that your fight for joy in God will not weaken, but increase. However, you will never be able to fight enough. Our greatest strides in sanctification are but “splendid vices.” But they are real virtue and must be cultivated, not to secure our spot in eternity, but because our status in irrevocable and the certainty of the gospel anchors us in the fight.