Summary: Romans 8.29-30 supply both support and explanation for Paul’s premise that all things work together for good for those who love God. These verses in Romans are often used as a basis for structuring an “order of salvation” (ordo salutis). Though there is s
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 so whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
THE GOLDEN CHAIN (8.29-30)
Romans 8.29-30 supply both support and explanation for Paul’s premise that all things work together for good for those who love God. These verses in Romans are often used as a basis for structuring an “order of salvation” (ordo salutis). Though there is some merit to this, it does not appear that this is Paul’s intent, nor would such a list compiled from this text alone be complete. Still, these truths are nonetheless central to the doctrine of salvation. Throughout this section it is evident that God, not man, is the active agent in salvation. Even the one who loves God (8.28) does so only because even while he was God’s enemy he was reconciled by the death of Jesus (5.10; cp. 5.8; 1 John 4.10). Indeed, it is the irresistibleness of God’s love that makes salvation a reality for believers. The “golden chain” of salvation in Romans 8.29-30 demonstrates that God is the sole agent in securing one’s salvation.
The good [resulting from salvation] realized is not due to fate, luck, or even the moral superiority of believers; it is to be ascribed to God’s good and sovereign will, which has from eternity past to eternity future secured and guaranteed the good for those whom he has chosen. This is the significance of the “golden chain” that charts the course from God’s foreknowledge of believers to their glorification. In each case God is the subject of the verbs, for it is he who foreknew, predestined, called, justified, and glorified. The good he has begun he will finish (Phil. 1:6; cp. 1 Cor. 1:9; 1 Thess. 5:24). (Thomas Schreiner, Romans, p. 451).
There are some who argue that he foreknew (προέγνω, proegnō) ought to be understood that God, being omniscient, knew beforehand those who would accept the gospel message. Thus, by knowing from eternity past who would accept the gospel message and become a part of the redemptive community, God is then able to predestine them for salvation. Though the term does mean to know beforehand in Acts 26.5 (where Paul says, the Jews knew before now [proginōskōntes], for a long time, if they wished to testify, that I had lived according to the strictest party of our religion), that is clearly not Paul’s meaning in this context. To say that God knows something is going to happen in the future is self-evident—so if that was in fact Paul’s meaning, it is reasonable to expect him to have added something more to the proposition like God knows who will have faith and who will not? Moreover, such a definition of foreknew is neither explicitly stated nor is it implied by what Paul is saying. Indeed, of the six times the verb and its cognate noun are used in the New Testament only two occasions clearly use the word in the sense of knowing beforehand (in the case just cited and in 2 Peter 3.17). The present passage and the other four passages (Romans 11.2; 1 Peter 1.2, 20; Acts 2.23) wherein this word is used all suggest a previous relationship or that one was chosen beforehand. “That the verb here contains this peculiarly biblical sense of ‘know’ is suggested by the fact that it has a simple personal object. Paul does not say that God knew anything about us but that he knew us, and this is reminiscent of the OT sense of ‘know.’ Moreover, it is only some individuals – those who, having been ‘foreknown’ were also ‘predestined,’ ‘called,’ ‘justified,’ and ‘glorified’ – who are the objects of this activity; and this shows that an action applicable only to Christians must be denoted by the verb” (Douglas Moo, Romans, pp. 532-533).
The background of the term [proginōskein, to foreknow] should be located in the Old Testament, where for God “to know” (יוצ, yāda) refers to his covenantal love in which he sets his affection on those whom he has chosen (cf. Gen. 18:19; Exod. 33:17; 1 Sam. 2:12; Ps. 18:43; Prov. 9:10; Jer. 1:5; Hos. 13:5; Amos 3:2). The parallel terms “consecrate” and “appoint” in Jer. 1:5 are noteworthy, for the text is not merely saying that God “foresaw” that Jeremiah would serve as a prophet. The point is that God had lovingly chosen him to be a prophet before he was born. Similarly in Amos 3:2 God’s foreknowledge of Israel in contrast to that of the rest of the nations can scarcely be cognitional, for Yahweh had full knowledge of all nations of the earth. The intention of the text is to say that Yahweh had set his covenantal love only upon Israel. Romans 11:2 yields the same conclusion, “God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew.” … In other words, the verse is saying that God has not rejected his people upon whom he set his covenantal love. … The point is that God has predestined those upon whom he has set his covenantal affection. (Thomas Schreiner, Romans, p. 452)