The Golden Chain of Redemption

“We believe that God justifies and sanctifies those who by grace have faith in Jesus, and that He will one day glorify them—all to the praise of His glorious grace.”

The gospel is the good news that God saves sinners because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  When we talk about the gospel, we sometimes use words like predestination, justification, sanctification, and glorification.  Each of these helps us think about a different aspect of the gospel.  Predestination refers to God’s choice from before the foundation of the world to save certain sinners from their sin.  Justification refers to God declaring that we are righteous before Him because of the person and work of Jesus Christ on our behalf.  Sanctification refers to God’s work of transforming us to be more like Christ as we live the Christian life.  Glorification refers to God’s work of fully cleansing us from sin and giving us everlasting physical bodies.  These words make up what we call “the Golden Chain of Redemption.”

This is the teaching that predestination, justification, sanctification, and glorification are inseparably linked together.  All of the links (predestination, justification, sanctification, and glorification) in the chain (the gospel) stand or fall together.  If you lose one piece, you’ve lost the whole puzzle.  Thus we cannot reject any of these aspects, because then we will have to reject them all.  If we do that, then we will lose the whole gospel.

We confess that “God justifies and sanctifies those who by grace have faith in Jesus, and that He will one day glorify them—all to the praise of His glorious grace” is because Paul says, “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.  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 those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified” (Romans 8:28-30). 

That “all things work together for good” is one of the most precious promises in all of Scripture.  Can you feel the importance of knowing that all things work together for our good?  Everything that happens to us is part of God’s plan to work everything for our good and save us.  But consider Paul’s argument for what “the good” is: “For those whom God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son” (v. 29).  In other words, “the good” is our transformation into the image of Christ.  We could say that “all things work together so that we are transformed into the image of Christ,” which would be a faithful way to interpret the text. 

Notice these two things as well: 1) the same group of people in Romans 8:28-30 are all foreknown, predestined, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified, and 2) all of this is God’s work and therefore it is gracious.  Everyone who is foreknown by God is also predestined.  Everyone who is predestined is called.  Everyone who is called is justified.  And everyone who is justified is glorified.  Not one single person will be lost.  When God puts His special, redeeming love upon us, nothing can be ultimately against us (v. 31). 

How can we know for sure that all things work together for our good?  Here’s Paul’s answer: “And those whom God predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified” (v. 30).  We know that all things work together for our good 1) because God has always worked everything together for our good and 2) because God will continue to work everything together for our good.  We can be sure that God works everything together for our good precisely because our salvation is entirely the work of God: from the beginning (foreknowledge and predestination), in the middle (calling, justification, and sanctification), and to the end (glorification).  He will not lose any of us because He is the one doing the work to save us. 

This truth has many practical implications for the Christian life as well.  This is not something that we just think about, but it is the reality in which we live.  Thus in the Golden Chain of Redemption we have a remedy for all our anxieties.  All of our fears and all of our worries, though real and sometimes serious, find their solution in God’s work to predestine, justify, sanctify, and glorify us.  This vision of God gives our shaky legs solid ground to stand upon.

When we despair that God could ever love sinners like us, we must remember that God loved us before we were lovable.  When we feel uneasy about our relationship with God, we must remember that God Himself has declared us righteous, not because of anything we’ve done, but because of all that Jesus Christ has done for us.  When we are nervous that our Christian life is not going how we want it to go, we must remember that God is at work to transform us into the image of His Son.  And when we worry that we won’t make it to the end, we must remember that God will be faithful to glorify all those whom He has predestined, justified, and sanctified.  \

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