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The Golden Chain

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
February 14, 2023 12:01 am

The Golden Chain

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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February 14, 2023 12:01 am

The Lord's redemptive work in our lives does not begin at our conversion. Today, Derek Thomas describes the unbreakable sequence of God's gracious dealings toward His people from eternity to eternity.

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Living on the Edge
Chip Ingram

Today on Renewing Your Mind… Welcome back to our studies of Romans 8. We're calling it the best chapter in the Bible. And in our previous study, the best verse in the Bible, probably verse 28, and we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose. And having mentioned calling, He now expands on that in verse 29 and verse 30. The good in verse 28. We know that for those who love God, all things work together for good.

And in our previous study, we said the good was our final glorification. He intends us to come all the way home. And to be in those mansions that Jesus said had been prepared for us, that's the goal, and that's the ultimate good that God has in store for us. And He ensures in all things, good things, bad things, evil things, and things that we don't understand, He weaves and coordinates in His sovereignty to ensure that final outcome.

And before we were here, and before we were here, there's eternity in the past. And so, Paul, as it were, pulls the camera out from the circumstances of difficulty and distress and the weakness and the futility of this world. And he, as it were, pans the camera out in order to see that our salvation, that ultimate good that God has in store for us, is actually something that begins in eternity and ends in eternity. And the way in which he does that is that he intends to conform us, and notice in verse 29, to conform us to the image of His Son. So, an answer to the question, what is that ultimate good that God has in store, one answer is to glorify us.

But what does that mean, or perhaps what does that look like? And the answer to that is to look like Jesus, to be as holy as Jesus is holy. He intends to mold and shape us, and He intends to mold and shape the circumstances in which we find ourselves to conform us to the image of His Son.

What is sanctification? Jesus' likeness, to be like Jesus. So, there is a sense in which we could ask the question, what would Jesus do in this circumstance or that circumstance? And there's a sense in which that question can be the wrong question to ask because Jesus was a unique person, and He was the Messiah, and therefore, what He would do would not necessarily be what we would do.

But in moral questions of what is right and wrong, in questions with regard to the purposes of following God and yielding our wills to God's will, then I think it is a perfectly appropriate question to ask, what would Jesus do in these circumstances? So, God is going to make you and me like Jesus. To the extent that we're not like Jesus is the extent of the work that is still left to do. Some of us have a lot left to do, and we are still in the workshop, which is down here, until we get to the showroom, which is up here. Now, this passage is famous because it introduces us to the idea of the order of salvation, what we sometimes call the ordo salutis in Latin. And there are five links of a chain that are brought to the surface.

Let me explain where that image comes from. William Perkins was a Puritan preacher, teacher, professor of systematic theology at Cambridge University. He was born in the middle of the 1500s and died in the first decade of the 1600s.

Had you been a Puritan preacher in the late 1500s, you would have gone to Oxford or Cambridge in order to study, and the Puritans were some of the best students and most educated ministers in the land. And had you gone to Cambridge, you would have got William Perkins. And William Perkins was an astonishing man, a prodigious author. Even as I speak, his collected writings are being republished.

They've had to be re-edited. The works were still in Elizabethan English and had to be brought up to date, and there are ten volumes due to be published of the works of William Perkins. His most famous work, famous works are a treatment of predestination, a statement about predestination. And perhaps his most famous, famous work was The Golden Chain. And he based it on this passage, Romans 8, 29, and 30, and especially verse 30, those whom he predestined he called, and those whom he called he justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. So in verse 29, you have four knowledge and predestination, and then calling, and then justification, and then glorification.

And there is a sequence to that. There's a logical sequence to it, but there's also to some extent a chronological sequence to it in the sense that calling comes before justification and not the other way around, and calling comes before glorification and not the other way around. And so, you've got five links of a chain, The Golden Chain, from foreknowledge to predestination to calling to justification to glorification. When we today study the order salutis, we add things that are not in here from the rest of the New Testament, and they'd be things like faith and repentance and adoption and sanctification, both in its definitive and progressive aspects and the perseverance of the saints. And all of those are definable aspects of what our salvation means and what it looks like, the shape of those. And we sometimes speak of those aspects of the order salutis in terms of their relationship to one unifying theme, union with Christ. And sometimes I like to think of union with Christ as the hub of a wheel in which the spokes are foreknowledge, predestination, faith, repentance, justification, sanctification, perseverance, glorification, and so on. And sometimes using more technical language, we see union with Christ as the architectonic principle that unifies the totality of the shape of our salvation. Let's dive into the text and try and unpack all of that. And he mentions, first of all, foreknowledge. He's swinging the camera back, widening the shot a little, and he's saying, the fact that you're a Christian now, how is that?

What is the cause? What is the reason that you're a Christian? And you say, well, because I believed in Jesus. I made a decision.

I can date that decision, and so on and so forth. And Paul is shaking his head, and he's saying, no, the reason you're a Christian is because God has done something, because you are dead in trespasses and in sins. And though there are things that you do, you do it in response to something that God does.

And so, he pans the camera all the way out, and he says, back in eternity, before there was you, actually before there was anything, before there was a world, before there were atoms and molecules and magnetic forces, there was God, God in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and God foreknew you. So, the Arminian comes in and says, yes, I understand foreknowledge. God can see into the future, and He can see you making a decision. And that's what Paul is talking about.

It is foresight, and He can see that you make a decision. And Paul is shaking his head, and he's saying, no, I'm using foreknowledge here in the way the Bible uses the word foreknowledge. To know in the Bible means to love. Adam knew his wife, and they became one and they became one flesh.

It's a word that is synonymous with love. Genesis 19 speaks of God foreknowing, loving Abraham before he was called Abraham. And the idea here is that God set His affection upon you in eternity.

He made a compact. He made a covenant with His Son, that He would set His affection upon you, having decreed that sin would enter into the world. He also decreed salvation, that He would send a Messiah, that He would send a Savior to redeem His people. And He decrees to elect and predestine some. So, the text goes on, whom He foreknew, He also predestined. And this is the great word, isn't it?

It's here in the Bible. It's the election word. It's the predestination word. It's to set your destiny beforehand, predestination. Before you were born, before you could make a decision, before you had a will, before you had an existence, God issued a decree. He planned, He purposed, He predestined. He foreknew, He set His love upon, He set His affection upon, and He set a course of action.

He predestined. And this is where Arminians and Calvinists disagree. At the Synod of Dort in 1518 and 1519, they discussed the five remonstrances of the Arminian platform. And one of the doctrines that they discussed, you remember, we sometimes use the acronym TULIP, Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and the Perseverance of the Saints.

And this is the you, the unconditional election. And Arminians believed in free will, at least some concept of free will, that we were free to make any decision that we wanted to make, including decisions about salvation. And the Calvinists said, no, our wills are in bondage. One of the first books that Martin Luther wrote, for example, at the beginning of the Reformation in the 1520s was The Bondage of the Will, and that we are dead in trespasses and in sins, and that that sin has affected every aspect of our being, including our wills, including our ability to make decisions relating to salvation.

We cannot choose the good that we ought to choose because there is a predisposition within us to choose that which is bad and evil. I sought the Lord, but afterward I knew He moved my soul to seek Him seeking me. It was not I that found, O Savior, true. No, I was found of Thee. Now, we all believe that.

Arminians believe this. When you get on your knees, and you talk to God, and you think about your salvation, and you say, Lord, thank You that You saved me. I know I made a decision. I know I said, Lord Jesus, I want You.

I desire You with all of my heart. But if You hadn't been there, it wouldn't have happened. You moved me to do that. It was You, and You thank God for Your salvation.

Now, an Arminian, if an Arminian was true and loyal to his or her convictions, they would say, time out. Lord, this was me. This was all of my doing. I'm just going to have a me moment, and I'm going to pat myself on the back and say that was a good decision, and it was a very good decision. It was the best decision imaginable, and it was all of me.

Now, Lord, where were we? Actually, I've never heard anyone say any such thing, but that would be a logical thing to do if you really think that salvation was entirely your decision. And Paul is saying, if salvation is your decision, then it would be a work.

It would be something that you would be credited with. It would undermine justification by faith alone, in Christ alone. And that faith is a gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast, Ephesians 2. Actually, that's what the Calvinists said to the Arminians, that they were just like Roman Catholics in that sense, who based their salvation on works, on performance, not performing the ritual of the sacramental treadmill as Roman Catholics did, but worshipping at the shrine of the freedom of the human will and saying that salvation was entirely my decision.

And Calvinists said, that makes faith a work, and that undermines justification by faith. He foreknew, he predestined, and then Paul comes into time and space, and he says, and he called. He called.

There's a general call, and then there's an effectual call. Some of us heard this call many, many times before we actually yielded to the call. And we heard this call in reading the Bible or in sermons or in somebody witnessing to us or a tract or something of that nature.

And then there was the effectual call that Paul is speaking of here. He writes to the Corinthians, and he calls them in the very opening verses of Corinthians. He calls them the holy called ones, called to be holy.

You could translate it, the holy called ones. What is a Christian? A Christian is somebody who has heard a call and responded. We are the called ones. Now, we don't generally speak like that, but that would be perfectly New Testament and Paul to say that. I'm a Christian. I'm a called one.

I have somebody who has received a call, and that call was effectual. It was a call to faith. It was a call to surrender. It was a call to repent of my sins. It was a call to come to Jesus with empty hands and say, nothing in my hands I bring, simply to thy cross I cling. It was a call, it was a call.

Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? A call like that. And you may not be conscious of that call in the sense that it wasn't a voice that you heard. Some of you experienced that call in listening to a sermon. Some of you experienced that call because after a long period of conviction, like say, John Bunyan in Pilgrim's Progress, eventually that burden got so heavy that you fell on your knees and you cried, what must I do to be saved, like the Philippian jailer.

And you heard the answer, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. And some of you can't remember that call at all because you have always been conscious of one who believes in Jesus. From your earliest days and God called you when you were still a little child, and perhaps you have no memory of it.

And I believe God can call even in a mother's womb, as I think John the Baptist was called to faith in his mother's womb. Those whom he foreknew he also predestined, and verse 30, and those whom he predestined he called, and those whom he called he also justified. What is justification? Justification is a declaration by God that we are in a right relationship with Him.

It is a legal forensic verdict on behalf of God the Judge that we are not guilty, that our sins, though they are red like crimson, are as white as snow on the basis that Jesus was made sin for us who knew no sin that we might be reckoned the righteousness of God in Him. Justification is a declaration that we are just, not just in ourselves, but just in Jesus, just in Christ, because we wear the spotless robe of Christ's righteousness. We are justified. We are in a right relationship with God. Being justified by faith, Romans 5, 1, we have peace with God. And then Paul jumps from justification. You'd expect him to say those whom he justified he sanctified, those whom he justified he enabled to persevere, but instead he goes straight from justification to glorification, because follow Paul's logic. When you have justification, true justification, in a sense you have everything. Because what is justification? Justification is the declaration that God will pronounce on the day of judgment brought in to the here and now.

It is the not yet verdict brought into the here and now. So, in Paul's logic, once you are justified, there's nothing that can undo that. Now, there's a process that you're going to go through, and God is going to conform you to the image of His Son. He's going to sanctify you. He's already told us in verses 12 and 13 that we're to mortify the deeds of the flesh in order that we might live. We are to engage in a holy war against sin. In the words of John Owen, we are to kill sin before it kills you. We are to kill sin or a part of a sin every single day.

We are to put on, we are to put off, and we are to put on the fruits of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, and so on. And more and more as we weave our way through this life, we are to be progressively sanctified, becoming more and more actually holy. But in a forensic sense, in a legal sense, we are as holy as we can ever be.

We are as holy as Jesus is holy, because the holiness that justifies us is the holiness of Jesus Christ, and that holy is spotless and pure. So, in the logic of Paul's thought, once you are justified, truly justified, you're going to be glorified, and nothing can stop you. And those whom he predestined, he also called, and those whom he called, he justified, and those whom he justified, he also glorified from eternity to eternity. And God has a hold of you and nothing in between, not life nor death nor angels nor principalities nor powers nor things present nor things to come nor anything in all of creation can separate us from the love of God, which is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So, Paul is giving us a little cameo of how salvation works itself out in us, and it begins in eternity with foreknowledge and predestination, and it comes into space and time with calling and justification, and it ends in eternity again in glorification. God is at work. This is all of God. The foreknowledge, the predestination, the calling, the justification, the glorification, the glorification, those are all things God does. There are responses that we make, faith, repentance, progressive sanctification, and so on, but salvation from beginning to end is all of God. Praise the Lord for that truth. It is our only hope.

What glorious good news! Those who believe will be glorified. You're listening to Renewing Your Mind and a message from a series on Romans chapter 8. Our teacher is Dr. Derek Thomas, and as you heard him say today, he considers this to be the greatest chapter in the Bible.

The apostle Paul explains salvation so completely, and he gives believers every reason to have hope and assurance. We'd like to send you this complete series. You'll receive 12 messages on two DVDs when you give a gift of any amount to Ligonier Ministries. This offer comes with a digital download of the series and a PDF of the study guide featuring an outline of each lesson, along with questions for discussion. You can make your request online at, or you can call us with your gift at 800-435-4343.

Dr. R.C. Sproul founded the Ligonier Valley Study Center back in 1971 with the goal of proclaiming the fullness of God's holiness to as many people as possible. We're a ministry that has always had a laser focus on theology, and this week Dr. Derek Thomas is helping us understand the theology of salvation and assurance. So request this 12-part series when you call us at 800-435-4343. Our web address again is, and in advance, let me thank you for your generous gift. Well, tomorrow the good news of Romans 8 continues. Here's a preview. How is it possible for Jesus to have accomplished all that was necessary to save us and that that accomplishment not be applied?

How is that possible? If Jesus has accomplished everything that is necessary for our salvation, it stands to reason it will be applied, and it will be applied to the letter. We as believers can have confidence in the saving work of Christ. We invite you to join us for the message titled, No Expense Spared. That's Wednesday, here on Redoing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-22 12:59:39 / 2023-02-22 13:08:09 / 9

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