May 19, 2024


Passage: Romans 8:29-30

29 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. 30 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, ESV

There is a name that strikes fear in the heart of Southern Baptists everywhere.  No, I’m not talking about Anheuser-Busch or Jack Daniels.  I have in mind someone much darker, ominous, and anathema to freedom-loving church members everywhere.  The name is John Calvin.

Calvin is credited, or discredited, with cooly executing those who disagreed with him, taking away our freedom and turning people into puppets with his five points, and inventing the dreaded doctrine of predestination.  None of this, however, is true.

John Calvin never killed anyone.  Church and state were one back then, and those deemed heretics by the church received capital punishment from the state.  The infamous heretic Michael Servetus and others were victims of the culture, not Calvin.

Far from restricting man’s liberties, John Calvin was considered one of the first humanists in pre-enlightenment history, a champion of personal autonomy and freedom.  Nowadays we call it democracy.  Calvin did not come up with the five points of Calvinism, either.  They were formulated in the century after the great reformer’s life and death.

And please do not blame predestination on John Calvin.  He did not invent it.  Neither did the Apostle Paul.  It is simply one of the five points of salvation, authored and ordained, by Almighty God.

The Five Points

The book of Romans is God’s most definitive word on the subject of salvation.  Chapter 8 is its apex.  Verses 29-30 are its five finer points: foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, and glorification.  They are the ordo salutus, the order of salvation, the decrees and actions God takes to save a soul.

Foreknowledge is not foresight nor fortune telling.  Though we get our word prognostication from it, this is another example of how English can soften or mischaracterize the Greek.  God is not predicting the outcome of football games nor gazing into a crystal ball to see who will choose Him or choose not to choose Him.  Foreknowledge is God’s choice, fore, long before, of certain persons to know, to have an intimate, personal, permanent relationship with Him, as Father and child (ref. John 15:16; Ephesians 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 1:4; Peter 2:9; etc).

Predestination is the predetermination of a desired and decreed destiny.  It can only be done by someone with ultimate power, authority, and control.  God has all three.  When He chooses to make someone His dear child, He plans and predetermines the steps they will take to come to Him (ref. Proverbs 20:24; Ephesians 1:5,11).  “Every step you take, I’ll be watching you,” sang The Police.  God is not merely watching, He is determining, guiding, and guaranteeing the outcome of salvation.

Calling comes when you hit that certain step where salvation unfolds.  It is powerful experience, wrought by the hearing God’s word and the gospel (ref. Psalm 33:8-9; John 1:12; Romans 1:16, 10:17).  It is effectual, changing and regenerating you (ref. John 3:3; 2 Corinthians 2:17; Titus 2:5).  It is personal and irresistible, like dead bones rising to live (ref. Ezekiel 37); or, better still, like Jesus calling Lazarus from the grave (ref. John 11).  This is the calling and creating of your new birth (ref. John 3), of you becoming a child of God.

Justification has already been much discussed in Romans (ref. Romans 3:21-5:21).  It is a declaration of salvation, the forgiveness of all sin, the imputation of righteousness.  It is decreed by God’s grace, obtained by God-given faith, and purchased by God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Glorification is the blessed end to all of God’s means of grace.  It is the status of sainthood.  It is the promise of Heaven.  It is the theme of this chapter (ref. Romans 8:1-39) which begins with no condemnation, ends with no separation, and along the way all things work together for good.  This good is the goal of the five points, for God to save and gather a people for Himself to be like and to be with the Lord Jesus Christ for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Five Principles

These five points give rise to five principles, helping us to make sense of the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man in salvation.  The first is an argument from silence, pointing out someone and something not mentioned in the two verses.  The following four are derived directly from this text and the totality of Holy Scripture

The freedom principle points out there is nothing in this text that takes away or threatens in any way your imago dei, your free moral agency, your God-given ability to make free, willing, and consequential choices.  Actually, you are not mentioned at all in this text, only God, who is freely and willingly granting salvation to whom He chooses.
Every person who receives this free gift of salvation makes a free and willing decision to repent of sin and commit to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Every person who remains lost makes a free and willing decision to reject the gospel, neglect the Bible, shun or fake participation in the church, and live life on their terms rather than God’s.  Lost people are lost because they choose to be lost.  Saved people are saved because God chooses them to be saved.

We must remember, based upon what we have already learned from Romans and the rest of the Bible, that while man is free, he is also depraved (ref. Romans 3:9ff).  Depraved means unable more than bad.  I am physically depraved, free to climb aboard an airplane but unable to fly on my own.  I am mentally depraved, free to read and remember things but unable to memorize the entire Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.  I am spiritual depraved, free to choose my own religion or lack thereof, but unable to save myself, apart from the sovereign grace of God.

So how can we be saved?  We are saved by the decree and determinate action of Almighty God.  The following four principles explain the where, when, how, and why of the sovereign salvation equation.

The grammatical principle points out all five points, all five key words, are in the exact same grammatical form.  They are all verbs (action words) in the aorist tense (past action), active voice (the actor alone is doing the action), indicative mood (the action is ongoing and never-ending).  The past is eternity past, before creation, “before the foundation of the world” (ref. Ephesians 1:4; Revelation 13:8).  As God said to Job, “Where were you?” (ref. Job 38:4).

Before you knew the Lord, He knew you.  Before you lived, God predestined your life.  Before you called upon the name of the Lord, God called your name.  Before you were justified by faith, God ordained to grant you faith.  Before you were glorified, and all us here today are still waiting, God made a promise to you, you will be in Heaven with Him, forever and ever.

The monergism principle points out the agent acting in all five points, in all five verbs, is God, and God alone.  Monergism means one energy.  Ephesians 2:8-10 teaches we cannot be saved by our own energy, whether it be physical work, mental decision, or spiritual offering.  Only God’s energetic work on our behalf can bestow upon us salvation.

This is a good place to point out parenthetically why sanctification is not on the list of five words.  Sanctification is synergistic, cooperative, God’s energy (Spirit) working with our energy (worship, Bible study, active obedience, intentional restraint, and a myriad of other good works).  It is the proof of salvation, but it is not the grounds.

The grace principle points out the necessity and power of God’s grace in salvation.  Grace really is the greatest miracle.  It raises those who are dead in sin (ref. Ephesians 2:1ff).  It heals spiritual depravity (ref. Romans 3:9ff).  It saves the soul, eternally.  I was dead, depraved, and desperately wicked before a holy God.  His miracle of grace birthed me anew, put His Spirit in me, and made me a saint, guaranteed of glory, which is the fifth principle based on the five points.

The glory principle points out the ultimate purpose of God.  God’s purpose is to glorify Himself in His Son Jesus Christ by sending forth His Spirit, His word, and His gospel to save a people who will belong to Him and glorify Him.  This is why we live for Christ, now and forever.  This is why we share the word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ, so that others may know and glorify God, now and forever.

One of my favorite books is “By His Grace and for His Glory.”  It was written by my church history professor, Dr. Tom Nettles.  It is history and it is theology, a story of early Baptists and the original Southern Baptists, who were not afraid of John Calvin.  As a matter of fact, the vast majority of them were five-point Calvinists, while at the same time the most evangelistic and missions-minded Christians in Christian history.

You do not have to consider yourself a Calvinist to affirm the inspiration and authority of the five points of Romans 8:29-30, and the principles they provide.  Truly, this is God’s word revealing God’s way of salvation.  They do not tell us altogether why lost people remain lost, or how God passes over the masses to save a chosen few.  But if you are God’s child, it does tell you how and why He saved you.  It was, “By His Grace and For His Glory!”

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