The Golden Chain of Salvation
“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” Romans 8:29-30
Romans 8:29-30 describes the sequence known as the ‘golden chain of salvation’, the unbreakable order in which God saves His people. Included in this significant passage is the stunning description of Jesus as ‘the firstborn among many brothers and sisters’ (v.29). Jesus as the only begotten Son of God is the ‘firstborn’ and rightly enjoys pre-eminence, but ‘among many brothers and sisters’! In other words, every believer in Jesus has the inestimable privilege of being adopted into his family and accorded the honour of being his brother or sister. A believer belongs to two families, one through natural birth and one by spiritual rebirth, the latter by the gracious gift of a new heart from our loving heavenly Father. The process of becoming one of God’s children by adoption into his family by being born again is a golden chain in itself, each link in the chain set out in order below. The order is not necessarily chronological, more an unfolding revelation.
“Just as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will” (Ephesians 1:4-5)
The source and origin of our adoption into Christ’s family is God’s electing grace. Mind boggling is the thought that we were chosen before the foundation of the world. What part could any self-merit play; God has all the glory.
“Listen to me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been upheld by me from birth, who have been carried from the womb: Even to your old age, I am he, and even to your grey hairs, I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear: even I will carry, and will deliver you.” (Isaiah 46:3-4)
Although the immediate reference is to the nation of Israel which God raised up to be his own special people, there is a particular application to each believer. From the instant of birth to the last breath of life, God is our kind and loving provider and protector, hovering over us, as it were, like a mother hen over her chicks. The creator of the universe is deeply involved in every aspect of our lives and is so from birth to forevermore. We have an intimate and personal relationship with our great God.
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5)
Christ the Son of God became the Son of Man to redeem us from the curse of the law and deliver us from being children of wrath to sons and daughters of the living God. At the fall the filial relationship between God and man came to an end. Thereafter, the father/son relationship is between Satan and man. In our natural state we are rightly called “children of the devil” (1 John 3:10). However, when we are united to Christ by effectual calling, conversion, and justification we are profoundly changed and become children of God. We have what is called the ‘first fruits of the Spirit’, but the full redemption of the body is deferred to the resurrection when our defiled bodies will be refined and beautified and made like the glorious body of Christ. “For we know that the whole creation groans and labours with birth pangs together until now. And not only they, but we also who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:22-23).
“But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in his name.” (John 1:12)
Our adoption into the family of God is by way of an endowment — a free gift of grace from the Lord Jesus Christ. Our union with him through faith has secured our place in his family. It was only in Christ that we were predestined for adoption, it was only in Christ that we were redeemed from the curse of the law, and it is only in Christ that we live and move and have our being. Sadly, most of Jesus’ compatriots in Israel preferred to be called children of Abraham, rather than children of God and brothers of Christ.
“For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out ‘Abba, Father’. The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” (Romans 8:15-16)
As God would have all his children resemble him, he has sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts. The Government may authorize a child to be adopted into a family, but that child never bears the image of the father in the same way as a believer is conformed into the image of Jesus and becomes part of his family. And only believers can truly address God as ‘Abba Father’. The nearest analogy is that of the affectionate, endearing, importunity of a child fully dependent on his father. Prayer is the natural outflow of our own spirit melding with the Spirit of God.
“If children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified together.” (Romans 8:17)
Our standing with God is elevated still further by the grant of an inheritance. We do not have full enjoyment of our inheritance until we meet him face-to-face in glory, but in the meantime we can enjoy a foretaste of heaven each day as we experience his presence and power in our lives. David could say, “You O Lord are the portion of my cup. You maintain my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places. Yes I have a good inheritance” (Psalm 16:5-6).
“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son…..I taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by their arms; but they did not know that I healed them. I drew them with gentle cords, with bands of love, and I was to them as those who take the yoke from their neck. I stooped and fed them.” (Hosea 11:1-4)
Hosea reminds us of the constancy of the practical love of God for his beloved sons and daughters—a love which cares (1 Pet. 5:7), protects (Prov. 14:26), helps (Job 5:19), provides (Matt. 6:32-33), disciplines (Heb. 12:6), heals (Hos. 11:3), preserves (1 Thess. 5:23), comforts (2 Cor. 1:3-4), guides (Ps. 48:14), and forgives (Ps. 86:5). “Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1).