Unleashing God's Truth, One Verse at a Time

The Progress of Salvation

Romans 8:29-30

Code: 90-181

We have again the privilege tonight to open the Word of God and my own heart is rejoicing in what prospects await us as we look back to the eighth chapter of Romans...Romans chapter 8. And we are looking at verses 28 to 30 as the section that we're in right now out of this great, great chapter. We've been going through it a few months. And we've been discussing the fact that this chapter assures us that our salvation is eternal. So many people wonder and debate about the issue about whether you can lose your salvation. It's been an issue which has split the whole Christendom into two sides, as we were noting for you last time...those who call themselves Calvinists and those who call themselves Arminians...and this has been a major fissure in the midst of Christian history. And it is sad because the text of this chapter is so clear about the matter of a believer's security. In fact, these three verses, verses 28, 29 and 30, really sum up the most powerful statement of security in all the Bible.

Verse 28 says, "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose, for whom He foreknew He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son that He might be the firstborn among many brethren; and whom He predestined these He also called and whom He called these He also justified and whom He justified these He also glorified." This is, to put it mildly, a monumental portion of Scripture. And these three verses guarantee without variation, without equivocation and without exception the final glory of all of those who are saved.

Now we noted in verse 28 that the word "good" refers to final glory. God causes all things to work together for good, good being that eternal glory which has been the subject of his discussion since all the way back in verse 18. Now that ultimate glory is predetermined by God and God works out its fulfillment. All of that is sort of summed up at the end of verse 28 in the phrase "according to His purpose." God causes all things to work together for our eternal glory because that is what He has determined to be His purpose. His purpose was to save us to the uttermost. We are forever secure because that is the way God planned it. And we've been saying that the Son by His high priestly intercession assures it and the Spirit by His intercession assures it. Now as we come to verses 29 and 30 we begin to read the explanation of the phrase "according to His purpose."

Everything in your life is working toward your eternal glory, if you're a believer. The Holy Spirit is interceding for you, verses 26 and 27. The Lord Jesus is interceding for you, verse 34, He is at the right hand of God interceding for us. And the Spirit is interceding for us that we might be brought to glory and the Son is interceding for us that we might be brought to glory...because that is God's purpose for every member of the trinity is involved in fulfilling the divine purpose that we who believe might be brought to glory.

Now as we approach verses 29 and 30, we've already talked about some of the elements in this particular section of Scripture. We want to kind of finish that up tonight. And we want to talk about foreknowledge, predestination in particular and how that brings us to the promise and the guarantee of eternal glory. As we talk about foreknowledge, and as we talk about predestination, these are very profound, very deep truths and as we try to understand them with our limited minds, as we try to grasp the purpose of God, we have to remember that we're embarking upon a journey into a realm of truth for which we are not fully equipped. In other words, we have to recognize at the beginning that we're going to get in pretty deep and we're going to get in way over our head, in fact we're going to be beyond our capability to comprehend. We're going to journey into the divine infinity of divine purpose and no higher pursuit than that exists and we have limits as to how far we can really go.

Now I want you to understand something at the very beginning. It is absolutely imperative that you understand that any limitation on this doctrine, any limitation upon understanding this doctrine is not God's limitation but yours. This is not at all unclear to God. He is not at all confused by it. It is not at all contradictory to Him. He understands it perfectly. The limitation is not God's, not in His understanding and not in His revelation. The limitation is ours. So any attempt to somehow accuse God of being unclear, or unfair is a temptation to be sacrilegious. It's a temptation to be blasphemous. To question the wisdom of God is sinful. To question the justice of God is sinful. To question the love of God is sinful. The only thing that we need to question is the feebleness of our own minds. Any question of God's wisdom or justice of love is ridiculous. He is perfectly wise, perfectly just, perfectly loving and His plan is in accord with all of those perfections.

I also want to remind you that you don't want to make any conclusions before you really get to the full grasp of this incredible doctrine. I'm going to try to give you as much as I can to take you to where you can go intellectually with our finite minds. As I said, we have limits. But you don't want to bail out too soon until you've understood the tremendous truth in the balance that I believe is presented in the Word of God. We want to believe exactly what the Bible says, no less, no more and no differently. You don't ever want to stoop to some absurdity by starting your sentence saying, "Well, I think this is how it works out..." Or, "My concept of this is..." You just come humbly to the sacred infinite mind of God and realize that you can only understand as much as He has revealed to you, and even that is going to tax you.

Human reason is not the court in which the doctrine of predestination will be judged. Human logic is not the judge sitting on the bench. Human understanding is not an adequate jury, not even collective human understanding is an adequate jury to make a decision in regard to the doctrine of predestination. Ultimately this doctrine cannot be reconciled with human reason, it cannot be reconciled with human logic in all of its fullness and it certainly cannot be reconciled with fallen biases. The only time you're ever going to find peace in grasping this doctrine is when you accept it by faith understanding your limitations.

Now the general truth given by the Holy Spirit through the inspired writer Paul is that God causes all things to bring us to eternal glory because that's the way He planned it. And verse 31 says, "If God is for us, who is against us?" In other words, if God who is the supreme power of the universe is working out this plan, who could ever prevent it from being fulfilled? Answer: no one. We are secure eternally in the purpose of God.

In Ephesians chapter 1 we are reminded in verse 4 at the end of the verse, "In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself according to the kind intention of His will." Verse 9, "...According to His kind intention which He purposed in Christ." Verse 11, "Having been predestined according to His purpose." It all goes back to His purpose. It all goes back to the fact that God is sovereign, God is on the throne.

Second Thessalonians 2:13, "God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation." Second Timothy 1:9, "He saved us, called us with a holy calling not according to our works but according to His own purpose." There it is again. This is all bound up in the eternal counsel of God which He Himself determined before the world began. And that's why, as I told you the last time, John 1:12 says that we have become the children of God not by the will of the flesh, nor by the will of man, but of God. Putting it simply, salvation does not occur because of what you decided. Salvation occurs because of what God has already decided. It's all bound up in His eternal purpose.

And so much of modern evangelism today fails to grasp this. So much of modern evangelism leaves people the idea that somehow their eternal destiny is based upon a decision that they make. Scripture frankly has quite a different emphasis. In the first place, an unregenerate man is dead in trespasses and sin and utterly unable to respond to the gospel. The god of this world has blinded his mind. He is ignorant. He is the captive to sin, so much so according to 1 Corinthians 2:14 it says, "A natural man," that's an unconverted man, "does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, they're foolishness to him, he cannot understand them." He can't. On his own he can't make that decision. It's impossible.

In John chapter 8 and verse 43 Jesus says something that I think is very important. He says, "Why do you not understand what I'm saying...to the Jews who were listening to Him...it's because you cannot hear My words, you can't. You are of your father the devil and you want to do the desires of your father and when he speaks a lie he speaks from his own nature...he's a liar and the father of lies, but because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me." You can't, you belong to Satan, your minds are blinded, your dead in sin, you're a slave to iniquity, you're a natural man who cannot understand the things of God. You can't make that decision on your own. It's impossible.

This has to be initiated by God. John chapter 6, if you back up just a little bit, and this is very familiar so I won't spend a lot of time on it. John 6, verse 44, "No one can come to Me," Jesus said, "unless the Father who sent Me draws him...No one can come to Me unless the Father who set Me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day." That is the same pledge. You can't be saved, you can't make a decision quote/unquote for Christ unless the Father draws you and whoever the Father draws, Christ will raise to eternal glory. Nobody gets lost in the middle. This is the plan and the purpose of God unfolding in redemptive history.

In the seventh verse of Romans 8 it says, "The mind...this is the unregenerate person again...the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God, it does not subject itself to the law of God for it is not even able to do so." Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

You see, when you talk about human depravity, we talk a lot about what human depravity is, human depravity, sinful depravity does not mean everybody is as wretched as they could be. Some people are basically, humanly better than others, they're more moral, more loving, more kind, there's more goodness in their lives and things like that. Not everybody is as bad as they could be. But the doctrine of total depravity, human depravity, fallenness is not to say that everybody is as wretched as they could possibly be, but that everyone is utterly unable to do anything to change their sinful condition. Nobody is going to come and make a decision for Christ unless God draws them. That's essential. Man can't make a move toward Christ until God moves him that direction, in line with His eternal purpose.

So, this passage bases our salvation security not on what we've decided or will decide in the future, but on what God decided long ago in the past before the world began. And since salvation is His plan and His purpose ultimately for the love of His Son that He might give a bride to His Son, since God chose to save some out of the human race to be a bride to His Son, He is the one who purposed it and He is the one who pledges to bring it to pass. It is His plan. It is His purpose. And it will be brought about by His will and His power. We respond by faith to the prompting of the Spirit of God, that is true, but it is His purpose.

Now let's go back to Romans chapter 8, and with that in mind, just some basics on understanding, let's go in to verse 29. We talked about the purpose of salvation, we talked about that last time, I'll just mention briefly...the purpose of salvation according to verse 29 of Romans 8 is this: first of all, that we might become conformed to the image of His Son. That is the purpose of salvation from God's initial planning, at the end of verse 28, according to His purpose, and what is His purpose? That we might be conformed to the image of His Son. He wanted to give, as I said, a bride to His Son that He wanted to give to His Son this redeemed humanity that would be able to reflect His glory, that would somehow be made like Him. That's what we talked about last time. We are saved in hope and some day we will be conformed to the image of Christ. Philippians 3:21, that we'll take on the same kind of glorious body that He had in His resurrection, would be made like Him.

So that the plan of God from eternity past was not to get us started, but to get us finished. That's why we often hear the little expression, "The Lord is not finished me yet." He's taking us through justification and all the way to glorification. And so the first aspect of God's purpose is indicated that we would be conformed to the image of His Son.

The second aspect of it is, "In order that He, the Son, might be the firstborn, the chief one, the prototokosamong many who are like Him." He wanted to create a fellowship. He wanted to create a brotherhood. He wanted to create a whole, redeemed humanity who would be made like Jesus Christ so that He would be the chief one, one among man who would reflect His glory. But the glory of the Son would be the objective of worship of the redeemed humanity. So, we talked about the purpose and that is basically the purpose and that is just a brief review.

Tonight I want to talk about the progress...the progress. This is very, very important and we go back to verse 29 and 30 for the progress. We know the purpose, God purposed before the world began, before the foundation of the earth that He would save some out of the human race, that they would be brought to heaven, that they would be given the very image of Jesus Christ, they would be like Him as much as glorified humanity would be like incarnate deity. They would be like Him so that He would be the chief one among many brethren who would spend forever serving Him, honoring Him, exalting Him, and glorifying Him. In other words, we were saved for Christ's sake and not our sake. There are some wonderful side benefits to us, but the ultimate purpose was His glory.

Now let's look at how the plan unfolded in verses 29 and 30. Start at the beginning of verse 29. "For whom He foreknew He also predestined." Now verse 30, "And whom He predestined these He also called, and whom He called these He also justified, and whom He justified these He also glorified." There's the progression right there. We saw the purpose of salvation, here's the progress of salvation. And Paul outlines the unfolding eternal purpose of God in five steps...foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification and glorification. Those are very, very important to understand because now you will be able to grasp the progress of God's unfolding saving purpose.

Let's take step one. "For whom He foreknew." Foreknowledge, foreknowledge is the first one. This is the first one because it is the most primitive of these steps, that is to say it's the first one. It is the most foundational. It is the most essential. The purpose of salvation, the purpose of bringing men and women to eternal glory that they might manifest the image of Christ is determined initially in foreknowledge.

Now what does that mean? When you have a word "foreknowledge," what do you think of? What does that word mean? Well, let me give you some options. Some people think it means foresight. It means that God...this is for some people a great escape from the burden of the doctrine of predestination...and they want to say that all this is is foresight. God, because He is God and knows everything, past, present and future, can look down through history that hasn't happened yet and see who was going to believe and He could see who was going to decide for Christ and who was not. And once He looked down through history and saw what all of us were going to do, then He predestined those whom He saw were going to believe to be saved based on what He saw they were going to do.

Well, I admit it is true. He can see history before it happens. He can write it before it happens, and He does. He knows everything. The problem with that doctrine is a very serious problem, and it is this: Man—wicked, ignorant, blind, unable to understand the truth, unable to understand the gospel, unable to comprehend God, unable to get past his iniquity, who hates God—is God's enemy, loves his wickedness, is dead in trespasses and sins can't make the decision for Christ. That's the first thing we have to recognize.

Secondly, even if you agree that God just saw what people were going to do, you really don't save God from some imagined injustice because you still have to ask the question if you do that, and He knew people were going to choose against Him and go to hell forever, why did He create them? And if you say He didn't have any power over whether they were created or not, you really have a problem because now you have a God that's less than sovereign, you have a God that's not the King of the universe and He's not in control, and that's not the God of the Bible.

Then you have to ask the question...all right, if He just looks down the road and sees some people believe and some people not believe, you have to ask the question...where did their faith come from? Is it natural for an unregenerate, wicked, blind, hopeless, helpless sinner to all of a sudden exercise saving faith in Jesus Christ? No, it's not natural, it's impossible, right? It's absolutely impossible...can't happen, couldn't do it. I mean, the terminology is dead in trespasses and sins, cannot understand the things of God, blinded, ignorant, hopeless, helpless, desperately wicked, no knowledge of God is in them. They love darkness. There's no way that this could mean foresight.

God does have foresight and He does see who will have— listen to this—He does see who will have faith but it is the faith that He Himself grants that He foresees. But that's not what the word "foreknowledge" means. I mean, He knows...of course He knows because He knows everything. But there's something preliminary to that information.

You know what it says in John 3:3? "You can't enter My Kingdom, Nicodemus, a man cannot enter the Kingdom of God unless he is...what?...born again." How you going to pull that off? How you...how you going to do that? The prophet says, "Can the leper change his spots?" It can't be done, you can't do it. "No man comes unto the Father unless the Father draws him." It's impossible. In Philippians 1:29, "For you...this is so good...for to you it has been granted for Christ's sake not only to believe in Him but also to suffer for His sake." Listen to that verse. God granted you the privilege of believing for Christ's sake, for the glory of Christ, for the honor of Christ He allowed you to believe. You can't believe apart from that, you who are dead in trespasses and sins.

Well, if it doesn't mean foresight, what does it mean? Well, some people suggest it means foreordained. It just means that He just decrees, that He just says, "I decree that such-and-such is going to be saved." Well, that's true. It says in 1 Peter 1 verse 1, "Who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father." Some people think that just means He just foreordained. But there's more to it than that. It does contain that concept, in the doctrine of predestination contains that concept although there's more than that in the word "foreknowledge." I'm just thinking of the word "foreknowledge," it appears also in 1 Peter 1 elsewhere in verse 20, "Christ was foreknown before the foundation of the world. Acts 2:23 says that Christ went to the cross, listen to this, "By the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God." That's a very important verse, Acts 2:23. Counsel is boule, it's used in classical Greek for convened councils making decisions. This is a decision for a pre-decided course of action, the determinate counsel of God means God determined the course of action. Determinate is a perfect participle, it speaks of a completed action with continuing results. Literally the word is horizofrom which we get horizon which speaks of the boundaries or limits that are marked out. God then pre-decided a course of action and marked off the boundaries of that action. This is determinate counsel and foreknowledge...foreknowledge means in that passage by virtue of an old Greek rule that some of you know, the Granville Sharp rule, foreknowledge in the passage Acts 2:23 means the same thing. So foreknowledge means determinate counsel. That passage is very important in coming to that conviction. Foreknowledge doesn't just mean God knows what's going to happen, it is...it is predeterminate counsel, it is a pre-decided course of action with the boundaries and limits marked out, that equals foreknowledge. So it definitely has the aspect of foreordained in it, but that doesn't say enough...that doesn't say enough.

It is true that in predestination God in His omniscience can see down all the eons of history. And it is true that God in His foreknowledge has predetermined and preordained the flow of what is going to happen. But there's another component in this that I want to bring to you and that is this. The concept of foreknowledge embraces the idea of a predetermination not just to take a course of action, but to take a course of action motivated by love.

Motivated by love and this is very, very important. It is to predetermine an expression of love. God was predetermining even in the fore...in foreknowing Christ, as we saw, an expression of love toward Christ which would bring Christ great glory forever through redemption. It is a predetermined, foreordained, foreseen love relationship borne in the eternal purpose of God. And I want to show you that.

Throughout Scripture the concept of knowing is more than information. If you go back in the Old Testament, you don't need to follow me, I'll just quote these things to you because I have a couple of them here, in Amos chapter 3, this is a very, very simple statement, but in Amos 3:2 listen to what it says, God speaking to Israel. "You only have I literally known, you only have I known among all the families of the earth." Now does that mean that the families of the earth, of all the families of the earth they're the only ones He knows about? No, it's not information here, it's predetermination. In fact the NAS translates the word "know" here as "chosen." So there is that foreordaining aspect. But behind that idea of knowing is a very intimate truth.

For example, you go back in the book of Genesis and it says, "Cain knew his wife." Now that means more than he knew who she was, or where she was, or what she was like because it follows it by saying, "Cain knew his wife and she bore a son." The word "know" is used sort of like a euphemism in Scripture to express the most intimate expressions of love. And Joseph, you remember, in the New Testament was shocked when Mary was pregnant because "He had never known her...he had never known her."

The concept of knowing then carries that beautiful, intimate love that brings two together. It has the idea of caring for someone. In Hosea, for example, 13:5, "I knew you in the wilderness, in the land of draught." And the NAS translates it "cared for you," but it's the word "know." I knew you. There's a wonderful intimate expression in the word "know.

This is true in the New Testament. I could show you others in the Old, but listen to 1 Corinthians 8:3. "But if anyone loves God, he is known by Him." Now from a standpoint of cognition you don't have to love God to be information in His infinite mind, He knows everybody on the face of the earth. But here's knowing in an intimate sense..."If anyone loves God he is known by Him," in the sense of an intimate love relationship.

You remember in Matthew chapter 7, "Many will say to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' then I will say unto them, 'Depart from Me, I never...what?...I never knew you.'" Does He mean I don't know who you are or I never heard of you? Where did you come from? You're not on the list. No. He means...I don't have any...I don't have any intimate relationship with you, I don't have any love relationship with you. I don't belong to you and you to Me.

Galatians 4:9, "Now that you have come to know God...I love this...or rather to be known by God." When you become a Christian you become known to God, not as information, but in intimacy. John 10:14, "My sheep hear My voice and I know them." It's an absolutely beautiful concept...beautiful concept. Even today in a sort of a perverse way you have the expression "carnal knowledge," which is really a holdover from this, to express a fleshly intimacy. In 2 Timothy 2:19 it says, "The Lord knows those who are His...The Lord knows those who are His."

So, back to Romans chapter 8, when you see the word "foreknowledge" there, of course there is a foreordaining element to it, and of course there is a foresight element to it as God can see down the path. But there is also a fore-love in it. God foreordains, predetermines to love a certain person, a predetermined, foreordained, foreseen love relationship born in the eternal purpose of God. That's whom He foreknew. He would come to know them, that's why "fore" is there, it hadn't happened yet, He foreknew. He would come eventually to an intimate relationship with them down the way through redemptive history.

So what you have is this: God has a purpose and that purpose is to express His love to sinners. He predetermines on the basis of the desire to express His love to sinners which sinners He foreordained unto salvation, who will be the recipients of His eternal intimacy, His eternal love, and that of His Son.

The second word then in verse 30, actually in verse 29 also, "Whom He foreknew He also predestined," down in verse 30, "And whom He predestined..." So it starts with this foreordaining, foreseeing, fore-loving, that's step one, that's the primitive initiating element of it. Those people whom He foreordained to a love relationship, to a relationship of loving intimacy He predestinated, proorizo, to mark out...to mark out. He marked them out, wrote their names down. Those whom He predetermined to love, He predestined, Ephesians 1:5 as I read earlier, to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.

God love for the Son caused Him to choose us. God's wonderful love for us caused Him to choose us. Revelation 13:8 says, "Whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the Book of Life of the Lamb who has been slain." Same thing in Revelation 17, He marked us out by writing us in His book before the world began. He started out with a predetermination to love us and on the basis of that He marked us out. My what a tremendous truth that is.

In Acts 4 it says that God will do whatever His hand and purpose predestined to occur, Acts 4:28. Whatever He predestines to occur will come to pass.

Then you come to a third word and that's the word "calling." That's in verse 30, "Whom He predestined these He also called." and with this element, it's very important, with this element we move from eternity past into the present tense. In eternity past He predetermined and foreordained to love and marked out the objects of that foreordaining love.

Now we come into time and in time He activates His foreordained, predestined plan by calling us. This is central. There are five of these terms here, two precede calling and two follow it. Now this is sort of the central truth. As we studied in verse 28, go back to verse 28..."We know that all things work together, or God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called..." The called.

Now may I hasten to remind you, this is an inward call and not an outward call. This doesn't mean all the people who heard some preacher or who heard some evangelist, this is an inward call. This is the saving, redeeming call. This John 6:44, this is the Father drawing. It is a saving, redeeming call and it's done in time and it's done through the preaching of the gospel, but by the Spirit of God.

So, God predetermined and foreordained to set His love upon us. Some men and women marked out specifically who they would be, that's predestination. And then in time He called us, He called us to be His own, He called us to be set apart, holy. Romans 1:7, "He called us to be saints." That's set apart unto holiness. In verse 11 of Romans 9 it says, talking about Jacob and Esau, the twins were not yet born, had not done anything good or bad, in order that God's purpose, His choice might stand, not because of works but because of Him who...what?...calls. Before they were ever born God determined whom He would call.

The first chapter again of 2 Timothy, "He saved us...how?...by calling us with a holy calling." Any time you ever see a call in the epistles of the New Testament, okay, the epistles not the gospels necessarily, but the epistles, it always means an inward, saving call. First Peter 1:15, "Like the holy One who called you, be holy yourselves."

You say, "Well what is this call? What do you mean?" It's when the Father draws you. First Peter 2:9 talks about the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. He began to move on your dark heart. He began to move on your blackened mind. He began to move on your spiritual deadness and to begin to awaken and quicken and give understanding, the Spirit of God began to move and you began to feel the conviction of sin. And when you heard the gospel, the truth of the gospel began to dawn on your mind and that is all the calling of God as He begins to move you from death to life and from ignorance to truth and from darkness to light. The first verse of Ephesians 4 says, "We are to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which we have been called." We've been called to God.

How does this call come? Galatians 1:6 and 15 says, "It comes by grace." Second Thessalonians 2:13 and 14 says, "It comes through the gospel." "God has chosen you from the beginning...then verse 14...and it was for this He called you through our gospel that you might gain the glory." The gospel came and by the gospel He awakened your heart and you heard and you believed and you repented in order that you may gain the glory. You're not going to fall through the cracks between then and eternal glory. The doctrine that you can lose your salvation is a frightening aberration on Scripture that refuses to take clear instruction from the pages of the Word of God. God comes, He awakens your dead life, lightens your darkness, moving as the Spirit of God comes, in John 16, and convicts the world of sin and righteousness and judgment, you feel the weight of sin, the burden of sin, the pain of isolation and alienation from God and all of that is the quickening work. And it comes upon hearing the gospel. Paul says, "I'm a messenger and I preach the gospel so that the chosen of God can hear and believe," Titus 1. Not my job to call people, can't do that. It's just my job to present the truth of the gospel because faith comes by hearing the Word.

The call of God occurs in a context of an understanding of the gospel. You might hear it from a preacher, you might hear it from a teacher, you might read it in a book, you might hear it from the pages of Scripture, from the witness of a friend or family member, but the conviction of sin and the desire for righteousness and a comprehension of forgiveness and the understanding of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, when the heart responds to all of that, that's the call of God. "Whom He predetermined and foreordained to love eternally, He marked out as predestined to go all the way to glory and be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ." That was the plan before time began. Then in time He's been calling...calling...calling...calling. And all whom He has ordained hear the call and believe.

And then comes the fourth great term, we don't need to spend a lot of time on this although we could spend years on it..."Whom He called He also justified...justified." This simply means to declare someone righteous. It's a legal term. It's a legal term, it's a term of standing before the bar of God. I remind you that you're not righteous and I'm not righteous, I'm like Paul, "O wretched man that I am, chief of sinners," I sin, I fail, I fall short, I don't love God perfectly with all my heart, soul, mind and strength all the time, or my neighbor as myself. I don't fulfill the law of God in perfection. I fall. I fail. I stumble. But nonetheless, I stand as justified...it's just...it means that God has declared me righteous. Righteous means right, just means right.

You say, "How did you ever get to be declared righteous?" Because God called me and I came and believed as He prompted my heart, the Scripture says, "He gave me the righteousness of Christ," Philippians 3. Paul says I now have a righteousness not of my own, Philippians 3:9, derived by keeping the law, but a righteousness through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith. You believe in Christ and God gives you righteousness...just gives it to you. And you remember in 2 Corinthians 5:21, that most important and notable verse on the subject, it says, "He made Him who knew no sin, Christ, to be sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." What happened was very simply this...on the cross God treated Jesus as if He had committed all the sins of all the people who would ever believe, okay? On the cross God treated Jesus as if He had committed all the sins ever committed by every person who would ever believe. God just punished Jesus for all the sins of all the people who would ever believe, so their sins were taken care of. God gave Jesus our sins and then turned around and gave us His righteousness.

It comes down to this, on the cross God treated Jesus as if He had committed all those sins though He had committed none of them, so that He could treat us as if we lived the perfect life of Jesus, although we do not. Since God's justice was satisfied by the sacrifice of Christ, sin needs no further punishment. God having been satisfied because Christ bore our sins in His own body on the cross grants us His righteousness. And as I've said so often, Christ couldn't just come into the world, die on a cross and leave again. He stayed here for 33 years and lived a perfect life.

Why? Because there needed to be a perfect life, He needed to fulfill all righteousness, live a perfect life so that perfect life could be credited to us. That's the incredible truth of justification and it is by faith and faith alone. You don't earn it, you can't gain it, you can't win it, it's not an honor that you get because you performed in a certain way. God declares you right before Him and treats you as if you lived the perfect life of Jesus Christ simply because you put your faith in Him. That happened because He called you and He drew you. He declares you forgiven, your sins paid for in Christ and you bear His righteousness.

This is incredible, isn't it? Foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, finally verse 30, "Whom He justified these He also glorified."

Folks, there's no slippage in here. Nobody is going to be left behind. Nobody gets off the bus anywhere along this track. In fact, it says in the past tense, "Whom He justified, these He also glorified," as if it had already happened, this is what's called a proleptic aorist which is a technical term for you Greek students, just so you know I keep up with that stuff. It's the use of an aorist to express an already accomplished reality because it's totally secure. It's saying something as if it happened because it's so sure that it will.

Look, I couldn't save myself, I didn't save myself and I can't keep myself saved. I don't have to worry about that, the God who chose me because of His predetermined love, the God who put the boundaries around my life and said, "This one belongs to Me," the God who called me, drew me out of the darkness, out of the death to put my trust in Jesus Christ with repentance, the God who then took care of my sins in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and imputed the righteousness of Christ to me is going to be the God that brings me to glory. I didn't start this deal and I don't have the capability to finish it. Frankly, folks, I'm just along for the ride and this is SOME ride.

It's not apart from my faith, but it's by the prompting of the Spirit of God that I can believe. You say, "Well, that's all very clear, that's all true and that's all there, and yes and...but what about the people who don't believe, aren't they responsible?" Yes. If you don't believe, reject the gospel and you go to hell in your natural, blind, dead condition is because you deserve it and you're going to bear the punishment for that because you're responsible for that.

You say, "I don't understand that. I don't understand that. I don't understand if you go to heaven because you're chosen, how you can hold people responsible who go to hell cause they weren't chosen." No, it doesn't work like that. They go to hell because they didn't believe. You say, "But that's...I don't understand that." Of course you don't understand that, I don't understand that either because it's not understandable. But I can cry to every sinner on the face of the earth, "Repent and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ...repent and be saved...why will you die? Choose you this day whom you will serve...Come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy laden...whosoever will let him come." You say, "How can you...that seems like a contradiction."

Well, it seems like a contradiction because you're so puny in your comprehension and so am I. Not a problem to God. I don't know how it works. But look, you have the doctrine of predestination over here, you have the doctrine of human responsibility over here and we have this tremendous temptation to just run over here and all camp around this one and come up with some weird double-predestination thing as if God's up in heaven saying, "Okay, these are going to heaven and you bunch are going to hell, it's all..." It's not like that. Sinners are told to believe and if they don't believe they'll perish. Jesus says, "Where I go you're not going to be able to come because you don't believe on Me." Jesus says, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to...how many people?...every creature." And if they don't believe that's their fault, they're guilty and they'll perish.

I don't understand how that all works together. I cannot. But look, the things I don't understand far, far outnumber the things I do. I don't understand...if you ask me who wrote Romans, I'm not sure I'd fully understand that. You say, "Well Paul wrote Romans." Yeah, but it was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Well every word was Paul's, but every word was inspired by the Holy Spirit...I don't understand how that works together. I don't...when somebody says to me, what's the secret of living the Christian life? I'm paralyzed at that moment. Is it you or is it Him? You know, there's the people that say, "Let go and let God," you just sort of stand there and He'll do it. And you hear people talk..."I want to live the crucified life, I'm just trying to kill myself, kill myself, I'm just trying to be nothing and nobody and disregard myself and let Him live through me. And yet on the other hand you've got the people who are reading Paul's words, "I beat my body to bring it into subjection and I need to be obedient to God," and you look at yourself and you say...Well who is living my Christian life? Well it's certainly not me, it must be Christ in me. Well, I don't know...but then I'm responsible, why are all these commands in the Bible if I'm not responsible?

So you say, "Well it comes down to this, anything bad I do, that's me...anything good, that's God through me." Yeah, but you have responsibility in that. Paul...Paul dealt with the problem, Galatians 2:20, "I am crucified with Christ," he said, "nevertheless I live...yet not I."(Laughter) He didn't understand it either, nobody understands it. There is no way whenever you...whenever you bring...whenever you bring God down, as John Murray said, any doctrine, any major doctrine of Scripture has inherent in it apparent contradictions and inscrutable truth that you can't even capture in your pea brain. I just know that sinners are accountable to God to believe and I just know we're to cross, crisscross the earth and make sure every sinner hears the gospel and we're to beg them to be reconciled to God, aren't we? I don't know how God sorts through all of that but I'll tell you what, He doesn't expend any energy trying to figure it out. It's crystal clear to Him, it's just not to us.

And I really believe, that's one of the reasons I believe in the inspiration of Scripture because of apparent contradictions and inscrutable things like that. Look, I write books, I know editors and if I have a contradiction anywhere in what I write they fix it and there are these massive, incomprehensible, inscrutable truths in here that nobody ever touched because this is the Word of the living God. And one of the reasons I know God wrote the Bible is because those things are in there that are way beyond the capability of human understanding. I'm comforted in that mystery and happy to say Deuteronomy 29:29 is my life verse, "The secret things belong to the Lord." And you really begin to grow as a Christian when you understand how really many there are. You know, I've always said the person who knows most in the whole world is a seminary senior and then systematically as they get out into life, they learn less and less and less and less (Laughter) and the mysteries begin to multiply.

And I'm so glad for that. I'm so glad that this book is transcendent, I'm so glad that it's...listen, if I fully understood the Bible, my mind would be equal to the mind of God. And if my mind was equal to the mind of God, we would be in serious trouble having a God like that.

I rejoice in the doctrine of predestination, don't you? It gives me...you say, "Well, doesn't that make you...doesn't that make you lazy in evang...?" Not at all, I'm so thrilled with this plan, I'm so exhilarated, I'm so overwhelmed with it, I'm so grateful for it and I am guaranteed success in my endeavors as an evangelist and a preacher, am I not? Because it's going to happen the way God purposed it to happen. I'm not trying to change God's plan, but what a thrill to be engaged in a plan that will be fulfilled.

So, He determined in the beginning to bring us to glory. And nobody in that process gets lost. Well, I could say a lot more about that, that's what the preacher usually says when he's just run out of material...(laughter)...brethren, we could go on and on but, you know, it's late...and you know he doesn't have another thought in his head or in his notes, you know. Let's pray.

Father, what a great time tonight, what a glorious, glorious look at the greatness of Your plan and we're just in awe of this whole thing, just overwhelmed how that all of this is...we're not just some kind of collocation of atoms that accidentally is flip-flopping through a meaningless existence, we didn't just ooze out of some primeval scum somewhere, some big bang somewhere into some meaningless kind of evolutionary cycle. Oh no. This is a plan and it's working out and You have created us unto eternal glory and we're on the path to glory. I pray for anyone here who has not yet come to Christ to receive salvation and eternal glory, may this be the time when Your Spirit calls and they're drawn to repentance and faith and may we be so overwhelmed and so thrilled at the victory that awaits us that we go out to preach the gospel and to witness with eagerness knowing that You will use us for the fulfillment of Your purpose. What a promise. We praise You for it in Christ's name. Amen.




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