A Golden Chain? – Part 1

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NOTE: The title of this series is taken from R.C. Sproul, et al who define the passage of Romans 8:29-30 as a “Golden Chain of Salvation” and use it to support their belief in the Calvinist/Reformed definition of “predestination.”

In dealing with Calvinism, whether it is called Reformed Theology, Sovereign Grace, Augustinian Theology, or Primitive Baptist Theology, one will almost immediately come face to face with the following passage of Scripture, and the subsequent Calvinist interpretation of it:

For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. (Romans 8:29-30)

Which they then turn around and explain that the passage means this1:

This well known passage in Romans has been called the” Golden Chain Of Salvation”. It is crucial to the foreknowledge view that in this text God’s foreknowledge comes BEFORE God’s predestination.

First, the conclusion that God’s predestination is determined by God’s foreknowledge is not taught by the passage. Paul does not say that God chooses people on the basis of his prior knowledge of their choices. That idea is neither stated nor implied by the text. All the text declares is that God predestines those he foreknows. No one disputes that God has foreknowledge. Even God could not choose poeple he didn’t know anything about. Before he could choose Jacob he had to have some idea in his mind of Jacob. But the text does not teach that God chose Jacob on the basis of Jacob’s choice.

Note the order of events in the passage.

FOREKNOWLEDGE-PREDESTINATION-CALLING-JUSTIFICATION-GLORIFICATION. The crucial problem here has to do with the relationship of calling and justification. What does Paul mean by “calling”. In theology we distinguish between God’s external call and God’s internal call. We find the external call in the preaching of the gospel. Not everyone who hears the outward call of the gospel becomes a believer. Sometimes the gospel falls on deaf ears.

Now we know that only those who respond to the outward call of the gospel in faith our justified. Justification is by faith. But again, not everyone who hears the outward preaching of the gospel responds in faith. Therefore we must conclude that not all who are CALLED outwardly are justified.

But Paul says in Romans that those whom God CALLS, he JUSTIFIES. If Paul does not mean that ALL who are CALLED are JUSTIFIED, the only alternative would be that SOME who are justified. If we supply the word Some in the GOLDEN CHAIN it would read like this:

Some of those he foreknew, he also predestined. Some of those he predestined, he also called. Some of those he called, these he also justified. Some of those he justified, he also glorified.

This reading of the text leaves us with a theological nightmare. It would mean that only some of the predestined ever hear the gospel and that only some of the justified are ultimately saved. These notions are in conflict with what the Bible teaches on these matters.

Yet the foreknowledge view suffers an even bigger problem from supplying the word some. If God’s predestination is based on his foreknowledge of how people will respond to the outward call of the gospel, how is it that only some of the predestined are even called? It would demand that God predestines some who are not called. If some of the predestined are predestined without being called, then God would not be basing his predestination on a prior knowledge of their response to his call. They could have no response to a call they never receive! God cannot have foreknowledge of a person’s non-answer to a non-call.

Whew! If we follow all that, then we will see the conclusion screaming a us. Paul cannot be implying the word some. Rather, the Golden Chain necessarily implies the word all.

Let’s review the bidding. If we supply the word some to the Golden Chain the result is fatal to the foreknowledge view of predestination because it would have God predestinating some people who are not called. Since the view teaches that God’s predestination is based upon God’s foreknowledge of people’s positive responses to the call of the gospel, then clearly the view collapses if some are predestined with a call.

The supplying of the word all is equally fatal to the foreknowledge view. This difficulty centers on the relationship of calling to justification. If all who are called are justified, then the passage could mean one of two things:

A) All who hear the gospel outwardly are justified; or
B) All who are called by God inwardly are justified.2

They (the Calvinists) then go on to conclude:

If you believe option A, you are a universalist, that everyone will be saved.
If you believe option B, all who are called inwardly by God are justified.

If all whom God calls inwardly are justified and all whom God predestines are called inwardly, then it follows that God’s foreknowledge concerns more than a mere prior awareness of the free decisions humans will make. God knows from eternity whom he will inwardly call. All who he inwardly calls he will also justify. If option B is the correct understanding of the Golden Chain, then it is clear that God gives one kind of call to some people that he does not give to everyone. Since all who are called are justified and since not everyone is justified, the it follows that calling is a rather significant divine activity that some human beings receive and others do not.

It is crucial to remember that the inward call of God is given to people before they believe, before they respond in faith. If it influences the response in any way, then God is predestinating an advantage to the elect. If it does not influence the human decision, then what does it do?

The Golden Chain Of Salvation teaches from all eternity God foreknew his elect.He had an idea of their identities in his mind before he created them. He not only foreknew them in the sense of knowing them, but he also foreknew them in a sense of foreloving (sic) them.

In conclusion I believe that all whom God has thus foreknown he has also predestined to be inwardly called, to be justified, and to be glorified. God sovereignly brings the salvation of his elect and only his elect.3

Additionally, some other Calvinist sources go further and state:

I. The first important thing to notice is the five things are linked together into one unbreakable chain. If one of them is true then they are all true. The word “for” in verse 29 begins the argument that proves beyond question that all things have to work together for good for the people of God. The Apostle lists five things that are certain to happen because of God’s sovereign purpose. God’s people are (1) all foreknown, (2) all predestined, (3) all called, (4) all justified, and (5) all glorified.

All five of these things are set forth as not only essential to God’s eternal purpose of salvation but also as absolutely certain of fulfillment. They summarize the salvation of sovereign grace that has it’s origins in eternity with God’s foreknowledge and ends in eternity with our full glorification. Each link grows out of the former link to form one unbreakable chain. Every sinner who is “foreknown” is going to eventually be totally “glorified.” Notice how all five links fit nicely together.

When verse 29 says, “For those whom He foreknew,” it must be referring to a specific identifiable people. They are the identical same people who in verse 28 “love God” and have been “called.” All of those who are “foreknown” are also “predestined to become conformed into the image of His Son.” The foreknown ones and the predestined are the same identical people. All those who are foreknown and then predestined are next “called.” Being effectually called is the first step taken to bring guilty sinners out of the graveyard of sin and death and ultimately glorify them in heaven in full redemption. The order of these things is important. It is especially important in the next step. All those who are called, because they have been foreknown and predestined, are also all “justified.” In other words, everyone, without a single exception that is effectually called by the Holy Spirit unto salvation will always be justified.4

Non-Reformed theology teaches that God calls all men without exception and those who, with their free will, decide to respond were then justified and predestined to be eternally secure. The predestining purpose of God always came after the sinner’s willingness to answer God’s call. It is obvious that this idea is not possible in this passage of Scripture. According to Paul, our calling unto salvation by the Holy Spirit comes after and grows out of our predestination and not vice versa. If that were not true, the text would say, “God calls all men, and justifies only those who are willing to believe.” However, the text puts the order exactly in the reverse order. We were not predestined to final glorification because we were willing to believe, but we were made willing to believe only because we had already been predestined. Calling is merely the first step towards the foreordained end of total glorification and all who have been foreordained to that end will be called and justified. The Holy Spirit clearly states that all without exception who are called are also justified. It is impossible to be called, in the sense that Paul is using the word “called,” without also being justified.5

To review what we have seen thus far, the biblical order of salvation is:

Foreknowledge = Foreordination that is based in God’s eternal decree.

Predestination/Election – God’s sovereign determination of who would be saved by His own good pleasure and not based upon anything in those who are chosen (Rom. 9:11).

Effectual Calling – the outward call of the gospel comes to the sinner through evangelism and the inward call of the Holy Spirit experienced in the heart of the person brings about spiritual regeneration (John 6:44). This inward call is the “call” of Romans 8:29-30. This effectual calling leads to (a) spiritual regeneration which logically leads to (b) Repentance unto life/faith in Jesus Christ. Regeneration, saving faith, and repentance all occur simultaneously in time but logically, regeneration comes before faith/regeneration (1 John 5:1; 2 Tim. 2:25).

Justification – the declaration of a sinner as righteous before God on the basis of Christ’s righteousness credited to them. The believer is also declared completely sanctified (holy) at the moment of justification but also continues to grow in holiness practically throughout life. Conversion immediately follows regeneration/repentance/faith and justification as expressed in an outward profession of faith and water baptism.

Glorification (sinless perfection that only occurs when in heaven).
It is important to realize that the “Golden Chain of Redemption”/Order of Salvation has as much to do with salvation stages as it does with the cause(s) of salvation itself. Thus, a person is regenerated by the Holy Spirit in order to be gifted with faith, but there is no such thing as a regenerated person that is walking about without saving faith.6

Now, I do apologize for the long quotes. However, as can be seen, there is a string of logic here that seems to start with a certain supposition, that being:

The passage of Romans 8:29-30 sits in the context of all mankind.

We can see and know that by the following argument presented:

But Paul says in Romans that those whom God CALLS, he JUSTIFIES. If Paul does not mean that ALL who are CALLED are JUSTIFIED, the only alternative would be that SOME who are justified. If we supply the word Some in the GOLDEN CHAIN it would read like this:

Some of those he foreknew, he also predestined. Some of those he predestined, he also called. Some of those he called, these he also justified. Some of those he justified, he also glorified.

This reading of the text leaves us with a theological nightmare. It would mean that only some of the predestined ever hear the gospel and that only some of the justified are ultimately saved. These notions are in conflict with what the Bible teaches on these matters.

Yet the foreknowledge view suffers an even bigger problem from supplying the word some. If God’s predestination is based on his foreknowledge of how people will respond to the outward call of the gospel, how is it that only some of the predestined are even called? It would demand that God predestines some who are not called. If some of the predestined are predestined without being called, then God would not be basing his predestination on a prior knowledge of their response to his call. They could have no response to a call they never receive! God cannot have foreknowledge of a person’s non-answer to a non-call.

Whew! If we follow all that, then we will see the conclusion screaming a us. Paul cannot be implying the word some. Rather, the Golden Chain necessarily implies the word all.

Let’s review the bidding. If we supply the word some to the Golden Chain the result is fatal to the foreknowledge view of predestination because it would have God predestinating some people who are not called. Since the view teaches that God’s predestination is based upon God’s foreknowledge of people’s positive responses to the call of the gospel, then clearly the view collapses if some are predestined with a call.

The supplying of the word all is equally fatal to the foreknowledge view. This difficulty centers on the relationship of calling to justification. If all who are called are justified, then the passage could mean one of two things:

A) All who hear the gospel outwardly are justified; or
B) All who are called by God inwardly are justified.7

This argument would be and is, totally unnecessary unless one believes that the context of Romans, Chapter 8 has the context of all mankind. If the context of Romans, Chapter 8 is only believers, then the above argument is pointless as one would be arguing against a condition or situation that does not exist in the chapter. However, if one believes that both believers and non-believers are addressed in this chapter, then the argument makes sense in that one would be demonstrating how that some come to salvation, and others do not. Otherwise, the whole argument presented above, by both R.C. Sproul and A Reformed Theologian, is like presenting an argument about non-coffee drinkers, by referencing coffee drinkers (or any other such thing), which really doesn’t follow at all. In short, unless the context of Chapter 8 is all mankind, the entire argument about a “chain of salvation” as presented above, is a non-sequitur — it simply does not follow, and is utterly pointless.

To be continued . . .


  1. I apologize for the long quotes, but to understand what has been done, and why it is in error, this is utterly necessary. Also, the all CAPS emphasis was in the original e-mail and comment
  2. pp. 129-133, Chosen of God, R.C. Sproul, Tyndale House, 1994, ISBN 0842313354
  3. quoted from Aaron, post comments, part belongs to R.C. Sproul, part to Aaron
  4. A Reformed Theologian
  5. Ibid
  6. Ibid
  7. pp. 129-133, Chosen of God, R.C. Sproul, Tyndale House, 1994, ISBN 0842313354
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3 Responses to “A Golden Chain? – Part 1”

  • Aaron says:

    The whole intent of the commentaries are to show those who hold to your view of foreknowledge/predestination are wrong. The commentaries  clearly show your view to be wrong. Please do not try to spin the focus of the commentaries.  Please focus the attention on your views of foreknowledge/predestination and how the commentaries prove them fatal.

  • Aaron says:

    Where is your scriptural support of your view of foreknowledge/predestination? Where in Romans 8:29-30 or anywhere else in scripture does it say that God elects people to salvation because He looks down the corridors of time and knows who will choose Him and repent. Given  the crystal clear scriptural support that God does indeed predestine people to salvation,  do you still hold on to your false view that He does not? If so, why? If not, congradulations- the truth has set you free.

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    1. Aaron Says:

        First of all, it is necessary because of your false view of foreknowledge/predestination. Of course it is for believers only.The passage of Romans 8:29-30, is God’s sovereign steps to salvation. Foreknew-Predestine-Called-Justified-Glorified.  The commentaries are fatal to your view of foreknowledge/predestination.Your view of predestination is God looked down the corridors of time and saw who would repsond positively to the gospel and God elected them to salvation. You are on record of saying that God does not predestine anyone to salvation.  You said:  “There is a vast difference between foreknowledge, and predestination. The LORD God can and does predestinate certain individuals to perform a certain work after salvation, because He knew beforehand that they would repent and believe the gospel. This does not mean He predestined that individual, or any other individual for salvation.”  So Paul, based on your own words, if God does not predestine anyone to salvation your basicly calling God a liar. Your statement contradicts Romans 8:29-30; Romans 9; Ephesians 1:4-5,11; 2:10; 2Thessalonians 2:13. Phillipians 2: 12-13; 2Timothy 1:9; Titus 1:1;1 Peter 1:1-2; Revelation 13:8, 17:8 and many others. According to Romans 8:29-30,  Foreknew-Predestined-Called-Justified-Glorified. Notice that you can’t have one link without the other.  This is the path to salvation: All God Foreknew He Predestined, all God Predestined He called, all God called He justified, all God justified He Glorified. Notice, that if one is true, they all are true. No where in Romans 8:29-30 does it say that “foreknowledge” was God knowing who would repent and believe. It is not there. You put it there. Foreknew in the context of this passage simply means, to know before, to be loved. Predestined means to be foreordained or to decree beforehand.
      Cite specific scriptures that God elects people to your view of foreknowledge/predestination.I want direct scriptural proof that God elects this way. If God does elect this way, why doesn’t Paul explain your way in Romans 9: 11-25? In fact, he raises objections that support my view and the biblical view of predestination. Why does Paul do this if your view is correct?

    2. Aaron Says:

      The whole intent of the commentaries are to show those who hold to your view of foreknowledge/predestination are wrong. The commentaries  clearly show your view to be wrong. Please do not try to spin the focus of the commentaries.  Please focus the attention on your views of foreknowledge/predestination and how the commentaries prove them fatal.

    3. Aaron Says:

      Where is your scriptural support of your view of foreknowledge/predestination? Where in Romans 8:29-30 or anywhere else in scripture does it say that God elects people to salvation because He looks down the corridors of time and knows who will choose Him and repent. Given  the crystal clear scriptural support that God does indeed predestine people to salvation,  do you still hold on to your false view that He does not? If so, why? If not, congradulations- the truth has set you free.

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