THE GOLDEN CHAIN
Read Rom 8:29,30, and see “The Golden Chain” which, as a fine old divine, John Arrowsmith, puts it, “God lets down from Heaven that by it He may draw up His elect thither.” “For whom He foreknew” — that is election, the setting upon His people with distinguishing pre-occupation and love, according to the pregnant use of “know” in such a passage say, as Amos 3:2, “You only have I known out of all the families of the earth”
— “for whom He foreknew, He also foreordained to be conformed to the image of His Son” — this is the high destiny prepared for us! — “that He might be the firstborn among many brethren: and whom He foreordained, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified.” Count these five golden links, all acts of God’s own, working our salvation, and note how they are welded together in one unbreakable chain, so that all who are set upon in God’s gracious distinguishing view are carried on by His grace, step by step, up to the great consummation of that glorification which realizes the promised conformity to the image of God’s own Son. It is “election,” you see, that does all this; for “whom He FOREKNEW, . . . THEM He also GLORIFIED.”
That fine old divine to whom we have just referred tells us further that “election, having once pitched upon a man, will find him out and call him home, wherever he be. Zacchaeus out of cursed Jericho; Abraham out of idolatrous Ur of the Chaldeans; Nicodemus and Paul out of the college of the Pharisees, Christ’s sworn enemies; Dionysius and Damaris, out of superstitious Athens. In whatever dunghill God’s jewels be hid, election will both find them out there and fetch them out from thence.” “Rejoice,” our Savior cried (Luke 10:20), “rejoice in this — that your names are written in heaven,” in, that is, the Lamb’s book of life (Rev 21:27), which the same fine old divine counsels us always to remember, is “a book of love — the writing of our names in which is the firstborn of all God’s favors.”
That God has set upon just US in this his electing grace, must ever be to us a matter of adoring wonder. Certain it is, that there was nothing in us, whether quality or deed, which could attract His favorable notice, much less make Him partial to us, and, moreover, there is no respect of persons with God. We were dead, dead in trespasses and sins, even as others, and therefore the children of wrath even as they (Eph 2:1-3). “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Rom. 1:18); and surely there has been enough ungodliness and unrighteousness in us.
That God has chosen just us from among our fellows to be saved from this wrath, 1 Thess 5:9, finds no explanation in us. We can only say, “Yea, Father, for so it was well-pleasing in Thy sight” (Matt. 11:26). It has all hung upon His mere good pleasure, and He has given us this unspeakable blessing for no other reason than that he has chosen to give it to us in the unsearchable counsels of His own gracious will. For, as our fine old divine reminds us, we are “predestinated after the counsel of HIS own will, not after the good inclinations of OURS.” We had no good inclinations of will; men dead in trespasses and sins have no good inclinations.
All that is good in us, in the inclinations of our wills as in the conduct of our lives, is from Him, the product of His electing grace, and cannot be its cause. It is only because God has set upon us in His inexplicable love, and has predestinated us to be conformed to the image of His Son, that, through His calling, and justifying, and sanctifying grace — all in execution of His gracious election — any good is formed in us. It is not “of works,” says Paul (Eph. 2:9,10), that we are saved but “for good works”; and he adds that, in order that we may do these good works, we have needed to be made over, and that by so profoundly revolutionary a change that we can be looked upon as nothing less than a new creation — “for we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,” the good works which God has afore prepared that we should walk in them.
The very good works which we do, then, have been prepared for us by God in His electing grace, that we should walk in them. We are not chosen because we are good; we are chosen that we may be good. That is precisely what we are elected to — goodness, holiness. We were dead, dead in trespasses and sins, even as others, and therefore the children of wrath even as they (Eph 2:1-3). “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Rom. 1:18); and surely there has been enough ungodliness and unrighteousness in us. That God has chosen just us from among our fellows to be saved from this wrath, 1 Thess 5: 9, finds no explanation in us. We can only say, “Yea, Father, for so it was well-pleasing in Thy sight” (Matt 11: 26). It has all hung upon His mere good pleasure, and He has given us this unspeakable blessing for no other reason than that He has chosen to give it to us in the unsearchable counsels of His own gracious will. For, as our fine old divine reminds us, we are “predestinated after the counsel of His own will, not after the good inclinations of ours.”
And that again is what is meant by the declaration that we have been predestinated to be conformed to the image of God’s Son: we can become like him only as we become holy. Accordingly we are told with the richest fullness of expression (Eph. 1:3,4), that God chose us “in Christ . . . before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before him. . . having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace.” It is all here — the rooting of all our goodness in the elective decree of God, and the rooting of that decree in God’s mere good pleasure. Everything else hangs on election, election itself on God alone. But what is especially emphasized is that what God has chosen us to, in this electing decree, is that we should be holy.