Romans 8:29–30 states, “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. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
Highlighted in bold above are the five “links” that make up what the Puritan John Arrowsmith (1602–1659) famously spoke of as God’s “golden chain…. a chain which God lets down from heaven that by it he may draw up his elect thither.”1
For the sheer sake of encouraging us in our salvation, I just want to briefly look at these five links in the “golden chain” of salvation. Each of the highlighted words above are verbs, and their actions are by God. The one who loves God knows himself to be recipient of these five actions, and the listing of these actions together explains how God works all things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Let’s define each link of the chain in the order as they are listed by Paul.
God foreknew—this the action of God in eternity past whereby He placed His special affection upon some in order for them to receive the benefits of salvation.
God predestined—this is the action of God in eternity past whereby He sovereignly and graciously made certain that those upon whom He had placed His eternal love would indeed receive salvation and its blessings.
God called—this is the action of God during the life of the sinner whereby He effectively and imperceptibly brings the sinner to Himself through the general call of the gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit, an effectual calling, which, as best I can understand, is simultaneously joined by the faith of the sinner.
God justified—this is the action of God at the moment of faith whereby God declares the believer righteous and forever treats Him accordingly.
God glorified—this is the action of God in the future wherein God will eternally deliver the believer from the presence of sin in the entirety of his being.
Paul does not list out every item in the order of salvation in Romans 8:29–30.2 What he does list, however, are some of the key actions of God related to our salvation to explain how all things ultimately work together for our good (cf. Romans 8:28). Knowing that we love God and that our salvation is secure from eternity past to future, we are encouraged that nothing can ever separate us from the saving love of God in Christ to us (Romans 8:31–39, especially 8:35 and 8:39). An unbreakable chain, indeed!
All quotes ESV.