David Jeremiah - Salvation's Golden Chain
Years ago, a preacher by the name of Harry Ironside who was a famous preacher in Chicago told a story about an older Christian who was asked to give his testimony. Now, this man got up and here's what he said. He told how God had sought him out, found him, how he had loved him, how he had called him and saved him and delivered him and cleansed him and healed him. It was a great witness to the grace of God. But after the meeting, a rather legalistic brother took him aside and criticized his testimony, as we are sometimes prone to do. And this is what he said, he said, "I appreciate all you said about what God did for you, but you didn't say anything about what you did for God. You didn't say anything at all about your part, I mean salvation's really part us and part God, and you should've mentioned something about your part". "Oh," said the older Christian, "I apologize for that. I really should've said something about my part, my part was running away, and his part was running after me until he caught me".
And you know that's a simple little silly story, but it's true, isn't it? In this lesson we embark upon, here in Romans chapter 8, verses 29 and 30, is one of the most perilous journeys in the Book of Romans. These two verses of Scripture contain, in a few words, a doctrine that has become the watershed between two major divisions of the church. And because of this, many pastors won't preach on this. They're like the story of the Good Samaritan. They come to this passage, and they pass by on the other side. The result of that is many pastors who don't preach it, and then the people in the church have never heard anything about it, so they get out into the mainstream, and someone starts to talk to them about it, and they don't know for sure what it is, and they don't know for sure what the Bible says about it.
So, the question is, should you preach on controversial passages? Should you address difficult and deep subjects? I always answer these questions with this little exchange, people ask me, "So, why are you preaching on this pastor"? "Well," I say, "I'm preaching on this 'cause it's next, that's why I preach on it". If I only preach those doctrines which are easy and which cause no difference of opinion, I can't be a faithful expositor of the Word of God, I don't get to pick and choose what the Bible says and what I preach.
I remember, and you'll have to forgive me for referencing Charles Spurgeon during this series, because he was quite an expositor, and he preached on Romans 8 a lot, and he had a lot to say about it. He can say it better than I can, so I just tell you what he said. Once said that he was getting ready to preach on election, which is the subject of Romans 8, and he said, "Whenever I announce a text like this, some will be ready to say, 'Why do you preach on so profound a doctrine as election?' And I answer, because it's in the Word of God, and whatever's in the Word of God is to be preached," amen? Pretty soft, but I'll take it.
"But," says the objector, "some truths should be kept back from the people lest they make a mistake". And Spurgeon said, "That's Popish doctrine. It was upon that very theory that priests kept back the Bible from the people, and they didn't give it to them lest they should misuse it". And the objector says, "Well, are not some doctrines dangerous"? Spurgeon said, "Not if they are true and rightly handled. Truth is never dangerous, it's error that's dangerous". "Well," says the objector, "do not some men abuse the doctrines of grace"? Spurgeon said, "I grant you that they do, but if we destroy everything that men abuse, we've got nothing left. And besides all this, remember," he said, "that men do read the Scriptures, and they think about these doctrines, and therefore they might make mistakes about them, so who shall set them right if we who preach the Word hold our tongues about the matter"?
So, let us prayerfully and carefully examine this great expression of God's sovereign love. Here are five links in salvation's golden chain. Paul wants us to know that your salvation and my salvation started in eternity past, and it extends to eternity in the future. Here are the chains, let's read Romans 8: 29 and 30. "For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom He predestined, these He also called, and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified," and you'll notice, in the Scripture on the screen, there's some words that are kind of, I don't know what color they are 'cause I'm colorblind, but they're different from the white words, I know that. And here're those words. Foreknew, predestined, called, justified, and glorified. Five words, those are the five links of salvation.
So, here's the first one, link number one is foreknowledge. "Whom He foreknew". I like what Henry Nowlin said, he said, "From all eternity, long before you were born and became a part of history, you existed in God's heart. Long before your parents admired you or your friends acknowledged your gifts or your teachers, colleagues, and employers encouraged you, you were already chosen. The eyes of love had seen you as precious, as of infinite beauty, as of eternal value, it is a lifelong struggle to claim that closeness, but it is also a lifelong joy".
Often when I have heard people talk about the foreknowledge of God, I have heard them say something like this, "Sure, I believe in God's foreknowledge, after all he's omniscient. He knows all, and since he knows all, he knows who will believe and who will not, so it is accurate to say that God foreknows". And another person will come along and say, "Before the world was created, God foresaw who was going to believe in him and who would not, so on the basis of what he saw he decided to elect those people who had decided to elect him". But these ideas don't work if we really take the Bible at face value. The foreknowledge of God is much more than this for this reason.
If all the word means is that God knows beforehand what people will do in response to him, or to the preaching of the gospel, and then determines their destiny on that basis, what could God possibly have seen in any human heart except opposition to him? We don't have anything to offer God. I mean, if you think we do, you need to take a good look. Here's what the Bible says about us, "There is no one righteous, not even one, no one understands, no one seeks, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God". Foreknowledge is not God seeing that we would have enough sense to respond to him, and then saying, "Sure, I select them". Foreknowledge means that salvation has its origin in the eternal counsel of God, not in man.
The foreknowledge mentioned in Romans 8:29 indicates that in his own sovereign, good pleasure, God set his love on individuals, gladly acknowledging them as his own and electing them to everlasting life and glory. You can't read it any other way, I can't completely comprehend or explain all of what the foreknowledge of God means, but I can enjoy it. God's love for me is secure, he's given me a purpose, it's not based on my love for him, but his choosing of me before the world was even formed. I may not know anything else about the whole subject of God's sovereignty and election except this. The Bible says I was chosen in God before the foundation of the world. If that's all I knew, I should spend the whole week with my hands up high, dancing and singing and glorifying God. He loved me, and before the world was ever formed, before the stars hit the skies, David Jeremiah was in the heart of Almighty God. What a wonderful truth that is.
Brennan Manning helps us understand that, he said, "I love the Jersey Shore, I love "Handel's Messiah," I love hot fudge, and I love my wife, Roslyn. I love what I find congenial and appealing, I love some for what I find in him or her, but God is not like that. It is not because men and women are good that he loves them, nor only good men and women that he loves. It is not that he detects what is congenial and appealing and he responds to us with his favor, he, God, loves us because it is his nature to love. He is the source of love, he chooses, he does not react, God's love is totally without motive except in the fact that God is love". God didn't choose me before the foundation of the world because there was something special in me, there isn't anything special in me, God chose me because it was in his heart to do it, he chose you for the same reason.
If you're a Christian today, you should be so filled with joy that long before the world ever began, God cared about you, and he called your name. Foreknowledge. Now, you say, I still don't quite understand, and I told my wife this morning, she said, "You know, I don't really understand this thing you're gonna talk about today," I said, "Well, if you listen to me preach you still won't understand it," so, so I just wanna be careful that you don't think I'm gonna resolve all this for everybody today, I'm not gonna do that. I hope I bring some light to some of the dark places, but I hope most of all that we get off this kick of arguing about something for which we should be grateful. That, to me, is the biggest tragedy of what's happened today in this terrible discussion that goes on and gets out of hand, and before you know it, you're not thanking God for his love for you, you're arguing with somebody else about when it happened, how it happened, why it happened, and who did what to make what happen. Link number two is predestination, this gets worse instead of better. Romans 8:29, "He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son".
In 2007, Illinois State Senator Dan McConchie was riding his motorcycle through a suburban intersection when a car came came his lane and pushed him into oncoming traffic. When he woke two weeks later in the Level 1 Trauma Center he had six broken ribs, a deflated left lung, five broken vertebrae, worst of all, he had a spinal cord injury that left him a paraplegic. Well, some people might have stayed down from such a loss, Dan bounced back, and today he travels extensively, and he has taken up sports such as adaptive skiing. His personal motto is, "Adapt and overcome". And this is what he said, he said, "What I learned from the accident," Dan says, "Is that this life isn't for our comfort. Instead, the purpose of this life is that we become conformed to the image of Christ. Unfortunately, that doesn't happen when everything is unicorns and rainbows, it happens when life is tough, when we are forced to rely upon God through prayer just to make it through the day. That is when he is most at work in our lives, molding us into what he designed us to be".
Some think that foreknowledge and predestination are the same, but they are not. The word predestination is comprised of two words, pre-, and destined. It means to determine beforehand a destination. Election is God deciding who gets on the plane bound for heaven, and predestination is God charting the route the plane will take, the schedule, the accommodations, both during the flight and after the flight. Predestination means God makes sure that those that he chooses get to the place he wants them to go. Did you know that the moment you believed and acknowledged God's love for you, you have a secure path to your destination, Almighty God has promised that. He has predetermined now where you're going to spend eternity, where is that, in heaven with Almighty God. He chose you, and you are on the plane, this plane isn't going down, this plane's going to its destination, one day you will get off that plane in the presence of Almighty God. So then, foreknowledge is the term that is used to describe that God has fixed his love upon us, but predestination says that God has chosen a path for us.
John Stott made it clear in this statement, he said, "There is a decision involved in the process of becoming Christian. We all talk about making a decision for Christ, but it is God's decision before it can be ours. It is not to deny that we decide for Christ and freely, but to affirm that we do so because he first decided for us". You know the Scripture says, "We love Him," why, "because He first loved us," in other words, we can't love God unless he loves us first. The whole issue in this doctrine is who takes the initiative in salvation, and if you don't understand that it is God who does that, you're gonna miss the whole thing. You know, we don't take the initiative, God takes the initiative, and in the process we become a part of his forever family. If we could understand this and the incredible joy that should be ours in this truth that before the foundation of the world God chose us, and he knows our name. You're sitting in church today as a Christian because God loved you so much, you can't imagine. Do you appreciate that, do you know it?
You know, don't argue about it, just say thank you for it, you know? He was a sophomore in high school, J.A. Medders was just a speck among 800 other sophomores, as uncool as possible. He never went to a dance, he never went on a date, he was too short to make the basketball team, but his lack of coolness wasn't what made those years crushing for him. You see, his hidden sin and hypocrisy made his life miserable. J. A. led Bible studies, played guitar in the youth band, all the while he was enslaved to pornography. Shackled by shame, he didn't know what to do, who to talk to, and how he could get help to stop. One Sunday, he went to church, and his preacher was brave, and he preached on election from Ephesians chapter 1. And J.A. was intrigued by the whole subject and perked up, and he began to track with the message verse by verse. And he wrote, "God chose me to be saved, me, the one who spoke galaxies into existence and is robed in inapproachable light, he chose me, loser me, Hypocrite me. The Almighty not only wanted to save this mess, but he found joy in me". He said on that day, "God's love shook the lukewarmness out of my life. Sovereign love set me up straight and pushed my insecurities out". Looking back on that experience, he wrote, "Predestination conquered my craving for pornography. I saw my sin against the great love of God, and my sin became bitter next to the richness of God's grace, and I walked away from it and haven't returned".
You see, that's what the greatness of God is meant to do, it's meant to help us understand how cheap everything else is in relationship to what he has done for us. If we follow this understanding of our purpose, then we understand why growth and daily walk fit into the picture. God chose us, and the Bible says he chose us to be like his Son, Jesus Christ, and one day we will be. One day we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. But in between now and then, we should be on a track to become in practice what we already are in position. God says we are holy, he wants us to be personally holy, we're on this journey with him, we are not holy yet, but one day we shall be, and in the meantime, we should be more and more on our way to our destination. It should so challenge us to know how much God loves us and see how unfitting some of the stuff is we allow into our lives, how it is so offensive to think about that in light of the love of God.
Link number three is calling. "Whom He predestined he also called". Now, we'll get to this place where we can understand this. There's two kinds of calling, there's an outward calling or what some people call the general call, and there's an inward, or specific calling. Let me explain to you what I mean. When I preach the gospel, I stand up here and I preach, "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden," says the Lord. All come, anyone can be saved, I believe that, and the Bible tells me that's what I should preach, that's the general call. But there's also an inward call, when God calls us individually to himself, and I wanna talk about that for just a moment. The inward call is the moment that God announces to us that we belong to him, and it's the most amazing thing for me, I've been preaching now for 50-some years, and one of the things that I have observed as a preacher is I preach the gospel, and people get saved, and I realize when they get saved it had nothing to do with what I said, they just came to church, and God called them, and I got up and told them what to do, and they came down here and we talked to them and prayed with them, and they acknowledged Jesus Christ.
What we need to understand, then, is this, the preacher doesn't cause people to come to Christ, the preacher announces the gospel, invites people to come to Christ, but it is God working in them that is the one who brings them to salvation. And that's the joy that I have, because I show up here every Sunday, I don't know who's out here that God's working in, he might be working in you today, you showed up and wondering what am I doing here, well God's working in you, you showed up, and I'm just making the announcements. Come to Jesus and he'll change your life. There's no better illustration of that than the story of Lazarus, and I want you to listen carefully to this. Lazarus, who had died four days earlier, he's in his grave. Lazarus is a picture of every human being in his or her natural state, spiritually dead. We were born into this world spiritually dead, physically alive, but spiritually dead, that's why we need to be saved, we're spiritually dead.
Now, let me tell you something about dead people, dead people don't do nothing. You got it? Just remember that. So, here's Lazarus, he's dead, he's sealed in his grave with a gravestone, lying in the tomb. So, I come to Lazarus's grave, and I say, "Lazarus, hey man, come on out, we want you back, we miss you. If you just get up out of that tomb and come out here, we are anxious to have you back, and we won't put anything in your way, Lazarus, just come on back man, come on back. What, you're not coming? He doesn't wanna be with us"? No, the problem is that Lazarus does not have the ability to come back. The call is given, but he can't come, why? He's dead. Aww, but let Jesus take his place before the tomb, let Jesus call out, "Lazarus come forth!" and the case is quite different. The words are the same, but now the call is no more an invitation, it's an effectual calling, for the same God who originally called the creation out of nothing is now calling life out of death, and his call is heard.
Lazarus, though he has been dead four days, hears Jesus and obeys his Master's voice, and that is how God calls us out of our sin. We're dead, we can't pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and get to heaven, not by works of righteousness that we have done, we need God to do that. Dead people don't do nothing, dead spiritual people have no ability, if God doesn't initiate the process, we have no chance. So, that means one day you were listening to the gospel and God called you and you became a Christian. The calling from the pulpit was only an announcement, God had been working in your life, if God hadn't called you couldn't be a Christian, 'cause you know why? Before you're a Christian you're dead as a doornail, and dead things don't do nothing. And I am not trying to overstate this, but your calling is the moment when that which was decreed about you in eternity becomes actual in time. You with me? The calling part of it's good.
Alright, now let's go to number four, number four is justification, and I wanna disabuse a definition of this that I've heard all my life that's just not true. Hear me carefully, justification doesn't mean just as if you never sinned. Doesn't mean that, that's a really bad definition of justification. First of all, you have sinned, all of you, me too. Romans 8:30 says, "whom He called, those He also justified," and this is covered in Romans 3, so if you wanna read about justification you can go back and read it, it's one of the great doctrines of the faith, but let me tell you what it is not. Justification is not amnesty. Justification is an act of justice. When God justifies sinners, he's not declaring bad people to be good or saying that they are not sinners after all, he is pronouncing them legally righteous. Free from any liability to the broken law, because he himself, in his Son, has born the penalty of their lawbreaking.
Here's a story to help you. Suppose a woman were to build up a debt at a branch store of a large company, and the debt was way above her means to pay it, I mean it was huge, and there was no possibility she could ever pay it. If after hearing her case, the store were to cancel her debt, that would be forgiveness. Under these circumstances, the woman would no longer be liable for her account, but she would always have a feeling of personal discomfort about the whole transaction. If, on the other hand, the legal department of the company decided to press for payment, that would be justice. Suppose that while she was awaiting trial for her undischarged account, the woman were to marry the wealthy son of the storeowner, who personally assumed the responsibility for her account and paid it in full. It doesn't get any better than that.
If that were to happen, there would be no legal claim against her anymore. And in the unlikely event of her case ever getting to court, she could plead not guilty to all charges on the grounds that her debts had been fully paid by her husband. The court would say that she was justified in pleading not guilty, and her case would be dismissed. If a person is to be forgiven, he must plead guilty and sue for mercy. If a person is to be justified, he must plead not guilty and show the opposition has no case against him at all. Of course, forgiveness and justification both enter into salvation, but the Lord Jesus has fully discharged all of our obligations so that there is no legal ground for charges to be ever pressed against us anymore, and moreover he has given us a perfect standing before God, so that we are fully acceptable in the sight of the Almighty. Justification is way more than just as if we'd never sinned, justification is the fact that we have sinned, and that the penalty for our sin has been paid in full, and in the place of our sin has been given to us the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
That's why I love 2 Corinthians 5:21, here's what it says. "For He made Him," Christ, "Who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Christ". Justification is God trading our sin for his righteousness, for taking our sin on the cross and leveling his wrath against his own Son to pay the penalty for our sin, and in the process saying, "You are not just forgiven, you are justified. You are not just absent the wrong, you are present the right, and you have a standing before God". And then the last one is glorification. "And whom He justified, these He also glorified". He foreknew us, predestined us, called us, justified us, and he says, one day we're gonna be glorified.
Now, the word glory's in the Bible a lot of times, and almost all the times you read the word glory in the Bible it's about the glory of God, but here Paul says, "Whom He justified He glorified," and he's talking about us. Paul said that one day we're gonna be glorified, we're gonna be like Jesus, we're gonna bring glory to heaven, now listen carefully, because this is really important. Look at your Bibles, and if you could be grammatical for just a moment, ask yourself what tense is this verse in? "Whom He justified He also glorified". When is our glorification, it's in the future, what is the tense, it's past. In the eyes of God, we are already glorified. He sees us in the finished edition, "Them he also glorified," God sees us as we are in position before the Father, and one day we will realize that in reality, one day we will be glorified, but it's so certain that it's gonna happen, God wrote it in past tense. It has happened, it certainly, and it will happen.
Now, listen to me, we're on this journey from where we are, not glorified, to where we're gonna be, glorified, God says it's gonna happen, and he expects us to walk along this way and be made holy like Jesus Christ, this should be our goal. Lord, help me to be in practice what I already am in perfection. Help me every day to live in light of the fact that you've already declared me glorified, I wanna live my life that way. Do you know what God expects us to do? He expects us to act like we know where we're going and who we're going to become. Live our lives every day on this train to heaven, living for the Lord Jesus Christ, trying to bring glory to his name, and one day, if we do that, the Bible says we're already glorified, we're gonna stand before God, and you know how we can be that way? Because he took all of our sin and put it on his Son, he took your adultery and your stealing and your lying and your, all of the sins, he put all those on Jesus and forgave you completely, and then he took all of the righteousness of Jesus and he put that on you, and so now you stand before God perfect in God's eyes, and the Bible says glorified, ultimately glorified.
So, these five links to salvation tell us, listen carefully, that our salvation is such an important thing that it began before the world began, and it doesn't end until we stand before the Lord Jesus Christ, glorified in his presence. Our salvation is an eternal issue. Salvation is so wonderful. You may not understand everything about election, and maybe this verse confuses you, but pick out one of those points and thank God for it today, 'cause that's what he's done for you. Before I finish, I want to answer a couple of questions that people have about this whole discussion. I want to do this the best I can. Sometimes people argue this way, well if salvation is all of God and it's not of man, then man has no responsibility to do anything about his salvation, he should just sit back and be passive and let God be God. But here's what we must understand, the sovereignty of God does not in any way diminish the responsibility of man. From man's perspective, we are totally responsible before God, from God's perspective we are chosen in him before the foundation of the world.
You say, well I don't get that, you know what, it's hard, but let me tell you something my father told me many years ago when I first was gonna preach a sermon on this, he gave me this story. He said, "David, here's what you need to remember. Someday, when you go to heaven, let's just assume you get to heaven's gates, and you get ready to walk in the gates, and up over the gate is this statement: Whosoever will may come," that's true isn't it? He said, "Then you walk in the gate, and you turn, and you look back up, and on the inside of the gate are written these words: Chosen in Him before the foundation of the world". You see, we don't know, except what God tells us. All I need to know is that God called me, I responded, and I said yes, I don't need to know all the other stuff, but when I get to heaven one day, I'm gonna look over my shoulder and I'm gonna find out this is what God, he chose me before the foundation of the world.
Then there's another response to this doctrine that's kind of similar, but some who hear a message like the one you have heard today will reason like this, well if God is sovereign in salvation, then we have no responsibility to evangelize the lost, 'cause if they're gonna get saved they're gonna get saved no matter what we do. After all, the elect are gonna be saved whether we witness or not, no that's not true, because the same God who tells us about the sovereign purpose of salvation is the God who commands us to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. The God who is sovereign in the goal of salvation is also sovereign in the means to that goal.
So, Lorraine Bettner says it this way, he said, "The decree of election is a secret decree, and since no revelation has been given to the preacher as to which ones among his hearers are elect and which ones are not, it is not possible for him to present the gospel to the elect only. It is his duty to look with hope on all those to whom he is preaching and to pray for them that they may be each one responsive. In order to offer the message to the elect, he must offer it to all, and the Scripture commands him to do that very thing, to preach the gospel to all".
Well, some say this doctrine discourages evangelism, the Bible does not support that. In fact, just think about it, every time I preach, there are candidates for salvation in the audience. Every time I preach there's somebody out there that perhaps God's already been working in their life, and I might get to be the one who shakes their hand when they come to Jesus. Is it because of David Jeremiah, no, is it because of them, it's because of God working in their life. Here's what I know, I'm gonna let God worry about his sovereignty, and I'm gonna worry about my responsibility, and I'm gonna look at it this way, maybe you can, maybe you can join me in this, let's say we're all standing in the middle of a train track, and this rail is the sovereignty of God, and this rail is the freewill of man, and we're looking all the way down, you see the track, it doesn't come together until infinity. It stays apart, but ultimately as you look at it, at least from your perspective, it comes together.
You know when you will understand how the freewill of man and the sovereignty of God work, when you get to heaven. Don't expect me to tell you, I can't tell you. All I can tell you is these are two doctrines the Bible teaches, there's a built in tension between them, but think of them as these two rails that ultimately get resolved in the future. And then spend your life being responsible to God. Let him take care of his sovereignty, you take care of your responsibility. In other words, don't get lost in the argument. Here's a couple verses for you that are quite interesting in the New Testament, Acts 18:9 and 10, Paul was ministering in Corinth and the Lord spoke to him in a night vision, and he said, Paul, "Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city".
In other words, God had appointed a number of people in Corinth for salvation who had not yet heard the gospel, and the effect of Paul's preaching would bring them to faith. Whenever we preach the gospel, we should be encouraged to know that when we are preaching the message, God has already been at work in the lives of some who are listening. Now, here's a verse that puts it all together, you may have read this verse, but you never read it this way, here it is. Acts 13:48, listen to this, "Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed".
Isn't that interesting? Who believed, those who had been appointed to eternal life. You say, well I don't understand that, you don't need to understand it, just accept it. This is it, this is what the Bible says, God is involved in our salvation way beyond anything we can imagine, if you're Christian today, you don't wanna go around singing the song that I heard somebody sing when I was growing up, "I found what I wanted when I found the Lord," you didn't find the Lord, you weren't even looking for him, he found you, remember our story? You were running away, and he caught you, the hound of heaven came and got you, that's why you're a Christian, you didn't find him.
Many people I know just spend all their time arguing about the doctrine, and they have no little time left to appreciate it. You know, we should strive to understand everything we can about the working of God in the world, and then stop with being discouraged because we can't understand it all, because he is God, his ways are higher than our ways, his thoughts than our thoughts, and if that were not true, he could not be God, and because that is true, I worship him. I seek to know him the best I can, but I don't worry about the things I can't understand, because my finite mind is not capable of comprehending the infinite mind of Almighty God.