In Romans 8:29–30, Paul unfolds the sweeping work of salvation from eternity past to eternity future in two breathtaking verses:
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.
These verses have been called the “golden chain” of salvation. They offer Christians great assurance by describing the inseparable stages in God’s saving work. But Paul’s golden chain of salvation doesn’t just offer us personal assurance; it also gives Christians missiological confidence.
Security of Our Salvation
Romans 8:29–30 is the foundation for what Reformed theologians call the ordo salutis (order of salvation). In the eyes of the reformers, each step of salvation described is bound to the others as an unbreakable chain. All those who are foreknown are also predestined. All those who are predestined are also called. All those who are called are also justified. All those who are justified are also glorified.
Believers can enjoy assurance because God is the author of salvation from start to finish. Nothing and no one can break the chain.
William Perkins (1558–1602) described the implication of the passage this way: “We are admonished to fight against all doubting and diffidence of our salvation, because it neither depends upon our works nor faith, but upon God’s decree, which is immutable.” In other words, believers can enjoy assurance because God is the author of salvation from start to finish. Nothing and no one can break the chain.
Security of God’s Mission
This same truth that gives us personal assurance should also give us confidence in the gospel’s advance across the world. In Revelation 5:9–10, John shares a vision of our mission’s final goal:
And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
The future presence of every nation, tribe, and tongue at the end is already a secure reality. Why? Because of the purchasing power of Jesus’s blood. Here we see the chain of salvation that advances God’s mission from beginning to end.
As we obey the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18–20), we can have confidence in God’s golden chain. Through our evangelism and preaching, God will effectually call all those whom he has predestined (John 10:16; Acts 18:9–11). He will justify all those whom he calls (John 6:37; Rom. 8:33). And as we disciple and train his people for service, he will preserve and glorify all those he has justified (Eph. 1:13–14; 1 Thess. 5:24). Everyone who is connected at one end of the chain is secured in Christ to its end. None will be lost (John 6:39).
What’s true for us individually will be true of us corporately. Each new disciple will be made a member of the multitude gathered around God’s throne. The mission will be successful because each believer is secured by the golden bond of the Lord’s sovereign work.
Go with Confidence
William Carey (1761–1834) famously told his English companions that if they were willing to hold the ropes, he was willing to go down into the “gold mine” that was India. “Holding the ropes” has since become shorthand for the importance of missionaries having supporters who help them through prayer and financial giving.
Each new disciple will be made a member of the multitude gathered around God’s throne.
But with a strong theological understanding of the ordo salutis, missionaries can go with both the encouragement of a rope held by supporters and also with the greater confidence of a chain forged by God.
No cultural obstacles, language slip-ups, financial stresses, or government hostility will thwart the advance of God’s gospel to the ends of the earth. As we send out missionaries, or go ourselves and preach the gospel, we can be confident God’s people will be called, justified, and glorified.