The Golden Chain of Redemption

Prologue: What follows are the notes recently used to teach the people of Shepherd’s Fellowship Baptist Church how God brings His elect unto salvation. This short summary of the Ordo Salutis will serve as a follow-up to what my fellow blog contributor Jim Bublitz has briefly discussed regarding regeneration logically (but not temporally) preceding faith per the exegesis of 1 John 5:1.

Question: “What is the Golden Chain of Redemption?”

Answer: The “Golden Chain of Redemption” is also known as “the order of salvation”[1] which deals with the steps or stages in the salvation of a believer (e.g. foreknowledge, predestination/election, effectual calling/regeneration, justification/sanctification, and glorification – Romans 8:29-30). Before our discussion, it might be helpful to provide some basic definitions[2] of many of the terms involved:

Foreknowledge: God’s knowing (in this sense) prior to salvation those who would be saved based upon His active choice to forelove them.

Predestination: The act of decreeing or foreordaining events; the decree of God by which he has, from eternity, unchangeably appointed or determined whatever comes to pass. It is used particularly in theology to denote the preordination of men to everlasting happiness or misery.

Election: In theology, divine choice; predetermination of God, by which persons are distinguished as objects of mercy, become subjects of grace, are sanctified and prepared for heaven.

Regeneration: The new birth by the grace of God; that change by which the will and natural enmity of man to God and his law are subdued, and a principle of supreme love to God and his law, or holy affections, are implanted in the heart.

Evangelism: The proclamation and propagation of the gospel.

Faith: Evangelical, justifying, or saving faith, is the assent of the mind to the truth of divine revelation, on the authority of God’s testimony, accompanied with a cordial assent of the will or approbation of the heart; an entire confidence or trust in God’s character and declarations, and in the character and doctrines of Christ, with an unreserved surrender of the will to his guidance, and dependence on his merits for salvation. In other words, that firm belief of God’s testimony, and of the truth of the gospel, which influences the will, and leads to an entire reliance on Christ for salvation.

Conversion: A change of heart, or dispositions, in which the enmity of the heart to God and his law and the obstinacy of the will are subdued, and are succeeded by supreme love to God and his moral government, and a reformation of life.

Perseverance: Continuance in a state of grace to a state of glory; sometimes called final perseverance.

Repentance: One’s turning from sin to God. Real penitence; sorrow or deep contrition for sin, as an offense and dishonor to God, a violation of his holy law, and the basest ingratitude towards a Being of infinite benevolence. This is called evangelical repentance, and is accompanied and followed by amendment of life. Repentance is a change of mind, or a conversion from sin to God.Godly sorrow works repentance to salvation.” 2Cor. 7; Matt. 3. Repentance is the relinquishment of any practice, from conviction that it has offended God.

Justification: The pronouncement of “not guilty” on a sinner. More specifically, the forgiveness of sin and absolution from guilt and punishment; or an act of free grace by which God pardons the sinner and accepts him as righteous, on account of the atonement of Christ.

Sanctification: God’s separation of one from the lure or attraction of sin. More specifically, the act of God’s grace by which the affections of men are purified or alienated from sin and the world, and exalted to a supreme love to God.God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” 2 Thess. 2; 1 Peter 1. (2) The act of consecrating or of setting apart for a sacred purpose; consecration.

Glorification: God’s final removal of all sin from the life and presence of the believer in the eternal state.


Introduction: The Locus Classicus of the Golden Chain of Redemption – Romans 8:29-30

One the best loved verses in all of the word of God is Romans 8:28. However, most believers do not realize that the foundation upon which this great verse rests is the verses that follow, verses that describe what has been called “The Golden Chain of Redemption.” When Paul declares that God works “all things,” without a single exception, together for his own glory and the good of his people, he is making quite a claim. One might think, “How can the Apostle Paul, how can you make such a sweeping and dogmatic statement?” The next verse begins with the word “for” and Paul’s reason for being so certain is laid out in five tremendous statements. These statements have well been called, “The Golden Chain of Redemption.” Let us examine them carefully:

Romans 8:29-30 For those whom (1) He FOREKNEW, He also (2) PREDESTINED to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also (3) CALLED; and these whom He called, He also (4) JUSTIFIED; and these whom He justified, He also (5) GLORIFIED.

One the best loved verses in all of the word of God is Romans 8:28, but most believers do not realize that the foundation upon which this great verse rests is the verses that follow, verses that describe what has been called “The Golden Chain of Redemption.” When Paul declared that God works “all things,” without a single exception, together for his own glory and the good of his people, he was making quite a claim. One might ask, “Paul, how can you make such a sweeping and dogmatic statement?” The next verse begins with the word “for” and Paul’s reason for being so certain is laid out in five tremendous statements. These statements have well been called, “The Five Golden Links in the Chain of Sovereign Grace.” Let us examine them.

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.

Romans 8:28 is the glorious declaration of that hope and assurance. We “know” something for certain, namely, that “God causes all things to work together” for a group of people described as “those who love God.” They are further described as those who “are called according to His purpose.” The second thing naturally follows after first thing. The first thing, loving God, describes the true character of a child of God. All true Christians sincerely love God. The second thing, “called according to his purpose,” gives us the cause that made the first thing possible. God purposed to have some people love Him and He sovereignly called these particular people by His power. We love him only because He first loved us. He called us on “purpose” according to his own plan. I am sure you realize that most people think God calls everyone in the same way and justifies only those who are willing to respond to the call in repentance and faith. This is, of course, half true but not true at all in the sense that Paul is talking about calling. It is impossible to fit that idea into this golden chain.

II. 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.

III. Four-point Arminian 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.

Obviously Paul is talking about effectual calling, or regeneration. The first result of being called is that we are justified, and the final climax of God’s work is total glorification. All those who are justified will most certainly be glorified. That fact is so certain that Paul speaks of it as already past, and so it is in the eternal purposes of God. This is the only place in Paul’s writings where he jumps from justification to glorification and skips sanctification. It is not because he quit believing that sanctification was essential, but in this argument he is talking about the “eternal purpose of God” and present and ultimate glorification are completely and absolutely certain for every foreknown, predestined, called, and justified person.

IV. Let me paraphrase these verses and answer the question, “How can I be sure God will do what he promised in Romans 8:28.” I can be sure because “Those,” all of them and only them, who have been foreknown by God in electing grace, are certain of ultimate salvation (total glorification) because God has sovereignly purposed to conform them, all of them and only them, into the image of Christ. God’s first step in this gracious purpose is to effectually “call” them, the foreknown and predestined ones, all of them and only them, by the power of the Holy Spirit through the gospel. Those, all of them and only them, whom he calls he also “justifies” and applies to them the righteousness of Christ. It is impossible to be foreknown and predestined and not be called just as it is not possible to be called if you were not foreknown and predestined. Likewise it is not possible to be called without that calling producing justification. Those, all of them and only them, who are justified are already glorified in the sovereign purposes of God. In God’s mind it is what we would call a “done deal.”

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

  1. Foreknowledge = Foreordination that is based in God’s eternal decree.
  1. 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).
  1. 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).
  1. 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.
  1. Glorification (sinless perfection that only occurs when in heaven).

Conclusion: 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. For example, the Reformed position has faith as an effect of regeneration rather than the cause of it (versus how the Arminians understand it). 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. The two (regeneration and faith) go hand-in-hand and are assumed by the biblical writers to co-exist. So, what does this say about who is ultimately responsible for the believer’s faith? The Arminian position has the believer responsible for whether or not God saves him, and thus a person must persevere to the end before he can be assured of salvation. What does this say about a believer’s security? These and many other questions are dependent upon the “Golden Chain of Redemption” for their answers, and it is thus important that a believer understands from which perspective those answers are given.


[1] This is also known as the “Order of Salvation” or in theological literature it is known more commonly by the Latin phrase Ordo Salutis.

[2] Some definitions are liberally taken from the online Webster’s 1828 Dictionary and may be more or less modified to conform to modern English readers.

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9 Comments on “The Golden Chain of Redemption”


  1. Do you care to cite you source material? Or, do you just like stealing other folks intellectual property? I know that this material came from someone else.


  2. Paul,

    This post is from a teaching I did over a year ago on a Wednesday night discipleship class at my church. I remember reading several different written sources in my own home library to prepare for this teaching but cannot recall them now. I also prepared most of this teaching at work on a portable laptop without any internet connection or any readily available books for reference. In other words, I wrote this off the cuff over a few days during down time on my lunch hour. Anytime I prepare a teaching like this, I always make a real effort to put these well-known concepts into easily understandable language and I make a real effort to avoid plagiarizing anyone.

    Unless the concept itself is original to the author and not broadly defined within Reformed Theology I *always* provide a footnote to give credit where credit is due. I do this even when I am very much aware that what I’m writing is even close to someone else’s writings or that a particular concept came from someone else.

    However, in all honesty, it is possible that what I have written could be construed as plagiarism as I have a photographic memory and I often will remember written or spoken sentences right down to the very words but will not be able to recall who wrote it or where it came from. This is not an excuse, I have memorized entire books of the New Testament due to this type of memory. I only wish I was that gifted in other areas. 🙂

    I said that to say this: If what I have written is similar to such an extent that you would accuse me of plagiarism please provide the bibliographical information of the source material that you think I am guilty of plagiarizing from (Author, Title, page numbers, etc.) and I will be more than happy to provide the appropriate citation(s). Thank you for your attention to detail and accuracy. God bless!

  3. E K Says:

    Wow, it’s sad to think that millions of innocent souls are misled by this insane heresy. 2 Peter 2:1-3, BEWARE OF FALSE DOCTRINES!

  4. S Goodwin Says:

    So why evangelize if God is going to save only the “elect?” So why raise my children in a Christian home if God is only going to save the elected ones? What’s the point? If only some are “predestined” anyway, why should I care? See the problem? The reformed theology view of Romans 8:29 and 30 is way off. Total depravity? Limited atonement? Irresistable grace? Oh please. I’ll lean on John 3:16 as a start and go from there.

  5. Darrin Says:

    Hey guys – I’m sorry you see this historic and biblical Christian doctrine as foolish or offensive. I wonder why or how this could be considered heresy, or the doctrines of grace (the “5 points”) so easily dismissed by you. The questions about evangelism and Calvinism are not new at all, but have been adequately answered for centuries, and there is absolutely no contradiction between them. Many of the greatest missionaries in church history were solid Calvinists. Honestly the only problem I see is that you haven’t taken the time or effort to seriously investigate what these truths mean and what their actual implications are. Take care.

  6. S Goodwin Says:

    Darrin, sad to say, but your response is typical of current reformed theology/five point Calvinism teachers. I’ve heard John MacArthur and R. C. Sproul espouse pretty much the same arrogent garbage… “We have studied more than they have, we have a deeper understanding of the Scripture than they do.” Curious that when John MacArthur was asked why a Christian should evangelize, he answered the questioner by saying that he “felt his pain.” Is he kidding? I notice you didn’t answer my question either. Hmmm. By the way, are you familiar with the history of John Calvin’s life? It’s not pretty. I might suggest you look at Dave Hunt’s book, “What Love is This.” I gather reformed theology suggests that Satan has no work to do? It’s all pre-set? Odd, when I look around at the world, it doesn’t seem like he is taking time off. Last thought… I believe Calvinism and Arminianism are both right is what they profess but wrong is what they both deny. However, I suspect the truth is clear from God’s perspective.

  7. Darrin Says:

    S,
    Hunt is clueless about Calvinism; I recommend sources who know the subject. A good starting place might be the book on the Five Points by Steele, Thomas and Quinn, and there are many, many others.
    Our responses need not be taken as arrogant or superior; it is just that we see some like yourself bringing up objections as if they are massive problems newly discovered, when in fact they are not issues with the doctrine at all, and have been extensively explained and the questions answered with much care, even on this website. (Check the archives or search the site.) Men like MacArthur are well able to answer as well, whether or not you can quote some snippet which may well have been in jest, for all we know. Sproul and others have written a great deal as well. Other good rescources are ligonier.com and monergism.com. But there are many. I’d be willing to point you to specific resources if you need assistance.
    Briefly regarding evangelism, there is no question that scripture clearly proclaims God’s unchangeable election and predestination. He is sovereign over all. Yet He also commands believers to freely proclaim the gospel. What many fail to see is the concept of the *means*, that is, God ordains what shall come to pass, but He uses people, events, etc. to accomplish these ends. So while He has elected some to eternal life, He has chosen to use the preaching of the gospel as a means to the saving of the elect, and He has granted us the great privilege and responsibility of being involved in the work of evangelism. He knows who His elect are, but we don’t, and so, like the sower, we broadcast the seed of the gospel, and He gives life as He sees fit. Man in his natural state, according to the Bible, is unable to see or understand spiritual things, and is hostile toward God. Thus only if God chooses to give him life first, will he ever come to Christ. And if given spiritual life, they do live and see and believe. But again, there is a wealth of information available, starting with the Bible, for any who are truly interested in learning.

    • S Goodwin Says:

      There it is again… “for any who are truly interested in learning.” Calvinists really do believe they have spiritual insights no one else has. Wow. Just a couple of final thoughts… So God doesn’t want all to come to repentance? Jesus didn’t die for the sins of the world? Whomsoever believes may not have eternal life? Really? I suppose we could play musical scriptures all day. It’s been interesting Darrin. Take care.

      • Darrin Says:

        I wouldn’t get too caught up in my last phrase. The rest is just as important.
        In case you wanted an answer, the answers to your questions are “yes”, except for the last one. Obviously those who believe have eternal life. God doesn’t have to prevent anyone; He actually has to enable them to believe. It’s clear from scripture that faith is a gift of God. Also I’d caveat the first question in saying that “want” isn’t as easily applied to God as one might think. There are His decrees or commands (including “repent”), which He “wants” obeyed, and then there are all things which come to pass, which He ordains (actively or permissably), and thus “wants”. If He ordained that everyone should be saved, then everyone would, for nothing can stand against His purposes. Take care as well.


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