God initiates. We respond. We need both passages to clarify and balance out the other one. This is an old-school exegesis (pronounced EX-uh-gee-sus or ex-uh-GEE-sus), which means a close reading or analysis of a text.
Those two passages provide, first, God’s perspective on his salvation which he initiated or launched to save humankind, and then the second passage is from our (humankind’s) perspective as we respond to God’s offer of salvation.
We need the fuller picture to balance out both points of view: God’s initiative and our response.
Does Rom. 8:30 teach a predestination to salvation and damnation?
The translation is mine, unless otherwise noted. If you don’t read Greek, ignore the left column and read the one on the right.
If you want to see many translations, I encourage you to click on biblegateway.com.
As usual, I write to learn.
Table One: God’s Perspective
Many verses (though not all of them) in Roman’s 8 is about God initiating salvation. The chapter is about those who are in Christ, starting with v. 1: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Only the saved are in Christ Jesus. And it continues on from there. The chapter is also about the life in the Spirit, as opposed to life in the flesh, as the already-saved live out their salvation granted to them by God, which they had received by faith.
Rom. 8:26-30 simply carries on the message for those who are in Christ. I begin in v. 26, just to provide the context. Verse 30 is the main one.
|God’s Initiative and Saving Activity (Rom. 8:26-30)|
|26 Ὡσαύτως δὲ καὶ τὸ πνεῦμα συναντιλαμβάνεται τῇ ἀσθενείᾳ ἡμῶν· τὸ γὰρ τί προσευξώμεθα καθὸ δεῖ οὐκ οἴδαμεν, ἀλλὰ αὐτὸ τὸ πνεῦμα ὑπερεντυγχάνει στεναγμοῖς ἀλαλήτοις· 27 ὁ δὲ ἐραυνῶν τὰς καρδίας οἶδεν τί τὸ φρόνημα τοῦ πνεύματος, ὅτι κατὰ θεὸν ἐντυγχάνει ὑπὲρ ἁγίων. 28 Οἴδαμεν δὲ ὅτι τοῖς ἀγαπῶσιν τὸν θεὸν πάντα συνεργεῖ εἰς ἀγαθόν, τοῖς κατὰ πρόθεσιν κλητοῖς οὖσιν. 29 ὅτι οὓς προέγνω, καὶ προώρισεν συμμόρφους τῆς εἰκόνος τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ, εἰς τὸ εἶναι αὐτὸν πρωτότοκον ἐν πολλοῖς ἀδελφοῖς· 30 οὓς δὲ προώρισεν, τούτους καὶ ἐκάλεσεν· καὶ οὓς ἐκάλεσεν, τούτους καὶ ἐδικαίωσεν· οὓς δὲ ἐδικαίωσεν, τούτους καὶ ἐδόξασεν.||26 Likewise, even the Spirit helps our weakness, for we don’t know what we should pray for, as it is necessary, but the Spirit himself intercedes (for us) with wordless groans. 27 And the one who searches the heart knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because he pleads for the consecrated ones, according to (the will of) God. 28 We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to (his) purpose, 29 because whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he would be the firstborn of many brothers and sisters. 30 Whom he predestined, these he also called; whom he called these he also justified; whom he justified these he also glorified.|
|These verses are about God’s perspective. The target verse is 30. Those four verbs (predestined, called, justified, and glorified) are God’s actions. God is the subject of them.
In v. 27, “consecrated ones” can be translated as “holy ones” or “saints”; so this passage is about believers.
I cannot find in these verses double predestination: one set of humanity is predestined for salvation, and the other set is predestined for damnation. The text is silent on damnation. Instead, the verses say that the ones who are already saved (the “consecrated ones”) are predestined and called to be conformed to the image of God’s Son. So really these verses are not even talking about being predestined for salvation, but the verses are about consecrated ones being predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.
Further, v. 29 sets the stage for v. 30, with the word “predestined.” But predestined for what? As noted, to be conformed to the image of his Son. Given this context, therefore, we could expansively translate v. 30, to see Paul’s intent, as follows:
Whom he predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, these he also called to be conformed to the image of his Son; whom he called to be conformed to the image of his Son, these he also justified (declared to be in right standing) to be conformed to the image of his Son; whom he justified (declared to be in right standing) to be conformed to the image of his Son these he also glorified so that they will then be fully conformed to the image of his Son.
However, if you don’t like the expanded translation, you may skip it, but I believe this is what Paul had in mind, as he was addressing believers. Of course he did not want to repeat the same phrase as I did. After salvation, all believers are headed towards being like Christ, which will be fully achieved only when the entire universe is renewed and reconstituted and the sons and daughters of God are finally and gloriously manifested (vv. 18-25). “The creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God” (v. 21, NIV, emphasis added).
The fourth verb “glorified” is in the past (aorist) tense, as if to say Paul is confident that the believer will make it until the Second Coming and the renewal of all things (vv. 18-25). God will enable him to stand (Rom. 14:4; 2 Cor. 1:21, 24; but a warning is embedded in Rom. 11:20-21 and 1 Cor. 10:12!). The Spirit is the guarantee or deposit for future glory (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Eph. 1:13-14). This assurance goes along with the verse that ends this chapter: nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God (v. 39).
It is a fair interpretation, however, to conclude that the first two verbs (“predestined” and “called”) could be describing a person before his salvation or God’s act of justifying him, and the latter two verbs (“justified” and “glorified”) describe someone during and after salvation. This may go against the flow of Rom. 8, but it is a possible interpretation. If so, then Rom. 10:8-13 provides the human perspective. Humankind needs to respond to the call of salvation. As we are about to learn, God does not ignore or override their response, as if they had no free will whatsoever.
Table Two: Humanity’s Perspective
Rom. 9-11 are about national Israel and the Gentiles as a collective, though represented by individuals like Jacob and Esau, yet many verses in Chapter 10 are about humanity before responding to God’s call to salvation and then about humanity responding after the call of salvation.
Paul is coming back to a theme he began back in Rom. 4, as seen in these verses:
22 This is why “it was credited to him [Abraham] as righteousness.” 23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (Rom. 4:22-25, NIV)
Abraham believed God, but God initiated the promise, and only then did Abraham believe God (Rom. 4:13-17). Abraham had to respond. Some measure of his will was involved, though I don’t know how to calculate how much. Today we believe that God raised Jesus from the dead, who was raised to life for our justification (imputed or credited righteousness) (Rom. 4:24). Our faith is involved.
By the way, the argument in Rom. 4 is also taken up again in 8:26-30.
Finally, note the word “all” or “everyone” in the following verses.
|Our Response to God’s Initiative and Saving Activity (Rom. 10:8-13)|
|8 ἀλλὰ τί λέγει; ἐγγύς σου τὸ ῥῆμά ἐστιν ἐν τῷ στόματί σου καὶ ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ σου, τοῦτʼ ἔστιν τὸ ῥῆμα τῆς πίστεως ὃ κηρύσσομεν. 9 ὅτι ἐὰν ὁμολογήσῃς ἐν τῷ στόματί σου κύριον Ἰησοῦν καὶ πιστεύσῃς ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ σου ὅτι ὁ θεὸς αὐτὸν ἤγειρεν ἐκ νεκρῶν, σωθήσῃ· 10 καρδίᾳ γὰρ πιστεύεται εἰς δικαιοσύνην, στόματι δὲ ὁμολογεῖται εἰς σωτηρίαν. 11 λέγει γὰρ ἡ γραφή· πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων ἐπʼ αὐτῷ οὐ καταισχυνθήσεται. 12 οὐ γάρ ἐστιν διαστολὴ Ἰουδαίου τε καὶ Ἕλληνος, ὁ γὰρ αὐτὸς κύριος πάντων, πλουτῶν εἰς πάντας τοὺς ἐπικαλουμένους αὐτόν· 13 πᾶς γὰρ ὃς ἂν ἐπικαλέσηται τὸ ὂνομα κυρίου σωθήσεται.||8 What does it say?
The word is near you,
This is the word of faith which we preach. 9 For if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes for righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses for salvation. 11 For the Scriptures say,
Everyone who believes on him will not be put to shame. [Is. 28:16]
12 For there is no difference between either Jew or Greek, for he is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all those who call on him.
13 For all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved. [Joel 2:32]
|God called Paul (and all believers) to preach the gospel (v. 8). Then people respond with their mouths and in their hearts. They confess with their mouth his Lordship and believe that God vindicated his Son by resurrecting him (and seating him at his right hand, which is implied). It is clear (to me at least) that the human is involved in salvation, but only in responding to the Spirit-anointed gospel. He cannot save himself. He cannot strut into grace and the kingdom by his own willpower. Like Abraham, God promises, and this promise energized or even created faith in Abraham, as the Spirit-empowered gospel produces saving faith and righteousness is credited or imputed to us today.
In Rom. 10, the Spirit-anointed gospel is sufficient to produce saving faith in the heart of the unbeliever. “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” (Rom. 10:17, NIV). This is not ordinary faith, but saving faith, and the Spirit-empowered gospel can produce it in the listener. “8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8-9, NIV). Yet this faith still has to enter the heart (or be stirred up in the heart) and be transformed to become saving faith. We cannot gin it up on our own.
Everyone (all) who calls on his name shall be saved. The call of the gospel is for everyone, and then they have to respond. If they do not respond with saving faith, who is to blame? The Spirit-anointed gospel as if it is weak? No, it is humankind who is resisting the call to salvation. God woos or calls or invites; he does not rape or crash through the barriers of people’s will.
I believe that humans have enough free will to resist the call of the Spirit-empowered gospel, but they do not have enough free will to save themselves by themselves. They need to hear the Spirit-anointed gospel, have it open their heart to receive it, and respond to it by confessing with their mouth his Lordship and believing in their hearts that God vindicated the Messiah by raising him from the dead. The anointed gospel is sufficient to produce in people’s heart and mouth the hunger and capacity to “call on the name of the Lord.” Then they shall be saved because their calling on him was done through saving faith, which the gospel had produced in them in the first place.
God initiates. Humans respond. In. that. order.
Both passages teach that God has the initiatory part to play in masterminding the plan of salvation. No human could come up with it on his own. And certainly no human could carry it out with their own ability and ingenuity. God launched it, and only his Son could carry it out and accomplish it. And when humans hear the Spirit-anointed gospel, which encapsulates or summarizes the global plan of salvation, then the gospel produces a response of saving faith in the human. Humans have their part in it–response only.
Further, in Romans 8, balanced with Romans 10, I cannot find that the call of the gospel goes only to a select few–the elect. Rom. 8:30 is silent about this, and we should not do eisgesis (reading into a text), when the text is silent. Also, be careful about overinterpreting “many” in 8:29. Out of all the eight billion people on the planet, not everyone will respond with saving faith If they hear the Spirit-anointed gospel; many will resist and say no. Further, Romans 10 says that the call of the Spirit-anointed gospel is for everyone or all. And then “everyone [all] who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” How many exactly will call on him? Only God knows. But “many” will.
Bottom line: we need both passages to provide the bigger picture on salvation: God’s point of view and our point of view, God’s initiative and our response. The two passages do in fact balance each other out.