Romans 8:28-30 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 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. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
This chain of foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, and glorification cannot be broken. Each of these are done by the Lord. Some interpreters have tried to get around unconditional election here by saying that foreknowledge merely refers to foreseen faith such that God merely knows who will believe but he does not choose them. Such an answer does not make sense of the chain which includes predestination which literally means “predetermination.” Further God’s foreknowledge refers to more than only his foreseeing things. When the Bible speaks of those whom the Father knows it refers to those upon whom God has set his covenant affection. It refers to those whom God loves and has begun a relationship with. For example Amos 3:2:
Amos 3:2 “You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.
This text cannot be merely about those who God literally knows otherwise it would say that God doesn’t know any of the other nations of the earth. Thus this knowledge refers to God’s covenant love that he has chose to set upon Israel. Thus in Romans 8:28-29, foreknowledge is applied in a similar way to those who love God.
Further, all those whom God foreknew, he foreknew them to be predestined to be conformed to the image of his son. In other words those who God has foreknown he also ensures that they will be sanctified. Salvation without sanctification is never taught in Scripture.
Romans 9:11-24 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad- in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call- 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” 14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. 19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory- 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?
These verses are pretty straight-forward (for more info on the Old Testament passages that Paul is quoting, see my previous post, Matthew, Moses, and Malachi on Election. They are difficult for us to accept but pretty clear. I simply want to point out that this text is clearly not just about Israel as those who are called are not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles (v. 23). Clearly election is not conditioned on anything in man.
This doesn’t always sit well with me, I don’t understand why God choose some before the foundations of the world for salvation and not others. I don’t know why God set his covenant love upon Jacob and not Esau. Paul essentially expects such a response to God’s election of some to eternal life in v. 19, “You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” Paul answers his own question with stunning bluntness-” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use?” This is tough stuff! As to the exact reason why God chose some and not others, all I can say is that apparently God doing so brings Him glory (v23).
Romans 11:2-8 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” 4 But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. 7 What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, 8 as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.”
Romans 11:2 indicates that those whom God foreknows he does not reject. What else could these verses mean other than there are Gentiles who were foreknown and elected? Where Israel failed, the Gentiles succeeded, but not because of anything in them–not by works otherwise grace would no longer be grace! In fact 11:7-8 tells us that God is even sovereign over hardening and the rejection of the gospel. This is very similar to what you see in Romans 1 (see the Side Note in my previous post on election).