If Believers Can Forsake Faith and Not End Up Glorified, How Is Romans 8:30 to Be Understood?

, posted by SEA

On his website, Arminian Perspectives, Ben Henshaw has a questions page at which he answers questions about Arminianism and Calvinism that visitors to his site pose in the comment section of the page. The following is a question and answer interaction between Ben and a commenter named Victor:

Question: From: An honest inquiring Calvinist.

Romans 8:30 Says “those whom he justified he also glorified.”

How do you understand this verse if, in fact, you can believe and be Justified, and then not believe and not be Glorified?

Is this verse teaching that all who are justified will be glorified?

Answer: Arminians answer this question in a variety of ways. The main issue is that there is nothing in the verse that says the process is guaranteed from beginning to end. In other words, it speaks from the perspective of those who are already glorified and simply retraces that process, a process that all believers must go through in order to reach their final destiny. However, I think the corporate election view deals with this text even as the Calvinist typically understands it (as a guaranteed process from beginning to end), without the necessary implication of inevitable perseverance.

Paul is speaking of the corporate elect body of believers (cf. vs. 33). This is clear through Paul’s use of the plural throughout. The church (the elect body of Christ that draws its election and identity as God’s children from Christ) will certainly be glorified. The body of Christ is predestined to ultimate conformity to the image of Christ (i.e. glorification). This is a guarantee. But individual participation in the elect body is conditioned on faith and requires perseverance in faith (cf. 8:25) and love (vs. 28).

This is brought out plainly in Romans 11:16-24. Here the elect body is pictured as an ancient olive tree. It represents the covenant people of God throughout the ages (those who participate in that covenant through faith). One can only participate in the new covenant and be the people of God at this present time through faith in Christ. Those Jews who rejected Christ have been broken off from the election, and those Gentiles who have put faith in Christ have been grafted in to the elect body (the body of Christ). Yet, even those Gentiles who are grafted in to the elect body through faith in Christ may yet be cut off again if they do not continue in that faith (11:22). So the body of Christ is destined for glory, but one comes to be a part of that elect body through faith and remains a part of that body through continued faith. And Paul himself makes it clear that those who are now “standing by faith” (vs. 20) may yet be “cut off” if they do not persevere.

So Paul is telling the Romans in Rom. 8:30 that the elect body of Christ is destined for glory and that they should find comfort in that during trying times, knowing that they are a part of that body through faith. But Paul is not guaranteeing them that they will inevitably remain a part of that elect body, for that depends on their continued perseverance in faith.

[Editor’s note: Here is an excellent, fuller treatment of the question of the doctrine of perseverance in relation to Rom 8:28-39 along the same linesas Ben’s answer in this post: http://evangelicalarminians.org/perseverance-oropeza-on-romans-8-28-39/.]