Robert Shank wrote:
“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified” (Rom. 8:29, 30).
This passage has often been called “an unbreakable chain”—foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, glorification. For the elect, it is indeed an unbreakable chain; and only the elect are comprehended in Paul’s affirmation (v. 33). The calling, justification, and glorification constitute the implementation of the predestination (conformity to the image of the Son) which God purposed for the elect. For them, calling and justification will issue in ultimate glorification, in accordance with the eternal purpose of God to “bring many sons unto glory” (Heb. 2:10), the glory of full conformity to the image of His Son. But there is nothing about Paul’s affirmation which establishes that election is unconditional or that all who experience calling and justification are necessarily eternally elect and will inevitably persevere. Certainly it is true that the elect (who are foreknown to God) will persevere. But that is only half the truth; for it is equally true that they who persevere are elect. The latter truth is presented in the Holy Scriptures, not as the inevitable outcome of some inexorable divine decree with respect to specific individuals unconditionally, but as a matter from the constant concern and holy endeavor of believers. The certainty of election and perseverance is with respect, not to particular individual men unconditionally, but rather with respect to the ekklēsia, the corporate body of all who, through living faith, are in union with Christ, the true Elect and the Living Covenant between God and all who trust in His righteous Servant (Isaiah 42:1-7; 49:1-12; 52:13–53:12; 61:1, 2).
Consider the following: God’s eternal purpose in grace: Eph. 1:4, He chose us in Christ that we should be hagios kai amōmous [holy and blameless] before Him. Col. 1:22, He reconciled us to Himself in Christ, through His death, to present us hagios kai amōmous [holy and blameless] before Him.
Fulfillment corporately (certain):
Eph. 5:27, Christ will present the ekklēsia [church] to Himself
hagios kai amōmos [holy and blameless] before Him.
Fulfillment individually (contingent):
Col. 1:23, He will present us hagios kai amōmos [holy and blameless] before Him—if we continue in the faith grounded and settled and be not moved away from the hope of the Gospel.
To assume that eternal glory is the inevitable terminus of “an unbreakable chain” for every one who once experiences saving grace is to ignore the explicit warnings, not only elsewhere in the Scriptures, but in the very passage before us. Paul warns: “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Rom. 8:12-14). “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (v. 17).
Let not vain assumptions concerning the meaning of such passages as Rom. 8:29, 30 destroy our concern for heeding the many warnings and exhortations to persevere in the faith. God will present us holy and unblameable and unreprovable before Him only if we continue in the faith and be not moved away from the hope of the Gospel. “If we endure,” writes Paul, “we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he will deny us.” “He that overcometh,” promises the risen Savior, “the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. . . . Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give them the crown of life. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.” (Life in the Son, 365-67)