The “golden chain of redemption” or “golden chain of salvation” is a theological concept that describes the sequential workings of God in redeeming sinners. It outlines the order of events from God’s foreknowledge and predestination to justification, sanctification, and finally glorification. The term “golden chain” comes from Romans 8:29-30 which states:
“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. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Romans 8:29-30 ESV)
This passage links together God’s foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, and glorification as an unbreakable chain of salvation for believers. Just as a golden chain is made of interlocking links that cannot be separated, so too are the steps in the order of salvation indivisibly and eternally connected. Let’s take a closer look at each aspect of this golden chain:
The starting point in the golden chain of redemption is God’s foreknowledge. Foreknowledge means God knows everything that will happen in advance, including who will believe in Christ. Acts 2:23 states that Jesus was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.” 1 Peter 1:2 refers to believers as “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” Foreknowledge means God foresaw in eternity past those who would accept His gift of salvation through faith in Christ.
The next link is predestination. To predestine means to decide or ordain something in advance. Ephesians 1:5 says believers were “predestined for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ.” Romans 8:29-30 also mentions predestination – that God predestined believers to be conformed to Christ’s image. Predestination refers to God’s eternal decision, based on His foreknowledge, to set His saving love on those who place their faith in Christ.
The calling refers to God’s invitation to salvation, made effective by the work of the Holy Spirit. When the time comes for a person to hear the gospel and respond in faith, God calls them to salvation. Romans 8:30 says “those whom he predestined he also called.” This call goes out to all, but only the elect – those God foreknew – respond in saving faith. Jesus said “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44). God’s calling awakens spiritually dead sinners to respond in repentant faith.
Justification is next in the golden chain. To justify means to declare righteous. When a person responds to God’s call in faith, trusting Christ’s atoning work on the cross, God declares them righteous in His sight – justified and forgiven. Romans 8:30 states “those whom he called he also justified.” Though we were once enemies of God and unrighteous in ourselves, justification removes the guilt of our sin and clothes us in the perfect righteousness of Christ (Romans 3:21-26).
The final link is glorification. This refers to the completion of our salvation when we are resurrected to eternal life with Christ. Romans 8:30 says those God justifies, “he also glorified.” Though glorification is still future, God sees it as already completed. John 17:22 shows that the glory given to Christ will also be given to believers. At Christ’s return, we will be transformed, conformed perfectly to His image. We will share in His glory, free from sin and death forever (1 John 3:2).
Summary of the Golden Chain
To summarize, the golden chain of redemption begins with God’s foreknowledge – His perfect awareness of all who will trust in Christ. Based on this foreknowledge, God predestines believers to be saved. In time, the Holy Spirit effectually calls them to faith and repentance. Those who respond to this call are justified – declared righteous in Christ. And those God justifies are ultimately glorified – resurrected and perfected in eternal life with Jesus. Each step flows directly from the previous one in an unbreakable chain.
The golden chain underscores several important truths about salvation:
- Salvation originates in God – His foreknowledge and predestination.
- Salvation is accomplished by God – His calling, justification and glorification of sinners.
- Salvation is applied by God – through the Holy Spirit’s effective call.
- Salvation is received by faith alone in Christ alone, not by works.
- Salvation is eternal – those saved can never be lost, from predestination to glorification.
This golden chain of redemption brings comfort and assurance to believers. Our salvation rests securely in God’s sovereign plan and purpose. What He has begun, He will perfect and complete (Philippians 1:6). The golden chain has no weak links that could be broken. Each aspect moves seamlessly into the next, all held firmly by the hand of God Almighty.
Objections to the Doctrine of the Golden Chain
Some objections have been raised regarding the theology behind the golden chain of redemption. Let’s address a few of these briefly:
It Threatens Human Freedom
Some argue this chain limits human free will. However, the Bible presents both God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. Though God is working out His redemptive plan, people make willing choices to accept or reject the gospel call. God’s foreknowledge of human decisions doesn’t force them – it sees them as they will occur.
Is Predestination Fair?
If God predestines some to salvation, is that fair to those passed over? Scripture affirms God deals justly with all people. But as fallen creatures, no one deserves grace. That God redeems any is an undeserved, merciful gift. And His offer of salvation goes out to all – it’s not God’s fault if some reject it through unbelief. Those who want a relationship with God receive His enabling grace through faith (Acts 16:31).
What About Those Never Hearing the Gospel?
Some ask if it’s fair for God to condemn those who never hear the gospel. Though we cannot know how God judges such people, we can trust Him to judge rightly. The Bible indicates creation and conscience provide some light to all (Romans 1:19-20; 2:14-15). While special revelation (the gospel) brings salvation, general revelation may bring condemnation to those rejecting what they know of God. The unreached also demonstrate our need to spread the good news!
Practical Applications of the Golden Chain
While this doctrine includes deep theology, the golden chain offers very practical encouragement and guidance for believers:
- Praise – We’re reminded to praise God for His amazing grace in redemption. Our salvation from first to last is all His work!
- Assurance – Believers gain confidence that if God has begun a work in them, He will complete it (Philippians 1:6). No one can break the links God forges.
- Perseverance – Knowing we are eternally secure in Christ helps us press on through trials. Our efforts don’t establish but demonstrate His redemptive work in us.
- Worship – Meditating on God’s perfect wisdom and love compels us to worship. The golden chain displays His glory and worthiness like nothing else.
- Evangelism – Seeing God’s sovereignty in salvation fuels sharing the gospel. We go out knowing Christ’s sheep will hear His voice as we faithfully proclaim the good news.
The golden chain of redemption reveals the magnificent grace and wisdom of God in saving sinners. He authors our faith from beginning to end. This unbreakable gospel chain anchors our hope now and for all eternity. To God alone be the glory!