Preservation and Perseverance: Part IV
Here we go. Romans 8:28-30: “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.”
What is absolutely unmistakably clear in this passage is that there is an unbroken chain between those whom God foreknows and those whom he glorifies. It is beyond question and discussion that all whom God foreknows he glorifies. Often times, the Arminian/Calvinist debate gets hung up on what “foreknew” means. Does it mean that God “knew beforehand” who would believe even though they believed of their own ultimate self-determination, or does it mean that God “embraced and intimately knew them beforehand” (in the OT sense of the word “knew”)? For our purposes in this discussion it doesn’t really matter. All that matters is to see that those whom God foreknew inevitably are glorified. In other words, all who come to faith in Jesus Christ are inevitably glorified.
So the key question, then, is: What does “glorified” mean? The word, doxazo, can take two meanings. It can mean, “to influence one’s opinion about another so as to enhance the latter’s reputation,” that is, “to praise, honor, extol.” This is the sense it takes in places such as Matthew 5:16: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Doxazo can also mean, “to cause to have splendid greatness; to clothe in splendor; of the glory that comes in the next life.” This is the sense it takes in places such as John 7:39: “Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
So which one is it in Romans 8:30? Arminians claim it is the first, so that the meaning of the verse would be something like: “Those whom [God] justified he also praised, honored, and extolled.” In other words, God praised, honored, and extolled them for choosing him, loving him, and coming to him. So, Romans 8:30 is, in essence, a ‘thumbs-up’ from God for making the right choice.
The fatal problem with this take is that the word doxazo is never used in Scripture in this sense, with God as the subject and a person as the object. In other words, God does not “praise, honor, and extoll” people in the doxazo sense. Arminians, based on their assumption of ultimate self-determination, have to suggest that Paul is saying something completely original, unprecedented, and uncorrobrated in all of Scripture in Rom. 8:30. It seems that they have to force Paul to be saying something original so that the possibility of a person choosing to reject God is preserved. More than that, it seems to me that the idea that God “praises” us for choosing him means that we receive some of the glory in our own salvation, whereas the tenor of the entire Bible seems to be that God means to receive all glory and honor for the salvation of his people.
In the end, then, the only reasonable way to take doxazo in 8:30 is in the second sense. In other words: those whom God justifies he also clothes with the radiant glory of the afterlife. God inevitably and infallibly brings into eternal “glory” every single person he justifies, without exception.
Another objection that is raised to this reading is that “glorified” in v. 30 cannot refer to our final glorification in heaven because the word is in the past tense. The past tense refers to something that has already happened, and Paul’s final glorification, when he’s writing, has not yet happened. That’s not quite right, actually. The word doxazo is in the greek aorist tense, which does not denote past time. It denotes completion. And there is a sense in which God has already completed and sealed the entire salvation, including the glorification, of believers, and it is in that sense that the aorist tense verb is to be taken in Romans 8:30.
The most cogent reading of the passage, then, supports the idea that God will inevitably preserve all whom he justifies until he glorifies them.