We have learned from Scripture that our salvation is from all eternity, which is the reason it will extend into all eternity. In accordance with His good pleasure, the Father has chosen those who will make up the number of His elect. He did this before eternal times, before all worlds. His choice determines what will happen in the world; the world does not determine what He will decide. In line with this choice, the Son came to earth, lived a perfect sinless life, and died on the cross in order to secure the salvation of those whom the Father had chosen. This happened outside Jerusalem, two thousand years ago.
And so what does the Spirit do? As I said last week, the Father decides on the purchase, the Son lays down the payment, and the Holy Spirit takes you home. He does this in the course of your life by giving you a new heart, forgiving your sins, and washing you clean. The Spirit is the one who takes you out of the miry clay, and sets you on a rock.
“And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body . . . 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. 8:23, 29–30).
We have already considered part of this passage. We see the golden chain—election > predestination > called > justified > glorified. But election occurs before ancient times, where we can’t see it. And glorification occurs at the last day, which we cannot see yet either. The two ends of your salvation lie outside human history entirely. We know that this is a reality for God’s elect because of the plain teaching of Scripture. But if you have no access to the roster of the election, or the roster of the finally redeemed, then how can you possibly know of your interest in Christ? The scriptural answer to this is the guarantee of the Spirit, as He works in your life.
The Spirit works in us, making us long for our adoption as sons, which is the redemption of the body (v. 23). This redemption of the body is the same thing as our glorification. The calling and the justifying are realities that you experience here, in this life, and you reason from that experience backward to election and forward to glorification.
The Effectual Call
What happens at the moment of the effectual call? We call this effectual because there is a distinction to be made between the kind of call that is issued, and may or may not be responded to, and the call that actually summons, actually gathers. For the first, “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14). For the second, consider this:
“But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:23–24).
The Spirit effectually calls and then regenerates the one He has called. We are not born again because we repent and believe. Rather, we are justified because we repent and believe, and we repent and believe because we were born again. The Spirit moves wherever and however He pleases, and no one can build a windbreak that can hold Him out (John 3:8). Think of it this way: called > regenerated > repentant > believing > justified > sanctified. At the crown of this process, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in us, making us the dwelling place, the Temple of the Spirit.
Guaranteed in Blood
What do you think of guarantees that don’t guarantee anything? The merchant gives you a lifetime guarantee, and you take your busted one in for a replacement, he shrugs and says that lifetime guarantee means the lifetime of the product. Which looks like it has expired.
Election and glorification are outside our intellectual reach. Our minds cannot extend that far. But fortunately, God does not want them to extend that far except by faith. “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deut. 29:29). If you try to unravel the secret things, they will only unravel you.
The handles by which you are to hang onto election and glorification are handles that are within your reach. Here they are. You, right now, can experience the joy of sins forgiven. You, right now, can taste the relief in how God has declared you to be not guilty. You, right now, can experience the exhilaration of standing in the presence of the Holy One of heaven, and doing so upright, and clothed in the immaculate righteousness of Jesus Christ. It comes to you here. It is the word in your ears. It is the water on your head. It is the bread on your tongue. It is the wine in your mouth. The Word is near you, in your heart and in your mouth. “But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach” (Rom. 10:8).
And this is why God speaks to us in terms of guarantee. I have used the ESV here because I wanted you to see the word guarantee, which is stronger to us than earnest. And we need to feel the strength of it. God never saved a sinner who was not completely and entirely tied off with everlasting and celestial ropes.
“and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2 Cor. 1:22, ESV).
“He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee” (2 Cor. 5:5, ESV).
“who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:14, ESV).
And so those who have Christ now will always have Him. Those who are cleansed now will always be cleansed. Those who have tasted forgiveness in and through Jesus will, by God’s grace, never be permitted to taste anything else.