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Podcast: The Greatest Chapter in the Bible (Andy Naselli)

This article is part of the The Crossway Podcast series.

The Greatest Chapter in the Greatest Book

In today's episode, Andy Naselli talks about what he considers to be the greatest letter ever written: Romans 8.

Romans

Andrew David Naselli

Scholar and author Andrew David Naselli traces Paul’s argument for the gospel throughout this concise guide to the book of Romans, providing accessible commentary and unpacking the text verse by verse. 

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Topics Addressed in This Interview:

00:45 - A Glorious Letter

Matt Tully
Andy, thank you so much for joining me again on The Crossway Podcast.

Andy Naselli
It’s my pleasure, brother.

Matt Tully
You call the book of Romans the greatest letter ever written. Why?

Andy Naselli
Because it is! Martin Luther, John Calvin, J. I. Packer—they all say something similar. I’m teaching more systematic theology courses now and I see that all roads in the Bible go through Romans when it comes to theology. It’s just supremely important to understand how the whole Bible fits together. No other letter in the history of the world has received as much attention as this one has, and I think that’s for a good reason. It exults in the gospel like no other. It’s just glorious.

Matt Tully
So you would say the hype is well deserved? The fact that so many of us have heard a preaching series through Romans and had a Bible study on Romans, there’s a certain fittingness to that?

Andy Naselli
I think it’s under-hyped. I think it’s the single most important piece of literature in the history of the world.

Matt Tully
Wow. I’m sure that most of our listeners of The Crossway Podcast would know that the apostle Paul wrote Romans, but I wonder if you could remind us of some of the historical context behind the book that is really important for us to keep in mind as we actually come to it and study it.

Andy Naselli
You can see this when you read the letter towards the end. It’s not really evident in the first half of the book, or more than half of the book because it’s so doctrinal; it’s a doctrinal treatise. But in the end you get these hints of what’s going on in chapters 14 and 15 about Jews and Gentiles disagreeing about this or that. It becomes even clearer towards the end of chapter 15 where Paul basically says, I’m planning to visit Rome on my way to Spain, and I would like you to support me. It’s kind of a missionary support letter. It’s probably near the end of his third missionary journey as he’s writing this letter, and he’s probably writing it from Corinth.

Matt Tully
I wish we could talk about the whole letter because it is this incredible letter. It’s so packed full of the riches of Christian theology, but we can’t. We don’t have enough time for that. John Piper famously spent how many years preaching through the book of Romans?

Andy Naselli
I think it was eight.

Matt Tully
Eight years, every week.

Andy Naselli
Almost. Not every week.

Matt Tully
That’s pretty incredible. We’re going to focus in on one chapter—a chapter that John Piper himself has actually referred to as “the greatest chapter in the Bible”—chapter 8. The great 8. Do you resonate with that? Would you say that chapter 8 of Romans is the core of the most important letter ever written?

Andy Naselli
I’m hesitating because I have a reputation for despising chapter numbers. Chapter numbers are not God-breathed. They’re sometimes superficial in the Bible and they artificially break up what is supposed to be a literary unit. But in this case, chapter 8 is a good stand-alone unit. You could argue that Romans 8:1–17 is a unit, and then that Romans 8:18–39 is a unit. They do stand together and it’s definitely glorious. I’m not sure I would say it’s the most glorious, but it’s glorious.

04:06 - Paul’s Argument in Romans 1–7

Matt Tully
We’re going to dive in a little bit more to this chapter. Before we go there, I wonder if you can help us understand Paul’s argument in chapter 1–7. Lay that foundation for when we arrive in Romans 8.

Andy Naselli
Basically the letter has three parts: an introduction and a conclusion are the bookends, and then there’s the meat in the middle. That part in the middle has several sections, and here’s how I like to think of it: the first section of the middle section (Rom. 1:18–3:20) is saying that there is a universal need for God’s righteousness. We all need God’s saving righteousness because we’re all unrighteous and we thus deserve God’s judging righteousness. We deserve his wrath. Gentiles are unrighteous, Jews are unrighteous, everyone is unrighteous. That’s the argument there. Then Paul proceeds in Romans 3:21–3:26, and I think it’s the most important paragraph in the Bible. The full section though, Romans 3:21 to the end of chapter 4 is about how do you obtain God’s righteousness. Faith alone in Jesus is how God will declare us righteous. I summarize Romans 3:21–26, that important paragraph, as the righteous God righteously righteouses the unrighteous.

Matt Tully
Using righteouses as a verb.

Andy Naselli
That’s right. Justify. The means of that—for both Jews and Gentiles—is faith alone, and then Abraham illustrates that. That’s the next section, and then the next step is Romans 5–8. They’re a unit, and this section is about the benefits of obtaining God’s righteousness. Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith,” and then he goes on. These are results, benefits that come from obtaining God’s righteousness—gracious, glorious gifts. You could enumerate them in a list of six. The first one is the first half of chapter 5, that we have peace with God through Christ. We hope and confidently expect that Christ will save us from God’s wrath. The second is the second part of chapter 5, that we are no longer in Adam, but in Christ. Adam brought condemnation; Christ brought justification, and thus we receive the abundant grace and righteousness in Christ. The third is chapter 6: we’re free from sin’s enslaving power. Fourth is chapter 7: we’re free from the Mosaic law’s binding authority. The fifth and the sixth are the first half and the latter half of chapter 8: we’re free from condemnation because we are in Christ and have the Spirit (Rom. 8:1–17), and we confidently expect (we hope) that God will glorify us and that nothing can successfully be against us (Rom. 8:18–39).

06:51 - Romans 9–16: Vindicating God’s Righteousness

Matt Tully
Before we jump into some of those key verses and passages in chapter 8, I wonder if you could also speak a little bit to what Paul does after chapter 8 in chapters 9 to 16.

Andy Naselli
If chapters 5, 6, 7, and 8 are about the benefits of obtaining God’s righteousness, chapters 9, 10, and 11 are vindicating God’s righteousness.

Matt Tully
What do you mean by that?

Andy Naselli
It’s defending God. The thesis is the first part of Romans 9:6: God’s word has not failed because—and here’s how he unpacks that argument—he has kept his word in the past, he is keeping his word in the present, and he will keep his promises to ethnic Israelites in the future. This is one big vindication of God’s righteousness, and it ends with this glorious doxology at the very end (Rom. 11: 33–36). The next word is “therefore” (Rom. 12:1), and it’s saying let’s live in light of all these glorious truths. Let’s live in light of God’s righteousness. The gospel transforms us. Respond to God’s mercies by presenting yourselves to God as a living sacrifice. Then, there are all of these exhortations in chapters 12 and 13 to love one another. In chapter 14 and the first half of 15, there are exhortations about quarreling over disputable matters: “Welcome one another . . . Don’t cause your brother or sister to stumble . . . Build up your brother or sister . . . Welcome one another to glorify God.” Then, the second half of chapter 15 and the rest of 16 is the conclusion: Here are my travel plans and my missionary situation. He greets fellow Christians in Rome, warns about false teachers, he greets his coworkers, and he ends with another glorious doxology.

08:37 - No Condemnation

Matt Tully
Thank you for that. It’s such a helpful summary of the book of Romans. Let’s jump in now to Romans 8:1. As every good Bible student will know, when you first come across a “therefore” in the text of Scripture, you’ve got to ask what it’s there for. Verse 1 says, “There is, therefore, now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” To start us off, what is that “therefore” there for?

Andy Naselli
I think that “therefore” signifies that there’s an inference he’s drawing, and it’s at least of the previous sentence—that’s Romans 7:24–25. But I think it’s more broadly chapters 5, 6, and 7, and really especially the latter half of chapter 5. He’s saying that for those who are in Christ Jesus, there is now no condemnation; meaning, condemnation is the opposite of justification. Those whom God has justified are in Christ Jesus, so they will not experience God’s wrath. It’s amazing!

09:41 - The Contrast between the Flesh and the Spirit

Matt Tully
Throughout this chapter we often see the flesh and the spirit contrasted with each other. Paul keeps coming back to those two terms and he keeps contrasting them. What is he getting at with those two words? I think those are words that, in the broad scope of Christian theology, there is a lot of confusion about what is meant by that when we see it in Scripture. How would you help us understand that?

Andy Naselli
I actually did a study a while back on every time the Bible pairs together “flesh” and “spirit” language. I noticed several different, overlapping ways that the Bible writers contrast those two.

Matt Tully
So not just Paul, but you looked at the whole Bible.

Andy Naselli
Yes. Sometimes it’s a physical vs. a spiritual aspect. Paul says in 2 Corinthians, “Let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body”—that’s sarx. It’s the word translated “flesh” sometimes—body and spirit. So, there’s physical and spiritual. Sometimes it’s like a physical weakness vs. a noble desire. Jesus says, “The spirit, indeed, is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Sometimes it’s a physical body vs. a non-physical person. In Luke 24 Jesus says, “See my hands and my feet, that’s it’s I, myself, for a spirit doesn’t have flesh and bones.” Sometimes it’s a physical body vs. the Holy Spirit, like in 1 Timothy 3:16: “He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit.” Sometimes it’s imperishable vs. imperishable body, like in 1 Corinthians 15 where it’s talking about flesh and blood not being able to inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Sometimes it’s a physical union vs. a spiritual union. First Corinthians 6 says, “Don’t you know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it’s written, ’the two will become one flesh’, but he who is joined with the Lord becomes one spirit with him.” Sometimes it’s spiritual death and spiritual life. Jesus in John 3 says, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; that which is born of the spirit is spirit.” Sometimes there’s a human inability vs. the Holy Spirit’s ability. Early in Romans, Paul says in chapter 2 that no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart by the Spirit, not by the letter.

Matt Tully
How would you summarize how Paul is using those terms in Romans?

Andy Naselli
It’s not just one way in Romans, but in Romans 8 in particular I think it’s distinguishing the realm of the non-Christian vs. the realm of the Christian. Only non-Christians live in the flesh in this sense, and only Christians live in the Spirit. In Romans 7:5–6 Paul speaks this way, and then it’s all throughout chapter 8. In Romans 8:4–13 it occurs repeatedly. Christians in this passage, characteristically, are in the Spirit; non-Christians are in the flesh. That’s the contrast.

Matt Tully
When he refers to “in the Spirit”, is that a reference to the Holy Spirit in this place?

Andy Naselli
I think so.

Matt Tully
I guess we should perhaps feel a little less bad if there are others like me who struggle at times to keep track of what exactly does this term mean in this context vs. another one. I hear you saying there is some variety with how the biblical writers are using these terms.

Andy Naselli
That’s right. Look at the literary context to understand it.

13:20 - Is It Possible for a Non-Believer to Do Good?

Matt Tully
Romans 8:7–8 are two verses that stood out to me. I wonder if you could read those two verses and then explain what Paul is getting at here.

Andy Naselli
“For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”

Matt Tully
That’s a tough couple of verses that I think probably fill many of us with a bit of a sense of discomfort. What is Paul saying here?

Andy Naselli
To start off, the first word of verse 7 is “for”, so he’s giving a reason for something. I think he’s giving a reason for the previous sentence, which is, “To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” He’s saying the reason that that’s the case is that the flesh’s outlook opposes God. It does not obey God, and more than that, it cannot obey God. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. That’s what theologians refer to as “total (or moral) inability.” That’s a result of total depravity, or radical depravity. Because we are so radically depraved, we have an inability, apart from the Spirit, to please God.

Matt Tully
It seems like that’s a doctrine that maybe isn’t well understood or taught today. Would you agree with that?

Andy Naselli
The “T” in T.U.L.I.P. is total depravity, and people just assume that total depravity means that everyone is as bad as they could be. That’s not what the doctrine teaches. It just means that we are corrupt in every aspect of our being—in our minds, in our emotions, in our body, in our will. We are radically corrupt. Because of common grace, some are less corrupt than others, but everyone is still radically corrupt to the totality of their being. The result of that that is so significant here is that apart from God’s Spirit, a person is morally unable to please God.

Matt Tully
Saying that and that being what Paul is teaching here, is that equivalent to saying that you believe the Bible is teaching that an unbeliever cannot do anything good?

Andy Naselli
No. Well, yes and no. There’s none good but God, obviously, and whatever is not of faith in sin. So in that sense yes, but because of common grace, non-Christians can do things that can benefit other humans. They’re not righteous acts before the Lord; they’re still filthy rags, but they can be common grace. A non-Christian can invent some life-saving device, and that’s a good thing.

Matt Tully
Or they can even have an internal moral compass that would lead them to not lie and to be kind and generous towards others. How would those kinds of behaviors fit into Paul’s system here?

Andy Naselli
Based on how he defines sin—and he does it later in the letter in chapter 14—he says, “Whatever is not of faith is sin.” By definition, a person who is not regenerate—not in the Spirit, doesn’t have the Spirit within him—he’s not doing anything of faith. That sounds really harsh, but I think that’s what Paul is arguing. He says that a person whose mind is set on the flesh—they’re not in the Spirit—they are actually hostile to God. They are unable to submit to God’s law. They cannot please God.

Matt Tully
That seems inextricably tied to the argument Paul has been making in Romans about justification by faith alone.

Andy Naselli
That’s right. That phrase in verse 8—“they cannot please God”—in contrast, those who are in the Spirit can please God. Sometimes even Christians today can get squeamish about that language of us pleasing God. But we can please God by our obedience; that’s all throughout Scripture. In the Piper Festschrift that Crossway published there’s an article by Wayne Grudem called “Pleasing God by Our Obedience” (I think that’s the title). It’s very good.

Matt Tully
I’m sure to many that language—pleasing God by our obedience—we have that fear of legalism.

Andy Naselli
Earning God’s favor.

Matt Tully
We’re so concerned about that.

Andy Naselli
But if you understand the only way we can please God is through the Spirit’s enabling, it makes sense.

18:04 - The Doctrine of Adoption

Matt Tully
Moving ahead to verses 14 and 15, we see Paul referencing our adoption as sons of God through the Holy Spirit. John Murray, a famous theologian, called the doctrine of adoption “the apex of grace and privilege.” In your experience, do you think the doctrine of adoption is one that is emphasized as it should be in the church?

Andy Naselli
No. Not at all. It’s glorious, and I don’t think we give this beautiful picture its due.

Matt Tully
It seems, arguably, justification has been the primary focus of attention in Paul’s theology, certainly. Yet it does seem like, as you read the book of Romans, the crescendo seems to peak in this doctrine of adoption through the Spirit. What’s behind that?

Andy Naselli
I don’t know why it’s given less attention. It might be that there have been historically more debates about justification; it’s less of a controversial battlefield around adoption. That’s my guess.

Matt Tully
How would you summarize Paul’s theology of adoption? What is he getting at with that metaphor to help us understand salvation?

Andy Naselli
Verse 15 says, “You did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry ‘Abba! Father!’” That phrase “adoption as sons” is referring to a Greco-Roman custom that guaranteed that an adopted son has all the rights and privileges as a natural-born son. So it’s saying that believers are already legally adopted and we’re waiting for the culmination of that adoption, when God will redeem our bodies. This is one of those doctrines that we refer to as already-not yet. We already experience it right now to some degree, but not yet to its final degree. The reason I say “not yet” is later in this passage in verse 23, he says, “We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons”—and the ESV punctuates this correctly, I think, with a comma. So, what’s coming is a renaming. What is adoption as sons? Here is another way to refer to it: the redemption of our bodies. There’s a future adoption as sons that is equivalent to when God redeems our bodies—our glorification. We’re already adopted, and we will be adopted. There’s an already-not yet sense here.

Matt Tully
I’m curious how you would see this doctrine of adoption relative to Christ’s sonship. It’s interesting to see how Paul in this passage, in the middle of Romans 8, says in the verses following that, “we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Rom. 8:16–17). Is there a sense in which Paul views our adoption as sons of God as something paralleling or participating in Christ’s sonship?

Andy Naselli
I think so. There’s a book by a man named David Garner, and the title is four words: Sons in the Son. We are sons in Christ; sons in the Son. I think that’s a beautiful way to capture it.

Matt Tully
We want to avoid some kind of idea of divinization. We’re not messing with the Trinity here, but it seems like Paul is connecting Christ’s sonship and the privileges and rights he has as Son with our own sonship.

Andy Naselli
Correct. As when we define glorification—that God will share his glory with his people—we want to qualify that by saying he does that without blurring the distinction between the Creator and his creatures. And it’s the same with sonship.

22:22 - “Subjected to Futility”

Matt Tully
That’s such an amazing thought to consider. There are different views on what Paul means when he says a little bit later on in the chapter that creation was subjected to futility and is groaning together in the pains of childbirth. What do you think he’s getting at?

Andy Naselli
That’s in verse 20: “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” I think here Paul is basically making the point that there is present suffering and future glory for non-human creation. And he’s doing this to make the next point, that there’s present suffering and future glory for God’s children. He’s comparing non-human creation with God’s children. He’s arguing from one to the next. Here, in verse 20 when he says that the creation was subjected to futility, I think he’s talking about what happened when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden. God punished the man with pain in cultivating the ground by cursing the ground. Adam sinfully ate forbidden fruit, so the consequence is that now it’s more difficult to grow food. God originally created earth as abundantly productive, but now he’s cursed it. The creation is subjected to futility because of mankind’s sin. That extends not just to the ground, but to fish and birds and land animals. It includes famine and sickness and disease and earthquakes and floods and fires and death—it’s just all over. God’s going to reverse that when he glorifies his children.

Matt Tully
I’ve always been curious about the construction of verse 20: “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it”—presumably, God—“in hope that the creation itself will be set free.” It seems like he’s saying God subjected creation to futility in hope. What’s he getting at when he says “in hope”?

Andy Naselli
My kids will say, I hope it snows on Christmas day. We live in Minnesota, so that’s a very likely possibility. But it might not. It doesn’t always snow on Christmas day. That is not what Paul means when he uses this word. When he uses it, you could just substitute the words “confidently expect.” That’s the idea here. This is a sure thing. It’s confidently expecting that the creation will be set free. That’s going to happen.

25:06 - “All Things Work Together for Good”

Matt Tully
Perhaps one of the most well-known and, arguably, most misapplied verses in the whole book of Romans would have to be Romans 8:28. I wonder if you could read that verse and the surrounding verses, and highlight some of the ways that you think this verse is perhaps misunderstood.

Andy Naselli
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 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.” The first thing is when Paul says “for those who love God.” Some people think that this is qualifying that what Paul writes here is not for all Christians, but for a sub-group. Some Christians love God, and some don’t. But for those who really do, this is what’s true for them: all things work together for good.

Matt Tully
So they over limit this verse.

Andy Naselli
That’s not right because the phrase “for those who are called according to his purpose” renames “for those who love God.” Those who love God equals those who are called according to his purpose. Believers, by definition, love God. Believers are called according to his purpose. This is saying all things work together for good for believers, for those who love God. You asked what are ways that people misuse or misunderstand this. What comes to mind is some will think that it’s kind of like this fate—it just happens. But, clearly, what Paul is saying here is that God is the one who is sovereignly, purposefully ordaining and seeing to it that all things work together for good for his people. That’s what’s behind this. It’s not a blind fate. It’s not that it just happens to work out. Grammatically, it does say that all things work together for good. Some ancient manuscripts actually say “God works all things together for good.” I don’t think that’s the best reading, but that is the idea. God is the one who works all things together for good.

Matt Tully
He’s the active person in this. Help us understand the word “good.” I think a lot of Christians could read this and say, My baby just died. How does that fit into this promise that I have in Scripture?

Andy Naselli
There are some people who would say that the good refers to health, wealth, and happiness in that superficial sense. That’s a really prominent way of presenting what the Bible teaches in pockets all over the world. I think that’s an evil teaching. That’s not what this is referring to. The “all things” has to include suffering, which is what Paul just talked about in verses 17 and 18 and 23, 24, and 25. He’s using all of that to accomplish his purpose for us in his grand plan for our good. I think the definition of the good is in the next sentence. He says, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” That’s the good. God is conforming us to his Son, and he’s preserving us until he finally glorifies us.

Matt Tully
Speak about that next verse where we see this incredible chain that Paul kind of lays out of one thing leading to the next thing, leading to the next thing. It includes some words in there that I think sometimes can almost distract us from the glory of what Paul is saying here because they can be controversial, they can be debated. Walk us through what you think he’s saying at each step.

Andy Naselli
I just remembered when I was in college twenty years ago, my youngest brother (I’m the second of seven children) got sick with cancer and then ended up dying. It was really sad. He was three when he got cancer and died when he was six. I was meditating on this passage, and I wrote a hymn. I don’t have it in front of me, but I remember the opening line was, “God works all things together for good. He has a sovereign will, for he called me effectually, his purpose to fulfill.” This is not ethereal, high-falutin theology that doesn’t matter. It really helped me process one of the most—it was at the time—the deepest pain I had ever experienced. This is really practical theology. I’ll go ahead and trace the logic here, but just know that this is comforting truth for the most difficult times in your life.

Matt Tully
As you said, just a few verses earlier Paul is talking about suffering in this present time, so he means it to serve that purpose.

Andy Naselli
I think these are words of comfort, and he supports these comforting words with four proofs. Here they are: 1) God predestined those he foreknew, 2) God called those whom he predestined, 3) God justified those whom he called, and 4) God glorified those whom he justified. That’s his argument. There are five terms there: foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, and glorification. They’re beautifully connected. They’re a golden chain that is unbreakable; a five-link golden chain in which God’s actions are unbreakable—foreknowing, predestining, calling, justifying, glorifying.

31:02 - Foreknowledge, Predestination, Calling, Justification, and Glorification

Matt Tully
I wonder if you could walk through those because I’m sure many have heard all of those terms, but maybe the overlapping meanings or significance of each could be a little bit hard to follow.

Andy Naselli
For foreknowledge (God foreknew us), it means not just that he knew ahead of time what we would do. The word is deeper than that. He intimately knew or set his covenant love on certain individuals beforehand.

Matt Tully
It’s got that personal, relational feeling to it.

Andy Naselli
Yes. God personally committed to individuals even before they existed. Some people think the basis of that has to be that God just looked ahead and foresaw—

Matt Tully
He foresaw or faith, perhaps?

Andy Naselli
Yes, saw what you would autonomously choose to do. No. He foreknew specific people. Look at the words: “Those whom he foreknew.” It’s not what he foreknew. He’s foreknowing people. He foreknew people. Foreknowledge is beautiful. He chose us before the foundation of the world. The second term is predestination. God sovereignly and unconditionally chose to save individuals as part of his pre-ordained plan, and he’s predetermining the destiny for some individuals to obtain an inheritance—an adoption—to himself as sons through Jesus Christ. That’s how Ephesians1 puts it. Here in Romans 8:29 the purpose of predestination is to conform us to the image of God’s Son. The purpose of that conforming us to the image of God’s Son is so that the Son will be the firstborn. That means that Christ will be preeminent—the first and most honored among his resurrected children. That’s the purpose.

Matt Tully
But he won’t be alone either.

Andy Naselli
No. Sons and the Son. So we’ve got foreknowledge, predestination, and the third term is calling. In the Bible there is sometimes a general call where God calls all people in general, and then there’s a special, specific, or effectual call. This is the effectual one.

Matt Tully
The rationale for making that distinction is just it’s the same word, perhaps, but you’re looking at the context and saying sometimes it means this thing and other times it’s more narrow.

Andy Naselli
An example would be the saying in the Gospels that many are called, but few are chosen. There’s a distinction there; one is general and one is specific. This calling is specific and it’s true only of believers. It’s that God sovereignly, graciously summons and effectually persuades the elect to voluntarily believe the gospel. The best illustration is Lazarus. Lazarus! Come out! It wasn’t that partly Jesus was pulling and the rest was Lazarus pushing. No, Lazarus was dead, and his part was God enabling him to come up and to resurrect. This calling is a guaranteed response that either constitutes or affects regeneration. It’s beautiful! It’s a God-glorifying action that shows that salvation is of the Lord. God saves sinners. That’s calling. The fourth term is justification. This is not that God makes us righteous. It’s not about transformation. This is a judicial declaration. God judicially declares, or regards believing sinners, to be righteous. When God righteouses the unrighteous, he’s not unrighteous to do that. He’s righteous because of the imputed righteousness of Christ, based on Christ’s obedience. The opposite of justification is condemnation, and justification is not based on our works at all. It’s such a beautiful doctrine. God righteously righteouses the unrighteous. Our terms again: foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, and then the capstone is glorification. In the future when he glorifies us, that means he will share his glory with us. He’ll transform our entire person—our material and immaterial aspects—to perfectly conform to the image of Christ. We just long for that. One way of speaking to this is John Murray has a book called Salvation [Redemption] Accomplished and Applied. I would like to take that and just tweak it and say Salvation Planned, Accomplished, and Applied. That’s what we have here. Typically, theologians associate that with the Father, Son, and Spirit. Salvation planned (the Father), salvation accomplished (the Son), and salvation applied (the Spirit); but all three of them are involved in all three of them. They work together and never against each other. God planned to save his people. He foreknew us, he predestined us. God accomplished his plan through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, and God applied his plan. He effectually called and justified us. And God’s going to finish what he started when he glorifies us.

Matt Tully
Why is the word “glorified” in the past tense, at least in English?

Andy Naselli
I think it’s because this future glorification is so certain that he can speak of it in that way. But it’s a little more complicated than that. In the Greek text—I’ll just pull it up here to make sure I’m speaking correctly—it’s an aorist tense. In English, it’s not a one for one, but I think that translating it as “glorified” captures what Paul is trying to say.

Matt Tully
Andy, thank you so much for taking the time to walk us through one of the greatest chapters in the greatest letter ever written. We appreciate it.

Andy Naselli
It’s my pleasure.


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