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 8:30).
Here Paul lays out the Ordo salutis, the order of salvation. He describes for us the consecutive steps by which God accomplishes the work of redemption in each person’s life. But more than that, Paul emphasizes that every one of these steps has God as its source: God is the one who foreknew, predestined, called, justified, and glorified each one who reaches heaven.
This insight is extremely helpful when we consider the classic question of “free will” versus “irresistible grace.” The same power that began working in us faith, love, and good works will finally complete that same work in glorification.
The same God who will one day turn our hearts utterly to him is able to work sovereignly in our hearts now also.
Some Christians say that God leaves salvation up to our “free will” because he does not want to make us mere robots, because God wants a genuine love and response from his creatures. But what about heaven? What about the work of glorification, in other words. If it is possible for God to transform our hearts to joyful, willing, Christ-centered worship in heaven — which is what glorification is — without making us mere robots, it is certainly possible for him to do the same here and now.
The fact that we will one day be glorified by God’s saving power tells us something crucial about the nature and operation of God’s saving power here and now as well. The same God who will one day turn our hearts utterly to him, and ensure that we never fall away from him, is able to work sovereignly in our hearts now, also, without reducing our genuine affection and faith to merely automated responses.
God is the one to be thanked for the genuine faith and affection you daily enjoy.
This is why Paul continually thanked God for the faith and love of the saints, as he does in 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3, “We give thanks to God always for all of you … remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul plainly describes the work, faith, love, and steadfastness as being their own (“your”), yet Paul simultaneously thanks God for it (as he does in every other epistle). It is the saving work of God that brings about their belief and holiness, yet it is still genuinely their belief and holiness, not some artificial or mechanical fabrication in their lives.
So, dear believer, God is the one to be thanked for the genuine faith and affection you daily enjoy. Now, and forever in eternity.