Perhaps the most important text of all in relation to the teaching of unconditional election is Romans 8:28-33.----
We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, 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 first-born among many brethren. 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 then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies.
Often this text is used to argue against unconditional election on the basis of verse 29 which says, "Those whom he foreknew he also predestined..." So some say that people are not chosen unconditionally. They are chosen on the basis of their faith which they produce without the help of irresistible grace and which God sees beforehand.
But this will not square with the context. Notice that Romans 8:30 says, "And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified." Focus for a moment on the fact that all whom God calls he also justifies.
This calling in verse 30 is not given to all people. The reason we know it's not is that all those who are called are also justified—but all men are not justified. So this calling in verse 30 is not the general call to repentance that preachers give or that God gives through the glory of nature. Everybody receives that call. The call of verse 30 is given only to those whom God predestined to be conformed to the image of his son (v.29). And it is a call that leads necessarily to justification: "Those whom he called he also justified."
But we know that justification is by faith (Romans 5:1). What then is this call that is given to all those who are predestined and which leads to justification? It must be the call of irresistible grace. It is the call of 1 Corinthians 1:24 which we discussed above on page 6.
Between the act of predestination and justification there is the act of calling. Since justification is only by faith the calling in view must be the act of God whereby he calls faith into being. And since it necessarily results in justification it must be irresistible. There are none called (in this sense! not the sense of Matthew 22:14) who are not justified. All the called are justified. So the calling of verse 30 is the sovereign work of God which brings a person to faith by which he is justified.
Now notice the implication this has for the meaning of foreknowledge in verse 29. When Paul says in verse 29, "Those whom he foreknew he also predestined," he can't mean (as so many try to make him mean) that God knows in advance who will use their free will to come to faith, so that he can predestine them to sonship because they made that free choice on their own. It can't mean that because we have seen from verse 30 that people do not come to faith on their own. They are called irresistibly.
God does not foreknow the free decisions of people to believe in him because there aren't any such free decisions to know. If anyone comes to faith in Jesus, it is because they were quickened from the dead (Ephesians 2:5) by the creative Spirit of God. That is, they are effectually called from darkness into light.
So the foreknowledge of Romans 8:29 is not the mere awareness of something that will happen in the future apart from God's predetermination. Rather it is the kind of knowledge referred to in Old Testament texts like Genesis 18:19 ("I have chosen [literally:known] Abraham so that he may charge his children...to keep the way of the Lord"), and Jeremiah 1:5 ("Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations") and Amos 3:2 ("You only [Israel] have I known from all the families of the earth").
As C.E.B. Cranfield says, the foreknowledge of Romans 8:29 is "that special taking knowledge of a person which is God's electing grace." Such foreknowledge is virtually the same as election: "Those whom he foreknew (i.e. chose) he predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son."
Therefore what this magnificent text (Romans 8:28-33) teaches is that God really accomplishes the complete redemption of his people from start to finish. He foreknows, i.e. elects a people for himself before the foundation of the world, he predestines this people to be conformed to the image of his Son, he calls them to himself in faith, he justifies them through that faith, and he finally glorifies them—and nothing can separate them from the love of God in Christ for ever and ever (Romans 8:39). To him be all praise and glory! Amen.
By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: www.desiringGod.org. Email: mail@desiringGod.org. Toll Free: 1.888.346.4700.