In the modern world, the word complacent is often used as a synonym for indifference, or smugness. The term can properly mean, “to be delighted in”, or, “to be well pleased with”. From this can come the idea of someone becoming indifferent, self-satisfied, smug, or lack of worry or caution.
Theologically, the complacent love of God speaks of the Father’s delight in His relationship with individuals. The perfect object of God’s complacent love is His Son. At His baptism, the complacent love of God was revealed. The Father said He was well pleased. “And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). Because Jesus always obeyed the Father, even to the point of death, He was loved. “Therefore, doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again” (John 10:17).
As God loves the Son, so God takes delight in the redeemed. He has pleasure in those who are His. The love of a good father for his children reflects this type of Divine love.
This is the type of love that Paul has in mind when, quoting the Old Testament prophet Malachi speaking about Jacob, he writes, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Romans 9:13; Malachi 1:2, 3). Jacob received the transcendent love of God, the love of complacency, which is different from the benevolent love of God toward Esau.
The Golden Chain of Romans 8 undergirds the idea of God’s complacent love for the elect. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. 29 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. 30 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. 8:28-30).
Paul did not say that all things work together for good for everybody. The Divine promise of God’s providence to bring good out of calamity is reserved for the elect. The elect are those who are loved by God, and who love God. They are referred to as, “the called (Gk. kletos, invited, i.e. appointed).”
The word “elect” (Gk. ekletos, select; by implication, favorite) is derived from the term for called. Those who are “called out” of the world, constitute the redeemed. This is where the term “church” is also derived. The word church (Gk. ekklesia) refers to a calling out. In fairness, there is confusion about “the called”, because the Bible does use the term in more than one way.
The term is used of a general call to salvation. “For many are called [Gk. kletos], but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14). After presenting the gospel, those who hear are called to respond to the message. When he preached to the Athenians, Paul called upon the people to respond, saying that God “now commandeth all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). The command for those who are dead in tresspasses and sin to repent, does not necessitate the ability to repent apart from Divine intervention. Jesus commanded Lazarus, who had been dead for four day, to return from the dead. That was not going to happen apart from Divine energy imparted into Lazarus. In like manner, Divine energy must be given to the unconverted if they are to comply with the Divine command to repent.
If the question is asked as to why God commands people to do what they are incapable of doing, such as keeping the Law perfectly, or repenting, part of the answer is to show individuals how helpless and hopeless they are without Christ, and to drive the soul to seek mercy of the Lord. The Law was, and is, “our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24).
“Come, every soul by sin oppressed,
There’s mercy with the Lord;
And He will surely give you rest
By trusting in His Word.
Only trust Him! Only trust Him!
Only trust Him now!
He will save you! He will save you!
He will save you now!”
John Hart Stockton
From the response of the Athenians, whereby some rejected the gospel, and others were ambivalent, we learn there is an external call to the gospel.
But the Bible goes on to teach there is an internal call to the gospel, whereby the sheep hear the voice of their Good Shepherd, they know it, and they follow Him. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). There is certainty associated with the internal call of the gospel to the sheep of the Lord’s pasture. They will follow, because this is the effectual call of God.
The effectual call of God is assured by the new heart God gives. The Lord gives spiritual eyes to see Christ, and spiritual ears to hear Biblical truth being communicated. “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).
The elect are called with the effectual call, 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. 30 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” (Romans 8:29, 30).
Notice the order of salvation. The order is set in a linear fashion: Foreknowledge, Predestination, Calling, Justification, and Glorification This summary of the order of salvation is elliptical. This means there are certain specific ideas that are implicitly present, though not explicitly stated. What is being said here, is that all those whom God has foreknown; He has also called.
“How many people did God foreknow in eternity past before the foundation of the world?”
God knows everybody!
If God in his omniscience foreknows everybody, and if God has predestinated everybody He knows to be conformed to the image of His Son, then on what basis is anyone lost.
It is at this point that theologians’ step in to advance their biases.
The Universalist says that God does foreknow everybody, and has predestinated everybody to be conformed to Christ, and that is good news. It means that everyone shall be saved. There is no Hell. There is no eternal torment for anyone.
The Arminian says no to the theory of universal salvation. The Arminian limits the foreknowledge of God to His seeing who will believe, and on the basis of the individuals own choice moves forward to predestinate them to be conformed to the image of Christ.
The Calvinist says no to thetheory of universal salvation, and no to the Arminian theology that God must come into knowledge by looking down the corridors of time to see how a person will choose salvation, of their own free will. The Arminian must be asked, “What else does God not know, and must come into knowledge about?”
Which theological construct is correct?
Certainly, the most popular view of foreknowledge is the prescient view, which says that God knows in advance who will respond favorably to the gospel, such as Saul of Tarsus, and who would reject it, such as Demas, Judas Iscariot, and others.
On the basis of His advance knowledge, God predestinates people. Romans 8:29 is the proof text. It is argued that before God speaks of predestination, He speaks of foreknowledge (Gk. proginosko, to know beforehand, i.e. forsee).
While this view is the most popular, and is the position of the Arminian, it is still problematic, because it proves more than the Arminian wants the verse to say; this view of foreknowledge implies Universalism, since, again, God foreknows all people.
The solution to the problem is found, not in the word, foreknowledge, but in understanding “the called.” Who are the called? What is said about the called?
It is a proper understanding of the text to say that all of those who are predestined are called.
It is a proper understanding of the text to say that all of those called shall be justified.
It is a proper understanding of the text to say that all of those called, and justified, shall be glorified.
It is a proper understanding of the text to say that all those who are glorified, justified, and called are foreseen by God to do that based on the only way possible, His eternal decree, so that it can be said, that salvation “it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy” (Rom. 9:16).
Certainly, the Bible does not teach that everyone who hears the gospel externally shall be saved. Nowhere does the Bible teach that everyone will be justified. There is a heaven, and there is a hell. There is a place for the Devil and his angels, and there is a place for Christians to be absent from the body, and face to face with the Lord.
Only those that God does something to inwardly, only those who have received the inward call because they have been predestinated, will receive justification and glorification.
We are predestinated not because we have responded to a call; we are predestined to respond to a call.
That is the point of this passage. Before I loved God, He loved me with a love of complacency. The delight God has for the elect is the delight He has for His Son. The elect are the gifts of love the Father gives to His Son. The foreknowledge of God is not merely academic and intellectual. It is a word of intimacy. When did God love you and me? When we were unlovely.