Ordo Salutis, a Study in Salvation

Ordo Salutis, a Study in Salvation by Jack Kettler

“Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.” (Psalm 25:4)

In this study, we will look at the biblical teaching regarding what theologians call the “ordo salutis.” What does this mean? As in previous studies, we will look at definitions, scriptures, lexical evidence, commentary evidence and confessional support for the purpose to glorify God in how we live. Glorify God always!

Ordo salutis:

“An ordered list intended to describe the logical order of the saving benefits of Christ’s work which are given to those who are being saved in order to show the relationships between those benefits in the saved person’s experience of them; literally, the order of salvation.”*

Ordo salutis:

“Latin for “order of salvation.” Theologically it is the order of decrees by God in bringing about the salvation of individuals. In the Reformed camp, the ordo solutis Isaiah 1:1-31) election, 2) predestination, 3) calling, 4) regeneration, 5) faith, 6) repentance, 7) justification, 8) sanctification, and 9) glorification. In the Arminian camp, the ordo solutis Isaiah 1:1-31) calling, 2) faith, 3) repentance, 4) regeneration, 5) justification, 6) perseverance, 7) glorification. ” **

From Scripture:

“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. 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. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? ” (Romans 8:28-31)

From Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on Romans 8:28-31:

“8:28-31 That is good for the saints which does their souls good. Every providence tends to the spiritual good of those that love God; in breaking them off from sin, bringing them nearer to God, weaning them from the world, and fitting them for heaven. When the saints act out of character, corrections will be employed to bring them back again. And here is the order of the causes of our salvation, a golden chain, one which cannot be broken. 1. Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son. All that God designed for glory and happiness as the end, he decreed to grace and holiness as the way. The whole human race deserved destruction; but for reasons not perfectly known to us, God determined to recover some by regeneration and the power of his grace. He predestinated, or before decreed, that they should be conformed to the image of his Son. In this life they are in part renewed, and walk in his steps. 2. Whom he did predestinate, them he also called. It is an effectual call, from self and earth to God, and Christ, and heaven, as our end; from sin and vanity to grace and holiness, as our way. This is the gospel call. The love of God, ruling in the hearts of those who once were enemies to him, proves that they have been called according to his purpose. 3. Whom he called, them he also justified. None are thus justified but those that are effectually called. Those who stand out against the gospel call, abide under guilt and wrath. 4. Whom he justified, them he also glorified. The power of corruption being broken in effectual calling, and the guilt of sin removed in justification, nothing can come between that soul and glory. This encourages our faith and hope; for, as for God, his way, his work, is perfect. The apostle speaks as one amazed, and swallowed up in admiration, wondering at the height and depth, and length and breadth, of the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge. The more we know of other things, the less we wonder; but the further we are led into gospel mysteries, the more we are affected by them. While God is for us, and we keep in his love, we may with holy boldness defy all the powers of darkness.” (1)

From Barnes’ Notes on the Bible on Romans 8:30:

“Moreover … – In this verse, in order to show to Christians the true consolation to be derived from the fact that they are predestinated, the apostle states the connection between that predestination and their certain salvation. The one implied the other.

Whom he did predestinate – All whom he did predestinate.

Them he also called – Called by his Spirit to become Christians. He called, not merely by an external invitation, but in such a way as that, they in fact were justified. This cannot refer simply to an external call of the gospel, since those who are here said to be called are said also to be justified and glorified. The meaning is, that there is a certain connection between the predestination and the call, which will be manifested in due time. The connection is so certain that the one infallibly secures the other.

He justified – See the note at Romans 3:24. Not that he justified them from eternity, for this was not true; and if it were, it would also follow that he glorified them from eternity, which would be an absurdity. It means that there is a regular sequence of events – the predestination precedes and secures the calling; and the calling precedes and secures the justification. The one is connected in the purpose of God with the other; and the one, in fact, does not take place without the other. The purpose was in eternity. The calling and justifying in time.

Them he also glorified – This refers probably to heaven. It means that there is a connection between justification and glory. The one does not exist without the other in its own proper time; as the calling does not subsist without the act of justification. This proves, therefore, the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. There is a connection infallible and ever existing between the predestination and the final salvation. They who are subjects of the one are partakers of the other. That this is the sense is clear,

(1) Because it is the natural and obvious meaning of the passage.

(2) Because this only would meet the design of the argument of the apostle. For how would it be a source of consolation to say to them that whom God foreknew he predestinated, and whom he predestinated he called, and whom he called he justified, and whom he justified “might fall away and be lost forever?” (2)

Picture From the Monergism website on Ordo Salutis:

The “Ordo salutis” is a Latin term, which means “the order of salvation”. It speaks of a way of organizing all the events of redemption in the consecutive order that they show up in an individual’s life (as revealed in the bible) when he is joined to Christ by the Holy Spirit. Keep in mind we must never separate the benefits (regeneration, justification, sanctification) from the Benefactor (Jesus Christ). The entire process (election, redemption, regeneration, etc.) is the work of God in Christ and is by grace alone.

All the benefits of redemption such as conversion (faith & repentance), justification, sanctification and perseverance presuppose a renewed heart (the existence of spiritual life) which believes. The work of applying God’s grace is a unitary process given to the elect simultaneously in Christ. This is instantaneous, but there is definitely a causal order (regeneration giving rise to all the rest). Though these benefits cannot be separated, it is helpful to distinguish them. Therefore, instead of imposing a chronological order we should view these as a unitary work of God to bring us into union with Christ. We must always keep in mind that the orders expressed in the following articles occur together or happen simultaneously like heat and fire. All aspects of the work of God continue together throughout the life of a Christian.

Jesus Christ is the source of all redemptive blessings, including regeneration, justification, sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30). Election is the superstructure of our ordo salutis (a blueprint, so to speak, of what God intends to do for elect sinners in time), but not itself the application of redemption. Regeneration, the work of the Holy Spirit, which brings us into a living union with Christ, has a causal priority over the other aspects of the process of salvation.

· God opens our eyes, we see.

· God circumcises/ unplugs our ears, we hear.

· Jesus calls a dead and buried Lazarus out of the grave, he comes; (Ephesians 2:5)

· In the same way, the Holy Spirit applies regeneration, (opening our spiritual eyes and renewing our affections), immediately and infallibly resulting in faith. (John 6:63, 65)

Historically in the Church, there has been disagreement about the order of salvation, especially between those in the Reformed and Arminian camps. The following two perspectives of God’s order in carrying out His redemptive work reveals the stark contrast between these two main historic views. Keep in mind that both viewpoints are based on the redemptive work, which Christ accomplished for His people in history:

In the Reformed camp, the ordo salutis is 1) election/predestination (in Christ), 2) Atonement 3) gospel call 4) inward call 5) regeneration, 6) conversion (faith & repentance), 7) justification, 8) sanctification, and 9) glorification. (Rom 8:29-30)

In the Arminian camp, the ordo salutis is 1) outward call 2) faith/election, 3) repentance, 4) regeneration, 5) justification, 6) perseverance, 7) glorification.

Notice the crucial difference in the orders of regeneration and faith. While the Reformed position believes spiritual life is a prerequisite for the existence of the other aspects of salvation, the Arminians believe that fallen, natural man retains the moral capacity to receive or reject the gospel of his own power. Even with the help of grace, he still must find it within himself to believe or reject Christ. This has broad implications and raises questions like why does one man believe and not another? You might also notice that, according to Arminians, election is dependent on faith, not the other way around. This is no small matter …understanding the biblical order, while keeping in mind its unitary process, is crucial and has a profound impact on how one views God, the gospel, and the Bible as a whole.

But how can regeneration (life) come before justification? Some might ask. This is because causes and effects usually happen at the same time. God creates the world and it exists. It did not hesitate 5 seconds but sprung into existence the same moment he called it into existence. When a pool ball hits another, they touch at the same time, but only ONE is the cause of the other moving. Likewise, God breathes new life into us and we breathe. God opens our eyes and we see, He gives us a new heart and we believe. No time delay takes place. They occur simultaneously, but one actually CAUSES the other. Faith is the fruit of grace and as such, we can only ascribe all glory to God. (3)

Picture from the monergism web site

The Unbreakable Golden Chain of Salvation According to the Westminster Confession of Faith:

III.6. As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath he, by the eternal and most free purpose of his will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore, they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by his Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by his power, through faith, unto salvation.

VIII.1. It pleased God, in his eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, his only begotten Son, to be the Mediator between God and man, the Prophet, Priest, and King, the Head and Savior of his church, the Heir of all things, and Judge of the world: unto whom he did from all eternity give a people, to be his seed, and to be by him in time redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified.

X.1. All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, he is pleased, in his appointed and accepted time, effectually to call, by his Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death, in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation, by Jesus Christ ….

XI.1. Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth: not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone ….

XII.1. All those that are justified, God vouchsafeth, in and for his only Son Jesus Christ, to make partakers of the grace of adoption …, are pitied, protected, provided for, and chastened by him, as by a father: yet never cast off, but sealed to the day of redemption; and inherit the promises, as heirs of everlasting salvation.

XIII.1. They, who are once effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart, and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, by his Word and Spirit dwelling in them ….

XVII.1. They, whom God hath accepted in his Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.

XVII.2. This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ, the abiding of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them, and the nature of the covenant of grace: from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof.

Comments in closing:

We see in Romans 8:28-30, the “golden chain” of salvation. In this passage, there is a point-by-point sequence where Paul declares the indissoluble order of how God saves us. Paul makes it clear that our salvation from beginning to end is the work of a sovereign God. Hence, this “golden chain” is unbreakable because of God’s grace that can never fail His elect people!

Consequently, the biblical understanding of ordo salutis allows us to see clearly that God is the author of our salvation from beginning to end. God graciously enables and causes sinners to believe, to repent, to become Disciples of Christ, and finally to be gloried. This theology prevents the sinner from trying to take any credit for his salvation. God deserves all the glory

Notable Quotes:

“We are initially united with Christ in regeneration.” “We appropriate and continue to live out of this union through faith.” Third, “We are justified in union with Christ. “Fourth, “We are sanctified through union with Christ. “Fifth, “We persevere in the life of faith in union with Christ. “Finally, “We shall be eternally glorified with Christ.” – Anthony Hoekema

“Regeneration, faith, conversion, renewal, and the like, often [in the Bible] do not point to successive steps in the way of salvation but rather summarize in a single word the entire change which takes place in a man.” – Herman Bavinck

“Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes.” (Psalm 119:12)

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

Notes:

1. Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, Romans, (Nashville, Tennessee, Thomas Nelson), p.1800.

2. Albert Barnes, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARYCOMMENTARY, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Romans, p.2205.

3. Monergism website on Ordo Salutis

“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. He served as an ordained ruling elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He worked in and retired from a fortune five hundred company in corporate America after forty years. He runs two blogs sites and is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com

For more study:

* For a great source of theological definitions go to Rebecca writes at Rebecca writes http://www.rebecca-writes.com/theological-terms-in-ao/

** CARM theological dictionary https://carm.org/dictionary-hermeneutics

*** Reformed answers http://reformedanswers.org/

**** https://www.gotquestions.org/

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