The Ordo Salutis (The Order of Salvation)

by John Samson

I am sure at some point you have seen crash dummies in a car as it hits a wall, and from several different angles, cameras record the event to note precisely how the collision impacted both the vehicle and the dummies inside. The videos are slowed down dramatically and observations are made which reveal a great deal. As any new car is introduced into the car market, car companies (as well as outside agency safety inspectors) conduct these kind of tests as standard procedure to ascertain the level of safety for passengers.

With this idea in view, I want us to take a fresh look at salvation from several angles. We will note that although many of the things happen in an instant, if we could slow the camera down (so to speak) we will see that one thing occurred before the other, just as the car had to hit the wall before the dent in the car could be observed. In referring to a sequence with regards to time we also speak of logical and causal order, for the simple reason that although (in time) two things seemed to occur instantly, logically speaking, one thing had to happen before the other – one thing was the cause of the other thing.

Someone might ask what is the point of such a study. I would reply that the conclusions we come to on these issues have a profound impact on how one views God, the gospel, and the Bible as a whole.

The Bible compares spiritual growth with natural growth, revealing that when we are converted, we are much like spiritual babies who need to grow in our knowledge of God and His word. As we progress in spiritual maturity, things become less fuzzy as we gain a more precise understanding of what the word of God teaches. Of course, some things will always remain deeply mysterious, while others come more into focus.

One concept that has brought great clarity for me in recent years is the study of the sequence of events regarding salvation in Scripture. Theologians use a more precise term, namely Ordo salutis – a Latin term which means the order of salvation.

The Ordo Salutis

1. Election – God’s choice of a people to be saved took place before the world was made. To the saints at Ephesus Paul wrote, 1:4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world.

2. Predestination – Election is God’s choice, and predestination is the pre assigned destination marked out for those He chose, that destination being salvation and full glorification in heaven.

3. Gospel Call (or the outward call of the gospel – outward in that it happens outside of us “ the preaching of the gospel, heard with the physical ear)

The word call, called, or calling can be determined by the context in which the words are found. For instance, Jesus said “many are called but few are chosen.” These words make sense when we understand that He is referring to the outward call of the gospel.

God uses means to achieve His ends. The ends are the salvation of His elect people; the means being the proclamation of the gospel. The elect will come to Christ, but they do so by the means of hearing the gospel.

Romans 9: 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?

4. Inward call (where God the Holy Spirit speaks life to the elect’s dead human spirit, even as they hear the outward call of the gospel)

As we examine the writings of the Apostle Paul, it would seem that he uses this word called or calling to describe the inward call that brings the sinner to spiritual life.

1 Cor 1: 22 – For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called (inwardly called), both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

The cross is seen either as a stumbling block or as foolishness to all, except the called.

This inward call always results in.

5. Regeneration (just as Jesus cried out with a loud voice ‘Lazarus come forth’ before Lazarus came to life, logically speaking, number 4 (the inward call) has to come before number 5 (regeneration) the inward call has to come before spiritual life (regeneration or being born again or born from above) is imparted.

Jesus – John 3:3 – unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.

2 Cor 4:3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness, has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

6. Conversion (repentance and faith) we repent, we put faith in Christ, so this is human activity, but is the result of Divine activity.

John 1:12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

1 John 5:1 – Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God.  In the original Greek, the verb tenses in this verse are very revealing. A literal translation reads as follows: All the ones going on believing (pisteuon, a present tense, continuous action) that Jesus is the Christ has been born (gennesanta, perfect tense – an action already complete with abiding effects) of God. The fact that someone is presently going on believing in Christ shows that they have first been born again. Faith is the evidence of regeneration, not the cause of it. Since both repentance and faith are possible only because of the work of God (regeneration), both are called the gift of God in Scripture (2 Tim 2:24-26; Eph. 2:8, 9; Phil. 1:29; Heb 12:2).

7. Justification – God’s declaration that a person is just (or right) in His sight. All those who put their trust (faith) in Christ for salvation are justified. Logically then, first there is faith, then there is justification. Romans 5:1 – Therefore having been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

8. Sanctification – set apart to God – an on-going process in this life, but perfected the moment we step from this life into the next (1 Cor 15:50-55).

9. Glorification. (see Rom 8:28-30) – the Golden Chain of Redemption has 5 links – foreknown, predestined, called, justified, glorified

The Ordo Salutis – Election Predestination Gospel Call Inward Call Regeneration Conversion (repentance and faith) Justification Sanctification Glorification

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