43. What does “ordo salutis” mean, and why is it important?
“Ordo salutis” is a Latin term which means “the order of salvation”. It speaks of a way of organizing all the events and realities in the process of salvation, in the order that they show up in an individual's life. This order is sometimes temporal (e.g., we are justified a certain amount of time before we are glorified in the eternal state); but sometimes it is just logical, or causal (e.g., we exercise faith as soon as God gives us a new birth, but his regeneration is the cause of our faith). The “ordo salutis” is a very important concept because the doctrine of salvation is so rich and nuanced, and involves so many different realities, that we will not understand it the way that we should if we do not define all of its elements very carefully. We grow in sanctification and holiness as we grow in our understanding of the gospel, and realize all the spiritual blessings that we have in Christ; and so, if we are unclear on the many precious things that God's Word has to say about the order of events which his salvation brings about in our lives, we will remain immature in our faith and conduct.
A simple “ordo salutis” is as follows: the first event that had to take place for us to be saved is God's unconditional love and election of us in eternity past. Then, God sent us an outward call at some point in our lives, or in other words, he brought the message of the gospel across our paths, either through the reading or the hearing of the word. Next, he gave an inward call, through the prompting of the Holy Spirit, which regenerated, or brought to life our previously dead hearts. Because of this regeneration, we experienced conversion, that is, repentance from our sin and faith in Christ. Then, in consequence of our faith, we are justified, that is, God legally declares us righteous, by imputing or reckoning Jesus' perfect righteousness to our own account. At the same time, God adopts us, making us his children and the brothers and sisters of Christ; and he also unites us with Christ, so that henceforth we are in him. Beginning at that point, and on throughout our lifetime, God sanctifies us, or makes us holy, changing us into his likeness. Throughout this time, God is also preserving us, causing us to persevere in the faith, so that we do not finally fall away. Then, at death, we enter an intermediate state, where we are in the presence of the Lord, but without our physical bodies. And finally comes glorification, when our bodies will be resurrected and changed so that they will no longer decay, and we will inherit the new heavens and new earth, where we will live in the presence of our Immanuel for all eternity.
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