Dead or Alive? The Ordo Salutis
The previous chapter established clearly from the Scriptures that the lost sinner is utterly incapable of initiating his/her own salvation. It should not be surprising, therefore, that “something had to happen” external to the lost sinner to cause that person to be saved.
That “something” is revealed concisely in the summary statement of the Ordo Salutis, the “Order of Salvation”. As I mentioned in the Introduction, that order is primarily logical rather than merely chronological.
That sequence of events is variously presented in theology texts and articles, but all derive from the “Golden Chain” of Romans chapter 8:
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
The alternate presentations are essentially identical to the sequence declared in Rom 8.28-30. The distinctions between them can be summarized as:
- Foreknowledge is assumed, but not listed, in the second and third columns.
- The atonement of the Lord Christ is assumed, but not directly listed in Rom 8.28-30. Likewise, it is assumed in the third column.
- The second and third column specifically mention regeneration while it is merely implied in Rom 8.28-30.
- The second and third columns list the Christian responsibilities of sanctification and perseverance.
[It is at this point that we must be careful: the sequence of Rom 8.28-30 is that which is performed unconditionally by the LORD Himself alone; it does not require any permission or willing involvement by the mind of the lost sinner in any capacity. It was planned “before the foundation of the world” (Eph 1.4) and can’t be thwarted or changed in any way, even by the lost sinner.
Once the lost sinner has entered that sequence in "real-time", he/she will be brought successfully to its conclusion, glorification, regardless of anything that the (now) saved sinner does or does not do.
The reason that this article will not include sanctification and perseverance in the Ordo Salutis is that they are the sole responsibilities of the person rather than the LORD and are not part of “salvation” per se. Certainly, the LORD helps us in our process of sanctification and perseverance but He does not perform either for us without our participation. Certainly both are expected by the LORD in the life of the growing and maturing Christian, but there are enough warnings in the NT to demonstrate that not every believer will, in fact, live as a mature Christian for the length of his/her life. I’ll mention only a single text here in support of this assertion:
1 Cor 11.27-32
Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.
For a more complete discussion of this issue, please refer to my article “Backsliding? Or…”, especially the chapters entitled “But what about ‘believers’ who practice sin: sickness and death.” and “But what about ‘believers’ who practice sin: the “handing over” to Satan.”
The simple point is this: Rom 8.28-30 guarantees that all who are truly saved will be glorified, but it does not guarantee that all who are truly saved will, in fact, live sanctified lives and “persevere to the end” as faithful believers.
Remember this seven-fold warning in the Bible’s closing book…
Rev 2.7: “To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life …”
Rev 2.11: “He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.”
Rev 2.17: “To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna …”
Rev 2.26: “He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end …”
Rev 3.5: “He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments …”
Rev 3.12: “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God …”
Rev 3.21: “He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne …”]
I’ve chosen to detail each step of the Ordo Salutis in its own subchapter: