It is helpful for Christians to have some sense of what the Bible teaches regarding how a person is saved by God. Theologians call this the order of salvation (Latin: ordo salutis). It is a useful tool to memorize, even as one preaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ to others. It must be remembered that this order is a logical construction of human reasoning and not inspired by God. Each emboldened word below has an entire doctrinal study behind it, so clearly this paper is only for introductory and for quick reference purposes.
1. Election — is a pre-Creation work of God the Father, in which He chose (Gk. eklekato), or elected some people to salvation. He wrote their names in the Lamb’s book of life (Rev 13:8–9; 17:8). Peter and Paul gave numerous references for this predestined group of people, who in time, would be called, justified, and ultimately glorified by God, into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ (Rom 8:28–30; Eph 1:4–6; 2 Thess 2:13; 2 Tim 2:10; 2 Pet 1:1; 1 Pet 2:9). God employed His free and sovereign will to do this according to His purpose and for the praise of His glorious grace. Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me (Jn 6:37a); and no one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me drags him (Jn 6:44a); and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out (Jn 6:37b); and I will raise him up on the last day (Jn 6:44b).” God chose a people for Himself, who He would set apart to be holy and blameless before Him in love (Eph 1:4). Election is part of God’s eternal decree, agreed upon in the eternal counsel of the Trinity.
2. Gospel Call — is the good news about the salvation that belongs to God (Jon 2:9). God has done something magnificent, and He wants the world to know of this redemption, accomplished by Jesus Christ, the God-man. The Holy Spirit powerfully bears witness of the person and work of Christ (Acts 1:8). Spirit-filled witnesses are sent to the ends of the earth to proclaim Him, as the Messiah sent by God, conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary, the sinless Lamb of God who bore our sins upon the Cross, who was buried in a tomb, who was raised from the dead, and who ascended to the throne of God in heaven. As the One way of salvation, all men are called and commanded to repent and believe in Him for the forgiveness of sins and for the hope of eternal life. All men do not respond.
3. Regeneration — is the work of the Holy Spirit in the souls of God’s elect people. Man is born dead in sin. He must be made alive, or spiritually re-born, in order to receive God in Christ and this salvation found only in Him. The Holy Spirit indwells the chosen person, seals him for the day of redemption, and initiates a process of spiritual illumination. The hater of God is being transformed into a lover of Christ. He is said to be born again, born of the Spirit, and born from heaven. The Holy Spirit enlightens the spiritual senses of the sinner, even empowering him to effectually respond to the Gospel call. The believer in Jesus is made new, is a new creation, with a new life, and a new worldview because of this new Spirit living in him. He is made alive to God and is now dead to sin.
4. Conversion — is a simultaneous two-step process resulting from regeneration. First, the sinner repents of his sins and sinful lifestyle. He confesses he is not a good person and rejects good works, as a way of salvation. Second, he changes his mind about Jesus Christ. Instead of hating Christ, the convert places his trust fully in Christ Jesus for his salvation. The new, regenerate believer is identified as a “babe in Christ.” Small advances in holiness are witnessed by others. There is no longer embarrassment or vain cursing with regard to the name “Jesus.” The inward work of the Holy Spirit begins to manifest in the outward display of spiritual gifts (Gal 5:22–23). Interest in learning the Bible, how to pray, and fellowship with other believers in worship and service is also visible. The first step of the obedient life, after conversion, is water baptism, in obedience to Christ’s command (Mt 28:19).
5. Justification — is a legal term that declares right standing and no guilt before God. Christ lived and died in perfect righteousness, and elect believers have been justified by His blood. Their sins were imputed to Jesus on the Cross, and His righteousness was imputed to them with the indwelling Spirit. Justification comes to a person via God’s grace, so that the believer in Jesus is said to be justified by faith. Because of the sufficiency of Christ’s one-time, once for all, sacrifice on the Cross, justification is the permanent state of those who have been washed in the blood of Christ. In other words, once a person has been declared “not guilty,” he always holds a “now no condemnation” position before the judgment throne of the Lord Jesus Christ.
6. Adoption — is the transfer of a soul from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son (Col 1:13). The converted elect have been given the right to be called the children of God (Jn 1:12–13), and these are known by their practiced righteousness (1 Jn 3:10). The child of God is a royal child and must be trained in righteousness and holiness. He must learn the Law of the Lord, which tutors him in the holiness of God. The Holy Spirit teaches the child of God the Law of Christ, which is the law of loving obedience to her heavenly Father. Adoption, like conversion and justification is irreversible. He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion. He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us. They will know us, by our love for one another, and love for our Lord Jesus Christ.
7. Sanctification — is the instantaneous and progressive work of the Holy Spirit, to make the new believer into a saint. This is God’s commitment to make a holy nation of His chosen people. Sanctification is positional. In the moment of regeneration and conversion, the new child of God is holy and blameless before God, in a legal sense (justified). God has ordained that the purification process be a life-long spiritual journey in the Spirit of God, who teaches the Word of God to every elect convert. The Word of God washes over the saint, purifying her and making her holy in a practical sense. Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them with the truth, Thy Word is truth (Jn 17:17).”
8. Preservation/Perseverance — is a work of the immutable God in Three Persons, in which the saved sinner is kept, forever, in righteousness by the power and grace of God. God the Father decreed this by His will and ordained work. God the Son has made the perfect one-time sacrifice, which remains acceptable, as the way of salvation for all who come to Him. God the Spirit is the ever-present wisdom and power of God to accomplish the work of sustaining the saint’s status of salvation. The eternal security of the elect, regenerate, converted believer is guaranteed by the fact that salvation is never controlled by anyone other than Almighty God. Sinners are objects of His loving affection, but they are not catalysts in securing His benefits. “It is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me,” was Paul’s way of saying that God was in believers, willing and doing His good pleasure (Phil 2:12–13). His presence is the examined and experiential proof of our salvation. If the goal is Christ-likeness, which is the holiness of God, then it will be a work of God that accomplishes what man could never do. If God has predestined a man, He will call him, justify him, and ultimately glorify him (Rom 8:30).
9. Death — is the enemy of sinners, but it is now an open gateway for the saint to enter into the blissful presence of Jesus Christ in glory. Paul was eager to pass over into the celestial city of New Jerusalem, where Christ reigns (Phil 1:21–23). Where most people, even saints, harbor too much fear of death, God granted a few of His servants a glimpse of heaven (2 Cor 12; Rev), and fear of man was no more. Although they were prohibited in sharing too much with us, they were given enough to assure us that the city of God is secure and prosperous. Our souls were dead in sin, but we have been made alive in Christ, and he who has the Son has life. This life is abundant with hope, now, and it is glorious for eternity. There is no fear in death for the saint because there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1).
10. Glorification — is the final act of restoration and eternal preservation of the saint. This is the completed work of God, in regenerating the soul of the elect, and resurrecting the body of His saints to glorious perfection. Again, we are limited in what glorified bodies will consist of, but in Christ’s resurrection body we have some clues. First, His body was truly physical. Second, it was that which carried Him to the third heaven. We shall be like Christ, for we will see Him as He is. God’s purpose in election will end in glorification. All of the processes noted above will have their full and final effect. We will be with God in heaven, forever. There will no longer be sin, suffering, and death. We will want for nothing because our satisfaction and contentment will be Christ Himself, our light and life.
As a practical application, I would encourage my reader to share this brief paper of explanation with your children. Consider using it as a challenge for your unbelieving family and friends. Have them read it on their own, and then gather together with them for discussion. Have them construct a list of questions and objections. To assist you, I would recommend having a copy of the Westminster Confession of Faith or the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith at your side. A systematic theology might also serve for more complex questions that arise. Remember to pray for God to bless your presentation and explanation. Be sure they understand the simple Gospel message, reinforced in this explanation, and what is required of them as you embark upon this exercise.
In conclusion, let us ponder anew what the Almighty can do. He has done great things from beginning to end. The Bible calls this, “so great a salvation,” and we are encouraged not to neglect it. The devil is in the distractions. He wants all people to focus on themselves and the world around them, but God has encouraged us to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Therefore, let us keep directing our conversations back to the subject of the Bible, Jesus Christ. In Him, we find our only hope. Our lives are but a vapor; and we are commanded to redeem the time, for the days are evil. Let us be diligent in our commission to go into all the world and to make disciples, calling sinners to repentance and faith; and finally, let us glorify the God of our salvation and enjoy Him, forever.
Spokane Valley, Washington
December 6, 2020