Redemption: Arranged, Accomplished and Applied
Understanding the Order and Scope of Salvation
Introduction: What is salvation?
The Greek word for salvation is soteria, which means, “deliverance.” The doctrine of salvation is thus called “soteriology.” Salvation has to do with God’s deliverance of us from sin (Matt. 1:21). There are many different aspects of our salvation, which should be understood. It would not be wrong to say that we have been saved, are being saved, and will be saved, because some aspects of salvation are past, some are present, and some are future.
Our salvation can be understood in three phases: the arrangement, accomplishment, and application of redemption. These three terms relate the eternal, historical, and experiential aspects of our salvation, respectively. Under these headings are found the constituent parts which make up the whole of salvation. I have placed these in the order in which they take place (ordo salutis), and have given a brief explanation of each term, along with the textual basis for the understanding here presented. Every step discussed here is a necessary part of salvation as a whole, and in Scripture itself may be called “salvation.”
I. Redemption Arranged: The Eternal Aspects of Salvation
(1) Election is God’s free and sovereign choice of who would be saved. Election took place in eternity, before the beginning of the world (Eph. 1:4). The elect might be considered as God the Father’s love gift to His Son, Jesus Christ (Jn. 6:37). Every single person who ever savingly believes on Christ does so because God appointed him to believe (Acts 13:48). God’s choice is not based on our works or any other human distinctive (Rom. 9:11). Our faith in Christ is the result and not the cause of our election (2 Thess. 2:13).
(2) Foreknowledge refers to God's loving knowledge of the elect before they were ever created. Foreknowledge is more than just an attribute of God, it is an act of God. It involves not only God knowing events before time, but also His loving people before time (Rom. 8:29; I Pet. 1:2)
(3) Predestination. The word predestination has both a broad and a narrow meaning. Broadly speaking, it may refer to the decree of God by which He sovereignly rules all things (Eph. 1:11; Acts 4:28). In reference to salvation, God predestined the elect to be conformed to the image of Christ and to become the children of God. Everything necessary for the accomplishment and application of our redemption was predestined by God (Rom. 8:30; Eph. 1:5).
II. Redemption Accomplished: The Historical Aspects of Salvation
(1) Atonement has to do with the sacrificial work of Christ in dying for our sins. His death was substitutionary, meaning that He died as a substitute for sinners (2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Peter 3:18). Man’s sin brought with it a complex of problems that needed to be dealt with, namely: bondage to sin and the curse of the law; alienation from God; and the wrath of God against our sin. The death of Christ took care of each of those problems. The death of Christ must then be understood in terms of redemption, propitiation, and reconciliation.
(2) Redemption. Broadly speaking redemption could be synonymous with salvation; but narrowly speaking, redemption is the deliverance of something through the payment of a ransom. Jesus Christ set us free from our bondage to sin and the curse of the law by giving Himself as the ransom price to God for our sins (Matt. 20:28; Mk. 10:45; Gal. 3:13; Tit. 2;14; Rom. 3:24; Eph. 1:7).
(3) Propitiation. Christ's propitiation (or appeasement) for sin was His covering of the sins of the elect in order to satisfy the wrath of God against sin and demonstrate the righteousness of God in forgiving sin (Rom. 3:25-26; 1 Jn. 2:2 ; 1 Jn. 4:10).
(4) Reconciliation. To reconcile is to bring back together two persons or parties who have been alienated from each other. In order for the parties to be reconciled, the enmity between them must be removed. Christ's death on the Cross reconciled God to us, and reconciles us to God (Rom. 5:8-11; 2 Cor. 5:18-21; Eph. 2:13-18).
III. Redemption Applied: The Experiential Aspects of Salvation
What is the order of the application of redemption?
Why this order is irreversible:
(1) inference of order in phrase “according to his purpose” (v. 28)
(2) progression in verse 29 from foreknew to predestined
(3) progression in verse 30; foreknowledge and predestination must be prior to calling, justification, and glorification
(4) glorification has to come at the end; it cannot be prior to calling and justification
(5) every indication of context would lead us to assume that calling must precede justification
Where does faith fit in? We are justified by, through, from, and upon faith (Rom. 1:17; 3:22, 26, 28; 5:1; Gal. 2:16; 3:24; Phil. 3:9). Faith then precedes justification.
But calling precedes faith (Jn. 6:44; 2 Thess. 2:13-14). So faith follows calling in the order, while it precedes justification.
Add repentance, which is always joined to faith (Acts 20:21); therefore repentance must happen when faith happens.
We must ask how repentance and faith come into being. How does a person respond in faith and repentance to God’s call through the gospel? The answer is new birth, or regeneration. Only as a man is born again can he see and enter the kingdom (John 3:3-8). Therefore regeneration must precede faith and repentance, while it follows calling.
Adoption, like justification, follows faith (John 1:12; Gal. 3:26), and must logically follow justification since we must be qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints in light (Col. 1:12).
Since sanctification is a continuous process (2 Cor. 7:1; Heb. 10:14), not a completed fact, it should follow justification and adoption. Perseverance is joined with sanctification, because holiness is what we persevere in (Col. 1:23; Heb. 12:14); and should be prior to glorification, since it is a condition for it (Col. 1:22-23).
Therefore, when you fill Romans 8:29-30 out with the implications from these other texts, the following order is evident:
(1) Effectual Calling. Although salvation is purposed by God the Father (in election), and purchased by God the Son (in atonement), it must also be applied by the Holy Spirit. The process of the application of salvation begins in calling (Rom. 8:30). Calling is when God through His word (2 Thess. 2:14) and by His Spirit (1 Thess. 1:4) summons the unbelieving sinner to believe on Christ, repent from sins and be saved (Acts 3:19; Acts 16:31). It should be noted that there is both an outward call and an inward call. The outward call (of the gospel), is not in itself effectual (Matt. 22:14; 1 Cor. 1:23). The inward call, however, is always effectual (1 Cor. 1:24; Rom. 8:30). The gospel call plus the inward call of the Spirit equals the effectual call.
(2) Regeneration is the immediate work of the Holy Spirit in which the Spirit implants a new nature which hates sin and loves the things of God - chiefly: God Himself, the glory of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Kingdom of God, the Word of God, the people of God, and holiness of life (1 Jn. 2:29, 3:9, 4:7, 5:1, 5:4-5, 5:18). Normally referred to as new birth (Jn. 3:5), regeneration (Tit. 3:5) is the Holy Spirit’s work, which enables a person to believe on Christ (Eph. 1:19). Regeneration is variously referred to in Scripture as birth (Jn. 1:13), quickening (Eph. 2:1), creation (2 Cor. 5:17, Eph. 2:10), and resurrection (Eph. 2:6), indicating that God is the active agent, while man is passive. Regeneration is an inward cleansing and renewal (Tit. 3:5), a spiritual heart transplant (Ezek. 36:26), the giving of a new heart which loves and fears God (Jer. 32:40). Regeneration is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the human heart, which makes a natural man into a spiritual man (Rom. 8:6-9). Regeneration is the inward work of the Spirit that enables a sinner to respond to the divine summons of God’s call in repentance and faith. Though regeneration may happen prior to one’s exposure to the gospel (as with infants), the Scriptures indicate that God is most pleased to regenerate sinners in the atmosphere of the preached word (Acts 16:14; 1 Cor. 1:21-24; 1 Cor. 2:2-5; 2 Cor. 4:4-7; Eph. 1:13; 1 Thess. 1:5; 1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Thess. 2:14; 1 Pet. 1:21-23; Jas. 1:18). This is not to argue that men (whether those who preach or those who hear) have any control over regeneration. They do not. The Spirit, like the wind, mysteriously and sovereignly moves as He wills (John 3:8), and there is nothing the sinner can do to regenerate himself. It is an unconditional work of the Spirit (Jn. 3:1-8).
(3) Conversion. To convert means to turn. Conversion is our turning from sin (repentance) and to the Lord Jesus Christ (faith). It is the result (not the cause) of regeneration, though the two always happen together. Regeneration is God’s work in us, but conversion (Acts 15:3) is our response to Him. Regeneration is the cause of conversion. When we are converted we turn from sin to God (Acts 26:18) and involves both faith and repentance (Acts 20:21). When a person is genuinely converted, a lifestyle of faith and repentance is begun that will never ultimately cease (Phil. 1:6). We turn to God because of what God has does in our hearts. Faith and repentance are his gifts (Acts 5:31; Acts 11:18; Acts 14:27; Acts 16:14; Acts 18:27; Eph. 2:8; Phil. 1:29; 2 Tim. 2:25; 2 Peter 1:1).God uses the Gospel as the instrument for bringing us to conversion (Acts 3:19; Acts 15:3; cf. Acts 11:18, 15:7; Acts 20:21; Rom. 1:17; Rom. 10:13-17; Eph. 1:13).
(3.1) Faith in Christ is one aspect of conversion. The words faith and believe come from the same Greek word. Faith (pistis) is the noun form, while believe (pisteuo) is the verb form. To believe essentially means “to trust.” Faith in Christ involves the mind, heart, and will. The intellectual aspect of faith involves knowing the facts of the Gospel (Rom. 10:14). The affectional (emotional) aspect of faith involves our own heart persuasion of the truth of the Gospel (Rom. 10:9, Rom. 6:17; Heb. 11:1, 6, 13), and the volitional element involves our obedient response to the Gospel (Rom. 1:5; Rom. 6:17; 2 Thess. 1:8). True faith works through love (Gal. 5:6), and faith without works is false and dead (Jas. 2:14-26). Faith is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8).
(3.2) Repentance is faith’s twin sister and is the other essential ingredient in conversion. Repentance is a change in mind which always results in a change of life. When someone repents they change their mind about sin, do and “about-face,” forsake sin (Prov. 28:13) and flee to Jesus Christ who delivers us from the wrath to come (1 Thess. 1:9-10). God graciously gives us the heart to repent (2 Tim. 2:25).
(4) Justification. Every sinner is born under the condemnation of God (Rom. 3:19). Justification is what reverses that sentence of condemnation (Rom. 8:33-34). Justification is God's declaration that the believing sinner is righteous. No one can justify themselves through the works of the law (Rom. 3:20). God has provided the righteousness of Christ for us (Rom. 3:21) and reveals it to us in the gospel (Rom. 1:16-17). The ground of justification is the obedience and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ alone. We can add nothing meritorious to the work of Christ. His righteousness is received by faith alone (Rom. 3:22, 26-31; 10:4-11), and when we believe God is credited to us (Rom. 4:3, 5-6, 22-24) and God declares us righteous. He became sin for us that we might become righteous through Him (2 Cor. 5:21). Every justified person stands before God just as if they had never sinned, but rather had lived as righteous as Christ Himself. Justification is a one-time event, never to be revoked or repeated. When we are justified God delivers us from the penalty of sin (see also Acts 13:39; Gal. 2:16; Gal. 3:11, 24; Phil. 3:9).
(5) Adoption is what legally makes us the children of God, and thus heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:14-16). We are predestined for adoption (Eph. 1:5) and adoption confers upon us all of the rights and privileges of sonship (Jn. 1:12). Adoption happens when we believe on Christ (Gal. 3:23), logically after (but, in experience, simultaneous with) justification. Those who are adopted are full of hope in the Second Coming of Christ (I Jn. 3:1-2), which produces purity in their lives (I Jn. 3:3).
(6) Sanctification is the ongoing work of the Spirit of God (2 Thess. 2:13) through the Word of God (Jn. 17:17) which makes us holy. Whereas justification declares me righteous before God by crediting the righteousness of Christ to me, sanctification is God’s transforming work of making me a more holy person (Rom. 12:1-2). Sanctification is distinct from justification, but every single person who is justified will also be sanctified. The lack of practical godliness in a person’s life indicates a lack of salvation (1 Jn. 3:9-10). We are to pursue holiness, for without holiness we will not see God (Heb. 12:14). Sanctification begins with new birth (this is called definitive sanctification, see Acts 20:32; 26:18; 1 Cor. 1:2; 6:11; Eph. 5:26) and will not be completed until glorification. The believer becomes more and more sanctified the longer he lives. Sanctification means separation, involving separation from sin and unrighteousness and separation to God and righteousness (Rom. 6:13). Sanctification is a process in which I am made more and more like Christ (2 Cor. 3:18), as I put sin to death and put on the garments of the “new man” (Rom. 13:11-14; 2 Cor. 7:1; Eph. 4:17-32; Col. 3:5-14). Sanctification is what delivers us from the power and dominion of sin (Phil. 2:12-13; 1 Thess. 5:23; Rom. 6:1-23; Eph. 4:20-32).
(7) Perseverance is the believer’s continuance in his faith in Christ, obedience to God, and pursuit of holiness (Col. 1:23). Our perseverance is both necessary for salvation and guaranteed by God’s work. The perseverance of the saints was decreed by God, purchased by Christ, and is sustained by the Spirit. Perseverance in faith and holiness is an evidence of one’s gracious state. All of the truly saved persevere (Rom. 8:28-39). Those who do not persevere simply reveal that they were not saved (1 Jn. 2:19). However, we must not think of perseverance as if it were an automatic process, which does not demand anything from us. We persevere through faith (Heb. 6:12; 1 Jn. 5:4-5), even though it is God who keeps us by His power through faith (1 Pet. 1:5). We must keep ourselves in the love of God (Jude 21), and yet it is God who keeps us (Jude 24). We work out our own salvation (Phil. 2:12), for it is God who works within us to desire and do what pleases Him (Phil. 2:13). We must fight against unbelief and hard-heartedness by exhorting one another daily (Heb. 3:12-13) and stirring up one another to love and good works as we meet together (Heb. 10:23-25). Only those who persevere prove that they have really partaken of Christ (Heb. 3:14). God uses the means of community and the Word to help us persevere. God’s preservation enables our perseverance (see also Job 17:9; Psa. 37:23-24; Psa. 138:8; Jer. 32:40; Matt. 10:22; 1 Cor. 15:1-2; Phil. 1:6; Rev. 21:7).
(8) Glorification. Our salvation is not yet complete. Salvation will be complete when Christ comes back and we are glorified. Glorification is the final step in our salvation (Rom. 8:30), which will usher us into the eternal state of perfection. We will be glorified when we see Jesus as He is (1 Jn. 3:2), and become like Him (Phil. 3:21). Glorification will complete our transformation into the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29) and bring us into God’s presence for ever (Ps. 16:11), where He will lavish out His goodness and kindness on us for all eternity (Eph. 2:7). When we are glorified, our bodies will be transformed and made like Christ's glorious body. Then we will be completely and irreversibly delivered from the presence of sin. This will be the consummation of our redemption, which we are now waiting for (Rom. 8:23, 30; Phil. 3:20-21; 1 Jn. 3:2; 1 Cor. 15:42-58).
Conclusion: Why Is This Important?
(1) Nutrition. Like taking vitamins or eating nutritious food, the benefits are not immediately evident, but a steady and nutritious diet over a long period of time make you healthy. Understanding the doctrine of salvation will help produce long term spiritual health.
However, sometimes the benefits are immediate. Theology is strong meat, but it is nourishing.
C. S. Lewis wrote: “For my own part, I tend to find the doctrinal books often more helpful in devotion than the devotional books, and I rather suspect that the same experience may await many others. I believe that many who find that ‘nothing happens’ when they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find that the heart sings unbidden while they are working their way through a tough bit of theology with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hand.” (God in the Dock, p. 205)
This is true to my own experience. My Utmost for His Highest does virtually nothing for me. In fact, sometimes I don’t even understand it. But reading theology has had a profound impact on my devotion to Christ.
(2) Roadmap. It is better to go to on a journey if you have a map and know where you are going and where the key points of interest are – you will see more of what is there. Theology is like a road-map for the Bible – you will see more of what is there and the journey through will be more enjoyable if you know what to look for and what you are seeing.
The danger: getting an inaccurate map – it would be immensely difficult to navigate Chicago with a map of New York. So, we have to be careful about bringing systems to the Bible – the best thing is to find teachers/authors who teach theology out of the text of Scripture, not from logic or philosophy.
(3) Mirror. Looking into a mirror helps you see yourself better. Knowing theology helps you understand your own experience better.
Do you know when you were saved?
Confusion about salvation abounds – Lord/Savior dichotomy
(4) Balance. All error and false teaching results from imbalance – emphasizing one part to the neglect of others. Studying the doctrine of salvation in all of its aspects will help maintain balance and prevent error.
David Powlison: Speaks of people who “make one mountain into the whole mountain range, or one molehill into a mountain.” “Narrowed truth becomes unbalanced truth. It loses its ability to listen and be corrected. Narrowed truth becomes half-truth and broadly false. Narrowed truth loses love . . . as it does so, it becomes reactive error. It becomes increasingly distorted. It becomes a vehicle for interpersonal conflict and self-righteousness.” (Seeing with New Eyes, 32)
*Election (alone) can lead to hyper-calvinism.
*Atonement (alone) can lead to universalism (if you fail to emphasize the need for faith and repentance, the application of Christ’s saving work).
*New birth, work of Spirit (alone, without emphasis on gospel) can lead to mysticism.
*Faith (alone, without repentance) can lead to Easy-believism.
*Justification (alone) can lead to “fire insurance”/ “Gospels of sin management” (Willard) / “antinomianism” (denial of the need for personal holiness of life).
*Sanctification (alone) can lead to legalism/perfectionism or make a person very judgmental of others.
*Perseverance (alone) can rob you of your assurance, if you are not standing on the free justifying grace of God.
*Glorification (wrongly understood) can lead to “manifest sons of God” perfectionism.
(5) Palette of many colors. If an artist tries to paint with only one color, his painting will be robbed of the beauty it could have with many colors. In our theology of salvation we need to see all of the biblical aspects or “colors”, or it will lose some of its beauty.
Ardel Caneday: “Scripture entangles the various strands together in such a way that to unravel them into individual strands, separating them from one another, turns Scriptures' teachings into an entirely different form. The multiform, multichromatic, and multi-textured teachings of the gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, takes on monoform, monochromatic, and mono-textured qualities when we unravel the strands from one another and present them isolated and separated from one another. If we [are] teaching Scripture's teaching of what systematicians call "unconditional election" within the context of Scriptures' indivisible and unitary wholeness, we will not be as likely to isolate this precious teaching from complementary teachings of Scripture.” (Piper Talk, email@example.com; Sent: Sat 08/28/2004 1:23 PM Subject: Re: I'm probably should ask this, but...)