I recently was asked to respond to some questions about certain biblical terms that many people will hear that attend church or engage in Christian conversations. Sometimes these seem like such big and overwhelming words, but they are important to understand, not to sound important, but to understand how God works in the lives of His people.
I thought it would be good to share these, as others might have some of the same questions. To some it might be review, or basic knowledge, but please don’t just excuse them because you understand them.
Ordo salutis, which is the Latin term for order of salvation. When and how does salvation occur and what happens and in what order. Some of these steps may occur simultaneously while others are progressive, such as sanctification. Here is a link to a great infographic from Tim Challies that really shows a beautiful picture of how this looks; I often refer back to this in discussions that I have with people about salvation.
In short here is the order:
The definitions I’ve utilized are from “Behold Your God: Rethinking God Biblically” by Dr. John Snyder, unless marked by an * which come from the infographic and include my own personal comments.
*Election – Before creation, because of His sovereign good pleasure, God chooses some people to be saved. (Ephesians 1:4-6)
*Calling – God summons people to himself through the human proclamation of the gospel so they respond in saving faith. (Romans 8:30, 2 Timothy 1:9)
Note: there is a difference between an effectual call and a general call. The general call goes out to all who hear the gospel, but the effectual call has an effect on the elect (Matthew 22:14), also God has clearly revealed Himself to all of mankind, so man is without excuse for his lack of response, see Romans 1:19-20.
Regeneration – Regeneration is the work of God’s Spirit in which He changes the spiritual condition of a person, bringing him from death to life. Regeneration is the beginning of all of the moral changes in the believer. It results in a life of ongoing change (sanctification) and ends in the complete transformation of the believer into the image of Christ (glorification). Another term for regeneration is being born again. (John 3:3, Ezekiel 36:26-27, Titus 3:5-6)
*Conversion – We willingly respond to the gospel call, repenting of sin and placing faith in Christ for salvation. (This of course, can only happen to those that effectually hear the call. Examples: Acts 16:14, Acts 16:30-31, Matthew 18:3)
Justification – Justification is a legal action by which God declares the believer to be freed from his guilt and made right before God’s law. Unlike regeneration, it does not change the soul of the believer. Justification alters the believer’s legal position before God, changing it from guilty to innocent. Justification is the outcome of atonement and the imputation of Jesus’ righteousness to the believer. (Romans 3:19-26, Romans 8:30, Luke 18:14)
Adoption – Adoption describes the new relationship the believer has to God by using a family-related term. God, by the new birth and justification, makes the believer His adopted child. God becomes his father and Jesus his brother. The believer enters into all the responsibilities and joys of being in God’s family. (Romans 8:15, Ephesians 1:5)
I wanted to briefly highlight the word responsibilities, because this shows us the importance of the fact that we are not free to continue in sin that grace may abound. We are now called to be holy and set-apart – see Ephesians 2:10, Romans 6:1.
Sanctification – Sanctification has two parts. First, the believer is set apart to God by the purchasing work of Jesus and regeneration. Thus, the believer belongs solely to God and no longer to the world. Second, the believer is daily being set apart in heart and life by the work of the Spirit, making the believer holy in his practice. (Acts 20:32, John 17:17-19, 1 Corinthians 1:2, 6:11)
This might sometimes by two steps forward, one step back, but as Dr. Snyder says, it’s a daily process. This is a wonderful way to examine our lives, as to whether we are truly in the faith. Do we have victory over sins that used to beset us?
Perseverance – Perseverance refers to the fact that the true believer will not fall away from his relationship to God, but rather by trusting God (faith), he will endure until the end. (John 10:26-30, John 17:9-12, John 17:24-26, Ephesians 1:13-14)
The scripture speaks so boldly and plainly on this doctrine. We can also understand that believer’s can fall into sin, but they will not remain there for an extended period of time, and will respond when confronted with their sin (Psalm 51).
I will address backsliding in the second article, but this gives us the truth that God’s elect can never truly fall away. The modern church misunderstands backsliding as a state in which true converts just fall back into sin, but in reality they most likely have never been converted.
Glorification – Glorification refers to the completion of all aspects of the believer’s salvation. It is the final step to his rescue that comes when in heaven he sees Christ face to face and is ultimately transformed spiritually and physically into an everlasting perfect person. (Romans 8:17, 8:30)
Philippians 3:20-21 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it maybe conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.
Praise God that we will finally be relieved from this body of death and sin will no longer be in our lives, this will of course only occur after death or the return of the Lord Jesus.
Next time we will look at some other terms used in Christendom.
Soli Deo Gloria!