Pastor David B. Curtis


The "Ordo Salutis"

Romans 8:28-30

Delivered 12/11/2011

To say that the subject of this message and our text is controversial puts it mildly! Whenever you talk about God's sovereignty in salvation you are going to find opposition. About twenty years ago a pastor moved to the Tidewater area to take a church. I met with him over lunch, and we talked about what we believed. We got into a discussion on the sovereignty of God and salvation. I was sharing with him that God is sovereign in salvation and in everything else. The conversation got a little heated and then this pastor jumped up. cussed me out, and said, "If that is what God is like, I don't want anything to do with Him." As sad as it is, I think a lot of Christians feel that way.

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. Romans 8:28-30 NASB

Last week we looked at verse 28 and saw that God sovereignly works all things together for our good. The "for" that begins verse 29 is used as a conjunction, or transition. Why is it that God "causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him"? It is because those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to conformity to His Son. His purpose is actually unfolded in verses 29 and 30.

Verses 29-30 are often call the "Golden Chain of Salvation," or the "Ordo Salutis." Ordo Salutis is Latin for "the order of salvation," which deals with the logical sequence of steps or stages involved in the salvation of a believer, and, more importantly, it has to do with who made the first move in our salvation. The wide spectrum of modern Christianity insists that any and every saved person had to make that first move: He needed to reach out in faith to God.

There are two basic schools of thought that exist concerning the matter of how we are saved. There are many views within these schools, but almost all views could be grouped within one school of thought or the other.

First, there is a school of thought that is known as Arminianism. This view of salvation receives its name from a man named Jacobus Arminius. People who hold to this viewpoint typically believe that man cooperates with God in his salvation; and salvation is through faith in Christ, but we choose to believe when we are ready. Most people who hold to this point of view also believe that we can stop believing at any time, and, thus, we become lost again; and, basically, they believe that salvation is based upon the will of man.

Then, there is a school of thought that is known as Calvinism. This viewpoint receives its name from a sixteenth century preacher by the name of John Calvin. Calvinism says that God selected some people for salvation and others for damnation, and that those selected have no say in the matter whatsoever. In Calvinism, the will of man is forfeited to the sovereignty of God.

Someone may ask, "If this is such a controversial subject, then why teach on it?" Well, we are going verse-by-verse through the book of Romans, and so we have to deal with what is in the text. And if it's in the Scripture, then we need to teach it. Listen to what John Calvin wrote on the subject:

The Scripture is the school of the Holy Spirit in which, as nothing is omitted that is both necessary and useful to know, so nothing is taught but what is expedient to know. Therefore, we must guard against depriving believers of anything disclosed about predestination in Scripture, lest we seem either wickedly to defraud them of the blessing of their God or to accuse and scoff at the Holy Spirit for having published what it is in any way profitable to suppress.

Calvin goes on to say:

But for those who are so cautious or fearful that they desire to bury predestination in order not to disturb weak souls--with what color will they cloak their arrogance when they accuse God indirectly of stupid thoughtlessness, as if He had not foreseen the peril that they feel they have wisely met? Whoever, then, heaps odium upon the doctrine of predestination openly reproaches God, as if He had unadvisedly let slip something hurtful to the church.

This issue of "Ordo Salutis" is not a mere tedious technicality like the riddle "Which came first: the chicken or the egg?" It actually answers the question: "To whom do we give the glory for our salvation? God or ourselves?" And this, my friend, is a very important question:

But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 that, just as it is written, "LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD." 1 Corinthians 1:30-31 NASB

Notice carefully what this verse says, "It is by His doing that we are in Christ Jesus." Therefore, any boast we have is not in ourselves, but in the Lord.

The Bible contains a unified system of truth. When an error is made in one area of our theological understanding of the Word of God, that error does not remain in isolation for long. The error cascades throughout our theology and, if not halted at some point, produces greater and greater falsehood. Theological error is not just an intellectual issue; theological error can result in condemnation. At the very least, it quickly spills over into the way we live our Christian lives. B. B. Warfield said that a mutilated Gospel produces mutilated lives. Bad theology is a cruel taskmaster. This principle is especially important in understanding the doctrine of salvation. A proper understanding of the logical order of salvation is vital to a right understanding of the Gospel.

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; 30 and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. Romans 8:29-30 NASB

These verses contain a broad outline of the order of salvation. The sequential order that is given is: foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, and glorification. The acts of salvation presented in this passage, however, are not exhaustive. Scripture speaks of other acts in the order of salvation. Romans 8:29-30 gives us a basic framework into which the other acts of salvation may be placed.

1. Foreknowledge

Some understand "foreknowledge" as God looking into the future and choosing those whom He foresaw would believe. Are they saying that God gained knowledge by observation? If so, then there was a time when He didn't have all knowledge, and thus He's not an omniscient God after all.

Notice that it is not WHAT He foreknew, but WHOM He foreknew. The word "foreknew" is from the Greek word proginosko. The background of the term must be located in the Hebrew Scriptures, where for God "to know" refers not to simple knowledge, but to covenantal love:

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations." Jeremiah 1:5 NASB

This text is not saying that God foresaw that Jeremiah would be a prophet, but that God chose him to be a prophet before he was born.

In Amos 3 :2 God says to Israel:

Only you I have known of all families of the land, Therefore I charge on you all your iniquities. Amos 3:2 YLT

"Only you have I known of all families of the land." Does that mean that God had no knowledge of Canaanites or Egyptians or Assyrians? NO! It meant that He had a special love relationship with Israel. Israel was His chosen nation. The term "foreknew" must have a limited meaning, for if it simply means: "to know ahead of time," then in the context of Romans 8, everyone will be glorified, because all whom God foreknew He glorified; the chain is unbroken.

To foreknow a person is to enter into intimate relationship with them, and choose them. Foreknowledge or knowledge is a Hebraic term, which has to do with intimacy:

For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the wicked will perish. Psalms 1:6 NASB

Didn't God know the way of the wicked also? Yes, He did, but here "knows" has the idea of loves. This is a Hebrew parallelism, God loves the righteous, but the wicked will perish:

"And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.' Matthew 7:23 NASB

God knows everything, He is omniscient! Here it is saying, I never loved you.

In this unbroken chain of salvation, all whom God "loved before hand" (foreknew) He justified and glorified. Now, we know that everybody is not going to be justified, so this must mean that God does not love everybody, which is a truth taught in the Scriptures.

So the "Ordo Salutis" begins in eternity past with God choosing to love certain individuals. Then we see that all whom God loved He:

2. Predestined

The Greek word translated predestine is proorizo; it is the word from which we get our English word horizon. This Greek word could be literally translated: "pre-horizon." The horizon is the great boundary between the earth and the sky, and the Greek word horizo means to establish boundaries. And to set the boundaries, to draw the lines, to establish the limits, is to determine what will be. And to do that ahead of time, in eternity past, is predestination.

The predestination in Romans 8:29 means that in eternity past, God drew some lines. He established a horizon around each person He had foreknown--a set boundary marking him off--a circle of destiny. What predestined means in its most elementary form is that our final destination, heaven or damnation, is decided by God, not only before we get there, but before we are born.

The Scriptures also call this "Election." It is the idea of God choosing whom He loves. Choosing them to be part of His family. Choosing them to be in His presence. The Gospel is the Good News, not of man's act of choosing Christ, but of God's act of choosing man. Election is an idea seen throughout Scripture:

But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. 2 Thessalonians 2:13 NASB

They were "beloved by the Lord" and "chosen...for salvation."

just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, Ephesians 1:4-5 NASB

Notice again when this choosing took place: "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world."

who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, 2 Timothy 1:9 NASB

Why did God choose certain people? Because of "His own purpose." We also see in this verse that God's foreknowing and election took place in eternity past, before the foundation of the world.

According to Romans 8:29, what did God predestine us for?:

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; Romans 8:29 NASB

The word "conformed" is the Greek word summorphos, which comes from morphe, meaning: "the essential character of something, the essential form which never alters." The word Paul uses here is not morphe, but summorphos, which means: "jointly formed." The prefix "sun" (soon) denotes: "union; with or together." This "sun" prefix tells us that this is a positional association. God predestined those He loved to share Christ's righteousness. This is corporate transformation.

Jesus is called "the firstborn of many brothers." The firstborn was the redeemer in the Jewish economy. So the term "firstborn of many brethren" has a distinctively redemptive content. It speaks of Christ as the Redeemer of His people and the restorer of all that had been lost through the disobedience of Adam.

So far in the "Ordo Salutis" we have seen foreknowledge and predestination. Please understand that both of these happened before time. It was in eternity past that God loved and chose. Then in time we were born into the world. And when we were born, we were born into a:

3. State of Death

This is not in the list in Romans 8, but Romans 8 is not an exhaustive list. I add this to the list, because I think it is important for us to understand that even though we were loved and chosen by God from eternity past, we were born into the world in a state of spiritual death; born under the wrath of God.

All men are born separated from God so that they are spiritually dead. Every unbeliever is in a state of death:

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned- Romans 5:12 NASB

Because of Adam's sin, spiritual death spread to all men. Adam was the federal head of the human race; when he sinned, we sinned. His sin is imputed to all men. In historical theology, man's condition in sin has been called "total depravity." Ephesians strongly sets forth the degree of man's total depravity in sin:

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, Ephesians 2:1 NASB

This verse states that fallen man is "dead in sin," that he has no spiritual life whatsoever. It is important to note that the Apostle Paul did not say that man is sick in sin or simply influenced by sin; he declared that fallen man has no spiritual life.

I've often heard the illustration given concerning man's condition in sin that he is sick in sin like a man deathly ill in a hospital bed. The man is near death, struggling for every breath, but he is still alive. A nurse comes in with a bottle of medicine that will cure him and restore him to perfect health. The medicine represents the Gospel, which is offered to the sinner who is sick in sin. She pours the dose of medicine into a spoon and holds it to the man's mouth. Here is the offer of the Gospel in evangelism. Now it is up to him to take the medicine and live, or refuse it and die. In other words, it is up to the man to receive Jesus and live or refuse Him and die.

The main problem with this illustration is that the man is still alive. He is affected by sin; he is sick in sin, but he is not dead in sin. In order to make this illustration fit Ephesians 2:1, it would be necessary to put the man in the hospital morgue. He is in one of the little refrigeration units with a toe tag. The nurse comes in with medicine (the Gospel) and stands by the dead man all day, but he doesn't take the medicine, because he is not alive. What he needs is a spiritual resurrection. He must move from a condition of being spiritually dead to being spiritually alive before he will be able to receive the medicine.

This is exactly the pattern set forth in Ephesians 2:1-5. After stating that man is spiritually dead and exhibits that lack of spiritual life in his sinful disposition and actions, verses 4 and 5 proclaim:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), Ephesians 2:4-5 NASB

Scripture declares that we were dead in sin, and God acts first to bring about a spiritual resurrection--making us alive in Christ. This represents the next step in the "Ordo Salutis" which is:

4. Calling

and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. Romans 8:30 NASB

This calling is an effectual calling, God calling dead men to life. This is regeneration, or a spiritual resurrection:

even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), Ephesians 2:5 NASB

Fallen man, in his natural state, lacks all power to commune with God, because man is spiritually dead. Apart from God giving life, man cannot even understand God. This little-understood truth is also taught in:

"For so the Lord has commanded us, 'I HAVE PLACED YOU AS A LIGHT FOR THE GENTILES, THAT YOU MAY BRING SALVATION TO THE END OF THE EARTH.'" When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. Acts 13:47-48 NASB

This is virtually identical to what Paul says in Romans 8:30. "Those whom he predestined he also called," means the same as, "As many as were (fore-)ordained to eternal life believed." Please notice that Paul's doctrine of predestination did not deter him at all from his missionary labor:

But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him; 38 that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke, "LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT? AND TO WHOM HAS THE ARM OF THE LORD BEEN REVEALED?" 39 For this cause they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, John 12:37-39 NASB

They did not believe, because they could not believe. Paul teaches this same thing in:

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 1 Corinthians 2:14 NASB

Notice carefully what this verse says. Natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God--the Gospel. Who is the natural man? The word "natural" comes from the Greek word psuchikos, the natural man is the man without the spirit of God.

God's effectual calling--regeneration, is absolutely necessary, because apart from it, man has no ability to understand or desire the things of God. Hodge says that regeneration is: "The instantaneous change from spiritual death to spiritual life. Regeneration, therefore, is a spiritual resurrection, the beginning of a new life." Thiesseen says: "Regeneration may be defined as the communication of divine life to the soul, as the impartation of a new nature, or heart and the production of a new creation."

There are many different views of regeneration within the Church. The Pelagian view says that regeneration is a moral transformation, a work of man. Most liberals today hold this view. It was condemned by the Church in 431 at the Counsel of Ephesus. Practically, the Pelagian says, "I can save myself by my works." Adam was the first Pelagian; he tried to cover his sin with fig leaves. God killed animals and clothed Adam and Eve with the skins to picture Christ's righteousness.

The Catholic view says that regeneration is accomplished by baptism, so it is a work of man through a divine ordinance. The Church of Christ also holds the view of baptismal regeneration. The Arminian view is called "semi-pelagianism": Regeneration is not exclusively God's or man's work--it is the fruit of man's choice to cooperate with the divine influences. They teach that the work of man, a decision to trust Christ, is prior to the work of God. This view is held by most evangelicals. They believe it was necessary for them, in an act of their own will, to cooperate with the grace found in the preaching of the Word.

Then there is the position that we hold here at Berean Bible Church, called the "Reformed view," which teaches that "regeneration is of the Lord"; God made us alive who were dead; God made us willing who were unwilling. Salvation from beginning to end is a work of God, according to the Reformed view.

This is not something taught by an isolated movement. Unconditional election is taught in some of the greatest of the Christian creeds. The Westminster Confession of Faith, the thirty-nine articles of the Anglican Church, the canons of the Synod of Dordt, the Belgic confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, these are standard confessional documents that the great mass of the orthodox have affirmed is their faith, and they teach the sovereignty of God in salvation.

In the "Ordo Salutis" we were physically born spiritually dead. Born in a state of death. Then at some point in our life God called us. This is an effectual call, it is a call from death to life. This effectual call--regeneration, is by grace with out means. In a supernatural act, God gives a person a new heart, and he is spiritually alive. Man is passive in the new birth; he does no more to produce his own birth than Lazarus did to produce his resurrection.

This calling of God, this spiritual birth, is effected without means. Most people think that the means of regeneration is the Word of God, or faith. But regeneration is a direct act of God upon the spirit of a man. Truth cannot be the means of regeneration, because before a man is regenerated, he is blind and cannot see the truth; deaf and cannot hear the truth; dead and cannot respond to the truth. Truth cannot be the means of the new birth when the natural man cannot receive the things of the Spirit as 1 Corinthians 2:14 teaches. The increase of light will not enable a blind man to see; the disease of the eye must first be cured. So must a man be regenerated by the Spirit before he can receive the truth. It is solely a work of the Spirit, and that's why we pray for the lost.

When God calls, we come! The call of God is irresistible:

"No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:44 NASB

We see here again the idea that no one can come to Christ unless God first calls that person to spiritual life. The Greek word for "draw" is helkuo. Strong says it means: "to drag." Kittle says it means: "to compel by irresistible superiority":

"All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. John 6:37 NASB

All those that the Father gives to Christ, come to Christ.

Too many think of salvation as that which begins with man's quest for God. They have no conception of a sovereign God giving life to a spiritually dead soul. In a word, they exhibit little or no grasp of a biblical order of salvation (Ordo Salutis). The emphasis in Scripture is not on what man does to appropriate the grace of God, but on what God does in applying it.

So far in the "Ordo Salutis" we have foreknowledge, predestination, state of death, effectual calling. What is next?

5. Faith

Faith is understanding and assent to the propositions of the Gospel. Let me just add here that a person must hear the Gospel before they can understand and assent to it. They cannot believe what they don't know. Faith is belief or trust in Christ and Christ alone for our salvation. Faith is the response of God's life giving call--regeneration, not the cause of it. Regeneration precedes faith. This is demonstrated in:

And a certain woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. Acts 16:14 NASB

God opened her heart--this is the effectual calling--regeneration, and she responded in faith. She could not have responded if she were dead.

So far in the "Ordo Salutis" we have foreknowledge, predestination, state of death, effectual calling, faith. What is next?

6. Justification or Salvation

And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household." Acts 16:31 NASB

When we believe in Christ, we are saved--justified. The Scriptures are clear that faith in Jesus Christ is the instrumental pre-condition of justification. For example:

nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified. Galatians 2:16 NASB

It would surely seem impossible to avoid the conclusion that salvation and justification are upon the event of faith, or through the instrumentality of faith. God justifies the ungodly who believe in Jesus; in a word, believers.

The logical sequence is that faith precedes justification. Many Scriptures state that faith is the response of our heart and mind to the divine call to believe in Christ (Acts 16:31; 1 Cor. 1:9). Therefore, faith should be positioned in the broad outline between calling and justification. Therefore, in the application of salvation, this gives us the logical sequence of: foreknowledge, election, state of death, calling, faith, justification.

We now have this order: foreknowledge, election, state of death, calling, faith, justification, adoption, sanctification, and finally:

7. Glorification

Roman 8:30 teaches that glorification is the last act in the application of salvation. Paul uses the past tense of glorified. But the transition saints were not yet glorified. So why does he use the past tense? Bruce suggested that perhaps Paul was imitating the Hebrew prophetic past tense in which a future event is spoken of as past because of the certainty of its coming. So certain and so effective was the redemptive action of Jesus Christ, God views glorification as final.

So what is glorification? One commentator writes: "Glorification is the culmination of Christ's redemptive work whereby all for whom He died are given resurrection bodies, fitted for eternity to live in the fully reordered and restored heaven and earth."

When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. Colossians 3:4 NASB

Believers, Christ has been revealed, and we have been glorified! Being "glorified" is essentially being delivered from the damage inflicted by sin, and being restored to the perfection of Adam's pre-fallen condition in the presence of God.

The First Testament presents the completion of the second exodus as a return to Eden:

Indeed, the LORD will comfort Zion; He will comfort all her waste places. And her wilderness He will make like Eden, And her desert like the garden of the LORD; Joy and gladness will be found in her, Thanksgiving and sound of a melody. Isaiah 51:3 NASB

The first century saints to whom Paul wrote were awaiting the redemption of the body and their glorification at the coming of Christ. This Ordo Salutis was a process for them. Since the return of Christ in A.D. 70, all who trust in Christ are justified and glorified the moment they trust Him. Believers, we are all glorified, we dwell in the presence of God.

What are the practical applications of understanding the order of salvation? A person's beliefs about salvation will have practical effects in all of his Christian activity. When he understands that salvation is God's work, he will not be so caught up in methods or programs for witnessing, because he knows that only the Holy Spirit can create new life.

Secondly, our understanding of the "Ordo Salutis" should give us a newfound commitment to pray for the lost. Since God is the One who saves, we need to pray that He would save the lost. God has decreed the means of salvation as well as the end, and among the means is prayer. God has elected certain people to be saved, but He has also decreed that they will be saved through the preaching of the Gospel, therefore, the Gospel is one of the appointed means for working out the eternal counsel of the Lord. According to the Bible, prayer is another means:

Brethren, my heart's desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. Romans 10:1 NASB

Paul prayed for Israel's salvation. The same man who wrote Romans 9, which teaches the sovereignty of God in salvation, also wrote Romans 10:1 where he speaks of his prayers for the lost. If God wasn't sovereign, there wouldn't be much sense in praying to Him. Paul asked God to do for people what they could not do for themselves.

Thirdly, an understanding of the "Ordo Salutis" should cause a deep attitude of gratefulness to God. We didn't deserve to be justified, because we deserve wrath, but God, in His love, reached out to us and made us alive. This is the Gospel. The Gospel is: "God saves sinners."

Apart from His work of giving spiritual life, no one would have ever sought Him, and everyone would die in his sins. A true understanding of the "Ordo Salutis" will humble us as nothing else can, and bring the heart into lowly submission and profound gratitude before God.

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