What is the ordo salutis?

In 1955, John Murray published his landmark book, Redemption Accomplished and Applied. In this work, he describes for us the way in which God brings salvation to sinners.

In the first part, “Redemption Accomplished,” Murray expounds on the atonement that Christ has supplied through his perfect life, substitutionary death, and validating resurrection. In this section, the necessity, nature, perfection, and extent of the atonement are discussed. This touches on matters related to what Christ did for us in the past.

In Part 2, “Redemption Applied,” the book turns its attention to the application of salvation to an individual. Here we see the oft-repeated process of God saving an undeserving sinner.

There is an order to this process, and we sometimes call this the ordo salutis, or “order of salvation.” Now, Murray was not the first to utilize the term, but he presents a cogent explanation of the traditional Reformed version of the ordo.

Before I delineate the various steps in the Reformed ordo salutis, let me first say that by setting forth a sequence of realities, it doesn’t always mean a chronological sequence in time, but rather a logical sequence. There is an element of mystery here in the salvation of an individual. For example, when exactly does regeneration take place, happening as it does in the unconscious realm of the person? Is it accompanied simultaneously by faith, or can it occur some time prior? Regardless, it is a defining feature of the Reformed order of salvation that regeneration precedes faith, certainly logically if not chronologically.

The generally accepted version of the Reformed ordo salutis is as follows:

Election / Calling / Regeneration / Conversion (faith and repentance) / Justification / Adoption / Sanctification / Perseverance / Glorification

Among various Reformed theologians, there may be variances in their delineation of the order of salvation. Some may distinguish between Election and Predestination. Others don’t include Election in the order proper, but consign it to an underpinning role of assumption behind the actual order as it is accomplished in time.

Biblical justification for an ordo salutis is found (among other places) in Romans 8:29-30: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” We can infer from other Scriptures that in between God’s calling and God’s justifying, there are other aspects, notably regeneration and faith (or conversion). We also know that after justification and before we experience the glorification that we eagerly await (Rom. 8:23), there’s a lifetime of sanctification and perseverance that we must experience. Yet the glorification that is our hope is so certain that Romans 8:30 describes it in the past tense as having been already accomplished – “Those whom he justified he also glorified.”

“Living in the salvation of Christ” is the motto, if you will, of this site. It is the idea that as a believer in Christ, united to Jesus Christ in his death and resurrection, I am in the midst of my personal experience of the ordo salutis. I can point back to a time when I was drawn to faith in Christ and called by the proclamation of the gospel (1 Cor. 1:2). I can say with confidence, that based on the promises of that gospel, having believed in Christ, I am justified and no longer under a sentence of condemnation (Rom. 3:21-26; 8:1). I have been given the right to be a child of God, adopted into sonship (John 1:12). I am now working out my salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in me to pursue the holiness without which I will not see the Lord (Phil. 12-13; Heb. 12:14). I am diligent to confirm my election and calling, not by endlessly “prying into the secret things of God” (Synod of Dordt), but by pursuing godly qualities that are the fruit of God’s work in me.

I write to encourage fellow sojourners in the faith that we share in Christ Jesus. As you live in the salvation of Christ, may you be richly equipped to a life that brings glory to Christ alone. Amen.

Next: A simple definition of each aspect of the ordo salutis.

2 responses to “What is the ordo salutis?”

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