1) Our aim is to glorify God in every word, deed, thought, and action. In every realm of life, we are to seek to bring glory to God, in public, in private, in abundant times and times of want, in blessing and trial.
2) No believer in Christ wants to take credit for their salvation, their growth in Christ, or any other thing in the Christian life as grounds for boasting before God, at any point at all.
Can I get an amen from everyone who loves Christ from every front at this point? Amen, to the glory of God!
Question: Which theological understanding of the order of the salvation process, from beginning to end, brings all glory to God at every point in the process? A system where God does 99% of the work, and you add your 1% of faith, coming from your unregenerate human nature, in bondage to sin? Or a system in which God does all the work in bringing you from death to life, gives you the faith Himself (taking out your heart of stone, putting in a heart of flesh, Ezekiel 36:24-27), and thus you have Him and Him only to thank for why you are saved? Which system galvanizes you from the inside-out, in tearful gratitude toward God as to why you are saved and another is not and left to pursue their sin in hardened unbelief, the very thing that should have happened to you? I would argue the latter of the two systems, because the former gives you grounds to boast for why you are saved and another is not: namely your faith that you produced. But there will be no boasting before the throne of God when we stand before His judgment seat on the last day. So which theological understanding exalts the work of God to save us and puts man in his proper place as a begging sinner before the throne of God, unable to give anything to God from himself that is of value (including self-wrought/(righteous) faith)?
Here is the (modern day) Arminian Ordo Salutis (the predominant understanding of the salvation process in Western Evangelical Christianity today, which is the cause of so much stagnation and lack of passion in the church in my estimation):
1) outward call (gospel preaching and witnessing) 2) faith (which is the basis for) election, 3) repentance, 4) regeneration, 5) justification, 6) perseverance, 7) glorification.
So starting with evangelism, the sinner that will be saved hears the Gospel (evangelism, witnessing, preaching), to which his response is faith (something done within himself without the help of God, i.e. free will – politically correct code word for self-determination in my estimation), faith is the basis for God’s eternal election (conditional election, i.e. I’ll choose you IF you do this??), to which there is then a response of repentance from sin, which in turn produces the new birth (or regeneration), then through faith he is justified, then throughout the life of the believer they persevere in that faith, and then upon death, are glorified (i.e. made completely perfect in the presence of Christ).
This ordo salutis assumes some things about the nature of man that are not taught in the Scriptures, while in fact, the opposite is taught. It assumes there is a small island of righteousness and goodness (in God’s eyes) within the naturally dead, sinful man, whereby he is able to make himself spiritually see the eternal value of Christ, make himself inwardly hear the calls of Christ to salvation, make himself no longer see the cross as foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18), awaken his dead soul to life from death (the opposite of how Lazarus was raised from the dead by Christ, excellent analogy of salvation), break the chains of sin and the devil that have kept his mind, will, and heart in bondage, and then cast all his cares and trust upon the risen Lord for salvation. 2) It assumes man has the natural capacity in himself, outside of a work of God by the Holy Spirit, to produce the necessary faith. 3) It assumes man’s will is in no way governed by God’s sovereign hand.
I cannot for the life of me see how God gets all the credit for really any step of a persons’ salvation in this scheme. To be fair, indeed, most of the credit is given to Christ, but certainly not all. The sinners got themselves in the door, which is Christ. What did God do to get them in for sure? Nothing, other than provide a potential sacrifice that they themselves have to get the benefits of by bringing themselves up from the spiritual grave. They make their spiritually deaf ears hear the Gospel and spiritually awaken their minds to understand it, they make their blind eyes see, they create life in themselves apart from God and His work. Sounds like self-determination to me. “God voted for me, Satan voted against me, I cast the deciding vote.” In other words, “I’m in control of my own destiny.” Who gets the glory, ultimately for why I am saved in this? I do. What is the ultimate reason a person is saved in this understanding? The person choosing Christ, not God freeing them from utter spiritual death and rebellion in their heart of hearts, making them alive together with Christ from the inside out in order that they cannot help but choose Christ. “While we were yet sinners,” rebellious, obstinate, wretched, spiritually dead corpses, under the sentence of condemnation (i.e. Romans 3:10-18, John 3:36), “Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8) and “made us alive together with Him” (Colossians 2:13-14).
Now here is the Reformed Ordo Salutis:
1) election, 2) predestination, 3) gospel call (evangelism), 4) inward call (Holy Spirit calling), 5) regeneration (the New birth), which gives rise to 6) conversion (faith & repentance), 7) justification, 8) sanctification, and 9) glorification. We get this from Romans 8:29-30, or the Golden Chain of Salvation. Paul doesn’t give every step as articulated above in these verses, but based on other passages he writes in the same letter, it is clear these fit where they do in his thinking.
Let’s look at 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.”
So, here goes the Reformed understanding of this verse and thus the Reformed ordo salutis (which I believe with deep conviction is the Biblical view). Salvation begins with 1) the foreknowledge of God (not of facts about people-namely faith or no faith-but people themselves (“Those whom He foreknew“; the Biblical word “know” is a word of intimacy unlike our petty, modern day word “know”) or in other words God’s forelove of particular persons’ is the foundation of all the blessings of salvation (election); next, He predestines those persons whom He foreloved from all eternity (intimately chose) to salvation that He will accomplish on their behalf through the cross of His Son; then in due time, through the outward calling of the preacher or evangelist, preaching the Gospel from the Word (Romans 10:14-17), He sends forth the Holy Spirit to inwardly call (regenerate, convert) those whom He has chosen from all eternity (Acts 13:48, Acts 16:14); then He justifies them through their faith (Romans 5:1-2) that only arose out of their regeneration/conversion (their faith was a gift from God, by grace, Ephesians 2:8-9); over the course of their lives, though they fall into sin and stumble, God, by the power of the cross, applied by the Holy Spirit, sanctifies them and increasingly conforms them to the image of His Son; then finally, He glorifies them in Christ at death instantly, making them perfect in His sight.
This ordo salutis assumes some things about the nature of man as well as the former. However, these can be found in the Scriptures whereas the former ordo salutis presuppositions cannot (and quoting “whosoever will” verses does not solve the problem; of course “whosoever will” will be saved, but the question is why did they will what they willed?). First, man is naturally a slave of sin (Romans 6:17), doing the will of the devil (Ephesians 2:1-3), unable to submit (i.e. will, obey) to anything good because of his natural corruption (Romans 8:7-8); he is a servant of his sinful nature, opposed to God, and under the sentence of wrath (John 3:36). The cross is regarded as foolishness or a stumbling block (1 Corinthians 1:22-24) to the natural man, apart from the regenerating work of God to supernaturally give eyes to see, ears to hear, being brought from death to life and come to Christ. There is no one who seeks for the true God (Romans 3:11). The only god that can be successfully sought by the carnal, natural man is an idol made in his own image (thus all the many many false religions), (Romans 1:18-25). In God’s eyes (not man’s), the only intentions of the natural man’s heart is only evil continually (Genesis 6:5).
I want to sum up with this last verse. “But THANKS BE TO GOD, that you who were once slaves of sin HAVE BECOME OBEDIENT FROM THE HEART to the standard of teaching to which you were committed.” (Romans 6:17, Emphasis mine) Thanks be to God for what? That we have become obedient from the heart! Where did that obedience come from and why are you thanking God for it? Because He did that in you, it was He that worked that into you by the work of the cross! He made you obedient from the heart to the Gospel! God gets all the glory for every step of salvation. And the Reformed ordo salutis Scripturally and logically shows this to be the case. Thank God, not yourself, that you became obedient from the heart to the Gospel, because if He had left you in your naturally sinful, hell-bound state, you would have stayed there for sure, just as I and all believers would have, had God not intervened.
So why is the ordo salutis important to the believer? Because, practically speaking, once you see yourself as not just having hooked your arm around a life-preserver while your were drowning, but rather that He came in great supernatural power and brought you up to life from rotting death at the bottom of the sea, you cannot help but be overwhelmed with joy at what lengths Christ went to on the cross in order to rescue you from certain eternal torment. The cross not only made salvation possible, but even effected faith in those who believe. It comes down to these fundamental beliefs in the ordo salutis about how the Gospel saves you that drives the way you act, think, behave, all to the glory of God (or not, which is sin). If in the slightest way you think that you do anything to merit God’s favor, you will become self-righteous in one form or another or self-loathing for not measuring up to the perfect standard. This is why Martin Luther considered his most important work to be on the Bondage of the Will. But if the whole work depends on God’s doing something in you to produce things that are pleasing to Him, then all you can do is just shut your mouth (or weep for joy in praise) in reverential awe at why He chose to save you and work in you His holy, perfect and pleasing will. No one wants to take credit for their salvation. Reformed Theology merely backs this up with clear thinking from the Scriptures that plants us firmly in a sovereign Savior who does not just take a back seat to see what our sinful, wavering wills would do, wringing His hands in anticipation, but who makes salvation actual in His people.
All of this is not in any way to say we think we, as Reformed people, have it all figured out, because we all see through a mirror dimly. Mystery abounds! We are not attempting to solve the mysteries, merely pointing them out. But I believe this is the clearest articulation of the process of salvation from Scripture, so as to give God all the glory at every point of salvation.
These quotes really bring this home:
“Whilst a man is persuaded that he has it in his power to contribute anything, be it ever so little, to his salvation, he remains in carnal self-confidence; he is not a self-despairer, and therefore is not duly humbled before God, he believes he may lend a helping hand in his salvation, but on the contrary, whoever is truly convinced that the whole work depends singly on the will of God, such a person renounces his own will and strength; he waits and prays for the operation of God, nor waits and prays in vain.” – Martin Luther
“I believe that by my own reason or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in true faith.” – Martin Luther
“The thought struck me, How did you come to be a Christian? I sought the Lord. But how did you come to seek the Lord? The truth flashed across my mind in a moment—I should not have sought Him unless there had been some previous influence in my mind to make me seek Him. I prayed, thought I, but then I asked myself, How came I to pray? I was induced to pray by reading the Scriptures. How came I to read the Scriptures? I did read them, but what led me to do so? Then, in a moment, I saw that God was at the bottom of it all, and that He was the Author of my faith, and so the whole doctrine of grace opened up to me, and from that doctrine I have not departed to this day, and I desire to make this my constant confession, ‘I ascribe my change wholly to God.'” – C.H. Spurgeon
Here are some other links to things pertaining to this: