Here it is. Lord’s blessings!
“Our Glorious Redemption: Introduction”
My practice in preaching has been to jump back and forth between an Old Testament book and a New Testament book. But in between I usually insert a shorter, topical series. As you know, we just finished our series on the Book of Joshua. Before we start a new series in the New Testament, I decided to do a topical series called “Our Glorious Redemption.” We will be going through what we call “ordo salutis” (the order of salvation). As the name indicates, this outlines the progression of our salvation from the beginning to the end.
This is not some random theological idea that theologians came up with because they were bored. It is a biblical idea. We have a sample of this in today’s passage: “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” (vv. 29-30). Not all the elements of ordo salutis are mentioned here, but by studying the relevant passages, our ordo salutis comes out to be: effectual calling, regeneration, conversion, justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification. In the coming weeks, we will look at each of them.
Why is it important to study ordo salutis? When we go somewhere, especially to a place we are not familiar with, it’s good to have a map. I know that these days we can just use Google Maps or Waze to give us directions every step of the way. It’s very convenient, especially for people like me, who is not gifted with a sense of direction. Going by a map requires much more work from us. But one thing that is beneficial about the map is that we get a bird’s eye view of where we are going, a bearing of where everything is, not just what we have to do at the moment to get to our destination. We can say, then, that ordo salutis is like the map of our salvation. I believe it’s helpful to have this map firmly impressed in our minds and hearts so we know where we are going and how to get there. But before we do that starting next week, we want to lay down some foundation.
First, I’d like to alert you to the fact that in Christianity we also have historia salutis (the history of salvation) in addition to ordo salutis (the order of salvation). John Murray summarized the relationship between the two in his book, Redemption Accomplished and Applied. Redemption accomplished is the history of salvation. Redemption applied is the order of salvation. I’d like to talk about why having both is important, and why we can’t just have one or the other.
By historia salutis we do not mean the entire period of human history (since the Fall) in which God saves His people. Rather, it refers to a specific period within it, in which God accomplishes His work of redemption, culminating in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In other words, it is the historical period covered in the Bible, ending with the Apostles’ witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
But why should the history of redemption be divided into the Old Testament and the New Testament as we see in the Bible? They are not called such simply because one comes after another in their chronological order. That is true but only partially so. There is a qualitative difference between the two as well. We can say that the Old Testament is like the storyboard of a movie in sketches and the New Testament is like the full movie. Another analogy that is frequently used is that the Old Testament is like a signpost and the New Testament is like the thing that it points to, or the blueprint of a building and the building that is fully constructed according to the blueprint. In the Old Testament God uses types, shadows, promises, prophecies, etc. to teach His people how He will save His people through a Savior and thus prepare them for that Savior.
This points to the fact that God has had one plan of redemption from the very beginning. The sacrificial system and the Law of Moses were not given as different means of forgiveness and salvation. They had obvious limitations: the sacrificial system could not bring about true, lasting forgiveness; the law could not enable God’s people to live a holy life. Their role was to point away from themselves to the true Lamb of God, who alone can take away the sin of the world; to the second Adam, who alone can delight God with His life of perfect righteousness. So, testifying to Jesus, Peter boldly declared to the Sanhedrin Council, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts4:12). John also says in Rev. 13:8, “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship [the beast], whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (KJV). Isn’t it fascinating? The Lamb of God is said to be slain from the foundation of the world because that’s when His death for our salvation was decreed by God’s infallible, immutable, unstoppable, unalterable, sovereign will!
As you can see, God does not save us immediately all throughout history. I’m using the term, immediately, in its older, theological sense–as the opposite of mediately. God doesn’t save us immediately–that is, without a Mediator; God saves us mediately–that is, through a Mediator or a Savior. And that Savior, Jesus Christ, accomplished our salvation once for all in His life, death and resurrection. And that salvation is individually applied to us by the Holy Spirit working through God’s Word.
Why does God save us this way–through a Savior? It’s not simply because we could not save ourselves. Many wonder why God could not simply pardon us as our Presidents do with their presidential pardons or as Allah does according to Islam. This is because God is “simple” in the theological sense of the word. This doctrine of “the simplicity of God” tells us that even though God is made up of many attributes (characteristics), God is not the sum total of these attributes, each of them making up a portion of His being: rather, God is 100% of each of His attributes: He is 100% just, 100% merciful, 100% faithful, and 100% holy. He is this way because He is infinite in His being. What that means is that God cannot violate any of His attributes.
You see, even in graciously pardoning our sin, God’s justice must be satisfied and not be ignored. His grace must be a righteousgrace. So the penalty of our sin must be paid for forgiveness. The rightful demand of God’s law must be met. Since we ourselves cannot do this, we need a Savior to do this for us. And our Savior must accomplish our salvation once and for all by His one-time life, death and resurrection. For the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23) and He cannot be expected to die again and again and again, every time we sin! And Jesus our Savior doesn’t have to die over and over because He is of infinite value as the Second Person of the Trinity.
I hope you see how important it is for us to know and be acquainted with historia salutis. It is the foundation, or the basis, of our salvation. That is why God prepared and gave us the entire Bible as the official record of historia salutis!
But historia salutis is not all there is to our salvation. The foundation does not exist for itself; it’s there to have a structure built upon it. And this is where ordo salutis comes in. Ordo salutis is what builds us up on this solid Foundation. It does so by connecting us to the benefits of historia salutis. Ordo salutis is what makes us aware, experience and enjoy the salvation Jesus accomplished for us. How tragic it would be for someone to win the lottery for 500 million dollars and not cash it! (Not that winning the lottery is a good thing.) In historia salutis we have something far greater than winning a 500 million-dollar lottery. It is not something we learn and know about so we can take a history test and get a good grade. It is of greatest significance for this life and the life to come.
The relationship between historia salutis and ordo salutis is crucial to our salvation. God’s plan for our redemption is not justredemptive in character and purpose (i.e., to be delivered from hell and spared from our punishment); it is also transformative(i.e., to be changed from a sinner to a saint). In fact, it is truly redemptive because it is transformative. What is ordo salutis in essence? It is the process by which a hell-deserving sinner is made into a God-loving, law-delighting saint, glorified and perfected in the image of God.
Think about how crucial this redemptive transformation is in salvation. What does it profit a sinner to make it to heaven if his wicked heart is not changed? As someone said, if that were to happen, there would be two hells–the hell reserved for Satan and unrepentant sinners and the heaven in which the sinner finds himself. How intolerable would heaven be for the sinner who hates God to have to obey and delight in Him! No, heaven will not be heaven unless we are made good, holy, and righteous in our whole being, loving the Lord of heaven with all of our heart! And this is what ordo salutis is about.
I also need to point out that ordo salutis is not a mechanical process in which different, unrelated parts are joined together to make something–a car, for example. Ordo salutis is an organic process. Each element is from the same source, a part of the same organism, so to speak. As we will see in the coming weeks, each element in ordo salutis is a different aspect of our union with Christ. To put it differently, each and every element of ordo salutis is found “in Christ.” In fact, each element of ordo salutis is grounded in what Jesus accomplished for us in His redemptive work.
We are effectually called in Jesus Christ who was called as our Savior. We are regenerated in Jesus Christ–that is, born of the Spirit–because Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. We are converted by faith and repentance in Jesus Christ because He set us free from the punishment of sin as well as from the power of sin. We are justified by faith in Jesus Christ because He was justified by His works. We are adopted as God’s children in Jesus Christ because He is declared the Son of God by His resurrection (Rom. 1:4)–as the Redeemer-Son of God, not just as the Creator-and-Sustainer-Son of God. We are sanctified in Jesus Christ who set Himself apart wholly to do the work of God. We are glorified in Jesus Christ because He ascended into heaven and is now seated at the right hand of God in glory.
Do you see how we need Christ in every aspect of our salvation? This is why Paul speaks of being in Christ and doing everything in Christ. It is not that Christ helps us from the outside to do what we cannot do because He is almighty in power. That’s true but there is so much more. You see, Christ has already accomplished our salvation, every aspect of it! When we put our faith in Jesus Christ, we don’t just get a second chance at life to try harder and make it better this time around. If that were the case, we would fail again and we will need a third, fourth, fifth chance and on and on! Even ten thousand new chances would not be enough for us to get our act together as long as we live in this world. No, when we put our faith in Jesus Christ, we are allowed to participate and share in every spiritual blessing Christ has earned on our behalf–His atonement for our sin, His righteousness for God’s favor, His justification, His sonship to God, His inheritance, His sanctification, His glorification, His resurrection, and His eternal life and everlasting joy! We don’t have to earn this on our own–we can’t do it! We just need to receive it by faith, both passively and actively. This is why the Bible describes our salvation as being grafted to Christ, the true Vine! This is why we are said to be members of the body of Christ!
Jesus Christ came as our covenant Representative, as our Substitute. He lived in our place to do on our behalf all that God requires of us. He was crucified in our place to pay the penalty of our sin and die our death. He rose again from the dead as our Future! You see, historia salutis is in essence Jesus living as we ought to have lived and dying as we should have died and rising again from the dead as we shall because of His life and death. And ordo salutis is us living in union with Christ and enjoying all the benefits of Christ’s redeeming work in historia salutis, in which He lived out our ordo salutis.
There is one more observation I’d like to share with you: ordo salutis is an unbreakable chain: “those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (v. 30). From God’s eternal decree in effectually calling you to your glorification on the Final Day, our order of salvation cannot be broken. Once it is set in motion, which took place in the sovereign will of God before the foundation of the world, it cannot stop. This is ultimately because our salvation is the work of God. It cannot be a cooperation between God and us–50% God’s work and 50% our work. Someone said that even if our responsibility were 0.0000001% and even less, there won’t be any salvation for us because we will fail to meet our end of the bargain, however small that may be. And precisely because it is 100% work of God, our salvation cannot fail and ordo salutis cannot be broken, ever! With His sovereign will and almighty power and infinite wisdom, God will see it through that each and every one of the elect people will be glorified in the end.
As I said at the beginning, the title of this series is “Our Glorious Redemption.” Why is it so glorious? Because it brings us forgiveness? Because it delivers us from hell? Because it gives us a sense of peace and purpose for our life? Because it gives us a sense of community with other believers? There is no doubt that these are all wonderful benefits of our redemption. But they are merely secondary, side benefits. From what we’ve observed, our redemption is glorious because it is in essence our covenantal and mystical union with Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the triune God, as members of His body. It is glorious because it is the work of God–indeed, the most glorious work of God, which far transcends His work of creation in glory. In this regard, just think about what He did. For creation, He only had to speak and everything came into being. For our redemption, He had to sacrifice His only begotten Son. Which work would God think was more glorious and valuable?
We don’t know what the final product of God’s salvation will be like. We have no idea how good our eternal life in heaven will be. Paul, who had the privilege of catching a glimpse of it (2 Cor. 12), said that all the afflictions he suffered in this world were light and temporary in comparison to the eternal weight of glory. Think about how much he suffered for the sake of the gospel. How many times he was thrown into prison, how many times he was scourged, how many times he was shipwrecked and had to spend many days and nights in the raging sea. He said that they were light and temporary! So, even when God did not answer his three-time prayer for his thorn in the flesh to be removed, he could accept it and remain content. In fact, he gloried in his weakness: “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12:9).
I hope those words bring comfort and encourage to those of you who are going through a period of long, heavy trials. May you gain from them not only the strength to endure but also to rejoice in the midst of them as Paul did. For the gospel of Jesus Christ, which gave him the strength to do so, is the same gospel by which we are saved! And I hope that these same words will also humble those who find themselves on the mountaintop of success and security. As the afflictions of this world are light and temporary, so are the possessions and power and position and prestige of the world light and temporary in comparison to the weight of glory that awaits God’s people. May you put your hope and trust in the glory of your redemption in Jesus Christ and be diligent to lay up your treasures in heaven by serving those around you by sharing the gifts God has given to you! May the Lord richly bless us as we meditate upon our glorious redemption in Jesus Christ!
© Copyright 2017 by Jeong Woo “James” Lee
All Rights Reserved.