Predestined, Called, Justified, Glorified
A Brief look at the Ordo Salutis
Pastor Dan posted an article last week talking about some of the practical out-flowings of sanctification in the Christian life. As I read, it stirred in me a desire to push a bit into the mystery of God's saving work. I also want to talk through some logical implications of the ordo salutis or "the order of salvation" which I think are extremely helpful when refining one's faith.
Grab a Bible and read through Romans 8 so you have some context for what we are jumping into.
Romans 8:30 "And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified." This is where we get, at least part of, the Ordo Salutis. First I want to explain these first 4 sections and then we can dive into the "mystery" that I was talking about.
Here in Romans 8 It plainly says that God has saved people in a certain order. First, He predestines them. We see this in a multitude of places, from the opening of almost all of Paul's letters, the the way Jesus prays for his people in John 17. According to God's eternal plan He has chosen for Himself a specific people to save and keep.
Second, He calls them. There are two types of calls that God gives, a general call and an effectual call. We see God's general call at work in the New Testament when John the Baptist starts to proclaim "Repent! for the kingdom of God is at hand!" Matthew 3:2. This is a call that everyone could hear but many would ignore. It was a call from God but it was not directed at any one person with specific intent. Next we see a series of effectual calls as Jesus begins calling His disciples to Himself. One by one He says "come, follow me." Even to a small greedy man swindling his own people Jesus would say “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” and what did Zacchaeus do? "he hurried and came down and received him joyfully." Luke 19:5–6
This same effectual call happens at some point in the life of every believer. If God "predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will," Ephesians 1:5 then he will, at some point in our life, call us out of our sins and by His grace we will come out. Praise God.
Third, He justifies us. This is an extremely simple thing to know but vastly impossible to comprehend. Simply, God has declared us righteous in His courtroom. No matter our status. What is to glorious and profound to understand is the feat that God had to go to to accomplish our justification. Being a just and holy God, He couldn't just pardon our sin, rather He had to satisfy it's penalty: Death. God saved us from the curse we brought on ourselves by becoming the curse Himself. Our justification is profoundly simple but the length at which God went to secure it is the most spectacular and intricate thing to ever happen.
Fourth, He glorifies us. This final point in God's order of salvation is one that will leave you with some questions. At face value, it makes sense: when Christ returns, He will bring us to live with Him forever in complete perfection. Our bodies will be glorified, our natures will be glorified, our desires, our love, our everything will be made to be absolutely without flaw. This glorification is one that will only ever be realized in our life to come. No amount of sanctification here on earth could produce a glorified person, and yet, Paul refers to us in this passage as "glorified". That's where we find some of the mystery.
Part 2 - The "mystery"
The immediate confusion that this passage sometimes brings has to do with the past-tense nature of the statements Paul makes. We are predestined, called, justified, glorified. Most of those make sense in their past tense forms, after all, God predestined us before the world was made and if we are believers today then that means at some point in the past He effectually called and justified us. But glorified? In the past? Paul doesn’t say that God is glorifying us or that one day we will be glorified but that in the same way that we have been predestined we have also been glorified.
Now obviously we are NOT currently glorified, but the passage isn't incorrect in phrasing it this way. This intentional phrasing is a boast in the efficacy and permanency of God's election. God "glorified" us, past tense, by predestining us for adoption. In other words it is not up to chance that God's people will be glorified. It is not possible for God to predestine, call and justify a person and then for that person not to be glorified.
Paul wraps up all these actions that God does for His elect and says in effect "If God has set His sights on you, it's a done deal". In fact he does say just that a couple verses prior:
"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:37-39
Through God, who set His love on us, through God who predestined and called and justified us, there is not a single thing that could steal away our glorification (our perfect and eternal enjoyment and worship of God Himself).
This mystery is not a mystery at all. The Holy Spirit through paul wanted to reassure believers that their glorification was, for all intents and purposes, completely secure.
Part 3 - Logical Implications
There is another facet to the passage that we are going through. Romans 8:29-30 paints for us a very "fly over" version of how God saves His people. But if we look at the rest of the new testament teachings, we are able to draw some conclusions about what God is doing in the space between each of the 4 events mentioned in verse 30.
Between predestination and calling we can insert God's specific and meticulous providence in your life. God is actively calling you, before he effectually calls you, by sending people into you life to prepare you for the gospel. By sending you trial after trial that pushes you closer and closer to Him. By sustaining your breath while you eat and sleep and work. God is active in every moment in your life leading up to his effectual call in you life. He predestined you, he providentially prepared you, and then he called you.
Between calling and justification we can insert your regeneration, your repentance and your faith. after God effectually called you there was an instant where all these things happened almost inseparably yet, nonetheless, in this order.
God, with his call, quickened or regenerated our hearts (Ep. 2:5), removing the past blindness causing us to see Jesus for who He is. Then we immediately and willingly responded with complete sorrow and regret for our sin that we newly realize is absolute insanity in light of this perfect savior. Then The Spirit gifts us with faith (Ep 2:8), turning our eyes from the shame and guilt of our sin and upward toward the finished work of Jesus. At this moment you have trusted in Christ for your salvation, you have renounced your sin and God is then pleased to look on you in complete satisfaction. You are Justified.
Justified here does not simply refer to you being forgiven of your sins. If this were the case you would still need to perform some sort of righteousness to measure up to the standard of God (you can't do that). This is why, at the exact moment you are justified, or cleared of any debt you owe because of your sin, you are also imputed with the righteousness of Jesus Himself.
Now not only has your record been cleared of any sin past present or future, but you have also been given a foreign righteousness that can never be taken away (Phil 3:8-11).
The next thing that takes place between your justification and glorification is your adoption into the family of God (Eph 1:4-5) (Rom 8:15). Not only are we free from sin and counted righteous in Christ, but now we have a familial inheritance as sons and daughters of God. The almighty creator and sustainer of the universe is not only our champion and savior but our "Abba! Father!".
Saints, how much more glorious could this get?
In an instant we go from treasonous rebels to justified sons of the same one we just profaned.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. Romans 5:6-10
"Much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God"... That brings us to sanctification and preservation. Now that God has predestined, called, regenerated, justified and adopted us He will, without a doubt, preserve us "'Till He returns or calls me home".
In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6
Our God has not called us in vain. He will not disown His children. If one of His children were to fall from salvation this would mean that Christs atonement was faulty or insufficient to count them as righteous. This is borderline blasphemy.
Christ has secured us with His own blood! Our inheritance as sons has been sealed by the third person of the Godhead! Our eternity was ordained by the creator of time Himself! How foolish, how nieve we would be to think that this God we serve would allow us to fall from His grasp. He will preserve those whom He has justified.
During his preservation of us on this earth, God, through the leading of The Spirit and the function of the local church, will progressively sanctify us. Sanctification and preservation happen alongside each other until we are glorified. Our sanctification will never be complete here on earth as we struggle against our indwelling sin and the pressing temptation around us. But, as we become more and more "conformed to the image of Jesus" (Rom 8:29), sin will be easier to reject and Christ will be sweeter to savor.
Both sanctification and preservation are logical products of the Spirits active work in our life. They are the necessary fruits in the believer's life that must be present to assume a genuine faith. If a professing Christian denies Christ on his deathbed then that man has proven by his bad fruit that he was not truly converted. If a professing Christian spirals deeper and deeper into sin without any signs of repentance, if they reject the guidance of their church and refuse to acknowledge their wrongs then they have proven that they do not truly belong to God despite their profession.
Just as we look to a person's works as evidence of their faith, we look to a person's progressive sanctification and final preservation as an evidence of true Justification.
Go back and read through Romans 8 and marvel at all that God has accomplished and has promised to accomplish for His people.
Spend some time learning about these theological distinctions. The more you understand who God is and how He has worked in your life, the more you will begin to praise Him, the more you will want to tell others about Him. Knowing God is the single most important thing you can do.
I would love to talk through any thoughts you might have on this subject, always feel free to reach out!
For the Church,
Quicken - To make alive
Imputed Righteousness - God credits to you account all the righteousness of Jesus as if we actually yours. You don't earn it or accept it, God declares it to be true as a direct implication of your justification.
Sanctification - The process of being made more and more holy.
Here's a shirt we had made to highlight this verse!