The Ordo Salutis

The Ordo Salutis

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“The Ordo Salutis
1. What is understood under the ordo salutis, the “order of salvation”?

The series of acts and steps in which the salvation obtained by Christ is subjectively appropriated by the elect. In Scripture σωτηρία, salus, has a double meaning, one more subjective and one more objective, according to whether it includes the act of saving or of being saved. In the first sense it naturally extends much farther than in the subjective appropriation of salvation. Christ is called σωτηρία not merely because He applies His merits but because He has likewise obtained them. His satisfaction was the principal act of salvation. In the second sense it is narrower in scope and in fact covers what one understands under the designation “soteriology.”

2. What is further contained in the term ordo salutis, “order of salvation”?

That the subjective application of the salvation obtained by Christ does not occur at once or arbitrarily. In the abstract, it would be possible for God to take hold of and relocate each one of the elect into the heaven of glory at a single point in time. He has His good reasons that He did not do this. There are a multiplicity of relationships and conditions to which all the operations of grace have a certain connection. If the change came about all at once, then not a single one of these would enter into the consciousness of the believer, but everything would be thrown together in a chaotic revolution. None of the acts or steps would throw light on the others; the base could not be distinguished from the top or the top from the base. The fullness of God’s works of grace and the rich variety of His acts of salvation would not be prized and appreciated.

The opposite of all this is true. There is order and regularity in the application of salvation as well as in every other area of creation. The acts and operations each have their own fixed place, from which they cannot be uprooted. They are connected to each other from what follows and from what precedes; they have their basis and their result. Consequently, the Scripture gives us an ordered sequence (e.g., Rom 8:28–30). At the same time, this order shows us that even in what is most subjective the purpose of God may not be limited to the satisfaction of the creature’s longing for blessedness. If this were so, then the order that is slow and in many respects tests the patience of the children of God would be lost. But here, too, God works first of all to glorify Himself according to the principles of an eternal order and an immanent propriety.

3. Does unanimity rule among the theologians in the identification of the different steps that belong to the order of salvation?

No, a great variety rules in sequence as well as in completeness. All do not enumerate the same steps. When they all have the same things, they are given in a different sequence. Different terms are used for one and the same thing.

4. Enumerate some points of difference that are important for proper differentiation.

a) An important point is the varying and unclear definition of the concept of regeneration. For many theologians the locus on regeneration is completely lacking, although many federalists are an exception here. At the same time these theologians do of course know of regeneration, and its specific character has not escaped them entirely.

1. Some identify “regeneration” (regeneratio) with “conversion” (conversio). This is quite customary with the dogmaticians of the 17th century. The Canons of Dort teach in chapters 3 and 4, article 11: “Furthermore, when God accomplishes His good pleasure in the elect or works true conversion in them … He not only powerfully illumines their mind by the Holy Spirit … but by the effective power of the same regenerating Spirit, He penetrates to the inmost parts of the man, opens the closed heart … infuses new qualities into the will, and makes the dead living … (article 12) and this is that—so often proclaimed in the Holy Scriptures—regeneration, new creation, resurrection from the dead and making alive, which God, without us, works in us.”1 Owen also expresses himself in a similar way.
Some, however, sought to avoid the lack of clarity that may originate from this usage by a more precise distinction between two kinds of conversion. So Turretin makes mention of a double conversio. The first is habitual and passive. It consists in producing a habit or disposition of the soul: “Habitual or passive conversion occurs through the infusion of supernatural habits by the Holy Spirit.” The second conversion is called active and effective conversion. It is the exercising in faith and repentance of the already implanted habitus: “Active or effective conversion occurs through the exercise of those good habits by which the acts of faith and of repentance are both given by God and elicited in man.” He then adds, however, that it is better to call the first kind of conversion “regeneration,” because it refers to the new birth by which man is renewed according to the image of his Maker, and to limit the term “conversion” to the second kind, since in it the activity of man is not excluded.

2. The majority by far summarize regeneration and conversion under the concept of internal calling. Wollebius says, “Particular calling is termed: (a) new creation, (b) regeneration, etc.” In the schools it is called (a) effectual election, (b) effectual calling, (c) internal calling. Accordingly, some speak first about calling, then about faith, then about conversion, so that calling apparently takes the place of regeneration (e.g., the Leiden Synopsis). Calling is often enough described as an implanting into Christ, a union with Christ, an indissoluble joining of the person of the elect with the person of the Mediator, all of them concepts that bring regeneration to mind clearly enough.

3. Others take the concept of regeneration in a very wide sense, as almost completely synonymous with sanctificatio, “sanctification,” and under that notion understand the entire process by which the old nature of man is transformed into a new nature resembling the image of God. Calvin says (Institutes, 3.3.9), “Therefore, in a word, I describe poenitentia [repentance] as regeneration, of which the goal is none other than that the image of God, defiled and nearly wiped out in us by the transgression of Adam, is restored in us.… And this restoration is not completed in one moment or in one day or one year; but with continual, yes, even slow steps God removes corruption from his elect.” Later we will see why this wider use of the term has a certain right.

b) Another important point that lacks clarity lies in the concept of calling. While for this concept some still have all the emphasis fall on the immediacy of the action and thus identify internal calling with regeneration, others hold to the obvious thought that calling already presupposes a life and the capacity to hear, and so must be distinguished from the initial begetting of life.

c) Also, the concept of poenitentia, “repentance,” is not always clearly distinguished. Sometimes this word is taken to mean long processes that accompany the whole of life here on earth, sometimes for instantaneous actions at a critical moment.”

As seen above, Calvin identifies poenitentia, regeneratio, sanctificatio.”
Vos, G. (2012–2016). Reformed Dogmatics. (R. B. Gaffin, Ed., A. Godbehere, R. van Ijken, D. van der Kraan, H. Boonstra, J. Pater, A. Janssen, … K. Batteau, Trans.) (Vol. 4, pp. 1–4). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.