Why the “Ordo Solutis” is a Critical Doctrine to Understand

Posted on October 18, 2017 in Theology by

Sitting in a churchIf someone asked you what the steps to being saved were, would you be able to answer the question?

The “Romans Road.”

The “Sinners Prayer.”

A lot of different methods have been used to teach people the steps of salvation. It Is reasoned that if people have a quick, easy, catchy way of remembering these steps that they will be able to use them if they are asked about being saved. The intent is good, but it’s also lacking. There is a distinct lack of doctrine and theological underpinning in many of these methods. In the end, I’m afraid most people have little to no understanding of the process of salvation and how critical each step is to that process.

The “Order of Salvation,” or, “ordo solutis” as it is referred to (a latin phrase simply meaning “order of salvation”) is the step by step process by which salvation occurs. Dr. Derek Thomas, writing at Monergism.com, shared the definition of ordo solutis used by Louis Berkhof:

“The ordo salutis describes the process by which the work of salvation, wrought in Christ, is subjectively realized in the hearts and lives of sinners. It aims at describing in their logical order, and also in their interrelations, the various movements of the Holy Spirit in the application of the work of redemption.”

As this definition makes clear, it aims to describe “in logical order” all that takes place when a person is saved. However, we should not understand this to mean that this is some sort of checklist that can be formatted and checked off. Rather, this is a “logical order” that helps us to understand what happens at once as a person is saved. Salvation is a single act containing numerous parts all working in concert with one another to effect a single outcome.

A proper understanding of this order is important to our ability to clearly communicate the Gospel to others. If we don’t have a proper understanding of how a person is saved, we are in danger of relaying a “method” which could possibly produce a false convert and a false assurance of salvation. This is particularly true, in my opinion, of how we communicate the Gospel to children.

One popular notion of salvation holds the order to be: Faith, Repentance, Regeneration.

The biblical order of salvation, however, is: Regeneration, Repentance, Faith.

First, let’s be clear that this is not the full “ordo solutis,” but we will discuss that in a moment.

Second, let’s discuss the subtle yet eternally important differences between these two “orders.” (Click here for a comparison of three different ordo solutis’s.)

The first order says that a person, of their own volition (though through the preaching of the Gospel), decides to have faith in Christ. This faith that a person decides to exercise is the catalyst for the entire salvation process. Once a person decides for him/herself to exercise this faith, repentance and regeneration follow and the salvation process commences and is completed.

The problem with this view is that it is inconsistent with biblical teaching. The Bible tells us that faith is a gift from God Eph. 2:8). We can’t simply have faith on our own, that would be a work, we would be adding to our own salvation. But the Bible clearly teaches us that salvation is a work entirely up to God and that we have no part in it; this includes the faith needed to be saved. Furthermore, we learn from Romans 8:7-8 that while we are in sin we have no heart for God, no interest in Christ, and no ability to even seek the things of God. (Click here for a short article further explaining this biblical teaching.)

We can quickly see that we have no ability to “have faith” unless it is first given to us by God. Faith in the finished work of Christ can only come with a change of heart. Our heart is so sinful that unless it is changed, literally born again (regeneration), we cannot repent. This leads us to the second “order.”

In the second “order” above we see that God, through the work of the Holy Spirit first regenerates us. We are given a new heart, a heart that has the ability to understand the things of God and seek Christ. This results in our desire to repent of our sins. Once we understand the work of Christ on the cross and our need for forgiveness, we desire to repent for our sins; the sins that put Christ on the cross and made us God’s enemy. After our heart is regenerated (born again) and we repent of our sins we are given the faith (God’s gift) we need to believe in the finished work of Christ both today and each day thereafter.

In Roman’s 8:29-30 we have a clear “ordo solutis” as recored by the Apostle Paul. He write of “foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, and glorification.” In later years “sanctification” was added as a clear principle found in the biblical understanding of Christian life. With this in mind the modern ordo solutis is as follows:C

Calling, regeneration, repentance/faith, justification, adoption, sanctification, glorification.

When we realize that faith is a gift of God and not dependent on us, the methods we use, or our feeble attempts to share the Gospel, we can be confident that it is God, not us,, that brings about salvation. This is what modern evangelism methods miss. God doesn’t need tricks, gimmicks, or clever words to save. Our responsibility is simply to share the Gospel in a clear manner and allow the Holy Spirt to perform His saving work.

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