And those whom he predestined he also called,
and those whom he called he also justified,
and those whom he justified he also glorified.
— Romans 8:30 —
Last Sunday I preached a sermon with lots of big but important words. In two verses (Romans 3:24–25), Paul uses justification, redemption, and propitiation to speak of the saving work of God in Christ’s death and resurrection. Tomorrow, I will add to that list a number of other big words as our men’s group discusses John Murray’s Redemption Accomplished and Applied. In Part 2 of his book, Murray outlines the order of salvation (ordo salutis) starting with regeneration and ending with glorification. Added to this list we could describe God’s eternal plans for salvation in things like predestination, election, and adoption.
All in all, there are a lot of -ion words that Christians (at least English speaking Christian) need to grasp in order to understand their salvation. To be clear, salvation does not depend upon knowing how it works. We can fly on a plane without understanding aerodynamics. Just the same, we can be saved by faith in Christ, without understanding everything about it. There are many, indeed all of us, who possess wrong ideas about salvation who are still saved. So great is God’s grace.
Nevertheless, for those who delight in God and his salvation, we are urged (Ps. 111:2), even commanded (Matt. 28:19), to grow in a knowledge of our salvation (2 Pet. 3:18). And to that end, I share the following selection of definitions that start in eternity past, move to eternity future, and cover a basic pattern of salvation that is true for all those whom God has saved, is saving, and will save. I hope they will serve you as you study the Scriptures and work out your salvation with fear and trembling, grace and knowledge.
- Gregg Allison, Baker Compact Dictionary of Theological Terms
- Stanley Grenz, David Guretzki, and Cherith Fee Nordling, Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms
- Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology
- J. I. Packer, Concise Theology
- The Gospel Coalition’s Concise Theology Essays
Twelve Salvation Words
A broad term referring to God’s activity on behalf of creation and especially humans in bringing all things to God’s intended goal. More specifically, salvation entails God’s deliverance of humans from the power and effects of sin and the Fall through the work of Jesus Christ so that creation in general and humans in particular can enjoy the fullness of life intended for what God has made. (Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, 105)
The master theme of the Christian gospel is salvation. Salvation is a word-picture of wide application that expresses the idea of rescue from jeopardy and misery into a state of safety. (Concise Theology, 146)
(N.B. I would add that everything that follows in this list of terms is a part of salvation. While salvation is often thought and described synonymously with redemption, justification, or regeneration, salvation (theologically speaking) really is the umbrella term for all that the triune God does to save us. Moreover, this term must encompass the eternal grace of God and the work of God—past, present, and future. Anything short of that comprehensive view of salvation shrinks this glorious truth. Moreover, when we fail to consider the various “parts” of salvation, it may lead to a misunderstanding of the doctrine.)
2. Predestination and Election
Predestination is word often used to signify Gods foreordaining of all the events of world history, past, present, and future, and this usage is quite appropriate. In Scripture and mainstream theology, however, predestinaion means specifically God’s decision, made in eternity before the world and its inhabitants existed, regarding the final destiny of individual sinners. In fact, the New Testament uses the words predestination and election (the two are one), only of God’s choice of particular sinners for salvation and eternal life (Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:4-5, 11). Many have pointed out, however, that Scripture also ascribes to God an advance decision about those who finally are not saved (Rom. 9:6-29; 1 Pet. 2:8; Jude 4), and so it has become usual in Protestant theology to define God’s predestination as including both his decision to save some from sin (election) and his decision to condemn the rest for their sin (reprobation), side by side. (Concise Theology, 38)
The verb elect means “to select, or choose out.” The biblical doctrine of election is that before creation God selected out of the human race, foreseen as fallen, those whom he would redeem, bring to faith, justify, and glorify in and through Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:28-39; Eph. 1:3-14; 2 Thess. 2:13-14; 2 Tim. 1:9-10). This divine choice is an expression of free and sovereign grace, for it is unconstrained and unconditional, not merited by anything in those who are its subjects. God owes sinners no mercy of any kind, only condemnation; so it 1S a wonder, and matter for endless praise, that he should choose to save any of us; and doubly so when his choice involved the giving of his own Son to suffer as sin-bearer for the elect (Rom. 8:32). (Concise Theology, 149)
(N.B. God’s sovereign grace to choose some and passover others is not, in my mind, symmetrical. He elects on the basis of eternal grace (2 Tim. 1:9); he condemns on the basis of works done in the body (see Ps 62:12; Rom. 2:6; 2 Cor. 5:10; Col. 3:25; 1 Pet. 1:17; Rev. 20:12). That is a crucial distinction and the reason why God’s predestination is asymmetrical. There is much more to say about God’s eternal plans, and part of it is confessing that the eternal decree of God is a mystery. Yet, because his mystery has been revealed, we can speak to realities that stand outside of space and time. With the light of Scripture, therefore, we can say that how God predestines to mercy and how he predestines to judgment is not equal and opposite. More on that another day or you can look over these word studies.)
3. Regeneration (i.e., the New Birth)
Regeneration is the sovereign work God the Holy Spirit of granting spiritual life to each Christian, raising them from the dead so that they are now able to repent and trust in Christ as a new creation. (Matthew Barrett)
Regeneration is a New Testament concept that grew, it seems, out of a parabolic picture-phrase that Jesus used to show Nicodemus the inwardness and depth of the change that even religious Jews must undergo if they were ever to see and enter the kingdom of God, and so have eternal life (John 3:3-15). Jesus pictured the change as being “born again.’ (Concise Theology, 157)
The doctrine of justification concerns God’s gracious judicial verdict in advance of the day of judgment, pronouncing guilty sinners, who turn in self-despairing trust to Jesus Christ, forgiven, acquitted of all charges and declared morally upright in God’s sight. (Philip Eveson)
Justification is a judicial act of God pardoning sinners (wicked and ungodly persons, Rom. 4:5; 3:9-24), accepting them as just, and so putting permanently right their previously estranged relationship with himself. This justifying sentence is God’s gift of righteousness (Rom. 5:15-17), his bestowal of a status of acceptance for Jesus’ sake (2 Cor. 5:21). (Concise Theology, 164)
The doctrine of imputation teaches that while Adam’s sin is imputed to us because he is our natural federal head, God imputes or accredits the righteousness and suffering of Jesus to those who are in him and, conversely, imputes the sins of those redeemed to Christ. (J. V. Fesko)
The process by which sinful humans are “bought back” from the bondage of sin into relationship with God through grace by the “payment” of Jesus’ death. Redemption is one of the pictures or metaphors that the NT uses to give insight into God’s gracious saving work in Jesus. (Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, 100-01)
One aspect of the atonement, that Christ’s death removed the liability to suffer eternal punishment because of sin and guilt. The Old Testament background is the blood of sacrifices that was sprinkled on the mercy seat, thereby covering the sins of God’s people and cleansing from sin to avoid judgment (Lev. 16). Some theologians object to the idea that Christ’s death was a propitiation (assuaging the divine wrath) and maintain instead that his death was an expiatory sacrifice. Scripture affirms both. Christ’s sacrifice was an expiation, cleansing and purifying through the removal and forgiveness of sins (Heb. 9:6-15; 10:5-18; 13:10-13). (Baker Compact Dictionary of Theological Terms, 80)
One aspect of the atonement, that Christ’s death appeased the wrath of God against sinful people. The Old Testament background is the blood of sacrifices that was sprinkled on the mercy seat, thereby assuaging God’s wrath and ensuring mercy instead (Lev. 16:11-17). At the heart of propitiation is retributive justice: because God is just, he must punish sin fully. He may exact such deserved punishment from sinful people. Alternatively, he may mercifully mete out that punishment by pouring out his wrath on Christ as “the propitiation… for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). (Baker Compact Dictionary of Theological Terms, 174)
N. B. Propitiation via Expiation
In addition to defining expiation and propitiation, it is necessary to relate them. If expiation deals with sin and the removal of guilt by means of an atoning sacrifice, then propitiation is the result that sacrifice. That is, God’s wrath is assuaged by the expiation or removal of guilt. Moreover God’s electing love remains unchanged for those whom he predestined in Christ; it is his love that impels him to provide a propitiation for sinners. It is an error to say that Christ’s death changed God’s wrath to love. All in all, there are many ways propitiation has been misapplied and misunderstood. Therefore, it is important to rightly relate expiation and propitiation. For more on this important subject, see Donald Macleod, Christ Crucified, ch. 8–9.
God’s act of making otherwise estranged human beings part of God’s spiritual family by including them as inheritors of the riches of divine glory. This adoption takes place through our receiving in faith the work of Jesus Christ the Son (Jn 3:16), being born of the Spirit (Jn 3:5–6) and receiving the Spirit of adoption (Rom 8:15–16). (Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, 7)
10. Conversion (Faith and Repentance)
Our willing response to the gospel call, in which we sincerely repent of sins and place our trust [faith] in Christ for salvation. (Systematic Theology, 1239; ch. 35)
Conversion begins with the gracious gift of new life and gives rise to a genuine faith and repentance that continue throughout the Christian life. (R. Scott Clark)
11. Sanctification (i.e., Progressive Sanctification)
Sanctification is an ongoing transformation within a maintained consecration, and it engenders real righteousness within the frame of relational holiness. . . . Sanctification, says the Westminster Shorter Catechism (Q.35), is “the work of God’s free grace, we are renewed in the whole man after the image whereby of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.” The concept is not of sin being totally eradicated (that is to claim too much) or merely counteracted (that is to say too little), but of a divinely wrought character change freeing us from sinful habits and forming in us Christlike affections, dispositions, and virtues. (Concise Theology, 169)
The glorification of the Christian is that we shall share in God’s glory when we are in our resurrected bodies in the new heavens and new earth, experiencing deeper fellowship with God and not being at risk of falling away into sin, God’s glory finally being “all in all.” (Gerald Bray)
The final mighty act of God in salvation. Occurring at Christ’s return, glorification is both (1) the re-embodiment of believers who have died and exist without their bodies in heaven, and (2) the instantaneous change in the bodies of believers on earth. In the first case, their bodies are raised from the dead and transformed; in the second case, their current bodies are immediately transformed. In both cases, the glorified bodies are imperishable (never to wear out or become sick), glorious (beautiful, perhaps radiant), powerful (not superhuman but full strength), and spiritual (dominated by God’s Spirit). See also resurrection of people; second coming. (Baker Compact Dictionary of Theological Terms, 90–91)
Soli Deo Gloria, ds
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