Help God Help You
The Ordo Salutis
Matthew 7:21 if by itself clearly states that salvation is conditional on obedience to God’s will, even within its context if not looked at through other Scriptures Jesus is teaching that obedience is necessary to salvation. The point that Jesus is making is that we must pass judgment on both teachers and other Christians. This is painfully obvious in the statement that is the previous verse, “you will know them by their fruits.”
Now we must get the correct information to understand salvation and works, for at this point it would seem that I am trying to prove that salvation is based on works. However, Ephesians 2:8-9 states that we are saved by faith that is a gift from God and it is not of works. So then, we have to find reconciliation for these two passages and for confusions sake I will add James 2:17 to the conversation, “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” So both Matthew 7:21 and James 2:17 states that our salvation is based on works. Either we have had it wrong all this time or there something missing. I would contend that there are some key Scriptures missing from this conversation, John 3:5 “unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” There is the context for Matthew 7:21 and James 2:17, the rebirth- New Creation- transformation- regeneration; and now we have a clear picture of what is being stated, it is not salvation by works but works by salvation.
This is very simple, the depraved man from birth is sinful and unable to attain saving faith, as stated in Ephesians 2:8-9. Without becoming a Calvinist how do we understand that faith is required and given by God but that He both died for the entire world (John 3:16) and desires all to be saved (2 Peter 3:9)? The Calvinist would teach an irresistible and effectual (ßproducing the intended result) calling (Grace) to a limited amount of people chosen by God. While the Arminian teaches Prevenient Grace, prevenient means preceding in time or order.
Now this prevenient or preceding grace precedes what? It would be hard for me to explain this without first covering the Arminian Ordo Salutis, which means the logical order of redemption benefits. So the Arminian order goes like this:
Prevenient GraceàFaithàSalvationàRegenerationàContinued SanctificationàGlorification
The Calvinist would state that regeneration is the preceding grace that causes us to be able to have faith and then salvation. So prevenient grace precedes faith, but what is prevenient grace? I have defined prevenient so a definition of grace should logically follow, Grace: A divinely given talent or blessing. A preceding blessing from God which accomplishes much, John 6:44 illustrates for us the drawing of unregenerate sinners to God and Titus 2:11 shows us that prevenient grace is given to all- it is universal. John 16:8 gives us more proof of the universalness of prevenient grace and that a part of prevenient grace is the Holy Spirit convicting all men of sin, which is why there is universal morals. Now this grace prepares hearts for the hearing of the Gospel and causes God’s Word to become alive in the hearts of people. As we know that faith comes through hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). If it were not for God giving us this grace every unregenerate sinner would be the absolutely worse they could be, making Hitler look like a saint, and salvation would not be possible unless God first regenerated men and then saved them by force.
A common accusation thrown at Arminians is that they are Semi-Pelagian to get an idea of what Semi-Pelagian is I suppose that we will need to look at what Pelagianism is. Pelagius an early 5th century theologian is believed to teach that man’s will was not completely corrupted by the Fall and could freely choose to be saved without any divine intervention. Pelagius is then accused of denying the doctrine of Total Depravity. Thus Semi-Pelagianism would have to be at least partly Pelagian or not Pelagian at all. Arminius and the Remonstrants fully adhered to Total Depravity and the needed grace of God (Prevenient grace) to have faith. Pelagius is accused of making God passive in our salvation but Arminianism teaches that God is very active. It is God’s free gift of grace that gives us the ability to put our trust (believe in, have faith in) Jesus, what leads to faith is purely monergistic (God’s work alone) but salvation takes both faith on our part and God drawing us to Him. Faith is a choice, but more than a choice. You see, faith comes by hearing the Word of God, which is only possible because God first gave grace freely.
Now that I feel that I have been faithful in explaining the doctrines of grace I can move on to how salvation produces works. Regeneration is the new birth. ß short sentence ehh? The doctrine of the new creation seems to be almost lost in our day and age, it is seldom that I hear that word in conversations or many of the teachings I subscribe to. Sometimes we hear phrases that are synonymous with regeneration but rarely do I hear them applied properly. The mortification of the flesh and walking in the Spirit are directly caused by regeneration, the fruits of the Spirit will be produced by the regenerate man. When a man’s nature is completely and miraculously changed by God, he desires to do what is pleasing to God. This is why God through the Apostle James can say that faith without works is dead and Jesus can say plainly that only those who do the will of my Father will enter Heaven. My screensaver has three Scriptures that change every ten seconds, they are Matthew 7:21, Matthew 10:28, and Romans 12:2. These three Scriptures keep me keep me grounded and in understanding of truth: I have been transformed thus I will do God’s Will even if it brings temporal pain from any form of persecution. I fear God and not man, Saul the first king of Israel was rebellious and he lost everything, I do not want to rebel against my King and I do not want to suffer the fires that await those who rebel against the King of kings. As Arminius, I am not fully decided on eternal security but I do lean more towards the possibility of being able to give up salvation. Therefore it is important to have assurance of our salvation.
There are many articles out there that claim belief alone is our assurance of salvation but how does this view sit with Scriptures like Matthew 7:21, James 2:17, and Romans 8:13-14? Not well it would obviously seem, Jesus taught that we must do the will of His Father, James taught that our faith must be accompanied by works, and Paul teaches that we must walk in the Spirit. Romans 8:16 gives yet another assurance, which is the Holy Spirit living within us and testifying that we are children of God. The assurance of our salvation stems from proof of regeneration and the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit sanctifying us day by day. The regeneration of a sinner is one that is sudden and immediately proceeds faith in Christ, this regeneration makes new the heart- that is the soul of men. New life in Christ is very complex in nature, Total Depravity is a thing of the past for the born again follower of God’s Holy Spirit. This belief that the one true assurance of our salvation is a statement of faith is counterintuitive to the Gospel and all the Scripture. Salvation produces a new creature and there are certain fruits and principles that must follow, they must follow because it is only natural that a good tree bears good fruit. As already stated, doing the will of God, works, sanctification (the continuing work to make us sacred and holy), walking in the Spirit, and faith is our assurance of salvation, for “faith alone is dead if by itself.” (James 2:17) Not salvation through works but works because of salvation.
If prevenient grace is effectual in your life and produces faith to receive Jesus Christ, and you are born again (anew) you should maintain, that is hold tightly to your salvation and never give yourself over to unbelief of the One who was crucified in your place. Embrace your sanctification and obey your Heavenly Father, love your neighbor as yourself and the LORD your God with all you have. Help God help you by studying His word for within His word is life! By studying His word we gain resources that are locked up in our hearts and resources that God will use to convict you, do not be afraid of His conviction because His conviction when obeyed is effectual in your sanctification and leads to the last part of our Ordo Salutis- Glorification.