Faith and repentance, union with Christ, justification all happen at the point of salvation. In addition to that, following justification—not even following, but accompanying it—is what we call definitive or positional sanctification. You would know that when the Bible talks about sanctification, it talks about it in three aspects of positional sanctification, progressive sanctification, and perfect or final sanctification. Definitive or positional sanctification is, when by the Spirit of God, we are freed from the bondage of sin. As Paul says in Romans 6, “having been freed from sin, you’re now enslaved to God.” All believers have been positionally and definitively sanctified. All believers have been freed from the bondage of sin. They have been delivered from the dominion of and darkness translated into the kingdom of God’s beloved son.
Paul told the Corinthians, “You are the sanctified, you have been sanctified in Jesus Christ.” And he said in 1 Corinthians 1:2, “to those who had been sanctified.” They are already sanctified in Jesus Christ. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6, “such were some of you, but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Past tense actions that have separated us from sin. All believers at the point of salvation are positionally sanctified. That means set apart in consecration to God, separated and free from the bondage of sin.
Peter said, “that you are kept by the power of God for an inheritance ready to be revealed.” This world is not our home, we are not to seek the things of this life. Our home is in heaven, our inheritance is in heaven. Our Father is in heaven and every spiritual blessing is ours now and shall be then. He is no longer a righteous judge, he is a loving Father. This is the order of salvation of effectual calling, regeneration, conversion, union with Christ, justification, positional sanctification, and adoption.
All I’ve just mentioned happen instantaneously and it often happens upon the subconscious, non-experiential part of man. The question is how is that salvation applied to us? It is applied by God, the powerful effectual call, regenerating grace causing us to be born again, giving us the gift of faith and repentance that we come to Christ is true conversion. We’re joined to Jesus Christ and we are set apart to God, justified freely by his grace, adopted into his family.
After that, the adventure and the journey of progressive sanctification begins. We’re told to grow 2 Peter 3:18, “into the grace and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Peter says in 2 Peter 2, “like newborn babies long for the pure milk of the word,” that you may grow in respect to salvation. Sanctification as you well know has two parts. Ephesians 4 and Colossians 2 talk about this: the mortification of the old man, and the renewal of the new man into the image of Christ. Now hear me carefully, salvation has several dimensions. We have been saved, we are being saved, we will be saved. We have been pardoned from the guilt of sin, we have been freed from the power of sin. We are being cleansed from the pollution of sin and one day we will be freed from the presence of sin.
What you have is justification, positional sanctification, progressive sanctification, and glorification. So when Paul says in Philippians “to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”, he is not talking about our justification that you have to work out by your good works in obedience to gain and maintain your justification and the forgiveness of sins. He is not talking about that aspect of salvation. He is talking about the aspect of salvation relative to both positional sanctification and progressive sanctification. Salvation is freedom from the bondage of sin and progressive cleansing from the pollution of sin. That is a part of salvation as well. That is the part he is telling us to work out, by actively engaging, by the power of the Spirit of God, led by the path of the Word of God into a walk that is pleasing to the Father. In this we progressively put off the old man and we are growing into grace and in the image of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Perseverance and Glorification
Following that progressive sanctification and attendant with it is the certainty of perseverance, to which we turn. That is, God keeps us. There’s a God-ward side to perseverance and a man-ward side to perseverance. The God-ward side is: “We are,” in 1 Peter 1, “kept by the power of God unto a salvation ready to be revealed.” God’s side is John 10, “My sheep hear my voice and I know them and give them eternal life and no one should pluck them out of my father’s hand. I and the Father are one. They will never perish all that the Father gives me shall come and this is the will of the father who sent me.” And in John 6, “That of all he gives to me, I lose not one of them.” That is perseverance by the power of God, by the spirit of God, by the intercession of Jesus Christ, there is no loss of salvation.
There may be temporary apostasy, we may fall by the way. But there’s a difference between Peter and Judas. There is a difference between Demas and John Mark. Peter was converted, Judas was not. For a moment they looked the same. John Mark was converted, Demas was not. For a moment they looked the same. But God’s true people will be kept by the power of God. They cannot lose their salvation. Man will persevere by the power of the spirit of God, walking in obedience to the law. Now the highway of holiness to reach the celestial city and therein, is final and full glorification, in which they are freed from sin in a resurrected body in a new heavens and a new earth. We shall thus ever be with the Lord.
As we draw towards a conclusion, I want to ask you: Can you tell me the difference between foreknowledge and predestination? Can you tell me the difference in the relationship between total depravity and human responsibility? Can you tell me the relationship between regeneration and conversion? Can you most certainly and crucially tell me the distinction and difference and relationship of justification and sanctification? And can you tell me the relationship between perseverance, eternal security and sometimes temporary apostasy?
The order of salvation must be understood against the backdrop of man’s total depravity and moral inability. Therefore, God initiates and he does so by sovereignly, effectually calling by life-giving regenerating power. Man then responds in faith and repentance and conversion, and as a result of that he’s joined to Jesus Christ, justified freely, by the grace of God, separated from the bondage of sin, adopted into the family of God. All of this happens instantaneously, on the moment of faith and then the great journey of progressive sanctification with perseverance unto glorification begins. That is the order of salvation. You can’t save anyone, but God can. You preach the truth, you pray, you command men to repent and believe and God will do the rest. You give your voice, and they don’t come. God gives his voice, they must come, they shall come. Jesus said they will come.
These are foundational pillars to the great doctrine of the salvation planned in eternity past, accomplished by Jesus Christ, and applied to the personal experience of believers. Know it, believe it, find your security in it. Clearly preach it, for the comfort and exhortation and instruction and edification of the people of God. Tell them the grand sweep of their salvation from God’s eternal particular, sovereign electing love. That’s what foreknowledge is, to his final full sinless glorification, where spirit, soul, and body will be perfectly blameless in the presence of the Lord. Take them from one grand sweep of eternity past to eternity future and comfort one another with these words.
So, my brethren, I put on the brakes. Unfasten, your seatbelt, if you’re still with me and pray earnestly.
(Now let me give you two book suggestions to read. One new one and another old. The one is by John Flavel. You may have heard that name. He is a very readable Puritan. He wrote two books, one book with two parts. The first part is The Fountain of Life. The second part, The Method of Grace. John Flavel, The Fountain of Life, and The Method of Grace. You can find it on the internet. If you can read English you need to read that book before you die. And the second book of modern one, I trust many of you have already read, and it is by John Murray. The book is Redemption Accomplished and Applied. Put on your thinking cap, increase your English vocabulary, and read John Murray’s little paperback.)
This article is the transcript of the talk by Brother Andy H in the meeting held in August 2021 entitled ‘The Order of Salvation – The Application of Redemption.’
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Andy H. has several years of pastoral ministry. He has served as a cross-cultural missionary and is passionate about encouraging pastors and men training for pastoral ministry to pursue holiness.