God made provision for the salvation of all men through the cross-work of the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:8; 1 John 2:2; 2 Peter 3:9). Salvation is wholly of grace, a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9), and cannot be merited by any virtue or work of man. The gift of salvation must be personally appropriated through repentant faith, which is also a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8; Acts 11:18; 2 Timothy 2:25). Though God has made provision for all men, issues a general call to all men, and desires all men to be saved (Ezekiel 33:11; 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9), only the elect are effectually called unto salvation (Matthew 24:24, 31; Mark 13:22, 27; Romans 8:33; Titus 1:1; 1 Peter 1:2). This is a profound mystery which can only be comprehended by God Himself, but must be believed by faith in God’s written Word.
The theological order of the events in salvation are as follows:
Election is a work of God whereby, in eternity past and according to His good pleasure, purpose, and plan, He sovereignly chose unworthy sinners to salvation in Christ including all its attendant blessings and obligations in order that they may glorify God and serve holy and useful purposes (1 Peter 1:2, 9; Ephesians 1:4-5, 11; 1 Thessalonians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Psalm 65:4; cf. Deuteronomy 8:6-8; John 15:16; Romans 8:29). Election becomes operative through the setting apart of the Holy Spirit and faith in the truth, and it comprehends every detail regarding the time and place of salvation (2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2).
Calling is that work of God by which He commands all men to receive Christ and actually brings sinners to salvation through the instrumentality of the Word of God (synonymous with conviction) [1 Thessalonians 1:5; 2 Thessalonians 2:14; 1 Corinthians 2:18]. There is one calling of God with two aspects to that call. First, the general call of God commands all who hear the Gospel to be saved (Acts 17:11; John 12:32; Matthew 11:28; Luke 14:16-24). Second, the effectual call is the direct work of the Holy Spirit that brings the elect sinner to faith and repentance (John 6:64; John 10:27; Romans 8:30; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 2 Timothy 1:8-9). The effectual call does not constrain or coerce the human will, but transforms the will so that it freely and voluntarily chooses to come to Christ for salvation [non-constraining determinism] (Proverbs 21:1; Psalm 110:3; Philippians 2:13; Acts 16:14; 2 Peter 2:10).
Regeneration is the instantaneous, supernatural impartation of spiritual life to the spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:4-5; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 1:3). This is a work of God through the means of proclamation and hearing of God’s Word together with the effectual working of the Spirit (Romans 10:17; Titus 3:5). This gift of spiritual life engenders man’s immediate response in repentance and faith (Deuteronomy 5:29; John 1:13; John 3:8, 19-21; John 5:44; John 6:44; John 8:45-47; 1 John 5:1; cf. 1 John 3:9; 1 John 4:7; 1 John 5:4, 18). Regeneration must be evidenced by belief (1 John 5:1), the witness of the Spirit (Romans 8:16), an increasing pattern of righteous living (1 John 2:29), a decreasing pattern of sin (1 John 3:9; 1 John 5:18), love for the brethren (1 John 2:10; 1 John 3:14), and obedience to the commandments of God (1 John 2:3).
Repentance is a Spirit-given realization of the sinfulness of sin and taking sides with God against one’s self, accompanied by a genuine godly sorrow and determination to turn from self-autonomy and rebellion to serve the one and true living God (Joel 2:12-14; Ezekiel 18:30-32; Matthew 21:30-32). Repentance is absolutely necessary for salvation (Matthew 3:2; Acts 3:19; Acts 17:11; Revelation 2; Romans 2:4; Luke 24:47) and involves one’s mind (Psalm 51:3), emotions (Zechariah 12:10; Matthew 11:21; 2 Corinthians 7:8-10), and will (Luke 3:8; Matthew 3:8; Acts 26:20) with respect toward God, sin, and the sinner himself. It entails a disposition and desire to seek pardon and forgiveness (Acts 20:21; Acts 26:20; Hebrews 6:1) and continues in the believer’s life as a God-ordained means of sanctification (1 John 1:9; Psalm 51). Repentance and faith are inseparable and have a synecdochal (not synonymous) relationship whereby one can represent the other (Acts 3:19; Acts 20:21; Mark 1:15; 2 Peter 3:9).
Saving faith is an exclusive, unreserved trust by the sinner in the Person and cross-work of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (John 6:29; John 20:28-31). Faith includes the knowledge of (mind) [1 Corinthians 15:1-4; 1 John 5:9-13], assent to (emotion) [Matthew 13:23], and unreserved trust (volitional) [John 3:36; 2 Timothy 1:12; Hebrews 3:18-19; Hebrews 5:9] in the accomplished redemption of Christ as revealed in the Scriptures (John 6:47; Acts 16:31; Romans 10:8-9, 17; Ephesians 2:8). Faith is the act of the sinner, but is ultimately a gift from God (Philippians 1:29; 2 Peter 1:3; Mark 9:24; John 5:44; Ephesians 2:8-9; Acts 14:27; 1 Corinthians 12:3). Faith in all that God is, all that God has done, and in all that God has said continues in the believer’s life as the God-ordained means of sanctification (Romans 1:17; John 17:17; 1 Peter 1:1-5). Without sanctifying faith there is no biblical basis to assume that saving faith ever existed.
Justification is a judicial act of God whereby He constitutes the sinner righteous by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness through Christ’s active and passive obedience to the divine moral law so that God declares the believing sinner righteous and treat him as such (Romans 3:24-26; Romans 5:1, 18-19; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21).
Union with Christ
Union with Christ is the inseparable spiritual bond between the believer and Jesus Christ which results from the baptism of the Holy Spirit (John 17:21; Romans 8:1; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:27). As a result the believer is “in Christ,” free from the Law (Romans 8:2), anticipating the rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:16), identified with Christ in His death and resurrection (Galatians 2:20; Colossians 2:12; Romans 6:4), in vital union with all other Christians (Galatians 3:28), and given an inheritance in the Kingdom to come (Ephesians 1:18).
Sanctification is to be separate from sin and set apart unto God. Sanctification is the progressive outworking of the spiritual life received in regeneration. The progression includes: past freedom from the penalty of sin (1 Corinthians 6:11; Hebrews 10:10), present freedom from the power of sin (Philippians 1:6; 1 Peter 1:14-15; John 17:17), and future freedom from the presence of sin (Philippians 3:21; 1 John 3:2). Because of the believer’s transformed condition and new position in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 Peter 2:9-10; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20), he is commanded to take the initiative against sin (Romans 12:1-2; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Titus 2:12; Romans 8:13; 1 John 2:15-17) resulting in the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) and an obedient life (John 13:8; John 14:23).
Eternal security (perseverance) is the work of God which secures and guarantees the final salvation of all true believers and will cause them to persevere in grace until that time (John 6:37-39; John 10:27-30; 1 Peter 1:5; Hebrews 7:24-25; 1 John 2:3; 1 Corinthians 9:27). Perseverance is the result of the preservation of God, not the condition for it (Colossians 1:23; Hebrews 3:14; Hebrews 12:14).
Glorification is the complete accomplishment of final salvation effected by the presence of Christ and operation of the Holy Spirit whereby the believer is delivered from all presence of sin in his body, soul, and spirit, and he is conformed to the image of Christ (Philippians 3:21; Colossians 3:4; Jude 24; Romans 8:29; 1 John 3:2; 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13).