The following selection of definitions 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…they will serve you as you study the Scriptures and work out your salvation with fear and trembling, grace, and knowledge.
And those whom he predestined he also called,
and those whom he called he also justified,
and those whom he justified he also glorified.
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)