Ordo Salutis is Latin for "the order of salvation" which deals with the logical sequence of steps or stages involved in the salvation of a believer (e.g. election, foreknowledge, predestination, redemption, regeneration, justification, sanctification, glorification - see especially Romans 8:29-30). There is disagreement within the Church concerning this order, and about the causal connections between them. Discussion of the ordo salutis necessarily involves specific terms which are listed below with brief definitions:
Foreknowledge: God's knowing (in this sense) prior to salvation those who would be saved.
Predestination: God's choosing before time all who would be saved.
Election: God's choosing of all who would be saved.
Regeneration: God's renewing of one's life (not physically - but as opposed to the spiritual death caused by sin).
Evangelism: The communication of the Gospel by which one can be saved.
Faith: Belief and trust in the message of the Gospel.
Conversion: One's turning to God based on the Gospel.
Perseverance: One's continued true belief - remaining in the state of salvation.
Repentance: One's turning from sin to God.
Justification: God's freeing of one from the penalty of sin - the pronouncement of "not guilty" on a sinner.
Sanctification: God's separation of one from the lure of sin.
Glorification: God's final removal of all sin from the life and presence of one (in the eternal state).
The debate over "ordo salutis" is most keenly evident between the Reformed and Arminian systems. For the Reformed tradition the "ordo salutis" is: election / predestination, followed by evangelism, regeneration, conversion, justification, sanctification, and glorification. For the Arminian view, the "ordo salutis" is: evangelism, followed by faith / election, repentance, regeneration, justification, perseverance, and glorification. These stages may have various distinctions that are not represented here, but serve to show the basic differences between the two systems. It should be noted that these need not be conceived as chronological steps - many of these stages are seen as distinctions within a single process that all (in one way or another) depend upon the work of God.
It is important to realize that the differences are much more than mere labels. One's "ordo salutis" has as much to do with salvation stages as it does with the cause(s) of salvation itself. For example, the reformed position has faith as an effect of election rather than a cause of it (as the Arminians have it). Thus, there is a sense in which a person is saved in order to have faith. Where, then, should blame be laid if a person does not believe? The Arminian position has the believer responsible for whether or not God saves them, and thus a person must persevere to the end before they can be assured of salvation. What does this say about a believer's security? These and many other questions are dependent upon the "ordo salutis" for their answers, and it is thus important that a believer understands from which perspective those answers are given.
- Sproul, R.C. Faith Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine of Justification. Baker, 1999. ISBN 080105849X