Question: "What is the Ordo Salutis / order of salvation?"
Answer: Ordo Salutis is the Latin for "the order of salvation," which deals with the steps or stages 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 among them. Before discussion, it might be helpful to provide some basic definitions of many of the terms involved:
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) (Titus 3:5).
Evangelism: The communication of the gospel by which one can be saved (Matthew 28:19).
Faith: Belief and trust in the message of the gospel (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Conversion: One's turning to God based on the gospel (Acts 26:18).
Perseverance: One's continued true belief—remaining in the state of salvation (Jude 1:24).
Repentance: Changing one's mind from rejection of Christ to faith in Christ (Acts 26:20).
Justification: God's freeing of one from the penalty of sin—the pronouncement of "not guilty" on a sinner (Romans 5:9).
Sanctification: God's separation of one from the lure of sin (2 Timothy 2:21).
Glorification: God's final removal of all sin from the life and presence of one (in the eternal state) (Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17).
The debate over ordo salutis is most keenly developed between the Reformed and Arminian systems. In the Reformed tradition, the ordo salutis is election / predestination, followed by evangelism, regeneration, conversion, justification, sanctification, and glorification. In the Arminian camp, 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 the cause(s) of salvation itself as it does with salvation stages . 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 him, and thus a person must persevere to the end before he 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.