Redemption Applied, Part 1 – The God of Order

Having finished discussing the accomplishment of our redemption in Part 1 (that accomplishment being the atoning work of Christ), John Murray goes on in Part 2 of Redemption Accomplished and Applied to focus on how God then applies that redemption to his people. Chapter 1 of Part 2, “The Order of Application,” is, as the title indicates, concerned with the particular steps, or discrete acts of grace, by which God bestows on us the full saving blessings secured for us by Christ.

Murray makes the point that “God is not the author of confusion and therefore he is the author of order.” Reading this brought to mind thoughts I’ve had about the impressive and wonderful order God has put into his creation. One of the great privileges we have as Alaskans (in addition to our yearly dividend check from the government for just living here!) is the opportunity to go salmon fishing each summer. Of course, salmon live in the ocean for most of their lives, but each summer, those that have reached maturity begin their spawning run from the sea to the inland waters where they were first hatched. And these salmon runs are as regular as clockwork. We can schedule a fishing trip in mid-July on the Kenai river and know for certain we will be there near or just at the peak of the run, when the salmon are thick and all you need to do to catch them is stick a net out into the river. And not only with salmon runs, but you see God’s order is so many parts of his creation: the tides, the waxing and waning of the moon, the changing of the seasons, the growth of food crops, and so on.

God is also the author of order when it comes to salvation. Though there is nothing ordinary about the power and grace of God in redeeming sinners and making them Christ-like, God does this saving work in an orderly way. In eternity, he has elected his people. In time he calls them to faith and new life in Christ; he justifies them, sanctifies them, and ultimately glorifies them so that they will forever “be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29). Though individual experiences of God’s grace of redemption will differ from person to person, it is the same God who saves and he does so in an orderly way. One way this is should be an encouragement to us is that it gives us the assurance that if God has called us to faith in Christ, he will most definitely also sanctify us, and cause us to persevere, and bring us to glory. In other words, that God works with order helps to confirm his promises to us.

By considering various passages, especially Romans 8:30, Murray comes up with the following order of salvation (in theological speak, the ordo salutis): calling, regeneration, faith and repentance, justification, adoption, sanctification, perseverance, and glorification. In the rest of Part 2 of the book, he’ll deal with each of these in turn.

At this point in his study, I wish Murray had said more about union with Christ. He does devote an entire chapter to it, but it comes near the end of the book. I say I wish he had said more about union with Christ at this point because it would have headed off any misunderstanding about the order of salvation. And that is, considering the parts of the order of redemption as distinct realities, as necessary and helpful as that is, may give the wrong impression that a Christian could receive some but not all of the blessings of salvation. But our¬†union with Christ means that if Christ is ours by faith, the whole Christ is ours: he is ours for justification, he is ours for sanctification, and he is ours for perseverance. Murray certainly believed that union with Christ was the primary reality governing all the parts of salvation, for he later writes: “Nothing is more central or basic than union and communion with Christ.”

But still, Murray’s analysis of the order of salvation is most helpful. And this order gives glory to God. As Murray writes:

When this order is carefully weighed we find that there is a logic which evinces and brings into clear focus the governing principle of salvation in all of its aspects, the grace of God in its sovereignty and efficacy. Salvation is of the Lord in its application and well as in its conception and accomplishment.

Pastor Scott