23. The Grace of the Holy Ghost And The Order of Salvation


The special grace of the Holy Spirit, in like manner as the saving grace of God in general, denotes the good will of God toward man at the same time as it excludes entirely all human merit. The word χάρις originally meant that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, and was used by the Greeks to express beauty, charm, loveliness. The word is so used in the Septuagint. Later, however, the word was used to denote the thing as realized. Aristotle used the word to mean a free gift, the giver expecting nothing in return. In the New Testament the word has received its full and consecrated significance to express the lovingkindness, favor and good-will of God toward sinners. The expression ἒλεος has also undergone a change in meaning from what it had among the classical writers. It means that the mercy of God is made manifest toward the wretched. BENGEL makes the following distinction between gratia and misericordia: “Gratia tollit culpam, misericordia miseriam.”


HOLLAZIUS defines GRATIA SPIRITUS SANCTI APPLICATRIX as follows: “The applying grace of God is the source of those divine acts by which the Holy Ghost by means of the Word of God and the Sacraments dispenses, offers to us, confers and seals those favors that were designed for man through the great good-will of God the Father and procured by the fraternal redemption of Jesus Christ.”

Gratia has been defined in divers ways. QUENSTEDT makes use of the following division: a) gratia assistens, which acts exterior to man, corresponding to prevenient or preparatory grace; b) gratia ingrediens, corresponding to operating grace; c) gratia inhabitans, or indwelling grace, corresponding to co-operating grace. However, the ordinary division is as follows: gratia praeveniens, praeparans, operans et co-operans, while sometimes gratia conservans is added. HOLLAZIUS defines as follows: gratia praeveniens, or prevenient grace, is the act of grace by which the Holy Spirit through the Word of God offers to man, dead in trespasses and sins, the good-will of the Father and the merit of Christ, removes the natural inability, invites, arouses, urges and continues to urge him to repent; 2) gratia praeparans, or preparatory grace, is the act of grace through which the Holy Ghost removes the natural and actual opposition, makes the will penitent through the Law and pours into the heart the knowledge of the gospel teaching, so that the penitent may be prepared to accept the saving faith; 3) gratia operans is the act of grace through which the Holy Spirit imparts the powers of faith, when justifying faith is brought about. To this division belong justification, regeneration and the mystical union; 4) gratia co-operans is the act of grace through which the Holy Spirit co-operates with the justified man in order to promote sanctification and the doing of good works; 5) gratia conservans is the act of grace through which faith and holiness of life are sustained and illumined to the end that the faithful may persevere steadfastly even unto death.


The following distinguishing epithets or attributive terms are applied to grace: 1) supernaturalis; “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you” (1 Cor. 16: 23; cf. Titus 2: 11); 2) medicinalis; “Oh save me according to thy loving-kindness” (Ps. 109: 21–26; cf. 2 Cor. 12: 9); 3) salutaris; “The grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men” (Titus 2: 11); 4) forensis; “Justified by his grace” (Titus 3:7); 5) seria; “Receive not the grace of God in vain” (2 Cor. 6: 1; cf. Isa. 55; 1 Tim. 1: 15); 6) sufficiens; “Where sin abounded, grace did abound more exceedingly” (Rom. 5: 20); 7) generalis; “For of his fulness have we all received, and grace for grace” (John 1: 16); 8) libera; “By grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8); 9) resistibilis; “And ye would not” (Matt. 23: 37); “Looking carefully lest there be any man that falleth short of the grace of God” (Heb. 12: 15; cf. 2 Cor. 6:1; Jude, verse 4). In a sense we may say that although grace is resistibilis, still it is inevitabilis or inevitable, since when man comes in contact with the means of grace, he cannot hinder its activity as an exterior power of God. Sometimes the term amissibilis, or that which may be lost, is used. The terms generalis, seria and resistibilis are used against the Calvinists, who teach that grace is only for the elect, and as such is irresistible.


Neither the old nor the more modern Dogmaticians follow a common order in the doctrine of ordo salutis, indeed, great differences prevail. H. SCHMID, who in general follows the old Dogmaticians, presents the doctrine in the following order: Faith, Justification, Vocation, Illumination, Regeneration and Conversion, the Mystical Union, Renovation, Sanctification and Good Works. BAIER places de regeneratione et conversione between de fide and de justificatione. HOLLAZIUS uses the following order: De vocatione, de illuminatione, de conversione, de regeneratione, de justificatione, de unione mystica, de renovatione, de conservatione et de glorificatione. The following order is used in HASE’S HUTTERUS Redivivus: first fides et justificatio, then vocatio, illuminatio, conversio, sanctificatio et unio mystica. LUTHARDT makes use of the following order: Vocation, Illumination, Conversion, Penitence, Faith, Justification, Regeneration, the Mystical Union, Sanctification: renovatio, sanctificatio et bona opera. Some Dogmaticians treat justification first, before the order of salvation, strictly speaking, because it constitutes a judicial act on the part of God. Regeneration is placed before justification when the latter is arranged in the order of salvation, because regeneration is conceived of as the genesis of faith. As may also be observed from the examples cited concerning the order of salvation, some Dogmaticians treat regeneration before conversion. The reason of this is that regeneration is conceived of as standing in connection with Baptism, while conversion takes place subsequently, in case the baptized and regenerated person should fall from the grace of Baptism. This order is also followed on the ground that regeneration sets forth the divine side of the work of the appropriation of salvation, while conversion presents the human side. In such case regeneration corresponds to conversio transitiva.

In dealing with the order of salvation we must remember that the treatment will be different as we deal with it from the standpoint of infant Baptism or the Baptism of proselytes. Here the question concerns chiefly the order of salvation within the Church, where infant Baptism is mostly used. Since regeneration takes place in Baptism, and since Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration, therefore some have questioned the possibility of both conversion and regeneration in the adult who has fallen from the grace of Baptism and afterwards been restored. The observation has been made that analogous to the natural birth spiritual birth ought to take place but once, and that the return of the sinner to the grace of Baptism ought to be termed a reawakening and conversion. In this manner the presentation of the order of salvation would indeed be simplified, but it must be stated that the analogy of the natural birth is not an adequate one. If regeneration takes place but once, then we must consider the state of the backslider as a state of sleep and not one of spiritual death. The Scriptures do not solve this problem so far as the terminology is concerned, but the following passages, nevertheless, throw an indirect light on the question at issue: “This thy brother was dead, and is alive again” (Luke 15: 32); “Having been begotten again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the word of God” (1 Peter 1: 23) “He brought us forth by the word of truth” (James 1: 18; cf. John 3: 3–5) . Some Dogmaticians speak therefore of an objective and principal regeneration in Baptism and afterwards of a subjective regeneration through the regenerating power of the Word, when man again receives the spiritual life which he first received in Baptism, and now experiences in a conscious and personal way. It ought also to be noted that the presentation of ordo salutis is dependent on the definition of regeneration, as to whether it is simply donatio fidei or the spiritual life itself and the adoption as the children of God. In the solution of this problem we must bear in mind that the doctrine of “justification by faith alone” occupies a dominating and regulative position in the doctrines of the Lutheran Church, that this doctrine constitutes the material principle and in the doctrinal system stands primus et principalis articulus. Therefore it would seem to accord most closely with conservative and historical Lutheranism to place justification before regeneration in the order of salvation, justification taking place in the mind of God as cause and regeneration in the heart of man as effect. It may indeed be said that justification and regeneration occur simultaneously, but in reality, and for the sake of the logical sequence, one or the other must be placed first.

All the different acts that enter into the order of salvation are set forth in the Word of God, and Dogmaticians usually refer to Acts 26: 17, 18, because this passage seems to include the whole order. We quote this passage, indicating the act involved: “Unto whom I send thee (vocation) , to open their eyes (illumination) , that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God (conversion), that they may receive remission of sins (justification) and an inheritance (regeneration) among them that are sanctified (renovation and sanctification) .” We shall present the different acts or grades in ordo salutis in the following order: Vocatio (et excitatio), illuminatio, conversio (contritio et fides), justificatio, regeneratio, unio mystica, renovatio (renovatio, sanctificatio et bona opera) et conservatio.

While the acts of grace in the order of salvation cannot always be definitely fixed as to time, although each has its own time, still they occur in order, and each act is experienced in its principal features. The applying grace is present from the beginning, but can only gradually accomplish that which corresponds to the state of the individual. No act of grace is ever entirely completed, since by reason of sin man always stands in need of all the acts of grace. However, there is a special time when man is called, enlightened, etc., so that the ordo salutis is a truth which is grounded in the Scriptures and which is demonstrated in the subjective experience. We may say that illumination occupies a peculiar position in ordo salutis, since it is an act of grace through which the other acts are mediated, because of the fact that it stands in immediate connection with the Word of God, through which the Holy Spirit works. For this reason we may say that illumination occupies a special place after vocation, but in general occupies a mediating position in the entire order of salvation.