You have mentioned an “order to salvation;” what did you mean by that?
The ‘Order of Salvation’ is a theological way of understanding how God works in humanity to make them everything they have been called to be. Augustine of Hippo (4th century theologian) began the development of this Order and John Wesley (18th century theologian and founder of the Methodist movement in the Anglican Church of England, and in early Colonial America) built upon and expanded it. Incidentally, though Wesley is credited with the term used for the first phase or stage of the Order, Augustine was utilizing the term 1400 years beforehand, which arguably makes it a founding principle in the theology of grace. The Order of Salvation is…
First, humanity is in such a state that it is completely incapable of responding to God without God first empowering them to have faith. This empowerment is known as ‘Prevenient Grace’ (“grace that goes before…”). It does not save us but, rather, it comes before anything that we do, “wooing” us to God. Prevenient Grace is Universal, in as much as all humans receive it, regardless of their having heard of Jesus or not [this in no way implies universal salvation, but only universal grace – God’s desire to save universally]. It manifests itself in humanity as the yearning to know God (Rom. 1:18-20).
Secondly, after we are drawn to God and are empowered to respond, with faith, to the offered gift of right-standing-with-God – when we actually say “yes” to Christ – we are given ‘Justifying Grace,’ which washes away our sin and incorporates us into the Body of Christ. This is the point of “Regeneration,” in which we are returned to the state of Adam and Eve in the Garden (before the fall from grace). In Justifying Grace we are judged to be, not innocent but, “not guilty” of our past sins and are also forgiven for the sins we continue to commit now.
Thirdly, grace through faith in Jesus Christ doesn’t end with Justification, however. One hasn’t “arrived” and finished the race, but has only begun. Justification is the point at which God judges us “just as if we were Christ.” The Perfection, the Righteousness, of Jesus is not yet a part of who we are, even though we are viewed by God as if we were righteous (theologically, we are “forensically” righteous, though not practically). ‘Sanctifying Grace’ comes to make the objective judgment of “Righteous” a subjective reality in our way of life. The Righteousness of Christ is, through our seeking of God’s Grace, made an increasing part of who we are. We become more Christ-like. In other words, the Love and Will of God becomes our lifestyle as we become more and more like Christ.
And finally, while none of us can be perfect by our own ability or will (not to mention, our definition of “perfect” is quite perverted), Sanctifying Grace transforms us into a greater and greater likeness of Christ. As we grow in Sanctifying Grace, we approach the Will of God for us. This growth is described by the theological term “Cruciform,” which is the expression of the Pauline “in Christ” and his view of a mystical union with Christ (for example, Gal. 2:20). Thus, through Sanctifying Grace we are blessed by occasional moments or fleeting instances of knowing and living in God’s perfect love and will. This is what John Wesley meant when he said that we are all to be “Moving on to ‘Perfection’” (or “Entire Sanctification”).
Therefore, a relationship with God is presented to us, first, by the initial urging of God in Prevenient Grace; without which, we would never seek His face. Having established first contact, second, God offers Justifying Grace when we say “yes” to the free gift that the Cross of Christ offers. We are now identified by God and identifiable with Him. This is only the beginning because, thirdly, the journey continues in God’s extension of Sanctifying Grace as we are transformed more and more into Christ’s likeness. The logical end result of which is Perfecting Grace, where “daily” we die to the “desires of the flesh” and put on “the mind of Christ.”
A “Christian,” by definition has received Prevenient Grace (along with the rest of humanity) and has also received the Justifying Grace so offered. This is the place where most “Christians” find themselves, though not because God has desired for them to stop there. Few are those “Christians” who are walking in Sanctifying Grace, dying to ‘self’ and allowing Christ to live in them. And fewer still are those “Christians” seeking Perfecting Grace, where they are filled to overflowing with the love and will of God; where they are not only “forensically” righteous, but are practicing righteousness as well.