August 21, 2017

God’s Plan of Salvation

By C.W. Fell

Notice in John 3:16 that God “gave” his Son. God did not owe us a plan of salvation. He was not indebted to give us a plan of salvation. This plan of salvation was given as an unmerited favor by God to mankind while we were still dead in our sins.

How does a sinner obtain salvation? People have different ideas about God’s plan of salvation. Overcoming these differences can be difficult at times, but it is not impossible. In fact, most of us are much closer to agreement than we realize.

For example, let’s take Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Here is a simple point we all agree on. Regard- less of what name you wear, whether Assembly of God, Baptist, Catholic, Church of Christ, Independent, Lutheran, Methodist, Pentecostal, or Presbyterian we all agree on this point.

Next, we all agree with Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death.” This teaching transcends all the boundaries of division.

How Does One Escape?

Next, let’s consider how man can escape the condemnation of sin. What we want here is a Bible answer, not the opinions of men, but rather a clear book, chapter, and verse Bible answer. 

The following verses provide just such an answer:

. . . having now been justified by His blood . . . (Rom. 5:9).

. . . having made peace through the blood of His cross (Col. 1:20).

. . . and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7).

 

From these verses it is obvious that the blood of Christ is our hope for escape from the wages of sin. Without Christ’s blood we would be hopelessly lost.

I’m confident that most of us will agree up to this point. So, we now have three points of agreement.

• All have sinned.

• The wages of sin is death.

• Christ blood is our only hope of escape.

Man Did Nothing!

Let’s move on to the fourth point. I am certain we will agree on it, also. The fourth point is that man did nothing to merit the sacrifice of Christ. Again we turn to the Bible for solid book, chapter, and verse answers.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son . . . (John 3:16).

. . .Christ died for the ungodly (Rom. 5:6).

. . .while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8).

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses. . . (Eph. 2:1).

Even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive. . . (Eph. 2:5).

Notice in John 3:16 that God “gave” his Son. God did not owe us a plan of salvation. He was not indebted to give us a plan of salvation. This plan of salvation was given as an unmerited favor by God to mankind while we were still dead in our sins.

Paul wrote, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). God eliminated all possible boasting from the plan of salvation. No man can boast that he has earned salvation.

We should now have four points of agreement.

• All have sinned.

• The wages of sin is death.

• Christ’s blood is our only hopeof escape.

• Not a single one of us deserves God’s plan of salvation.

To emphasize the fourth point a little further, consider the fact that this plan of salvation was designed and offered before you were born. You certainly did nothing to merit a plan of salvation that was given nearly two thousand years before you were born. You can also rest assured that the people of Christ’s day did not earn this plan. No one deserves salvation.

Saved By Grace Through Faith

In Ephesians 2:8 Paul introduced another element of salvation that we will agree on. Paul taught that we are saved by grace through faith. It is through the avenue of faith that we take hold of God’s grace and gain the salvation that is in Christ’s blood.

In Acts 15:9 we read, “. . .purifying their hearts by faith.” We see again that it is through the avenue of faith that we reach the saving blood of Christ. It is not faith that washes away our sins, but rather it is through faith that we reach the saving blood of Christ.

In Hebrews 11:6 we read, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him.” Faith is absolutely essential because it is the only avenue by which we can take hold of God’s grace and reach the blood of Christ.

No doubt we are still in agreement through these five points.

• All have sinned.

• The wages of sin is death.

• Christ’s blood is our only hopeof escape.

• Not a single one of us deserves God’s plan of salvation.

• Without faith it is impossible to please God.

What Is Faith?

The next step is to identify and de- fine saving faith. What is its character and its nature? How does a person exercise saving faith? The Bible speaks of two kinds of faith. James tells us about one of these in James 2, starting at verse 14.

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? (2:14).

Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead (2:17).

You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons be- lieve and tremble (2:19).

But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? (2:20).

Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? (2:21)

Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? (2:22).

You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only (2:24).

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also (2:26).

Why is the faith of this passage dead? Because it did not obey the truth. This dead faith recognized the facts and understood the truth but did not do the will of God.

James’ message is simple: An inactive faith is a useless faith. Only the Devil would encourage such a faith.

We have an example of this dead faith in John 12:42-43. John writes, “Nevertheless, even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” These men had an inactive faith, a dead faith.

In Matthew 10:33 we read, “But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” The rulers mentioned in John 12 would not confess Christ even though they believed he was the Christ, therefore Christ will deny them before his Father.

Faith alone was not enough just as James had said. A faith that recognizes the truth but does not surrender to God’s will is dead and does not lead to the saving blood of Jesus.

What Is Saving Faith?

Obviously we want the opposite of this dead faith. We want a faith that is alive, surrenders to God, and actively does his will. Various Bible passages reinforce this idea of saving faith.

In Matthew 7:21 Jesus taught, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” Later in Matthew 12:50 Jesus said, “For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister.”

The Hebrew writer wrote in He- brews 5:9, “. . .He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.”

In 2 Thessalonians 1:8 Paul taught that when Jesus returns he will take vengeance “on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

We can see from these verses that the faith that leads to the blood of Christ is an active faith. It is a faith that does the will of God, making a personal surrender to whatever God may require.

We now have six points that we should agree on.

• All have sinned.

• The wages of sin is death.

• Christ’s blood is our only hope of escape.

• Not a single one of us deserves God’s plan of salvation.

• Without faith it is impossible to please God.

• Saving faith obediently surrenders to the will of God. 

The Terms of Surrender

Next, let’s consider the terms of this surrender that leads to the blood of Christ. Once again we want a solid Bible book, chapter, and verse foundation, and once again the Bible provides such an answer.

In John 6:28 the people asked Jesus, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”Jesus answered in the next verse, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” To the modern mind “believe” might sound like an odd answer to their question. People today tend to view belief as something that is passive, but the religious minds of Jesus’ day knew that faith without works is dead.

In the Bible, saving faith and obedient surrender are so closely related that sometimes the ideas are interchange- able. This relationship between the two is obvious in the following verses.

But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed our report? (Rom. 10:16). (Did you notice in this verse that the gospel is something to be obeyed?)

And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief (Heb. 3:18-19).

Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient. . . (1 Pet. 2:7).

Saving faith is a firm conviction, a personal surrender, and a conduct of life based on that surrender. This is the first term of surrender. This first term by its very nature includes all the other terms of surrender. In other words, if a person truly exercises saving faith then all of the other terms naturally follow. If any of the other terms is rejected, then a personal surrender was not made.

Repentance as a Term of Surrender

So, what are the other things that the Bible connects to salvation? Once again we want solid book, chapter, and verse Bible answers to this question, and again the Bible gives us clear answers.

Several Scriptures connect repentance to salvation:

. . .unless you repent you will all likewise perish (Luke 13:5).

. . .God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life (Acts 11:18).

God . . . commands all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30).

The Lord is . . . not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9).

So what is this repentance that God commands upon all men everywhere? Repentance is simply a change of mind that turns away from sin and unto God.

The fact that God requires us to turn from sin and unto him is just common sense. To expect God to save us without us turning to him would be absurd. It would also be contrary to the obedient surrender of saving faith. So, while we can talk about saving faith and repentance separately on paper, the two cannot be separated in practice.

Notice also that repentance is something that God granted us (Acts 11:18). If God had not chosen to accept our repentance as part of his plan of salvation then repentance would be worthless. Repentance is only valuable in coming to Jesus’ blood because God made it so.

We should now have seven points that we agree on.

• All have sinned.

• The wages of sin is death.

• Christ’s blood is our only hope of escape.

• Not a single one of us deserves God’s plan of salvation.

• Without faith it is impossible to please God.

• Saving faith obediently surrenders to the will of God.

• God commands all men everywhere to turn from sin and unto him.

Confession as a Term of Surrender

The Scriptures also show that confession is vitally connected to salvation.

Whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before

My Father who is in heaven (Matt. 10:33).

If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus . . . you will be saved (Rom. 10:9). . . . and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation (Rom. 10:10).

If we deny Him, He will also deny us (2 Tim. 2:12).

So, what is this confession that we must make as part of our surrender? It is a confession that Jesus is our Lord, a declaration of our acceptance of him as our Lord and Savior. We cannot be like the rulers mentioned earlier in John 12:42; we must openly confess that Jesus is the Christ.

If a person is not willing to make this confession, then that person has not obediently surrendered to the will of God. He has not turned from the way of sin unto the way of God.

We should now have eight points of agreement. 

• All have sinned.

• The wages of sin is death.

• Christ’s blood is our only hope of escape.

• Not a single one of us deserves God’s plan of salvation.

• Without faith it is impossible to please God.

• Saving faith obediently surrenders to the will of God.

• God commands all men everywhere to turn from sin and unto him.

• If we deny Jesus, he will also deny us.

Most likely we are in agreement up to this point. We might have some technical differences, but hopefully those will be minor.

Baptism as a Term of Surrender

Now we come to the biggest hurdle of all: baptism. As always we want a solid book, chapter, and verse answer. Once again, the Bible is surprisingly clear.

He who believes and is baptized will be saved. . . (Mark 16:16).

But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him (Luke 7:30).

. . . unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God (John 3:5).

Repent, and lest every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins . . . (Acts 2:38).

Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins. . . (Acts 22:16).

Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead . . . even so we also should walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:3-4).

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ(Gal. 3:27).

There is also an antitype which now saves us — baptism . . . (1 Pet. 3:21). 

Baptism does not merit salvation any more than faith does. It is rather absurd that anyone would think that the simple act of baptism could merit eternal life. Baptism is simply one of the terms of surrender that God designated. If a person truly surrenders to the will of God, then he will submit to God’s will in baptism. If he refuses to be baptized then he has not surrendered to the will of God (Luke 7:30).

Baptism and Grace

After surrendering to God in baptism a person should not think that he has done anything to earn the saving blood of Christ. Salvation is by God’s grace when one surrenders according to the terms God set.

 

Naaman the leper illustrates the point. God offered to cure Naaman of his leprosy upon seven dippings in the river Jordan. Dipping in the river Jordan worked for Naa- man only because God’s grace made it work. God chose to impart the gift of healing to Naaman by means of dipping in the river (2 Kings 5:1-19 ).

Likewise God has chosen to impart the healing blood of Jesus by means of baptism. It is not the baptism itself that washes away sins, but rather the blood of Christ. God has arranged his plan of salvation so that the blood of Christ is applied when a sinner surrenders to the point of baptism. Thus, the man dead in his sins is buried in baptism and a new man is resurrected from the grave of baptism by God’s grace.

Noah is another good illustration. Genesis 6:8 tells us that Noah found grace in the eyes of God. Does this mean that Noah had no part in saving his family from the flood? Of course not. Noah and his sons put in many long hours building the ark. Yet, all the work and efforts of Noah and his family were successful only because God’s grace was with them. If God’s grace had not been with them then their work would have been in vain, and they too would have died in the flood.

Likewise, our baptism would have no benefit if God’s grace was not with us in baptism. Baptism leads to the saving blood of Jesus only because God’s graces makes it that way. If God’s grace was removed then baptism would be absolutely worthless.

The Bible teaches that a person must believe, repent, confess, and be baptized unto the remission of sins. When a person has thus surrendered to God then that person’s sins are washed away by the blood of Christ.

Obedient surrender does not merit salvation. A person cannot point to his surrender and say that he has earned or bought salvation. God, in his wonderful grace, has simply allowed that if a person will surrender to him, he will cleanse that person by the blood of Christ, but we must first come to him on his terms.

Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of my father in heaven”(Matt. 7:21). Have you surrendered to God’s will?

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