By Billy Williams
Weldon Warnock wrote a review in Truth Magazine, March 16, 1978, of one of my bulletin articles in which I discussed our use of the term “plan of salvation.” In order that I might be allowed to reply and because of the many months since its first publication, his comments have been reprinted in this magazine. If you have not read Brother Warnock’s article, please do so now.
All of the objections he raised were answered in a lengthy article which I published Dec. 26, 1977, and which he received. Why didn’t he review that article? Probably because he could not argue against the truth thus presented. But instead, he and the publishers of this magazine chose to prejudice the thinking of their readers with his dishonest and misleading article. And now I will give my answer to those slanderous words. Space is limited and I must be brief. Be sure to read each reference.
The plan of salvation is not belief-repentance-confession-baptism. Nowhere in all of God’s Word will you find any such notion – nor do you find that phrase. But you do in fact find a Plan of Salvation, and that Plan is Christ (Eph. 1:3-14). It is precisely set forth in those verses. Redemption through Christ was God’s will from the beginning of man’s fall (Gen. 3:15) – for He “purposed in him . . . to sum up all things in Christ.” It was a mystery and was “hid in God,” but now is revealed “according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (5:9-12). “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself” (2 Cor. 5:17-21). We were hopelessly lost because of sin (Rom. 3:23; 5:12). Then Christ redeemed us through the shedding of His blood. He was “made to be sin on our behalf” (2 Cor. 5:21) and died for us all (vs. 14). He “put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb. 9:26). Jesus is the Savior (Matt. 1:21)! And in Him we receive all spiritual blessings (Eph. 1:3). “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature” (2 Cor. 5:17). For we are God’s “workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Eph. 2:10). And we could expand on this subject forever. Now, will anyone deny that Jesus is the Plan of Salvation?
Brother Warnock says Jesus has given a method of action to alien sinners which is a “plan of salvation.” To expedite matters, look up “plan” in a good dictionary. Now the “plan” he is talking about is belief, repentance, confession, baptism (BRCB). He says those things are a plan (method or scheme of action, procedure, arrangement, mode of action) by which the “alien” is saved. In other words we are saved by doing this Plan. But what happened to the crucifixion of Christ? I thought His death was what brought me reconciliation, being justified by His blood (Rom. 5:9-11). Christ is the Savior (Eph. 5:23). But looking at the phrase “plan of salvation” as it is generally used today, it is taught that the plan (steps for attainment of some object, scheme, design) of salvation is BRCB. And doing that “plan” is our method of salvation. Where does it say that in the Bible? Christ is our Savior. He said it plainly: “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one cometh unto the Father, but by me” (Jn. 14:6). He is our method, procedure, arrangement, plan. Not the things that we do. We are not entitled to salvation because we have “worked the plan.” We are justified by the grace of God through Christ.
Semantics? Indeed, Brother Warnock is playing a word game by twisting and abusing my words. He refuses to understand what I wrote and in his ignorance hollers semantics. I later wrote an article on semantics (and he received it) in which I made it clear that this is a battle over the meaning of words and the ideas they connote. Words are thought pictures and they mean something. If you call a rose a rock, no one will understand you, because “rose” is its name. And if you call BRCB “plan of salvation” everyone will think that the way we are saved is by BRCB. But if you call Christ and His sacrifice the Plan of Salvation then the thought you have conveyed to everyone’s mind is the truth. Yes, I am disturbed that brethren call BRCB the plan of salvation, because it twists the truth and gives the wrong idea. Many actually do believe that they are saved because they “worked a plan” (believed, repented, confessed, baptized). They think they receive God’s blessings because they have “obeyed commands.” They have worked (earned) salvation for themselves. Now, is that why our Lord came to earth? Did He suffer and die so that He might issue commands? Was not the Law full of commands to be obeyed? Could He not give new commands without dying? If that were so, then the death of Christ was senseless (Gal. 2:21). Didn’t God know that? Note that righteousness, which must precede salvation, is not obtained through law-keeping (vs: 16). What madness the doctrines of men bring!
We are not saved by works (Eph. 2:8-10), any work. And turning BRCB into works is fatal to our souls. To prove the point, the Scriptures say that belief and baptism are not works of men (Jn. 6:29; Tit. 3:5). Neither can repentance be a work. And how can confession be a work? Men turn those things into works and then get upset because Paul said we are saved by grace through faith and not of works? Turning BRCB into commands to be obeyed, by which we hope to earn God’s approval, is the same as works of merit and such is denied in Eph. 2.
What kind of work is meant in Eph. 2? There are only two possibilities: a deed precipitated by man’s own inherent goodness, or an act in obedience to God’s command. Actually both are included in this passage. Salvation is not given because of one’s own goodness (“that not of yourselves”). Man cannot do enough good (Lk. 17:10; Isa. 64:6). Nor is it a reward for obeying commandments (“not of works”). If one obeys God’s commandments, has he not done a good work? Of course he has. But such cannot be the basis of our justification before God (Rom. 4:2). The Jews made the same mistake (Rom. 9:30-10:4). They could not understand that salvation is not of law but of grace (Rom. 3:20; Eph. 2:8).
Now do not misunderstand me. I have not said, nor do I mean that we need not BRCB. Indeed, we must do those very things to receive the blessings of God’s heavenly kingdom. But what Christ has done saves us, not what we do! We read in 2 Cor. 5:14-21 that He died for us, bore our sin, and reconciled us to God. We become righteous in Him. The gospel is the death, burial and resurrection of Christ (1 Cor. 15:1-4). Whether it is true or not is made the most crucial point of our faith, and our hope (1 Cor. 15:12-19). But it is true (Rom. 1:4)! He was raised. The apostles were commissioned to go into all the world and preach it (Mk. 16:14f). Believing that Jesus is the Christ and that he yet lives is primary to our salvation (Mk. 16:16).
What has Christ done? He overcame sin and death. And now offers redemption to us. He is the Way of Salvation. What do we have to do to receive it? We answer His invitation (Matt. 11:28-30) The gospel is good news – it is a message from heaven. How do we answer it? We believe Him and His message, which is that He is alive and can also save us! We confess it (allegiance) (Rom. 10:5-13). We are baptized into the likeness of His death and resurrection (6:4f). And are raised to walk in a new life in Christ. Repentance is a change of heart and direction. We turn from sin unto God. Our conversion is our repentance.
Now what is it that we have thus done? We have only responded to what Christ has done. We have begun to obey Him and stopped listening to our own lusts.
Brother Warnock does not want me to say we “respond.” He says we “obey commands.” Why does he insist on the distinction? Because he wants to turn the gospel into a second law system as did the Galatians (Gal. 1:6-9; 3:1-3). Warnock says the “plan of salvation involves Jesus and His grace.” Indeed! I’m sure our Lord is glad to hear that concession on our brother’s part. The Plan of Salvation does not involve Christ – it is Christ.
He also accused me of teaching “Jesus the Man, but no gospel demands.” I never taught any such thing. The gospel when correctly understood demands of us sinners far more than any commands of law (Rom. 6:15-23). Furthermore, by innuendo and the subtle association of words he has labeled me a Baptist and a Calvinist. Such is a lie and he knows it. He wonders if I ever preach on faith, repentance, or baptism. Let him ask his own relatives and friends who were in the congregation where I preached at the time I wrote the bulletin article. They can testify to what I taught. And not one would say that I taught false doctrine. When asked, they were surprised that anyone could think it. My “reviewer” has used the tactics of a gossip and a backbiter.
Did the apostles preach BRCB? They taught Christ crucified (1 Cor. 1:23). Peter told the Jews to repent and be baptized in the name of Christ – after preaching Jesus unto them (Acts 2:14-36). And when they gladly received His word (about Jesus), they were baptized (vs. 41). Peter was also sent to tell Cornelius words whereby they could be saved (11:14). What were the words? The story of Jesus (10:34-43).
Brethren, let us stop this pettiness. I am not teaching against baptism. I am upholding that doctrine. It is essential! But baptism means nothing without Christ. You must first convict the hearts of men and convince them to respond to Christ, answering His call in the act of faith called baptism (Gal. 3:26f). To tell someone to be baptized because it is commanded does not convert him. He must be given a reason to respond. And that reason is Christ and His work for us. One must be convicted of his need for a Savior. Herein lies the problem of so many weak Christians. They have not been convicted of their need for a Savior nor convinced that Christ can save completely. Preaching BRCB does not convert anyone. But teaching Jesus will do it for sure. That is what the apostles taught. Did they tell people to be baptized? Yes, after they converted them to Christ. And that is why I say that our “plan (BRCB) is no better than anybody else’s “plan.”
One final point. Warnock argues from 1 Pet. 3:21 that baptism saves. Peter was arguing for the necessity and logic of baptism, showing its symbolic nature. In doing so he does not say that baptism saves of itself. Instead he emphasizes why it saves: “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
Brethren, this is not a strange or false doctrine. I urge each of you to study your Bibles and seek to learn the will of God and strive to please Him. Those who have attacked me seek to bind a perverted gospel on you. Their gospel is just another law system that no one can bear, Jesus nailed the Law (which was from God, hence it was perfect) to the Cross and gave a system of grace (Eph. 2:8; Rom. 6:14).
The condition of God’s grace is not a series of works whereby we earn His favor. But it is our faith in Christ. That does not mean “faith only.” but it does mean the principle of faith alone, faith that is comprehensive and all inclusive. (Read John 1:12, 17; 3:16-21.) If one places his trust, his life in the hands of Christ, he will willingly obey Him. For he will desire to please Him. One thus converted does not quibble over baptism, which Jesus requires as an act of faith.
Truth Magazine XXIII: 18, pp. 297-298
May 3, 1979