The Chain of Salvation
The study of various articles on the subject of scriptural baptism- has impelled me to undertake a brief study of the whole scheme of redemption or plan of salvation as presented in the Bible. It seems to me that the vagueness which characterizes such articles must stem from a limited or distorted view of the subject. While "baptism is not magic but faith," it does nevertheless occupy an essential place in God's plan for the redemption of sinners. And while it is a result of adequate causes-such as hearing, faith and repentance, and, that certain consequences naturally follow its performance-such as pardon, indwelling of the Holy Spirit, new life, etc., it never becomes identical with either its causes or its consequences. A mirror may be used to reflect sunlight into a darkened room, yet who will say that it ever becomes identical with either the sun or its reflected light? Baptism has a purpose of its own; the blessings conferred by it are not inherent in the act itself, but rather, they proceed from Jesus Christ, the one who has provided "redemption through his blood," and upon whose authority it is offered to sinners upon condition.
Jehovah is a God of purpose and design. He never created, nor does He perpetuate anything by accident or mere chance. Every work of creation is in itself a display of intelligence. This is especially demonstrated in the unerring and unchanging system of the universe which by order and design assures us of "seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night" (Gen. 8:22). That it operates in accordance with a great master-plan must be conceded when we consider a phenomenon such as Halley's Comet which consumes 76 years to make its orbit, while hurtling through space at a speed of 100,000 miles per hour. Truly, David said, "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handiwork" (Ps. 19:1).
Order, design, or purpose likewise characterizes the moral or spiritual realm. The redemption of sinners through the atonement of Christ is the culmination of a scheme and the fruition of a plan which originated with God. The first intimation of man's redemption was made by the Lord after the fall of Adam and Eve, when he said to the serpent that beguiled them, "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel" (Gen. 3:15).
This promise was fulfilled through the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul declared, "When the fullness of time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that he might redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons" (Gal. 4:4-5) . Peter writing in the same vein said, "Ye were redeemed . . . with precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, even the blood of Christ: who was foreknown indeed before the foundation of the world, but was manifested at the end of the times for your sake, who through him are believers in God" (I Pet. 1:18-21).
Men "are like vessels tossed on the bosom of the deep." They have made ship-wreck upon the rocks of sin and are drifting without hope of ever anchoring their barks in the haven of heaven. To these the question of salvation should be of supreme importance. They need to be informed that Almighty God has designed a. strong chain by which He can take us in tow and guide our battered vessels into calm waters where we can drop anchor in the harbor of eternal peace and rest. The first links of this chain have been forged by the Lord; others must be forged by human instrumentality. This chain illustrates vividly the whole story of redemption. It clearly sets forth the purpose and place of each element to which the Bible attributes the .salvation of men. Let us now view the picture from beginning to end as it is unfolded to us in the Bible.
Save Ourselves Acts 2:40
Baptism 1 Pet. 3:21
Confession Rom. 10:9-10
Repentance 2 Cor. 7:10
Faith Mark 10:10
Preaching 1 Cor. 1:21
Gospel Romans 1:16
Word of God James 1:21
Holy Spirit Titus 3:5
Life of Christ Rom. 5:10
Blood of Christ Eph. 1:7
Jesus Matt. 1:21
Mercy of God Tit. 3:5
Grace of God Eph. 2:8
Love of God John 3:16
God Saves 1 Tim. 4:10
In the first place, our salvation is attributed to God. He is the author of it. Paul declares, "We have our hope set on the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of them that believe" (I Tim. 4:10). This as well as other passages in the New Testament presents God as our Saviour. Certainly, our salvation could have no other origin. Since it is God's law that has been violated, He alone can extend justice and mercy.
The Bible furthermore declares that men are saved by the love of God. This is stated in John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life." The same apostle further records: "Herein was the love of God manifested in us, that God hath sent his only begotten Son into the world that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (I John 4:9-10). It was God's unfailing love for man that prompted Him to provide an atonement for his sin, and thus redeem him to himself. Thus, men are truly saved by the love of God.
The next link in the chain of salvation is the grace of God. Paul declares: "By grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God" (Eph. 2 : 8) . And again, "The grace of God hath appeared bringing salvation unto all men" (Titus 2 :11) . Grace as used in the New Testament means unmerited favor. Because of His great love toward us, he has shown grace in that "He hath not dealt with us after our sins, Nor rewarded us after our iniquities" (Psa. 103:10). Our salvation is not a matter of merit or right upon our part. It is a result of God's. willingness to forgive.
Inseparable from the grace of God is His mercy. Let us hear the Scriptures: "Not by works done in righteousness, which we did ourselves, but according to His mercy he saved us" (Titus 3:5). The divine pronouncement was, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die" (Ezek. 18:20). Were justice to be enacted upon us, we would have no hope. But because of His great love for us, He tempered justice with mercy and showed us unmerited favor in giving His Son to be an atonement for our sins. God saves!
The fifth link in this chain presents Jesus as our Saviour. In announcing the impending birth of Christ, the angel said: "Thou shalt call his name Jesus; for it is he that shall save his people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21). Paul wrote: "God appointed us not unto wrath, but unto the obtaining of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Thess. 5 : 9) . The Heavenly Father's love, grace and mercy are extended to men in His Son, Jesus Christ. "Jesus is the grandest exhibition of divine love, the strongest manifestation of divine grace, and the clearest evidence of divine mercy." "In none other is there salvation: nor neither is there any other name under heaven, that is given among men, wherein we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). To reject Jesus is to spurn heaven's overture of love, grace and mercy. We must accept Him or perish.
Moving to a consideration of the next link, we notice that salvation in Christ was wrought through the shedding of His blood. Paul says that "we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses" (Eph. 1:7). And again: "Being now justified by his blood, shall we be saved from the wrath of God through him" (Rom. 5 : 9) . Yes, "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" (I Cor. 15:3) . He "put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Heb. 9:26). In the tragedy of the cross, Jesus triumphed over sin.
The word of God also declares that we are saved by the life of Christ. Romans 5:10 reads, "If, while we were enemies, we were reconciled unto God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by his life." The life which Jesus lived among men was a complete exemplification of the principles which he taught. It exerts a powerful influence over the conduct of those who are seeking to "follow His steps." But the life to which Paul referred in Romans is that which Jesus now enjoys at the right hand of God. "If Christ hath not been raised," the Scripture says, "your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins" (I Cor. 15:17) . But since He was raised and enthroned in heaven, "He is able to save to the uttermost them that draw near unto God through him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Heb. 7:25). Yes, we are saved by Jesus' life.
Additional links in this chain symbolize the Holy Spirit and what he does for the salvation of man. The work of the Holy Spirit is to "convict the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment" (John 16:8) . The conversion of sinners must begin and be completed through the Holy Spirit. Paul says that God "hath saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3 : 5) . How the Spirit accomplishes his work is shown in the next two links-the word o f God and the gospel.
Of the word of God, James wrote: "Receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls" (James 1:21) . Paul states that the Scriptures "are able to make thee wise unto salvation" ( 2 Tim. 3:15). Again: "I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth" (Rom. 1:16). Jesus commanded the apostles to "preach the gospel" (Mark 16 :15) . This they did under the supervision and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Read Luke 24:47-49; Acts 1:8, 2:1-4; and Gal. 1:11-12. It is through the instrumentality of the word of God and the gospel that the Holy Spirit performs his work. Yes, in this manner the Holy Spirit saves us.
Thus we have considered the divine side of the scheme of redemption. We have shown how God originated our salvation, prompted by His love and compassion for us. He robbed heaven of its richest jewel, when He extended His grace to us in the giving of His Son to- become an atonement for our sins. He sent the Holy Spirit to guide the apostles in the proclamation and recording of the facts, conditions and promises, upon which men might receive the pardon provided for them.
Let us ask some questions. Can we do without any of these links? Can we erase any one of them? Certainly not! To do so would be folly. Neither ought we to add to them in any way. God's part in the plan of salvation is a finished work. It cannot be altered; it must be accepted.
This brings us to a consideration of the human side of this chain of salvation. Man must lay hold upon the life-line that has been cast to him. Salvation has been provided by God, but it must be appropriated by man. This is done by forging human links which are necessary in completing the chain of salvation.
The first of these links is that of preaching. "Seeing that in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom knew not God, it was God's pleasure through the foolishness of the preaching to save them that believe (I Cor. 1:21). Preaching is the appointed means of communicating the good news of salvation with its obligations and promises to the children of men. "How shall they believe in him whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?" (Rom. 10:14) . The work of preaching the gospel was never bound upon angels. It is the never-ending responsibility of those who have come to share the blessings of the gospel. If our generation is denied a knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ the wicked will die in their iniquity, but Jehovah will require their blood at our hand (turn and read Ezek. 3: 17-18). Little wonder that Paul said, "Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel" (I Cor. 9:14).
The first link to be supplied by the alien sinner is that of faith. Jesus said of the ones to whom the gospel is preached, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned" (Mark 16:16). Paul said to the jailor, "Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:31) . The gospel is "the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth" (Rom. 1:16) . Such evidence could be multiplied from the Scriptures. Belief of the gospel is the first step to be taken by the sinner as he turns from sin toward his salvation.
Repentance is the next link. "Godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation" ( 2 Cor. 7:10). "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness; but is longsuffering to you-ward, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (II Pet. 3:9). God "commandeth men that they should all everywhere repent" (Acts 17:30). Repentance is a change of heart that results in a change of conduct. It has to do with the altering of one's will. The wicked must forsake his way before he can turn unto the Lord. Repent or perish is the decree of the Master (Luke 13:3) . There is no other alternative.
Another link in the chain of salvation is the sinner's confession o f Jesus. Romans 10:9-10 reads as follows: "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved: for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." Yes, confession plays a part in one's salvation. But this is not the confession of one's sins to a priest or to one another. It is acknowledging Jesus as our Lord and Master. It is not to be made by the raising of the hand or the signing of a card; it is to be done with the mouth. It is a courageous and open avowal of one's allegiance to Christ.
We now reach the link of baptism. It too is an important element in the plan of salvation as designed by our Heavenly Father. Jesus declared, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16). That baptism is essential to salvation was made very clear by the Apostle Peter. Writing concerning the salvation of Noah and his family, Peter said, "Eight souls were saved through water: which also after a true likeness doth now save you, even baptism, not the putting away of the filth of the: flesh, but the interrogation of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (I Pet. 3:20-21).
Upon no link in the chain of salvation have the hammers and chisels of theological extremists been busier. Some have declared it to be all-important, thus holding the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. Others have sought to dismiss it entirely, insisting that it is non-essential. Why not accept the simple statements of the Scriptures upon the matter? Baptism cannot take the place of any of the other links which we have noted! Yes, if we eliminate it, the chain which was forged according to the plan of God has, been broken and it cannot be effective in the saving of sinners. Let's leave it where the Lord placed it, and emphasize its importance neither more or less than the scriptures have done.
One final link is presented in Acts 2:40, where Peter urged the people on the day of Pentecost, saying, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation." It was true then and it remains true now, that salvation is a question which one must answer for himself. While God has provided salvation for every sinner, He will not impose it upon anyone against-his will. The sinner must accept and appropriate God's forgiveness and blessings by meeting the conditions upon which the Lord has offered it. This is done when we forge, as it were, the human links in the chain of salvation. To fail or refuse to carry out our part in this matter is to reject the counsel of God against ourselves (Luke 7:30). While it is true that man cannot provide his salvation, it is equally true that he cannot be saved if he fails to appropriate the salvation which has been provided by the Lord.
Let us be loyal to God, ourselves and our fellow-man by proclaiming and holding fast to the plain and simple teaching of the Bible.
Truth Magazine, V:10, pp. 18-22