“Plan of Salvation”: A Review

By Weldon E. Warnock

Editor’s Introduction:

In the 16 March 1978 issue of Truth Magazine, Weldon Warnock reviewed an article of Billy Williams. The article was printed in its entirety and reviewed by Brother Warnock. At that time, Brother Williams was preaching for the Sciotoville, Ohio church; since then, he was moved to Mesquite, Texas. Upon moving into the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex, Brother Williams identified with the church where Brother Arnold Hardin preaches.

The exchange of articles between Brother Williams and Brother Warnock will stand or fall on its own merit. However, from my point of view, this exchange has smoked out another undercover liberal. You will have to form your own opinion based on the evidences of this exchange; you have the material available to you to make that judgment.

I never cease to be amazed at some of the things false teachers are willing to do. For example, Brother Williams wants to charge that the means whereby a man appropriates God’s grace as taught by Brother Warnock (which is what I understand most gospel preachers to be saying) is false doctrine. Yet, he wants to be considered a “sound gospel preacher” by those who believe this “false” doctrine and becomes upset when those who believe what he labels as false doctrine are unwilling to support him. Why doesn’t Brother Williams just plainly state that he no longer believes what we believe and allow the chips to fall where they may? Frankly, I would-have much more respect for him would he do that instead of charging that he is writing such deep thoughts that we cannot understand him. I understand him and disagree with what he is writing.

Let us not forget that Brother Williams has identified himself with the church where Arnold Hardin preaches. That, my brethren, tells me something about what Brother Williams himself believes. He apparently does not believe that Arnold Hardin’s favorite doctrine, the imputation of the perfect obedience of Jesus Christ to the believer’s account, is wrong. He apparently does not see the Calvinism in Hardin’s teachings which have been repeatedly espoused. In fact, Brother Williams in agreement with the major tenets being preached by Brother Hardin and that is why he identified with the Sceyne Road Church.

You will also notice that this exchange shows that Brother Williams accepts the tenets of the anything-goes-so-long-as-you-are-honest-and-sincere position which denominationalists have espoused for years; the only difference is that he makes application of the doctrine to only baptized believers. On this basis, he is willing to extend the right hand of fellowship to those in the Christian Church and liberal churches of Christ. Read the following exchange which will be concluded in next week’s issue of the paper and weep

Following is an article that appeared recently in a church’s bulletin. It was written by the preacher of the church that publishes the bulletin. The article does not represent the congregation.

Much is said about the “plan of salvation.” It is preached more than any other subject. Brethren proclaim the “plan” everywhere. They go door-to-door and tell their neighbors about it. And few listen, and hardly any respond. Frustration has set in throughout the Lord’s body. Why can’t people see the plain truth of the “gospel plan of salvation”?

The answer to that question should be obvious to everyone. Because the “plan of salvation” is not scriptural! The words “plan” or “scheme” do not appear one time in the entire Bible. Yet we speak of the “plan” as if it were really there. Now, what we are talking about is belief, repentance, confession, and baptism, which when lumped together we have been calling the “plan of salvation.” The kindest thing we can say about the expression is that it is a misnomer. But if we look at it honestly and clearly, we would see that calling these things “plan of salvation” borders on false doctrine. For when we speak of belief, repentance, confession and baptism, and call that the “plan of salvation”, we turn those things into our Savior. But the Bible teaches that Jesus is our Savior (Matt. 1:21). Furthermore, it sounds like we are saying that our doing of those things will save us because we therefore are entitled to it. But the Bible says we are “saved by grace” . . . . through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of Cod, not of works, that no man should glory” (Eph. 2:8, 9). I say it sounds like it. I know that my brethren do not believe such. (But to hear some talk-I wonder).

More importantly, when we proclaim this “plan” we give the impression to those we are trying to convert that the “plan” saves. In fact, we do without doubt try to convert them to “our plan”. The Baptists have a “plan”. So do the Methodists, Pentecostals, etc. So we counter “their plans” with one of our own. It’s not unlike a group of children quarreling over the rules of a game. The world looks at all us “Christians” fighting over a “plan” and they wonder why. And we wonder why they can’t see the difference. From their standpoint one plan is as good as another.

THEREIN LIES THE KEY. If our salvation depended on a plan or procedure or our own doing, it would not matter which “plan” we chose. The Jews had a “plan” but failed (Rom. 9:31ff). They could not see that the “real plan” was Christ (Rom. 9:33; 10:4). The real scheme of redemption is what God purposed to do through Christ, which He has done. Read Eph. 1:3-14 and see the real plan of salvation (vs. 9), which is the gospel of Christ (vs. 13; 1 Cor. 15:1-4), which is Christ crucified (I Cor. 1:23). The apostles did not preach: “believe, repent, confess, baptize”. They preached the gospel; which is Christ! (1 Cor. 1:17).

It is necessary for us to believe, repent, confess and be baptized? YES! But only as our response to what Christ has done. What we do does not save us (Emphasis mine, wew). Christ is our Savior and He is our Plan.

-by Billy C. Williams

The above author, as you probably noticed, has no qualms in calling the gospel the “plan of salvation,” even though he says the expression, “plan of salvation,” cannot be found one time in the entire Bible. How about “way of salvation” (Acts 16:17), or “way of truth” (2 Pet. 2:2), or “way of righteousness” (2 Pet. 2:21)? He is disturbed about calling belief, repentance, confession and baptism the “plan of salvation.” If he means the whole plan of salvation, certainly belief, repentance, confession and baptism are not the sum total of it. But if he means that the conditions of obedience for an alien sinner are not a plan for their salvation, then he is dead wrong. And, he is dead wrong because this is what he said.

A plan means, “Methods or scheme of action, procedure, or arrangement” (Webster). Has not Jesus given a method of action to alien sinners? He surely has! Then, He has given a “Plan of salvation.” To call the specific acts that aliens obey, “plan of salvation,” no more excludes the rest of the gospel than Peter excluded grace or belief or repentance when he said, “baptism doth also now save us” (1 Pet. 3:21).

What kind of semantical game is the writer trying to play when he declares that calling belief, repentance, confession and baptism, “plan of salvation,” as bordering on false doctrine? Since when is it false doctrine to call something what it is? The commands to an alien sinner constitute the plan, method of action, for his salvation. He says the reason for it bordering on false doctrine is that we make the acts of obedience, by calling them, “plan of salvation,” our Savior. If this is true, there is no bordering on false doctrine-it is false doctrine. But he goes on to say that none of his brethren believes they are the Savior, so I do not know why all the “fuss” over brethren calling something what it is.

Salvation Is Conditional

Brethren, does Jesus save an alien, conditionally? “Oh, yes!” Then, He has a plan of salvation for aliens. Call it “conditions of salvation,” or “scheme of salvation,” or “plan of salvation.” After it is all said and done, there are conditions incurred in the saving of sinners. Calling it “plan of salvation,” in its proper context and within the frame of reference is not a misnomer, but is identifying the scriptural procedure enjoined upon alien sinners.

Certainly, the plan of salvation involves Jesus and His grace. Paul said, “. . . by grace ye are saved” (Eph. 2:5). But does grace save us without conditions? Absolutely not! Neither does the cross or the gospel. The Bible says that faith saves (Acts 16:31), repentance saves (2 Cor. 7:10), confession saves (Rom. 10:10), and baptism saves (1 Pet. 3:21). Were these inspired writers bordering on false doctrine when they said these things save us? Peter told the Jews, “Save yourselves (emphasis mine, wew) from this untoward generation” (Acts 2:40). Was Peter denying that Jesus was Savior by such exhortation?

Notice that he underlined in Eph. 2:8-9, “gift of God, not of works . . . . ” What is this supposed to mean in regard to belief, repentance, confession and baptism? Is he implying that these works of righteousness are the meritorious works that Paul was writing about in Eph. 2:9? Maybe you can figure out what he meant. Apparently, he is confused as to what kind of works Paul had in mind. Paul certainly did not mean works of faith (Jn. 6:28-29) or works of righteousness (Acts 10:34-35) as these works must be done in order to be saved. In fact, Paul gave faith as a condition in Eph. 2:8 and faith is a work (Jn. 6:28-29).

Jesus and the Plan

The author tells us the Baptists, Methodists and Pentecostals have a “plan,” and if we have “plan,” we are just like them. But their “plan” is somewhat like the writer’s above – Jesus the Man, but no gospel demands. In fact, a Baptist preacher could have written the article in all good conscience. I wonder how the writer would convert a Baptist if he does not teach them, among other things, what Jesus said on baptism. Is he just going to tell them about the death, burial and resurrection in order to change them on the purpose of baptism or the establishment of the church or the impossibility of apostasy? I was under the impression that Baptists already believe in the death, burial and resurrection.

Listen friend, the gospel contains facts to be believed, commands to be obeyed and promises to be enjoyed. The above writer wants us to think that the gospel just consists of the facts. But there are commands to be obeyed, also. He wrote, “The apostles did not preach: `believe, repent, confess, baptize.’ They preached the gospel, which is Christ )I Cor. 1:17)!” Here we learn (?) that “believe, repent, confess, baptize” are no part of the gospel. I wonder if this brother ever preaches a sermon on faith or repentance or baptism? If he does, according to him, he is not preaching the gospel. Judge yourself as to whether the apostles preached faith, repentance, confession baptism. On Pentecost, Peter told the Jews, “Repent and be baptized . . .” (Acts 2:38). Again, “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized” (Acts 2:41). Sounds like Peter preached baptism somewhere along the line. At the household of Cornelius, Peter was sent to tell them words whereby they could be saved (Acts 11:14). Among those words was baptism (Acts 10:48). I am getting the feeling that Peter preached baptism – that he was a “plan” preacher.

Observe the preaching of Paul. At Philippi, he spoke to Lydia and she was baptized. How did she learn of baptism if Paul did not preach it? The Philippian jailer was baptized the same hour of the night after Paul spoke the word of the Lord unto him (Acts 16:30-33). By the way, Paul preached first that he must “believe” (v. 31). Yet, the writer of the above article said the apostles did not preach “believe, repent, confess, baptize.” They preached much more, but to say they did not preach these commands is inexcusable blindness.

Finally, this brother wrote, “What we do does not save us.” Yes, you read it correctly. No, a Baptist preacher did not say it, but a preacher in the church of Christ. He stated that we have to believe, repent, confess and be baptized, but only in response to what Christ has done. He did not say “in response to What Christ has commanded,” but “in response to what Christ has done.” I thought we were to be baptized, for example, because Jesus commanded it (Mt. 28:19; Mk. 16:16; Acts 10:48). How could one properly respond to Jesus if he were not told in the gospel what to do?

If what we do does not save us, then why did Peter say, “baptism saves us” (1 Pet. 3:21)? Did not Peter know that the gospel saves or that Jesus saves? Certainly he did, but Peter knew that the gospel has conditions and these must be met. Whatever man is told to do by Jesus Christ has a part to play in man’s salvation. Man complies with these conditions and thereby saves himself (Acts 2:40; cf. I Pet. 1:22).

Let’s not be guilty of trying to separate Jesus from what He said. We can only know Jesus by His Word. We can only come to Jesus by His Word. We will be judged by His Word.

Truth Magazine XXIII: 18, pp. 294-296
May 3, 1979