By Weldon E. Warnock
The expression “the plan of salvation” is not found in the Bible. Certainly, the thought or concept is there. The nearest the Bible comes in using this phrase is when the demonic woman at Philippi said of Paul and Silas, “These men show unto us the way of salvation” (Acts 16:17). This notion is embodied in the statement, “the gospel of our salvation” (Eph. 1:13). According to 2 Timothy 1:9 salvation was purposed (planned, Beck) by God through Christ before the world began.
Some of us mistakenly conceive of the plan of salvation as hearing, faith, repentance, confession, and baptism. Careful study of the Bible will show that there is far more to the plan of salvation than these five steps. Indeed they are part of the plan, but these alone would leave out the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is Jesus who saves. We cannot provide the way of salvation. We must trust in him and surrender our hearts to his will. Peter said, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). We sing that grand old hymn, “We have heard the joyful sound, Jesus saves. Jesus saves.”
Though Jesus saves, and without his blood we can- not be cleansed from our sins (1 John 1:7), yet he saves conditionally. If there are no conditions, then universal salvation would have to be so because God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34; Rom. 2:11). Regardless of how sincere one may be and how often he says, “Lord, Lord,” he must do the will of the heavenly Father (Matt. 7:21). Here is where the above five steps come in. We must do them in order to obey Christ and be saved as an alien sinner. Though the five steps are not put together in one passage as a unit, they are taught nevertheless in the New Testament. Examples of New Testament conversion plainly show this.
When the conditions of salvation to become a Christian are clearly and forcefully taught by faithful gospel preachers, some of the self-appointed intellects (?) pompously ridicule those of us who adhere to these divine precepts as “five-steppers.” Well, so be it! The truth of the matter is that we are all “steppers.” The problem is that they have gotten in step with a bunch of gospel-perverting denominational preachers. They need to get in step with Jesus (1 Pet. 2:21).
Some of our preaching brethren don’t even know what to do to be saved. They have “jumped the traces” and put on the same yoke with Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Billy Graham, and others of like persuasion. We read the following from the mouth of Max Lucado, a preacher in the church of Christ from Texas, December 1996 on radio station KJAK, Lubbock, Texas:
You can be sure that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor ruling spirits, nothing now, nothing in the future, no powers, nothing above us, nothing below us, nor anything else in the world will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
You see in God, by virtue of your adoption, you have a divine affinity, you have eternal security, and you have a golden opportunity.
I cannot imagine an orphan turning down an opportunity to be adopted. With one decision, with one raising of the hand, with one agreement to leave the orphanage, that person all of a sudden goes from being abandoned to claimed, from having no name to having a new name, no future to a new future, he leaves the orphanage and enters the house of the father.
That’s what God offers you. There is no quiz, no examination, no charge. All you have to do is to say yes to the Father. And many of you have done that. But I have a hunch that not all of you have. I have a hunch that there is a few of you listening, even now, and God is using this to pull on your heart. The Holy Spirit is informing you of something that you have never really heard before — and that is, God is ready to be your Father. Maybe you never understood that the invitation was for everyone. Maybe you thought you were not worthy. Maybe now you do understand. God will make you worthy, and the invitation is for you. And all you have to do is call him Father. Just call him Father. Just turn your heart to him even right now as I am speaking. Call him your Father. And your Father will respond. Why don’t you do that?
With instrumental music playing in the background, “Father, I give my heart to you. I give you my sins, I give you my tears, I give you my fears, I give you my whole life. I accept the gift of your Son on the cross for my sins. And I ask you, Father, to receive me as your child. Through Jesus I pray, Amen” (Copied from The Spiritual Sword, January 1998, edited by Alan Highers).
Brother Lucado’s heretical doctrine is not recent among us in denying the necessity of water baptism for the remission of sins for an alien sinner. Logan Fox, a graduate of David Lipscomb University, a professor at Pepperdine University for a short time and a preacher in the church said, “It is possible also, that one might be born again and filled with the Spirit without being baptized, but happy is he who can with gratitude and confidence point to the day he was baptized” (Voices of Concern, Robert Meyers, 18). This shows the arrogance of men in light of Jesus’ explicit statement, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Fox said a man can be born without the water (baptism), but Jesus said he could not!
Randy Mayeux, a so-called gospel preacher, stated, “I don’t know many in our fellowship who are arguing that the New Testament doesn’t teach baptism. It’s what happens to the person who doesn’t understand that way” (Behold the Pattern, Goebel Music, 230). Well, try this same reasoning on faith. We believe faith in Christ as the Son of God is essential. What about the Jew or others who do not understand it this way? Jesus still said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). Woe unto the man who would offer salvation on lesser terms! Mayeux also said, “I have preached and believed, I believe deeply that the New Testament teaches that salvation is a free gift of God period! You are saved by grace alone.” This not only eliminates faith, but also repentance and, yes, water baptism.
We are hearing that an alien sinner does not have to understand the reason for which he is being baptized in order to be saved. Rubel Shelley said, “Lately I have been bothered by two false teachings about baptism which are being circulated in our fellowship . . . unless one expressly understands that baptism is for (i.e., unto) remission of sins, he has not been baptized for the right reason, is still in his sins and needs to be baptized again” (Behold the Pattern 278). The Bible teaches we obey from the heart (Rom. 6:17-18). How can one obey God and do it for the wrong purpose? This is like saying we can eat the Lord’s supper acceptably while at the same time not discerning the Lord’s body. Strange reasoning. Buff Scott, who gravitated to the Christian Church, said, “I am convinced that the honest unimmersed who are seeking to serve the Lord but who die without coming to an adequate understanding of the new birth, will be eternally saved by God’s grace and mercy.” What a presumptuous statement! The highest authority for this is Buff Scott.
Brethren, we continually thank God for his wonderful grace and matchless love. Indeed by grace are we saved (Eph. 2:5). No man lives above sin. By the deeds or works of the law no flesh is justified in God’s sight (Rom. 3:20). This plainly shows that we cannot be saved by perfect law keeping or perfectionism. All of us sin and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). Hence, we must depend on grace. We have to come to God by the way of the cross. There is no other way. However, none is saved by grace alone. Grace must be appropriated. This is done through faith (Rom. 5:2). This is not faith alone, but a trusting, obedient faith which entails repentance (Luke 13:3; 24:47), confession (Acts 8:37), and water baptism (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3, 4; Gal. 3:27; 1 Pet. 3:21). By God’s grace Jesus tasted death for every man (Heb. 2:9), but the benefits of his death, namely, his blood, are received in water baptism (Rom. 6:3).
The Pentecostians, the Ethiopian eunuch, Paul, Cornelius, Lydia, and the Philippian jailor had Christ preached to them and all responded in the same manner. None was saved by faith only, repeating after the preacher the so- called sinner’s prayer or direct operation of the Holy Spirit. Unless you were saved the same way these were saved in the examples stated above, you have not been saved. Think seriously about it. God’s great plan of salvation will be consummated at Christ’s second coming (cf. Heb. 9:28; 1 Pet. 1:5).
Let us be careful that we be not led away by these nefarious doctrines promulgated by men who are making shipwreck of the faith.