The Gospel Observer
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them
to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always,
even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
October 20, 2013
1) Is There More Than One Plan of Salvation? (Tom Edwards)
Is There More Than One Plan of Salvation?
by Tom Edwards
Is there more than one plan of salvation for the New Testament
Age? Some folks might conclude from the different things they
hear about it these days that there are. I remember,
prior to my becoming a Christian in 1977, of hearing some people say
something like, "If you just confess Christ (while believing in your
heart that God raised Him from the dead), you'll be saved."
Others, however, instead of speaking about confessing Christ, were
saying, "If you just confess your sins and invite Jesus into your
heart, you'll be saved." Still others were saying something
that didn't include any kind of confession, such as, "If you just
believe in Jesus as the Savior, you'll be saved." I began to
wonder which one are we supposed to do? Or are there different
plans in the Gospel for becoming a Christian? At the time, it
seemed very strange to me that there could be more than one way to
become a child of God. For could a person acceptably do just
one of the things the Bible shows to be necessary, while, at the
same time, totally disregarding the other things it requires?
One essential thing we should realize by now is that to truly
understand the New Testament, we need to consider all of it for that
big, panoramic view that includes everything that pertains to a
particular subject, whether it concerns prayer, how the Lord's money
is to be used, or what the worship service is to consist of, etc.
This, of course, is also true when it comes to God's plan of
salvation. For nowhere do we find all of what is required for
that in merely one verse, though faith is sometimes used
comprehensively or as a synecdoche to include (through implication)
the other necessary steps as well, such as repentance and
baptism. But one must look to all of the New Testament to see
what every required step is.
When one, however, tries to base the plan of salvation on merely one
verse, it can be likened to that group of blind men who each touched
a different part of an elephant and then were asked to describe the
creature. In hearing each other, they, naturally, all strongly
disagreed. For the blind man who had felt the elephant's leg
said that the elephant was like a pillar. Another, who touched
the elephant's tail, said the animal was like a rope. Still
another, having handled the elephant's trunk, likened the elephant
to a tree branch. While the man who had felt the elephant's
ear thought the creature was like a hand fan. One man, after
touching the elephant's belly, described this large animal as being
like a wall. But to the one who had felt the elephant's tusk,
he concluded that surely the creature was like a solid pipe.
Incomplete accounts can definitely present a wrong picture or false
conclusion. And when it pertains to the plan of salvation, a
wrong conclusion will be eternally fatal. We, therefore, want
to be sure to include all that is necessary for it.
Just like the blind men and the elephant, various people today
sometimes focus on just one Scripture to base a Bible doctrine on,
rather than studying thoroughly to see all of what God says on the
Something else we need to realize, with regard to the plan of
salvation, is that when men were being instructed as to what they
needed to do to be saved, as seen in the book of Acts, the Holy
Spirit (who was giving the message) told them what they needed to do
on the basis of where they already were in having or having not met
some of those conditions previously.
For instance, the Philippian jailer was first told, "Believe in the
Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household" (Acts
16:31). This man really had to start at the beginning -- or
the first step, you might say. For in order to believe, he
would need to hear the gospel (Rom. 10:17). And in that
message, he would also hear of the other steps that would be
necessary to contact the blood of Christ. As Acts 16:32
states, "And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with
all who were in his house." Then, "...he took them that very
hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he
was baptized, he and all his household." Following their
baptism, the account then says that the jailer "rejoiced greatly,
having believed in God with his whole household" (v. 34). So
we can think of what the man did in believing, repenting, and being
baptized as all being part of his "having believed in God."
For without taking all the steps, his faith would have been
considered dead and not able to save (cf. Jms. 2:17,26). He
would then have fallen short.
For another example, the 3,000 who already believed and were
convicted of their sins, were told to "...'Repent, and each of you
be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your
sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts
2:38). This was in response to their question in verse 37,
"...'Brethren, what shall we do?'" "Brethren," here in the
sense of fellow Jews and not fellow Christians; for they were not
the latter yet And to their question, they were not told to
believe again, because they had already done that; but they were
told of what the next steps would need to be in order to be forgiven
and become Christians.
Then, for another example, consider Saul of Tarsus. He had
come to believe in the reality of Jesus and, apparently, had
repented of his sins and probably remained very penitent, as he
fasted and prayed for three days in Damascus, waiting to find out
what he must do. In Acts 22:16, we then all find out exactly
what Saul needed to do. He was told: "Now why do you
delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins,
calling on His name."
Why wasn't Saul commanded in this passage to believe in the Deity of
Jesus and to repent? Would it not be because he had already
met those conditions? So baptism was now the one thing still
remaining and needful for his receiving the remission of sins.
Though those in each of these examples appear to be told different
things in order to be saved, that was only because of the different
levels they were already on with respect to salvation.
This has been likened to a person going on a trip and stopping in
several places along the way to find out how far it is to his final
destination. We wouldn't expect him to hear the same answer
each time, but a different one, as he keeps getting closer to where
he's going. For example, if he is driving from Baton Rouge to
Seattle, Washington, he might here in Baton Rouge that it is 2,644
miles to Seattle. But when he would ask how far it is to
Seattle, after arriving in Dallas, Texas, we wouldn't expect him to
hear the same answer as what he heard in Baton Rouge. For from
Dallas, he will have a distance of about 2,203 miles to
Seattle. And from Denver, Colorado, he'll have about 1,330
miles to go. So what he is hearing is not contradictory.
Rather, it is all related to where he is in relation to his final
destination. And that very well illustrates these examples of
conversions previously considered. For people were told what
to do, based on where they already were (or were not) on the steps
that lead to salvation.
So none of these were exempt from any of the steps, nor were these
different plans of salvation for different people. Rather,
everyone ended up doing the same thing in order to have their sins
blotted out by the precious blood of Jesus and become children of
God. Each person, therefore, had to hear God's word (Rom.
10:17), believe in Jesus (Jn. 8:24), repent of sins (Luke 13:5),
acknowledge their faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9, 10; Acts 8:36-38), and
be baptized in water to benefit from the Lord's sacrifice (Mk.
16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet.
3:21). Then there is also the need for each Christian to
continue in the faith in order to eventually arrive in that eternal
place called heaven (Rev. 2:10; Heb. 10:36-39; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
So there is just one plan of salvation for the Gospel Age,
pertaining to the alien sinner to become a child of God.
And the "alien sinner" being that person who has reached an age of
accountability, has transgressed a law of God, thus becoming a
sinner, and having not yet become a Christian.
A Different Plan of Forgiveness for the Christian Who Sins
But we can also point out that though there is just one plan of
salvation for the alien sinner to become a Christian, there is also
a different plan for acquiring forgiveness for the Christian who has
fallen into sin. For the child of God does not need to be
baptized again, but he does need to repent of the sin and pray
to God for forgiveness. Such was the case with Simon who had
"believed" and was "baptized," along with many of the other
Samaritans, who had heard the preaching of Philip (Acts 8:12,
13). For he soon sinned in coveting the gift the apostles had
to lay hands on people and impart to them the Holy Spirit (vv.
14-19). As a result, Peter then rebuked Simon, by saying,
"Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord
that if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven
you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in
the bondage of iniquity." Notice the singularity of his sin:
"repent of THIS WICKEDNESS" and "the INTENTION of your heart" -- not
"the INTENTIONS." So here was a Christian who had sinned and
was now told to repent and pray.
This also indicates that the child of God needs to be concerned with
maintaining a right relationship with the Lord. For salvation
can be lost. John speaks of this in 1 John 1:6,7: "If we say
that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we
lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the light as He
Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and
the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin."
In 1 John 2:1,2, John explains the purpose for this epistle: "My
little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not
sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father,
Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for
our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole
The phrase "if anyone sins" is certainly not an allowance to do so,
but John points out that the Christian does have an "Advocate" when
that happens. And, as we have already seen, that does not
nullify the need for the one who has transgressed to repent and pray
for forgiveness (Acts 8:22). In 1 John 1:9, for instance, John
declares, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to
forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all
unrighteousness." This is not a promise John is giving to the
alien sinner; but, rather, to the Christian who has transgressed
God's law. For John was writing not to the world in
general, but to Christians (cf. 1 Jn. 3:2).
So though there is just one plan of salvation for the alien sinner,
there is also a different means of obtaining forgiveness for the
Christian who has sinned. And may we each meet those
conditions that pertain to us, in whatever our relation to God.
The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation
1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom.
10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins
(Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet.
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can
be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
CHURCH OF CHRIST
9923 Sunny Cline Dr., Baton Rouge, LA 70817
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 6 PM (worship)
Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
(Gospel Observer website)