God’s Plan of Salvation

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Whoever printed the bumper sticker, “Read the Bible. Free gift inside,” got it right. That free gift is something that no amount of money could buy–salvation through Christ (Romans 6:23; Ephesians 1:6). Many books purport to tell us how to be saved eternally; only one of them is written by the Savior Himself. He is the One who will be saying, “Enter,” and “Depart” (Matthew 25:21, 41) on the world’s last day. Since He will use the latter much more than the former (Matthew 7:13—14), it behooves us to find out how to get in the group that is traveling to heaven.

We can ask no more important question than, “What must I do to be saved?” What does God’s book say about salvation? It says that all mature people are sinners (Romans 3:23) and that all sinners are lost without Christ (Romans 6:23; Isaiah 59:1—2). It says that each of us will one day stand before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10).

The Bible presents salvation as having two sides: God’s part, and man’s part. God, because of His great love for mankind, has done His part by sending Christ to die for the sins of men. The Bible says, “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God’s part is called grace: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). Paul explains that we cannot save ourselves, and that we must rely on God’s grace. No person is ready to be judged on his own goodness or morality (cf. Isaiah 64:6).

“Through faith” means that man must also do his part, because no one benefits from a gift until he receives it.

Man’s part in salvation initially involves obedience to God’s five simple requirements for salvation.

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HEAR

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The Savior said,

No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me (John 6:44—45).

One needs to know enough of the details of Jesus’ life (birth, teachings, miracles, character, death, resurrection) to be fully convinced that He is God’s Son. This faith is gained only by studying the Bible, especially Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Paul said, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).

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The Savior said,

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

“I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24).

What must one believe about Jesus?

To doubt Jesus’ miracles and resurrection is to deny God’s power. If God was not strong enough to raise His own Son, what hope is there for an afterlife for the rest of us? (cf. 1 Corinthians 15). A God that can make a universe, create life, flood the earth, part a sea, and stop the sun can surely raise His beloved sinless Son from a grave.

In short, we must believe that Jesus of Nazareth is nothing less than the Son of God! The Jews on Pentecost, having heard the message, “were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Their question, “What shall we do?” showed that they believed the message, but realized that they needed to do more than have simple belief to reach salvation. James wrote, “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (James 2:24).

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BELIEVE

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REPENT

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The Savior said,

“Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3).

His ambassador added,

“Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38).

Repentance means “a change of mind that produces a change in behavior” (cf. 2 Corinthians 7:10). In simple terms, it means to give up on sinful living and to start living to please Christ. It means to stop serving Satan and self, and start serving God and others (cf. Philippians 2:1—8).

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We must verbalize what we have come to believe in our hearts. We should make the same confession the Ethiopian treasurer made before he climbed down from his chariot to be baptized: “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Acts 8:37). A confession of belief in Christ on earth will trigger a similar (think of it!) event in heaven–Jesus will confess us before His Father and the angels.

The Savior said,

“Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32).

Amazing! You and I may never know or be known by anyone famous on earth, but every angel in heaven will know our names. The president of our country may not know us, but the One who presides in heaven will.

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CONFESS

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BAPTISM

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The Savior said,

“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16).

This is the final step in leaving the world (Satan’s domain) and becoming a part of the church (Christ’s kingdom) (Galatians 3:26—27). This is where God chose to remove our past sins (Acts 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21) and give us His Son’s name to wear (cf. Acts 11:26).

Is it really necessary to be baptized in water in order to go to heaven? Many religious people scoff at the idea. Let’s allow God’s Word to answer this question. The book of Acts explains God’s plan of salvation through several examples of conversion. It records nine specific accounts of conversion:

  • The Jews on Pentecost, chapter 2
  • The Samaritans, chapter 8
  • The Ethiopian eunuch, chapter 8
  • Saul of Tarsus, chapters 9 and 22
  • Cornelius, chapter 10
  • Lydia, chapter 16
  • The Philippian jailer, chapter 16
  • The Corinthians, chapter 18
  • The Ephesians, chapter 19

In each example, certain common actions or steps of obedience were taken by those becoming Christians.  Each was taught about Jesus before conversion; each became a believer in Him; repentance was required; confession was made; each was baptized into Christ. Following conversion to Christ, each Christian was required to grow strong in Christ and remain faithful to Him (cf. Acts 8:22; Revelation 2:10).

It is interesting that baptism is the only step toward salvation explicitly mentioned in every conversion account (Acts 2:38; 8:12; 8:13; 9:18; 22:16; 10:48; 16:15; 16:33; 18:8; 19:5). Since God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34—35; Romans 2:11), what He requires of one person to be saved, He requires of all. What He required then, He requires now.

We urge you to study carefully these Scriptures in your own Bible. See whether these things are so (Acts 17:11); be “fully persuaded in [your] own mind” (Romans 14:5); and “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).

If we can be of assistance in helping you be saved, or if you have questions that you would like to study further, please call the church of Christ in your community, or contact us.

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