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    Biblical Studies Journal Volume 1, Number 2

    March 15, 1997

    The Plan Of Salvation

    I want to go to heaven when I die. How do I get there? Can I be forgiven of my sins? Does God have a plan for the saving of my soul?

    How Sin Entered The World

    Sin came into the world when Adam first disobeyed God's command to refrain from eating the fruit of a certain tree. in the Garden of Eden. This act on Adam's part destroyed the harmony between God and man. Sin was now a part of life.

    Can Harmony Be Restored?

    Because there can be no fellowship between right and wrong, between obedience and disobedience, some way had to be devised by which man could be free from his sin and live forever in the presence of this Holy God. Sin had to be punished -- "The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23) -- and God, by His very nature, cannot overlook man's sin.

    On the other hand, God, by His very nature, wanted men to live eternally with Him. How could sinful man live eternally with a sinless God? It was God who provided the answer through the cross. Paul said, "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21). God was willing to allow His Son to take the punishment for man's sins. His sinless Son was "becoming sin" (taking our sins) so that we might "become righteous" (or be counted as righteous in the sight of God).

    Forgiveness Is Conditional

    The scriptures make it quite obvious that the forgiveness of sins is conditional. To be sure, Christ died for all people; but it is not all people who will respond to Him. In John 1:12, 13 it is stated, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."

    The question asked over and again in scripture- -"What must I do to be saved" -- suggests that salvation is conditional. If not, then the answer to the question would always be "Nothing"

    A rich man once asked Jesus, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life" (Mark 10:17)

    When Peter preached on the first Pentecost after the resurrection, the Jews present asked the question, "Brethren, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37). This indicates that something had to be done.

    Some time later, the Lord spoke from heaven to Saul of Tarsus, and Saul responded with the question, "What shall I do, Lord?" (Acts 22: 10).

    Still again, a Philippian jail keeper, convicted of the reality of Christianity, once asked the question, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:30). All of these questions are saying the same thing -- "Salvation is conditional.

    The Part Which Faith Plays

    Without considering any Bible passage whatever, it would seem obvious that faith, or belief, would be essential to a relationship with the God of heaven. To say that one is a Christian is to say that he is a believer in Christ, a disciple of Christ, a follower of Christ. However, the Bible makes it clear that such faith is necessary. In fact, it says: "And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6).

    In reference to His divinity, Jesus put it this way: "for unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins" (John 8:24). He further said, "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned" (Mark 16:16).

    Can we stop here? Can we say simply, "That's it; just believe and you will be forgiven of your sins and go to heaven when you die." Hardly! James said, "You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe and shudder" (James 2:19). Then he added, "But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?" (James 2:20). Indeed, faith is essential, but it can never stand alone. Faith and obedience are always coupled in scripture.


    A working definition of repentance is "a change of thinking." When an individual repents of sins, that person changes his whole attitude toward sin. He realizes that sin is the breaking of God's law (I John 3:4), but it is also a violation of a sacred trust. One writer has said that it is a "breaking of God's heart.

    Peter once told a group of people who were convicted of their sins, "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins..." (Acts 2:38). If an individual is not sorry for the sins of his life, then why even try to be a follower of Christ?

    Confessing Christ

    When the man from Ethiopia was convicted of his need for becoming a Christian, he and Philip passed a body of water, and he said, "Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized" Philip answered, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." And this man from Ethiopia said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God" (Acts 8:36, 37).

    Jesus once said, "Every one therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 10:32).

    The Importance Of Baptism

    Baptism in New Testament days was an immersion in water. The Greek word which comes out as baptism in our English Bibles is a word which actually meant to immerse. Also, this can be seen from the language of scripture which says that "they both went down into the water," and "when they came up out of the water" (Acts 8:38. 39). It was a total immersion in water.

    The Bible teaches that baptism is "for the forgiveness of your sins" (Acts 2:38). It is a part of the salvation process.

    Peter makes the statement that "baptism now saves you" (I Peter 3:21). He is saying that just as Noah and his family were saved when God brought them "safely through the water," even so we are saved by the water of baptism.

    Furthermore, Paul says: "For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ" (Galatians 3:27). The whole process is one of faith and obedience.

    Living A Faithful Life

    That individual who has put on Christ in baptism is then expected to live a life of faithfulness and devotion to the Lord whom he has confessed.

    (c) 1997 The Fishinger & Kenny Roads Church of Christ, Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A.

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