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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
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"And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy Salvation," (Luke 2:27-30)
"As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying In the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God." (Luke 3:4-6)
"Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:10-12)
I hope you notice that every one of these scriptures has something in common. They all unquestionably refer to Jesus Christ as being Salvation.
In the past several years, hundreds of tracts and written discourses have been cast into the already huge pile of religious reading material with the title or at least the general theme, "God's Plan of Salvation". They range from basically scriptural, to half scriptural, to some of the most radical prescriptions that a depraved mind could conceive. They all guarantee results, however many of them in the very next paragraph indicate that the results may not last, and that only eternity can give assurance.
One thing that this writer feels they all have in common is that they are Plans.
Webster's dictionary defines the word plan as follows: 1. A drawing or diagram showing parts or outline of a thing. 2. A method or scheme of acting, doing, or arranging.
Neither of these definitions sounds quite right when we think of instruction for salvation, for both require human acts, while the Bible most plainly states: "For by grace are ye saved through faith:" (Ephesians 2:8)
Now if you know the least thing about grace, you realize it is not the activating of a plan, and even though there is a sense in which the human responsibility of faith may be considered an act, Paul states in the very next words, "and that not of yourselves: It is the gift of God." So we see that even saving faith comes from God.
GOD ACTS, MAN IS THE OBJECT
Salvation does not lie in a plan that is to be activated or executed by man; it lies in a plan already activated by Almighty God. That plan was to deliver His only begotten Son, to die for our sins. This has been done. "Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain." (Acts 2:23)
Not only so but it accomplished salvation for every believer. Now please understand, that by the word believer, I do not mean just a person who "believes in God", or that "Jesus Christ is real", but a person who through the regenerating work of God, has been brought to a faith that causes him to quietly rest his soul upon the finished work of Calvary.
Let me state that repentance toward God and faith toward Jesus Christ is the responsibility of every mentally accountable human being upon the Earth, whether they have or have not heard the gospel. This responsibility does not depend upon man's natural ability.
Man is responsible because of the authoritative decree of God that man should repent and believe, period. Gospel enlightenment amplifies that responsibility, but depraved darkness does not void it in any sense. Because every natural man is a willing participant in this depraved darkness, he might well be justly condemned without further confrontation between him and God.
"He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather that light, because their deeds were evil." (John 3:18-19)
DEPRAVITY IS NOT INNOCENCE
It has been rightly stated through the centuries by true Bible evangelists that man, due to his depravity, cannot of his natural accord repent and believe though he is eternally responsible to do so. This is completely accurate.
That man is responsible to repent and believe is obvious from many such scriptures as Luke 13:3, John 3:18, and John 3:36. On the other hand, that he cannot naturally do so is equally obvious from many such scriptures as Jer. 13:23, Matt. 13:9-11, John 6:43-44, John 10:6, John 10:26-27, Acts 11:18 and Acts 2:25.
The great mistake of many has been to conclude that these truths were paradoxical and to make one of two errors. One school uses man's depravity and subsequent inability to deny his responsibility, acclaiming him to be like an animal, without free moral agency, or volition. This is absolute error. The other error is to use his Bible-stated responsibility and free moral agency to deny man's depravity and to acclaim him a creature of free will who may, at his will, will to repent, believe, reform, etc., etc., etc. This is equally wrong.
Free moral agency does not equal free will nor deny human depravity. Human depravity does not equal innocence nor cancel responsibility. Responsibility does not equal ability nor is man rendered 'not responsible' in the eyes of God because he is unable. If you would accuse the consistency of this, consider man's own law. Is a drunk responsible to drive safely, behave decently, etc.? Certainly! Is he able to do so? Certainly not! What then makes his ability less than his rightful responsibility? His drunkeness. What makes man's natural ability less than his responsibility? His sinful depravity.
Whatever else you don't understand about this, you should soon realize that no human plan or series of religious acts can change it. What is the answer to this impossible situation? Oh yes, it is impossible! "When his disciples heard It, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is Impossible; but with God all things are possible." (Matt. 19:25-26) The answer is the New Birth.
THE NEW BIRTH
If there were some step-by-step plan of salvation, it, would be given in God's Holy Word. We would not need to skip around to find it, getting one part of the divine plan here and another part there and another somewhere else. When the Lord was asked how to be saved, he never gave a "plan of Salvation" which suited men, to the point that is has been written verbatim, nor did Paul, nor did Peter, nor did any other Bible writer. The truth is, that through the New Birth, God works in man, Faith and Repentance, with which he receives Christ. It is only in the New Birth that man's depraved inability is overcome. "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." (Phil. 2:13)
GOD'S PLAN OF SALVATION
God's Plan of Salvation is seen in John chapter one. Verse 14 says it like this: "The Word was made flesh," The inclusiveness of that plan is seen in verse 12: "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:" Verse 13 gives the means of that plan: "Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."
In the book of Hebrews, God's Plan of Salvation is given in perfect order:
"For It Is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith. Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body host thou prepared me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do they will, O God. Above when he said. Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sancitified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." (Heb. 10:4-10)
Wherever the Bible speaks of the salvation of man's soul, it speaks of the incarnation of God the Son and of His vicarious death on the Cross. It is also made clear that the necessary responses of man come only by the working of God's Word and Spirit.
TOO DEEP FOR THE LOST
How often do I hear someone say, 'But these truths are too deep for the lost and especially for children.' I know that, but we must realize that neither depravity nor divine enlightenment has an age limit. It was exactly this way with the message Paul preached:
"For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jew and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God." (I Cor. 1:21-24)
God can open the spiritual eyes of babes and the simple, but only God can open the spiritual eyes of even the wisest. A "Plan of Salvation" that can be understood by the natural man, (no matter how many scriptures may be contained within it) is human, not divine. "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (I Cor. 2:14)
WHAT TO DO
Some are now critically asking, 'If all this is so mysterious and comes only by divine revelation, what shall we do?' Preach Christ! That is where the divine enlightenment is. Paul said, "For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." (I Cor. 2:2) He said in Roman 1:16 that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth. In I Corinthians 15:1-4, he says that was his message, the message by which men are saved. What message? Christ crucified for our sins, buried and resurrected according to the scriptures.
To the rationalizing man; this may seem vague. He may reason that it needs rewriting, organizing, or simplifying, but it doesn't. It is a supernatural message from a supernatural God about a supernatural work done for us in a supernatural Christ. That message has supernatural results.
PREACH JESUS CHRIST
Preachers, don't preach a plan, preach Christ! Witnesses, don't talk plan, witness of Christ! Teachers, don't teach plans, speak of Christ! Surely man must believe, but he cannot be brought to faith if we preach believe. It can only be through preaching Christ. Surely man must repent, but this is wrought by the Holy Spirit through preaching Christ.
Everything involved in the New Birth is worked in the affections of a man by the Holy. Spirit through the preaching of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Salvation is not in a Plan, it is in a man - "The Man, Christ Jesus." "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." (John 1:14).
"For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God." (I Cor. 1:17-18) AMEN