God's Plan Of Salvation
Larry V. Smith, Ph.D.

According to the scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3) Christ died for our sins. God saves through Jesus Christ (Jn. 3:17). The death of Jesus is the sole meritorious cause of our salvation.

It was through Jesus that God reconciled the conflicting demands of justice and mercy. A story is told of a young man who had put out both eyes of a fellow citizen. Justice according to their law required that the young man lose both of his eyes. When he was brought to trial the judge was none other than his own father. (1)

In the heart of the judge there were the unyielding pulls of justice and mercy. Justice must be assessed but mercy must find a way. The father judge thought for a while and then lifted his head saying, "As your judge, I can do no less than assess the full penalty of the law. Two eyes must be taken. But as your father, I offer one of my eyes to help meet the demands of justice".

As we learn from the illustration. The whole accountable world was guilty of sin (Rom 3:23). Sin is wrong. It separates man from God (Isa. 59:2). Justice cries out for sin to be punished (Rom. 6:23). But mercy cries out for man's pardon.

So God sent His Son to resolve the discordant claims of justice and grace. We understand that "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation" (II Cor. 5:19). The word gives a way of reconciliation, the word gives a plan to obey, a plan of salvation.

That plan of Salvation says you must:

Hear the Gospel. (John 20:30-31, Rom. 10:17)

Believe the Gospel. (Heb. 11:6, Rom. 1:16)

Repent of your sins. (Luke 13:3, Acts 17:30-31)

Confess Christ is the Son of God. (Matt. 10:32, Rom. 10:10) Be Baptized. (Rom. 6:1-6, Col. 2:12, Acts 2:38)

Continue Faithful unto death. (II Pet. 1:1-11)

Salvation is conditional and that condition can only be met through obedience. For God "will have all men to be saved, and come unto the knowledge of the truth" (I Tim. 2:3-4). If any are lost, it is not God's fault, but theirs.

The Gospel of Christ saves who believe it and obey it: The Gospel of Christ is the "power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth" (Rom 1:16). To obey the death, burial and resurrection Paul tells us to obey the form of it:(Rom. 6:17-18). We obey from the heart the form of it by dying to sin (repentance) and by being buried in a watery grave (immersion) and by being raised to walk in the newness of life. Thus God planned for the baptism to be something declarative and meaningful.

There is no surer way to learn what one must do to be saved than to go to each place the question is asked and read the answer. The question "what must I do to be saved" is only asked four times in the New Testament and one of them was under the law of Moses. It was asked of Christ by the rich young man. (Mk. 10:17) Jesus referred him to the Ten Commandments because the Mosaic law was in force at that time, for Christ had not yet died and been nailed to the cross. The young man was told to sell his riches and give it to the poor, for his riches were in heaven and to come take up the cross and follow him. The riches in this case were a stumbling block. To follow Christ he needed to free himself of the thing that held him back.

Under the New Testament:

The question was first asked "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37) The answer "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins." (Acts 2:38). They were not told to hear or believe because they had already heard and believed to have asked the question of what to do.

Question two: "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" (Acts 9:6). The Answer: "Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do." (Acts 9:6) In the city he was told: "Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." (Acts 22:16) He was not told to believe and repent because he had already done this.

Question three: "Sirs what must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:30) The answer: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." (Acts 16:31) This question was asked by a man who had never heard the gospel and thus did not believe. So he was told to believe, but not to believe only. (When Paul spoke of salvation by faith, as he did here and in Rom. 5:1, he meant an obedient faith. He said, "obedience to the faith," Rom 1:5 and "the obedience of faith", Rom 16:26. Then Paul preached to the man that he might believe and he repented and was baptized the same hour of the night (Acts 16:33). Hence, he believed, repented and was baptized, as each did in every case. All did exactly the same thing.

The example frequently used to explain this process is a gentleman asks how far is it to Chicago. The answer is nine hundred miles. He drives three hundred miles and asks the same question. Now he is told six hundred. He drives three hundred miles further and asks the same question. This time the answer is three hundred.

He was given three different answers to the same question, because he was at different places on the road to Chicago. Now when you apply the same common sense to the question of salvation. The inquirers were at different places on the road to forgiveness.

The first had believed, so they were told to repent and be baptized.

The second had believed and repented, and was told to be baptized.

The third had never started on the road, so in a blanket way he was told to believe (meaning an obedient belief) and then they preached to him that he might and he repented and was baptized. All traveled over the same road. All did the same things. There is no contradiction here.

The saved person -born again- can sin. John said, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." (I Jn. 1:8).

We are told to remain faithful unto death, however when we stumble we are to go back to God and ask for his forgiveness. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (I Jn. 1:9)

God has truly provided us with a way of salvation for life everlasting.


1.) God the Bible and Common Sense Leroy Brownlow, 1978 Brownlow Publishing Co. Fort Worth, TX

copyright 2002 Larry V. Smith, Ph.D.
Used by permission.