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The first step in the Biblical Plan of salvation is exactly the same as the evangelical world's plan, someone must hear the Gospel. This is completely obvious. Satan hasn't confused us at this point. How could someone believe in Christ if they didn't know about him? While it's true that a few people will learn about Him through reading, the vast majority of people, throughout history, have come to know Jesus by hearing the message or the Gospel.

It has always been God's plan that one person teaches another person. Now don't miss that statement. It will become super important in a later lesson.

As good students of the Bible, we want to test and prove everything with the scriptures, right? So then, we must always ask, "Is this claim or assertion scriptural?" Does the Bible teach, for example, "Somebody must hear and accept the Word of God in order to be saved or have their sins forgiven?" Remember these two things are synonymous. Salvation means sins have already been forgiven.

Let's talk about the method we are going to use to study this out. What we are going to do is survey a number of scriptures and as we explore them, carefully watch for the point in time when sins are forgiven. In other words, does the forgiveness of sins occur before or after a particular religious experience as defined in the Bible. Using this method of study, we can find all of the occasions where we see the forgiveness of sins associated with a Biblical command or religious event. As we move forward, we'll label those events on our "Steps to Salvation" and watch the plan reveal itself.

Asking a question and letting the Bible answer it is not just a great way to discover the truth, but after you see the entire plan of salvation, you can use this same method to rigorously test anything you have learned from the Bible. Everything we learn... the conclusions we arrive at, must be consistent with the rest of the Bible. The Bible will never contradict itself.

Let's test our first two claims.. the first two steps in the plan Biblical of salvation.

Does someone need to hear and accept the word of God in order to be saved?

Consider this scripture.

James 1:21. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

What has the power to save you? The Word. Where is it planted? In you.. in other words, your mind and your heart. How is it planted? You hear it preached! Does this planting come before or after the saving? Before. We obviously can not accept something we have not heard. Here's an important study rule. Don't conclude something about a scripture if it's not included in the scripture. For example, we can not conclude from this passage that having the word planted in our heart is the ONLY thing which must happen. There is a second step which is to accept the message or believe it. This verse actually contains both steps, not just hearing it. Do you see how all of the things we have talked about so far come together in just one verse? Notice too, it's really not just a matter of intellectually believing something, we must also have the right attitude. This verse talks about having the attitude of humility. Make no mistake, the heart of a child is absolutely critical.

We have just seen the Bible establish that hearing the word and accepting the word precede the forgiveness of sins or salvation. Is this an absolute? Will it be consistent throughout all of the scriptues? I say, "Yes." but it is up to you to check out everything for yourself.

Let's look at another verse, and doubly confirm the second step, accepting the word or believing the word. Is that really necessary in order to be saved? Here's a good scripture for that.

Romans 10:9 That if you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

In this passage, the Apostle Paul speaks about Jesus resurrection and tells us that we must believe the resurrection happened. This is a little bit more than simply believing in Jesus, isn't it? But, let's use a little logic. It obviously includes belief in Jesus because we would not believe he rose from the dead if we did not believe in him. It's in this passage where we confirm believing in our hearts as the second step in the Biblical Plan. Notice, believing the message also precedes salvation. Believing always comes before salvation. This of course is pretty obvious too. Satan can't really hijack this part of the plan to confuse us.

The evangelical world recognizes the first two steps but teaches that when we have taken these first two steps, it is at that point in time when sins are forgiven. Remember, they teach that when we accept Christ as our personal Lord and Savior, we are saved... and saved, by definition means, sins have been forgiven.

Let's remember that line on the stair steps we marked earlier. As you can see, there seem to be only two things we must do to be saved; hear the word about Jesus and accept the word.

If you know your Bible pretty well, you may be saying, But that's what the scriptures teach. The Bible says "all we need to do to be saved is have faith in Christ! It is Faith Alone that saves us." So, let's pause and take a few of minutes to review a couple of the scriptures, you may be thinking about. These are common scriptures used to support a traditional doctrine of simply receiving Christ for salvation which is sometimes called the "Faith Alone" doctrine. As we review these familiar passages, please ask yourself a very critical question, "Do these verses teach that "All" we need to do is to believe in Jesus and receive Him to be saved?

Here's the first one from the Gospel of John, Chapter 1.

John 1:12-13 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.

This passage speaks about what it takes to be born of God which sounds a lot like Born Again... and yes, it means the same thing. The evangelical world points to this scripture and exclaims, "Look! To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, they became children of God! This is how you become a Christian. It's obvious! All you need to do is receive Christ!"

The mis-reading or misunderstanding of this passage has become so well known and popular, it's been converted into a symbolic math formula which reads: "Believe + Receive = Become." In other words if someone believes in Jesus and receives Him, then they become a child of God. Once again, there is just one problem here. The formula is wrong and it's easy to spot the error... watch.

John 1:12 teaches that there is something else which happens to you when you receive Christ, it's not "become." What is it? Do you see it? Step one is to receive him, step two would be to believe in his name and then what happens?

You are given the RIGHT to become a child of God or you are given the power, as the King James Version reads. You are not yet a child of God but you have the right! If you are over 18, you have the right to vote? Did you exercise that right in the last election? Having a right and exercising a right are two completely different things, aren't they. Unfortunately, decade after decade since the 1800s, this passage has been used as a proof text for the Sinner's Prayer. We have been told by some of the greatest preachers in the modern era, "Just receive Christ and you will be saved."

This is wrong. The correct formula should be Believe + Receive = Given the Power to become a child of God. What you do with that power, how you use that power or right, is what determines your eternity. Now, there is another important point. This verse does not teach that receiving Christ is ALL we need to do. We must not add that conclusion to this text. It simply tells us to receive Christ in order to receive a very special right we previously did not have.

Receiving or accepting Christ is synonymous with accepting the Word. It's an important step in our spiritual journey. But, let's talk a bit about what really happens when someone receives Christ?

Receiving Christ means someone makes a decision to follow Christ or accept the message. When someone does this, consider why they have decided to receive Him. They are responding positively to the word... that's why they are receiving Christ! These folks have come to a point in their lives where their conscience is condemning them or life's burdens have become to great to bear, they no longer want to go on the way they have been going. They have received a spiritual tap on the shoulder and they are ready to make some real and sincere changes. The word of God is effective and powerful regardless of who is preaching it.

At this point in the process, they make a decision for Christ and surrender. Then, a very real and very spiritual thing happens. John 1:12 makes it clear... God gives them the right to become a His child. Previous to a person receiving Christ, they did not have this right. This is something God gives them. He moves them from one spiritual state to a new one. They are not yet saved but they now have something they did not previously have and it is God who gave this power to them!

God is moving them from a heart, hardened with sin and willfully rejecting the Gospel maybe for years, to a softened heart that has been plowed and raked over by lives burdens and the guilt of sin. This is a person ready to receive the full truth. The seed has been planted and should ultimately grow, blossom and produce a crop. The word has actually fulfilled the first two steps, hearing and accepting. At this point of surrender, it feels really good! Surrender means we will no longer be burdened with a war we can not win. We lay down our weapons and lower our defenses. We have just obeyed the Bible for the very first time as we hear the word, accept the word and surrender to it!

Now listen very carefully! It's really, really easy for someone to confuse the amazing feelings and emotions which come as a result of their surrender, with a salvation experience! These very real, very sincere experiences become a validating stamp of approval and confirmation. People confuse this new and precious gift of the right God gives them, with being saved. It is a time when emotions are high and the Spirit is moving. A gentle nudge from Satan can bump us way off course. These fired up new believers are then offered the only thing their pastors and teachers know about... an erroneous plan. This is exactly when Satan swoops in with his distorted doctrine to short circuit the process. Never confuse the right to do something with actually doing it. What we ultimately want to do is to completely obey the Gospel, not simply hear and receive. There are other steps on this journey before God bestows the blessing of eternal life. We will be looking at those shortly.

Before we get there, here's another proof text commonly used to justify the notion of ONLY receiving Christ for salvation. This is a really famous passage but is taken way out of context. I'm sure you'll recognize it. In this passage, it is Jesus himself, speaking in the book of Revelation.

Revelation 3:19-20 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

This is that famous passage preachers use to tell us that Jesus is standing at the door of our heart, knocking to come in and that you should open the door to your heart so you will be saved. They tell us, this is a universal call... since it is directed to "anyone." Therefore it applies to us today because we are part of "anyone." Confusion abounds when we take the passage out of context. Grab your Bible and read this passage in context. It's pretty stunning.

This passage is not spoken to individuals. It was directed to the church at Laodicea. This is the last of the seven churches the letter of Revelation was addressed to. This church had strayed so far from the the Gospel truth, that Jesus said it made him sick, he wanted to spit them out of his mouth! He is not telling individuals to open the door to their hearts. The door he is standing at is the door of the church at Laodicia knocking, trying to get back into the church! That's the first problem in using this passage as a proof text for receiving Christ for salvation. But there is another problem too. As we have already seen, this passage is directed to a church. A church is not made up of lost people. It is made up of people who have already been saved! This is not a call to salvation, it is a call for an apostate church to repent! This can be seen if you will just go back to the verse 19. It says: "Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent." This is not a call to salvation, it's a call to repentance.

These are just two of the most common verses used to present the idea that one receives the forgiveness of sins by simply believing in Jesus. Since this is such a huge part of the evangelical world's doctrine of salvation, and I know this is important to you, we will look at more of these proof texts as we move forward. I will be dropping them into our discussions as it seems relevant.

Regarding the "Sinners Prayer;" It may interest you to know: the use of the Sinner's Prayer is relatively new. Most theologians agree that it started in the mid to late 1800s during the great revivals of that era. It was popularized by Dwight L. Moody, Billy Sunday and Billy Graham among others.

The Graham organization still uses a similar prayer today and you can find it right on their website. Information about the "Sinner's Prayer" in general can be easily found on the internet.

As you can see, receiving the word, and accepting the word are true Biblical first steps. When we do this, God moves us from the battle hardened state we were previously in and gives us something we did not have before. He gives us a very special gift, the right or the power to become His son or daughter. We are not yet sons or daughters, but we now have the right.

Now, there is a lot more to the Biblical plan of salvation. The next two steps, just like the first two steps always precede salvation or the forgiveness of sins. In fact, you've already seen the next two steps. Did you miss them? That's OK. Most folks do!