Few people have enough time to dive into a complete series of video lessons or plough through a bunch of podcasts so, I wanted to record one short podcast to provide a brief, concentrated “executive summary” of what “A Faith that Obeys” is all about.
At “A Faith that Obeys,” we believe the Bible presents a clearly defined plan of salvation. This plan, God’s Plan, was established in 33 AD and has not changed nor can it change. The plan is still alive today and we should still be following that plan if we want to follow Jesus scripturally. I call this plan, “The Biblical Plan of Salvation.”
Now, there is a problem. A new plan developed over the last few hundred years which has become what I call, “The Modern Plan” or “The Traditional Plan of Salvation.” This plan is taught in almost every evangelical church today. When people hear about Jesus and are willing to make a life-long commitment to Him, it is at this critical point in their spiritual journey, the traditional plan is promoted as “the way” to be saved.
I created “A Faith that Obeys” to help people spot the difference between these two plans, and explain how the Biblical Plan of Salvation differs so greatly from a plan they may have followed. I want to challenge people to dig into the scriptures, so they can decide, for themselves which plan makes sense. I do this through a series of 11 short video lessons which can be watched at www.afaiththatobyes.org.
Defining Our Terms
Right after a brief introduction, I begin by defining terms. One of the best ways to approach any subject is to look at its grammar, so I begin with the word “salvation.”
Definition of Salvation
The word salvation means a believer is in a “saved” state. There is no gray area. A person is either saved or not saved. A “saved” person has already received three things from God, the forgiveness of sins, the indwelling gift of the Holy Spirit and the free gift of eternal life. If these three gifts have not been given to a believer, by God, we cannot say they are saved. That would make no sense.
Obviously, the Holy Spirit will not indwell a house which has not been swept clean. So, at some point during the conversion process, our sins must be forgiven by God before He moves in and we begin our new life with Him. This is pretty basic Christian doctrine. We are not saved unless our sins have been forgiven. That’s what we are saved from!
The forgiveness of sins occurs at a specific point on the conversion timeline which we can easily identify using the scriptures. So, the big question we ask is, “At what point in our spiritual journey does the forgiveness of sins occur?”
It’s a Specific Point in Time!
The traditional plan of salvation teaches, we are saved… meaning the forgiveness of sins occurs… when we “Accept Christ” or when we first believe in Jesus. Unfortunately, this doctrine is not very concrete. Let me explain.
Traditional Plan – Nothing Concrete
Ask a member of a traditional church, “When were you saved?” You’ll get a variety of answers. Most people who believe they were saved using the traditional plan, reference a sensational emotional event which happened to them sometime in the past. Many remember a specific place but not necessarily a specific date or time.
In explaining this experience, they may say, they had a feeling or, they were compelled to go forward in response to a message… some will say they felt a force filling them with inexpressible joy. These are all very real, very sincere, and sometimes deeply emotional experiences. I don’t deny these things happen but experiences or emotions are no proof of salvation. In the traditional plan, doctrine takes a back seat to an emotional experience and these emotional experiences, rather than scripture, validate a believer’s salvation experience and even their ongoing relationship with God.
Since the person’s salvation experience is so deeply connected with these emotional events and it varies from person to person, there can’t be doctrinal consistency. Even among members within the same, congregation there is often weak consensus as to the point in time, during the conversion process, God wipes away sin.
This is understandable because the traditional plan is just that… traditions. It has no solid basis in the Bible, so the doctrine tends to shift from denomination to denomination, church to church and individual to individual.
Biblical Plan – Very Concrete
In stark contrast, The Biblical Plan of Salvation is expressly concrete and presents a specific point in time on the conversion timeline where the forgiveness of sins occurs. Churches which follow the Biblical Plan are constant in their teachings, solid in their convictions, and set clearly on that specific timing as to when sins are forgiven… so are their members. Ask a member from one of these churches how and when they were saved and they confidently point to a specific time, date and place where it happened; often referencing the Bible for support of their claim. They will also consistently associate their salvation with the forgiveness of their sins.
Surprisingly, this doctrine also remains consistent from church to church and from denomination to denomination… even though they have no affiliations or a central denominational leadership defining the doctrines they practice.
The Steps to Salvation
So, how do these plans differ? As I’ve said, both plans depict a series of steps a person must take before the free gift of salvation is bestowed upon them. Both have the first two steps in common. Step 1 – Hear the message about Jesus. Step 2 – Believe or accept the message about the Christ.
Once again, remember, the traditional plan teaches that a person is saved after these first two experiences. Sometimes, this is referred to simply as “Accepting Christ.” The Biblical Plan of Salvation describes three additional steps in the process. The Biblical Plan of Salvation shows that after a person has learned about Jesus and makes a decision to follow Him, that person must repent of his sins, confess “Jesus is Lord,” and be baptized in water, in obedience to Christ’s commands, before salvation is received.
The Biblical Plan depicts that the process is not complete until a person has fully obeyed the Gospel in baptism. There is an argument which says baptism cannot be part of the conversion process because it is a human work. The issue is not and should never be about baptism but whether a person has completely obeyed the Gospel. Baptism is a command of Christ, therefore… it cannot be a work of man. When God gives us a command, we have no choice but to obey. If we will not have a Lord, we cannot have a savior.
But to be sure about all this, we really should identify that specific point in the conversion timeline when the forgiveness of sins is performed by God. And this is the goal of the following lessons at “A Faith that Obeys” Here’s how we do that.
Using the scriptures, we look at every instance where we see the forgiveness of sins, the gift of the Holy Spirit or the gift of eternal life associated with a command or a religious event which occurs in a believer’s life. Next, we ask, “Is this gift given to the believer before or after that event?” We conclude that the gift is given as a result of the believer’s humble obedience… not their performance, since salvation has nothing to do with human effort or meritorious works.
Two Plans, Five Steps
The Traditional Plan includes two steps and The Biblical Plan of Salvation includes Five steps. With the first two steps in common, here are all five steps: Hearing, Accepting, Repentance, Confession and Obedience. Let’s look at the scriptures regarding these five experiences and I will make comments along the way.
The Biblical Plan
Step 1 – Hearing the Message
Does the Bible teach that, “hearing the message” has anything to do with salvation?
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.
The word planted “in you” has the power to “save you.” To get into you, you must hear it. Does salvation come before hearing the word? Of course not, that would make no sense.
Step 2 – Believing or Accepting
Does the Bible teach that we must believe or accept the message after we have heard it?
This should be obvious but let’s allow the scripture answer the question. The James passage we just looked at confirms this as well. We must humbly accept the word before God saves us. But there is another good passage from Romans we can reference.
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.
We will be saved if we believe in our heart in the resurrection of Christ. It would be hard to believe in a resurrection if we did not believe in the resurrected! Therefore we must believe in both things. And of course, note that salvation occurs after this belief… not before. So, these are the first two steps and this is where the plans diverge.
The traditional plan of salvation teaches it is at this point in time when sins are forgiven. If that were the case, we should not expect to find any other biblical religious events or commands which happen sometime after our initial belief and acceptance which have anything to do whatsoever with the forgiveness of sins or receiving God’s gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. If we were saved when we accepted Christ there is absolutely nothing else left. But this is not the case. There are three more things tied to the forgiveness of sins and receiving the Holy Spirit.
Step 3 – Repentance
Does the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit come before or after repentance?
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you–even Jesus.
This passage tells us that sins are wiped out and God sends Jesus to us after repentance and turning to God. Repentance, by its nature, must follow belief and acceptance of the Gospel. Here is another passage about repentance which we have also already seen.
We read James 1:21 previously to confirm acceptance but this scripture also contains the issue of repentance. “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.” Repentance or the removal of all moral filth is necessary before sins are wiped out or salvation occurs.
Step 4 – Confession
Does the forgiveness of sins come before or after confession?
“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.”
We saw this scripture earlier as well. This time we note that confession of “Jesus is Lord” precedes salvation too. This is done with our mouth. It is a verbal confession. Typically this event happens in churches when someone is baptized. Both their baptism and their statement is a public declaration of their faith.
Step 5 – Obedience
Does salvation come before or after obedience? Remember, salvation means the forgiveness of sins, but also means we receive the Holy Spirit.
We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.
God only gives the Holy Spirit to people who obey him. There can be no confusion about this… but there are other scriptures which say the same thing.
Once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.
Again, salvation is only given to those who obey Jesus.
2 Thessalonians 1:8
He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
Knowing God is not enough to avoid punishment. We must also obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus. This is where we get the term, “Obey the Gospel.”
Obeying the Gospel is only accomplished when we humbly do everything Jesus commands us to do which includes, hearing the message and accepting the message, which leads to repentance, confession and baptism. Remember, baptism is a command of Christ therefore it cannot be a work of man, as it is often claimed by adherents to the traditional plan. Baptism is never referred to as a human work in the New Testament and, in fact, is consistently associated with obedience and the forgiveness of sins.
Another important controversy is addressed in some later lessons at “A Faith that Obeys,” which may be helpful here. The traditional plan identifies two baptisms, one in water and one by the Spirit. Yet in Ephesians 4:5, Paul tells us there is only one baptism. How can this be?
Baptism is a participation in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. It is where and when we are born again. While physically we are being baptized in water, the Holy Spirit is baptizing us into Christ.
Two things are happening at the same time. The physical baptism and the spiritual baptism occur simultaneously. This view is the only possible way to harmonize scriptures which appear to speak of two separate baptisms. It’s all happening at the same time. Two things happen during one event. Finally, it is not the water that washes away sin. God washes away sin at the time of our obedience. Yes, there is a spiritual baptism. It occurs during our physical baptism. Now we understand Jesus words to Nicodemus regarding “water and the spirit!”
At “A Faith that Obeys,” I also address another important issue which is worthy of mention in this podcast. The claim is often made by the traditional plan that “Belief in Christ is all that is necessary.” This claim comes from a casual reading of several passages like John 3:16.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
We cannot base our understanding of any doctrine on one scripture and assume that because it does not mention another specific event, that event is not important or critical. Many people wrongly conclude, Repentance or Baptism are not necessary because John 3:16, or some other passage, does not mention them… but it does talk about eternal life. We need a complete picture. Good Bible study strives to harmonize scriptures, not isolate them.
The Grammar of the Traditional Plan
The traditional plan of salvation is just that… it is a tradition. Following this plan does not place us on the narrow road. At the end of the series, I ask people to continue studying this out in the Bible and suggest they speak with a member or leader of a church in their area which follows the Biblical Plan.
This is a basic overview of the argument I present at “A Faith that Obeys.” There is a lot more to explore and the best way to do that is to watch the eleven short videos. The next best way would be to listen to the “audio” version the lessons which can be downloaded as a private podcast at www.afaiththatobeys.org/audio. Listening to the audio frees you up from needing to sit in front of a screen as you review the lessons.
The Bible teaches in no uncertain terms, in a myriad of places, with consistency and clarity: for man to receive God’s free gift of eternal life, he must respond scripturally to the Lord’s call. He cannot make up his own method or use an unbiblical plan, no matter how deeply it is entrenched or how many famous, influential religious leaders promote it.
The Biblical Plan of Salvation is God’s Plan. It was established on the day of Pentecost… has never changed and never will. This is why we say, “In order to be saved, we must have a faith that obeys.”