Monday, February 18, 2013

Why Is The Plan of Salvation Spread Throughout The New Testament?

By Douglas Hoff
    In the Bible, God has revealed how he will save man from the condemnation of sin. There are certain things man must do to be forgiven. Each action is a “step” in God’s plan to bring salvation to man (Rom. 4:12). It is eminently scriptural to call the sum of these steps the “plan of salvation” since the Lord planned it before the world was even formed (Eph. 1:4,5; cf. I Peter 1:18-20). The discerning student of the scriptures soon discovers that all the steps in the plan are not found in one place. Some have wondered why this is so.
    Clearly, God desires everyone to be saved. Various scriptures such as 1 Timothy 2:3,4 and 2 Peter 3:9 attest to this fact. Since he does not want any to perish, why is the plan of salvation scattered throughout the New Testament? God would not reveal his desire to have everyone saved yet purposely make it hard to determine how to do so. Why not have the plan easily found in one passage? God in his wisdom had a reason or reasons why he revealed the plan of salvation as he did.
    Man must obey the Gospel to be saved (Rom. 1:16; 10:16; II Thess. 1:6-9). This means first learning what is required. What is necessary to obey the Gospel? First, one must hear the message of salvation (Luke 8:12; Rom. 10:17; Eph. 1:13). Second, the lost soul must believe the gospel (Mark 16:15,16; Rom. 10:9,10). Third, the person must repent of his sins (Luke 13:3,5; Acts 2:38). Fourth, one must confess his belief that Jesus is the Son of God (Matt. 10:32,33; Rom. 10:10). Fifth, for sins to be washed away and the soul saved, one must be baptized (Acts 22:16; I Peter 3:21).
    No doubt some would prefer that all these commands were contained in one convenient passage. However, that is not the way God did it and our desires will not change the situation. We must accept that God knows what is best. Since the various commands are not found in one central place, man must search the scriptures to ascertain the truth (John 5:39). Though he did not explain why it is so, we may be sure his wisdom is justified (Luke 7:35). We are told God’s word brings about his desired results: “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isa. 55:11). So, why should a person have to struggle and search to learn the saving truth? We cannot be dogmatic since God does not specify his reason(s). Nevertheless, here are some possible reasons why the plan of salvation is not found in one place:
1) It may be God’s design to keep those not spiritually minded and disinterested out of the kingdom (Matt. 13:10-17). When Judgment Day comes, there will be a separation between the saints and sinners. However, the unfaithful will also be taken out of the midst of the saved in that day (Matt. 13:41,42,47-50). If a person isn’t even interested enough in searching for the way to be saved, it is doubtful they would make good servants. If one passage contained the entire plan of salvation, people with a check list mentality could soothe their consciences by saying, “I’ve done all that’s needed” and then go back to their own affairs much like the one talent man did (Matt. 25:14-30).
2) It may be God’s purpose to show the need to study all of the Bible. “The sum of thy word is truth; And every one of thy righteous ordinances endureth for ever” (Psa. 119:160; ASV). By keeping the plan of salvation dispersed, perhaps it reinforces the need to study everything in God’s word. God wants us to grow and prepare for eternity (II Peter 3:18). This requires a hungering and thirsting soul that will be satisfied only by every word that proceeds from God’s mouth (Matt. 5:6; cf. 4:4).
3) The Bible is not a textbook on salvation. As such, we should not expect a table or chart listing the five steps in the plan of salvation. The literary style of God’s word does not lend itself to a convenient listing of the plan. Much of the Bible is written in the historical narrative style. For example, the four accounts of the Gospel deal with people, places and events. This is not the place to artificially list the plan of salvation.
    Even the book of Acts, which is often called the book of conversions, would not be the proper place to find a convenient listing of all five steps. Different circumstances resulted in different responses to the question, “What must I do to be saved?”
4) God chose to reveal things little by little as man was able to accept it. This can be seen as one studies the Old Testament and how it anticipates the coming Messiah. Jesus often taught in parables and Mark recorded this was done “as they were able to hear it” (Mark 4:33). Paul also found his audience was not always able to handle the deep things: “I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able” (I Cor. 3:2). See also Hebrews 5:12-14.
5) Searching for truth rewards the diligent seeker when he finds the pearl of great price (Matt. 13:44-46). Finding the truth becomes more important when one invests his time and effort. As such, he is more likely to value what was found (Matt. 6:19-21). God values the disposition that will fight to defend the truth (Jude 3).
6) Repetition helps ensure one will learn the truth. If the plan of salvation were limited to one centralized passage, would there be the oft needed repetition (I Cor. 4:17; II Peter 1:12; Jude 5)? God thought it necessary to preserve four accounts of the gospel. Why? Some people might be more receptive when the story is presented in different ways. So it is with study of the scriptures. Perhaps a person will get the point in one book but miss it in another.
    Is it difficult to find the plan of salvation? Not for one who is looking. Jesus promised that one who seeks will find (Matt. 7:7,8). What does it take to learn? Some time, a desire to learn, an open mind, an open Bible and some effort.

- Douglas Hoff; via the Nile Street Notes, the weekly bulletin of the Anna Church of Christ in Anna, IL; R. W. McAlister preaches for the congregation and may be contacted through the congregation's website: 

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