Essay 5 Steps To Salvation

1 John 5:11-12 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. The one who has the Son has this eternal life; the one who does not have the Son of God does not have this eternal life.

This passage tells us that God has given us eternal life and this life is in His Son, Jesus Christ. In other words, the way to possess eternal life is to possess God’s Son. The question is, how can a person have the Son of God?

Man’s Problem

Separation From God

Isaiah 59:2 But your sinful acts have alienated you from your God; your sins have caused him to reject you and not listen to your prayers.

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

According to Romans 5:8, God demonstrated His love for us through the death of His Son. Why did Christ have to die for us? Because Scripture declares all men to be sinful. To “sin” means to miss the mark. The Bible declares “all have sinned and fall short of the glory (the perfect holiness) of God” (Rom. 3:23). In other words, our sin separates us from God who is perfect holiness (righteousness and justice) and God must therefore judge sinful man.

Habakkuk 1:13a You are too just to tolerate evil; you are unable to condone wrongdoing.

The Futility of Our Works

Scripture also teaches that no amount of human goodness, human works, human morality, or religious activity can gain acceptance with God or get anyone into heaven. The moral man, the religious man, and the immoral and non-religious are all in the same boat. They all fall short of God’s perfect righteousness. After discussing the immoral man, the moral man, and the religious man in Romans 1:18-3:8, the Apostle Paul declares that both Jews and Greeks are under sin, that “there is no one righteous, not even one” (Rom. 3:9-10). Added to this are the declarations of the following verses of Scripture:

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 it is not of works, so that no one can boast.

Titus 3:5-7 he saved us, not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us in full measure through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7 And so, since we have been justified by his grace, we become heirs with the confident expectation of eternal life.

Romans 4:1-5 What then shall we say that Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh, has discovered regarding this matter? 2 For if Abraham was declared righteous by the works of the law, he has something to boast about (but not before God). 3 For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his pay is not credited due to grace but due to obligation. 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in the one who declares the ungodly righteous, his faith is credited as righteousness.

No amount of human goodness is as good as God. God is perfect righteousness. Because of this, Habakkuk 1:13 tells us God cannot have fellowship with anyone who does not have perfect righteousness. In order to be accepted by God, we must be as good as God is. Before God, we all stand naked, helpless, and hopeless in ourselves. No amount of good living will get us to heaven or give us eternal life. What then is the solution?

God’s Solution

God is not only perfect holiness (whose holy character we can never attain to on our own or by our works of righteousness) but He is also perfect love and full of grace and mercy. Because of His love and grace, He has not left us without hope and a solution.

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

This is the good news of the Bible, the message of the gospel. It’s the message of the gift of God’s own Son who became man (the God-man), lived a sinless life, died on the cross for our sin, and was raised from the grave proving both the fact He is God’s Son and the value of His death for us as our substitute.

Romans 1:4 who was appointed the Son-of-God-in-power according to the Holy Spirit by the resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 4:25 He was given over because of our transgressions and was raised for the sake of our justification.

2 Corinthians 5:21 God made the one who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the right-eousness of God.

1 Peter 3:18 Because Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, to bring you to God, by being put to death in the flesh but by being made alive in the spirit.

How Do We Receive God’s Son?

Because of what Jesus Christ accomplished for us on the cross, the Bible states “He that has the Son has life.” We can receive the Son, Jesus Christ, as our Savior by personal faith, by trusting in the person of Christ and His death for our sins.

John 1:12 But to all who have received him--those who believe in his name--he has given the right to become God's children

John 3:16-18 For this is the way God loved the world: he gave his one and only Son that everyone who believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him. 18 The one who believes in Him is not condemned. The one who does not believe has been condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God.

This means we must each come to God the same way: (1) as a sinner who recognizes his sinfulness, (2) realizes no human works can result in salvation, and (3) relies totally on Christ alone by faith alone for our salvation.

If you would like to receive and trust Christ as your personal Savior, you may want to express your faith in Christ by a simple prayer acknowledging your sinfulness, accepting His forgiveness and putting your faith in Christ for your salvation.

If you have just trusted in Christ, you need to learn about your new life and how to walk with the Lord. May we suggest you start by studying through the ABCs for Christian Growth available online at www.bible.org. This series will take you step-by-step through some basic truths of God’s Word and will help you build a solid foundation for your faith in Christ.



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Growing up in the Churches of Christ, it was advertised to me as long as I can remember—in sermons, in Bible classes, at camp, in outlines and tracts, on bulletin boards, on websites, and in personal Bible study with someone about to become a Christian. God had a plan for us to be saved, avoid Hell, go to Heaven. It was obtainable in five simple steps: Hear, Believe, Repent, Confess, be Baptized. It was easy to memorize, easy to count. It was a bullet point plan to perfection. It was a reachable solution that I myself could perform to be a good Christian. And for a number of years in my youth, I assumed it was the best way to view the operation of being saved by God.

In my early college years, I began to reconsider this layout. It was not the case that I was doubting salvation, but that I was doubting how salvation had often been presented to me. I didn’t think at first that it mattered—If it’s factual, it’s correct, right? The steps were in there. As long as we have the truth, we’re thinking what’s right, and if we follow it we’ll do what’s right. But I later came to realize that not only may this not be the best way to layout the work of God in our adoption, it can actually have hampering consequences on how we teach, how we think, and how we live.

But even after I came to this conclusion, I decided to study it more closely. I decided to read both the Bible and Church history. And I decided that although I learned to see salvation in a deeper way, I wasn’t going to reject what I believed was a sound way of coming to it. I want to respectfully question the use (or rather misuse) of a tradition.

I want to start this series of 5 posts by answering a very serious question that will establish a common ground for everyone: Are the five elements in the “5-step plan of salvation” in the Gospel? My answer is yes, I believe that they are. You can find each of these essential elements of any person’s journey to God in scripture.

  1. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17)
  2. “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)
  3. Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)
  4. “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)
  5. “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)

Yes, it is true that the elements of hearing, believing, repenting, confessing and being immersed are logical events in the coming of a person to the kingdom of God and to salvation through Christ. There is nothing inherently false about this presentation of the operation of our way toward salvation. I want to make that clear before I go any further. No person who reviews this list to another person is by default a teacher of false doctrine, nor are they misleading anyone by the mere use of such a list. However, I do intend to demonstrate how this list of steps can be easily be abused, and how we should be wary of letting such a list substitute the ways in which the Gospel itself has laid salvation out for us.

…along came social media

With the advent of social media, new opportunities arise for avenues of sharing Christ, but it has also become much easier for us to be even more lazy, reposting and reposting images of plans and points and bullets and charts—sometimes accurate, sometimes not—that squeeze short phrases and passage references into what appear to be neat little packages of the Word, the “5 step plan of salvation” being among them. Conversations about salvation can develop, but sometimes the one posting is not interested in having a conversation, but proving a point. Or it merely becomes like a bumper sticker: Someone sees it, comes to a conclusion about the person posting it based on the chart itself, and moves on. Presentations like these can be lost in the myriad of condensed formulas offered by all kinds of denominations and sects, as those sharing feel they are doing God’s kingdom a favor. Sometimes, harm can be done by abusing both the tools of Bible study and social media.

An example table of the “5-step plan” as often presented in literature circulated by typically conservative Churches of Christ, this one including a 3-point summary of “God’s part” preceding man’s.

It is first necessary to talk about Church history because Church history is how we got this 5-step plan, and Church history is also a record of how Christians have handled the teaching of such an idea. Join me in the upcoming posts as we examine the use of this list of steps. We will first begin with the inception of the list of steps and its history in Christian churches.

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This entry was posted in Faith and tagged baptism, believe, church of christ, confess, five steps of salvation, hear, plan of salvation, repent, salvation, scheme of redemption. Bookmark the permalink.

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