The Divine Plan of Salvation

by Harold S. Martin

A Bible Helps Tract -- No. 2

One of the most gripping verses in the entire Bible is the one which says, "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). The word "lost" is a chilling word to anyone who has ever had the experience. Our emotions become stirred and whole communities become aroused, when a little child strays away from home, and wanders off into the woods, and gets lost. It is a terrifying experience to be lost. Jesus, when speaking of those who are lost, said, "It is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish" (Matthew 18:14).

It is God's will that each human being should be saved--and the Good News announced in the Bible, is the fact that God has provided a way by which we can be saved. We want to look at the plan of salvation.

1. The Need for Salvation

The very word "salvation" implies that men are lost, and need to be rescued. According to the Bible, man comes into this world with an inborn nature to go astray. Every one of us has practiced and done that which is sinful and wrong. And these evil practices are more than mere outward acts. They are the outcropping of an evil nature within us. People don't become bad; they are born bad. The same urge to lie and cheat and steal and hate and think impure thoughts, lies deep-rooted within every human breast.

The Bible tells us the truth about our condition. "The imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth" (Genesis 8:21). David confesses, "Behold, I was shaped in iniquity" (Psalm 51:5). You and I have inherited something that's at least 6,000 years old. We may have hailed from many different backgrounds, but there is one thing we have in common--we are members of the human family, and as such our natures are tainted with sin. Thus, every one of us is guilty before God, and every one of us needs to be saved.

The Bible further declares that every act of sin is a transgression against the holiness of God, and that God's holiness demands a penalty for sin. If God would let us get by with sin, and pass over our transgressions, He would no longer be a just and holy God. God's righteousness demands that we be punished for our sins, and the penalty for sin is announced in these words: "The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). This means that unless something is done about sin, there can be no hope of eternal life with God, because sin separates from God.

2. The Basis of Salvation

The glorious news of the Gospel is that God has done something about sin. John 3:16 explains it very simply: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish (should not pay the wages of sin), but have everlasting life." The glad tidings that the Gospel of Jesus Christ sets forth, is the fact that we sinners don't have to die, because Jesus Christ died for us. The penalty for sin stood against us because we have sinned, but Jesus Christ came to take it away.

Everywhere in the Scriptures from beginning to end, salvation is always said to be based on the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. Mark 10:45 records the words of Jesus, "For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom (a payment) for many." Romans 5:10 says, "We were reconciled to God by the death of his Son." The prophet Isaiah looked down through the centuries and declared of Jesus Christ, "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities. The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." Paul says of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:7), "In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace." The Scriptures teach very clearly that the death of Jesus Christ has made satisfaction for sins, and that in His death, the penalty for our sins has been completely paid. When Jesus suffered on the Cross, He was suffering as a substitute for you and for me. The Apostle Peter says of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:24), "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree." Christ died for us--that is, He died in our place.

3. The Appropriation of Salvation

The death of Jesus Christ is sufficient to save every human being, but salvation will only become effective to those who accept Him and believe on Him. There must be a response on the part of each individual.

The question was asked by the Philippian jailor. He said to Paul and Silas, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" And they answered, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." The word "believe" involves the thought of trusting and accepting and receiving (see John 1:12). Real saving belief is not only a knowledge of certain facts about Jesus, but it is believing those facts so sincerely that I am ready to act on them. More than four decades ago I learned to know the girl who was later to become my wife. I began to build a long series of beliefs about her. I believed she was a good sincere Christian girl. I believed her tastes and mine were closely related. I believed she would make a good wife. But simply believing that long creed about her, made no difference whatsoever in our personal relationship--until the day when I said (as we exchanged our marriage vows), "I take you to be my wife." That one definite act established a life-transforming relationship. I acted on my beliefs, and from that time on, she took my name and she became my wife. And just so, you may believe a great many things about Jesus Christ, but until you say, "Lord Jesus, I take you to be my Saviour," your life will not be changed and you will not be saved. There is something for you to do.

When Peter preached the Gospel on the Day of Pentecost, many cried out, "What must we do?" What is the response required on our part? And Peter answered (Acts 2:38), "Repent, and be baptized every one of you." Jesus says that entrance into the kingdom is only for those who "repent and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:15). Paul says, "God commandeth all men everywhere to repent" (Acts 17:30). Repentance involves a determination to forsake sin and to turn from it. And if the sinner has wronged another person in the past, he will attempt to make restitution for the wrong. After Zacchaeus (the man of small stature), met with Jesus, he repented, and said, "Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold." He simply meant that from that very moment, he was going to try and make right the ugly sins he had committed as a crooked tax collector. God demands complete repentance.

The way of salvation is clear. The plan is simple: All have sinned, and therefore every one of us needs salvation. Jesus Christ has died, and His death was for the purpose of paying the price that stood against us. A response is required on our part. Each individual is expected to exercise faith in Jesus Christ as the Sin-bearer, to turn from his life of sin, and to receive water baptism. If you have ignored Jesus, why not forsake the broad road that leads to destruction and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ? "Through his name, whosoever believeth in him, shall receive remission of sins" (Acts 10:43). That is a great promise.

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