Man is lost in sin and cannot save himself alone. Jeremiah 10:23 tells us, "O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." Therefore, God has made salvation available to all men. Titus 2:11, "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men."
Men teach many conflicting ideas about salvation, but God's plan for saving man is simple and clearly revealed in the New Testament.
God's Word reveals to us Why we need a plan. Let's look at four reasons why:
First and foremost it is because man is a sinner. The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 3:23, "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." We also learn from the apostle John in First John 3:4 that "...sin is the transgression of the law." As man violates God's law he sins.
Secondly, We need a plan because sin leads to death. Romans 6:23 reveals, "For the wages of sin is death..." The death here is spiritual, that is, eternally separated from God in hell. To avoid this death our sins must be forgiven by God.
Thirdly, we need a plan because goodness alone does not save. Man has to obey the Lord to be saved. In Acts 10:2 we learn that Cornelius the centurion who was "a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always" was a good moral man. But we learn from Acts 11:14, that Cornelius was not a saved man for he had to "hear words", whereby he and all his house could be saved." Only Christ saves, not morality alone.
Our fourth reason is because man must do what the Lord commands. In Matthew 7:21 Jesus said, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." As the Hebrew writer points out in Hebrews 5:9, Jesus is "the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him." Man, being a free moral agent, has the right to choose to obey the Lord and be saved, or to reject what the Lord said and be "...punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power" (2 Thessalonians 1:9).
With these reasons why we need a plan in mind we can now see that there are two sides in salvation. The Divine Side in salvation and the human side in salvation. We'll look first at the Divine side in Salvation.
There are some things that God has already done for us to make salvation available.
God sent His Son. John 3:16 states, "For God so love the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
God also bestowed His grace. Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast."
Jesus shed His blood. Ephesians 1:7, "In whom we have redemption through his blood the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace. Luke reveals Jesus' mission in Luke 19:10, "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."
The Holy Spirit revealed God's Will to man. Ephesians 3:3-5 tells us, How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit." This revelation is the gospel. Paul says in Romans 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation..." This is how the Spirit works today, bot by miraculous intervention.
We must realize that God has done his part and requires that man do his part to complete the process of salvation. So, what is man's part? Hear is what the Bible reveals as the Human side in Salvation:
Man must Hear the gospel. In Matthew 17:5, on the mount of transfiguration a voice from heaven said, "...This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. Romans 10:!7 teaches us that hearing the word will produce faith. Faith is not zapped into your heart mysteriously.
Man must also have Faith in Christ. John 8:24 says, "...for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins." Some teach that man is saved by faith alone, but the New Testament does not teach that faith or anything by itself will save us. James said in James 2:24, "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only." The faith that saves is the type of faith like Noah and Abraham had - one which leads to obedience.
Man must also repent of his sins. Luke writes in Acts 17:30, "And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent." Jesus teaches in Matthew 21:28-31 a clear example of repentance. "But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go sir: and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They said unto him, The first." We must change from the things of the world (sin) to the things of Christ (righteousness). This is not perfection, but a sincere desire of our will to live right.
Another area man must take part in is the confession. Many times people seem to think that one must confess all of his sins before one can be saved. Let's take a look at what Jesus says in Matthew 10:32, "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven." We learn from Paul in Romans 10:9, "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." Turn to Acts 8. Let's look at a clear example of what this confession truly is. As Philip was sitting with the Ethiopian in his chariot, the Ethiopian asked a question beginning in verse 36, "...See here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?" Philip answered in verse 37, "If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest." Do you see the simplicity of what Philip's response was? He didn't say anything about confessing sins, or saying a sinners prayer. He simply told the Ethiopian if he believed with all his heart he could be baptized. Now pay close attention to the Ethiopians response in verse 37, "...I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." Did he confess his sins? Nope. He simply confessed before another that he believed that Jesus Christ is the son of God. Do you see how this coincides with what Jesus taught back in Matthew 10:32? Jesus stated, "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men..." This is precisely what the Ethiopian did. This also is consistent with what we read of Paul in Romans 10:9, "...if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart..."
With the Ethiopians question in mind we come to our next part of the Human side in salvation, Baptism. Jesus proclaims in Mark 16:16, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved..." Peter says in 1 Peter 3:21, The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us..." What is the purpose of baptism? Why would the Ethiopian request this? Well, the purpose of baptism is found in Acts 22:16 when Ananias tells the Saul, "And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." Or we can read what Peter instructed in Acts 2:38 when asked by the multitude, "Men and brethren what shall we do?" Peter answered, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins..." This is why a person should want to be baptized, to have his sins washed away! Baptism is not just "an outward sign of an inward grace," but is an act of obedience required of God in order to become a Christian. A look further into the New Testament will help us understand that baptism is a burial or an immersion in water, not a pouring or sprinkling. The word "Baptism" itself means immersion. Paul wrote in Romans 6:3-4, "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into his death..." Notice, in Acts 8:38 and 39 what Philip and the Ethiopian did, "...they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water..." You see here is a vivid description of immersion. But why is baptism so important? Well, reading Paul's letter to the Galatians in Galatians 3:27 tells us, "For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ." It is at this point, in baptism, that one comes in contact with the blood of Jesus Christ and it washes away our sins and we get into Christ. Without baptism one still has their sins. You see why baptism is an essential part in the Human side in Salvation? Without it one cannot enter into heaven. Luke states in Acts 2:47, "...And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." The word "such" in this context describes those who were obedient to the instruction of Peter to "Repent, and be baptized for the remission of sins."
The last part of the Human side in salvation is simply, being faithful. After one has obeyed the gospel, he is then added to the church (Acts 2:47) which only God can add one to. No man can add anyone. As a Christian and member of the Lord's church, one must remain faithful in worshiping God, purity of life, and working for the Lord. Jesus says in Revelation 2:10, "...be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." One must be as the apostle Paul states in first Corinthians 15:58, "steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord."
Many Christians are not faithful. They sin and slip back into the world. Their condition is described in Galatians 5:4 as, "fallen from grace," for they did not continue to obey the Lord. Paul admonishes in Colossians 1:23, that "...ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven."
When a Christian sins (and they do), God requires him to repent, confess his sin, and pray for forgiveness. Acts 8:13-22 is a clear example of a Christian falling from grace and needing to repent and pray. "Then Simon himself believed also; and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the Word of God, they sent unto the Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them; only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands that the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matte: for thy heart i snot right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee..." You see how Peter told Simon to simply repent and go to God in prayer to ask forgiveness of his sins? The apostle John assures us in I John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
We all make mistakes. When we sin publicly as Simon did, we need to make public confession as Simon did with Peter when he said in Acts 8:24, "...Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.". Peter told Simon to go to God in prayer and Simon repented and asked for the prayers of Peter as well.
These are the two sides in salvation, the divine side and the Human side. We must never forget that God has already done his part, it is now up to us to do ours. We can now see why we need a plan and this plan is not our plan, but rather God's plan for all mankind. Psalm 3:8 says, "...salvation belongeth unto the Lord." Since it is his plan we have no right to change the plan he gave to save us. We need to simply believe and obey it today.
We leave you with these words form the apostle Paul in second Corinthians 6:2, "...behold now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." and Philippians 2:12," Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling."