The Plan Of Salvation

T. Q. MARTIN, via The Christian Leader

That God has provided a way by which we may be saved, pardoned, cleansed from sin, no one who believes the Bible will call in question.

Jesus says: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life no man cometh to the Father but by me” (John 14:6). The Apostle Peter, whom all believers consider an inspired man, says: “And in none other is their salvation for neither is there any other name under heaven, that is given among men, wherein we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

The plan of salvation then doubtless embraces the atoning work of Jesus the Christ. Apart from Jesus Christ there is no salvation for any of us.

In God’s gracious plan of making men righteous, acquitting men of guilt, forgiving or blotting out the sins of men, the plan of salvation, if you please, embraced the church. And here I use the term church just as it is used in the New Testament. It is difficult indeed to get the truth upon this subject into the minds and hearts of people, not because the truth in itself is difficult, but because of the confused state of the mind. There are so many organized religious bodies called churches, that when we read in the New Testament about the Church, we think we are reading about what we have in the world today.

Jesus Christ established one, and but one Church. He says: “Upon this rock I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18). He made good that promise, and we read in the New Testament about that church. “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace, being edified, and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, was multiplied” (Acts 9:31). This church is called the body of Christ, and in it Jew and Gentile are reconciled to God. “And he put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body... the fullness of him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:22, 23). “And might reconcile them both in one body unto God through the cross, having slain the enmity thereby” (Eph. 2:16)

The conditions of membership in that body were made known by the Holy Spirit through the apostles, and they had never been changed. For any man to offer salvation to his fellow man upon terms other than those offered by the Holy Spirit through the apostles would be a presumptuous sin. In the church established by Christ, the one about which we read in the New Testament, there were none but believers. No one incapable of believing or unwilling to believe in the divine Sonship and Lordship of Jesus Christ, had membership in that church. If an organization called a church exists today, having in its membership unbelievers, or disbelievers, I know that is not the church that Jesus built.

In giving the commission to his apostles, in which commission are the terms of pardon to the alien sinner, the conditions of the membership in the body, the Church of Christ, Jesus said: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). In preaching the first sermon under this commission, the Holy Spirit says, through the Apostle Peter: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified” (Acts 2:36). To know assuredly is to accept without any doubt.

It is impossible to please God without faith (see Heb. 11:6), and certainly the members of the Church of Christ must be well pleasing to God. That one may hold to one’s sins and yet become a member of the Church of Jesus Christ is foreign to the teachings of the New Testament. So we find none in New Testament times in the church, save penitent believers. Repentance then is a necessary condition to entering the Church of Jesus Christ. Before the Savior established his church he said: “Except ye repent ye shall all in like manner perish” (Luke 13:10).

In the commission, as recorded by Luke, he says: “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer, and rise again from the dead on the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name unto all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 2:46, 47). Again, we find the Apostle Peter, speaking as the Spirit gave him utterance, preaching the first sermon under this commission given by his risen Lord, saying to convicted believers, in answer to their question: “What shall we do?” “Repent ye, and be baptized, every one’ of you, in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

In the church about which we read in the New Testament is not found one unbaptized person. Baptism then is a necessary step in the way that leads into the Church of Jesus Christ. Said the risen Lord: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” The line between the saved and unsaved, the forgiven and unforgiven, the pardoned and unpardoned, those in the kingdom and those not in the kingdom, is drawn in the New Testament at obedience, and baptism was and is the illuminating act of obedience on the part of him who would be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ. Now let some one cite the passage in the New Testament that recognizes the unbaptized person as a member of the Church of Christ, the church of which he is the head, and I will gladly acknowledge my error in teaching.

“Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbeliev6th shall be condemned” (Mark 16:15, 16). The language just quoted is what is commonly called the Great Commission, and most assuredly contains the conditions of pardon to the alien sinner; the necessary steps into the kingdom of God, the Church of Jesus Christ. In the first sermon under this commission, Peter puts baptism this side of remission of sins. “Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins” (Acts 24:38). By baptism we enter into Christ, into his death. “Or are you ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (Rom. 6:3). We put on Christ by being baptized into him. “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27).

We are not saved out of Christ, or apart from the merits of his death. And we are not in him unless we are baptized into his death.

The idea of “getting saved,” “getting converted,” “getting religion,” and then “joining the church of your choice,” has absolutely no authority in God’s Word. In the New Testament, to be in the church is to be saved and to be out of the church is to be unsaved. To be a Christian is to be in the church and to be in the church is to be a Christian. No living man will find in the New Testament a Christian outside of the church, nor will he find a man who was saved one way and got into the church another way. God added people to his church through his own divine appointments. “They then that received his word were baptized and there were added to them in that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). “And the Lord added to them day by day those that were saved” (Acts 2:47).

To induce persons to kneel down and then crowd around them, excite them, and induce them to think they are saved, and join the church of choice, is no more like the cases of conversion recorded in Acts, the book of conversions, than midnight darkness is like the glare of the noon day sun.

God forbid that any reader should take my word on these matters; but God grant that we may search the Scriptures, each one for himself. 

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