THE PLAN OF SALVATION
T. Pierce Brown
Most of my life I have heard preachers of the gospel make the following statement (and probably have made it myself): “God could have chosen to save man without the plan of salvation He provided if He had wanted to, but as He chose that plan, we had better stick with it!” I believe there are some false implications in that statement, although the last phrase is hard to beat! Let me explain.
It is assumed that God could save a man on any basis, but this is not so! When we speak of God’s omnipotence, or His ability to do anything, we must realize that this means, “He can do anything consistent with Himself!” The Bible says, “It is impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews6:18). In fact, it is impossible for God to do anything wrong or sinful or unjust. If we start with the understanding that the Bible teaches that God can do only that which is just, good and proper, then we have a basis for discussing the plan of salvation in more detail.
The first thing of which we need to be aware is that “The wages of sin is death” (Romans6:23). That is, in order to act in a just fashion, God cannot overlook sin, disregard it, or imply that it is not bad. If He arbitrarily forgave sins without any payment being made, He would be contradicting himself, which He cannot do. If you and I paid for our own sins, we must suffer spiritual death — eternal separation from God. Since God is love (1 John 4:8), He had to provide another way for our sins to be paid for.
If you think that He could have done it by any method, try to name any except the one He used that would solve the problem. Suppose He had said to Gabriel, “I am going to send you to suffer for mankind.” That would not only be unfair to Gabriel to make him suffer unwillingly, it would be impossible for an archangel to be a proper substitute for mankind. One could go on suggesting and guessing for the rest of his life and he could find no plan other than the one God used that perfectly meets the demands of the case including the necessity that God demonstrates both infinite love and infinite justice.
To put it in the simplest way we know: 1. God is love, so He wanted to forgive mankind. 2. God is just, so He had to demand punishment for sin. 3. Jesus was sinless, so He could choose to pay the penalty for another. 4. He was God in the flesh, so He could properly intercede with God. 5. He was mankind, so He could properly represent and substitute for mankind. 6. He was not forced to do it, but freely choose to lay down His life for us. 7. Man has to freely accept that plan, for it would be unjust for God to force man to be saved against his own will. 8. It involved faith, for “Without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing to God” (Hebrews 11:6). 9. It involved repentance, for it would be wrong for God to force a man into heaven to live with Him, perfected saints and angels if the man loved sin more than he loved God. This is why Jesus said, “Except ye repent, ye shall likewise perish” (Luke 13:3) — not because He arbitrarily decided on this as a part of the plan, but because His nature and the nature of the case demanded it! 10. It involved confessing faith in Christ, for it would be a contradiction in terms for a person to have the proper faith in Christ, and be ashamed to confess him. 11. It involved baptism for the remission of sins, not because this was a “step of salvation which God arbitrarily chose when He could as easily have chosen something else,” but because in the infinite wisdom of God it is the only act which could properly demonstrate the things the sinner has to demonstrate in order to be saved in conformity with the nature of God.
Many do not understand that for God to be just, He has to demand a living faith. “Faith without works is dead” (James2:17,20), not because God arbitrarily said so, but God said so because that simply is the nature of the case! So He has to demand a faith which demonstrates itself in obedience. But it has to be a faith, not only in the person of Christ, but in the actions of Christ by which He paid for our sins! That is, Christ died for you. If you do not believe that, it would be unjust and improper for God to forgive you of your sins, for it would imply that the death of Christ was unnecessary. You demonstrate faith in that fact when you die to the love and practice of sin (1 John2:15, 3:8). Christ was buried. If you do not believe that, you cannot believe that He was resurrected from the grave. You demonstrate faith in that fundamental fact when you are buried with Him by baptism into His death. If you think God could have chosen another way to have us do that properly, suggest one! Christ was raised from the grave. We are raised from the water of baptism to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4). These were not arbitrary steps, chosen simply because nothing better suggested itself at the moment! These are all steps chosen by an infinitely wise and loving God because nothing else can properly do what needs to be done to secure our salvation and adequately meet the demands of justice, mercy, propriety, love, and all the other attributes of God!
If you are willing to submit humbly to God’s ordained plan for your redemption, you conform to the nature of God and become a partaker of that Divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). You participate in a plan that was chosen and foreordained before the foundations of the world — not an arbitrary or accidental one — but one designed with all the wisdom, power and love of an infinitely great God!
Do not neglect that plan, nor even imply that it was one among many that God might have chosen. Could one thoughtfully say, “God could have saved us without having His Son go through the anguish of the cross, but He just arbitrarily chose to allow His Son to suffer that?” Surely not! The whole plan goes together. God’s love offered His Son. God’s justice demands that you accept it on His terms! There is not other way! Will you accept it?