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God’s Plain, Potent Plan!

Dianna Phyfer and her little girl remind us how important clear directions really are. Dianna wrote: "Our day-care center spent time helping the kids memorize their home addresses. My daughter, who was in my class, had her street name down, but couldn't remember the house number. I asked her, 'If our house is on fire and you call 911, how will the firefighters know where to go?' She had a plan: 'I'll tell them to go to South 14th Street and look for the house that's on fire' " (Reader's Digest: May, 2007; p 76). Cute, to be sure. But the little girl's plan sounds a little risky, does it not?! Especially if your house is on fire!

That cute little story reminds me of the way many people approach the Bible's directions about how to be saved from sin – they get part of the way there but come up short. "What must I do to be saved?" is a question of greatest import. The New Testament answer is clear and complete — not complicated or contradictory. And yet believers in Jesus remain very divided about the answer. The starting place is Scriptures like John 3:16 and Ephesians 2:1-8 and Romans 5:6-11, etc.. Passages like these emphasize the great truth that salvation is a gift from God, motivated by His measureless love, mercy, and grace. The clear New Testament teaching is that man is a sinner, that sin brings on spiritual death and separation from God, and that man was helpless to save himself until God took the initiative through Christ. The cross itself makes clear there is nothing — underline the word NOTHING — a sinner can do to earn, deserve and merit God's gift. But wait. To say we are saved by grace is a far cry from saying we are saved by "grace alone." The Bible teaches repeatedly we are saved by grace – but the Bible never teaches we are saved by "grace alone" or "faith alone" or "grace alone through faith alone." Those directions may get us on the street toward salvation, but they won't get us all the way. The majority religious view is that there is nothing to do to be saved but "believe and receive." Years ago I googled this question: "What must I do to be saved?" One site summed up widespread opinion: "What must you do? You must believe in Jesus alone; you must trust Him alone; you must accept Jesus's sacrifice for your sins alone and nothing that you do in any way. . . accept Jesus as your Savior. Pray to Him and ask Him to come into your heart. . . Salvation is only a prayer of faith away." The writer insists there are three things we "must" do as he attempts to convince us nothing we do makes a difference! As to salvation being a "prayer of faith away," that won't square with New Testament teaching. Jesus is the "author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him" (Hebrews 5:9). What we are to obey is announced near the end of Peter's great Pentecost sermon in Acts 2:37-38 — "Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, 'Men and brethren, what shall we do?' Then Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.' " The Bible goes on to tell us "those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them" (vs 41). Peter preached and trusted God's plain and potent plan to save people from sin. Shouldn't we preach and trust it, too?

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ