GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICALS
Number 644 • May 21, 2021
SEEKING AND SAVING THE LOST – Number 11
DOES GOD HAVE ONLY ONE PLAN OF SALVATION?
It bothers some to think God has changed His plans for His “chosen people,” the Jews, those people from the line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob through whom He brought Jesus Christ to be Savior and Lord, one people for His own possession, separated forever from the rest of the world. They try desperately to find a way to fit the Old Testament history, prophecies and promises of God concerning the Jews into His continuing plans for the present and future. They seize upon apostle Paul’s words in Romans 11:1-2 and 26, claiming God has not cast the Jews aside but that all Israel shall be saved. Surely, they say, God has not broken His promise to the Jews and will never do so, but will (find or make a way to) save them all. To be fair to Paul, and to all the Bible at large, there is a deep-seated prejudicial “spin” given to the scripture, by Jews, a blindness exacerbated by unwillingness to see or even admit the possibility of non-Jewish people of God. This essay will not discuss that whole rationale, though it certainly deserves careful and extensive study.
GOD’S PLAN WAS PROGRESSIVE BUT NOW CANNOT BE CHANGED.
In this essay we will focus on God’s one and only plan of salvation and how it includes all people, leaves nobody out, and will not be altered by God – cannot be altered by anyone less than God himself. In a preliminary draft I posed the question this way: Can God accept and save a person who has not been baptized into Christ? Of course that approach is too narrow: it sets baptism as the key requirement, the make or break requirement for salvation (it might be easy to insist on 1 Peter 3:20 as the final word on it: “Baptism now saves us.” So, anyone who is or has been baptized is and will be saved; anyone who is not baptized will not be saved.” But such an oversimplistic formula leaves out other matters present as essentials: faith, repentance, confession, submission, obedience including baptism and more. We must not add to God’s commands and requirements but we must also not delete or diminish them (Revelation 20:18-19).
Insisting on baptism would seem to leave Jews unsaved since there was no command or requirement of baptism in the Law and covenant for the Jews. It also seems to make the physical act of baptism determinative – which partly explains the practice of infant baptism and baptism of mentally impaired persons, even baptism of dead persons. We must examine briefly a number of relevant matters before we examine the present universally applicable plan of salvation.
SALVATION UNDER THE OLD COVENANT (FOR THE JEWS).
Because Hebrews 10:1-4 says the sacrifices of the Old Law could not make the believer perfect – the blood of bulls and goats, etc could not take away sins (except provisionally and temporarily) – therefore there was a remembrance of sin made every year. This, by the way, led to the ridiculous and preposterous concept of “sins being rolled forward a year at a time” before Christ came and changed the law, and the utterly fallacious claim that “nobody was saved before the death of Jesus Christ on the sacrificial cross.” There is a mountain of misunderstanding about chapters 8, 9, and 10 in Hebrews. Here are a few salient facts one should note about this portion of scripture:
- Sins were forgiven under the Old Covenant. 2 Chronicles 7:14.
- Sins were removed under the Old Covenant. Psalm 103:12
- People were saved for God under the Old Covenant. Jeremiah 24:7.
- People were sanctified to God under the Old Covenant. Leviticus 20:7-8.
- A New Covenant was predicted that would fulfill and replace the Old Covent. Jeremiah 34:31-34, Hebrews 8:1-13, 10:16-18.
- Salvation and sanctification were conditional under the Old Covenant – the provision was to last until fulfilment in the Messiah/Christ who would complete God’s work and plan.
- The sacrifice of Jesus (and the ensuing resurrection and ascension to heaven) made the final step in God’s plan of salvation for those under the Old Covenant. Hebrews 10:1-14.
- A New Covenant was predicted that would fulfill and replace the Old Covent. Jeremiah 34:31-34
- Salvation under the Old Covenant was available to Jews and proselytes to Judaism
- God made provision for non-Covenant members among the non-Jewish Gentiles.
OLD COVENANT SALVATION ENDED WHEN NEW COVENANT BEGAN.
Sacrifices of the Old Covenant ended (the message of Hebrews chapters 7-10). The laws and commands, including the formalized Ten Commandments are not part of the New Covenant, but certain principles are carried over and become valid by re-implementation (the fourth of the Ten, the Sabbath observance, is not carried into the New Covenant, nor are any of the myriad regulations about sacrifices, tithing, feast days, etc). Old Covenant Jews were required to submit to the New Covenant in order to maintain salvation. Gentiles were to bypass the Old Covenant and conform to the New Covenant. Both Gentiles and former Jews were and are amenable to the New Covenant and are placed together into the one body of God’s people by the Lord himself (Ephesians 2:10-22).
Those saved and sanctified by any God-prescribed way before Christ, including those who died before the New Covenant was implemented, were perfect and completed in Christ, given the salvation and sanctification to which the old ways pointed and were perfected in him (Hebrews 10:14).
REQUIREMENTS FOR SALVATION UNDER THE NEW COVENANT.
One must come to know and accept the New Covenant, including belief in and allegiance to the One true God, His one and only Christ/Messiah, His Holy Spirit, and His word of gospel as contained in the New Covenant. This is broadly defined as FAITH, without which it is not possible to please God (Hebrews 11:1, 6), not possible to come to God other than in and through Jesus Christ (John 14:6), REPENT and depart from every sinful belief, act, and way (Luke 13:3-5) and implies obeying from the heart the New Doctrines of God (Romans 6:17-18), then be immersed/baptized into Christ and into his body, the church of Christ (Romans 6:1-6, Colossians 2:10-12, 1 Corinthians 12:13). It is axiomatic that one must continue faithfully to keep the covenant in order to maintain salvation, sanctification, and the hope of perfection in the promised heaven (1 John 3:1-3, Revelation 2:10).
Live out your calling and maintain your position in the one true church body of Christ according to the one gospel message and pattern presented by the One God, one Lord, One Spirit, – the one body which must not be divided or denominationalized (Ephesians 4:1-6, 1 Corinthians 1:10-13). Actually the church itself cannot be divided. Any such division only succeeds in separating member from the true church and placing them into groups that are no longer part of the one true church. There is currently and always one church. There are tens of thousands of denominations and sectarian groups claiming to be churches of Christ, parts of the one church, but that claim is invalid. It is part of our duty as evangelists to make non-Covenant churches aware of their separation and rejection by God – we will lovingly and graciously tell them, that if we ourselves are truly concerned for their salvation and our own.
Since both faith and repentance require mental acuity and volition, a properly informed personal choice is impossible for infants – perhaps also impossible for intellectually or mentally challenged persons – so, logically it would seem they are safe without the ordinarily essential response including baptism. For all others there is no promised salvation apart from penitent and obedient faith. Imposed baptism would not hurt them, nor could it help them. Imposed baptism, against one’s will and choice is blasphemy – it hurts the person who does it while having no effect at all for good or ill upon the one who receives it. <><>