For as long as I can remember I’ve heard the phrase “The Plan of Salvation.” There have been numerous tracts and sermons with this title. As a child I memorized the “steps of salvation”. The five-finger exercise of 1. Hear, 2. Believe, 3. Repent, 4. Confess, 5. Be baptized. As G.C. Brewer (prominent minister, author) points out, “To put stress upon a “plan” and the specific items and steps of that plan may lead to a wrong conclusion. We are saved by a person, not by a plan; we are saved by a Savior, not by a ceremony. Our faith is in that divine personage–that living Lord–and not in items and steps and ordinances. . .”
His warning is justified when you consider that many of these tracts and sermons formerly mentioned, don’t even mention, or barely mention the cross. There might be no mention of mercy or grace either. In some cases, it appeared that what we were to believe in was not the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, but on our need to be baptized.
Brewer goes on to say, “We must trust his grace and rely upon his blood and look for and expect his healing mercy. To trust a plan is to expect to save yourself by your own works. It is to build according to a blueprint; and if you meet the specifications, your building will be approved by the great Inspector! Otherwise you fail to measure up and you are lost! You could not meet the demands of the law! You could not achieve success!”
Some might push back and say that Paul had a list or steps of salvation in Rom. 10:13-15, “’Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then will they call on Him in who they have not believed? How will they believe in His who they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent?” He does have a process of sending, preaching, hearing, believing, resulting in calling. What did the prophet Joel originally mean when he first used the phrase “whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Joel 2:32). Joel would have meant whoever depends on, or trusts, or turns to God. Only God can save. Even though calling on the name of the Lord for us would include baptism, the emphasis is on trusting God’s promise and power to save. Thus, Ananias said to Saul, “Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22:16).
It might be a matter of emphasis, even a nuanced distinction, but it is one of importance. Our hope is built on nothing less (and nothing more) than Jesus’ blood and His righteousness.