It is written in the Old Testament,

37 “Again the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 38 Speak to the children of Israel: Tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a blue thread in the tassels of the corners. 39 And you shall have the tassel, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the LORD and do them, and that you may not follow the harlotry to which your own heart and your own eyes are inclined, 40 and that you may remember and do all My commandments, and be holy for your God.” (Num. 15:37-40)

God wanted Israel to “remember all the commandments of the LORD and do them” and to “be holy for your God” rather than commit sexual immorality. To help Israel “remember all the commandments of the LORD and do them” they were to attach tassels, laced with a blue thread, on the corners of their garments. Instead of Israel’s heart and eyes following after harlotry, their hearts and lives were to be focused on God’s will; lives of holiness given to Him. When they looked at the tassel they were to remember the commands of God and do them. Thus, God gave Israel the memory technique of association to help them obey Him from the heart.

As time passed, Israel began to attach human traditions to the commandments of God and binding them on men (see Mk. 7:1-13). This was wrong (then and now), and Jesus rebuked their hypocrisy (Mk. 7:6-9; cf. Col. 2:20-23). Knowing the hearts of all men, Jesus also exposed their
evil motive of self-righteousness (Lk. 18:9-12). Trusting in themselves that they were righteous, they overlooked their own need for mercy, while failing to be merciful toward others (Lk. 18:13-14; Micah 6:8). Doing their good deeds, prayers and fasting to be seen by men earned them the reward they sought (Matt. 6:1-18).

An example of doing their works to be seen by men had to do with enlarging the borders of their garments (Matt. 23:5). The large tassels on their garments got everyone’s attention and showed all that they fervently remembered the commands of God! Sadly, the tassels didn’t get their own attention – their hearts were far from God (Matt. 15:7-9). They were lost in their self-righteous hypocrisy.

God has not commanded us to put tassels on our garments, but we are commanded to take up the whole armor of God (Eph. 6:10-17). Christ expects obedience and holy living to come from a good and honest heart (Lk. 8:15; Matt. 22:37-39; Jno. 14:15; 1 Pet. 1:13-16). We are taught to “be clothed with humility, for God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Pet. 5:5).

Christians are commanded to teach the gospel to the lost (Matt. 28:19-20; cf. Acts 8:4). Some brethren have diagrammed the gospel plan of salvation by using the five fingers of the hand, with a command of Christ corresponding to each finger: Hear, believe, confess, repent and
be baptized. It is an easy and effective way of teaching God’s answer to the question, “what must I do to be saved?”

A number of years ago a woman said to me after a sermon that salvation is “just not as simple as five steps.” Her problem was not with the five finger exercise, but with what it teaches. She did not wish to be limited to the revealed pattern of how to be saved from sin, namely, that the sinner must hear the gospel of Christ (Jno. 6:44-45), believe in God and His Son, Jesus Christ (Heb. 11:6; Mk. 16:15-16; Jno. 8:24), confess faith (Rom. 10:9-10); repent of sins (Acts 17:30) and be baptized (Acts 2:38; 22:16) in order to be saved. She knew good people in the denominations who just had to be saved – although she provided no scripture that supported her conclusion.

People continue to reject the gospel plan of salvation. Some say these five steps do not teach the true plan of salvation because, at least in part, they end up emphasizing externals at the expense of internals.

Isn’t that what the scribes and Pharisees did to God’s commandment to put tassels on the borders of their garments? They ended up “emphasizing the externals at the expense of the internals” (Matt. 23:5). But, the solution to their distortion was not to set aside God’s commandment and no longer attach tassels to their garments. No, the solution was to humble themselves before God and obey Him from a willing heart (Deut. 10:12-13).

Likewise, the answer today is not to reject the plan of salvation for fear that teaching it will lead to the distortion of emphasizing externals and neglecting internals (Matt. 23:23). Christ’s plan of salvation involves obedience from the heart: “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Rom. 6:17-18). We will not throw out the baby with the bath water. The gospel plan of salvation is not only important; it is essential. And, sinners must obey it from the heart in order to be saved from their sins (Rom. 1:16; 6:17-18; 1 Tim. 2:3-4).

By Joe R. Price via THE SPIRIT'S SWORD
(Volume IX, Number 15 - December 18, 2005)

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