God's Two Plans
What is God's plan of salvation? This is a question that is frequently addressed. Correctly so, we answer that the Bible pattern from the book of Acts teaches that one must hear, believe in Him, repent, confess his faith in Jesus as the Christ, and be baptized in His name. Jesus commanded the apostles, "Go ye therefore, and make disciples of (teach KJV) all the nations" (Matthew 28:19). Certainly if the gospel is to be taught, we must hear the gospel. At the Mount of Transfiguration God said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him" (Matthew 17:5). In order for man to know what God wants him to do, he must first hear what He has to say. Faith in Christ is essential. Jesus said, "for except ye believe that I am (he), ye shall die in your sins" (John 8:24). Man cannot please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6).
Repentance is essential. "The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked; but now he commandeth men that they should all everywhere repent" (Acts 17:30). Repentance is a change of one's mind motivated by "godly sorrow" (II Corinthians 7:10), that results in a change of action or life. The confession of one's faith in Christ is essential. Jesus said, "Every one therefore who shall confess me before men, him will I also confess before my Father who is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 10:32-33). There is no better example of this confession than that of the eunuch when he said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God" (Acts 8:37). This was not a confession of sins, but a confession that Jesus Christ is the Son of God! Baptism into Christ is also necessary. Jesus said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:16 KJV). The very purpose of baptism is to wash away sin (Acts 22:16). Peter said that baptism is "unto the remission of your sins" (Acts 2:38). This baptism is a burial, or immersion, in water, not a pouring or sprinkling. The word "baptism" means immersion. In Romans 6:3-4, Paul calls it a "burial." It is at this point that the blood of Christ washes away a man's sins as we are "baptized into Christ" (Galatians 3:27). This is consistently illustrated in every example of conversion in the book of Acts.
However, there is another question that must be asked. "What is God's plan to forgive the sins of those who are children of God?" After one has obeyed the gospel, he then is added to the church (Acts 2:47). As a Christian, a child of God, a member of the Lord's church, one must then remain faithful in worshiping God, purity of life, and working for the Lord. It is summed up in these words, "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life" (Revelation 2:10). One must be "stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord" (I Corinthians 15:58). But what must one who is a Christian do when he sins? Perhaps we haven't considered that as Christians we sin and need forgiveness, perhaps we are doing nothing about our sins. The answer to this question is not, "do nothing, in time folks will forget"! This question demands an answer.
In Acts 8 we read of Simon the sorcerer who had believed and had been baptized, and was saved from his past sins. "But when they believed Philip preaching good tidings concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. And Simon also himself believed: and being baptized …" (Acts 8:12-13). Afterwards he sinned or erred. He became an erring child of God. Peter's exact words to him are, "Repent therefore of this thy wickedness and pray the Lord, if perhaps the thought of thy heart shall be forgiven thee" (Acts 8: 22). One who has obeyed the gospel of Christ is a child of God and a servant of righteousness (Romans 6:17-18). When one sins after having become a child of God, he is still a child of God, but an erring child. It is a fact that children of God may sin. James writes, "My brethren, if any among you err from the truth, and one convert him; let him know, that he who converteth a sinner from the error of his way shalt save a soul from death, and shall cover a multitude of sins" (James 5:19-20). John also writes, "If we say that have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (I John 1:8).
The erring child of God must repent. Repentance for the erring child of God means the same thing as it does for those who are not children of God. Repentance of sin is a change of mind toward sin, produced by godly sorrow, and that results in a reformation of life. Repentance is not simply regret, sorrow, prayer, or fear. It is a change of mind; the decision to quit sin that results in a complete turning from evil. In the parable of the two sons Jesus shows what repentance is. "But what think ye? A man had two sons; and he came to the first and said, Son go to work today in the vineyard. And he answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented himself, and went" (Matthew 21:28-29). The rebellious son said, "I will not." Later he repented and said, "I will." Repentance, then, is the decision, the determination, to quit sin and obey God. When a child of God who is leading a life of sin either by indifference and carelessness in respect to his duty to Christ and the church, or by a life of immorality and worldliness, comes to himself and repents, he quits the life of sin, turns from sin, and obeys God. The prodigal (Luke 15) came to himself, realized his condition, and made a resolution, "I will arise and go to my father …" That illustrates what repentance is. It was, in the case of the prodigal, the determination to quit doing his own will and do the will of his father.
The erring child of God must pray to God. Peter commanded Simon to "repent and pray" (Acts 8:22). To pray means to beseech, seek, ask, entreat; in the New Testament it means requests addressed by men to God. Prayer must be made to God for forgiveness by the erring child of God who repents. Those who were not children of God were not told to "repent and pray" for forgiveness. They were told to believe and be baptized (Mark 16:16). Peter told those sinners on Pentecost, who believed, to "repent, and be baptized … unto the remission of your sins" (Acts 2:38). However Peter, the same one who preached in Acts 2, "repent and be baptized," told the erring Simon in Acts 8, "Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray the Lord, if perhaps the thought of thy heart shall be forgiven thee."
Why did Peter tell those on Pentecost to "repent and be baptized … unto the remission of your sins," and tell Simon at Samaria to "Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray the Lord, if perhaps the thought of thy heart shall be forgiven thee"? Indeed, there are two laws of pardon; one to those who are not children of God and another to the erring child of God. Prayer is the right of the child of God, but he must pray in penitence, in faith, in harmony with the will of God, and in the name of Christ. "For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears unto their supplication: but the face of the Lord is upon them that do evil" (I Peter 3:12). "If we ask anything according to his will he heareth us" (I John 5:14). We must ask in faith through Christ. "And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (I John 2:1).
The erring child of God must confess his sins. One cannot pray to God for forgiveness unless he admits to himself and to God that he has sinned. The command to repent and pray implied the necessity of confession of sins. James says, "Confess therefore your sins one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed" (James 5:16). John says, "if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9). Hence, the second law of pardon includes repentance, prayer, and confession of sins. It does not include baptism, for baptism is a condition of forgiveness for those who are not children of God.
Any child of God who sins and refuses to comply with the second law of pardon, can no more expect remission of his sins than he who is not a child of God can expect remission of his sins when he rejects the commandments of Christ to believe in Him, repent, to confess his faith in Jesus as the Christ, and to be baptized in His name.
By Micky Galloway
Return to the General Articles page
Home / Bible studies / Bible Survey / Special Studies / General Articles / Non-Bible Articles / Sermons / Sermon Outlines / Links / Questions and Answers / What Saith The Scriptures /Daily Devotional / Correspondence Courses / What is the Church of Christ / Book: Christian Growth / Website Policy / E-mail / About Me /