It’s interesting to me how an illustration can sometimes become so powerful that it supplants the thing it is illustrating. For instance, the illustration for salvation is many times cited by the use of a man’s five fingers. Hear, believe, repent, confess, be baptized, we want to affirm that these five finger-steps are a MUST for God’s plan for salvation, but let it be carefully observed that:
Sin is more than a mere mismanagement of one’s life. Sin is a willful choice that is in direct contradiction to what God defines as truth and goodness. A person sins when he deliberately chooses his own way in preference to God’s way. Jeremiah 10:23 says, “O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps,” and Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
Sin is a disdain for God and His law. In Psalm 51, David affirms, “against Thee and Thee only have I sinned.” All sin is against God. In II Corinthians 5:21, Paul affirms that Christ was “made to be sin” for us. And in Isaiah 53:4-6, we are informed that the death of Jesus was necessary for our forgiveness. Sin is not just mismanaging one’s life, but a serious reproach against God.
Faith is more than a mere admission that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Faith is active. The Hebrew writer says that in order to please God one must not only believe who He is, but “that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). It is not enough to merely love God, either. “He that saith I know Him and keepeth not His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him (I John 2:4). Love for God is perfected in our obedience. Faith that works is faith that saves.
Repentance is more than just one decision to turn and serve God. Salvation is not, and never has been, a one-stroke process; and repentance is not a one-time decision. John tells us that we should “bring forth therefore fruit meet for repentance” (Matt. 3:8). That’s a continual process, a willful decision to do better day by day. Repentance activates one’s faithfulness. One who repents will change. There is no repentance without changing and no changing without repentance.
Confession is more than an admission that Jesus was a historical character. Confession is an audible admission of what is in one’s heart. I cannot know for sure what you believe–no matter how I may suspect it–until you tell me. Confession, to the Christian, is a kind of pledge of allegiance. The Ethiopian eunuch, in Acts 8:37, confessed that he now believed in Jesus Christ as the Son of God.
Baptism is more than just getting saved. No good Bible student would deny that baptism saves (1 Peter 3:21), “whereunto the like figure of baptism doth also now save us.” Baptism seals the covenant relationship between you and God. Romans 6:3-4 states, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Galatians 3:27 says, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”
Judgment is more than a slapping of the hand. Judgment is serious business. It is an appointment every man will keep. Acts 17:31 says “Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness,” and it should be a horrible thought to those not prepared for it. “Behold, therefore the goodness and severity of God; on them that fell severity...” (Romans 11:22). Matthew 25:31-46 records the judgment scene. Several things stand out: First, please note that everyone will be there (vs. 32). Second, please observe that there will be a separation of the good and evil (vs. 33). Third, notice, please, that some will be sent into everlasting punishment (vs. 41). And fourth, rejoice that the knowledge that there will be a glorious reward for the faithful (vs. 34). “It is appointed unto man once to die and after this the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27). Can we dare ignore the fact of impending judgment? And it could be sooner than you think. John 12:48 states “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day”.
Yes, let us allow the Bible to speak for what constitutes salvation. And let us be careful not to make the illustration of the salvation more than salvation itself.