What To Do With The ‘5 Step Plan of Salvation’

What if I told you that behind these 5 steps, there is a story that has caused riots and revolutions?  What if I told you that there is a shocking truth revealed in these 5 steps?  I’ll explain.

First,  you need to know the background of the phrase.   In churches of Christ, we have often talked about how to respond to the gospel in terms of 5 steps.  Some have called these the “plan of salvation.”  They are, in fact,  what someone does when they respond in faith to the gospel message:

  • Hear (Romans 10:17)
  • Believe (John 3:16)
  • Repent (Acts 2:38)
  • Confess (Acts 8:36)
  • Be Baptized (Acts 2:38)

Second, you need to know the background of this post.  This was inspired by an article on Radically Christian, entitled, “Why I’m Not Fond of the Phrase: ‘The Five Steps of Salvation.’”  It’s excellent.

Here is a quote:

“It isn’t that I disagree with any of these five points, but I’ve grown very uncomfortable with presenting the gospel in this manner.”

I agree with his critical thoughts.  So, now what?  What are we to do?  Let me give you 5 practical approaches that will help you.

5 Things to do with the 5 Steps:

1.   Connect the 5 Steps To People Where They Are.

You know, we often talk about the context of passages, but have you ever thought about the context of the person?  Just as taking a text out of context leads to  misinterpretation, so does taking a person out of context!

This is a very Biblical concept.  Think of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8.  When he first met him, what did he do?  Did he teach him a 5 step plan?  No, he explained to him who Jesus was.  Why?  Because that’s where he found him.

So, before we start sharing a five step response, perhaps we need to consider what the person needs to hear and start there.  Maybe they really need to hear the good news first!

2.   Communicate the 5 Steps in a Language that is Understood.

We also need to tailor our approach.  We need to speak a language that people understand.  Let’s say I went to Peru and started teaching in English.  Would it do them any good?  No!

When we speak about hearing, believing, repenting, confessing, and being baptized, it’s possible that this just doesn’t connect with people because they just don’t get what we’re talking about.  I mean, go up to the average person on the street and ask them to define “repent.”   We have to be able to frame the Biblical message in the language that people can relate to.

It turns out I’ve written a post on how to do this:

More Than a Gift: Speaking in Tongues

The bottom line is simple.  Let’s show people how much we care, then they might care what we know.  Jesus did miracles, touched the lepers, healed the lame, and fed the hungry.  Then, he taught them.  Perhaps people need a hand with five fingers to touch, to heal, and to feed.  Then, they will may be more interested in the five steps you can point out with those same fingers.

3.    Connect the 5 Steps to ‘Why?’

The 5 steps are fundamentally the answer to the question, “What must we do?”  Talking about what we need to do is important.  It’s fine.  It’s needed, but let’s not forget about why.  We need to talk about why we do things.  We need to talk about grace and faith.  We need to talk about how God is the one that does the saving, and we accept his salvation through faith.   We need to talk about the message of the gospel (I Corinthians 15:1-3).  Now, the heart of the gospel is about love (John 3:16).  Let’s remember that the greatest commands are all about love (Matthew 23:36-40).  If we disconnect the response to the gospel from the real reason for that response (grace, faith, and love), then we have disconnected what from why, and we have something that isn’t very Biblical at all.

5 reasons to connect to WHY:

  • When we connect the 5 Steps to WHY, then we get passion and purpose for what we do.  Without that connection, we have drudgery and duty.
  • When we connect the 5 Steps to WHY, then we get relationship versus simply rule keeping.
  • When we connect the 5 Steps to WHY, then we get grace through faith versus legalism.
  • When we connect the 5 Steps to WHY, then we are more closely resembling the body of Christ rather than a sort of list-checking  corporation/institution/denomination.
  • When we connect the 5 Steps to WHY, we get closer to Jesus and further from being a modern day Pharisee.

4.   Connect the 5 Steps to ‘Who?’

Check this out:  Start with God

There is scandal in these 5 steps.  There is revolution in these 5 steps.   Why?  Because they proclaim that God has become a man, and that we as humans can be united to God.

Think about it.  In baptism, through faith we are united with Christ (Romans 6:1-3; Galatians 3:26-28).

We become citizens of new kindom (Colossians 1:13).

We have a new King.  We have a powerful Father.  We have a new family.  We have a new identity (Romans 8:29).

This is the inauguration of a new reality that is based not in a list, but in a person.  It is based in Christ.

In the 21st century Western society, we tend to be a brainy, intellectual bunch.  Let’s remember that these 5 steps are about connecting to God himself. That’s super exciting.  Think about it.

5.  Connect the 5 Steps to the Epic Story.

When we connect belief, repentance, confession, and baptism to  ‘Why?’ and to ‘Who?’,  we find a shocking truth.  This is all about becoming a part of His epic story.

Check this out:  Why I’m a Member of the Church of Christ

Courtesy of Adobe Stock
Courtesy of Adobe Stock

Responding to the gospel is saying, ‘I want to be a part of this story.”  It’s a story of redemption.  It’s a story of restoration.  It’s the hope of the world, and the thing that will give your life purpose, meaning, and passion.  When you hear about it, it will make you want to get into it.

It’s good news.  God is bringing the fallen creation back to himself.  He is restoring all things.  He is making the old new.  He is making the lame to walk.   He is bring in rivers of water in a dry place.  This is great news, and it’s a story that I want to connect to, work in, and just be a part of.  I want to enter that story.  That’s what this is all about.

This is our chance to change the world.  Let’s change the world together!

 How else can we better teach the good news?

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