Salvation Is Not a Plan, It’s a Man

Except the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus make a man sick of his opinions, he may hold them to doomsday for me; for no opinion, I repeat is Christianity, and no preaching of any plan of salvation is the preaching of the glorious gospel of the living God.

– George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons: Series I, II, and III, p. 391

To remind people that Jesus Christ is real and that he himself can save has been a priority of my speaking about Christ for many years.

Recently my father in the faith, Noah Taylor, used the phrase, “Salvation is not a plan, it’s a man,” in a men’s meeting. The words captivated me.

I decided I wanted to write a booklet on those words, when, lo and behold!, I found out that George MacDonald already had! Over a century ago!

I don’t want to share the whole thing with you; just a few excerpts. These are from The Truth in Jesus:

When you say that to be saved a man must hold this or that, then you are forsaking the living God and his will and putting trust in some notion about him or his will. To make my meaning clearer: Some of you say that we must trust in the finished work of Christ. Or you say that our faith must be in the merits of Christ–in the atonement he has made–in the blood he has shed.

All these statements are a simple repudiation of the living Lord in whom we are told to believe. … No manner or amount of belief about him is the faith of the New Testament. (emphasis in original)

It goes without saying that I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Look around. Christians know that “trusting in the finished work of Christ” and “trusting in the merits of Christ” doesn’t work. We’re always looking for a better way to say it. We tell people they have to “really” believe. We tell them they have to “actually trust, not just give intellectual assent.” We give them illustrations about sitting in a chair or getting in the tightrope walkers wheelbarrow.

It does no good. Jesus doesn’t have a wheelbarrow, and no one can see the chair. “Really” believing doesn’t produce any better results than mere intellectual assent, and as soon as we remove works we remove the ability to tell the difference.

The Problem’s the Gospel You Preach

Some of you will be offended by being told the problem is in the Gospel you preach. Others of you will be thrilled. You’re tired of leading people to the Lord, then watching them show no interest in God or church. If anything, they’re frightened to see you again.

The problem’s the Gospel you preach.

Jesus shed his blood for our atonement and for the forgiveness of  our sins. That’s the true doctrine of the atonement.

It is not the Gospel.

The Gospel is to believe in Christ, not in the doctrine of the atonement.

If you read the letters to the churches you will find the doctrine of the atonement discussed regularly. It provokes us to obedience, awe, and praise to know that the precious blood of the Lamb of God was shed for our salvation.

If you read the book of Acts, you will find that the doctrine of the atonement is NEVER discussed with sinners. It is NEVER preached to the lost.

Because it’s not the Gospel.

The Gospel

I’m going to let George MacDonald finish this blog entry out. Again, all of this is from The Truth in Jesus.

It is the one terrible heresy of the church that it has always been presenting something else than obedience as faith in Christ.

Do you ask, “What is faith in him?”
I answer, the leaving of your way, your objects, your self, and the taking of his and him. It is the leaving of your trust in men, in money, in opinion, in character, in atonement itself, and doing as he tells you. (emphasis in original)

While the mind is occupied in enquiring, “Do I believe or feel this thing right?” the true question is forgotton: “Have I left all to follow him?”
To the man who gives himself to the living Lord, every belief will necessarily come aright. The Lord himself will see that his disciple believe aright concerning him.

Sorry, I lied. I’ll let the writer of Hebrews have the final word:

 [Jesus] became the author of eternal salvation to all that obey him. (5:9, emphasis mine)

About Paul Pavao

I am married, the father of six, and currently the grandfather of two. I run a business, live in a Christian community, teach, and I am learning to disciple others better than I have ever been able to before. I believe God has gifted me to restore proper foundations to the Christian faith. In order to ensure that I do not become a heretic, I read the early church fathers from the second and third centuries. They were around when all the churches founded by the apostles were in unity. I also try to stay honest and open. I argue and discuss these foundational doctrines with others to make sure my teaching really lines up with Scripture. I am encouraged by the fact that the several missionaries and pastors that I know well and admire as holy men love the things I teach. I hope you will be encouraged too. I am indeed tearing up old foundations created by tradition in order to re-establish the foundations found in Scripture and lived on by the churches during their 300 years of unity.
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