The acts or steps or tenets of salvation first appeared during the Protestant Reformation and summarize the Reformers’ basic theological beliefs in contradistinction to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church of the day. The Latin word sola means “alone” or “only” in English. The five solas articulated the five fundamental core beliefs of the Protestant Reformation. All five of the “solas” implicitly reject or counter the then prevailing status quo, the Catholic Church, which had, in the various reformers’ minds, usurped divine attributes or qualities for the church, its hierarchy, and especially, its head, the Pope.
The first five acts of salvation were as follows:
- Scripture alone.
- Faith alone.
- Grace alone.
- Through Christ alone.
- Glory to God alone.
Revision number one:
The first revision to the first five acts or steps to salvation came around 1827, when a preacher named Walter Scott accompanied Alexander Campbell to the annual meeting of the Mahoning Baptist Association. At this meeting, Campbell nominated Scott to be the evangelist for this association for the coming year. Thus at the age of 31 Scott embarked on an adventure that would alter the 20st century Christian religion.
Scott believed that Jesus the Messiah was the Golden Oracle of the Christian faith. Jesus was to be lifted up and people called to respond to him. Jesus the Messiah was the creed of Christianity. Faith in him was the requirement of entrance into the Kingdom and church and fellowship for Christianity. In a nutshell the Ancient Gospel, was according to Scott, arranged into Six Items: (with a division between Baptism and remission of sins)
- Remission of Sins
- Gift of the Holy Spirit
- Eternal Life
Scott’s new formulation of the Protestant Reformat Act’s of Salvation never loses sight that Christ must be the object of our faith, adoration, and love. Scott’s formulation tells what God has done, is doing still, and will do in the future. Scott believed and taught that we respond in Faith to this Golden Oracle. We repent of our sin to God. In our Faith, we are baptized in the name of the Jesus. As a result of our baptism, God Forgives/Remits our sin. Then God grants the gift of himself in the person of the Holy Spirit to those baptize; then God seals the baptized to himself for Eternity.
Revision number two:
Scott’s formation then is changed yet again by the time of the 20th century churches of Christ grew in the US and was sometimes referred to as the “Churches of Christ have a Five Finger Discount! The revised, revision of the origin reformation Acts of Salvation was simplified in the five acts of salvation taught in churches of Christ today. The new revision is as follows:
- Be Baptized for the Remission of Sins
- (Sometimes living faithfully is included)
Walter Scott saw the diminishment of his formulation of the Protestant Reformation’s Acts of Salvation and Scott believed the watering down was due to the incipient legalism that was creeping in and clouding the churches of Christ’s primary mission from God and to the vision, he preached. Scott said the church had “watered it” down.
In 1844, Scott wrote to Jacob Creath, in a letter stating: “Hearing, Believing, Repenting, Confessing, being baptized should not be misconstrued as the Golden Oracle or the gospel. Scott pointed us first to the WHO of our faith and never let his hearers forget what God had done, is doing and will do for us. Remission is the gift of God not some command we can humanly fulfill. The Spirit is essential to our lives and the eternal hope … how did we lose sight of it all?” (Credit due Bobby Valentine for his research concerning Scott)
So what do we know from all of this?
What can we gleam from the foundation and change of the Acts of Salvation?
1. The Protestant Reformation was from 1517 to 1648 the Bible was written some 1400 years before the first creation of any Acts of Salvation were even thought about by mankind.
2. Nowhere in the Bible does God ever inspire any of His authors to write about any “Acts of Salvation”
3. God’s desires and will never changes. This we know from scripture. However, the acts of salvation have changed twice since they were first thought of by men. Therefore, they are not an inspired teaching that God wanted us to teach others.
4. Does the Bible talk about: faith, hearing, believing, repenting, baptism, etc… Yes it does. However, it never combines these into any required Acts of men in order to obtain salvation from God. The Bible does say that salvation is NOT due to any ACTS of people but ONLY through the GRACE of God. (Eph 1:7) “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” and (Eph 2:8-9) “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
So what does the Bible really teach?
1. Our mission, as Christians, is to reconcile a lost world back into relationship with God through Jesus Christ. (2 Cor. 5:17-21)
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has GIVEN US THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are AMBASSADORS FOR CHRIST, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
2. Who set the standard for admittance into the “New Kingdom” or church? Peter primarily and the apostles. (Matthew 16:13-20)
“When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. “And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ.”
3. What did the apostles say were the response (Acts of Salvation) of people in order to enter the Kingdom or church?
a. Peter says to REPENT and BE BAPTIZED. (Acts 2:37-41) “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. “For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.”
b. Paul linked BELIEVING (FAITH) in Jesus to what Peter commanded in order to enter the kingdom. (Acts 19:4-5)
“Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.” When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
c. Paul linked BELIEVING in Jesus to what Peter commanded for people to enter the kingdom. (Rom 6:1-11)
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
There are other passages, within the New Testament, that bear these three “Acts” out. However, I feel my point’s made in the use of these three.
HEARING is not an “Act of Salvation” established by the apostles. Hearing is the natural act of learning and being taught. If we include hearing in this list of manmade Acts of Salvation then we also must include teaching, washing feet, holy kisses, etc… because they too are written about in the same style (context) as when the eunuch asked his question of Philip. (Acts 8)
CONFESSION is not an “Act of Salvation” established by the apostles. Paul said that confession was an act of BELIEVING. (Rom 10:9) “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” John implies that confession is an act of our obeying Peter when he established the criteria for entering the kingdom in Acts 2:38. (1 John 1:9) “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We know this because Peter said that our sins are forgiven in repentance and baptism.
LIVING A FAITHFUL LIFE is not an “Act of Salvation” established by the apostles. Being faithful as in living a Christian life, until death, after baptism, that is what we are supposed to do any way. The name Christian simply means Christ like. In other words, it means to live as Christ lived. A Christian is a person who adheres to the lifestyle of Jesus, based on the life of Jesus, who they believe is the Messiah, prophesied in the Old Testament, and who is the beloved Son of God incarnate. Therefore, what was the life of Jesus like? (Acts 10:38) “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, WHO WENT ABOUT DOING GOOD AND HEALING ALL WHO WERE OPPRESSED BY THE DEVIL, for God was with Him.” Do I need to also include that James said “Therefore, TO HIM WHO KNOWS TO DO GOOD AND DOES NOT DO IT, TO HIM IT IS SIN.” (James 4:17)
Paul also implores us to live a life of doing good when he wrote “Therefore, AS WE HAVE OPPORTUNITY, LET US DO GOOD TO ALL, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Gal. 6:10)
So basically, Scott had it correct back in 1827. Salvation revolves around Jesus and Jesus alone through the delegated authority He gave the apostles to establish the requirements for admission into the church or Kingdom of God. Maybe, it is high time; Christians returned to the scriptures (alone) and relied not on the teachings of men.
Tuesday, March 09, 2010, Guy Lewis