Chapter 1 – The Message: God’s Plan of Salvation
Handbook of Personal Evangelism
by Dr. A. Ray Stanford
Chapter 1 – The Message: God’s Plan of Salvation
It would be wonderful if every person understood the entire Bible. There are many doctrines in the Bible that make extremely interesting topics of conversation. But in trying to lead a person to the Lord please remember that this person needs to understand the plan of salvation and nothing else until after he is saved.
God tells us that “…the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1Co 2:14). The unsaved cannot really grasp spiritual teachings because they are not born again and do not have the Holy Spirit within to teach them these things.
God wants the unsaved to trust Christ as their Saviour, and will deal with the unsaved and help them understand the verses on the plan of salvation (Joh 16:7-11). Wait until the person is saved before you start talking about service or any so – called “deeper” truths.
The following will help a person see his need of the Saviour and how he can be saved. Because of differences in religious upbringing, every person will not need the same degree of emphasis on each point. As you explain the plan of salvation to someone you will be sensitive to notice which areas he needs to have dealt with at some length.
First we will cover the doctrine, then we will discuss the presentation, throughout most of this book.
1. DOCTRINE – Everyone is a sinner, less perfect than God. “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). The Virgin Mary, the Pope, your minister, your mother, you and I…all are sinners. “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good and sinneth not” (Ecc 7:20).
“But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away” (Isa 64:6). If you compare your life with that of those around you, you might feel you are a good person; and, as man looks upon goodness, you may be. But when you compare even your best qualities with those of the Almighty God, you will immediately see that you are not as perfect as God. Nobody is. One word God uses when He says we “sin” is “hamartano” in the Greek, and means to “miss the mark” (James Strong’s Concordance, page 10 of the Greek Dictionary of the New Testament, #264). We miss the mark of God’s perfection.
PRESENTATION – Be careful how you point out the person is a sinner. Admit you are, and he will be much more willing to admit he is. An effective statement is, “God says everyone is a sinner…I am, you are, we all are.” Some people associate the term “sinner” only with “vile criminals.” Explain that when the Bible says we are sinners, it means even “good” people, because even they are not perfect. If you happen to know that the person is very moral, compliment him, but show that he still isn’t perfect in God’s sight (Isa 64:6, Jas 2:10).
While we must never act like, or imply that, we are “holy” because of personal righteousness, neither is it wise to go to the other extreme. Don’t tell him your past (or present) sins. Don’t use phrases like, “I used to be a sinner, but now I am saved.” A person will always be a sinner until he receives his glorified body. I have heard of a person who said he hadn’t sinned in three years. 1Jn 1:8 says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
Sometimes a person will feel he is too great a sinner for Christ to save him. To such a person, an effective statement is, “God cannot save a good person!” (There are no good people…Rom 3:12.) When the person knows he is a sinner, don’t badger him until he “loses face.” Move on to the next thing you want him to see in the Bible.
(ALWAYS keep the issue between the Bible and him and not between you and him. The issue isn’t that you have the answers, but that God has the answers. Avoid referring to your opinion, that of his preacher, or of his denomination. Point out that “this is what the Bible says.”)
2. DOCTRINE – The result and penalty of sin is death…separation from God. “For the wages of sin is death…” (Rom 6:23). The payment for sin is death. Sin is not paid for by good works, penance, church membership, water baptism, etc. Sin is paid for by death. God does not hate the sinner, but He hates the sin. He hates sin because it separates us from Him (Isa 59:2), and He doesn’t want us to be separated from Him. “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2Th 1:8-9).
Except for those taken in the Rapture, everyone will die physically. The body goes back to dust, and the soul goes to heaven or hell. Everyone is born dead spiritually (Eph 2:1). The soul is separated from God because we are sinners. This is why Christ said in Joh 3:7, “…Ye must be born again.” Only through a new birth of the Spirit can man have eternal life. If a person dies without having trusted Christ as his Saviour, his soul will be separated from God and he will ultimately be cast into the lake of fire forever…the Bible calls this the “second death” (Rev 20:14-15).
PRESENTATION – For most people, a simple statement on this point is sufficient, as: “God loves us but hates our sin, because the payment for sin is death and separation from Him.” How to deal with specific “cult teachings” that differ from Scripture on this point will be covered in the chapters on Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christian Science. When you do not sense resistance on this point (and you usually won’t), move on to what you want to cover next.
3. DOCTRINE – The eternal heaven will be a perfect place. No sin could enter this heaven. Man must be perfectly righteous to go to heaven. “Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2Pe 3:13).
“And there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Rev 21:27). “For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee” (Psa 5:4).
It is God’s heaven. He created it (Gen 1:1). He lives in it (Psa 11:4; Psa 115:3). He says there will be no tears, sorrow, pain or death in heaven (Rev 21:4), and God has the right to say who will go there. If any sin were allowed into heaven, death would be there because, as we have seen, “The wages of sin is death..” (Rom 6:23).
Not only are we sinners and need our sin paid for before we can enter heaven, but also this body we have now could never live forever anyway. It will get old, sickly, and die. This body was never created to live forever. In the commercial world they call this “planned depreciation.” This is why your car, washing machine, lawn mower, etc., need repairs and finally just won’t operate.
God not only offers a payment for your sin so your soul can go to heaven, but He also will give you a new, glorified body that will live forever, entirely free from sin, sickness, and death. It will be like the glorified body of our Lord Jesus Christ (Php 3:21; 1Jn 3:2).
PRESENTATION – When a person sees that he is a sinner and that with his sin he cannot enter heaven, he will be ready for the next point. Usually a statement like “Heaven is a perfect place, and no sin can enter heaven because sin would bring death” will be sufficient.
4. DOCTRINE – Nothing man could do could help him obtain the absolute perfection God requires for eternal life. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: It is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph 2:8-9).
“But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Rom 4:5).
‘Knowing that a man is not justified by the woks of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law, for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” (Gal 2:16).
“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy he saved us…” (Tit 3:5).
“Therefore we CONCLUDE that a man is JUSTIFIED BY FAITH, without the deeds of the law” (Rom 3:28).
If anything is clear in Scripture, it is that man is saved by his faith in Christ’s payment for all sin on the cross plus nothing. “Man’s efforts, no matter how good or well intended (before or after salvation), have nothing to do with it. Salvation is by the finished work of Christ and nothing can be added to it” (Florida Bible College Doctrinal Statement Point Six).
Religions are man made. Two Latin words make up our English word “religion;” “re” and “ligio.” “Re” means to “go back,” and “ligio” means “to bind.” “Religion” then means “to bind back.” Religions are man’s efforts to bind himself back to God. They are Satan inspired. Satan delights to blind man into thinking he could somehow earn eternal life through his good works. “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness…” (2Co 11:14-15). People have Satan pictured as having horns, tail, pitchfork, and red union suit. Satan doesn’t want people to know what he is really like.
The plan of salvation is not a religion but is the message of what God has already done to bring us back to Him. Satan gives the lost a religion that, when he hears it, will blind him to salvation. When you witness, always point out that the GOSPEL is NOT a “religion.” We are not discussing man’s philosophy but God’s Word.
It is often very valuable to point out that you do believe in freedom of worship without persecution. Nevertheless, all the religious leaders of the world are dead: Buddha, Confucius, Mohammed, Mary Baker Eddy, etc. But the Lord Jesus Christ is alive! He is not dead! It would behoove those who want to come back from the dead to listen to the Man who did.
That a person cannot save himself by his works…or help Christ to save him by his works…or help keep himself saved by his works, will be one of the most difficult things for a person to believe. It is also one of the most IMPORTANT things for a person to believe…because if a person does not believe this, he is not saved. God says you are not saved by your works but by grace through faith.’
“And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work” (Rom 11:6).
GOOD WORKS FOR SALVATION IS SATAN’S COUNTERFEIT OF GOD’S GRACE FOR SALVATION. THIS ISSUE OF “GRACE versus WORKS” WILL ALMOST ALWAYS BE THE MAIN THING YOU WILL NEED TO DEAL WITH. HOW TO OVERCOME THIS SATANIC BARRIER WILL BE DISCUSSED THROUGHOUT THIS BOOK.
Satan does not want the lost to sin. He wants them to be fine, well – educated, well – liked, moral, religious people. It is a better advertisement for him. He offers them a “heavenly” way to go to hell.
God says in Mat 7:21-23, “Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father (1Ti 2:3-4) which is in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy Name? And in Thy Name have cast out devils? And in Thy Name done many WONDERFUL WORKS? And then I will profess unto them, I NEVER knew you; depart from Me, ye that work INIQUITY.”
These people tried to work their way to heaven, and God called it SIN. When a person realizes that even the best he can possibly do is still filthy rags in God’s sight (Isa 64:6), he should see the utter folly of believing his good works could help save him.
PRESENTATION – The way to overcome this false teaching that man needs to do good works for salvation is to present the person with the clear statements in the Word of God on salvation by faith alone without works. Sometimes you will need to use only a few verses. Great! But often, because people have been so misled and actually blinded by a counterfeit “Christian – do – good – religion,” you will have to go over and over salvation – by – faith verses.
AN IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER – Do not let the person get off onto side issues. Stay with the gospel. What is the power of God unto salvation? Yes, the gospel. Satan will constantly work to get you to leave the gospel.
If a person insists that he must work for salvation, show him verses like Eph 2:8-9, and stay with them. Ask “How would you interpret ‘NOT OF WORKS’ – that it is of works? God says it is NOT of works.” You will not have a problem so much with a person’s interpretation of Scripture as with his belief of Scripture. Some people are just unwilling to accept what God says at face value. This is calling God a liar and is so serious that it will result in the person’s going to hell.
5. DOCTRINE – Christ made a complete payment for all sin and offers His righteousness. “For He (God) hath made Him (Christ) to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2Co 5:21). Christ never sinned. He lived a perfect life. Yet He took our sins upon Himself and paid for them. He did this so He could give us God’s righteousness in place of our sin.
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa 53:6). We are all sinners. We do what we want to do. But God allowed Christ to take our sin upon Himself and pay for it ALL.
“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” (1Pe 3:18). Christ was the Just One, We are the sinners. But He came to earth, took on flesh, died on the cross, and rose from the dead, so that we could live forever in heaven with the Lord.
“Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed” (1Pe 2:24). Jesus paid for our sins by Himself. He needed no help. We were dead spiritually because of our sins; but He died so we could be alive spiritually, because He would give us His righteousness. We are made whole because He took our punishment.
“And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us…and took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross” (Col 2:13-14). You were spiritually dead; you became spiritually alive when you trusted His payment for your sin. He then forgave you all trespasses. He can forgive us because He took all our sins and paid for them.
“Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity…” (Tit 2:14).
“Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Act 13:38-39). Keeping the law could not save you. But Christ paid for all sin; so, if you believe in Him, He will forgive you and justify you from all the wrong you have done.
“By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all. For by one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified” (Heb 10:10, Heb 10:14). It is God’s will that we are made pure and holy because Jesus offered Himself for our sins. His ONE payment was sufficient for all sins, of all time, for all people. By this ONE offering we who believe are made perfect forever. We are pure and holy through His death.
Had Christ not fully paid for all sin, we could not receive justification and He would not have come back from the dead (Rom 4:25). Since the payment for sin is death, He would still be in that grave. But Christ is risen from the dead, proving God is satisfied with the payment for sin that Christ made.
The Jews…the Romans…Pilate…who killed Christ? Who is guilty of His death? Jesus Himself told us no man TOOK His life. Listen to His words, “…I lay down My life, that I might take it again. No man TAKETH it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself…” (Joh 10:17-18). I am as guilty of His death as anyone else. He died for me. He died to pay the price of my sin.
Why did Christ come to earth? To live? Or to die? “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but…to give His life a ransom for many (Mar 10:45). A ransom is a price paid to free someone from captivity. Christ died to pay the full price of our sin to free us from our captivity to the satanic wages of our sin – spiritual death. Sin is completely paid for.
What do we lack? We lack righteousness. God is anxiously waiting to give us His righteousness. God gives His righteousness to whoever accepts Christ’s payment for their sin…and He gives His righteousness the moment the person accepts Christ (II Cor. 5:21). The righteousness of God is given only by faith – never by works (Rom 4:5-8; Rom 4:22-24; Rom 9:30-32).
PRESENTATION – Since this is the heart of the gospel, you should carefully go over the verses teaching Christ paid for all sin. If the person does not accept the teaching of Scripture at first, reiterate trying to make the verses as clear to the person as you can. (A very effective gesture in making the plan of salvation clear, and especially on this point, is explained and illustrated in Chapter 23.) When the person sees that “Jesus Paid It All,” go on to the next point.
6. DOCTRINE – All man must do to be saved is to BELIEVE Jesus was the Lord who paid for all his sin – RECEIVE Christ as his Saviour. God gives eternal life only to those who will accept it by faith alone.
Joh 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Notice it is not to those who try to work and earn their eternal life but to those who believe.
Joh 6:47, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me HATH everlasting life.” Christ who never told one lie, emphasized by saying, Truthfully, truthfully, he that believes on Me possesses now everlasting life.
Joh 1:12, “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His Name.” Salvation is always RECEIVING. We do nothing. We accept what Christ has done for us. We RECEIVE Him as our Saviour.
Joh 6:28-29, “Then said they unto Him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.” GOD did the work. God only asks of us that we believe on Christ.
Php 3:9, “And be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” Notice, found in Christ – not in the Pope, your church, your denomination, or your own philosophy. You are found “in Christ” not by trying to get to heaven by your own righteousness, but by receiving Christ’s righteousness by faith. God counts you righteous because of your faith not because of your works (Rom 4:5).
We quoted Eph 2:8-9 earlier in this chapter, and now we shall examine it phrase by phrase.
For by grace: By mercy from God that we do not deserve.
Are ye saved: Not helped, instructed but “saved.”
Through faith: Not through your church, through yourself, or anything else. Just through your faith.
And that not of yourselves: Not by what you do – regardless.
It is the gift of God: It is a gift. It is not sold for any price. The price would be too high. God could never lower the wages of sin. You cannot buy your way (I Pet. 1:18, 19). You accept salvation as God’s gift or you cannot have salvation.
Not of works: Doesn’t mean Jesus did a lot and you will help Him some. “Not of works” means NOT of works!
Lest any man should boast: God doesn’t want any braggarts in heaven, and there won’t be any braggarts there (1Co 1:29). All praise will be to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Galatians 3:22 – 26, “But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” Everyone is a sinner, and God promises to save those who have faith and believe in Jesus.
v. 23, “But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.” Before you trusted Christ, you thought salvation was through keeping the law.
v. 24, “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” The law showed how short you came of perfection, so you saw your need of Christ as Saviour.
v. 25, “But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.” When you trusted Christ by faith, the law had served its purpose. It is done away with as far as you are now concerned (2 Cor 3:6 – 11).
v. 26, “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” You become a child of God through your faith in Christ, and He will take care of you.
Romans 5:1, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Since I trusted Christ, God sees me justified – “just as if I’d never sinned.” God sees Christ’s righteousness instead of my sin. Therefore I have peace with God. Jesus reconciled God and me (Rom 5:8-11).
Acts 13:38, 39, “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.” Through Christ you are justified from all things – past, present, and future. This is very important. “Jesus paid it ALL!” You could not be justified through keeping the law. (“Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight…” Romans 3:20) Do not despise God’s grace. Do not reject God’s grace. If you could have been saved through your own efforts, Christ’s death would have been useless. Calvary would have been a mistake. “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Gal 2:21). Going back to Act 13:39, notice that those who are justified from all things are those who BELIEVE.
PRESENTATION – Since the greatest majority of those you meet are trying to somehow “work their way” to heaven, it will follow that the are not trusting Christ alone for their salvation. It is important to remember as you deal with them that they probably have never REALLY understood the gospel. Most churches that are “Christian” in name do not make the plan of salvation clear; some do not even know what the plan of salvation is to begin with.
Praise God for the godly pastors who stand for the Word of God!!
Millions of people are so fed up with this counterfeit type of Christianity they have heard all their life from Sunday School days on up, that they do not even want to discuss “religion.” Sympathize with them. Explain that what you want to talk about is not a religion. Explain the gospel to them. But do not insinuate that they are “stupid,” etc. Remember, they do not know the truth.
(Sometimes it will be easier to lead to the Lord those who have rejected “religion,” because at least they have recognized something was not “right” about what they had been taught. Compliment them on their insight. Agree with people wherever you can.)
Again the issue is between “grace and works.” Until they see that Christ’s death completely paid for their sin, they will not be ready to rely on that payment alone naturally. Keep showing them the verses, and get them to see that this is what God has to say about the matter.
Sometimes a person will question your authority to speak on theological issues. Explain to him that it is not a question of his opinion versus yours. You are showing him what GOD has said. HE is the authority. At the same time, if you are dealing with a true intellectual, comment on his obvious intelligence, and use this as a means to his salvation: Mention that with such brains and reasoning power as he has, he ought to see right away that the only way sinners could be saved would be the way God has explained in the Bible.
When the person trusts Christ as his Saviour, it is always important to explain to him then that he can know he has eternal life from that moment on, which is the last point we will cover in this chapter.
7. DOCTRINE – Man can know he has eternal life now because eternal life IS eternal. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is ETERNAL LIFE through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). Notice, the gift of God is ETERNAL LIFE – not, “life until you sin again,” nor “life until you backslide.”
Notice what John 3:16 is saying, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have EVERLASTING LIFE.” How long is EVERLASTING? Is it six months? Ten years? Does it start and stop? No! Everlasting life is FOR EVER AND EVER!
God’s gift is SALvation…not PRObation. God’s gift is eternal life…not temporary life.
John 6:47 has been quoted before showing you only need to believe. But what does this believing do for you? “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on Me hath EVERLASTING LIFE.” “Hath everlasting life” is present tense. If you have EVERLASTING LIFE right now, you are safe forever. You do not wait until you die to receive everlasting life. You receive it the instant you trust Christ as your Saviour.
I John 5:13, “These things have I written unto you that believe on the Name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have ETERNAL LIFE, and that ye may believe on the Name of the Son of God.”
This is written to a certain class of people – not to the rich or poor, American or African, Jew or Gentile, Buddhist or Baptist – but to those who believe on the Name of the Son of God. His name is Jesus. “Jesus” comes from he Greek translation of the Hebrew words “Jehovah Yasha” and means “the eternal, self – existent God who saves and keeps.”
Those who believe Jesus is the Lord and trust Him to save them and keep them saved can KNOW they have ETERNAL LIFE. You do not need to hope, think, guess, or pray for it. You can KNOW you have it.
AND WHEN GOD PROMISES YOU CAN KNOW YOU HAVE ETERNAL LIFE, YOU CAN COUNT ON IT, BECAUSE GOD CANNOT LIE (Titus 1:2).
PRESENTATION – After you have gone over what the name “Jesus” means, ask the person, “Is this written to you? Do you believe on the Name of the Son of God?” Once the person actually receives Christ as his Saviour, there should be no difficulty for him to realize he now has eternal life. Heaven is the tremendous inheritance of the children of God, and for a Christian to lack the full assurance of knowing he will go to heaven when he dies would be a great tragedy.
Those who do not know they will be saved forever are usually not saved to start with. The first section of Chapter Two will go into how to deal with a person lacking assurance of salvation.
Chapter Five deals with how to give a person the “invitation” to trust Christ as his Saviour.
Below are listed salvation verses which would be of great benefit to you to have memorized. You should memorize most of them so well that you could quote them readily. Know the address of where they are in the Bible so that you can turn to them quickly. The reasons for memorizing these verses are many:
(1) You can have the person read the verse, and you will be free to watch his eyes and expressions as he reads. For you to know his reaction as he reads will help you witness to him further.
(2) You might not have your Bible with you when you have the opportunity to witness, so you will need to quote the verses.
(3) Knowing the Scriptures this well will give you confidence as you witness. It is the Word of God that the Holy Spirit blesses. When you know the Scriptures, you will be amazed at how the Lord will bring just the right ones to your mind that will fit the need of the person.
MEMORY VERSES FOR CHAPTER ONE
* Romans 3:23
I Peter 2:24
* Romans 6:23
II Peter 3:13
I John 3:2
* Ephesians 2:8,9
* Romans 4:5
* Galatians 2:16
Galatians 3:22 – 26
* Romans 3:28
Romans 5:8 – 11
* II Corinthians 5:21
*I John 5:10 – 13
* Isaiah 53:6
I Peter 3:18
Note: If you are unaccustomed to memorizing Scripture, we recommend you start with the verses marked *.