The Simple Gospel

Does God Really Have a "Five Step Plan"?

Steve Klein

Addicts are sometimes put on programs of rehabilitation involving "steps" to recovery. You may have seen advertised recently a three step program to cure tobacco addiction. There are also nine and twelve step plans for alcohol, drug and gambling addictions. In these programs, each step involves a specific action or behavior which typically is to be done before one advances to the next step. Step plans serve not only to help a person reach a desired goal, they are also an effective means of measuring progress towards that goal. Modern counselors and self-help specialists have discovered that step plans are very effective tools because they clarify for us what must be done to reach a goal and they help keep us focused on achieving it.

It has been said that pioneer preachers, in an effort to simplify the plan of salvation, condensed it down to a five step plan. Common people, addicted to sin, who heard restoration preaching could remember the five step plan simply by associating each step with a digit on one of their hands. They were told that they needed to Hear-Believe-Repent-Confess-and be Baptized (H-B-R-C-B) in order to be saved.

Some have suggested that the Bible does not actually contain these steps, and that insistence on following five steps amounts to binding where God has not bound and/or an oversimplification which leaves off other truths of equal or greater importance. Others think that if these are truly the steps one must take to be saved, surely God would have specifically stated this in a single passage of scripture; since no single Bible passage appears to contain all five steps, they conclude that God has no five step plan.

At first glance these opinions may appear to have some merit. But notice the assumptions they contain. Is it true that "the Bible does not actually contain these steps"? If the Bible does contain a simple five step plan, how could it be "oversimplification" to teach and follow it? And, who has the right to tell God that if He's going to have a five step plan, He needs to say so "in a single passage of scripture"?

The reality is that there is not a single passage to which one can turn and find it concisely stated that one must H-B-R-C-B in order to be saved. But this should not be surprising. In fact, it would be somewhat surprising if all the steps could be found in one passage. Those with experience in handling the word of God recognize that the totality of truth on ANY subject is seldom if ever found in any one passage. The truths to be found within God's word are accurately discerned and applied only by careful, diligent study (2 Timothy 2:15). Often, various passages of scripture must be aligned and compared before God's truth on a given subject is understood. The prophet Isaiah explained that God's revelation to His people has been "...precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little" (Isaiah 28:10). If God has a five step plan to cure sin addiction, we should expect it to be revealed in scripture "here a little, there a little." Using this "line upon line" approach, we can clearly see God's five step plan revealed.

Line One -- The Steps are "Elementary Principles"

In the course of penning the book of Hebrews, the inspired writer indicated his intention to leave "the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ . . . not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment" (Hebrews 6:1). One thing we learn from this passage is that there are definitely "elementary principles" (NKJV) or "first principles" (ASV) which are the foundation of a relationship with Christ.

"Elementary principles" are fundamentals which must be mastered before one can fully participate in any endeavor. For example, the English alphabet must be mastered before one can read and write in English. If I only learn a partial alphabet, say ABCDEKLMSTXYZ, I will never be able to properly read and write in English. In fact, I would not even be able to write my own name; Steve Klein would come out STEE KE! Just as the elementary alphabet must be learned in order for one to have a working relationship with written English, the first principles of the doctrine of Christ must be mastered in order for one to have a relationship with Christ.

Among the six first principles mentioned in Hebrews 6:1-2, you will notice that we find three of the five steps (repentance, faith and baptism). Two of the other principles mentioned (resurrection and judgment) would be included in what a person needs to hear in order to have faith. The remaining first principle mentioned, laying on of hands, was no doubt related to the use and impartation of spiritual gifts which confirmed revelations from God in New Testament times (Mark 16:18; Acts 8:18-19; 2 Timothy 1:6). The scripture foretold that these gifts would "cease" (1 Corinthians 13:8-10), and they have. So, in the modern age, when New Testament revelation has already been confirmed, laying on of hands no longer serves as a fundamental of the doctrine of Christ.

The point is that, even if no other passage in the Bible addressed the subject, we would know from Hebrews 6:1-2 that hearing, faith, repentance and baptism are fundamental necessities to a relationship with Christ. Plainly, these are at least some of the first steps one must take in order to walk with Christ.

Line 2 -- The five steps toward the goal of salvation are connected.

As one reads through the New Testament, noting the verses which address what a person is to do to reach the goal of salvation, it is obvious that each of the five steps is frequently mentioned. One also soon becomes aware of the fact that the various steps are frequently connected to one another. So that, instead of simply having "confession" mentioned as a step one must take to be saved, Paul tells us that "with the heart man believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth

Time and again the New Testament mentions each of the five steps. Time and again, one of the various five steps is mentioned in connection with another one of the steps. Why? Why mention these things together if in fact they are not part of a single plan? It is obvious that the steps are mentioned in connection with one another because THEY HAVE A CONNECTION with one another -- each is an integral part of a plan man must follow to be saved from sin.

Line 3 -- Accounts of Salvation in Acts.

The Book of Acts is filled with accounts of the steps men and women were directed to take in order to be saved from sin. If we are honest, we can see God's five step plan being revealed in these accounts. Perhaps all the steps are not found in any one account, but often three or four steps are specifically mentioned, while the others may be implied. As we read through Acts with the idea in mind of looking for the things people were told to do to be saved, the cumulative effect is overwhelming.

In Acts 2, Peter preached to a multitude of Jews and told them to "repent and let everyone of you be baptized for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38). Here the Jews were told to take two steps in order to be saved. Why didn't Peter tell them to take any of the other steps? Well, he did. In Acts 2:22 he said, "Men of Israel HEAR these words..." In Acts 2:36 he told them to "know assuredly" (i.e. BELIEVE) that Jesus is Lord and Christ. In the very first conversion account found in Acts we have a record of people being told to hear, believe, repent and be baptized in order to receive forgiveness. These four steps, along with confession, are frequently repeated in the other conversion accounts in Acts. Here are a few examples:

  1. The Samaritans in Acts 8 HEARD Philip preaching (Acts 8:5-6), BELIEVED what he preached concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 8:12) and "were BAPTIZED, both men and women" (Acts 8:12b).
  2. Later in the same chapter, an Ethiopian HEARD Philip preach Jesus (Acts 8:35), BELIEVED in Jesus, CONFESSED his belief, and was BAPTIZED in water (Acts 8:36-38).
  3. The first convert from among the Gentiles, Cornelius, was told that he needed to HEAR Peter preach saving words (Acts 10:6; 11:14); he was told that if he BELIEVED the words he heard he would receive remission of sins (Acts 10:43), and he was BAPTIZED in water (Acts 10:47-48). Later, in Acts 11:18 we learn that these Gentiles had also REPENTED.
  4. Lydia HEARD and was BAPTIZED (Acts 16:14-15).
  5. The Philippian jailor HEARD, was told to BELIEVE, and was BAPTIZED (Acts 16:30-33).
  6. "The Corinthians, HEARING, BELIEVED, and were BAPTIZED" (Acts 18:8).

Do you feel the weight of all these examples? Taken together, the conversions recorded in Acts do indeed form a compelling revelation of God's five step plan for sinners seeking salvation.

When all three lines of God's revelation which we have examined are considered together, the evidence is insurmountable. God does have a five step plan to for those who are addicted to sin! Each and every sin addict alive today who desires to find relief needs to follow God's simple five step plan. You've got to do the steps!

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