GOD'S CHAIN OF SALVATION
Written by Ron Hutchison
Suppose you are walking along a hot, dusty road and you see a well off to the side. You go over to the well and look down into it. You see water. It looks appealing because you are very thirsty. You have great desire for a drink of cool water. You decide that you are going to try to get some. But in the process, you lean too far and fall into the well. You begin to tread water and look for a way out. The walls are too steep to climb. There is no way you can get out of the well by yourself. You realize that if someone doesn't come to rescue you, you face certain death by drowning. Suddenly you realize that someone is standing at the top of the well and understands that you are in trouble and need help. Then you see that person lowering a great chain down into the well. You see the individual links as they come toward you. You know that if you can grab hold of the lower links of that chain then you can be pulled to safety.
The above illustration is not unlike man's salvation from sin. You have fallen into sin because of your desire and are treading water in the murky depths (James 1:12-15; See, How To Overcome Sin). There is nothing you can do in and of yourself to be saved from your sin. You have to depend on someone else. You face certain eternal separation from God if you are not saved. There is one person who can save you. He is standing at the top of the well and is lowering a great chain of salvation down to you. It is up to you to grab hold of the lower links of that chain and be pulled up to safety.
One of the mistakes that many people make is to affirm that man is saved by one thing. However, the Bible teaches that we are saved by a number of different elements which all work together to provide our salvation. In this lesson these elements are compared to the links in a great chain. The great "Chain of Salvation." Every one of these links is necessary to man's salvation. Without any one of them, the chain becomes ineffective. We must be careful that we do not minimize any link which God has appointed for our salvation. We also need to know that the Bible only has to say one time that a certain link is necessary in order for it to be necessary. Let us study this great Chain of Salvation.
THE FIRST LINK IS GOD THE FATHER
There should be no controversy in regard to this first link in God's plan of salvation. Paul wrote, "For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe" (1 Timothy 4:10). God is the Savior of all men in the sense that He has provided all that is necessary for man's salvation. All it takes is for man to accept what God has done for him. It is the Father who gives us His gift of eternal life through His Son Jesus Christ. Paul wrote, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). Salvation is the gift of God but it comes through Jesus Christ which takes us to the second great link in this chain of salvation.
THE SECOND LINK IS CHRIST THE SON
Jesus is the second great link because He saves us from our sins. When the angel appeared to Joseph to explain Mary's pregnancy, he told him, "And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). Jesus came for the very purpose of saving us from our sins. The Bible teaches, "though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him..." (Hebrews 5:8-9). Jesus is the "author" or the "cause" of eternal salvation. Without the Father no one could be saved, but without the Son no one could be saved either. Paul wrote, "This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief" (1 Timothy 1:15).
Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners! There can be no argument on this point. Jesus saves us. But He does not do it alone and the Father does not do it alone. It takes both great links in God's chain of salvation.
THE THIRD LINK IS THE HOLY SPIRIT
The Bible teaches that just as God the Father and Christ the Son save us, the Holy Spirit is involved in our salvation too. Paul, in writing to the Corinthian church, speaks of their past life and shows how they had changed. He says, "And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:11). The Corinthians (and we today) are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. The "Spirit of our God" refers to the Holy Spirit, the third person in the Godhead. Not only are we sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, but by the Holy Spirit as well. The Holy Spirit sanctifies and justifies by the work which He has done in revealing God's will to mankind through inspired men. These men then wrote down this revelation in the Bible. No one has ever been saved without the Holy Spirit, for one could not know what to do to be saved without His revelation (the Bible).
The work of the Holy Spirit is set forth in such passages as John 14:15-18, 25-26; 15:26-27 and 16:7-14. These passages teach that it was the work of the Holy Spirit to reveal to the apostles and other inspired men the Plan of Salvation through Christ. Therefore, without the work of the Holy Spirit, we could not be saved. But His work does not invalidate the work of the Father and the Son.
THE FOURTH LINK IS GRACE
Paul declared, "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" (Ephesians 2:8-9). It is through God's grace, which has often been defined as God's unmerited favor, that we may receive salvation. Therefore salvation is by grace.
Paul, in writing to Titus said, "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men..." (Titus 2:11). Paul wrote to the Romans, "...being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus..." (Romans 3:24). Thus, we must agree that we are saved by grace. But could it be "grace alone?" The word "alone" is an exclusive word. To use the words "alone" or "only" is to exclude everything else. No, we are not saved by grace alone for that would exclude everything else that the Bible teaches saves us. There is a great difference between saying we are saved by grace and saying we are saved by grace alone. One includes everything in God's chain of salvation, the other excludes everything but grace.
THE FIFTH LINK IS THE BLOOD OF CHRIST
The blood of Christ is also a link in this great chain of salvation. The Bible is clear about the place of Christ's blood in our salvation. Paul wrote, "Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him" (Romans 5:9). The person who is justified is the person who has been pronounced free of guilt. One lady defined it like this: "Justified - just as if I had never sinned." I believe in light of what the Bible teaches about justification, this is a good definition. Thus, justification has to do with forgiveness of sins or salvation. Here Paul plainly states that we are justified by the blood of Christ. In Ephesians 1:7 he wrote, "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace..." Redemption comes through the blood of Christ. Redemption is defined here by Paul as the forgiveness of sins. Thus, we can all surely agree that the blood of Christ plays a vital part in God's great chain of salvation. However, it is not by blood alone that we are saved. It takes every link in God's chain (plan) of salvation.
THE SIXTH LINK IS THE GOSPEL
The sixth great link in God's chain of salvation is the gospel of Christ. Paul in writing to the Corinthians told them, "Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you; unless you believed in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:1-2). Notice that Paul tells the Corinthians that they are saved by the gospel that he had preached to them. The gospel is God's power to salvation (Romans 1:16). It is the "implanted word" which is able to save our souls (James 1:21). It is the written word, the New Testament.
But the fact that the Bible teaches that we are saved by the gospel doesn't mean "only" by the gospel. Every other link in God's great Chain of Salvation is absolutely necessary also.
THE SEVENTH LINK IS HEARING
The gospel cannot save unless one first hears it. Hearing has always been necessary to receive God's blessings. God spoke through the prophet Isaiah like this: "Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you; The sure mercies of David" (Isaiah 55:3). The everlasting covenant refers to the New Testament of Jesus Christ. If we hear that covenant our soul shall live. It's speaking of salvation through the preaching of the gospel. Paul wrote, "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). Without hearing there can be no faith. Without faith there can be no salvation. Thus, hearing is a vital link in God's Chain of Salvation. But even though it is vital, salvation cannot be by hearing alone. It takes the other links in God's Chain of Salvation too.
Until now, we have been speaking of the great links in the Chain of Salvation that God has provided. God has done all He can do to provide salvation for mankind. However, the remaining links are things that man must do. Yes, we have responsibility to respond in a positive way to what God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit have done through grace and the gospel. We must obey the gospel (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9; 1 Peter 4:17).
THE EIGHTH LINK IS FAITH
Faith comes by hearing, thus faith is a necessary link in God's Chain of Salvation. The Hebrew writer wrote, "But without faith it is impossible to please Him..." (Hebrews 11:6). Faith and belief are the same thing. If one has faith, he believes. If one believes, he has faith. Faith is something that WE human beings must do. God does not do this for us. As we saw earlier, faith comes by hearing God's word (Romans 10:17). Jesus said, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). Notice the phrase "whoever believes." This phrase points out whose responsibility it is. No one can believe for you. If you believe you will have everlasting life, if not you will perish.
But though faith is essential, it is not by "faith only." So many religious people today teach that we are saved by faith only or faith alone. However, as we stated concerning the phrase "grace alone," to say that we are saved by "faith alone" is to exclude everything else. In fact, it is to teach that we can save ourselves since belief is something that man does. If we teach that we are saved by faith alone, we are teaching that God has no part in our salvation because we are excluding every other link in God's chain of Salvation.
The only time the words "faith only" are used in the Bible is in the James 2:24 which says, "You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only." How did we define justification earlier? Did we not show that it had to do with salvation from sin? Here James clearly says that we are saved by works, and not by faith only. Thus, to teach that we are saved by faith only is to contradict and deny God's word.
Most folks object to salvation by works because they don't appreciate the fact that the Bible talks about different kinds of works. There are works of the Law of Moses, works of merit, and then works of obedience. The works that James speaks of are works of obedience. No, we cannot be justified by the works of the Law of Moses or by works of merit, but we are justified by works of obedience. (For further study concerning this point see "The Place of Baptism in God's Plan of Salvation").
What is one of those works of obedience? Jesus' enemies once ask Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God? Jesus answered and said to them, This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent." (John 6:28-29). Did you know that Jesus called faith a work? Yes, there it is in John 6:28-29. How many times have people objected to baptism as a necessary link in God's chain of salvation because they claim it is a work all the while not realizing that Jesus taught that faith is a work? No, neither faith nor baptism is a work of merit, but both are works of obedience and one cannot exclude the other. We are saved by faith, but not by faith only. All the links in God's chain of salvation are absolutely necessary to our salvation.
THE NINTH LINK IS CONFESSION
Paul wrote, "...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. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Romans 10:9-10). Notice that Paul says that confession is made "unto salvation." Does this not show that confessing Christ as Lord is necessary to salvation? If one does not make the good confession can salvation be his? But what does it mean to confess the Lord Jesus? Fortunately we have an inspired example in Acts 8:37 where the Eunuch made the confession. He said, "...I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." The confession we are to make before baptism (See Acts 8:26-39) is what we have come to believe about Jesus after hearing the gospel. It is the fact that He is the Son of God. To leave out this link is to weaken the chain so as to make it ineffective in providing salvation.
THE TENTH LINK IS REPENTANCE
When Jesus was on the earth He said, "...unless you repent you will all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3). On Pentecost day Peter told the people who had asked what they must do to "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins..." (Acts 2:38). Surely no one would dispute the fact that repentance is a necessary link in God's chain of salvation. But to repent only would do no good, for it would leave out every other link.
THE ELEVENTH LINK IS BAPTISM
This is the one link that most of the religious world denies is necessary to salvation. However, our Lord Jesus said this about baptism: "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:16). Could Jesus have been any clearer about the necessity of baptism? Peter wrote, "There is also an antitype which now saves us; baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 3:21). Now we can deny it all we want, but the Bible clearly teaches that we are saved by baptism. Baptism alone? Certainly not. But to deny the necessity of baptism is to deny the Lord Jesus Himself! (For more discussion on the subject of baptism please see "The Place of Baptism in God's Plan of Salvation").
Baptism alone cannot save. It is only one of the links in God's chain of salvation. But if any one of the links snaps, the chain is ruined. It is no wonder that Satan has attacked the link of baptism more than any other in the chain. It is situated next to the sinner, and the farthest removed from God. It is the bottom link on the chain. If that one link is snapped, the worth of the whole chain is destroyed. This is the reason that the devil uses every one he can to deceive people into thinking that baptism is not a necessary link in the chain of salvation.
As we stated in the beginning of this article, one link in God's chain (plan) of salvation will not save. But every link works together in saving us. Don't allow anyone to deceive you in labeling any link as "non-essential." Jesus said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God'" (Matthew 4:4). Notice the phrase "every word." We can't just take one passage that teaches about salvation and depend only on that one passage. We must accept EVERY passage that speaks about salvation before we can know how to be saved. What man has the right to single out a part of God's commands as "essential" and classify others as "non-essential"? No one has that right! Such presumption leads only to eternal loss of the soul.
We are saved by God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Grace of God, the Blood of Christ, the Gospel, hearing, faith, repentance, confession of Christ and baptism. All are necessary links in God's great Chain of Salvation.