Our Participation In God’s Saving Plan

The Role of Christ in Salvation

Salvation has two sides. The first is that which our Lord Jesus Christ did. Jesus Christ is the core of the gospel. Without his deed, without his mission nobody could ever be saved. What was His mission? His mission was His birth on this earth, to live a holy life, to preach the gospel of the kingdom, to manifest the will of the Father, to die on the cross for our sins, to be raised from the death, and finally to ascend to heaven where He awaits union with all of His followers and when His enemies will be put under his feet. Our Lord Jesus Christ completed his mission. On the cross he said: “It is finished”. Why did He say “finished?” Because he fulfilled everything that had to be fulfilled. He drank the cup for which he said: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” [i] Jesus drank the cup to the bottom. He bore all defilement, all humiliation, all sorrow, all suffering and every sin. He bore all this on Calvary. After His death He was raised from the dead because He is the Son of God and his blood was a sufficient price for the sins of the whole world which he bore on the cross. Praise the Lord!

God’s Saving Message

But, remember there is a second side to salvation. In order for a person to be saved there is something more that is needed. It is not that Christ’s sacrifice was insufficient, but if the only thing that is needed for salvation is Christ’s sacrifice, then everybody would be saved. After all, Christ died for all. His blood is sufficient for the justification of all the people on this earth. But a person is not saved because God gave His Son, Christ Jesus, who died on the cross for man’s sin. Rather, a person is saved when he or she calls the name of the Lord and trusts in His saving work on the cross. In order to make this call to God, a person has to believe what God has done for him. And in order to believe, he has to hear the news of God’s saving act in Jesus Christ. This is the very reason why we participate in God’s saving plan. We are called to preach the gospel which is our highest privilege. In Romans 10:13-15 Apostle Paul said:

13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”g 14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”h [ii]

We are sent by the Lord to be preachers of the gospel. This is something very important. And I believe that if we become aware of our responsibility and privilege in the gospel, then we will be more active in our evangelistic efforts and more people will be saved. Often times it appears that we are not fully aware of our responsibility to the gospel. The apostles were fully aware of it. Acts 13 is a missionary chapter in the Book of Acts. In it we see how the church gathered together and they all ministered to the Lord in fasting and prayer in order to receive the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And He spoke to them in a prophetic message (Acts 13:2):

2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” [iii]

Then they went and started to spread the gospel. Finally they arrived in Pisidian Antioch and there Paul preached to the Jew in the synagogue. In his sermon he said the following (Acts 13:26):

26 “Brothers, children of Abraham, and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent.[iv]

We see that Apostle Paul realized that the message of salvation had been given to the apostles. This message was given to them, but now it is given to us. We are the successors of the apostles’ teaching, and we are the ones who are now charged with sharing the gospel today.

So, from one side we have one event, and this is Christ’s sacrifice. But from another side we have one message about this event, and this message is the gospel. The event itself was accomplished by Jesus Christ, because he became a sacrifice for all, but we are the ones who are trusted with the news about this event.

The good news was that the promise that God gave to the patriarchs and prophets, the promise about the coming Messiah was fulfilled in Jesus. And the proof for this was his resurrection (Acts 13:32-37). This is the good news. God became flesh and dwelt among us, and demonstrated His power over death.  When Paul was talking, he was using quotes from Psalm 2 and other psalms. And he wrapped up his point with the words (Acts 13:38-39):  

38 “Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. 39 Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses. [v]

The good news is that the salvation is by grace – not because of our merits or our deeds, because nobody can fulfill the requirements of the law and we cannot save ourselves with our own power. We are saved by grace. All other religions are teaching what works man should do in order to be saved. Only the gospel teaches us that God has done the work for us so that we can be saved.

The Two Sides of Salvation

The structure of the New Testament itself speaks about these two sides of salvation. The four gospels speak about the redemptive sacrifice of Christ. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are focused on what Jesus was teaching and doing. But the Book of Acts doesn’t speak about what Jesus did. It speaks about what the apostles did. And what was it that they did? They spread the good news about Christ and His gift of salvation. So, the divine part of salvation is revealed in the gospels, but the human part of salvation is revealed in the Book of Acts – and this is our part.

In Luke 24:45-47 Jesus Christ as already risen from the dead explains the scriptures to the apostles. He gave them illumination so that they can understand God’s plan of salvation.

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. [vi]

Do you see the two parts of God’s plan? Who is doing the second part of God’s plan? Does Christ preaching repentance and forgiveness of sins? No? The apostles did that. But where are they now? They completed their job in their time and went to be with the Lord. And who is now here on this earth? We are. So, who are now charged to preach and share the gospel? We are the ones who have to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins. We have to carry the “message about this salvation”.

See how graceful our God is! What should a man to do in order to be saved? Just to call the name of the Lord. But not the name of Mohamed, or Krishna, or Zeus or the name of some other god, but the name of Jesus Christ. Why (Acts 4:12)?

12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” [vii]

The preaching of the gospel is so important, because according to Romans 1:16 the gospel itself is God’s power for salvation.

16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.[viii]

How God saves people? Through the gospel. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God for salvation. We ourselves have been saved through this power.

In 2 Corinthians 5:18,19 similarly to Luke Paul also divides God’s saving plan in two – Christ’s part and our part.

18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.[ix]

God entrusted the reconciliation to Jesus. He became the Instrument through which God reconciled the humanity with Himself. This was the divine side, because Christ was the Son of God. He came in flesh, he died for our sins and reconciled us with God the Father. But as to the message of reconciliation, God has entrusted that not to Christ but to us. This is our part. Although as we do our part there is divine participation also.  You see, we cannot witness and proclaim the gospel without the power of the Holy Spirit. Our evangelism is again through God, but it is our task to share what Jesus has done.

We cannot die on the cross and save somebody because we aren’t worthy of this. But what we can do is tell others about what Christ did for us. This message of reconciliation is entrusted to us. The holy gospel, which is God’s power of salvation is entrusted to us (2 Corinthians 5:20).

20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. [x]

Through Christ God made possible the reconciliation of humans with Himself.  And through us (His followers, His disciples, His Church) sharing His gospel, He appeals to the people to be reconciled with him and come to Him. This means that we have both the privilege and the responsibility to proclaim the gospel.

Not To Angels But To Us

We have to be aware that we have been trusted with the gospel. And this is something extraordinary. Of all creations that God has, he had chosen us to trust with the gospel. Just think about it. God has created everything in this world. He has cherubims, seraphims, angels. He can make the animals to speak with human voice. Remember Balaam’s donkey which spoke out with a human voice. God can do anything. He can make the trees or the stones talk. But with the gospel He has chosen us, human beings to be His mediators, the bearers of His good news. This is something that has been entrusted to us, and it is part of the plan of God.

I came to faith in God by seeing an angel. This was in 1975. At that time I was just 6 years old. My mother who had become cold in her faith had said to my grandmother: “You should not talk to Simeon about God. I forbid this to you!” Later, when I asked my mom why she did this, she explained to me that she was afraid that if I would grow as a believer, then I will not be able to receive a higher education and good job and I will have no prospects for a bright future. She did this because in our communist time in which we were living the believers were not allowed to receive a good education and to make progress in their life. In their characterization it would written “evangelist” and they would be treated as national traitors and national enemies.

So, until my sixth year I did not know anything about God. But God had a plan for me. One night we went to bed. At this time we were living in Kazanlak, which is a town in central Bulgaria. Grandma Olga, came to tell us good night and turn off the lights. As soon as she turned the lights off and shut the door, another light rushed into the room. I had never before or after that seen such a light. It was so bright and thick that you could almost touch and feel it. Suddenly the window opposite to my bed seemed to disappear and in its place stood an angel. I cannot exactly describe him, but he was dressed all in white and to me, he looked like an 8-12 year old child.

When I saw this angel I was so scared to death that I quickly covered my head with the blanket. I started to push my mom asking her: “Mom, mom, do you see this? Do you see this? What is it?” But she did not see anything. She started to calm me down and I fell asleep.

On the next morning my mother and my grandmother asked me what I have seen and I told them. Then they realized that I have really seen an angel, because up to this point in my life no one has ever told me anything about angels or supernatural world. So, seeing this angel, which I believe was my guardian angel I understood that there is another, supernatural world, which is unseen with our natural eyes. Later I found a proof of this in Jesus’ words from Matthew 18:10:

10 “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.a [xi]

Also, in Hebrews 1:14 we find that the angels are sent to serve those who have been appointed to inherit salvation.

14 Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? [xii]

So, what can God do for me to turn me to Church and to His gospel? After all, I was living under such an atheistic regime that imposed the understanding that there is no God, there is no supernatural world. It was a regime that made my mom so concerned as to forbid my grandmother to tell me about God. What can God do in such a situation? God chose to send me an angel.

After this encounter, my mother got scared, turn back to God and started to go to church and take me with her. Many people are asking me: “Did the angel say something to you?” No it did not speak. The angel didn’t need to tell me anything, because the gospel is not entrusted to the angels. It is entrusted to us, the humans which I later became fully aware of. In 1 Peter 1:10-12 the apostle says:

10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.[xiii]

The gospel was not entrusted to the angels or to some other creature, but to us. In the Book of Acts we read about Cornelius. He was a pious man, who loved God and made every effort to live righteously. He was doing good, prayed a lot and was giving alms. But could Cornelius save himself with this pious life of his? No he could not. He had to hear the gospel. So, when he prayed an angel came to him (Acts 10:1-6).

10     At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. 2 He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. 3 One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!” 4 Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked. The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. 5 Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. 6 He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.” [xiv]

In some manuscripts we have the addition: “He is going to tell you what you should do.” Somebody would say “Why God is making the things so complicated? Why didn’t the angel tell the gospel to Cornelius and save him?” No. He had to call Simon Peter, who preached to him the good news. The Holy Spirit had to come down upon the gentiles gathered and in this way Cornelius and his whole house was saved.

The same thing happened with me. I saw my angel, but I wasn’t saved during this encounter of mine. After it my mother started to take me to church regularly. There I heard the Word of God. In my home my grandmother was telling me about God. This was the way I was saved – by listening to the message, believing the good news, calling the name of the Lord, repenting and confessing Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.

So, a human is saved through the gospel and this gospel is entrusted to us – not to the angels but to us, the humans. We have to realize that if we speak, humans will be saved. If we don’t speak, nobody will be saved.

There is something better than going to heaven. It is when you go there not to be alone, but to take others with you. Then we are going to celebrate with all those whom we have brought to God. That is why we should evangelize. Let us open our mouths and share the good news for our Lord.

Keepers of God’s Secrets

Apostle Paul was very much aware of this responsibility of his. He understood that the gospel was untrusted to him (1 Timothy 1:11).

11 that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me. [xv]

The word “entrusted” implies the idea of trust. You don’t entrust something to someone whom you do not trust. You entrust something to someone because you trust him, because you believe that he will not abuse or misuse it and will not lose it. God trust us. Just think about it. God believes in us, he is sure that we are going to proclaim the gospel. He has entrusted to us the holy thing through which the people can be saved, namely the gospel.

So, if you open your mouth, people will be saved. There is no need to speak your own things, or to fabricate something. Speak the gospel. We need to be bold, because we have been entrusted with “the message of this salvation”.

Apostle Paul repeats the idea that the gospel has been entrusted to us from 1 Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:13-14. There he says to his young coworker:

13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. [xvi]

What is “this good deposit that has been entrusted to us?” The “pattern of sound teaching” that has been entrusted to us is the gospel that has been given to us in order we to give it to the others.

The gospel is a sacred secret through which people can be saved. They cannot be saved through another message, but only through this one. So, Apostle Paul says: “This good deposit was entrusted to me. Now, Timothy, it is entrusted to you. So, keep it, guard it, protect it. But not only this, transmit it to the next generation of Christ followers.” 2 Timothy 2:2

2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.[xvii]

We have to entrust to others what has been entrusted to us. This is the way God’s kingdom is growing. Do you realize what enormous responsibility we have?

The whole New Testament is filled with this idea. The gospel has been entrusted to us and it is our duty to proclaim it (Romans 1:14,15).

14 I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. 15 That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome. [xviii]

So we are obligated to proclaim the gospel. We have no other choice. It is our obligation, out duty to tell people we meet, the person with whom we work, the person with whom we have fun about Christ.

Repeat after me and let’s we all say these words:

I am obligated, and I am ready to proclaim the gospel. I am obligated, and I am eager to proclaim the gospel.

[i]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Mt 26:39). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

g Joel 2:32

h Isaiah 52:7

[ii]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Ro 10:15). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[iii]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Ac 13:2). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[iv]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Ac 13:26). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[v]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Ac 13:39). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[vi]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Lk 24:47). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[vii]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Ac 4:12). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[viii]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Ro 1:16). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[ix]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (2 Co 5:18-19). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[x]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (2 Co 5:20). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

a Some manuscripts heaven. The Son of Man came to save what was lost.

[xi]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Mt 18:10). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[xii]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Heb 1:14). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[xiii]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (1 Pe 1:12). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[xiv]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Ac 10:6). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[xv]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (1 Ti 1:11). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[xvi]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (2 Ti 1:13-14). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[xvii]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (2 Ti 2:2). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[xviii]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Ro 1:14-15). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

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