In 1874, a preacher and medical doctor named T.W. Brents wrote a 500-page book entitled The Gospel Plan of Salvation. It would be difficult to overestimate its influence. It is an exhaustive and decisive rebuttal of Calvinism. It was not new doctrine, but it codified The Five Steps (hereafter TFS) as the best way to explain the error of Calvinistic teaching. Today we will examine how TFS explain the biblical response to the gospel of eternal life in Jesus Christ.
Our “faith-only” friends ground their teaching in the idea that God is sovereign, man has no ability to believe or repent, and God chooses the saved and the damned. Since they believe: God only saves the elect. Man is so sinful he can not choose to believe. God must (through an irresistible grace act of the Holy Spirit) regenerate the sinful heart of man supernaturally. Therefore, the elect are given faith through a Holy Spirit experience they can neither choose nor ignore. This moment of Grace is a sign God has elected them for salvation. You can worship in church and pray every day, according to this teaching, and never be saved. While someone who has never sought the Lord, will be saved. And neither has a choice in the matter.
What TFS do is set in order, faith, forgiveness, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. From the beginning, the teaching within the Stone-Campbell movement centered around the free-will of man and the biblical truth that God makes alive those who die to sin in baptism (Romans 6:4-8). Walter Scott laid out the order this way: Man has faith, repents, and is baptized. God forgives sins, gives the Holy Spirit, and promises eternal life. TFS focus on how man comes to faith, when God saves him, and when we are sealed with the Holy Spirit.
Hearing: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”-Romans 10:17. The Bible teaches us faith is produced in the heart of people when they hear the gospel of God offering his Son for our salvation. Faith doesn’t come because it is forced upon us by the Holy Spirit. It is the gospel that is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”-Romans 1:16. We preach, “a message by which you will be saved.”-Acts 11:14. People, “hear the word of the gospel and believe”-Acts 15:7.
Faith: No group that proclaims Jesus as Savior argues the necessity of faith (John 3:16; Mark 16:16).
Repentance: Faith only groups teach repentance. The purely Calvinistic (Reformed) teach salvation is produced by a regeneration by the Spirit. Faith and repentance come later. The Bible teaches repentance must occur before God saves (Acts 3:19; 11:18).
Confession: We must confess Christ Jesus as resurrected Lord and Son of God (Matthew 16:16, Romans 10:8-9).
Baptism: As surely as hearing the gospel must precede faith, the forgiveness of sins must occur before we are saved. The biblical order of salvation is hearing, then faith; baptism, then forgiveness and the gift of the indwelling, strengthening, and comforting of the Holy Spirit of God. This is what The Five Steps demonstrate as a teaching tool.
Let’s finish our study with Scripture. “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”-Acts 2:38. “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved,”-Mark 16:16. “Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.”-Acts 22:16.
Praise God any person can come to simple, trusting faith in Jesus. Repent of rebellion toward God’s Son, and confess Christ Jesus as their resurrected Lord by submitting to him in baptism. Thank you Lord for salvation by grace to those who serve in faith!
Here is part one: https://www.north2ndcofc.org/in-defense-of-the-five-steps-part-i/