n the process of conversion, as set forth in the New Testament Scriptures, there is a divine part, as well as a human part. Man performs the human part, while the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, look after the divine side. The lack of this very necessary distinction, when treating the subject of conversion, has led to many errors.
We read, “By grace are ye saved.” This is the divine part of salvation, and yet there is something more in the plan of redemption than mere grace. Then, on the other hand, we read that “by faith are ye saved.” Still, in order to complete the process of conversion, there is something more than faith demanded. We further read, “Except ya repent ye shall all likewise perish.” Paul was told to “arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins.” These, along with faith, are human parts in the New Testament plan, but these of themselves will not answer the purpose. True, they are divinely-appointed conditions, but we must look even beyond conditions for the pardoning power. Though we read, “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us,” still, strictly speaking, baptism does not save. The real saving power is beyond all rites and ceremonies.
The saving power is in the hands of the Lord, who alone exercises it when his clearly-revealed conditions are properly complied with. Through the apostles He has enjoined faith, repentance, and baptism not that they have in them any power or element to remove sins, but that the sinner may by them be brought to a condition where the Lord can and is willing to pardon his sins. While the sinner may, and should, see the hand as well as the wisdom of God in these duties, He nevertheless looks beyond them to the hand and power that releases him from the burden of sin and enrolls his name among the redeemed.
Jesus has promised to save those who believe, repent, and are baptized. He has pledged himself to pardon their sins, if they sincerely comply with these conditions, but He has not taught them to look to these or any other duties, rites, or ceremonies, for the saving power. It is to Jesus that they must look for the Power that saves or pardons. The real virtue is in Jesus and His atoning blood.
The authority to exercise the pardoning privilege in behalf of the one who has faith and repentance but for some reason has not been permitted to receive the rite of Christian baptism, may possibly be reserved by God as an act of special grace, but Jesus never so taught, nor were the apostles at any time authorized to promulgate such a doctrine. The plain, simple teaching of the New Testament is to believe, repent and be baptized for the remission of sins. To all such the promise is that their sins shall be pardoned, they shall receive the Holy Spirit, and henceforth be numbered with the saints, and entitled to all the rights and privileges of the Christian church.
What is said about salvation by grace, or being saved by hope, or by the atoning blood, does not set aside the duties required of sinners seeking salvation, but rather includes them, and the man who makes a business of emphasizing the divine side, and minimizing the human side, is doing violence to God’s Word.
The fact of the matter is that, in the performance of duty, the sinner has his heart changed by faith, his conduct by repentance, and his relation by baptism, but the pardoning act itself takes place in heaven, where the record is kept. The moment he performs his duty, just that moment does he receive pardon. In his own heart he feels that his sins have been removed and that he is a saved man. He does not feel that faith, repentance and baptism have saved him, for in them is not special merit, but he does realize that he has been saved by the direct and personal power of God. He sees and feels the real hand of God, the power of Jesus and the influence of the Holy Spirit in his salvation. Faith, repentance, and baptism have led him where Jesus has promised to meet him with pardon. He has performed the conditions and from the Lord received the assurance of pardon. And still none of the New Testament requirements should be looked upon as arbitrary. They are in perfect keeping with man’s needs and the very nature of things. God, knowing what is in man, knew how to harmonize every requirement with the laws that govern thought, as well as matter.