Author: Ron Graham
The Two Sides of God’s Plan
—More about “salvation”
We have considered the two natures of God, that he is good yet severe. How does God's plan of salvation reflect those two sides of his nature? As we might expect, we find two sides to God's plan which match the two sides of his nature. One is the broad aspect of God's plan, and the other is the narrow. The broad matches the goodness of God, and the narrow his severity.
One narrow way for the whole wide world (1Timothy 2:3-6)
"God our Saviour wants everyone to be saved and to learn and know the truth. For there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus who gave himself as a ransom for all" (1Timothy 2:3-6)
To understand "salvation" we must understand not only the two sides of God's nature, but the two sides of the plan which he provided to make that salvation possible for us. This plan may be viewed in two ways, different yet mutually consistent.
1 A Way Broad Yet Narrow
We are used to hearing of the broad scope of God's love and plan of salvation. The Bible says, "God so loved the world..." (John 3:16) "...bringing salvation to the ends of the earth"(Acts 13:47).
The Bible teaches "salvation to everyone who believes" in any and every nation (Romans 1:16). "God is... not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (2Peter 3:9). In that view, God’s plan of salvation is very broad. And that is a correct view.
But there is another correct view of salvation, narrow in the extreme. This is reflected in the very name given to God's Son, "Jesus", which means "Saviour" (Matthew 1:21). Jesus is presented in the Bible as the one and only Saviour. That is about as narrow as you can get, but it is true: "There is salvation in no other name" (Acts 4:12).
The Narrow View
All mankind can be saved from the wrath of God by the love of God, but only on very narrow terms: "one sacrifice for sin". Nothing else will do (Hebrews 10:12,14).
The "way of salvation" is open to anyone, but it is the only way, and irrevocably laid down by God in law. It isn't subject to negotiation, or a matter in which one has a number of options. You either comply with this law and obtain "salvation", or else you remain "lost".
We refer to this law as "the new covenant" of Jesus Christ. We also refer to this covenant/law as "the gospel", which means "the good message", and is a most appropriate term for that covenant which provides the "lost" with a way to be "saved".
2 The Parable of the Ways
Jesus told a parable about a broad way that leads to destruction and a narrow way that leads to eternal life (Matthew 7:13-14). How does this relate to the two sides of God's plan? It is certainly not God's plan to send a lot of people to hell and a few to heaven. Let's get that straight!
The parable represents the rejection of God’s plan. God did not make the broad way. The devil made that. God made the narrow way, but he did not make it so narrow that it could not accommodate all who wished to walk it.
When Jesus said, "Few there are who find it" he is not talking about God’s way, for God wants everyone to find it and walk it. Rather Jesus is stating the choice mankind makes. Few follow God’s plan, many reject it.
While it's true that God has made a single narrow way to heaven, it's also true that he would not prevent a single soul from walking along that way —it's gate will open to everyone and anyone who wishes to enter the narrow way.
3 The Way of the New Covenant
In offering up the one sacrifice on which the salvation of the whole world depends, Jesus shed his blood as "the blood of the everlasting covenant" (Hebrews 13:20).
This "covenant" is essentially a statement of the arrangements, benefits, responsibilities, terms, and conditions, under which a person can be saved from God’s wrath. As we said before, it's the law about what God requires in order for a person to be saved from severe and terrible punishment.