Summary: The New Testament reveals the content of the Apostle’s preaching and the expected response to the Gospel.
The New Testament Church; Its Plan Matt. 16:13-19
INTRO.: Walter Scott was a preacher in Pittsburgh, Pa., who moved to Steubenville Ohio in 1826. This brought him into the area of the Mahoning Baptist Assoc. His speaking abilities were well known and, even though he was not a member of the Association, nor even a Baptist, they selected him as their area evangelist the following year. This was still frontier and Scott’s preaching had a powerful influence on religious life. He brought new life to the sixteen churches of the Mahoning Assoc. Some of his views were not accepted and he was eventually expelled by the Baptists. For thirty years he converted and baptized an average of 1000 people a year.
Scott had studied the Scriptures for years, believing that if God wanted all men to be saved, He must have revealed a simple plan that would apply to everyone. He could not accept the idea of a subjective "religious experience" that was generally required by churches of his day. He could not agree to the requirement of learning lengthy creeds.
Eventually, he perceived that the simple proclamation of Jesus as the Son of God was the key to bringing people to Christ. He reasoned that if this could save 3000 on Pentecost, it could save his hearers as well. He began to preach that message.
Scott also discovered from the New Testament there were certain responses to that message that bring a person into Christ. He named six: faith, repentance baptism, remission of sins, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and eternal life. This became the original "Plan of Salvation." He saw all six elements as equally important parts of "the plan." He called his plan "the restored Gospel." It was so simple and clear that it launched the fastest growing religious movement on the continent til that time. Later, the plan was shortened. The last two items were combined so the elements could be counted on the fingers of one hand.
Scott would ride into a town and get a crowd of school children together. He would show them the plan, listing one item for each finger. Then he would tell them to double up their fist and put it in their pocket. When they got home, they were to pull it out and show their parents what they had on their fingers. The children would invite their parents to come to the schoolhouse and hear Scott preach that evening. (The Stone Campbell Movement by Leroy Garrett pp. 218, 219)
Let’s examine the plan Walter Scott discovered in the New Testament.
I. The heart of the plan involved preaching the message that Jesus is the Son of God:
A. Jesus clarified His identity late in the second year of His earthly ministry in Matt. 16:13-16;
1. There were many rumors out about the identity of Jesus, but His disciples were in the best position to know.
2. Jesus wanted to settle it in their minds before He began to teach them about His coming death and resurrection.
3. In response to Peter’s profession of belief (v. 16) He declared God to be the source of this truth and promised to establish His everlasting Church upon the premise.
4. Now, He is ready to begin serious teaching about His suffering to come. Verse 21.
B. Jesus’ friend, Martha of Bethany, was one of the very earliest to grasp this truth: John 11:27
1. Jesus makes what seems to me to be His boldest claim; "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;" He then asks Martha to affirm her faith in Him. John 11:2-27
2. Her response "you are the son of God." seems to settle the issue for her. It implies He can do anything and will live up to His claims. He proved it by raising Lazarus.
3. This is one of the miraculous signs John recorded so men may know Jesus is the Son of God and may find life in His Name. Jn. 20:31.
C. Saul of Tarsus was a powerful and energetic persecutor of the Church until he met the risen Christ on the Damascus Road. The story appears in Acts 9, 22, and 26.
1. The One appearing to him plainly claimed to be Jesus and declared Himself to be the victim of Saul’s persecution. Saul knew Who he had seen.
2. After three days we may safely presume were filled with tearful prayers and concluded with a heartfelt repentance, Saul was visited by a preacher of the Gospel who enabled him to see again and instructed him to be baptized.
3. Then, Saul began to preach Christ in the synagogue and the burden of his message was, that Jesus is the Son of God. (Acts 9:20)