A Plan of Salvation

Question 1.2

If God is a God of love, why is there so much wrong with the world? Why did God’s plan have to become a plan for our salvation?

1.2 A Plan of Salvation

A Plan for Friendship

God's plan was that human beings would live in eternal friendship with the divine Trinity of Persons. Yet this gift of life, spiritual and bodily, of personal existence, implies and requires a response. Adam and Eve were loved into existence by God, embodying in themselves the whole gift of humanity to be shared with all whom God wished to create through and from them.

God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it… (Genesis 1:28)

The state of innocence in which humanity was created meant that they were completely open to each other and to God. This is symbolised in their nakedness, their acceptance and celebration of the natural goodness of God’s creation.

And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:25)

A Suspicion, A Temptation

Although there was no reason for this Gift of being to be refused, since everything God created was good and pleasing, the first human beings were tempted to refuse it. They were unsettled by the possibility that God was keeping an even greater gift from them.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal… (Genesis 3:1)

… the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of [the tree of the knowledge of good and evil] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God… (Genesis 3: 4-5)

Abiding in the Beauty of Friendship

They could have resisted this temptation by walking with God, by trusting him, by turning to God in prayer in their hearts, since prayer, of its essential nature, is abiding in friendship with God. They could have walked with God in the garden.

They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze… (Genesis 3:8)

A Refusal, and a Price

Yet they refused to fully accept the Gift in the hope of taking for themselves something greater. Instead of waiting in trust to receive whatever further gift God might or might not have planned for them, they grasped at it, so it slipped through their fingers – and their eyes were opened. But what did they see?

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. (Genesis 3:7)

Instead of seeing only goodness in God’s creation now they saw ‘both good and evil’. They felt separated from their true selves with an awareness that divided them from each other, from God and from creation. Thus, paradise was lost.

By the sweat of your face shall you eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return. (Genesis 3:19)

A Covenant of Salvation

But God did not abandon them. When the time was right God chose a particular people to whom he would reveal himself. That which was lost would have to be regained, but it would be a long hard road.

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation… (Genesis 12: 1-2)

He established a covenant with them and gave them a law so that they would know how to be righteous before God.

Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. (Exodus 19: 5-6)

A Deeper Temptation

But the people were tempted to believe, in presumption or self righteousness, that their special relationship with God would save them, even though they continued to sin. They rejected the prophets God sent to call them back to the covenant.

There was a landowner who planted a vineyard [Israel], put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves [prophets] to the tenants to collect his produce [their true worship]. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. (Matthew 21: 33-35)

God Befriends the Undeserving

Because they would not heed the prophets, God did not give up, but sent his Son to reveal the true nature and meaning of the law and the prophets and to establish a new and everlasting covenant. This changes people again into friends of God.

I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. (John 15:15)

A Cross, and a Mission

Yet this plan would only come to completion through the death and resurrection of God's only Son.

Continuing the parable… Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. (Matthew 21: 37-39)

Through Jesus’ death and resurrection salvation is established as a permanent fact in human existence, a plan that can no longer be derailed. Yet God’s plan for our salvation requires our participation. God establishes the Church as the permanent mission of Christ in the world.

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28: 18-20)

However, Jesus’ disciples, though sharing in his authority must also share in his suffering.

Then Jesus told his disciples, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 16: 24-25)