God’s Global Plan of Salvation

Philemon Yong | Cameroon

Christianity is a message of salvation for all people groups around the world. The heart of the Christian gospel is rescue, for all peoples at all times. Yet this is often not understood. For example, a common objection to Christianity in some parts of the world is that it is a “white man’s religion”—it is the religion of the missionaries, and therefore irrelevant. Some have raised the question of how an African, for example, can relate to Jesus when Jesus is not from his own tribe. Yet the same cultures seek answers to the questions that Christianity addresses. Everyone wants to know how man, who is a sinner, can relate to God, who is holy.

Common to all mankind is the awareness that something is wrong with the world and in our personal lives that cuts us off us from our Creator. The Bible explains that we are objects of God’s wrath (Eph. 2:1–3). Our greatest need is salvation from this just wrath (Col. 3:6). In his mercy, God has set in place a plan to save us from his wrath. Through this plan of grace, God is restoring the world to the way it was originally intended to be.

We will seek to understand God’s global plan of salvation from two perspectives: horizontally and vertically. We will first consider the Bible horizontally, as an unfolding narrative down through history. This will involve viewing God’s plan of salvation in terms of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation. Then we will consider God’s plan of salvation vertically, looking down on the Bible from above. This will be done by centering upon God, man, Christ, and repentance and faith, in that order.

Understanding God’s Plan of Salvation Horizontally


God made the world and all that is in it (Gen. 1:1). He created Adam and Eve, the first man and the first woman, in his own image (Gen. 1:26–28), giving them the task of populating the world and subduing it (Gen. 1:28). All of God’s creation was “very good” (Gen. 1:31). The world is neither a haphazard collection of atoms, nor is it inherently bad. God created the world and it was good.


Adam and Eve rejected God’s good rule, determining to be their own lords (Gen. 3:1–7). This rebellion plunged all of humanity into sin, darkness, misery, and death, for Adam represented, and thus involved, the entire human race in his actions (Rom. 5:12; 1 Cor. 15:21–22). Since the fall, human history has been ravaged with the carnage of sickness, selfishness, strife, and other manifestations of Adam’s horrific rebellion—and we are unable, in ourselves, to set things right.


Even in Eden, God began to promise that sin and Satan would not get the last word (Gen. 3:15). And indeed, in the fullness of time, God sent his own Son to deliver his people from bondage to sin and death (Gal. 4:4–5). Through the Son’s atoning death on the cross and resurrection from the grave, redemption was accomplished and the decisive fulfillment of all the Old Testament promises has been launched (Mark 1:14–15; 2 Cor. 1:20). Through the work of the Holy Spirit, opening the eyes of the spiritually blind and bringing life, redemption is applied (Rom. 8:1–11; 1 Cor. 2:10–16).


One day God’s Son will come to earth again, this time openly and without any question as to who he is (Phil 2:10–11; Rev. 19:11–16). He will come in final judgment and restore the earth to what it was always meant to be, only this time without any threat of Satan, sin, and death (Rev. 21:1–22:5). What God intended according to the first two chapters of the Bible appears as his final and glorious achievement in the last two chapters of the Bible. Christ will establish what the Bible calls the new heavens and the new earth (e.g., Isa. 65:17), where the original goodness and perfection of Eden will be restored and humanity will flourish in a renewed creation that has been set free from its bondage to decay (Rom. 8:21).

Understanding God’s Plan of Salvation Vertically


God created human beings to bring him glory (Isa. 43:6–7; 1 Cor. 10:31). Anyone who seeks his own glory, as Adam did, sins against God and is subject to God’s judgment (Acts 12:20–23). All things happen according to God’s plan and serve to glorify him (Eph. 1:11–12). Every culture has a view of its god or gods that affects how people conduct their lives, but the Bible says that there is only one true God (Deut. 6:4; Jer. 14:22). It is idolatry to worship any other god (Ex. 20:3–6). God is the absolutely transcendent governor of the universe.

God is also holy, meaning that he is utterly pure and incapable of sin or evil (Isa. 6:1–5). He likewise calls his people be holy (1 Pet. 1:15–16). God is just, meaning that he is unswerving in doing what is morally right. The Bible expresses this absolute moral purity and righteousness by saying that “God is light” (1 John 1:5).

The Bible also teaches that “God is love”—lovingkindness is the very heart of who God is (Ex. 34:6–7; Matt. 11:29). He is “the God of all grace” (1 Pet. 5:10). God is not only supremely other in purity but also supremely merciful in impulse.

Recognizing who God is, we realize that there is a massive problem facing mankind. We can understand the nature of this problem by looking at who man is in relation to who God is.


Having been created in God’s image and yet having chosen to break free from trusting submission to him, Adam rebelled, and through him sin entered the world (Rom. 5:12–14). All human beings continue to bear the image of God in some sense (Gen. 9:5–6), though we are now marred by sin. As God-resisting sinners we are born with an inherent spiritual blindness and hostility to God (Rom. 3:9–19). We are his settled enemies,

We need, therefore, to be reconciled to him. We require a mediator to bridge the humanly unbridgeable gap between our sinfulness and God’s holiness (1 Tim. 2:5–6). We are unable to glorify God as he created us to do (Rom. 3:23). God is rightly angry with us, and we cannot save ourselves from his wrath—that is, his judicial retribution (John 3:18; Eph. 2:1–3). If we are to be saved at all, it will have to be by the work of someone else, someone who is qualified to save us. Sacrificing to spirits, appeasing ancestors, and cultural rituals to ward off evil spirits cannot save us from the coming wrath.

Jesus Christ.

In his great mercy, God sent his Son to bear the wrath that must fall on human sin (John 3:16; 1 John 4:10). How is it that Jesus saves us from the wrath of God? Here we consider who Jesus is (his person) and what he did (his work).

Jesus is fully God, equal with the Father. To see him is to see God the Father (John 10:30). It is necessary that Jesus, if he is to save us, be fully divine because the payment for sin is one that mere mortals cannot pay—for their sin is against an infinitely beautiful and glorious God, and so they are infinitely guilty. As God, however, Jesus is qualified to pay the penalty for sins committed against God. Yet Jesus is also fully man (Gal. 4:4). He became like us in every way, yet without sinning (Heb. 2:16–18). Jesus is therefore uniquely fitted to pay the penalty we owe. This is who Jesus is.

What did Jesus do? As the second Adam, he succeeded where Adam failed (Rom. 5:12–19). This is supremely seen in Jesus’ death and resurrection. On the cross, Jesus took our place, suffering and dying for us, so that we might be restored to our Creator (Isa. 53:4–6; 1 Pet. 2:24; 3:18; 1 Cor. 15:3–4). God poured out all his holy wrath on his beloved Son and judged him in our place so that we can be set free (2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13). United with him not only in his death but also in his resurrection, we are given new life (Rom. 6:4; 1 Pet. 1:3). Jesus’ bodily resurrection means that the final resurrection has, in him, already begun (1 Cor. 15:20–22). Jesus’ earthly life, too, is relevant to our salvation. For Jesus obeyed God perfectly in our place (Heb. 4:15), so that God sees his obedience as our own. Because of Jesus’ perfect righteousness, those who are in Christ stand righteous before God (1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:21).

Jesus is the Savior we need to rescue us from God’s wrath. How then does his saving work become reality for any one of us?

Repentance and faith.

The proper response to the work of Christ on our behalf is repentance and faith (Mark 1:15; Acts 2:37–38; 20:21). These twin heart-responses together form the healthy, biblical, Spirit-led activity of those who have understood God, their sin, and Jesus as Savior.

Repentance is a turning from sin and idolatry to serve the true and living God (Ezek. 14:6; 1 Thess. 1:9). This does not mean that believers will not struggle with sin anymore but rather that sin no longer has dominion over us (Rom. 6:12). Sin no longer sits on the throne of the believer’s heart.

If repentance is a turning from, faith is a turning to—from sin, to Christ. Faith is trusting Christ as our Savior and confessing him as Lord (Rom. 10:9–10). It is believing that God exists and is near to those who seek him wholeheartedly (Heb. 11:6). Faith is our glad receiving and resting in the work of Christ. It means that we cast ourselves on Christ alone for the forgiveness of our sins and the fulfillment of all God’s promises for us in Christ (Titus 3:4–7). Everyone must exercise faith in Christ to be saved. Even faith, however, is a gift from God (Eph. 2:8–9; Phil. 1:29). True faith results in a life of loving obedience (Eph. 2:8–10; James 2:14–26) as the Holy Spirit produces Christlike fruit in the believer (Gal. 5:22–25). This obedience never earns God’s approval, for Christ has already earned God’s approval for us. At the same time, the Bible is clear that while obedience does not win our salvation, the absence of grateful obedience indicates the absence of salvation (Eph. 5:1–2; Col. 3:1).


In the end, God himself is supremely glorified in his great plan of salvation. One day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Jesus as Lord to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:10–11). When the plan of God is complete, we will surely see God as he is and will be like him (1 John 3:2). We will join with millions of believers from all over the world, “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9), who have put their faith in Christ for salvation. We will all worship God forever, with the angels saying “Amen” to our worship (Rev. 7:9–12). On that day, the glory of the Lord will fill the earth as the waters fill the sea (Hab. 2:14).