You are listening to Search the Scriptures Daily, a radio ministry of The Berean Call. Still to come, Dave and Tom continue their weekly in-depth study of the Doctrine of Salvation. Please stay with us.
CONTENDING FOR THE FAITH
Now, Contending for the Faith. In this regular feature Dave and Tom respond to questions from listeners and readers of The Berean Call. Here’s this week’s question: Dear Dave and Tom, One of the best arguments for getting along and cooperating with different denominations is that salvation is not as narrow as fundamentalists such as yourselves would have us believe. We don’t need to be tied to a specific creed such as the Reformers holding to “faith alone” as a necessary belief for one to be born again. Neither the Old Testament saints nor the church, prior to the Reformation, held such a restricted belief and that God cuts people more slack than fundamentalists do regarding salvation. Did the thief on the cross have the same doctrine of salvation as did the Reformers?
Dave, when I was at a conference, as you know, which was called, Catholics and Evangelicals in Conversation, at Wheaton College, and the whole idea of the conference was to encourage more dialogue, encourage cooperation between Catholics and Evangelicals and both sides were looking at their own perspective and the evangelicals were saying: Look, maybe we’ve been too narrow about our view. For example, not everybody down through history has believed in a Reformation perspective of “sola fidae” or, you know, by “faith alone” and so we could loosen up a bit here, we have some room to move. And this person says, Did the thief on the cross have the same doctrine of salvation as did the Reformers? We could go to the scripture and see what the thief said.
Well, it’s an interesting question, I’ve thought of this myself very often. For example, the woman at the well, You drink that water you will thirst again, you drink the water that I give you, you’ll have a fountain of living water bubbling up. An the woman runs and says, Isn’t this the Messiah? Nicodemus, you get a more thorough picture, he’s a theologian, supposedly, “Rabbi, except a man be born again…” The blind man that we were with—how long ago was it that we were in John 9? “Do you believe on the Son of God? Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him. I, who speak unto thee am the—O Lord, I believe.” You see, it can’t give us in each instance everything that the person understands. What did the thief on the cross understand? What all had been said, it doesn’t give us every piece of information. But I know that the Bible says the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes it. I know that it says that Abraham rejoiced to see my day, he saw it and was glad, his faith was counted for righteousness. So, on the one hand this is a theoretical question. What does it matter? I mean, I can’t go back and find out what they believe exactly and decide whether they ought to be in heaven or not. But I know what the gospel is today; when I take all the scripture I know what the gospel is. Now did people have that before understanding? Of course they didn’t, you know, before the cross but they believed that these sacrifices somehow were pointing forward, that this was a provision that God had made.
Look at Job. I know that my Redeemer liveth.
Right. What did he mean by Redeemer? I think he must have meant what we mean today but it doesn’t give you all the details. So on one hand it’s an interesting question, on the other hand it doesn’t mean that now we should try to sort of minimize and we’ll try to make this a little easier, we won’t be so narrow about it. No, we’re going to have to take what the Bible says and for instance, when the Philippian jailer said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Paul said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” Well, you can’t just say, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Who’s the Lord Jesus Christ? So obviously, they have been singing hymns, they have been preaching to the other prisoners and it does say—it goes on it says and they preached the gospel to him and all that were in his house. So there had to be an explanation of who the Lord Jesus Christ is, that is implied. So I think it is implied to the woman at the well, the thief on the cross, but there’s much more that was understood than the Bible has time to give us the details of in each instance.
Dave, certainly we can say, “sola fidae”, it can only be by faith because the scripture says over and over again there’s nothing you can do except receive the gift, the free gift.
Absolutely! It has to be by faith because I can’t save myself. I cannot merit God’s salvation. I cannot make up for having broken the law in the past by keeping it in the future. There is no way that I can justify myself before God. I’m going to have to trust Him for His salvation not to offer my own self righteousness. That’s basic no matter what era you live in, wherever you are, if you’re out in the jungle somewhere you don’t know everything, you know that. You know that you cannot buy your own salvation. God, somehow, has to make that payment for you.
Dave, in going back to the thief on the cross— What else could he have? He couldn’t get baptized. He couldn’t do any works. All he could do in his position was to trust that person who was what, maybe ten, fifteen feet away and what did Jesus say. The most incredible words: “This day you will be with me in paradise.”
Dave:Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom. Now that tells me he understood who Jesus was and he must have had some concept of the kingdom and of the Messiah and he recognizes that’s who Jesus is