Tom: Thanks, Gary. You’re listening to Search the Scriptures Daily, a program in which we encourage everyone who desires to know God’s truth to look to God’s Word for all that is essential for salvation and living one’s life in a way that is pleasing to Him. If you are a new listener to our program, we’re going through Dave Hunt’s book, In Defense of the Faith. We’ve been doing it for quite a while now, Dave, and we are on chapter 12, which is the last chapter, but nevertheless, I recommend, if you are interested in—at least Dave’s perspective—a perspective of ministry over fifty-some years about what’s important in the faith, once and for all delivered unto the saints—biblical faith—then it’s a terrific book. He has addressed throughout the book questions that he has received over fifty years of ministry, and some of them are very tough questions. But if it’s God’s Word, that is, the faith is God’s Word, then it should be able to handle anything that comes along.
Tom: So, Dave, last week we were going over a question that had to do with purgatory, and I’m going to repeat the question. We…it was a lot to talk about with regard to this issue, especially when we consider the Roman Catholic Church’s perspective on this, but there are other things within the question that we didn’t address that I would like to get into. But let me read the question: “I’ve recently heard some rather persuasive arguments by Catholics for purgatory. First Corinthians 3:12-15 teaches a purification by fire of believers after death. Hebrews:12:14 declares that without ‘holiness...no man shall see the Lord.’ Doesn’t that say we must be made absolutely pure to enter heaven? The same standard seems to be required by the statement ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God’ (Matthew:5:8). My assurance of salvation has been shaken. What about such scriptures?”
Dave, as I mentioned, we went over much of what the Catholic Church teaches about purgatory and what the scriptures have to say, but let me pick out a few other things here. Roman Catholicism teaches that righteousness must be infused into a person. He must be pure—I don’t know how you would say “physically,” because you are spiritual beings, but spiritually, the person must be absolutely pure before he can enter heaven, and that purity is infused into the person through the sacraments—here, temporally, and then certainly by the purging of sins, so called, in purgatory.
Dave: And you lose that infusion whenever you sin and then you have to get it again—kind of like a yo-yo, up and down.
Tom: Well, they would say that you are justified—that is, through baptism—and then when you commit a sin after infant baptism, when you’re old enough to commit a sin, and it’s a serious sin, a mortal sin, then you lose that justification. You are, really…if you die in that state, you are damned to hell. There’s no purgatory then, so you need to go to confession and have the sins absolved by a priest and then you are re-justified. So they have justification and re-justification, different terms, and so on. But my question here is, Dave, we as evangelicals who believe the Bible, we don’t believe in infused righteousness. We believe in declared righteousness, imputed righteousness, as the Scriptures teach.
Dave: It’s not my righteousness that will get me to heaven, but it’s the righteousness of Christ. And not just His righteousness—that, in fact, would condemn me—it is the fact that He paid the penalty for my sins, and on that basis alone, I am forgiven.
Tom: So Dave, then how do we understand 1 Corinthians? Let me read it. First Corinthians 3:12-15: “Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”
Dave: Well, Tom, first of all, the person says—the questioner says 1 Corinthians:3:12-15 teaches a purification by fire of believers after death. No, there was not a word about believers. Works—the works that you built upon the foundation, and the foundation is your faith in Christ. So a person who is truly saved, his works will be tried, and that is as to whether he will have a reward or whether he will lose the reward that he might have had. Obviously, an important part of works would be the motivation. Am I doing this for show, for other people to see, like those who cast money in the treasury? In Jesus’ day, they literally had trumpeters go ahead of them so everybody could see what a big gift they were giving.
Tom: So they received their reward right then.
Dave: That’s right. Jesus said, “Verily, they have their reward.” They’re not going to get a reward from God. The Lord looks at the heart. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13, “I could give my body to be burned; I could give all my goods to feed the poor, but if I don’t have love [if I don’t do it out of a motivation, of genuine love for God and for those that I am supposedly helping], it’s nothing!” It profits nothing.
Now, so it is works that are being tried. Now it can’t be literal fire. Catholicism teaches that purgatory has flames of literal fire and that you are tortured in these flames in order to purify you. No! Obviously, works—what is a work? Work is intangible. It’s not the…say I gave a million dollars to some charity. Is the million dollars going to be stuck in the fire? No, it is the act of giving it. Then we must deal with the motivation, and that’s not something that you can burn up, or you can test with a physical fire. This is nonphysical. We are talking about morals, as you said earlier. You are not going to check someone’s morals out by literal fire, nor are you going to purify them—or maybe it was before we went on the program here—you were mentioning putting someone in prison. Well, Tom, why don’t you express it.
Tom: This is the way we think, Dave. This is why, in a fashion, this seems right to us because we are not really thinking it through. For example, somebody commits a crime, they are put in prison, there is punishment. And so we’re now applying that to something that’s eternal, something that has to do with the spiritual things. But even going back to a prison situation, a situation where somebody is incarcerated, or, you know, way back when they used to be on the chain gang and go out and do physical labor, and so on. These were punishments because of the crimes they committed. But there was no restoration here of their integrity, of their honesty, the moral aspects of what they had to do. But we don’t think about that. We sort of apply this, now, to—I know growing up Roman Catholic, penance—we thought—I thought penance somehow restores you, morally, and so on. No, at best it’s only a deterrent, but it can’t do anything for my moral attitude, my moral character, I don’t believe.
Dave: Speaking of prisons, Tom, it’s tragic how many millions, actually, are in prison. Isn’t that true in the United States?
Tom: Of course, our prisons are overflowing.
Dave: Yes, and they have to keep building more prisons. That’s not biblical, actually. I don’t read of putting people in prison in the Bible. You made restitution, although Jesus does talk about being put in the prison, but in the Old Testament, you made restitution: you paid four-fold if you stole something. Now again, that in itself is not going to change your morals, but you are…
Tom: It may change your flesh a little bit because it is a deterrent because of what you are going to have to pay.
Dave: Right, it will change your performance, but it doesn’t change your heart, and that’s why the Word of God says, “I will write my laws in your heart, and I will give you a heart of flesh for your heart of stone.” Motivation, you could say, is almost everything here.
So, it’s not literal fire; it’s not burning or torturing the person; it is testing their works. Therefore, this is a figure of speech. Our works will be tested by the flame of, you could say, of God’s judgment, of God’s standards, and they will be weighed in that balance, and they will either be consumed, figuratively, morally, because the works do not measure up morally, spiritually, motivationally do not measure up, or they do. So you could not possibly get purgatory out of this. Works are being tested, not the person is not being…although works, of course, reflect on a person, but it’s not a physical fire. This is a moral judgment that God himself is passing on what we have done
Tom: Let me shift to rewards—that’s always a fascinating teaching, doctrine, for me because whether it’s just in the flesh: you think, “I don’t want to think about rewards because that’s going to mess up my motivation.” If I’m working for rewards, then I’m going to have the wrong heart, the wrong mind. But you can’t get away from it. There are so many verses that talk about God bestowing rewards.
Now, the first thing I want to ask you about is it seems we have degrees here. Again, 1 Corinthians:3:12 talks about gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, and stubble. Even on the part that could be burnt up or related to the fire it seems there is more value in wood than there is in stubble, so what do you think about that?
Dave: Except the wood gets burned up, maybe not as quickly as stubble.
Tom: But still, there is a—degrees here, of rewards, I guess, or works, at least.
Dave: Tom, I can only tell you what I say to the Lord continually: I don’t want a reward, I’m not worthy of a reward. Why would I be rewarded? If I do anything of any value, it’s the Holy Spirit; it’s the Lord working in me. And my heart is so deceitful, I can’t even understand it. Lord, please, just help me to help others, help me to please you, to glorify you. And I think that’s why in Revelation you see them casting their crowns at His feet.
Tom: But Dave, wouldn’t that be a motivation? Youre going to have something to cast. If you don’t want any rewards, you have nothing to cast at His feet.
Dave: Well, I don’t even think about casting a crown. I’m not expecting a crown. I just want to please the Lord, to be what He wants me to be.
Tom: Okay, Dave, but here’s the problem. There are so many verses here, look at this…
Dave: Oh, I understand. He promises us…
Tom: Crown of rejoicing, joy in crown.
Dave: Okay. Tom, let’s take the crown of rejoicing. That’s the rejoicing that He is going to give us. And you could go to Hebrews, chapter 12, speaking of Christ, “…who for the joy set before him endured the cross.” And some people think that was the joy of having us there. Well, I’m sure that enters into it, in part, but I think the major joy was the joy of knowing He had done the Father’s will. He had not wavered. He had not failed.
And so, yes, a lot of joy, praise God, but the joy is because we are in His presence forever and He has redeemed us. Our praise will be to the Lamb who washed us in His blood. Hard to think, Tom, that anybody could be strutting around heaven stacking one crown on top of another and trying to draw attention to themselves. How would we look at crowns? We are not worthy of anything, and yet…
Tom: Well, again, is this a metaphor? Is this really figurative language?
Dave: I think so.
Tom: And also, you know, I started out by saying I feel a little guilty, or at least have trouble dealing with the issue of working for rewards, although I think the thing that’s helped me out here is that, just as you have said, Dave, maybe saying it another way, it’s all these things are a by-product of loving God and pleasing Him, and God’s Word says this is how He is going to deal with it—fine, wonderful, but again, a by-product of just loving Him and honoring Him and serving Him.
Dave: Now, we have to be careful of two extremes, I guess. One of them would be works-oriented: “Now, I am going to work hard, and I am the guy that’s doing it—it’s my responsibility.” Or on the other hand, saying, “Well, God does everything. I can’t even draw a breath, so it’s all His doing.” Paul gives us the balance in Colossians:1:29—he’s talking about…in the verse before, he says, “That we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” Then he says, “Whereunto I labor, striving according to his working that works in me mightily.” So there is a partnership. Paul says in Philippians, “I’m going to give everything I’ve got to grab what Christ has laid his hands upon me to give me.” And so again he says, “Work out your own salvation…”—not work for, but the salvation He has given us, now I have a responsibility to work it out.
But then he says, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that worketh in you, both to will and to do his good pleasure.” So I think you see both things here. God is the One who wants me to desire His good pleasure. He wants me to do his good pleasure. He wants me to will to do His good pleasure—I still have a will—and He is going to help me to do that. It’s His working. On the other hand, I have to be willing, and I have to submit to His will; I have to cooperate; I have to, in fact, desire to do what He wants to do through me.
Tom: Dave, if that’s not the case, then rewards don’t make any sense. If there isn’t something on our part with regard to volition, knowing that we—as Jesus said, “Of my own self, I can do nothing.” Well, how much more, then, we? But still there has to be the volition, the willingness, to do it, as we said, even with regard to works. God looks upon the heart—it’s our attitude. It’s what we bring to this in terms of our motivation, but it really falls on our shoulders, or why would there be a Bema seat of Christ? Why would there be a judgment with regard to rewards and how we lived our lives?
Dave: This has been a difficult problem for Christians down through the ages. You, of course, recall that Martin Luther wrote a book, The Bondage of the Will, in which he tried to say that we have no will whatsoever. This is what the Calvinists—well, John Calvin himself taught it—even sin. The individual cannot do anything independently of God, even sin! So it is God who causes the typist to make a mistake, God who causes us to do sin, and then He judges us for it, and you are pointing to the other side of the coin. He causes us to do good works, and then He rewards us for it. There must be something of the person himself in there. Now the…
Tom: But not enough that anybody could ever boast, and scripture really deals very directly with boasting—it can’t be there. So that’s the tension here.
Dave: I can’t boast, because He has given me the power, He has given me the opportunity, He has given me the grace, He has given me His love—what do I have to boast of? I could only be ashamed if I don’t…I hate to use the word, “cooperate,” but Paul says “we are workers together with God,” so there is no way to get around it.
Now the Westminster Assembly, the Synod of Dort, for example, says, well, “God sweetly, gently changes our will.” But you have to be willing to have your will changed. You can’t have your will changed against your will. Well, we don’t want to get off into that—but Tom, the Bible very clearly says, “without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins.” You don’t go to purgatory to burn in a fire to pay the penalty for your sins.
And, in fact, Peter tells us in 1 Peter:3:18, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins.” He did the suffering, and He said, “It is finished.” He, “the just for us the unjust, that he might bring us to God.” The only way we are going to get to God is because Christ paid the penalty for our sins, and we have redemption through His blood, the scripture says, the forgiveness of sins. We are purged by the blood of Christ. Fire, no matter what kind it was, could never do that for us, because without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins, and without our sins being forgiven, you couldn’t get a reward. It wouldn’t do you any good to have your works tried—you couldn’t be purified. It’s the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, that cleanses us from all sin. There’s where our purification comes from. Then, when we are established on that foundation, the foundation of faith in Christ, then we can build works, and in fact, Paul tells us in Ephesians, [chapter 2:8] a verse that most Christians know very well. “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” And then it says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” So, if I am not standing on the foundation of Christ, if I have not been established in Christ by the payment of the penalty, the cleansing of His blood, then I can’t even begin to work for God because Paul says, then you’re working off a debt, and the debt is so great you would never work it off.
Tom: It’s infinite and it’s eternal.
Dave: Right. But once that debt has been paid, and I accept that, then I am a new creature in Christ Jesus, created, it says, “unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them,” and it is those works—now I’m going to be tried, those works will be tested. Did I do the works that He wanted me to do? Did I do them with a motive?
You know, Tom, it’s only going to be the love of Christ that will constrain us. And again, I was thinking of it as I was driving here this morning. How often do I tell the Lord I love Him? How often do I thank Him? And I was confessing to the Lord, “Lord, I don’t praise you as I ought.” I mean, God is worthy of our praise. When you think of it we should be just praising Him and thanking Him for what He has done, and I forget and I forget….But when we recognize what He has done—that He has redeemed us with His blood, and we’re worthless, helpless, guilty sinners, we are worthy of eternal judgment, then I’ve got a motivation. Then I can really serve Him and seek to bring others to Him, and then that work will stand the test in the day of judgment
Tom: Dave, again it reminds me of the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, dried His feet with her hair, and He said, “What was her motivation?” He says, “She loves much because she was forgiven much.”