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.
Dave, guess what? We’re at the end of your book! This is the last question. The book I’m referring to is In Defense of the Faith.
Dave: And the questions aren’t things I made up but they come from others—some tough ones, some from atheists. In Defense of the Faith—I ought to go back and read it myself.
Tom: Well, you know, we’ve taken quite a long time to go through it—hopefully…. But it is interesting, when you do write a book, having been privileged to work with you on a couple of books. Dave, I can’t remember what we wrote—I mean, we do a lot of writing. You do far more than I do, but to remember what you’ve done—especially…how many books now have you written?
Dave: I think it’s a little over 30, but it’s hard to keep track.
Tom: Yeah, and it’s amazing when people read a book by you and they quote you something from it, how can you remember which of the 30 books?
Dave: (Laughing) Sometimes I think, Hey, that’s pretty good stuff. I couldn’t have written that!
Tom: But on the other hand, I know, working together our line was, ”Let’s call central casting and get a writer over here!” you know.
Tom: It’s a tough way to go, but we would encourage those out there who the Lord has put on their heart something they want to communicate…
Dave: Well, the Bible says that the Lord chooses the foolish things to confound the wise and the weak things to confound the mighty. And I am not a writer by any means, but I’ve worked very hard to try to get some things that people can read and make some sense out of.
Tom: Yeah, well, I’m with you, Dave. Working at it, I look upon it as a craft, and anybody can learn a craft, and the harder you work at it—there are definitely people who are talented, I don’t dismiss that at all. But for me, it’s as with you, as you say, for me it’s hard work, but it’s enjoyable work. And as I said, we are on the last question from Dave in chapter 12—Dave’s book, In Defense of the Faith, and we’re going to jump right into it and see what we have to say. “James says that faith without works is dead…”
Dave: This is the question, now, you are reading’
Tom: Correct. (James:2:20,26) “Paul wrote, ‘Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling’ (Philippians:2:12). Shouldn’t we conclude, therefore, that good works are necessary for salvation? And wouldn’t we be in a dangerous position if we failed to recognize that good works are essential for salvation? Christ even says that if we don’t forgive others, we can’t expect God to forgive us. What about that?”
Dave, before you answer the question, it’s important that your book ended this way, because this is the critical issue. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians—the concern that he had; Romans, certainly, deals with this issue; many of the epistles, and why? Because it’s the most critical question somebody can ask, I believe.
Dave: Well, in reading the Bible we have to be careful not to hang everything on one verse. The Bible is a whole, from Genesis to Revelation, and we should know the Bible—we compare scripture with scripture. So, the questioner there says—he quotes from Philippians: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who worketh in you.” He is not referring to working for salvation but working out in your life the salvation God has given him. And you would get that in Ephesians:2:10: “For we are His workmanship…” Well, as probably most listeners know, Ephesians:2:8,9,10: “For by grace are ye saved through faith, not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works,” that’s very clear, “lest any man should boast.” Then it says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.”
So this is what we are working out. Our salvation is by grace through faith, but now we are expected to work out, in other words, to live as new creatures in Christ Jesus—to evidence the transformation that has been wrought by the Holy Spirit in our lives when we received Christ, and it is God who works in us now to will and to do His good pleasure.
So, there’s a partnership and in Colossians:1:29, Paul says, “Whereunto I labor, striving….” So Paul is going to give it everything he’s got, striving according to His working that “worketh in me mightily.” And again, this is the Christian life—this is not working for salvation.
So, the man is a little—man or woman, I don’t remember who it was—is a little bit confused, and, as you said, this is a very dangerous concept. Now we have so many scriptures. For example, Romans:4:5: “Now to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifies the ungodly…” “Justifies the ungodly” does not justify the righteous. We don’t gain some status before God by our righteousness. We don’t get saved by our righteousness. So again, it is very clear: “To him that worketh not, but believeth, his faith is counted for righteousness.”
Tom: Dave, if we could do it perfectly, then it would be all right, but we can’t—it’s impossible.
Dave: Yeah, there’s a…well, but God did say to the Jews in the Old Testament, “If you keep the law perfectly, then you have eternal life.” But the Bible also says, “all have sinned.” James says, “If you disobey one part of the law, you’re guilty of all…”
Dave:…because that is rebellion against God, and that is a very serious crime. And then, of course, Paul argues and warns, “By the deeds of the law, no flesh can be justified.” You can’t make up for breaking the law in the past by keeping it in the future.
Tom: So the standard is perfect, absolute perfection.
Dave: Absolute perfection because God is perfect. When it says, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy strength, with all thy might, and your neighbor as yourself,” wow! That just takes care of everybody. We haven’t done that. So, we are sinners. Well, then, you’re not going to save yourself by good works—it’s pretty clear.
Tom: But, Dave, there has been confusion, as I said earlier, that throughout church history—certainly going back to what we have in the Scriptures with regard to Paul, with regard to whoever wrote the Book of Hebrews—there was always this tendency to come back under the law. But James writes, “Yea, a man may say thou hast faith and I have works, show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works.” Now some people believe—I think even Martin Luther had problems with this—understanding this. He called the Epistle of James an Epistle of straw, as I remember it right.
Dave: He didn’t like it.
Tom: No, because I don’t think he understood it, because he felt that, at least from his writings, that James was in opposition to Paul—that they were saying things in contradiction one to one another.
Dave: Yeah, well again, I have a simple mind—I try to keep it simple, because the Bible is supposed to be understandable by anyone. So, in the verses that you quoted, James, very clearly, is not saying salvation is by works. In fact, he is affirming it is by faith. He says, “Show me your faith without your works; I’ll show you my faith by my works.” So he is very clearly saying faith is the essential ingredient.
What he is discussing now is how do we know it’s real faith? He’s not denying that salvation is by grace through faith, but now he’s raised the question, How do we know? And furthermore, God knows—God knows the heart. So now, it’s a question of how would another human being recognize that you have faith? He says, “Show me your faith; I will show you my faith by my works—you show me your faith without your works.” You can’t really show faith without works. Faith is an intangible—it’s a matter of the heart. So the only way I can demonstrate my faith is by my works.
On the other hand, that does not nullify faith, obviously, and James isn’t saying that. That does not nullify faith as the essential ingredient for salvation, and then we have Paul, who tells us— “Well, I wouldn’t know that you were saved because you didn’t do any good works,” 1 Corinthians 3: “All of your works were burned up.” And yet Paul says “he himself shall be saved as though by fire, because if any man build upon this foundation…” And the foundation is Jesus Christ. So if you have faith in Christ, it’s inconceivable that you wouldn’t do one good work—that all your works would fail. Motivation perhaps, there may have been much that was done for show, but the motivation is wrong. Furthermore, if you go to Hebrews 6, I think one of the most powerful scriptures to indicate that when a person is saved, they are saved—they can’t get lost. And the writer to the Hebrews, who I like to think was Paul—but that doesn’t matter, it doesn’t tell us—says that “those who have tasted of the heavenly gifts, and so forth, if they…”
Tom: Now, Dave, can you explain that? Does “taste” mean that they have become believers?
Dave: I think it’s talking about genuine believers, in my opinion, and I’ll tell you why. Let’s just read it, Hebrews:6:4,5: “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come….” I think these are genuine Christians. “If…” it doesn’t say “when”—“if they shall fall away…” Now he’s not saying it is possible, but he is saying if they could. “…to renew them again unto repentance; seeing…” and he gives you two reasons why: “they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh and put Him to an open shame.” Well, obviously, they crucified unto themselves the Son of God afresh because if the first death of Christ on the Cross was not sufficient to keep you saved, and you lose your salvation, He’s going to have to get crucified again to get you saved again, because, obviously, His first crucifixion was not enough to keep you saved. Furthermore, you put Him to an open shame because He has done a very foolish thing. He purchased your salvation at a price you couldn’t pay, and then He gives it to you to keep it. It’s like giving a fortune to a 2-year-old to keep it. But then he goes on, and he says, “the earth which drinketh in the rain,” and so forth and it talks about “thorns and briars, whose end is to be burned.” And then in verse 9, he says, “But beloved, we are persuaded better things of you and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.” In other words…
Tom: It’s a hypothetical….
Dave: Right, falling away is a hypothetical thing. If you could fall away, you can’t get saved again unless Christ gets crucified again. Well, that’s pretty serious! I don’t know of anyone who believes in falling away from their salvation who would go by this chapter. But then he says, “We are persuaded better things of you,” because we think you are really saved, “and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.” So, I think it’s very clear. On the other hand, there is the sin of presumption, and even worse than that, there is an insincere profession of faith.
Tom: And Dave, when you said, the sin of presumption, being a former Catholic, I have another idea about that, but that’s not what you’re talking about. That I can’t believe that I am saved—the Catholic would say you can’t know that you have salvation, eternal life, because to know is to presume that you wouldn’t commit—not the unpardonable sin, but a mortal sin, which, if you die in that state would send you straight to hell.
Dave: Well, that was a bad phrase on my part, Tom, but what I’m thinking of is, here’s a person who presumes that because he went forward, or because he raised his hand, I personally—and I don’t criticize others who do that—I’m very, very hesitant to ask people to show some sign, to come forward and make a profession of faith in Christ. I’d rather have them make this transaction in their heart with the Lord. Because, once having gone forward and declared yourself publicly, maybe the emotion of the moment caused you to do it, maybe the preacher is very persuasive. I try to avoid psychological persuasion. If you’re a good salesman, you can get a person to sign on the bottom line, sometimes even if the product isn’t worth buying and they really didn’t want to buy it in the first place, but you’ve got your techniques. And there are some preachers who, frankly, use techniques like this.
But once a person then has gone forward and declared publicly that they are a Christian—pretty hard to back down and say, “No, I really didn’t receive Christ; I just was talked into it emotionally,” you know. So, that was the presumption I was referring to. So a person has presumed that because they went through certain motions or said certain words—“Put your name in John:3:16…now repeat after me,” you know, and you say that verse with your name in it, and then—now repeat this prayer after me, and now you are saved. No, it’s a matter of the heart.
Tom: But understanding as well, that’s what you are getting at.
Dave: Right, it can’t be in the heart if you don’t understand it.
Tom: Dave, one objection to the idea of being saved by faith and faith alone is, some would say, “Well, wait a minute, verse 17 says, ‘Even so, faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.’” So they would say the only place you find in the Bible sola fide—“by faith alone,” which was the cry of the Reformers, is in James, and it’s not saying what the Reformers had in mind.
Dave: [chuckling]: And it’s not saying what they’re trying to make it say either. Well, we just dealt with that. James is not saying that you have to add works to your faith. He’s saying you can only demonstrate your faith by your works, and if faith just stands alone without works, then how do we know? Show me, I’ll show you. But he is not dealing with whether the person is really saved or not but whether it appears to be, okay?
The Bible says—okay, it doesn’t use the word “alone,” but it very clearly says, “The gospel [Romans:1:16] is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes,” okay. It doesn’t say, “only believes,” all right, but it doesn’t say anything else is needed, either, does it? “For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him has everlasting life.” “He that hears my word…” John:5:24, “and believes on him that sent me has everlasting life.” And you go on, a few verses later, Jesus says, “The hour is coming and now is when the dead…” —of course this relates to Calvinism because the Calvinist equates physical death with spiritual death, and well, a physically dead person can’t save themselves— of course, nobody can save himself, but you can receive salvation by faith, the salvation Christ offered.
“Well, but Lazarus, he didn’t have anything to do,” they say. He couldn’t respond to Jesus—Jesus called him forth. Okay, that was a physical resurrection—but a dead man, they say, can’t hear the gospel. Well, a dead man can’t sin; a dead man can’t reject the gospel, okay? So the illustration does not work—it doesn’t fit, and Jesus very clearly says—Jesus is talking about spiritual resurrection, that is, unto salvation, and then a physical resurrection. Because later He says, “The hour is coming…” and He doesn’t say, “and now is.”
“The hour is coming when all that are in the graves shall come forth,” okay? “They that have done good and they that have done evil.” But before that, Jesus said, “The hour is coming and now is when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear…” —that means to give heed, to hear with understanding, to respond to—“they that hear shall live.” Over and over and over, we have “believe.”
Tom: Well, Dave, more than 150 scriptures say it’s by faith; it’s by believing.
Tom: So Dave, to fall back to James 17, where it says, “Even so, faith, if it is not works, is dead being alone,” and that’s the only place where “by faith alone” is found—it’s just not…it just doesn’t hold up
Dave: Tom, we have another problem—I guess we’re about out of time.
Tom: We have about 3 minutes.
Dave: To add works—but what part do my works have? Number 1: Christ didn’t quite finish the job? So now I’m going to add my works to His work? And then He no longer is the one who paid the full penalty—I’m paying part of it by my good works, okay? That’s problem number 1. Problem number 2: Where does it ever tell you what kind of works you must do? How do I know? Just any old work, any good work? If I give something to a blind man, or if I help an elderly person across the street—is that enough? How many, you see? So if you’re going to go by works, it never tells us how many works. It doesn’t tell us what kind of works.
Tom: Dave, I just want to interject this—the last part of the question is, “Christ even says that if we don’t forgive others, we can’t expect God to forgive us.” What about that?
Dave: Yeah, okay, but there again, I don’t think that’s talking about salvation. It can’t be talking about salvation because never is that a condition of salvation. I can’t find that anywhere in the Bible. So, I think this is something very solemn for all of us. You hold a grudge in your heart against someone and not willing to forgive that person even when they ask you, even when they apologize, and you’re not going to forgive them, then you think God is going to forgive you? I think that would be an indication you aren’t even saved. A person who claims to be a Christian—this would go back to James—and can’t forgive people and holds resentment and even hatred, some of them, in their heart—well, John deals with that in his first epistle: “You say you love God, but you hate your brother? How can you say you love God whom you haven’t seen and you hate your brother whom you have seen? If Christ is really living in you, you will love everyone, even your enemies.”
Tom: Dave, could I add that to Hebrews 12, where it talks about Jesus saying, “Those whom I love, I chasten,” even to the point of scourging? In other words, it’s a discipline to righteousness. So, wouldn’t that apply to this verse? God’s not going to forgive—He’s going to deal with you on that issue.
Dave: Yeah, that’s right. Let’s get back to adding works. Never does it say how many works, what kind of works. Never does it say that Christ’s death and resurrection doesn’t save us, we’ve got to add to it. It’s a very dangerous doctrine—in fact, it is heresy, because it rejects the full payment of Christ for our sins on the Cross.