Tom: Our topic is and has been the gospel of salvation. Dave, we may be doing this till the Lord comes, which could be any time.
Dave: I hope it will be soon!
Tom: But on the one hand, I don’t know how our time could be better spent than trying to understand better what He has accomplished for us, and what we have in Him. I want to go to Ephesians:2:8-10: “For 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. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
Now, Dave, what I…I picked that scripture, but I really want to talk about today is faith as a means of salvation. I mean, that alone, to me, is miraculous. It demonstrates that salvation is of God, because the means is so miraculous. It’s something that—I don’t have to be Ph.D., or have an MD in theology—Master of Divinity. I can come to Christ right where I am—no matter what my situation or circumstance is—by faith! It’s something so unique that a child can have eternal life as well as somebody who may be even on the verge of senility, but the gospel comes to them.
Dave: Well, I guess we have to define what you are meaning by “faith” in this context. I think it simply means to believe. Jesus said, “He that believeth on the Son has everlasting life.” Now the other side of that is very solemn: “He that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.”
So it’s a very serious matter not to believe what God has said. Faith—you’re talking about—comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. So what I’m required to do is to believe what God has said. He’s called me a sinner. I’m a sinner. I know that in my heart, and my conscience. He also has said that He loves me. That’s beyond me, Tom, I mean, I was thinking about that during the night as I woke up, because God tells me to love Him. And I was just saying to the Lord, “Lord, how can I love you? I mean, you are—you’re beyond my comprehension! You’re infinite! Infinitely infinite. And I’m supposed to love you, and then I’m supposed to believe that you love me.” I mean, I’m an insignificant nothing in comparison to even this little world, I mean, I’m nothing among 6 billion people. And then God is so vast, and His universe is so vast! But He wants me to believe, and if I don’t believe what He said, you know, Eve didn’t believe what God said.
Tom: Well, it began, “Did God say?” She bought the doubt right from the get-go.
Dave: So, I mean, Tom, we’ve been friends for a long time—I guess 20-some years, I can’t remember how long, but—if you would not believe what I would tell you, I would be offended. And for man not to believe what God has said is—well, the Bible says it: We’re calling God a liar if we don’t believe what He said. And that’s, I guess, the whole problem with salvation, because God has laid out salvation. It’s by faith, but faith…what? Faith is some power? Faith is some magic force that I aim at God to get Him to do what I…No. Faith is believing what God has said, and when I believe—that’s all I’m required to do—if I will believe, I receive the salvation He offers.
So let’s put it like this: I mean, there are a lot of ways we can look at it. But let’s say that you offer me—I don’t know why, but let’s say you’re a very wealthy person…
Tom: Yeah, use your imagination.
Dave: (chuckling) Right. And you just want to give me a million dollars. And you write out a check and you hold it out to me. (Well, I would know it wouldn’t be any good, but let’s assume that it would be good.)
Tom: Yeah, you’re using your imagination here.
Dave: You’re holding this check for a million dollars out to me. Well, let’s make it…let’s say you’re holding a check for $20 out to me. (Laughing) That’s more reasonable.
Tom: Now we’re getting…
Dave: And I get down on my knees, and I say, “Tom, please give me that $20. Would you please. Is there anything that I can do to…? I’ll do anything to earn it.” And you say, “Dave, I’m trying to give it to you. Would you take…”
So, even to pray for salvation—even to plead with God for salvation; to say, “Well, God, I’ll join the church,” or “I’ll give to charity,” or, you know, “I’ll give up…” To get an indulgence, for example, in the year 2000—the pope offers you a special indulgence if you give up cigarettes for one day or whatever. To offer God something and pleading with Him to save me, to walk on my knees, you know, as I’ve seen some of these dear people at Fatima, Portugal, or …That’s an insult to God. I would be insulting you if you were trying to give me this $20 bill, or this check for $20. And I’m pleading with you. Well the fact that I’m pleading with you to give it to me indicates that I don’t believe that you are offering it to me as a gift. So any attempt to pay God, to pray to God…to do something for salvation…
Tom: For salvation.
Dave: Right. I’m not believing God, so “by grace are you saved through faith…not of yourselves; it’s a gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast” is what the Bible says. There’s nothing I can do to merit a gift. And God is holding out a gift. Christ has paid the penalty. Now am I going to believe that? Well, Tom, as you know religion—every religious system, I don’t care whether it’s Catholic or Prostestant—there are a lot of evangelicals…call themselves evangelicals that are still trying to do something to please God or to earn their salvation or to keep their salvation.
I’m asked to believe that God has provided this, and He wants to give it to me as a free gift.
Tom: Dave, to go back to the idea of believing—some people say, “Well, it’s just too easy.” You know, when I hear that, I thinking, “Now, how are you looking at that? Are you looking at ‘easy on your part,’ in terms of what you have to do?” Because the thinking behind that has to be, “I have to do something. I can do something. I’m going to do something.”
But this is God’s plan. This is His view. He backs it up—you mentioned how God is—loving Him…and how He’s infinite and beyond…how we could possibly love Him. But it’s more than that. God loves us so much that He sent His only begotten Son to die for us. He’s the sacrificial God. He does it all, and He gives us away—finite, fallen man. All that we…you know, the only thing that we can possibly do, and it’s also done—we read the scripture: “For by grace…” He extends the grace to us to receive what He has done. And the payment is incredible.
So for somebody to say (to go back to that), for somebody to say, “Well, it’s just too easy.” No! This is God’s plan of salvation. It’s His gift.
Dave: I suppose someone who is listening and hasn’t understood this—uh, Tom, we’re only saying what the Bible says, first of all.
Dave: We’re going to take the Bible as our authority. We’re going to accept what it says. That’s all we’re asking people: search the Scriptures daily; get back to the Word of God. But it seems more noble for me to do something—to turn over a new leaf, to be faithful in church attendance, or to sacrifice—do something difficult. What could be wrong with that? You mean that God would not save me if I try to…I believe Jesus died for me, but I want to do something to merit it. You mean that is going to disqualify me from salvation? Tom, I don’t think we’ve used this illustration. I’ve got all kinds of ridiculous illustrations, I guess, that I think get the point across. But let’s say that I have a painting. Let’s say it’s a Rembrandt or something, that was only recently discovered and it is the most fabulous Rembrandt that was ever done. And it has been bid up in auctions—art auctions—to hundreds of millions of dollars, and nobody can really price this thing—it is so priceless! And then I say, “Tom, I want to give it to you.” And you say, “Oh, Dave! That’s wonderful. I’ll come over and mow your lawn next week and we’ll call it square.” I mean that is such an insult! And that isn’t even coming close to the insult to God that I would try to do something to merit, to pay, to earn, this gift that He has bought at a price I could never pay—it’s an infinite price—it’s an insult to God! It is a rejection of the gift—anything I offer in payment, or merit, or whatever—I’m refusing to accept the gift. Now if I’m going to receive salvation, I have to come as a sinner, unworthy, nothing I can do—I can’t merit this. I don’t deserve it. In fact, this is grace; this is unmerited favor. This is God’s kindness and love to me. And if I try to offer anything in exchange I’m rejecting His love; I’m rejecting the gift; I’m demeaning the value of this gift.
Now, to do something out of gratitude because I’ve received this gift—having accepted the gift—and then to love the person, or to thank him, or to praise him for the gift, that’s something different than trying to do something to earn the gift. And that’s a distinction that the Bible makes. We love Him, because He first loved us. We serve Him out of love and gratitude for the salvation He’s given us. But not in any attempt to earn it or to merit it.