STSD How Much Faith Is Required for Salvation?
Gary: Now, we continue our exploration of the doctrine of salvation, with our attention specifically focused on the subject of “How Should You Believe, and How Much?” Here again, with Dave Hunt, is T.A. McMahon.
Tom: Romans:1:16—we've quoted it often, but I don't think we can quote it enough: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth.” Believing is the biblical means of salvation, and it's one of the strongest proofs that salvation is of God rather than something made up by various religious folks thousands of years ago.
Belief is the only requirement for salvation. It seems to cover every circumstance a person could possibly be in, while providing the opportunity to be saved. For example, from the thief on the cross to someone going down in a flaming airplane; from a rocket scientist to a mentally retarded child. From a Wall Street financier to a bag lady—all, regardless of their circumstances, can cry out to the Lord in simple faith for eternal salvation. As we've been noting in our study of the Gospel, faith, or belief, is presented nearly 500 times in the New Testament as the only means God has provided for salvation.
But, Dave, here’s getting into this a little deeper. Can we qualify or quantify believing? In other words, should we consider what or how much or how long we have to believe? Can we make a distinction between believing and believing unto salvation?
Dave: I think you either believe or you don't believe. When I take God at His word, He offers me eternal life as a free gift. When I believe that, I receive it. He offers me eternal life as a free gift on the basis of Christ having paid the penalty. And this is not corruption; this is not God winking at sin; this is not just some bookkeeping entry in heaven, but it's because Christ, who is God, became a man—the one and only God-man—it's because He, as He hung on the cross, paid the penalty that I deserved. Therefore, God can offer eternal life as a free gift.
So, all I have to do is believe. And Jesus said this over and over and over. He said, for example, John:3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish but have everlasting life.” Jesus said, “He that believeth on the Son (John:3:36) has everlasting life; he that believeth not the son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.” If we don't believe Him, we've made Him a liar. I mean nothing could be so insulting, so derogatory, as refusing to believe. You know, if I tell you something, you refuse to believe me, that's insulting.
Tom: But, Dave, I want to push this a little further. There are some that say, “Well, come on, the devils—demons—believe.” You know, what does that get them?
Dave: Well, the devils, first of all, they believe that God exists. That's all that it says. And they know that God exists, and they don't believe the Gospel. There's no gospel offered for the devils. We're talking about not just believing that God exists but talking about believing the Gospel. You quoted Romans:1:16: “The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to those who believe it,” obviously. So this is the message that I must believe. Now, as far as it being by faith alone, Romans:4:5, God says through Paul, “Now to him that worketh not but believeth on Him that justifies the ungodly, his faith, his belief, is counted for righteousness.”
I don’t have to have great faith. It just takes a mustard seed’s worth. In other words, I either believe God or I don't believe God. And if I believe God, I receive the gift that He offers. Now, you can go way back to Abraham, and Paul, in Romans, arguing this, uses Abraham—he points out that Abraham…. See, it's not by works, it's not by ritual, it's not by anything that we can do. Not my church membership, and so forth.
Before there was ever a church, before there was ever a tabernacle, before the law was ever given in the wilderness—even before Abraham received the sign of circumcision, before he had offered, you know, by faith, Isaac on the altar—before all of that, God made a promise to Abraham that he would have a son, and the Bible says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”
So faith comes by hearing the Word of God, and as I believe what God says, then I receive what He promises. It's so simple! It's too easy, many people think, and they go through all kinds of effort: penance and prayers and church membership, and pilgrimages and all kinds of things, rituals and sacraments—all kinds of things that they adopt or engage in in order to appease a God who said, “You can’t do that! I have given you my Son. He's paid the penalty for your sins. Will you just believe, and receive from Me the gift that I'm offering?” That's what the Scripture promises.
Tom: Dave, the scripture says God is no respecter of persons and, I believe, of circumstances. Now the things that you mentioned, there are some of those things that they cannot do.
I mentioned earlier the thief on the cross. He couldn't come down and get baptized, he couldn't perform certain works or do certain things—his circumstance set him in a position, but it didn't deny Him eternal life, because all he had to do was believe. That's why to me—belief—only God could have come up with this game plan (not this game plan—I don't want to use that term), but this means that covers everybody, no matter where they are. And that's the miraculous aspect of it.
Dave: Well, Tom, it's logical. And Paul argues in Romans: “How can God be just and yet be the justifier of those who believe in Jesus?” So it's…you know, we say it's by faith, but it's believing that something really happened on the cross. It's believing that God really became a man. He didn't cease to be God; He will never cease to be man—He's the one-and-only God-man. He lived a perfect, sinless life. He had no sins of His own, so He could die for the sins of the world.
So I'm believing a specific proposition that keeps God just and yet allows Him to justify sinners. That I could believe something else, you know—I'm not honoring God if I believe that God can just kind of look the other way, or He can forgive me my sins because I get baptized. Does baptism save me? No! Because I go to church, because I give to charity, because I confess my sins—whatever it is, nothing that I can do can pay the penalty for my sins! That's the point.
And those who put their faith, their hope, their trust in some ritual, some sacrament, some church—I don't care how large it is, how old it is; some man—no matter what robes he wears, no matter what titles he has, no matter what he claims for himself— that I would believe that he could somehow circumvent or find a way around God's justice and God's judgment so that God's judgment would not fall on me, a sinner, but that He has worked this out in some other way…. Jesus says, “You are a thief and a robber.” He said, "I am the door. By me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved.” In fact, He says, “All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers”; that would include Buddha and Confucius and so forth.
So it's a matter of justice, and when I acknowledge that, or I believe this, and I believe that God has provided this, then I’m saved. I receive this gift that He offers. But, Tom, to suggest (and I use these silly illustrations when I think they help), you know, I did 120 miles an hour (we’ve use this many times) in a 20-mile-an-hour school zone, with children present. I was arrested and I'm gonna stand before the judge, and you say, "Wow! They're gonna throw the book at you!” And I say, “Don't worry. I know the judge's mother.” That's corruption, that the judge's mother will get me off? I am facing the penalty of the law.
And God has a law, and He has a penalty, and He said that sin separates man from God forever. “The soul that sinneth, it must die.” Now, how can God, no matter how much He loves me, how can he get around His justice and the just requirements of His law?
So He came and paid the penalty. Now, if I want to try to climb up some other way, and I want to put my faith in someone else or some ritual or sacrament or church, or whatever it is, I have rejected God's offer of salvation, I have rejected God's righteousness. I have presumed that God can unrighteously forgive me. And that's bad!
So this is what the faith is, Tom. It's faith, it's believing what God has said. It’s believing the Gospel.
Tom: Right. I'll just close with Galatians:2:16: “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus that we might be justified by faith in Christ, not by the works of the law, for by the works of the law, no flesh shall be justified.