Tom: We’re continuing our review of Dave Hunt’s book An Urgent Call to a Serious Faith, which makes some excellent points in its encouragement to believers in Christ to search the Scriptures in order to grow in their biblical faith.
Dave, you titled Chapter 9 “What Is the Christian Life?” and you begin by quoting Habakkuk:2:4: “The just shall live by faith.” So who are the just, and what does it mean to live by faith?
Dave: Well, I suppose you have two key words there: “just,” and then “live.” Dead people can’t live, and we’re by nature dead in trespasses and in sin, so we have to have life given to us, and that it’s not our own life that somehow we get and now we have it, and we keep generating it, and so forth. It’s the life of another, the life of Christ, so it’s by faith. That’s basically what Habakkuk is saying, and, of course, that verse is repeated…I don’t remember, is it three or four times…?
Tom: Four times.
Dave: …Four times in the Bible. Yeah. So it must be rather important!
Tom: Right. Now, Dave, my background as a Roman Catholic, I spent more than half my life trying to become just. Those who are familiar with Roman Catholicism, they know that you don’t get into heaven unless you really become—actually become—righteous, and…
Dave: That’s why you have to suffer in purgatory…
Dave: …to be purged of sins and be cleaned and so forth.
Tom: Right, or even on this earth, we…
Dave: Well, on this earth as well.
Tom: …sacrifices, sufferings, all those point to expiate our own sins.
Dave: Yeah, it won’t work, of course. That’s…you can never make a person just by doing good works, or by suffering, much less by flames. Can’t purge sin. That’s not what the Bible teaches. We are declared to be just on the basis of what Christ did. So the Christian life and salvation is not about what we do, it’s about what Christ has done, and what we do—there is a doing on our part, but that is because of Christ living in us now. He becomes our life.
So Romans:4:5, it says, “Now to him that worketh not but believeth on him that justfieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” So we become righteous through faith because the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us as we believe in Him as our Savior, the one who died for our sins. There’s no way that sinners can make themselves just, no matter what they suffer, no matter what they do. So that’s something we have to understand right from the very beginning.
Tom: Right. I think one of the most important Scripture verses with regard to this idea of “just”—“the just shall live by faith”—is Romans:3:24-26. Let’s just go through that: Verse 24: “…being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus….” I want to take that verse by verse, Dave, because I think it’s really important. “Justified freely…” That’s what you’re talking about, and again, as a former Catholic, I believed that my righteousness…I was developing this righteousness—it was infused to me. But you used the term “declared.” There’s a big difference there, isn’t there?
Dave: It was infused into you on the basis of your good works.
Dave: You had to have this grace poured into you so that then you could do these good works which would justify you. But that’s not the way it works. I…
Tom: It says, “justified freely.”
Dave: And it’s justified by faith. I don’t have my Bible open, but isn’t that the way Romans 5 begins? “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God.” You’ll never have peace if you’re trying to be justified on the basis of your good works. Justification is something God has to declare—that we’re just. We can’t make ourselves just, and He can only declare that we’re just if we have been, first of all, forgiven of our sins. You have to have the slate wiped clean. The only way it can be wiped clean is the penalty has to be paid, and that’s what he argues in those verses where you’re reading: How can God be just and yet the justifier of those who believe in Jesus? How can God…just make a bookkeeping entry in heaven? That won’t work! The penalty had to be paid, and we can’t pay that penalty; no matter how much you suffer, only God himself could pay the penalty. Of course, we’ve talked about this over and over, and God had to become a man. He didn’t cease to be God, He’ll never cease to be man…we’ve said it a hundred times probably. He’s the one and only God-man because of who He is, and the perfect life He lived. He had no sin of His own that He needed to die for. He was able to represent the human race, died for the sins of all mankind to pay the full penalty. That’s the only basis. So, we’re justified freely through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. No other way that we can be justified.
Tom: Now, Dave, I’ve been mentioning my background as a Roman Catholic, but we could look to Protestants, as well. Anyone who thinks that there is something that they can do or that they need to do—any works, any meritorious sacrifice or whatever it might be, they’re missing the boat here. Now, I don’t mean to slough, or to use a light terminology, but in effect, you said (and the Bible declares) the penalty for sin is death, separation from God forever. That’s Genesis:2:16-17, and unless we really, fully understand that if Christ didn’t pay it all, or if there’s something that needs to be done, it still has to do with the penalty. We have to be separated from God forever. It’s no percentage of this or that.
Dave: Right. “This is a faithful saying,” Paul writes to Timothy, “and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Not to help save sinners, not to help sinners save themselves, but He’s the Savior! He came to save us like we’re drowning. We can’t save ourselves—we’re going down for the third time. He has to rescue us, and the only way He could rescue us was by paying the penalty for our sins. Now, if Christ didn’t pay the full penalty for our sins…if He couldn’t pay the full penalty for our sins, let’s just reason logically about it—if He didn’t pay the full penalty for our sins, then either He couldn’t, or He didn’t want to. If He couldn’t, we certainly can’t, and if He didn’t want to, but He’s the one who should have done it, then that means He doesn’t want us to do it either, but of course we couldn’t anyway. So there’s no hope unless Christ paid the full penalty.
Tom: Yeah, well, let me take it a step further, Dave: if we reject His payment or think that we can pay part of it, the part that we have to pay is separation from God forever.
Tom: And…well, if somebody thinks that’s an option, they better rethink it!
Dave: You said if we reject His payment, the part we have to pay…let me turn it around: if we think there’s something that—if we offer some payment of our own, no matter how miniscule in comparison to the total payment, we have rejected the gift of eternal life, and we’ve insulted God with the idea that we could participate? That we could contribute to our salvation? Never!
Tom: Dave, continuing with Romans 3, going to verse 25: “Whom God has set forth,” speaking about Jesus, “whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remissions of sins that are passed through the forbearance of God.” Well, this word “propitiation…”
Dave: It’s a long word. Most people don’t know what it means.
Tom: Yeah. But it’s a very important word. Without propitiation, we’re dead in our sins. If Christ…it really just refers to what you’ve been talking about: the penalty was set by God. The penalty had to be paid in full. And Christ, as our propitiation, paid that penalty in full.
Dave: “Whom God hath set forth to be the propitiation for our sins through faith in his blood.” Tom, I hope everyone who’s listening out there knows these are not our ideas. We’re not trying to push something on someone. We didn’t make it up. Salvation involves God. He is the one who has declared that we are sinners. And by the way, the Bible defines sin as “coming short of the glory of God.” Now, anyone who thinks he is going to measure up to the glory of God in his own efforts, by his own suffering—somehow he’s going to pull himself up by his bootstraps to be on the level with God, because that’s what sin is, it’s coming short of God’s perfection. He created us in His image—not physical image, moral, spiritual image. So we are to reflect His holiness, His purity, His goodness, His love! We can’t do it. Sin is coming short of the glory of God, and anyone who thinks that they can bring themselves up to the level of God…well, they’re insane!
So God is the one we have to deal with. He’s the one that declares that we’re sinners, and if we are to be forgiven, He must make that declaration. He must have the basis for it. We’re not trying to push anything on anyone, and I think it ought to be good news, because there’s nothing you can do! We know that in our hearts. I mean, we’re hopeless sinners. How many times have people out there listening to us turned over a new leaf? Well, I don’t do it, because it doesn’t work. But they do it every New Year’s, you know? Turn over a new leaf, or they try, and try, and try. No, the gospel is not about my trying to make myself righteous or acceptable to God, or worthy in any way of the redemption in Christ Jesus. It is because of the redemption in Christ Jesus. What is the redemption in Christ Jesus? We’ve been redeemed by the blood of Christ. He paid the penalty for our sins. Now, this is good news! Praise God!
So it’s by faith that I enter into this Christian life. That’s what we began talking about, I guess. We haven’t gotten too far into the Christian life, but…
Tom: Yeah, I want to establish…if we don’t establish…
Tom: …well, we have to be just! I mean you can’t be a Christian, a true believer in Christ, without being justified.
Now, let me just finish this last verse, and then we’ll get on with that. Again, Romans:3:26: “To declare, I say, at this time, his righteousness, that he [that is, God] might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”
Dave, this is an awesome…I mean, you talk about joy, the gospel, the good news, this not only relates to something to our benefit, but it tells us about the character of God! God is love, but He is also a God who is just, and He must be that perfectly. All of His characteristics, all of His attributes, have to be absolutely perfect.
Dave: And one can’t cancel out the other.
Tom: No. So that’s why this verse is…God is just telling us He is just. Therefore, as you’ve said many times, we’ve said on this program, the penalty must be paid in order for God to remain just. But God is love, so therefore He sends His only begotten Son to pay the penalty…
Dave: For us, in our place.
Tom: Right. You know the chorus: “I owed a debt I could not pay, He paid a debt He did not owe.” That’s what this is about: “…and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” That’s the good news.
Dave: So we are justified by God because we believe in Jesus—not because we’ve done good enough works to make ourselves just.
I guess it’s difficult, Tom, and I know in living the Christian life, there are times when we fall. We fail to do something we should, or we do something we shouldn’t have done, and guilt plagues us. Either, you know, “Well, I guess I couldn’t be saved if I could do that,” or, “God is going to damn me,” and somehow we get the idea that we have to live up to a good enough standard in order to remain in God’s favor. That’s not the case at all. What we could—we could never live a good enough life to be in God’s favor. That does not mean that we are soft on sin, or that we encourage sin. John in his first epistle, chapter 2, he begins by saying, “These things write I unto you, that you sin not.”
So the Christian aims, desires, purposes in his heart, not to sin. Then he says—he doesn’t say “when,” but, “If you do sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation for our sins, not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”
So this is the—the secret of the Christian life is faith, trusting Him. Paul said, “I’m crucified with Christ. Nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me. The life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
So going back to the verse where the chapter begins: “The just”—those who have been justified, made righteous in God’s sight, by His declaration, not on the basis of their good works, but it’s through Christ, through His redemption—“the just shall live by faith.” So now we learn something else that it isn’t only that Christ paid the penalty for our sin, but He comes to live in us.
Tom: Right. Dave, I give you a quote from your book: “That the Christian life is to be lived by faith tells us that it comes supernaturally, not naturally, as we trust God and know and obey His Word.”
Dave: Amen! Someone…it’s often been said—we’ve probably said it on this program—the Christian life isn’t difficult, it’s impossible! Nobody ever lived it but Jesus Christ. So if we’re going to live the Christian life, He’ll have to do it through us. You know, it’s not, “Well, Christ set this wonderful example. Now I’m going to try to live up to that example.” You will fall on your face. I mean, there’s no way! You’re going to compare yourself to Christ? How far short will you fall? Well, falling short at all, coming short of the glory of God, is sin, and that has its wages.
So the…well, Tom, I think probably one of the most wonderful days of my life… I remember when I tried to master—I thought, Boy, you know, I’m studying this Bible. I’m going to master the Word of God. Well, I realized I could never do that. What I needed was to be mastered by the living Word. Big difference! And probably one of the most wonderful days when I quit trying to live the Christian life, I quit trying to live up to His standards in my own strength, and I said, “Lord, You’ve got to do it. Would You please live Your life in me?” That’s what it’s all about. Now, maybe that sounds extreme, maybe that sounds impossible or hard to understand, but this is what the Bible tells us. It’s not our ideas.
Tom: Dave, now, I’m going to remind you of something. This goes back some 20 years, 20-some years, but I know I’d been a believer maybe about four months, and I had met you only maybe a month before. And after being saved, I really had a zeal for God’s Word. This really relates not only to what you said, but some counsel that you gave me, and now I’m going to remind you of it. I was—I just had this voracious appetite for reading God’s Word, and, you know, not so much like you, trying to be a master of it, but just figure out what it was all about. So I was really taking it in, and I got to the great commandment: “You’re to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your strength, with all your soul,” and, Dave, I got so depressed after reading that, I closed the book, and for—I know for hours, I just sat there thinking, I can’t do this! I can’t do this! and, What am I going to do? Well, I knew a number of Christians, but again, just having met you a month before, I called you up and I said, “Dave, here’s my problem: I’ve read through this, I want to do everything that’s in this book, but I know I can’t do this!” And I remember your comment was something like, “Well, praise the Lord! You’ve finally come to a place of understanding!” And that’s just what you related to us: I could not do this on my own. I couldn’t even think that I could do it!
Dave: Amen. So the just shall live by faith, faith in Christ. The life that I now live in this flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, or faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Tom: Yeah. But, Dave, that takes us to some other verses, because I want to get into…
Dave: We’ve covered about the first page, I guess, of the chapter.
Tom: Right! But this is important! You quote the scriptures having to do with living in the Spirit and walking in the Spirit. You’ve sort of been talking about that, but what does that mean? It sounds like—somebody reading that for the first time would say, “Living in the Spirit? Walking in the Spirit?”
Dave: Sounds like a séance or something.
Tom: Or something—sort of hypercharismatic or experiential, that is…but this is God’s Word! You didn’t make this up! These are…
Dave: No, Galatians 5, of course, tells us that.
Tom: Right, verse 25.
Dave: Right. “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” And our life is a new life; it’s not our own life. But we were dead in trespasses and in sins, so life has been given to us, the very life of Christ, the resurrection life of Christ, in fact. The resurrection life is only for dead people. So we qualified because we’re dead, and God gives us new life. Well, it comes by the Spirit of God; “as many as are led of the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.” If we walk in the flesh, we will do the things of the flesh, and the flesh—that is our nature—lusts against the Spirit of God, but the Spirit of God has come to live within us, and now we need to yield ourselves to Him and allow Him to live through us, and this is walking and living in the Spirit.
Tom: Right, and the Holy Spirit gave us the Word of God. The Holy Spirit dwelling within us gives us understanding. So we’re not left to just some kind of ideas that [are] kind of rushing through my mind from time, but we’re—we have God’s Word. That’s our guide, our direction. These are the things that please God—that He has laid out for us to understand. And the other side, the Holy Spirit gives us the ability to be obedient, gives us the grace to be sufficient in…well, not really sufficient, but to take opportunities that God’s provided to be a blessing to others and to be used of Him.
Dave: So we’re not aiming for a mystical experience. We don’t go into some meditative state to try to contact God or get some powerful spiritual impulse that will transform us. We go to the Word of God. This is our life: “The just shall live by faith.” But Jesus said (He’s quoting from Deuteronomy 8), “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God shall man live.”
So this is our nourishment.
Tom: And it’s only for those who are justified freely by the grace of God by accepting the gospel.