An Urgent Call to a Serious Faith: What Is the Gospel of God [or] What Is the Gospel, and Who Is Jesus?
Tom: Thanks, Gary. Welcome to Search the Scriptures Daily, a program in which we try to encourage Christians and anyone else who is seeking after God’s truth to be filled with the knowledge of the Lord’s will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. In other words, to understand better what God wants us to do and how He wants us to go about it.
To help keep on track with our objective, we’ve been going through Dave Hunt’s latest book An Urgent Call to a Serious Faith, which underscores on page after page the necessity of knowing the Word of God.
Dave, chapter six of your book is titled “What Is the Gospel?” And although you begin the chapter with the fall of man, a subject we’ve been reviewing in our Understanding the Scriptures segment, I want to jump ahead in this segment to discuss what you say about the gospel. You write, “The gospel of your salvation (from Ephesians:1:13), wherein ye stand, by which also ye are saved (1 Corinthians:15:1-2), is simple and precise, leaving no room for misunderstanding or negotiation. That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians:15:3-4). Is it that simple? Is it that straightforward?
Dave: Well, Tom, it’s not my word; it’s not my idea or your idea. Where do we find out about the gospel? Well, from the Bible. Paul didn’t make it up. In Romans 1, he infers that – not just infers that – he states that in 1 Corinthians 15 again, it’s “according to the Scriptures.” He says that he is an apostle separated unto the gospel of God. It’s not the Presbyterian or the Methodist or the Catholic or the Mennonite or . . . you name it! This is the Gospel of God.
Tom: Dave. You say the one true gospel of God’s grace, which God offers as our only salvation, has three basic elements . . .
Dave: And, again, I’m getting this from the Bible. I’m not making it up. Not getting it from some church authority, from some council.
Tom: Right. But what you’re demonstrating here is that the gospel, on the one hand, is so simple that a young child . . .
Tom: . . . can believe it – understand it, believe it, and be saved!
Dave: It would have to be! Otherwise, how can God reach man if man doesn’t understand what He’s saying? Now if God has to talk just through a special clergy class, through a priest class, through certain prophets, or whatever . . .
Tom: Or if you had to understand Hebrew and Greek and go back through even esoteric writings of . . .
Dave: . . . early church fathers, yes, and all of this kind of stuff . . .
Tom: You’d be dead in the water.
Dave: That’s right. No, it’s very simple. The Bible says it is so simple that “a wayfaring man” – that is a man who is wandering about – “though he be a fool need not err therein.” Jesus said, in fact, you have to become as a little child to enter into the kingdom. Some of the religions out there, and some of the theology and so forth that’s being preached, is so complicated it would take a Philadelphia lawyer to understand it. For example, you have the Catholics and the Lutheran World Federation: the theologians (and we’ve talked about it in the past), the theologians on both sides for thirty years discuss this: Justification by Faith. They came up with a very complex document, if anybody wants to read it – you can get it off of the Internet or anywhere – a very complex, lengthy document. Now, wait a minute. If salvation – if the way man is to be made right with God, is to be saved, redeemed, rescued from the judgment of God that He’s pronounced upon sin – if it is so complicated that it takes these theologians 30 years, the last ten years in intense discussion – I mean, who could be saved?
The Philippian jailer said to Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They said, “Well, you have about thirty years? It’s pretty complicated! You’re going to have to learn the original languages, the Hebrew and so forth. . . .” The Church Fathers hadn’t even been written at that point.
He simply said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” Now that doesn’t just mean there was somebody named Jesus. What do you need to be saved? You have to recognize you’re a sinner – that’s included in it. . . .
Tom: Dave, I know you’re moving to explain it, but let me go back to the simple three points that you make, these three basic elements.
Tom: You started it, but I just want to stay on track with this because it’s so good; it’s so clear.
First of all, you say the basic element that’s important is . . .
Dave: And, again, I’m getting this from the Bible.
Dave: It’s not I’m saying it . . . .
Tom: Right. Number one: Who Christ is. Fully God and perfect, sinless Man in one Person. And you write, “Were He less, He could not be our Savior.” So that’s for openers. Who Christ is is important here. And that’s “in” “What must I do to be saved” “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Well, who is He?
Dave: Right. Well, all through the Old Testament, God says, for example, in Isaiah:43:11, “Beside me there is no savior.” This is Yahweh! This is Jehovah, if you want to pronounce it that way. This is the Lord of Hosts. This is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who revealed Himself to Moses at the burning bush and all through the Old Testament, He says, “I am the Savior. I am your Redeemer,” He says. So if Jesus is the Savior – and that’s what the angel said, “You will call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” If Jesus is the Savior in whom we believe – “What must I do to be saved?” “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Well, He must be God. And Isaiah:9:6, for example, when it promises a Messiah – we’ve quoted this before, but it bears quoting again. When . . . it says, “Unto us a child is born,” (that’s the babe in Bethlehem); “unto us a Son is given,” (that’s the eternal Son of God)! Does the Old Testament talk about that? Well, Psalm 2 says, “Kiss the Son (capital “S”on, not sun) lest He be angry and you perish from the way when His wrath is kindled but a little,” and it’s talking about the one who will break with a rod of iron, He will smash the nations, and so forth. It’s talking about the Ruler who is to come, who’s one day going to take over and rule this world from the throne of His father David. He’s called the “son” in Proverbs:30:30, I think it is. He says, “the creator of the universe – what is His name, and what is His Son’s name?” okay? So, “Unto us a child is born” (that’s the babe in Bethlehem); “unto us a son is given” (this is the eternal Son of God, who is one with the Father); “and the government will be upon his shoulders.” Well, you can’t doubt it. The rabbis can’t deny it. This is talking about the Messiah. “His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father.” So when Jesus said, “I and my Father are one,” He was absolutely biblical, He was speaking the truth. It wasn’t a new revelation. He’s saying, “Look, guys! I’m the Messiah! I and My Father are one. I am the everlasting Father who comes as a babe born in Bethlehem,” as the prophets said, “of a virgin.” This has been foretold.
So, yes, when you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, that includes who He is, not just somebody with that name.
Tom: You’ve given us a lot of details about this person, Jesus Christ, from the Scriptures, through the prophets, and so on. But some would say, “Well, what about just a higher power? If you could just believe in a higher power, doesn’t that qualify?”
Dave: Well, Tom, it’s a tragedy. I just wrote a letter to someone who was angry with me for putting down, they said, the twelve-step program, and they’ve been involved in AA, and they said Jesus is their higher power, and so forth, and what’s wrong with that?
First of all, He’s not higher. “A higher power.” That’s kind of vague. Higher than what? The Bible is very clear about God. He is the Most High, okay, not just higher. He is the Most High. Secondly, He’s not a power. A power is impersonal, like the Star Wars Force; like gravity or electricity. You can use a power. A power couldn’t possibly create personal beings. So this just throws you off completely. And the higher power – you know, in Alcoholics Anonymous, for example, it’s “God as You Conceive Him to Be.” In the Masonic Order, it’s “God as you conceive him to be.” Mother Teresa said, “Whatever God is in your mind, you have to accept.” Wait a minute!! The Bible is all about the revelation of the one true God, the Most High God. He reveals Himself. He says, “Yes, there are gods, many, out there.” There’s a lot of them. But they’re all false gods. And Jeremiah:10:10-11, this God says, “I’m the Creator of the universe, and you say to the gods who have not created the heavens and the earth, they will perish from under this heaven and from this earth.”
So you can’t just say, “Well, so long as you believe in some higher power, that’s okay . . .”
Tom: By the time . . . I mean, it’s irrational. As you said, Dave, higher than what? But that’s what they’re talking about – something larger than yourself. But there are no specifics. There are no details. You ask a person that question, “Fine. Who have you picked?” If somebody says, “Jesus,” they still have a problem, because they put Him into a false category.
Tom: But other people say, “Well, just as long as it’s something bigger than you,” you know.
Dave: Right. At AA, your higher power could be a doorknob, literally; a bush; AA itself, anything! The Star Wars Force. False gods, false concepts.
Tom: Carl Sagan said, “As long as it’s larger than yourself, like the universe – believe in the universe.”
Tom: Inanimate, no intelligence . . .
Dave: I’m sorry. That’s a delusion.
Tom: Yeah. So, who Christ is – that’s first of all important. And let’s go back to the statement you made earlier from the Scriptures that you should become as a little child. A child still needs specifics. They have to believe in someone, and the child may not have all the details, but the child’s going to grow in a relationship, if it’s a parent, or whoever it might be, an adult – it’s going to grow in a relationship.
Dave: You have to have a valid start.
Tom: Right. Secondly, you say, “Who we are – hopeless sinners already condemned to eternal death, or we wouldn’t need to be saved.”
Dave: That’s right. There are some people who try to say, “Well, you have to feel good about yourself. Build up your self-esteem. Christ wouldn’t die for ‘nobodies.’”
No, He didn’t die for nobodies. He died for sinners.
Tom: For His enemies
Dave: He died for the ungodly. That’s about as low, as bad, a statement as you could make about somebody – that he’s ungodly. And that’s who we are.
Tom: Well, but people don’t generally accept that. “Well, I’m not as bad as the next guy.”
Dave: Well, then, I don’t need a savior. And if I can . . .
Tom: Well, he has to do some of it . . .
Dave: If I can . . .
Tom: . . . “I’m not that bad.”
Dave: And I could sort of offer . . .
Tom: He didn’t have to do all that much.
Dave: Right. If I could sort of offer my good deeds, my good works – no! We are absolutely hopeless! There’s nothing we can do. The Bible is very clear on that: “Not by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us,” Titus 3. Why would He have to be merciful to us? Why would we need grace? The Bible’s all about grace. Why must it be a gift? You can’t earn a gift. You can’t work for a gift. You can’t merit a gift. It’s a gift! You can’t do anything, and as soon as we try to offer God anything in exchange for the gift of eternal life, we have insulted Him. We have rejected the gift. So, it’s very simple . . .
Tom: Dave, and it’s really more basic, and we’ve been developing this in other segments of the program, but the penalty has to be paid. So what are you going to . . . What is the penalty? If Christ didn’t pay it all – if there’s something in me that’s kind of okay and God will go along with it, the penalty still has to be paid, and the penalty is separation from God forever for everyone!
Dave: That’s right. The Bible’s very clear: “There is none that doeth good. There is none that understandeth. There is none that seeketh after God. They have all gone out of the way. All we like sheep have gone astray, we’ve turned every one to his own way. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
“Sin? Wait a minute! I didn’t murder anybody; I didn’t do this or that.”
Wait a minute. Sin – “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” So sin is coming short of the glory of God, which – man was created in the image of God. We’ve been going over that in Genesis. So, if you fall short of perfectly reflecting the image of God in which we were originally created – if you come short of that at all, being as loving and kind and compassionate and pure and holy as God is, you’re a sinner. And we all are.
Dave: Okay, now, that’s serious. Because God doesn’t just give you twenty years and parole you at the end of ten. We’ve forfeited the right to be in God’s universe, and, as you’re pointing out, Tom, the penalty had to be paid. If we try to pay it, we’re separated from God forever. What’s so difficult about this? Why not acknowledge it? And thank God for the redemption that He offers in Christ, who paid the penalty!
Tom: Well, that’s the third point that you make. First, who Christ is. Secondly, who we are. Christ is our Savior; we’re in need of a Savior. You have to believe that.
Dave: Christ said “I came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Paul says, “This is a faithful saying, worthy of all acceptation; Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” So if you’re not a sinner, you can’t get saved.
Tom: And third, what Christ’s death accomplished: the payment of the full penalty for our sins. As you’ve been saying, any attempt by us to pay in any way rejects the gift of salvation God offers.
Dave: Amen. Well, on the cross – and we’ve gone over this before, too, but it’s helpful, I think . . .
Tom: If we could do this – we do the program once a week, but if we did this every day, it wouldn’t be enough, I don’t believe.
Dave: See, people make a lot about the cross. We did a newsletter on that some time ago. “What Have We Done to the Cross?” It’s become jewelry to hang around your neck, or you perch it on top of a cathedral, or whatever, but wait a minute. What is the cross? See, it wasn’t that driving nails into His hands and feet and piercing His side with a spear, and crowning Him with thorns and mocking Him and tormenting Him and scourging Him – that’s not what saves us. That would only add to our condemnation. That’s what men did to Him!
I mean, the angels must have just wanted to immediately stop this – get revenge! Kill these people who were doing this to the Creator of the universe who comes as a man. He does nothing but good; He’s pure and holy. And He blesses everyone, feeds the hungry, opens the eyes of the blind. “They hated me without a cause,” Jesus said. They hate Him and nail Him to a cross. Do you think that’s going to save us? That would only add to our condemnation! It was our sins that nailed Him there. It was the sinfulness of man that did that. But in that moment on the cross, Christ bore our sins! He took the penalty that His own infinite justice required for sin. He paid it in full! And just as He gave His spirit into His Father’s hands – because He said, “No man taketh My life from Me. I lay it down of Myself.” He didn’t, with a weak last gasp of His breath say, “It is finished.” He cried in triumph “Tetelestai!” in the Greek an accounting term that they stamped on documents and promissory notes and invoices. It meant “Paid in Full.” And if Jesus Christ did not pay in full the penalty that was imposed upon sin – upon sinners – by His own infinite justice, there’s no hope!
Tom: We have no chance.
Tom: So only He could do that. Only He was qualified, and we talked about that in other programs. But, Dave, among the religious – we can find it in almost every denomination. There’s a kind of a legalism that says, “Well, I’ve got to do this. I have to do that.”
Dave: It’s too simple. That’d be too easy. And, of course, the cults like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Mormons, who are out for earning their own salvation by works, they say, “Well, wait a minute. If all you’ve got to do is believe in Jesus, and then you’re saved, then you could do anything you want. You could commit sin, and murder and adultery and so forth, and you’re still saved.”
That’s not what the Bible says. It’s not by our works that we’re saved, but we are created in Christ Jesus unto good works, and when we open our heart to Christ, He comes in! He lives His life in us. He becomes our very life, the Bible says. We are transformed! He’s the vine; we’re the branches of the vine. The life of the vine flows through the branches to bear fruit, and so forth. It doesn’t mean that we’re perfect. But it doesn’t mean that we now have just chosen Christ as a fire escape from hell to heaven, and then we can live as we please. Wait a minute! We love Him because He first loved us! He gave . . . Paul says, “The son of God, who loved me, gave Himself for me. I am crucified with Christ,” Paul said. When I believed that He took my place and took the penalty that I deserved, which was death – I realize He died for me. Well, I have died! “It’s no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me!” This is the power of the gospel, and this is the power of the Christian life. It’s often been said the Christian life isn’t difficult. It’s impossible. No one can live it but Christ.
And so many people are – they’re really Christians, but they’re struggling in their own strength to somehow live up to the standard. No, let’s let Jesus Christ live His life in us. The secret of the Christian life is I’m dead: “My life is hid with Christ and God.” He’s my life. Let Him live it through me.
Tom: Dave, when I teach children, I like to say, “The Christian life is as easy as walking on water.” And then I ask, “Who walked on water, that you know about?”
“Well, Jesus did. But also Peter.” When Peter had his eyes on Jesus, he walked on water. But when he took his eyes off Jesus, he began to sink. That’s the wonderful aspect of the Christian life. It’s not by might nor by power but it’s by God’s Spirit that we’re enabled to do it. And it’s transforming. Let me read – and we’ll finish with this – Romans:1:16: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” You just have to believe. Trust in Christ. Your life will be transformed.
Dave: Praise God!