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, our first question today, essential for salvation. In your book In Defense of the Faith, which you have just lots and lots of questions that you’ve been asked over your many years of ministry, I think it comes down to, this may be the one that is as simple as any but is more important than any. And the question is: “I’m not clear on the term ‘saved.’ It’s certainly not in vogue in many seminaries and churches. However, I find it in the Bible, especially in the New Testament. Just what does it mean?”
Dave: Well, John:3:17 says “He sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” So whatever this being “saved” is, sounds like the whole world needs it. And Peter said, Acts:4:12—this is what he said to the Rabbis: “There is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved,” and he’s talking about Jesus, of course. So, here we have, “all the world needs to be saved”— not only needs it, it’s not an option, they must, and it only comes through Jesus Christ. Whatever that means now, we’ve got a good start.
Tom: Yeah, an important word, and in some cases we have to make distinctions with regard to how it’s used. You could “save” me! I could be walking off a curb, a car is coming, and you pull me back and you’ve saved me. We have that used throughout the Old Testament of being saved.
Dave: But the Bible is talking about something more important than that, of course. I mean, to save someone’s life or to save them from serious injury is very important, but what do we need to be saved from? Well, Jesus said, John:3:36: “He that believeth on me has everlasting life and shall not come into condemnation but has passed from death unto life; but he that believeth not, shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” So, there is a salvation; we need to be saved from the wrath of God because of our sin. The wrath of God comes upon man because of sin. God has pronounced his judgment upon sin. How are we going to be saved from it? Well, the Philippian jailer cried out to Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
Tom: And he, just moments prior to that, was about to kill himself.
Dave: That’s right, yeah. He was going to fall on his sword because God had sent an earthquake, shook the prison, all the doors flew open and the stocks, you know, the old fashioned stocks, in which their feet were…their ankles were fastened, had broken loose, and all the prisoners—well, I guess, could go!
Tom: There’s nothing holding them back.
Dave: He would have to pursue them, and that meant his life, you know, if he doesn’t keep the prisoners. So he’s going to fall on his sword—there is no hope. And Paul yells out, “Do thyself no harm; we are all here!” So there must have been other prisoners; in fact, it says there were other prisoners. They heard Paul and Silas singing praises to God, and so forth. And that’s when he cries out, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
Tom: So you know he was not referring to just his physical life. There was something that really moved this man deep in his heart.
Dave: They had obviously given him the gospel—they gave everybody the gospel. They were singing the gospel, and he wouldn’t be asking them, “What must I do to be saved from the judgment of my superiors?” He’s asking them, “What must I do to be saved from the wrath of God? What must I do?”
Of course, Paul says, “Well, you’ve got to do a lot of good deeds so that your good deeds outweigh your bad,” you know, and so forth. Tom, you’re going to throw me off of here; this is heresy! I remember being in an Orthodox cathedral in Romania talking to the head priest there, and I asked him—I was playing the Philippian jailer. He doesn’t know me; I’m just somebody that wandered in—and I said, “How can I get to heaven?” I didn’t use the term “saved”—I didn’t know that he would even know what that meant, but, “How can I get to heaven?”
He said, “You’ve got to pray.”
“Well,” I said, “how much do I pray?”
“Oh, you’ve got to pray a lot.”
“Well, how much is a lot?”
“Well, you have to pray every day, everywhere you are—just keep praying and praying.” And I said, “Well, could I ever pray enough?”
He said, “You can never pray enough.”
This is the Eastern Orthodox Church, now. I said, “Well, is there any way I could know that I could get to heaven—that I will go to heaven?”
He said, “There is no way you can know. That’s what these sects, like these Baptists, teach.”
That was in Romania.
I was in the headquarters of the Russian Orthodox Church, a couple hours drive outside of Moscow. I asked the monks there—by the way, I have found out what Jesus looks like! You know where icons come from. They had the exact picture of Jesus. He wiped his face on a towel and His picture was on it—His face, you know—the impression of His face was on it…
Tom: Sounds like the shroud.
Dave: Yeah, and they claimed they had the exact replica of, you know, what Jesus really looked like. Anyway, so I asked them, “Well, how can I get to heaven?”
“Well,” they said, “you have to be baptized. Baptized by a Russian Orthodox priest.”
I said, “You know, I was baptized.”
But no, “You’ve got to be baptized by a Russian Orthodox priest.”
I said, “There’s not even a Russian Orthodox Church within—I don’t even know where the closest one is! I live in a little town in Oregon.”
“Well, you’ve got to find it,” he said. “You’ve got to go there and get baptized.”
I said, “Well, is that all I have to do?”
“No, you’ve got to live the gospel.”
And I said, “Well, I can’t—that’s a pretty high standard. I’ve got to live without sin…supposing that I fail?”
“Well, you’ve got to go back to that church and confess your sins to the priest.”
I saw some of the people under the priest’s robes, you know, on their knees, confessing to the priest. I said, “Well, can’t I just confess to God? Isn’t He the one who forgives me?”
“No, you’ve got to go back to the priest and confess there—wherever or however far away that church is where you got baptized, you’ve got to go back there.”
You don’t find anything like that in the Bible. Paul said to this Philippian jailer, “Believe, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” You will be saved. So, that’s all I have to do.
So, salvation delivers me from the penalty of God’s judgment against sin, and, how does believing on the Lord Jesus Christ do that? Because He said, “He that hears my word, believes on Him that sent me”—we have it in John:3:16: “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth on him”—this is Christ, now, talking to Nicodemus—“whosoever believes on him will not perish but have everlasting life.” Why believe on Jesus? Because He is the one who paid the penalty for our sins. He is God, who 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, the unique only begotten Son of God, and because of who He is, He was able to pay the penalty that His own infinite justice required. If He didn’t pay the penalty, there is no forgiveness. I would have to pay the penalty. I would be separated from God forever.Tom: Right. You can’t pay it off. You’d just have to pay it, because it’s infinite, as you said.
Dave: That’s right. We would be separated from God forever. But to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ—that doesn’t mean just believe that some person named Jesus Christ lived on this earth, that he was a historic character, or whatever. Jesus, in fact, says in John 8—we had that, what? a few months ago, I guess—“Except you believe that I am”—that’s God’s name, I AM that I Am—“if you don’t believe that I am God, you will die in your sins, and where I go you cannot come.”
So, “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ”—I must believe who He really is and what He really did and that He paid the penalty for my sins. Furthermore, I must not hope to be adding something to this. I’m not believing on the Lord Jesus Christ if I think [that] in addition to believing on Him I must do some good work to make up for whatever deficiency there may have been in His payment for my sins on the Cross.
Tom: That’s clearly the implication if you’re doing something, that what He did was not enough.
Dave: Exactly, and yet we have all kinds of people—I mean, this is religion. So, salvation? To be saved from the wrath of God. Jesus said, “If you don’t believe, the wrath of God abides upon you.” By believing, I accept Christ as my Savior; I believe that He paid the full penalty for my sins; I believe who He is—that He was able to do this, because He is God and man in one person, and I receive the forgiveness. I don’t know how many of our listeners out there have ever really believed in Jesus—believed totally. This is all you need for eternity!
Tom: Put their trust in Him.
Dave: Exactly. There is nothing you can do about this, and if you try to do something, you are, as Tom just said, you are denying that Christ paid the full penalty. And this is essential. We must do it—there is no other way.
Tom: Dave, that’s important—there is no other way. Now, let’s just back up a little bit. Here we have something that somebody says, “Oh, well, it’s just too simple. You mean just believe? Just put your trust…?” Now let’s go back the other way. You’re talking about this Russian Orthodox monk, and he is telling you something that’s impossible! You have to find a Russian Orthodox Church, be baptized by a Russian Orthodox priest, and even if you had to travel hundreds of miles….
Dave: Which I would.
Tom: Okay. Then you come back home, and you commit a sin—you have to go back and find this….This is man’s ideas. This is not just ritual; this is a bondage that there’s no way that God would have any part of this! It’s irrational. It can’t work.
On the other hand, the only possible way is God’s way, and He makes it so—I want to say, simple—it’s so profound that God would become a man and die for us. We will never comprehend that, but that is His way, and it covers everybody—from the youngest child to a senior about to step off into eternity. It covers the rocket scientists to those who maybe have brain damage, or whatever. Dave, it’s miraculous! Only God could come up with this plan that no circumstance can deprive you of receiving what He offers as a free gift.
Dave: Yeah, well, it is because of His justice. His justice has to be satisfied. The penalty has to be paid. He can’t just forgive us, and only God himself could pay the penalty. All through the Old Testament, God—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Creator of the universe, the Lord of hosts says, “I am the only Saviour.” So, only God could pay the penalty, and why not accept it?
So a person—what would they be? Too proud? Or are they are too stubborn? Or they’re determined to make their own way to heaven? But, Tom, this is what the man was asking: “What is this being ‘saved?’” And the Bible, I think, is very clear on it and we probably have covered that one so—have we got another one?
Tom: No, Dave, I’m not finished with this one! This is really important, all right? And I love this. This is so important, and there are different aspects of it. I know there are listeners out there just like me. I’m listening to you, and I’m thinking, “Well, Dave, wait a minute. How can I really know that I am saved? You say this is what I have to believe, but I’m a little anxious about that. I mean, is there a formula? Is there something I need to do?” Well, I’ll turn it over to you. How do you know that you’re a believer? Or what do you believe in?
Dave: How do I know that I am a believer? Well, I know whether I believe something or not. But as a young boy, well, I was just about to enter the 10th grade in high school. That, in fact, we’ve probably shared it on here before—I can’t remember—but that was the thing that bugged me. I mean, I knew the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. I had no doubt that Jesus is God, who became a man, paid the penalty for my sins, rose from the dead.
By the way, we have to believe in the resurrection—you can’t trust a dead Jesus to save you.
But I was worried that—suppose I say I believe, and I have some secret doubt somewhere in the depths of my unconscious—I didn’t know about an unconscious then. And the man who led me to Christ, my father in the faith, who has gone to be with the Lord many years ago—he said, “Look, you are trying to have faith in your faith. You’re all worried about your faith. Why don’t you just trust Jesus? Leave it up to Him.” He said (this is before the “Four Spiritual Laws” came along—this would be sixty-some years ago), Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.”
Tom: That’s what this man told you.
Dave: This is what he is telling me, this is why—I mean, I knew that verse very well. This is the door of every human heart. He said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock”—this is Revelation:3:20—“if anyone, any man, any woman, boy or girl, hears my voice and opens the door (this is the door to my heart), I will come in to him. I will fellowship with him and he with me.”
John tells us in John’s Gospel, chapter 1, which we were in, what? many months ago, maybe a year or two ago: “As many as received him (received Christ), to them he gives the authority to become the sons of God.” So, receiving Christ is—He’s knocking at the door of my heart, I open the door—I leave it up to Him to come in.
Tom: The Ethiopian eunuch, same thing: “What prevents me from being baptized?”
Dave: “If you believe with all your heart you may be.” So I got on my knees and I just, you know, I said, “Lord, I want to be saved, and I believe what you said, and I’m opening the door of my heart right now. Please come in. I receive You.”
Now in my case, I mean, it was a sudden transformation. I mean, I just was…I felt Christ come in. I wasn’t even prepared for that, but it was a total transformation in my life as a young boy, teenager.
Tom: It doesn’t happen that way every time though.
Dave: No. Some people may pray, and they don't feel anything. We don’t go by our feelings—we go by His promise. He said, “You open the door, I will come in.” So, faith can be a stumbling block to some people. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”
On the other hand, I think a person knows whether they believe. You see, in my case I believed intellectually. I believed the Bible was true from Genesis to Revelation. I believed that Jesus Christ had died for my sins, but I hadn’t made it personal, and I had not personally…it’s one thing to believe in the abstract: “Oh yes, I believe Christ died for the world. I believe John:3:16.” It’s another thing to believe in my heart that this applies to me and that when I put my faith in Him, I am saved.
I can’t remember, Tom, if we’ve ever told it on this program—it must be years ago—you remember Blondin, the greatest tightrope walker that ever lived? My father, I think, first told me about him because he put up the wire in the Crystal Palace in London. He would walk across it. Now he comes to the United States, and he stretched a wire—I don’t know how they did it—but he stretched a wire across Niagara Falls from the Canadian to the American side. And he would—I mean, it’s amazing what he would do. The gamblers were always trying to bet against him, and one day when there was a high wind blowing, a gale coming down that canyon over those falls, when he was out in the middle with a man on his back, they cut the wires that held this thing taut and it sagged, and it is swinging in the wind…
Tom: Oh, man!
Dave:…and the guy on his back is vomiting from sea sickness—and he made it to the other side! Blondin made it to the other side. He was the greatest! And there was an elder gentleman like myself talking to a younger man like you, Tom, in the group there that is watching this, and the older gentleman is trying to explain to the younger man what it meant to trust in Christ. He said, “You know—what do you think about Blondin?”
“Oh,” the guy said, “he is the greatest!”
And, “Do you think he can carry a man on his back?”
“Oh, I’ve seen him do it! I don’t have any doubt about it.”
“Well, he has just gone to the other side, and when he comes back, he’s going to ask for a volunteer. Will you be the man?”
“Not on your life! Not me!”
So, that’s the difference between in trusting in Christ—“Oh, yes, I believe He died for the sins of the world.” But are you willing to trust Him for eternity? That’s all you’ve got. We used to sing a hymn, I don’t know whether they still do: “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling. This is my only plea, that Jesus died for me.” I have no other plea to make in the court; I have no other argument to offer—nothing to offer except “Jesus died for me.” And I have trusted in Him as my Savior.
Now unfortunately, there are an awful lot of churches, Protestant and Catholic, that don’t accept that. We’ve got Catholics who are trying to do all kinds of other works; we have Protestants trying to do all kinds of other works. And if you try to do something in addition to what Jesus did, you’re denying that His death was sufficient, and you are actually rejecting His death for your sins.
Tom: Dave, another part of it—and help me here—I think it’s in Acts. Doesn’t it say in Acts that the Holy Spirit confirms this with us? In other words, as you said—it’s not just your feelings.
Dave: That’s Galatians. “His Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.
Tom: Okay. That verse—we have a verse in 1 John:5:13, that we can know, we can understand. So the point that I am trying to bring out here is that, yes, somebody asks me, I’ll say, “Man, I’m just clinging to Jesus.” I believe what He said; I’m clinging to Him if anybody wants to know how I’m getting to heaven. And then, why do I want to go to heaven? I want to be with Him, so I am clinging to Him to be with Him. But it’s not just me, I’m not just…
Dave: But Tom, He’s clinging to you—He’s holding you.
Tom: That’s exactly right.
Dave: He holds my hand. We have a chorus like that: “Jesus holds my hand, the way may be long. He holds my hand, He keeps me. No man can pluck them out of my Father’s hand, out of my hand,” and so forth.
Tom: So, those who do get anxious, that do have doubts, our encouragement is to grow in Him. He is faithful. He began in you, and when you grow in your relationship with Him, there are confirmations, both the Holy Spirit bearing witness. And as we said, we can know this as much as we know that Jesus is alive and all that He has done for us, and that can be our—in times of anxiousness and so on—that’s where we have to fall back on clinging to Him as He clings to us, as you said, Dave.
Dave: Amen. Sometimes, you know, I talk to the Lord about it and I say, “God, let me start all over again. I know You exist from the creation about me—I know that for sure, it didn’t happen by chance. You have always been—I mean, this is beyond my comprehension, but it has to be. All the evidence points to it, logic points to it, and I know that You created me—I didn’t make myself. Man didn’t just kind of spontaneously spring up on this earth. We had to be created. And, Lord, I know that You had a purpose in creating me, and I know that I have sometimes tried to take my own way. I have torn the life that You have given me out of Your hands so that I could live it for myself, and I know that there is no greater sin than that. And I know that there is no way that I could make up for that, and I believe that Jesus Christ came and died for my sins and paid the penalty. And that’s my only hope, Lord, and I know it’s true.”
Of course, the Lord has proven Himself so many times in my life, as He does for others. But we just take Him at His word: “This is the Name whereby we must be saved…”—in Jesus Christ, and that is the only way. It makes sense, it’s biblical, you can’t deny it.
Tom: It’s the truth.