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. Now Dave, usually we do a little chit-chat before we get into the question, but this is a long question, so I just want to get right to it, okay?
Dave: Explain to them where it is coming from.
Tom: Well, here we go. It’s coming from Dave’s book, In Defense of the Faith, and it’s a really good book. And for those who aren’t aware of the book, this is a book that Dave wrote, and it’s filled with questions that he has received over many, many years. I’m looking at you, Dave, you’re gray, you’re balding on top, so…
Dave: Gray? I’m white.
Tom: My eyes are going, too!
Dave: We weren’t going to have any chit-chat now.
Tom: You know, seriously, these are questions that Dave has received over his many years of ministry and they are tough questions, and we thought they need to be addressed. If God’s Word is just that, if it is truly God’s Word, then it ought to be able to handle everything. I mean it is, it does.
Dave: Some of them are from critics, from atheists, and so forth. I don’t remember who this next question came from, but anyway…
Tom: Here we go. “I’m confused about how one gets saved. As a Catholic, my favorite catechism stated: ‘What is necessary to be saved? You have to be baptized, belong to the Church established by Jesus Christ, obey the Ten Commandments, receive the Sacraments, pray, do good works, and die with Sanctifying Grace in your soul.’ That seemed to impose a hopeless burden. If I missed Mass and died with that mortal sin upon me before I could get to confession, I would be lost forever. Since leaving Catholicism, I’ve only become more confused by the contradictory teachings among Protestant denominational churches. Some say that holiness or speaking in tongues are necessary, others say no. How can I know the truth?
Dave: Well, Jesus said, “Thy Word is truth.” He said, “I am the truth.” So, let’s go to Jesus— what did He have to say? What does His Word have to say? We don’t go to some church—I don’t care how old it is—it may be the oldest church in the world, in existence; maybe it’s the largest; maybe they have the fanciest robes, the greatest tradition—all of that is beside the point. That doesn’t make any difference with God because largeness, popularity, robes, rituals, traditions have nothing whatsoever to do with salvation. If we’re going to find out about salvation—what are we going to be saved from? From the wrath to come—God’s wrath.
And how is that going to come about? Well, I guess God is the one who is going to tell us, isn’t He? After all, He made the laws, He created the universe, He runs it, and sin is against Him. If there is to be a solution to sin, then He is going to have to tell us what it is, and it will have to meet His standards.
When the Philippian jailer, for example, cried out to Paul: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”, now you would think that the Apostle Paul—we’ve talked about this in the past, we don’t have time for it again—but we can prove that the Bible is God’s Word, that it is inspired of God. We can prove that in many ways, and anybody who is interested in knowing why or what, Gary can send you some tapes or whatever, just ask about it. But we have archaeological evidence, we have historical evidence, we have prophecies that have come true, unlike any other book in the [world]. And Paul—there are verifications for Paul’s authority, which again, we don’t have time to give. But you would think, I mean, even the Catholic Church—now this man was a Catholic—even the Catholic Church would acknowledge Paul’s authority.
Tom: The Sacred Scriptures, that’s one of their authorities. The problem is it’s not the only one, but go ahead, Dave.
Dave: Sadly, yes, they go by tradition as well, and their tradition contradicts the Scriptures, so we’ve got a real problem. Well, what did Paul say—Paul and Silas—when the Philippian jailer cried…and he’s in desperate straits! He wants a straight answer: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” They didn’t say anything about baptism. Yes, he was baptized after he believed. Didn’t say anything about confession or Mass or…
Tom: Holy days of obligation.
Dave: Right, any of the things that this catechism says are necessary for salvation: dying with sanctifying grace, and so forth. Not a word about that! Now if we want to go to a higher authority, that would be Jesus himself. And Jesus said: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten…”—well, let’s go back a few verses. This is John:3:14,15,16: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness….” Well, what was that? Well, the Jews had sinned, and God sent a judgment upon them, “fiery serpents,” it says—I don’t know exactly what a fiery serpent is, but when it bit you, you died—and Moses cried out to God for mercy, for forgiveness for their sin, and God said, “Well, put a serpent on a pole, made out of brass, and whoever looks to that serpent….” In other words, you are trusting God for His cure. It’s not a do-it-yourself kit! He didn’t give them some Band-Aids or some serum, anti-venom serum, or whatever, but this is something that God does. He brought the judgment, He brought the salvation. And if you will look to this serpent in faith, trusting God, in repentance, I mean, they would be repentant of their sin or they wouldn’t look to it, then you will be healed.
So Jesus said—and by the way, this is a good verse for Calvinists, who say salvation is only for a few and Jesus only died for the elect. Jesus himself likens His death upon the Cross to the serpent upon the pole, and Jesus said, “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up.” In other words, there is no other salvation except He is lifted up on a Cross—men did that to Him—but as He hung upon the Cross, God laid upon Him our sins; He paid the penalty for our sins— “even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Again, Jesus doesn’t say a word about baptism and all of these other things.
Tom: Dave, there’s another teaching in there about the bronze serpent. Because, as you said, those were to look upon it in faith. So, faith was the thing—not the serpent itself, not this icon, or whatever you would like to call it. But men then, the scripture tells us, sometime later made this serpent efficacious in itself. This became something of ritual, which is exactly what the Roman Catholic Church has done in many ways, looking to the, what we would call an ordinance, they would call a sacrament, and making that efficacious in itself.
Dave: Yeah, well, that’s true. The Mass, the wafer—eating this wafer, you know, ingesting Jesus into your stomach over and over and over, and the more you do it the more grace you get—that simply isn’t true. It doesn’t happen that way. But that would be a symbol of what Christ did. But what Christ did was efficacious. He paid the penalty for our sin.
So, the next verse, every Sunday School child—I guess, I’m not so sure about today’s Sunday Schools, but when I went to Sunday School—surely that would be the first verse that every child learned, 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.” And if you go down to the last verse in John:3:36, He says, “He that believeth on the Son…”—this is Jesus speaking—“has everlasting life: he that believeth not the Son of God shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”
So I think we can cut right through all of this ritual and the requirements: you’ve got to wear medals and a scapular, and the scapular says: “Whosoever dies wearing this scapular shall not suffer eternal fire.” What kind of a God lets you out of hell because you wear a scapular! And by whose authority was that printed on that scapular? This was, as you know, Tom, you can go into more detail than I can, an apparition! Much of Catholic doctrine comes from these apparitions.
Tom: Called Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Dave: But it contradicts the Word of God. So, what must I do to be saved? Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ! He paid the penalty for your sins. You can’t merit it, you can’t add to it, you can’t take from it—why not accept what He did and by faith believe in Him and you are saved eternally! This is the promise of the Word of God, regardless of what any church or any religious leader says.
Tom: Dave, the questioner moves beyond their background in Catholicism to now his or her experience in Protestant denominations. It made me think of an experience that I had addressing…I wasn’t the speaker, but had the opportunity to address an audience, which was made up of Roman Catholics, maybe half of the audience, and many evangelicals who were very pro-Roman Catholic. I introduced myself as the Executive Director of Reaching Catholics for Christ, which is an organization I helped co-found, and when I mentioned that, Dave, the moans and the groans! “What is this all about? Reaching Catholics for Christ? What could that be?” And so I asked them, “Why does this offend you? If there was an organization out there called Reaching Baptists for Christ or reaching Methodists for Christ, I would join that as well, because no denomination, again, among the Protestant denominations that I’m aware of, you’re not saved through the denomination, and nearly all would say that. There may be some cults posing as denominations, and so on, but as you said, it’s in His word, it’s His truth, and a denomination, regardless of the differences, if they are not pointing to God’s Word, to God’s truth, then they’re not worth anything. I mean, they are part of the problem. So, I would join an organization that wants to reach people, whatever title they have, whatever they say they belong to, but I want them to reach Christ.
Dave: Amen. And if you are a sinner, you qualify for salvation. Paul said, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Well, Tom, I noticed in the book here, in answering this particular question, I put in my favorite story. I’m sure we have told it on this program, but a long time ago—I can’t remember when. It involves Billy Graham, and it’s an experience that he had of being forgiven. Can I take the time to tell it?
Tom: Go ahead.
Dave: I’ll be as fast as I can. By the way, Tom, my publisher, Harvest House, said, “Wait a minute—you know, when I put that in the manuscript—they said, “Come on, we’ve never heard that. We have followed Billy Graham and that cannot possibly…where did you come up with that?”
Tom: Well, Bob Hawkins, Sr., was a good friend of Billy Graham, wasn’t he?
Dave: Right, and they said, No, we’ve never heard that. I said, “Come on, I’m getting old, but I do have a memory, and I remember it very clearly.” So, they literally went to the archives of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in Minneapolis and searched through—and what do you know! There they found it, exactly as I had put it in the manuscript.
Well, this, I think, is one of the best illustrations that I know of, and I tell it to people all over the world. Billy Graham—this was many years ago—he was driving his own car through…I don’t know, Alabama, somewhere down in the deep south…and going through a little town and suddenly, there’s a red light and a siren, and he is pulled over and given a ticket by a motorcycle officer for speeding. Now, in those little towns, at least in those days, they didn’t let you go back to New York and hope you would send them a check. They take you to the Justice of the Peace, and you pay cash before you get out of town.
Now, this was a very small town, and the Justice of the Peace happened to be a barber, and he held court in the barbershop, believe it or not! And so the motorcycle officer escorted Billy to the barbershop. The man was barbering a customer, and Billy had to sit and wait, and when he was done with his customer, he took off his barber’s apron and he opened a drawer and pulled out a long, black robe and put it on. He pulled out a gavel and he pounded—I guess he had a desk or something in there—and he said, “The court will now come to order, what is the charge?”
The motorcycle officer said, “Your Honor, this man was speeding. He was doing 35 in a 25 mile zone.”
Well, he pounds with his gavel and he says, “How does the defendant plead?”
Billy Graham said, “Well, truthfully your Honor, I wasn’t looking at the speedometer. If he says I was speeding, we have to take his word for it.”
He pounds with the gavel and says, “I find the defendant guilty as charged.” You know, it’s a long time ago by the fine: “Doing 35 in a 25 mile zone, that will be $10, one dollar for every mile.”
Billy Graham reached in his pocket, pulled out his wallet and was fumbling for the money, but the man is looking at him curiously, and, “You look familiar, I’ve seen you on television…Oh, you’re Billy Graham!” He reaches out, you know, to shake his hand, “What an honor to meet you!”
Now, this is exactly as it happened—such a friendly conversation, such admiration for Billy—maybe the man was a Christian, I don’t know, but such admiration for Billy, such a friendly conversation, well, Billy put his wallet away, and the conversation seemed to come to an end, and Billy Graham turned to leave. The judge now, the barber who is now the judge, pounded with his gavel and said, “That will be $10, one dollar for every mile. I may just be a barber most of the time, but when I sit on this bench, I try to run an honest court. The ticket has been written out; it has to be paid.”
Billy reached for his wallet again, but before he could get his money out, the man reached into the barber’s drawer, took out $10, put it in the court’s drawer and wrote out a receipt for Billy Graham. That is exactly what Jesus Christ has done for us. He’s our judge. The Father has committed all judgment to the Son. He’s the one that everyone must face in judgment. The ticket has been written out on every one of us, every person, we all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. The judge himself—now Billy could have paid the fine, but we can’t pay the fine. It’s infinite; God is infinite. We would be separated from God forever if we tried to pay that fine, and God himself then became a man. He paid the fine, and he has written out a receipt for us in the Bible if we are willing to accept Christ and His payment for our sins. I don’t know a better way to describe it.
Tom: And Dave, there is something about that—on the one hand, you say, “Oh yeah, that was honorable of this judge, barber, and so on, but why didn’t he just cut him a little slack here? You know, he could have saved himself ten bucks,” and…in other words, our hearts pull towards that, and then the really bad news about that is sometimes we have these thoughts and people say, “Well, God is more merciful than you give Him credit for,” and so on. But the thing that I’m understanding a little better, more and more, and I should have known it from the get-go, all of God’s attributes must be perfect. He’s a God of perfection. So He has to be absolutely just but at the same time absolutely merciful, absolutely loving. So that’s why we see justice and love in the same situation.
Dave: Well, the ticket has been written out. As this judge said, you can’t go against the law. God himself can’t just forgive people. He has pronounced the judgment of eternal death upon sin. Now He can’t just then say, “Oh, that’s okay, I’ll let you go this time—I’ll give you another chance.” Then we wouldn’t believe anything else He said.
That’s why Jesus wept in the garden and pleaded with the Father: “If it’s possible that man can be saved any other way, don’t make me go through with this.” And the Father said, “There is no other way. The penalty must be paid.”
Well, I think it’s logical, it certainly is biblical, and for some church—I don’t care how old they are, how big they are—to add to this and say, “Well yes, in addition to believing in Christ you’ve got to do this, you’ve got to be baptized, you’ve got to go to confession, you have to wear this, and you’ve got to subscribe to this, etc. etc.” That is an insult to Jesus Christ.
Tom: It’s a rejection. That’s why, again, as a former Catholic and somebody who speaks to these issues—particularly evangelicals—they say, “Our God is bigger than what you’re saying. Certainly, the very things that God’s about, this is richness.” Again, we said “tradition,” but in effect it’s a rejection of what Christ did.
Tom: It’s saying He did not pay the full penalty for our sins, and there are thing that we can do and must do to expiate our own sins, whether here or in purgatory, wherever it might be.
Dave: It’s a matter of justice, Tom. There is no way that you can expiate your own sins. Once you have sinned, you are a sinner. There is a penalty that must be paid. Now, how are you going to pay it? You cannot make up for—well, we’ve been through it a hundred times at least—you cannot make up for breaking the law in the past by keeping the law in the future. And the penalty prescribed by the law must be paid.
Now, even thought this was only $10 in those days, it’d probably be a couple hundred now, but anyway, whatever it was, Billy couldn’t say, “Well, I’ll mow your lawn, or I’ll do some penance, or well, I’ll pray every day, or I’ll go to church.” That wouldn’t work! You can’t even get off of a traffic ticket by going to church; you certainly are not going to escape the infinite justice of God for sin!
And, by the way, when we talk about sin, Adam and Eve—going back to that for the moment— I mean, this is a tremendous statement in the Bible. This is history. This is what happened. All they did was eat some fruit, forbidden fruit! Look what it brought: it brought separation from God, it brought death, it brought God’s judgment and the horrible situation in the world today. Look, just taking some fruit?
Tom: It’s a venial sin for most Catholics, or not even that: “Well, don’t even bother with it.”
Dave: Yeah. What could be wrong? Well, this is what was wrong: God had said not to do it! And they did it!
Dave: No matter how small the sin is, it is rebellion against God. It is pride, taking my own way, exalting myself above God. Literally, just in eating that fruit, literally, Adam and Eve are shoving God off of His thrown. They are putting themselves on that throne, and they are saying, “God, you can’t tell us what to do.”
Now, they don’t say it in those terms; they don’t even think in those terms. They just think, “Well, this is good—it tastes good, it looks beautiful, it’s supposed to make us wise—what could be wrong with that?” What is wrong with that is it is rebellion against God.
So, when we talk about sin, and we say the ticket has been written out, the penalty has to be paid—it is a matter of justice. Now, who makes the rules? God? Are you going to negotiate with Him? Tom, this is adding sin to sin! Not only have I sinned, but now I’m rebelling against God, who says the penalty must be paid. He told His Son in the Garden that He had to pay the penalty for our sins. It’s a slap in the face to Jesus if He lets anybody into heaven on any other basis.
Or, if someone says, as you just pointed out, Tom, “Well, Jesus didn’t fully pay the penalty. I’ve got to do my good works and my part,” and so forth. This is rebellion of the highest sort! This is—the greatest sin you could commit is to reject Jesus Christ, reject the payment that He has made, or attempt to add to it, or say it’s not enough, or “I’m going to do it some other way.” Well, Tom, we were going to try to get to another question today, but we didn’t quite make it.
Tom: This is important, Dave. Again, it’s a delusion. It’s irrational to think that there is something that we can do. The way I like to think about it, it’s an infinite penalty, and if I want to pay part of it, Dave, what’s paying, let’s say, 10 percent of infinity? It’s death!
Dave: Ten percent of infinity is infinity.
Tom: And 10 percent of death is death—that’s the way it works.
Dave: Well, Christ paid the full penalty. Let’s accept that payment from Him.