Gary: Welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7, a radio ministry of The Berean Call. I’m Gary Carmichael; we’re glad you could join us! In today’s program, we continue a series of classics from our Search the Scriptures Daily archives, first broadcast in 2008, with the late founder of The Berean Call, Dave Hunt, and TBC executive director Tom McMahon. This week, they address the question: What Must We Do to Be Saved? And now, here’s Tom.
Tom: Thanks, Gary. You’re tuned in 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.
We are wrapping up our discussion of Dave Hunt’s book, Seeking and Finding God: In Search of the True Faith. And you will notice, if you’re viewing our program, that Dave is not in the studio with me, and those listening will get that idea as they hear Dave on what is obviously a phone line. He’s home recovering from a fractured rib that happened recently as he was recovering from back surgery, which took place when he was on the mend from a prostrate procedure that was done as he was recovering from a replacement from an earlier hip replacement. So, Dave, I’m almost afraid to ask you how you’re doing, but I dare to do it. How are you doing?
Dave: Well (and I hate to say it like this), every day in every way, getting a little better, but it’s a long process. Ribs – I’ve had a broken rib before. Very painful, one of the most painful things I have ever experienced.
Tom: And it doesn’t help to be just recovering from back surgery.
Dave: Well, I tell you, it’s by God grace. My foolishness that I fell – I was careless, I should not have – and I landed on my back on the edge of a very heavy, unforgiving coffee table; you can hardly move it, and just above where my back surgery had taken place. So, by God’s grace, He guided me, at least.
Tom: So, are you up to concluding our discussion of your book, Seeking and Finding God?
Dave: Well, yes, sure!
Tom: Okay. For the last couple of weeks we’ve been explaining the biblical gospel of salvation, and, hopefully, we presented it simply and clearly. Yet, Dave, as you know, there are other gospels around. I’m looking at chapter 10 of your book, Seeking and Finding God (if you just joined us). Dave, you give two verses here – well, first of all, the title is “Mercy vs. Works,” and I want to quote the two verses that you begin the chapter with. This is from Exodus:20:24-26: “An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me…And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: and if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it. Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon.” And, Dave, you compare that with this next verse, Genesis:11:4: “Let us build us a city and a tower (of Babel), whose top may reach unto heaven.”
So, you say, “No two tenets of faith could be more opposed to one another.” Now what do you mean by that, Dave?
Dave: Well, grace or works, mercy or works – it’s a tendency that every human being has: “I’ve got to do something. Somehow, I don’t want to just have a gift, I want to do something; I want to be worthy of salvation.” And that is the worst thing that one could think.
If God…you see, the problem is…we’ve got a problem between man and God, and man is not going to solve it from his side. We don’t sit down and negotiate a deal with God. If there is going to be any salvation, it must come from God’s side. He’s the one who has been offended – more than offended; He has been rebelled against, and we’re going to have to repent. And unless He is willing to forgive us – and of course He could only be willing to forgive us if there’s a righteous basis – He can’t just say, “Oh well, okay, I’ll forgive you.” The penalty has to be paid, and we cannot pay it. So we are totally…and, we throw ourselves upon God’s mercy. And if He is not going to be merciful to us, or if He does not have a righteous way whereby He can forgive us, then it’s hopeless. You can build all the beautiful buildings, you can make the most elaborate “sanctuaries,” they call them. The Bible says…well, Paul, speaking on Mars Hill, Acts 17, he says: “God dwelleth not in temples made with hands. Neither is He worshipped with man’s hands as though He has need of anything, seeing He gives to all life and breath and all that we possess.” So Paul says, “Wait a minute! You think you’re going to give God something? Somehow you’re going to buy His favor? Do You think God needs anything? He doesn’t need anything from you except your repentance.
Tom: Dave, last week, as you remember, we talked a little bit about Cain and Abel. Well, first of all, go back to the Garden of Eden. God covered Adam and Eve with the bloodied skins of an animal. That pointed to death – that without the shedding of blood there is no redemption, there is no forgiveness of sins. So, that’s God’s plan, that’s His plan of salvation, that’s His gospel. Yet when we get to Cain and Abel and they are to bring a sacrifice before God, Abel does – he brings what God desires. (And, again, these things were all to point to Jesus Christ, to point to His death on the cross). But Cain – he brings something of his own effort, something of his own works.
Dave: From his garden.
Dave: Or vegetables, and so forth. Tom, many years ago – I can’t remember how many years ago – I happened to be in Salt Lake City, and so I went to the…well, they have two visitor centers, North and South, I think, and I don’t remember which one it was, but anyway, I went in and a guide takes you through. I think one of the first things that we were presented with – well, here’s an altar. And this was supposedly the altar that God commanded Adam to construct and on which he would make an offering. First of all, it was in violation of Exodus 20.
Tom: Right, the verse that I read earlier.
Dave: Yeah. If you can’t scrape enough dirt together to build an altar of earth, then you can make it of stones, but you may not make it of cut stones. In fact, God says if you lift up your tool upon it, you have polluted it! In other words, God doesn’t allow man to be involved in His redemption. This is all from God’s side. “For by grace are ye saved, through faith, not of yourselves, it’s a gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast, for we are His workmanship,” and so forth,
Here we are in this Visitor’s Center in Salt Lake City, and there’s this altar. It’s made of cut stone, and would you believe it? There are vegetables on this altar, and carrots and celery, and you know, various things like that out of Cain’s garden. And there’s a lamb, very much alive, just lying in front of the altar, comfortably relaxing. I said to the guide, “What is this?”
“Oh, well, this is an altar that God commanded Adam to build.”
I said, “What’s that on the altar?”
“Well, it’s an offering.”
I said, “Look, this is Cain’s offering! This is in violation of what God said. The lamb should be on the altar, having been slain,” and so forth.
The guide was a bit bewildered, and I guess there were a number… there was group of people there, and they were shocked as well.
“Well, I’ll…umm…umm…I’ll take that up with the higher ups,” and so forth [he said].
Well, all I can tell you, the next time I went in there, that altar had been removed. At least they had enough sense to do that. So, it’s a natural tendency: “Well, what can I do?” For example, the Philippian jailer cries out to Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Well, it’s not a do-it-yourself-kit religion. It’s not what I must do for salvation. I can’t do anything! It’s all about what Jesus Christ has done. And until I am willing to believe that Christ paid the full penalty, and that He offers me as a free gift of His grace: salvation, forgiveness, eternal life, I have not accepted the gift of salvation. I am not saved. I’m still trusting to my own efforts, and that is one of the toughest lessons for man to learn.
Tom, you’ve been to Europe. You’ve seen the cut stones, you’ve seen the magnificent structures, the cathedrals that are built, and that’s a violation of what God said. This is man’s efforts: “Now we’re going to make it as beautiful as we can, we’re going to make it as elaborate as we can. Let’s get some stained glass windows in there.” And, please, I hope the listeners and viewers are not condemning me now – “Well, this guy is so critical.” No, I am just explaining what God said: “It is not by works of righteousness that we have done, but by His mercy He has saved us.”
But everywhere, you see the works of man, the vestments, and, “Oh, if we could just have some more elaborate vestments!” And, as you know, Tom, you’ve been in a few Catholic cathedrals; you’ve seen the…you go down underneath to the treasury, and there is a display of the vestments, some of them so elaborate, with pearls, silver, and gold, as though they could somehow impress God. God is not impressed with our works! It’s not a light thing!
Tom: I know, Dave! Let’s go back to the other verse that you began the chapter with: “Let us build us a city and a tower [speaking about Babel], whose top may reach unto heaven.” Now, we go from Cain’s offering, which God rejects, and now man, big time! They’re going to work their way to heaven, obviously recognizing that they can’t get all the way to heaven, but still that’s the attempt to reach God through their own works, through their own efforts.
Dave: Yeah, we would say it’s – of course, in this modern age we know you’re not going to build a tower that’s going to get you to heaven. But this is what they were literally…they thought they could do. I don’t know how high they got, but it’s stupid, okay? It’s just a picture of our efforts: “Well, what can I offer you, God? Couldn’t I give you a gift? What do you need, God? Well, I’ll put something in the offering plate, or let me give something to charity, or maybe I could—oh, they are going to have a workday at the church. Well, I’ll show up for that, and I’ll bring my tools, and I’m going to work so hard!”
That’s good, but that is not going to get you to heaven! And if you use this – works, or whatever you are giving to God – if you think that that helps your salvation, you have insulted God. You are really denying the gospel, and that’s the whole lesson here of the Tower of Babel.
Tom: Right. “We’ve been saved unto good works,” not “We have been saved because of our good works.” That’s a contradiction.
Tom: Dave, Babel again. This is not just a rejection of God’s salvation, and a salvation program of mankind, but it’s symbolic. We’re talking now world government; we’re talking about a religious government. I mean, this is really pointing to the Antichrist, isn’t it?
Dave: Well, there will be a world government. There will be a world ruler. Of course, one day Jesus Christ will rule the world, as He is entitled to, but this is not what man has in mind. We are still determined, by our own efforts. It’s ridiculous. It’s incredible. I mean, you know, I’ve used many, many illustrations: “This old nag that can hardly stagger out of the starting gate, has never gotten very far down the track yet, but I go there day after day betting my money on that horse.” This is like man betting his money on man.
We’ve got elections coming up now. We’ve got these conventions going, we’ve got candidates, and we’re got promises, and it’s all about [how] we’re going to build a new world. Somehow, we are going to repair this mess that we have made. What’s the problem with the world?
It’s man! Now, who are we going to have solve this problem? “Well, of course, man. I mean, we’ve got science, and we’re going to somehow build a new world,” and so forth.
That is not going to work, but it certainly isn’t going to get you to heaven. So, Tom, it should be so easy for people to see. But it’s not easy, because pride enters in. “I’m not going to live off of charity, I’m not going to have God just give me a gift and take me to heaven, I want to do something for this.”
Tom: Dave, that’s why it’s really clear in Ephesians, which you have quoted a couple of times: “…not of works, lest any man should boast.” I always had problems with that. Why would it say to “boast”? Because that’s what we’re doing! We’re taking pride in what we think we’re doing, or we’re doing this for God, or whatever. It really is a pride thing, isn’t it?
Dave: It is, Tom, unfortunately, and we could look at this from many angles, but one of them is… [There’s] a big discussion among Christians: Once saved, always saved; or can you lose your salvation? and so forth. Well, I couldn’t earn my salvation. I couldn’t merit it, so why would I lose it? It wasn’t mine in the first place!
I think one of the simplest ways of looking at it, Tom, you cannot walk the golden streets in heaven above and say, “Well, I know I was saved by grace; that was wonderful that Christ died for my sins, but I kept myself saved by my good works. I lived a life that was worthy of this, and so that’s why I am in heaven. Yes, it’s the grace of God, and Christ dying for me on the cross, and so forth, but after all I had a part in this too! If it hadn’t been for my good life, I would have lost my salvation.”
Now that enters into it as well, and we need to recognize that. What can I do to please God? Let me quote again a verse that I quoted earlier: God is not worshipped with men’s hands, as though God that made the world and all things therein, seeing He is Lord of heaven and earth. Let me quote it properly: “He doesn’t dwell in temples made with hands.” Are you going to build a beautiful cathedral? It really kind of chills me, Tom, when…here’s a Protestant church, maybe a good evangelical church, and they talk about their meeting place as the “sanctuary.” Well, “let’s get into the sanctuary.” Well, God doesn’t dwell in temples made with hands, He’s not worshipped with men’s hands. He doesn’t need anything! He is Lord of all. He gives us life and breath and all that we possess. Does God need anything from me? How am I going to impress God? “I’ve got to do something for this salvation.”
Well, I think we’ve belabored that enough, but this is the problem in religion. What is religion all about? “If we could just build a more beautiful sanctuary. Can’t we do something for God?”
“He dwelleth not in temples made with hands.” He is not worshiped with men’s hands. He doesn’t need anything from us. Now, we can please God. Tom you were quoting the rest of that verse: “We are created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.”
Tom: Right, Ephesians:2:10.
Dave: We don’t get salvation by working, but after we are saved – I used to tell Jehovah’s Witnesses, back in the early days, “I’ve probably knocked on more doors than you have. I’ve knocked on thousands of doors, but why do I do it? Out of gratitude and love for the Christ who died for me, who bought my salvation at a price I could never pay. But why are you folks going around door to door? Because you are trying to earn your salvation. There’s a big difference. You cannot earn your salvation, but we can please God: “good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.” We should do good deeds. Well, the Bible calls us to do good deeds!
Tom: Well, it says “We are a peculiar people, zealous for good works.”
Dave: Very good.
Tom: Yeah, now, Dave, let’s end with this: What must I do to be saved?
Dave: Well, that’s what the Philippian jailer asked: “What can I do?” I cannot do anything for my salvation, but I can accept my salvation from God. It’s a gift. “The wages of sin is death” You want your wages that you have earned by your sin? Okay, but “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” And don’t forget “through Jesus Christ our Lord.” God can’t just give you the gift of salvation except on the basis of the full payment of the penalty by Jesus Christ upon the cross.
So, what must I do? “Nothing in my hand I bring; simply to thy cross I cling.” The Psalmist says: “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits? I will take the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord.” And you cannot earn a gift. If you try to give something in exchange for a gift, you’ve destroyed the gift. It’s not a gift. It is by grace, not works, and I don’t think we could emphasize that enough, Tom.
Tom: Dave, let’s just close with this. Your last chapter is “The Call to Discipleship,” and just one statement you make, I think we all need to take to heart: “Those who preach the gospel are to disciple those who believe it.” Those are our marching orders! Not only do we receive God’s free gift of salvation, but we preach it and teach it.
Gary: You’ve been listening to a special edition of Search the Scriptures 24/7 with Dave Hunt and T.A. McMahon, a radio ministry of The Berean Call. The complete radio discussion of Dave’s “Seeking and Finding God” is available from The Berean Call. We offer a wide variety of resources to help you in your study of God’s Word. For a complete list of materials and a free subscription to our monthly newsletter contact us at PO Box 7019 Bend, Oregon, 97708. Call us at 800.937.6638; or visit our website at the bereancall.org. I’m Gary Carmichael, thanks for being here and we invite you back again next week. Until then, we encourage you to Search the Scriptures 24/7.