INQUIRIES INTO TRUTH

GARY W. SUMMERS

   

The most response we ever receive from the material on our Website are from those who do not appreciate our comments on Max Lucado. Most of these do not deal with the Scriptures; they seek merely to vent frustration with their man being "attacked," as they perceive it. Occasionally, however, someone seeks to know more information, and we are happy to use the reply as a teaching opportunity. Following is one such e-mail exchange.

Dear Mr. Summers,

I am a little lost after reading your articles on Mr. Lucado. Can you tell me where in the Bible it explains the EXACT plan of salvation? I have come to the determination that "religion" is comprised of man-made rules and laws --"religion" is man's interpretation of scripture. I agree with you that we each have a personal responsibility to seek truth in God's Word, but are we not also responsible for building a personal relationship with God through prayer, repenting of our sins, and continually seeking His will for our lives? I am saved by God's grace and Christ's sacrifice.....there is nothing I can do to guarantee my salvation. I have read several of Max's books and have not found any of them to be in contradiction with what I believe. If I am wrong, please enlighten me.

Very Respectfully,

M. H. Friedberg, Germany

This seemed like a sincere request rather than the usual emotion-based response that characterizes most of Max's devotees. So we responded thus:

Dear M. H.,

Thank you for your inquiry.

Since you asked, I pray that you will not be offended by the reply. God could have written the Scriptures in such a fashion as this: "If you want to please Me, do the following things: 1., 2., 3., etc."

Instead, things are discussed in several passages, and the thoughtful student must study to get the whole picture, which constitutes diligently seeking Him (Heb. 11:6). There is no one verse that tells us how to attain initial salvation. Many verses emphasize the grace of God, which we must understand. God does not owe us salvation. But there are terms He has set forth for us to obtain this salvation; otherwise everyone would receive it, and you know that is not the case (Matt. 7:13-14).

Faith is emphasized in many passages because it is the starting point of coming to God. Usually, it implies obedience to God, as in Hebrews 11. Faith cannot be defined apart from man's actions. This is James' thesis, also: Faith without works (obedience) is dead (James 2:14-26). [James is not referring to works of merit or the works of the Law of Moses; he means compliance with God's will.]

Repentance is also necessary (Luke 13:3). We cannot continue to love sin and hope to be saved; we must give it up. There must also be a love of the truth, without which we cannot be saved (2 Thess. 2:10). We must possess a love of God as well; these are the two greatest commandments (Matt. 22:37-40). Do you see what I mean about there not being one passage that lists these things in order?

Faith is listed as the first response of man leading to his salvation; baptism is the culmination of the process. Jesus listed the first and last steps together in Mark 16:16. Salvation is promised to those who believe (the first essential) AND are baptized (the last essential)--not to those who believe only. He does not mention repentance or the love of God and truth, but other passages teach us of their necessity.

On the day of Pentecost, Peter was privileged to preach the first public sermon after Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection. Through the use of Old Testament Scriptures he convinced them that what had happened had been prophesied. Furthermore, the apostles were all eyewitnesses of the Lord's resurrection (Acts 2:32). Peter went on to affirm that God had made the same Jesus whom they had crucified both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36). The people asked him what they should do?

As you study verse 38, consider what Peter did not say. He did not say, "Well, if you believe, that's all that is necessary." He did not say, "Do? Why, there's nothing you can do. That would be earning salvation." Instead, he told them the proper way to respond to their sins: "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).

Baptism is neither a ritual nor a work of man. It is the operation or working of God (Col. 2:12); it is the answer of a good conscience toward God (1 Peter 3:21); it is the means of being joined together with Christ in His death (Rom. 6:3-5); and it is to be obeyed from the heart (Rom. 6:17-18).

Has Max ever told you, in all the books you have read, what Peter said? He will occasionally mention baptism, but not to be saved. Peter, the inspired apostle, said it was in order to be saved.

Does it trouble you that you have not been told to do what the Bible says concerning salvation? It should. Have you been told that the way of salvation is "faith only"? If so, that excludes repentance and does not mention the love of the truth, love for God, or baptism for the remission of sins. How can these verses that only mention one or two components of salvation be reconciled? You know that the Bible does not contradict itself. All of these are elements of salvation. They are all necessary.

I am confident that you will give careful consideration to these matters. Please write back and let me know how your study is progressing.

In love, Gary

We genuinely thought that she would be considering some of this material for the very first time and prayed that it might have a profound effect on her. Alas! she wrote back, citing the thief on the cross, as if that one incident negated the accounts of conversion in Acts.

Dear Mr. Summers,

Thank you for your thoughtful response. Would you please explain further what you mean by "baptism"? Is it not God's grace accepted through faith in Christ that saves us? Isn't the physical act of baptism the expression of our choice to claim this truth? Why else would Jesus in Luke 23:43 not tell the criminal that he had to be baptized before he could be with Him in paradise? Also, I am not a theologian, so please clarify what you meant in Mark 16:16. You said that salvation is not promised to those who believe only. The scripture goes on to say that whoever does not believe (no mention of baptism) will be condemned. Correct me if I'm wrong, but having salvation is the opposite of being condemned, right?

Very Respectfully, M. H.

Our next (and what turned out to be our final) reply attempted to clearly answer these new questions. How disappointing that no further comments were received.

M. H.,

I do not mean anything other than what the Scriptures mean in my choice of terminology. Baptism is being placed beneath the water (any Greek lexicon will define this term for you). If you read the passage I cited in Romans 6:3-5, you saw that baptism is a burial in water, and it is the means of participating in Christ's death. It is also the point at which the blood of Christ washes away sins. Please compare Revelation 1:5 with Acts 22:16. The blood of Christ washes away our sins WHEN we are baptized. So it is not just a declaration of our choice. You received that notion from men--not the Scriptures. If a person is not baptized in water FOR the remission of sins, then he/she has not contacted the blood of Christ and therefore has no forgiveness. For that reason Jesus said, "He who believes AND is baptized shall be saved." That is not my thought on the subject; Jesus said it. The promise of salvation is not, "He who believes shall be saved." Fear not, you do not need to be a theologian in order to understand this simple sentence. Obviously, if a person does not believe, he will not be baptized; there was no need to say, "He who does not believe and is not baptized."

How do you know the thief had not already been baptized, since all Judea went out unto John to be baptized of him? But whether he was or not is irrelevant because, although the New Testament principles could be obeyed in advance, a person could still be saved as an Israelite in compliance with the Law of Moses. Therefore, the thief's repentance was sufficient. The New Testament does not take effect until after the death of Christ (Heb. 9:16-17). For that reason I referred you to Peter's sermon on the day of Pentecost, since the New Testament plan of salvation was first preached on that day. You were strangely silent concerning that. I pray that you are carefully considering all these points.

*Send comments or questions concerning this article to Gary Summers. Please refer to this article as: "INQUIRIES INTO TRUTH (10/14/01)."


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