A reader sent me an article dated August 28, 2018 from The Commercial Appeal. I think this is from the Memphis paper. The article is entitled, “It is not enough for us to just ‘believe in Jesus Christ.’” A question is given: “My friend asked me to become a Christian and said all I had to do was believe in Jesus to be saved. Is that all there is to it?” Then an answer followed. The answer was said to be “from the writings of the Rev. Billy Graham.”
I’m fairly sure that Graham did not answer this question. Some ghost writer wrote this answer in Graham’s name.
The answer given is amazingly bad.
“Just to say, ‘believe in Jesus’ can produce a false assurance of salvation, because even the devil ‘believes in Jesus.’” (See this 1995 article by Dr. John Hart for a clear explanation of James 2:19 and the faith of demons.)
Then the author says, “To believe in Jesus is to turn from a life of sin, to receive him as savior, and to follow him as lord by obeying his word.” Say what? Believing in Jesus is not about believing in Him at all? Instead it is turning from one’s sins, receiving Jesus as Savior (whatever that means), and following Him as Lord by obeying Him?
So saving faith is turning from sins and obeying Christ?
A bit later in the article the author says, “there is a cost to following this wonderful savior…Those who truly believe in Him will want to obey him with joy, no matter the cost.”
From what I’ve read about Billy Graham, he basically proclaimed the faith-alone message early in his ministry. It wasn’t until around 1955 that he began to court Roman Catholic clergy to sit with him on stage. Around that time his message started to shift to a more generic message (receive Christ, commit your life to Christ, accept Him, etc.). However, I do not recall anything as confusing as what was published in the newspaper clipping I received.
I recall a story in his biography, Just As I Am, from around 1989. Bill Clinton was Governor of Arkansas at the time. Graham was there for a Little Rock Crusade. Governor Clinton asked Billy Graham to meet with him and his pastor, W. O. Vaught (see Just As I Am, pp. 651-52). Vaught was pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock. Though Vaught was under 100 pounds and was near death, he preached to Graham and Clinton from his bed for 30-40 minutes (p. 652).
What is amazing is that W. O. Vaught was well known in Southern Baptist circles for proclaiming that faith in Christ was the sole condition of everlasting life. He authored a book called Believe Plus Nothing.
I have that book by Vaught on my shelf. Note this beautiful quote: “The only thing a sinner can do to be saved is to believe in Christ, change his mind about Christ. Therefore, sin is not the issue in salvation; Christ is the issue” (p. 22).
Note this great quote from Vaught about the security of our salvation: “The power that keeps a man saved, once he has believed, is the power of God. God’s hand holds on. Christ’s hand holds on. God’s faithfulness prevails. Man’s power is not involved in keeping himself in a saved condition” (p. 30). “God gives only one kind of salvation and it is everlasting, eternal, never ending” (p. 30). “Christ never saves a man twice, only once” (p. 30).
That account in Graham’s biography of his meeting with Vaught and Clinton made me think that Bill Clinton likely came to faith in Christ through the ministry of W. O. Vaught. It also made me think that Graham was at that time still at least open to the faith-alone message. I would have loved to have heard what Vaught taught Graham and Clinton.
If believing in Jesus is not enough to be born again, then lots of verses in the Bible are totally wrong, including, John 1:12-13; 3:14-18; 4:14; 5:24, 39-40; 6:35, 37, 39, 47; 11:25-27; 20:31; Acts 16:31; Rom 4:4-5; Gal 2:16; 3:6-14; Eph 2:8-9; 1 Tim 1:16; Rev 22:17.
Believing in Jesus for the everlasting life He promises is indeed the one and only condition of everlasting life. Turning from sins is not a condition of everlasting life. Nor is following Christ. As W. O. Vaught put it so well, Believe Plus Nothing.