Dear Mr. Wilkin,
Thank you for your wonderful work in proclaiming the Gospel of grace! Continue to stand fast in the liberty with which Christ has made us free.
You gave an excellent response to R.E. (Letters to the Editor, May 1990); however, you missed a terrific opportunity! R.E. asks, “What does God desire from all men?” This question, in the middle of R.E.’s letter, is indeed the very center of his confusion. It is and has always been the central question concerning man’s relationship with God.
Jesus was asked the same question: “What must we do to do the works God requires?” (John 6:28). Not works (plural), but a single work was Jesus’ terse and pointed response. “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent” (v.29).
The listeners must have been as surprised as R.E. that Jesus did not list “confession of sin,” love, trust, and obedience,” “intention to reform on the part of man,” or “moral reformation,” all of which R.E. insists on adding to “what God wants.” What God wants, all God wants, is faith in Jesus!
We should resist the urge to defend our grace position concerning holiness and godliness when such a direct question about the desires and requirements of God is put to us. Let us give the same simple but powerful answer Christ gave: What God desires from all men is that they believe in (trust) Jesus. Let the questioner be left with this alone to wrestle with: “Do you believe Jesus’ answer that faith is all God requires? If not, you are not fulfilling the one and only requirement of God.”
We can’t possibly improve upon or add to Jesus’ masterful answer to the central question of life.
Gratefully yours in Him,
Baton Rouge, IA
Your point is well taken regarding what God wants us to do to obtain eternal life. And, you are of course right that this is the central question of life with such a simple, yet often missed, answer.
And, of course you are right in saying that we can’t improve on what the Lord Jesus said in John 6.
I have two points of clarification regarding your letter, however. First, as you know, some people sincerely believe that by the word faith Jesus meant commitment of life and moral reform. Thus they would understand John 6:28-29 to teach Lordship Salvation. I think it is also important to show them why we are convinced that faith does not mean commitment of life and moral reform. I find it very helpful to answer the interpretive questions which others raise.
Second, I think you overstate the case, probably for emphasis, when you say that “all God wants is faith in Jesus.” If you mean that all God wants or requires in terms of eternal salvation is trusting in Christ alone, I would agree. However, God wants much more of people than coming to faith in the Lord Jesus.
R.E. seemed to be asking whether God wants all men to love and obey Him. That is a different question than the one asked the Lord in John 6:28. We find his question in places like Matthew 22:36 where the Lord was asked which is the greatest commandment in the law. He responded by saying that the greatest commandment is that we should love the Lord with all our heat, soul, and mind, and that the second greatest command is that we should love our neighbor as yourself. Clearly He was calling for more than just faith in Himself
Similarly, John 13:34, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another,” is but one other example of myriads which could be cited which show that God commands more than believing in Christ.
God wants all to place their trust in Christ, to obey that single command, and then go on to maturity in Christ and obey all of His commands in all areas of life. As long as we make sure not to confuse these two, it is perfectly appropriate to say that God desires both of all people.
Thank you for your letter. It gave me a chance to clarify my position in two important areas. Ed.