Lou: I want to come back to a basic question that I’ve heard again and again, “Must one obey God’s law to be saved?” You said the law is not a threat to our freedom. But on the other hand, don’t I have to obey it?
Graham: Maybe the safest way to approach that in a brief time is to consider the word “obedience.” The biblical word means “to listen humbly.” As Micah said, “All God asks of us is that we walk humbly before our God” (based on Micah 6:8). The thief on the cross didn’t have much time to live up to the many, many laws that had been used as God’s emergency measures, but he certainly was humbly and gratefully willing to listen to the One in the middle. And he died willing to listen; sincerely, honestly, willing to listen. He will arise in the same frame of mind. He has much to learn, but he’ll be a good disciple. That means he will be willing to listen, to accept instruction, and to accept correction.
Lou: Would it be better, Graham, if instead of, “do you have to obey God’s law to be saved?” I asked, “do you have to listen to be saved?”
Graham: I’d even go beyond that: To obey God’s law is to be loving.
Lou: So do I have to be loving to be saved?
Graham: Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Unless you are born of the Spirit, you will not be saved” (based on John 3:5). And the man who is born of the Spirit, whose fruit is love and truth (Gal 5:22-23), will now have truth in the inner man (Eph 3:16). He will have a new heart and a right spirit (Ezek 36:26-27). Yes, I would say that unless one has at least the beginning of this experience of love and trustworthiness, he or she will not be saved. And that’s from 1 John. “Hereby we know if we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren” (based on 1 John 3:14). I mean, unless we see the beginning of a new regard for each other, we do not have the first symptom of salvation.
Lou: So, are you saying that I have to do this? I’m trying to find out. Is there something I have to do to be saved?
Graham: We’ll cover that in a later chapter, the one on the matter of perfection (Chapter Fourteen). Do I have to be perfect? I would say perfection is not something God demands of us; it is something He offers to us. He says, “I offer you a new heart. I offer you a right spirit. I offer you healing. Do you want it?” If I don’t want it, I’m not savable. In fact the word “save” in the Greek also means “to heal.” If I say I don’t want to be healed, I don’t want to have a loving heart and truth in the inner man, then I don’t want to be saved either. In any case, to put the Ten Commandments on the wall in a mechanical sort of a way is to miss the whole point.
Lou: Let me try it another way. Our subject in this chapter has to do with a threat to our freedom. Now based on what you’ve said, let me ask respectfully: “Am I really free if I have to love and obey; if, as you put it, I need to listen? How can I think I am really free?
Graham: Well, let’s put it this way. If we lived in a society where we didn’t love each other and we couldn’t be trusted, there would be no freedom. There can’t be freedom without trust. There can’t be freedom in a disorderly, chaotic, lawless society. It’s interesting how one can phrase these things in such a way that it sounds like a burden, like a restriction on our freedom.
But what is God asking us to do, anyway? I would say He is asking us to love each other, to be trustworthy, to be safe, to be free. Who would want to turn that down? You say, “Do I have to be free? Do I have to be saved? Do I have to be healthy? Do I have to be well?” God says, “No. I can’t command it, but I can offer it to you.” And some of us say, “I’d like that very much.”