TV Ministries and the Plan of Salvation

By Stephen P. Willis

(TV Evangelist): “God loves you, He really does I ” – I had a strong temptation to end this article here, leaving an empty page. When I was young, I saw a 400-page book entitled, Scriptural Arguments in Favor of Instrumental Music. The title was on the book’s spine. AD of the pages were BLANK. (The point: no scriptural arguments.) Most TV ministries go to great lengths to stress God’s love, which is great indeed – but leave the viewer with a big BLANK when it comes to God’s way of saving people.

“Turn your radio on. . . ” used to be the anthem for people to get in touch with God. Now there is another medium, television. We have had more than one generation raised on television. To them it is just as “natural” to watch the television as to listen to the radio. TV is taking over when it comes to communication between people. The use of satellites has given a large number of stations from which to choose attracting many faithful, charitable viewers. Air time is not cheap so “religious networks” are becoming more and more popular. This great expense is also the reason for many, many appeals for money. But wait, those appeals are at the end of the show. Let’s start from the beginning. . .

(Tympani drum-roll, start theme music, roll great computer graphics). An announcer welcomes the viewers, tells of all the guests, news blurbs, and finally introduces the “stars” of the show (applause, end theme music).

At this point there are many formats that the “ministries” follow. Some are: televised worship services, teaching sessions, news and commentary, instrumental music (with or without singing), politics, economics, health, movie/record reviews, cooking and household hints, interviews with politicians, performers, and preachers, and audience participation. Somewhere in all this we’ll see the testimonials (“witnessing”) of events in peoples’ lives bringing them to believe that they were saved or healed at a particular point in their fives.

Some of this can be entertaining or educational. Herein lies the danger, for at this time in the show we are to have had an emotional “connection” to someone or some event. Since we share in the human condition, we might have had similar trials, or even sinned in a similar manner. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Sin is the problem. Sin is the question. At this point we are anxiously waiting for the answer. What shall we do? What do most TV ministries tell us to do in order to be saved?

It is at this point in the show that the “host” will remind us of God’s gracious love. Perhaps, with Bible in hand he will tell of the sacrifice of Jesus, the Son of God, and that there is no other way to be right before God except in Jesus’ name. With Bible in hand he would guide us to say the “Sinner’s Prayer.” With Bible in hand . . . wait a minute! The “Sinner’s Prayer”? With Bible in hand please show us where the “Sinner’s Prayer” is recited by an apostle or one wanting to be a Christian! Here we would find, a big BLANK.

As interesting as the problem might seem, as likable as the host might be, as right as his teaching might be in some areas, how to be saved is a BLANK that needs to be filled with Scripture.

Salvation is based on the love and grace of God the Father and Jesus the Savior (Jn. 3:16; Acts 15:11). The gospel is God’s power for salvation (Rom. 1:16), and after hearing, the gospel, we must believe if we are to be saved (Eph. 1:13). Repentance and turning from sin is necessary also (Acts 3:19). Romans 10:10 says that confession results in salvation. Most ministries claiming to be “Christian” will include these things as needful for one to be saved. Some even have telephone numbers on the TV screen so one can call in to be encouraged to do these things, or so one who thinks himself saved can confess it. (One could also use one of these numbers to pledge financial contributions.) Let me add some “ministries” tell the respondent to find a local church. Some will send literature (with tides like ‘Now that I’m Saved’), or further requests for donations. Perhaps these points begin to fill in the BLANK a little, but if a person has done all these things, what is his condition before God? Where do the TV ministries leave the sinner? The answer: lost in sin! A penitent Saul of Tarsus still needed to “Arise, and be baptized (4mersed in water sw), and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22:16). The same Saul (Paul) would tell the Romans that baptism puts one “into Christ” and that after baptism one begins “newness of life” (6:3,4). Even with God’s grace and the love of Jesus, a believing, repenting, confessing person is in his sins and outside Christ until he washes away his sins and appeals to God for a clean conscience. Peter said baptism saves; it is our appeal (1 Pet. 3:21).

Often the TV preachers will quote Romans 10:13: “for whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (NASB). I believe that this is probably their proof-text for the “Sinner’s Prayer,” prayer being our call to God. But let Scripture interpret Scripture. Paul was told that submitting to baptism was “calling on His name” and Peter said that baptism (which saves us) is our legal appeal to God. When the Ethiopian man in Acts 8 said, “Look! Water!. What prevents me from being baptized?”, he was asking, “What keeps me from calling on the name of the Lord?” The answer was based on his belief. Jesus said, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; he who has disbelieved shall be condemned” (Mk. 16:16). Only the believer can call. Baptism is how we call.

Whether they believe it or not, the denominational TV evangelists are like Job’s friends: “Sorry comforters are you all” (16:2); “You are all worthless physicians” (13:4). They are saying, “Peace, peace” when there is no peace (cf. Jer. 6:14). Oft times they bring sinners to understand the danger of sin, but teach a different gospel about the forgiveness of sins, leaving many comforted while still lost in their sins. The Bible says that if these preachers continue to teach and practice this “other” gospel they are “accursed” or “cut off” – “anathema” (Gal. 1:8,9); so are those who believe the false gospel. Remember, when the blind 4ead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch!

“Get in touch with God. . .” turn your television off. Open your Bible.

Guardian of Truth XXXI: 12, pp. 372-373
June 18, 1987