By Larry Ray Halley
In his daily column, April 19, 1993, in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Billy Graham replied to a lady who stated that her ailing father “has never had anything to do with God, and when I bring up anything about turning to Christ and being prepared to die, he just laughs.” She asked, “As a Christian I am very concerned for him, but how can I get through to him and get him to face his need of salvation?”
Mr. Graham said, in part, “Only God can penetrate your father’s defenses and convict him of his need of Christ… that’s true of every person who refuses to face the truth about death and salvation and eternity.
“Only the Holy Spirit `will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment’ (Jn. 16:8).
“Pray for your father, therefore, that God would do what you cannot do bring conviction and faith to his heart.”
Suppose the lady continues to pray, teach and admonish her father and suppose he dies impenitent, unbelieving. Whose fault will it be? If “only God can penetrate (her) father’s defenses and convict him of his need of Christ,” and if “only the Holy Spirit” can convict him, directly and immediately, apart from the agency and instrumentality of the word of God, whose fault will it be if the man dies unsaved?
Truly, the Holy Spirit does convict the world of sin, but he does so “through” the word of the apostles (Jn. 17:17, 20; Acts 2:37). Indeed, “only God” can penetrate and permeate the heart of men and bring them to Christ, but he does so through the medium of the gospel, which is his power unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). If God has a power source and supply unto salvation other than the gospel, he has not made it known.
“God hath from the be-ginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto (unto salvation and sanctification) he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 2:13,14). God has chosen to save us through, by means of the setting apart of the Spirit and belief of the truth. The Spirit sanctifies, or sets us apart, by the truth, the gospel. At least, that is what Jesus thought and taught, “Sanctify them through thy truth: Thy word is truth” (Jn. 17:17).
So, if the lady’s ailing father is ever convicted and converted by the Spirit, it will have to be by means of the word of God (1 Cor. 1:18-21). The gospel is God’s dynamite, his Whose Fault Is It?.. power, to blast and tear down walls of opposition and unbelief (2 Cor. 10:3-5). If the unfortunate gentleman remains in adamant, defiant unbelief, it will not be God’s fault. “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ should shine unto them” (2 Cor. 4:3,4).
Billy Graham has done, however unwittingly, a disservice to the lady inquirer. Imagine her plight if her father dies in unbelief. She must, if consistent, blame God and the Holy Spirit because Mr. Graham says it is “only God” who can turn and change his heart in a mystical, mysterious manner, above and beyond the overtures, incentives and inducements of the gospel. Hence, her father’s death in infidelity will be God’s fault, according to the consequences of Mr. Graham’s teaching. That is a serious charge to lay at God’s feet, and I would not want to meet the Lord in judgment, having made such an accusation against him!
This is not written to “bash the Baptists.” It has that effect, of course, but our primary purpose is to prompt us to see the need for increased, incessant efforts to preach the gospel, to sound out the word of the Lord. While we are at ease in Zion, souls sink into the abiding abyss of a never ending eternity. No, it will not be God’s fault if the lady’s father dies outside of Christ, but it may be mine (Ezek. 3:18; Acts 20:26,27)! Do I know her? Do I know her father? Have I said nothing to her or to her father about the word of the cross? Must she return to Billy Graham and drown in futility and frustration because I have said nothing? If that be so, “I exceedingly fear and tremble.” What about you?
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 15, p. 1
August 5, 1993