Remembering Billy Graham
Who is Billy Graham? What did he believe? Here are some helpful quotes to introduce the Billy you never knew…
“I respect other paths to God,” (Billy Graham, Parade Magazine, Oct 20th 1996)
“I used to believe that pagans in far-off countries were lost — were going to hell. I no longer believe that. I believe that there are other ways of recognizing the existence of God — through nature, for instance.” (Billy Graham, McCall Magazine Jan. 1987).
“While I most certainly believe that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, I do not find anywhere in the New Testament that this particular belief is necessary for personal salvation” (“Billy Graham Answers 26 Provocative Questions,” United Church of Observer, July 1, 1966).
“I believe the Bible is the inspired, authoritative word of God but I don’t use the word “inerrant” because it’s become a brittle divisive word.” (Billy Graham, Newsweek magazine, April 26, 1982, in a debate on the issue of biblical infallibility.)
“World travel and getting to know clergy of all denominations has helped mold me into an ecumenical being. We’re separated by theology and, in some instances, culture and race, but all that means nothing to me any more” (Billy Graham, U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 19, 1988).
Was Billy Graham faithful to his theology to the end?
In what appears to be his final words to the media, published posthumously, Billy Graham expressed his hope that he was faithful to Jesus Christ.
He also expressed his failures and confidence that his readers would acknowledge him in heaven. The brief article ends with Mr. Graham’s explanation for his confidence in his claim to be in heaven.
In consistent form, he closed with the classic altar call question before quoting the well known verse: John 3:16.
Our query again is whether Mr. Graham was true to his theology. Yes, he was. At first, one might be glad, but then, it poses a subsequent question: “Was Billy Graham’s final theology faithful to Christ?”
This was his hope stated early in the short article. Sadly, Billy Graham was faithful to his theology, but his theology was not faithful to Christ.
From the article, Graham states that Jesus Christ made salvation “possible” for people. This is not true. The Bible is clear in Matthew 1:21, “And she will bear a Son, and you shall call His name, Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.”
We are not splitting hairs, here. There is a stunning contrast between what Matthew wrote and what Graham said in his final words. Does Jesus save His people, or does he create a possibility? We must side with the Bible against Mr. Graham.
In his offer for people to make a “commitment,” we also find Mr. Graham in error. Spiritually dead (Eph 2:1), children of wrath cannot comprehend Christ Jesus (1 Cor 2:14), nor anything else that pertains to God and salvation.
The Bible does not call for dead men to “commit” to a Savior they cannot comprehend, but rather, it calls all men everywhere to repent and believe the Gospel (Acts 17:30). Therefore, to call for commitment, without an accurate presentation of the Gospel, is to call for trust in something unable to save (ie. free will, choice, decision, coming forward, asking Jesus into one’s heart, praying sinner’s prayer, etc.). There is no one who seeks after God, and no one who understands (Rom 3:11).
Calling for blind men to see, or deaf men to hear, or calling the man without a leg to stand on, to come forward to the altar is abuse.
How then should we correct Billy Graham’s theology, so that we can be faithful to the Gospel of grace, the Gospel of God, the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
1. God chose His people before the foundation of the world and gave them to His eternal Son (Jesus Christ). Jn 6:37; 17:2, 6, 24; Rom 11:5; Eph 1:4–5
2. In creation and in time, God calls out to people through faithful preachers of the Gospel, which is Christ, His person and work to redeem His people and atone for their sins, granting them forgiveness (Mt 26:28; Eph 1:7).
3. The Holy Spirit indwelling the true Gospel preacher (Jn 14:17; Rom 8:9, 11; 2 Tim 1:14; Gal 4:6), attends to the preached Word of God, and opens the heart of those appointed for eternal life (Acts 13:48). This supernatural, regenerating work of the Spirit causes the spiritually dead man to be born again, made alive in Christ (Jn 3:1–8; Eph 2:5; Col 2:13; 1 Pet 1:3).
4. The man made new puts on his new self, which is his new life in the Spirit of Christ. He has died with Christ, who has died to sin, and has been raised up with Christ. Turning from sin is repentance and repentance to Christ is evidenced by faith in Christ alone, a faith granted to him by the grace of the indwelling Spirit of God (Rom 12:3; Gal 3:22; 5:22; Eph 2:8–9; Phil 1:29; Heb 12:2).
5. The Spirit-filled believer is justified by Christ’s blood (Rom 5:9), by grace (Rom 3:24), as a gift, and by faith. He is declared, “not guilty” before the judgment seat of God (Rom 8:1).
6. The elect, regenerated, believer in Jesus is adopted into the family of God (Rom 8:15, 23; Eph 1:4–5).
7. The saint becomes the object of the Holy Spirit’s work of sanctification (Rom 15:16; 1 Thess 4:3, 7; 5:23; 2 Thess 2:13; 1 Pet 1:2), which is the positioned (in Christ) process of setting the Christian apart to be holy as God is holy (1 Pet 1:15–16). She is being conformed by the Word and the Spirit to be renewed and transformed into the image of Christ Jesus (Rom 8:29).
8. The end of the purification work of the Spirit is the bodily death of the believer. Death is merely the end of this body of sin, which lives in anticipation of the resurrection of the body at Christ’s second coming in the future (Jn 5:28–29; 1 Cor 15).
9. The final step of the Gospel of our salvation is the glorification of the elect children of God (Rom 8:18, 30). This combining of the indestructible body and soul, in glory, is our resurrection hope of glory. This glorified existence is a bodily dwelling for eternity, in the presence of God, in the new heavens and the new earth (Is 65–66; Rev 21–22).
The reader should make a few important notes from this true Gospel presentation.
1. There is no work of man in the entire process.
2. There is no offer to sinners.
3. There is no possibilities to alter God’s decree of salvation.
4. There is no decision and no choice to be made.
5. There is no suggestion of commitment.
Salvation is entirely a work of God (Ps 3:8; Jon 2:9; Rev 19:1), decreed by God, by the will of God, according to the good pleasure of God. No one is asking you to do anything.
The fact is, you either believe because you have the Son, or you do not believe because you do not have the Son (Jn 3:36; 1 Jn 5:12). Examine yourself to be sure you are in the faith, which was once for all handed down to the saints (Jude 1:3).
Therefore, all that can be said is, rejoice or repent, and both repentance and rejoicing are entirely the gracious work of God. All glory and all our praise to God, for from Him, through Him and to Him are all things (Rom 11:36).
Spokane Valley, Washington
March 12, 2022