Interview with Dr. Walter Martin on Cults – Program 2

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. Walter Martin; ©1984
Is salvation in Christ alone, or is there a different way to God? Is man sinful by nature, as the Bible states, or is he basically good?

Program 2: Interview with Dr. Walter Martin on Cults
Salvation and the Nature of Man

Ankerberg: We are glad that you joined us tonight. We have Dr. Walter Martin with us and we are talking about what different religious groups across our country are saying that is contrary to what most Christians hold the Bible as saying. Dr. Martin, we as Christians admit that we need help. We have probably been lax in studying our Bibles because the Bible seems to have clear answers when you point those out to us. And we are coming to you for some more information tonight and we are taking the actual quotes from different religious groups and then we are asking you to comment on this.
I would like to, again, come back to the Watchtower Society, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, to start with tonight and then we will move on to the Mormons and Christian Science and some other groups. But in terms of the atonement, the Jehovah’s Witnesses says, “The atonement is a ransom paid to Jehovah God by Christ Jesus and is applicable to all who accept it in righteousness.” In brief, “The death of Jesus removed the effects of Adam’s sin on his offspring and laid the foundation of the new world of righteousness. Immortality is a reward for faithfulness. It does not come automatically to a human at birth.” And then finally, “You must love Jehovah’s universal sovereignty. You must uphold it and proclaim it and remain true to it at all costs until it is vindicated. Only then may you survive Armageddon.” What are they talking about in terms of salvation here?
Martin: Works. All cults are works oriented.
Ankerberg: What does that mean?
Martin: They always have Jesus, Christian terminology and works. For instance, if you talked to them about the cross, well, they don’t believe He died on the cross anyhow, he was nailed to a stake they say. And they tell you His….
Ankerberg: What’s that all about? I mean why are they so picky on that point?
Martin: Because they want to get attention so they say that the word for cross is stavros, which is “stake” and they say, therefore, Jesus was impaled on a stake with both hands over his head. The only problem with that is that when you read John 20 you find that Thomas, who was an eyewitness, said, “Unless I put my finger into the print of the nails,” plural. So Thomas is there telling you that Jesus was crucified on a crosspiece because it is more than one nail. You couldn’t put two nails through hands lifted up. It would break the bones. And the Bible says, “Not a bone of Him shall be broken.” [Psa. 34:20]
Anyhow, they believe that the blood of Christ only paid for Adam’s sin and the effect of Adam’s sin. They have to add their own good works, keeping the commandments that the Watchtower gives them, selling their literature and enduring to the end and then they are going to be finally saved. But they do not believe in the new birth as the entrance into the kingdom of God, except for 144,000 people. That is definitely not Christian theology. First Peter 1:20 says, “Having been born again of incorruptible seed by the Word of God which lives and abides forever.” So, we are delivered by the blood of Christ totally. He cleanses us from all sin. Our works have nothing to do with the cleansing of sin.
Ankerberg: Yes, we had a dear lady that actually announced that she was one of those 144,000 elect on the program. And her daughter, when she announced that, got mad at God. Can you tell us why?
Martin: Well, maybe she thought she was being proud. I have a friend who left Jehovah’s Witnesses and he was one of the 144,000 and worked out of Brooklyn, their headquarters.
Ankerberg: I think that one side of the family thought it was pride, but this one, if I remember now, said that meant that she would never be with her mother for all eternity. Her mother, if she was one of the 144,000, would be in heaven and she would be on earth.
Martin: Be in heaven and she would be here on earth. Yes. This friend of mine when he left wrote a tract called “143,999.” They got very upset about that.
Ankerberg: What is the 144,000 talking about in Revelation?
Martin: 12,000 of each of the 12 tribes of Israel. And they even name the tribes.
Ankerberg: And why is it not limited just to 144,000?
Martin: Well, it depends on the scholars who are looking at it. If you look at an amillennialist, it refers to the body of Christ. If you look at a premillennialist, it’s just the Jews who are going to be witnesses for Christ. It’s “Pay your nickel and take your choice,” as to the final application.
Ankerberg: But there are a few more mentioned right around those verses that are going to be there too.
Martin: It says “a great multitude,” but nobody wants to talk about that.
Ankerberg: Okay, what’s the good news to a person that’s a Jehovah’s Witness that’s looking in tonight that, man, they’re having their 10 Bible studies every week and they’re passing out their magazines and they still don’t have peace with God. They don’t know if they were to die right now they’re going to make it, if they’re going to be accepted, if they’re going to be one of the sheep left on earth that are going to be the good ones. What would you say to them that would really bring joy to them if they looked into it?
Martin: Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “By grace we have been saved.” It’s a past tense. They’re working for something Christ already paid for. “Through faith,” not by ourselves, “it’s the gift of God, not by works,” your works, your magazines, your Watchtower studies. “Not by works lest any man should boast.”
Ankerberg: Jumping to the Mormons’ Journal of Discourses. We are reading and it’s a conglomeration here, and I am going to summarize here. The Mormon doctrine of salvation involves not only faith in Christ, they admit that, but “baptism by immersion, obedience to the teachings of the Mormon Church, good works and of keeping the commandments of God which will cleanse away the stain of sin.” And Brigham Young’s got more to say on this, but why did they include all those things? They’ve got faith, then you’ve got to do a few more things. What are they saying?
Martin: Well, it’s the error of the Galatians. You add to the Gospel that which ends up destroying the Gospel. Because if you get righteousness apart from the death of Christ, Paul says, then your faith is empty. You’re still in your sins.
Ankerberg: But some of the folks might not believe we are actually saying that this is true. If I can pick up right here, the Journal of Discourses, Brigham Young says, “Some of our old traditions teach us that a man guilty of atrocious and murderous acts may savingly repent on the scaffold and upon his execution will hear the expression, ‘Bless God he has gone to heaven to be crowned in glory through all the redeeming merits of Christ the Lord.’” Brigham said, “This is all nonsense. Such a character will never see heaven.”
Martin: Well he went on to say that your own blood had to atone for your sins. And he said there were plenty of instances where people were righteously slain to atone for their sins. So he taught the doctrine of blood atonement which the early Mormon Church practiced. If they decided that you had sinned beyond the power of the blood of Jesus to save you, they tried you and they shot you and your blood was the atonement. In fact, Brigham was so adamant on the subject he said, “This is loving your neighbor as yourself. If he wants help, help him. And if it’s necessary to spill his blood in order that he be saved, spill it.”
Ankerberg: Yes, and he says the blood of Christ will not take care of it. You’ve got to spill your own. And if people want to check it out, the Journal of Discourses, volume 3, page 247. But let’s comment. What is Christ offering that’s good news to our Mormon friends?
Martin: He’s offering forgiveness for sin totally. But sacrifice for sin forever that takes away our responsibility of judgment. And we have “passed out of death into life” [John 5:24; Rom. 8], when we accept the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “He that believes in me,” not he that believes and works and, and, and, and, but “he that believes in me has everlasting life.” [John 6:47] Mormonism does not know the Gospel of grace. And the Gospel of grace is clearly outlined in 1 Corinthians 15.
Ankerberg: You know it sounds too good to them. They say, “You mean I can just believe and it’s all done for me? I mean I feel I ought to do something.”
Martin: Well, that’s man’s sinful nature. We are always trying to improve on what God did. God came to us in the cross of Jesus Christ and he said, “This is life eternal.” And he presented His Son to us. We turn around and say, “Yes, but we are going to have to help you out, Lord,” and then start adding all the rest of these things. The cults all add works to salvation.
Ankerberg: And it’s such good news if they would just check it out. Okay, Mary Baker Eddy says about the atonement of Jesus, “The material blood of Jesus was no more efficacious to cleanse from sin when it was shed upon the accursed tree then when it was flowing in His veins as He went daily about His Father’s business.” (Science and Health, page 330) So there, that ain’t the way either.
Martin: No, Mrs. Eddy denied that Christ’s actual sacrifice on the cross could save you from sin. But that shouldn’t disturb us because Mrs. Eddy denied the existence of sin, it was an illusion. She denied the existence of pain, death. She denied all of these things. She denied the material universe existed except as in the mind. So it shouldn’t disturb us to find out that she wants nothing to do with the material blood of Christ. But the Scripture is very clear on this subject, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” [Heb. 9:22] And he redeemed us by His own blood. Mrs. Eddy and Christian Science wants nothing to do with the blood of Christ on the cross.
Ankerberg: Okay. Garner Ted and his dad, they were talking and they were saying that the born again experience is when we die and we’re recreated to be spirit. Jesus was born again and we’re going to be born again the same way. When we are born of God we shall be of His very family. We shall be spirit as He is spirit, immortal as He is immortal, divine as He is divine. We shall then be God. That’s not too bad.
Martin: Well, they’ve improved on the Mormons. The Mormons say you can be a god, but Herbert has said you can become God. He is very clear on that subject. If you go back and study that passage you quoted, you notice he said, “We shall be spirit as He is spirit?” Well Jesus Christ’s resurrection is denied by the Worldwide Church of God. They maintain that when Jesus came out of the grave He came out as a spirit. That’s the way we’re going to be in the resurrection. But when Jesus presented Himself after His crucifixion He said, “Handle me and see. A spirit doesn’t have flesh and bone as ye see me have.”
Ankerberg: The Way International denies that Jesus Christ is God, so how in the world can a person find salvation?
Martin: The only way you’re going to find salvation according to Scripture is to “confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead” [Rom. 10:9] to accept Christ as he is revealed in Scripture, not as he is caricatured by the cults. I would warn people to beware of what the Apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians 11, there is a counterfeit Jesus, a counterfeit Holy Spirit, counterfeit gospels, counterfeit apostles, counterfeit workmen, and they are designed by Satan to mislead and they themselves don’t even know that they are deceived.
Ankerberg: Would you comment on Wierwille’s use of John 1:1, because he denies Jesus’ deity right there and I think it’s very easy if they just look at the text. But would you interpret?
Martin: Wierwille has been laughed at by virtually every major Greek scholar that read the book simply because he doesn’t translate what the Greek text says. He interpolates. That is, he reads into it what he wants it to say. The text says, “In the beginning was the Word. The Word was face to face with God, pros ton theon, the Word was God.” Now you cannot escape the grammar. What he tries to do is make the Word a god or God in a unique sense and here’s how he does it. He says, “Jesus always existed in the mind of His Father, therefore, He is indeed eternal. Therefore, He is deity.” But I existed in the mind of my father, too and so did you. Does that make us deity? Logically, yes. Wierwille won’t acknowledge that.
Ankerberg: Okay, we appreciate this and we are going to continue and we’re going to talk about what they are saying about the final things, the future. What happens when you do have conversion of whatever type they are talking about? Then what does the Bible have to say? So folks, please stick with us then.

Ankerberg: Alright, we are back and we are talking with Dr. Walter Martin about some of the things that different religious groups, people of different persuasion than Evangelical Christianity are saying against some of the things that we believe. And we need help in terms of what to respond accurately from the evidence of Scripture itself which many of them point to. And one of the things I would like to talk about here, and that’s with the Worldwide Church of God. Herbert W. Armstrong makes this quote, Dr. Martin. He says, “Some religious teachers tell you Christ lived a righteous life for you 1900 years ago and since you can’t keep the law, as they claim, God imputes Christ’s righteousness of 19 centuries ago to you by sort of kidding Himself that you are righteous while you are given a license to still be a spiritual criminal breaking His law. God does not impute to you something that you do not have.”
Martin: Well, the problem with Herbert’s statement is that it flatly contradicts the Scripture. The Scripture says that, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.” [2 Cor. 5:19] Not imputing their sins to them; not charging their sins to their account. In fact, the fourth chapter of Romans is explicit, “To him that worketh not, but believes in Him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.” [Rom. 4:5] There’s the imputation of God’s righteousness right there. Now I am not receiving nor are you receiving Jesus’ perfect law-keeping. That’s what he is trying to make out. That’s not what the text says. We are receiving the righteousness of God Himself which is by faith. “God made Christ to be sin for us who knew no sin that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” [2 Cor. 5:21] That’s not law-keeping, that’s the very character of God which is charged to our account. All you have to do is read the epistle to Philemon and you find there the apostle Paul saying, “If he owes you anything charge it to my account.” [Philem. 1:18] What is that if it’s not imputation?
Ankerberg: A lot of them say, “Well, then are you simply saying that a Christian is free to sin. Because we don’t agree with that last statement that just because we have imputed righteousness that we are free to sin. They never tell us there might be another option.” It’s like an either/or situation.
Martin: Well, the Scripture says that as long as we are in the flesh we have the weaknesses, limitations and infirmities of the flesh and sin is one of them. “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us, but if we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” [1 John 1:8-9] “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ God’s Son keeps on cleansing us [it’s an ongoing process] from all of our sins.” [1 John 1:7] So, I can’t turn around to God and say, “Whoop, now I am saved: I can sin with impunity.” God says, “Don’t try it!” First Corinthians 6:19-20, “Ye are not your own, you are bought with a price.” “I’ll execute you rather than let you sin away your salvation.” He says that very clearly in 1 Corinthians 5.
Ankerberg: In Hebrews 11 and 12 He says He can chastise His own, too. Pretty solid.
Martin: Yes, and those of us that have been through it are aware of the fact that His hand has not lost its skill.
Ankerberg: Say something about the fact all these folks would say, “Hey, how about James 2 where He says, “Listen you’ve got faith, you’d better have some works.” [Jas. 2:17-18] If you don’t have the works, you see, and then they bring in works that it’s faith plus works. We’re not saying it’s faith plus works, we’re saying it’s faith and as a result of true faith the works will come. And people don’t seem to catch that differentiation. Maybe you could say it a different way.
Martin: Okay, first of all salvation isn’t by faith, it isn’t by works, or any combination of them. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith. So first comes the grace. Well, what is grace? God saying, “I love you.” His nature is love. It is expressed in mercy. That mercy is God’s effective grace. It brings us to repentance. We turn from our sins and we exercise faith in the Lord Jesus.
Now if you take James’ context you will notice something interesting, he uses Abraham as an illustration. “Abraham our father was justified by works.” [Jas. 2:21] Now take James 2 and put it side by side with Romans 4. Paul uses the same illustration. “Abraham was justified by faith.” [Rom. 4:3, 9] Ah, now we’ve got it. There is a justification by faith and there is a justification by works. The justification by faith is before God because He alone can see that faith in us. The justification by works is that the world sees our faith in our works. Remember when Abraham raised the knife over Isaac? Well, he said, “I have faith.” The world couldn’t believe it until the knife started down, then they believed it. So we are justified before the world on the basis of our works; we are justified before God on the basis of our faith. The Scripture says in Romans 4 that Abraham was already righteous in the sight of God before he was even circumcised because God saw his faith. [Rom 4:9-12]
Ankerberg: Alright, right along this line there are a lot of folks that go to, I think John 8, and they talk about Jesus’ statement, “These are the works of God that you believe on Him.” And then out of that statement “these are the works,” they say belief is a work.
Martin: No, it’s not John 8, it’s John 6:29. “This is the work of God that you believe on Him whom God has sent.” In other words they asked Jesus, “What must we do to work the works of God?” [John 6:28] His answer is quite relevant and telling, He says, “This is the work of God.” He drops the plural. “The work of God: Believe.” So Jesus was really saying, “Do you want to know what it is to perform God’s works? Accept me.” And that’s the end of the discussion.
Ankerberg: And because it is singular you can’t add something to it.
Martin: You cannot.
Ankerberg: I want to take a very delicate topic, okay.
Martin: You know how I handle delicate topics?
Ankerberg: Delicate topics. And here it is, and that is that we have many very, very fine Roman Catholic friends that are watching. Many of them have asked me to do a program on Roman Catholicism and I want to. For those of you that have asked that question, we have asked some of the highest authorities in the Roman Catholic Church to come on and they will in the future. But right here we have to say, as I see it – maybe you see it different – there are at least four different kinds of Roman Catholics to start off with in the Roman Catholic Church. I wanted to say that and then I am going to ask you the question. I see some Roman Catholics that are so solidly Evangelical, that they do not know, or have put away the stated documents of Trent which many Protestants look at to find out what Roman Catholics believe.
Martin: That’s true.
Ankerberg: Alright, the second are the traditionalist Roman Catholics that still hold to the doctrine that we have got printed at Trent. The third would be some of our charismatic friends inside the Roman Catholic Church that can be on one side or the other. And fourth you have, like we have on the Protestant side, some stark raving mad liberals that don’t hold to the Bible at all. They’re out there floating on their own theology. They’re all underneath the umbrella of the Roman Catholic Church. I wanted to say that before we started here. The thing I want to say is that in Roman Catholic theology when we talk about “faith” and “faith plus works,” the Reformation came in on this topic and traditionally the split between the Protestant Church and the Roman Catholic Church has come on this thing, is it “faith,” or “faith plus works?” I would like you to define that as sensitively as you can and tell us what you think the Scripture is saying that brings good news on this topic.
Martin: Classic Catholic theology teaches that faith and works cooperate together with grace for the salvation of the soul. The church is the channel of all blessings. It’s called sacerdotalism, which means that through that channel flow all the blessings of God: through the church, through the constitute of authority. So, if you’re going to judge them classically the reformers were right. They did indeed do that. However, you outlined four different groups in the church today. And there are people in the Roman Catholic Church – priests, nuns, laymen, I’ve met them, I’ve talked with them – some of them are very high placed and with good authority who just don’t buy it. They believe in salvation only by grace through faith. They have a different understanding of the mass than classic Catholic theology does. They do not pray to the Virgin Mary nor worship the saints. You say, “Well, they’re not Catholic.” Don’t tell them that because they say, “We are Catholic but we just don’t agree with the church in these certain areas. After all, if Hans Kung, and Schillebeck, and a whole batch of other liberal theologians can get up and deny everything that the church believes, don’t tell me that I can’t have differences with the church in these areas.” It’s a hard argument to refute.
Ankerberg: If you take Roman Catholic theology as traditionally given, why is it good news to believe in justification by faith that Luther said just brought floods of joy into his life and it caused the Reformation? Why is it not just a pedantic point? But why is this something beautiful if you can grasp it? Can you comment on how it frees a person? Why if you’re under the other system, why it doesn’t free you, and if justification by faith, if you understand that, why it does free you?
Martin: Well, you see if you add works to salvation then you are falling into the error of the Galatians that Paul condemns in the strongest possible language, “If righteousness comes by the works of the law, Christ has died for nothing. O foolish Galatians, having begun in the spirit do you think you can end in the flesh? That is fulfilling the works of the law.” [Gal. 2; 3] What Paul is getting at, of course, is the idea that somehow or other you are going to add to the cross as a means of salvation and you can’t do that. Now here you’ve got a terrific paradox in Catholic theology. You’ve got a whole school of Catholic theologians who sound exactly like Luther and they talk vigorously for salvation by grace and justification by faith. You’ve got another school that is way back at the Council of Trent and we are heretics. Everybody that disagrees with them is lost. You are not going to get anywhere. So the only way I can answer the question is by saying that salvation by grace and justification by faith frees people because it is dependence upon Christ only, rather than upon Christ and the church’s sacerdotal system. I think the freedom comes, as Catholics have told me, when they realize that “Hey, the Word of God is sufficient! If God said that I passed out of death to life, I don’t have to depend on the priest or the pope to confirm it for me.”
Ankerberg: And if it’s the other way, it’s like Luther said, “I can have faith, but if it’s something else, the question is, when can I know that I have done enough that I have passed the test and God will accept me?”
Martin: Never, never! That’s your problem.
Ankerberg: And Eric Erickson, the psychologist, writes a big deal on Luther and he can’t figure out why Luther was troubled. Boy, if you can just realize standing before a holy God and you don’t know if you’ve made the test, if your sins are forgiven, that ought to shake you.
Martin: But you see, in Roman Catholic theology the average – and I know, I was trained in Roman Catholic schools; I graduated from parochial school – I can tell you right now in Catholic theology you are constantly being threatened by the fact that if you do not acknowledge the sovereignty of the church that you will be separated forever from the kingdom of God, because they equate the church and the kingdom of God. So a Catholic who says, “I can’t buy this anymore. I mean, I just can’t pray to the Virgin Mary and call her my life, my sweetness and my hope,” that person would be condemned out of hand by a traditionalist rather than right on the spot.
Ankerberg: We appreciate that. We’re going to pick up more of this next week. So please join us.

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