Russell Vought and Bernie Sanders

by John Holbrook Jr.
A Biblical View, posted June 12, 2017

The exchange between Mr. Russell Vought and Senator Bernie Sanders during the Senate hearing on June 7, 2017 concerning Mr. Vought’s appointment to Deputy Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget perpetuated and to some extent legitimized two erroneous ideas: (1) that the U.S. Constitution permits the application of a religious test for federal office and (2) that Christianity maintains that people are “condemned” for not believing in Jesus.

The first issue is straightforward and simple. Article VI of the U.S. Constitution states, “…no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” That a US senator was ignorant of or – worse – chose to ignore this proscription is stunning. He should apologize to Mr. Vought or be censured by his colleagues.

The second issue is also straightforward, but more complex than the first. The Bible indicates that people are condemned by their sinfulness – not their unbelief in Jesus. In order to demonstrate this, I need to explain mankind’s predicament and God’s solution to it.

First, mankind’s predicament: Every man, woman, and child is born a sinner. King David wrote, “Behold, I was shaped in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (KJ21 Psalm 51:5). That applies to Mr. Vought. That applies to Senator Sanders. That applies to me. That applies to you. There are no exceptions. Every person begins life condemned. Moreover, every person remains a sinner in God’s eyes. King David wrote, “…there is none that doeth good; no, not one” (Psalm 14:3, 53:3) and Paul wrote, “There is none righteous, no, not one” (KJ21 Psalm 14:3, KJ21 Romans 3:10). Finally, the penalty for sin is death – physical death and spiritual death. Paul wrote, “…the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23). The foregoing is what I call the “bad news.”

Second, God’s solution to mankind’s predicament: The following is what God’s Word, the Bible, calls the Gospel or “good news.” In fulfillment of all the prophecies concerning the Messiah in the Tenakh (Old Testament), God sent his Son into the world in the person of Jesus, the Jewish carpenter from Nazareth, to save people – i.e. to die on a cross to atone for the sins of anyone who accepts Him as his or her Savior and Lord. As Isaiah prophesized, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (KJ21 Isaiah 53:6). God did not send his Son into the world to condemn people. “For God sent not His son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (KJ21 John 3:17). Moreover, salvation is a free gift from God – not something a person can earn. “For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God – not by works, lest any man should boast” (KJ21 Ephesians 2:8-9). It cannot be earned. It cannot be bought. It can only be received with humility and gratitude at the feet of a gracious sovereign.

Third, the universality and the exclusivity of the Gospel: The Gospel is universal, because it offers salvation to everyone. Paul wrote, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one who believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek [or Gentile]” (KJ21 Romans 1:16). The Gospel is also exclusive, because the only source of salvation is faith and trust in the finished work of Jesus, the Jewish Messiah. Referring to “the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth” (KJ21 Acts 4:10), Peter said to the rulers, priests, and scribes of Israel, “Neither is there salvation in any other [name], for there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved” (KJ21 Acts 4:12). God insists that sinners approach him through his Son, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all…” (21KJ 1 Timothy 2:5).

The difference between the approach to God advocated by the Gospel and the approach to God advocated by the world’s religions is that the Gospel focuses on what God has done to make people acceptable to himself whereas the approach to God advocated by the world’s religions, including Judaism, Islam, and even much of institutional Christianity, focuses on what a person must do to become acceptable to God. He or she must ascribe to certain creeds, wear certain clothing, eat or not eat certain foods, perform certain rites, undertake certain works, etc. A person can exhaust himself or herself doing all these things, but in the end he or she will fail to please God. To repeat myself, acceptance by God cannot be earned or bought.

If you sincerely want to be acceptable to God, start seeking Jesus. Start reading the Bible, for Jesus said, “Search the scriptures; …it is they which testify of me” (21KJ John 5:39). As you search, keep in mind the following verse: “…without faith it is impossible to please Him. For he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (KJ21 Hebrews 11:6).

I wish that my brother Russell had countered Senator Sander’s attack on him with a proclamation of the Gospel, not the refrain “I am a Christian,” which explained nothing. Perhaps next time.

© 2017 John Holbrook Jr.
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