Bill O'Reilly is to be commended for his noble efforts to help protect the rights of Christians in our country. Bill's popular television program on the Fox News Channel often exposes the way "secular progressives" seek to diminish the influence of Christianity in America. Having said that, I doubt if Bill realizes the fundamental error he promulgated on his program last week (April 2, 2015).
Whether intentional or not, Bill gutted the Gospel by disparaging the biblical teaching that one needs to accept Jesus as Savior in order to go to heaven rather than to hell. Here are Bill's words with a link to the short video clip:
First of all, there are not multiple "Christian religions," but I suspect Bill was referring to various "camps" within Christianity, such as denominations. The real problem is Bill's quarrel with the biblical message that Jesus is the only way to heaven.
As on previous shows, O'Reilly once again expressed dismay with several basic Christian teachings: (1) what it means to be born again; (2) heaven and hell; and (3) accepting Jesus as your Savior. These are not "deep doctrines" within Christianity. These basic beliefs are what the author of Hebrews refers to as "elementary teachings." (Hebrews 6:1)
Like many Catholics and Protestants today, O'Reilly seems completely mystified by the term "born again." Jesus Himself was the One who first used this term, and it isn't complicated. The third chapter of the Gospel of John lays out Christianity in simplicity and truth. And Jesus is the One doing most of the speaking.
The Gospel message is summed up in John 3:16, where Jesus said, "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." And a few verses earlier Jesus told Nicodemus, "No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." (John 3:3)
Simple, right? A person becomes "born again" by believing in Jesus as his Savior. Or another way of saying it: A Christian is someone who has "accepted Christ" as his Savior.
For all of his insights on a whole range of political and cultural issues, Bill has repeatedly fumbled the foundational message of the Christian faith. It's not complicated. And it isn't reserved only for "evangelical Christians," or "conservative Christians." Every Christian is born again; that is, someone who has received Jesus as Savior, whether that person attends a church which is Presbyterian, Catholic, or non-denominational.
Jesus said, "Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit." (John 3:6) In other words, the Holy Spirit works the miracle of the new birth in your heart the moment you place your trust in Christ as your Savior. This is why Jesus proceeded to say, "You must be born again." (John 3:7) It's the only way to become a Christian.
Compare it to a child being born. Either the child has been born, or not. Likewise, you have either been born again, or not.
Why did Jesus say that being born again is the only way to enter the kingdom of God? Because heaven and hell are the only two options after death. This fact is highlighted over and over again in the New Testament. I don't know anyone who would have come up with the idea of hell. Nevertheless, God clearly tells us in His Word about a place we would have never dreamed could exist. Jesus said that hell was originally prepared "for the devil and his angels." (Matthew 25:41)
And Christ spoke at least as much about hell as He did about heaven. In fact, the Lord died to save people from going to hell. He went through a "temporary hell" as it were on the cross in order to rescue people from going to a place of eternal condemnation. Jesus referred to this place of eternal suffering as "hell." (see Mark 9:43-48)
Here are a couple friendly questions for Bill O'Reilly: "So if those who reject Jesus as Savior are not going to hell, then what type of person is going there in your view?" In other words, "How bad do you have to be to go to hell?"
We tend to assume that "a little sin" in our lives certainly doesn't deserve punishment in hell. But then how much sin do you have to commit to deserve a place in hell? And does God look at "a little sin" the same way we tend to look at it with our human reasoning?
Personally, I don't enjoy talking about hell, and I am guessing you don't either. But God didn't ask our opinion on it before He informed us in Scripture about heaven and hell. Just because it doesn't sit well with the natural longings of our heart does not make it untrue. Millions of Christians over the past 2000 years have taught the truth about heaven and hell, salvation, and what it means to be born again.
In the New Testament, a person who trusts in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins is a Christian, and therefore he or she is:
3) "Born Again"
A Christian is someone who repents of their sin and believes the good news of salvation. When you believe Jesus died in your place to pay for your sins, you personally inherit eternal life and are instantly "saved." (see Ephesians 2:8,9) Note the past tense when you read that passage. "By grace you have been saved." In biblical terms, if a person is not yet "saved," then he or she is not yet a Christian.
And the apostle John wrote, "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life." (1 John 5:13) Note the words "you have eternal life." All five of the terms listed above refer to those who already have eternal life. As believers, we are not working to earn a ticket to heaven. We are already justified through faith. (see Romans 5:6-19) If a person doesn't understand this key point, then he doesn't yet understand Christianity. Everything hinges on this foundational teaching. This is the Gospel message.
In other words, you don't get to come around to home plate (heaven) without making it to first base (being born again). These are the ABC's of Christianity.
Scripture makes it clear that Jesus is the only way to the Father. Jesus said so Himself. "I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) And Peter and John declared, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)
O'Reilly has a beef with this teaching, and I admit that it is not something which any of us are naturally inclined to accept. Our natural assumption is that there must be many ways to heaven. I get that. And Bill wants it to be that way. So would I, if I could snap my fingers and make it happen. But the gospel according to O'Reilly cannot hold a candle to the Gospel according to Jesus.
Do you honestly think that you or I or Bill O'Reilly would have ever come up with what Jesus said about eternity in Matthew 7:13,14? "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." I understand why O'Reilly struggles to accept what Jesus taught regarding heaven and hell. But that doesn't mean he has the right to cast aspersions upon this historic biblical teaching.
This isn't the first time Bill has sought to create a "Jesus" of his own making. In his book, "Killing Jesus," Bill felt comfortable writing about Jesus the man, but steered away from presenting Jesus as God. Can you imagine if Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John had played so fast and loose with the whole truth about Christ? In reality, Jesus Christ is 100% God and 100% Man.
For 2000 years, Christianity has taught there is only one way to become a Christian. And it's not by working your way into God's family, which is impossible. It is by receiving Jesus as your Savior. The apostle John wrote, "Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God." (John 1:12) In order to be redeemed by Jesus, one must "receive Him" through faith. This means you rely upon Christ and His work on the cross as the basis of your forgiveness and eternal salvation.
Here is a critical question: Did Jesus die for people who would have gone to heaven anyway, even without Christ's sacrifice on the cross? Or did He die for people who were lost in sin and headed toward hell? In other words, does the death of Christ rescue anyone from going to hell? Or is everyone already "in a safe place" spiritually by virtue of being sincere or following some religious rituals? What is the "default position" of the human race apart from Christ? And if everyone, or at least most people, are already "saved," then one must explain why Jesus left heaven and came to earth to endure such an agonizing death for people who really didn't need Him to go to such extreme measures.
I have a lot of respect for the way Bill O'Reilly works to preserve our freedom as Americans, and for the way he stands up for "the little guy" whenever someone or a group of people are being bullied. With his influential pulpit, Bill has worked hard to shine some light upon various corners of darkness and oppression in our society. And for that, he is to be applauded.
But when it comes to articulating how a person receives eternal life in heaven, Bill is not performing a helpful service for his television audience. Bill gets lost in the very fundamentals of Christianity. He completely misses the Gospel message of salvation by grace through faith in Christ. (see Galatians 2:15-20)
If man could get to heaven simply by being sincere; or by being a "good Catholic" or a "good Methodist," then may I ask you this question: Why in the world did Jesus come here to suffer and die? And why did Jesus and His apostles present the Gospel as the only means of being saved from eternal condemnation in hell?
The apostle Paul clearly understood what Bill O'Reilly seems to completely miss. Paul wrote, "If righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" (Galatians 2:21) That is, if you could make yourself righteous before God by your deeds, then it was pointless for Jesus to shed His blood and suffer for us on the cross. The Bible explains that those who will go to hell are those who die without the "righteousness of God" covering their soul and their sins through faith in Christ. (see Romans 3:21-26)
It boils down to each person accepting Jesus as your Savior, or rejecting Jesus as your Savior. One of those two responses will be present in your life today. Christ's love compels me to share that fact with you. Your spiritual welfare as well as that of your loved ones is at stake.
Even if you don't personally utilize the "born again" terminology which Jesus employed, it is critical for you to at least understand what it means to accept Jesus as Savior. If Bill O'Reilly is trusting Jesus Christ alone to forgive his sins, then it is well with Bill's soul. However, if he is relying upon his religious deeds to gain entrance into heaven, then Bill is not yet justified, saved, born again, redeemed, and forgiven.
This is true because this is what Scripture teaches. God loves you, me, and Bill O'Reilly. And Christ gave His life on the cross for all of us. But it's just like Jesus said: "No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." (John 3:3) While O'Reilly calls that teaching "disturbing," Jesus called it the truth.
Bill's personal opining about salvation may be politically correct, but it isn't what Jesus and His apostles taught. In his book, "Killing Jesus," O'Reilly failed to mention the free gift of eternal life which is given to those who trust Christ as Savior. (see Rev. 22:17) Likewise, the "Jesus" which Bill presents on his television program doesn't seem to have the power to save a soul through faith alone.
Bill will only be able to celebrate the Gospel message if he is first embracing this good news in his heart. Once a person does that through faith, it changes everything. You see, Bill has made it to this point in his career by hard work, and he seems to feel that this is how people get into heaven. Be sincere; work hard; and be at least somewhat religious.
Why else would O'Reilly make such a critical comment about people accepting Jesus as Savior in order to go to heaven?
Do you see the huge difference between Bill's "Jesus" and the message of the Bible? Once you understand the difference, you will understand what it means to be a Christian. Until then, you will most likely refuse to accept what Jesus taught when He claimed to be the only way to the Father. (John 14:6) Either Jesus was lying, or He is indeed the only way to heaven.
So do you think Jesus was lying? And if not, would you like to be born again by accepting Christ as your Savior and believing He died on the cross for your sins? Once a person is justified through faith, he or she immediately begins to live for the Lord. This is what Paul meant by "the obedience that comes from faith." (Romans 1:5) Obedience is the fruit of faith in Christ.
Genuine believers understand that their justification and forgiveness is not a license to go out and freely sin. On the contrary, genuine believers seek to "find out what pleases the Lord." (Ephesians 5:10) And we sincerely seek to avoid doing what is sinful as we "cling to what is good." (Romans 12:9)
This Christian message hasn't changed in 2000 years. These are the basics. This is how you get to first base in Christianity. And don't worry. God is more than able to bring those on first base all the way home to heaven. "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6)
So remember. Your guaranteed inheritance in heaven is not based on your performance. (see 1 Peter 1:4) Instead, it is based on the death of Christ on the cross. Just rely upon the cross through faith, and live for your Savior "who loved us and gave Himself up for us." (Ephesians 5:2)
You see, eternal life in heaven truly is a free gift which Jesus earned for you on the cross. But the gift does not belong to you until you accept it, as you accept the Savior who purchased it for you with His blood. (see Acts 20:28 and Rev. 22:17)