of the Devil
with the Dying Christian
by C.U. Faye
THE DEVIL: You must die, for it is written, "Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment." (Hebrews 9:27). When the Lord comes, He "will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts" (1 Corinthians 4:5). You are one of those who will say "to the mountains and the rocks, 'Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?'" (Revelation 6:16-17). Or do you imagine that you are without sin, that you can stand before God, holy as He is, before Him, Who cannot tolerate sin, before the all-knowing God, Who knows and sees all?
THE DYING CHRISTIAN: Yes, I am a sinner. "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8). "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).
THE DEVIL: Of course, then you are mine.
THE DYING CHRISTIAN: No. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:23-24). "Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow: though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool" (Isaiah 1:18).
THE DEVIL: Has Christ then died really for everybody?
THE DYING CHRISTIAN: Yes. "We have one who speaks to the Father in our defense - Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:1-2).
THE DEVIL: In that case, He must be dead also for those who are in Hell.
THE DYING CHRISTIAN: That is true; that is Luther's doctrine, and what is more, it is the doctrine of the Holy Scriptures.
THE DEVIL: How can you know that you are not among those, who even if Christ did die for them, nevertheless land in Hell?
THE DYING CHRISTIAN: I have the assurance given by the Word: "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" (John 3:16).
THE DEVIL: Belief, faith. Yes, to be sure, yes. I also believe. "You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that - and shudder" (James 2:19).
THE DYING CHRISTIAN: There are two kinds of faith. One is the mere knowing about God; the other is the living faith and trust in God. What is needed is more than just knowing about God, what is needed is the true living faith that rests confidently in God's mercy and that proves it is alive by bearing fruit in good works.
THE DEVIL: Are your works so perfect then, that you can stand before the countenance of the holy, all-knowing God? Doesn't Scripture say: "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48)?
THE DYING CHRISTIAN: It does not depend upon my weaknesses and deficiencies, but upon the faith that clings to God. Through this faith I partake in the righteousness of Christ, as the Apostle Paul says, "Therefore since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1). By faith, I am clad in the perfect righteousness of Christ: and, in Christ, I am perfect. We are not saved by our good works but by the work Christ has done for us, and this work of Christ is accepted, is made ours, by faith. Good works are merely evidence that one's faith is alive. Even if good works are there, must be there, it is not they, that save. "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law" (Romans 3:28).
THE DEVIL: But you have committed sins of malice after you became a child of God, and that is proof that you have lost the saving faith and thus cut yourself off from the grace of God.
THE DYING CHRISTIAN: Even if that should have happened, the grace of God has been greater than my sins. The prodigal son, who said, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son" (Luke 15:21), was accepted by grace and reinstated His Father's son. God has not let me die in my sins.
THE DEVIL: How do you know that?
THE DYING CHRISTIAN: I believe.
THE DEVIL: (To himself: If only I could make him doubt!) (To the Dying Christian:) Everything, then, depends upon faith?
THE DYING CHRISTIAN: Yes.
THE DEVIL: Is the faith you have the true justifying faith? This is a very important point. You must investigate as to whether you had the correct attitude, when the grace of God was offered to you; as to whether you had the correct feeling of responsibility, when grace was offered to you; as to whether your faith is not just knowledge about God, that is to say, as to whether it is not a mere historical faith. (To himself: Perhaps all this will tire him, so that he will, at last, begin to be attacked by doubts.)
THE DYING CHRISTIAN: It is not for me to investigate what is in me, whether I have the right attitude, the correct feeling of responsibility, whether my faith is the right faith or not. I will not be saved by what is in me. I trust in God alone and the salvation in Him.
THE DEVIL: You just imagine that you are a child of God. For many years now you have been indifferent, you have neglected family devotions, church services, contributions to the church and to missions, even your private prayers. Put an end to this self-delusion. Let death come and give you peace. Commit suicide. Take that sedative there. Swallow all the pills. Make an end of the whole business.
THE DYING CHRISTIAN: I pray my God and Father in Christ that He "guard and keep me so that the devil, the world, and my own flesh may not deceive me nor lead me into misbelief, despair, and other shameful sin and vice; and though I be thus tempted, that I may still in the end overcome and retain the victory" (Luther's explanation to the Sixth Petition in the Lord's Prayer).
THE DEVIL: You have not given me a scientific, or a theologically acceptable answer to my question: Is your faith the true faith?
THE DYING CHRISTIAN: For the answer I refer you to God, who has created the faith in my heart. He is responsible for my faith and salvation.
THE DEVIL: All right then, but you must be logical and reasonable. If God is responsible for man's salvation, then He must also have the blame for the damnation of those who are lost. Similarly, if he, who is lost, must be blamed for that, then he, who is saved, must have the glory for that. It is neither logic nor reason to say that God must have the glory of saving man, while man must take the blame for being lost.
THE DYING CHRISTIAN: Reason must be subjected to the Bible, for we must "take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5). God must have the glory for our salvation: "The work of God is this: to believe in the one He has sent" (John 6:29). Man must take the blame for being lost, for it is written, "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light, because their deeds were evil" (John 3:19).
THE DEVIL: It is childish for you to give up your rights as a free human being in that way. To give up your reason is not only foolish, but, I repeat it, it is childish.
THE DYING CHRISTIAN: It is not childish, it is childlike. I am happy that I am a child of God, that God is my Father, who takes care of me in all things. What is a child? A child is, essentially, one who has trust and confidence in his Father. "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it" (Mark 10:15). God be praised that it is He (and not we) who takes care of our salvation, praised be He for His promise: "No one can snatch them out of My hand" (John 10:28).
THE DEVIL: (To himself: I must try yet once more to get him to doubt the Word of God; the best way will be to get him to doubt whether he has the right faith. If he gives up believing in his own faith, then he will stop believing in the Word of God, and then he will despair.) (To the Dying Christian): All this is of no avail if you are not united to God by means of the true faith. The true faith depends upon many important circumstances: Did you have the correct attitude? Did you have the right feeling of responsibility? Now do you know that your faith is not a mere knowing about God, a mere historical faith? If you can answer these questions, then I can help you further and deeper clarify by means of other and deeper investigations in the matter.
THE DYING CHRISTIAN: It would be wrong of me to worry over the nature of my faith. All my hope rests upon God, my Father.
THE DEVIL: What then has God done for you, as far as your faith is concerned?
THE DYING CHRISTIAN: "I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; just as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian Church He daily and richly forgives me and all believers all our sins; and at the last day He will raise up me and all the dead, and will grant me and all believers in Christ eternal life. This is most certainly true: (Luther's explanation of the Third Article of the Creed.)
THE DEVIL: (To himself: If I could only make him look away from God, and look to himself.) (To the Dying Christian): You ought to investigate your own attitude, since that is really the matter of issue. Maybe God has done the most, but you must have done your share; was it you or someone else, who said "Yes" to the preferred grace? Did you, at the time say, "Yes" in the right way?
THE DYING CHRISTIAN: As I already, so many times, have said, it was the work of the Holy Ghost that I said, "Yes." He must bear the responsibility for my "Yes," or my faith being as God wants it to be. Go to Him and ask Him about it. All I know is that I will not look unto myself, but unto God. We must not trust partly in ourselves and partly in God. We trust in God alone.
THE DEVIL: Are you sure that you are doing right in forgetting yourself like this? Perhaps you only imagine that you have given yourself up completely in the grace of God. Perhaps you have given yourself up completely to your own imagination.
THE DYING CHRISTIAN: "Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life" (John 3:14-15). "Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he shall live" (Numbers 21:8). He who looked upon himself and his wound died; he who looked upon the serpent of brass lived. He who looks unto himself and a self-made faith, will be lost; he who looks unto Christ and the salvation in Him will be saved.
THE DEVIL: (to himself) As Christ overcame me by the power of the Word, so this dying Christian has now overcome me. I cannot make him mine. (The devil goes and the dying believer dies a blessed death.)
THE DYING CHRISTIAN: "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39).
Note: This study was written by C.U. Faye. It was first published in Norwegian in in 1937 and was republished in English in the Lutheran Sentinel in 1951. It was printed for the Bible Class at Zion Lutheran Church, Lawrenceville, Georgia by Pastor Nathanael Mayhew.
If you would like more information about this study,
please contact Pastor Mayhew