The Great Confession
November 21st, 1954 @ 7:30 PM
THE GREAT CONFESSION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-21-54 7:30 p.m.
If there could be a favorite text that this preacher likes to preach on, it’s the text that lies immediately before us as we’re preaching through the Bible. It’s in the tenth chapter of the Book of Romans. The title of the sermon is The Great Confession. And the text in the tenth chapter of the Book of Romans is this:
If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and shall believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead – that He lives –
thou shalt be saved.
For with the heart one believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
For the Scriptures saith, "Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed."
For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him.
For "whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
That’s the text; and I say, it’s my favorite to preach on in the Bible. "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus," into that aisle, down here to the front, before the world and the angels of heaven. "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that He lives," that He reigns, that He’s been raised from the dead, that He’s at the right hand of God, that He’s a living Lord: "If thou shalt believe in the Lord Jesus in thy heart and confess Him openly with thy mouth, thou shall be saved" [Romans 10:9].
"For with the heart one believeth unto righteousness" [Romans 10:10]. Man can’t work to be righteous. His works, God says, "are as filthy rags" in God’s sight [Isaiah 64:6]. But a man can believe unto righteousness [Romans 3:21-26]. He can have an imputed righteousness [Isaiah 53:4-6, 11, Romans 4:22-24]. He can have a God-kind of righteousness. He can have a perfect, unblemished righteousness. He can have the righteousness which is in Jesus Christ [1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 3:9].
"With the heart one believeth unto righteousness," the God-kind of righteousness, the Jesus-imputed kind of righteousness, the righteousness that saves: "With the heart one believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" [Romans 10:10].
A man came to me after a long time that we had worked and prayed that he might become a Christian. A man came to me and said, "I hereby give you my hand. I take the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior, and from this moment on I intend to follow Him. I want to be a Christian, and I take the Lord as my Savior."
I said, "Wonderful, wonderful! Now, down at that church you’re to come, and you’re to confess your faith in the Lord, and you’re to be baptized, and you’re to, before the world, you are to be known as a Christian."
He said, "Preacher, I will believe on the Lord in my heart, and I will give Him my life, and I will be a disciple of Christ. But, I will not go down that aisle, and I will not sit down there at the front, and I will not be baptized."
And I said to him, "Then, sir, you cannot be saved."
Well, what a funny kind of theology is that? Do you mean that a man is saved in coming down that aisle, and in standing up before the church, and in publicly confessing his faith in the Lord Jesus? You mean that saves him? Well, it all depends on what you mean by, "Does that save him?" Our sins are washed away by the blood of the cross [Matthew 26:28; Revelation 1:5]. Our spirits are regenerated [John 3:3-5; Titus 3:5]. We are made new and quickened by the power of the Holy Spirit [Romans 8:11; Colossians 2:13].
But a man who has been forgiven in the blood of Christ and a man who has been regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit in his heart is a man who will come down that aisle, and will stand by my side, and will make a public confession of his faith in the Lord Jesus. And if he doesn’t do it, he hasn’t been forgiven; and he hasn’t been touched by the quickening power of the Spirit of God.
A man who’s saved, the man who’s become a Christian in his heart, the first thing he’d want to do is to come down that aisle and say, "Here I am, Preacher. Tonight I have given my heart to Christ, and I’m a disciple of the Lord Jesus."
The first thing a man would want to do who’s had that experience in his soul is this: "Pastor, where is water? I want to be baptized. See, here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptized? [Acts 8:36] I want to be a member of the church and the fellowship and the communion of the Savior."
That thing is a concomitant when God has quickened a man and touched a man and He saves him. The first thing the man wants to do is publicly to avow it, to go down before the church to say, "I’m a candidate for baptism. I want to be a member of the church." Now, this sermon tonight is the logic of that. There’s a reason in it, and it’s a rational reason. It comes from God, and it’s very, very patent and obvious.
"If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus . . . for with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" [Romans 10:9-10]. All right, the first avowal is this: it is the confession of faith that is faith itself. That’s what it is. The confession of a man’s faith is the faith itself; and if a man doesn’t confess it, he doesn’t have it.
What is faith? Well, it’s something that a man has. Well, where does he have it? He’s got it in his pocket. No, sir. You can go through all of your pockets, and you haven’t got any faith in your pocket. Well, it’s in the man. No, it’s not in the man like that; faith isn’t in a man like that. So you say that man’s got faith. His brains are in him. His pituitary gland’s in him. Cerebellum’s in him. His molars and bicuspids and incisors are in him. Sometimes his tonsils are still in him. His clavicles are in him. His lungs, his heart, and his pancreas is in him. His gizzard is in him. His femur is in him. His fibia and tibia are in him; his tarsals and his metatarsals are. And, Dr. John Bagwell, his semimembranosus and his tensor fascia latae, that’s in him. That’s in him.
But, you can dissect a man, you can dissect a man from the top of his head to the bottom of his foot, and you won’t find anything that looks like faith. Why? Because faith is something that a man does. Faith is the expression of something on the inside of a man’s spirit and his heart. Faith and love and hope: they’re all the same thing. Love is like faith – the expression of the thing is the thing itself. And if you don’t express it, you haven’t got it [James 2:14-26].
I heard of a fellow that hadn’t kissed his wife in twenty years, and he shot another man for doing it. He didn’t love his wife. It’s the expression of a thing that is the thing itself.
And once in a while, a mother will come along to me, and she’ll say, "Pastor, what in the world, what in the world, what in the world. This boy is the despair of my life. He won’t wash his ears. He won’t clean up. He won’t wash his neck. He won’t shine his shoes. He won’t wear a tie. He’s a ragamuffin. He’s the despair of my life."
I say to that mother, "Forget it. Don’t worry about it. Don’t worry anything about it at all. Don’t let it come to mind. Just give that boy a little time, and by and by there’ll come traipsing along a little old floozy, embellished thing, with golden hair and blue eyes and gorgeous waist. And that boy of yours, man a-living, he’ll put axle grease on his hair. He’ll shine his shoes. He’ll tie his tie a dozen different ways. There’s something got him. Why, mother, you’ll see it; he acts that way." And that’s what it is. The acting of the thing, that’s the thing itself.
So it is with faith. Over here in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews, you’ve got a great faith chapter. And it says in that faith chapter, it said, "By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen of yet . . . prepared an ark," because he was of faith, "to the saving of himself and his household!" [Hebrews 11:7]
It says he did it by faith. How do you know he did it by faith? Because God’s Book says he made an ark! [Genesis 6:22] He made an ark! And had he not made that ark, he would have drowned with the rest of them; but, he had faith to believe what God said, "one hundred and twenty years and I will destroy this world by water" [Genesis 6:3]. He believed God, and he built an ark by faith! He had faith. Of course he built the ark.
In the same eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews, it says, "By faith Abraham, called of God to go to a country that he should after receive for an inheritance," by faith, "he went out, not knowing whither he went" [Hebrews 11:8]. It says he did it by faith. How do you know he did it by faith? Because when God said, "Go out," Abraham went out! He got up and left! [Genesis 12:1-4] That’s faith. That’s faith.
It says in that same eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews; it says, "By faith Moses,refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season" [Hebrews 11:24-25]. It says he did that by faith. How do you know he did it by faith? Because he renounced the throne of Egypt. He refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, and he went out to suffer affliction with the people of God. That’s faith. That’s faith.
Faith is something that people do. It’s something that a man does. Faith gets out of his chair, out of his seat, out of the pew, gets into that aisle, walks down here by the side of this pastor, takes this preacher by the hand and says, "Preacher, here I am tonight. By God’s grace, I’ve given my heart and my life to Christ. And may that all of creation know and see I’m unashamed of it. Here I am." That’s faith. That’s faith. Faith: the expression of faith is the thing itself; that’s what it is. That’s what it is. "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, thou shalt be saved" [Romans 10:9].
That second avowal, second avowal: It is the public committal of your life to God that is salvation itself. That’s what it is to be saved. The public committal of your life to God is salvation itself. That’s what it is. That’s what it is.
But what do you mean? I mean God has never, through all of the centuries and all of His generations, God has never changed the plan of salvation. It has always been the same. The Word of God comes to a man’s heart. The message of Christ arrives, and a man listens to it; and then a man does it, or he doesn’t do it. If he will obey the voice of God and respond, if he has faith enough to obey what God says, God saves him. If a man refuses, if he resists, then he’s lost, and he’s damned; and God has never changed that.
The way of salvation through all of the ages has always been the same. A man must publicly, openly, unashamedly, unreservedly commit his life to God; and that committal, public and open, is salvation itself. That’s what it is, and it has never been changed. It’s the same all the way through.
If I had an hour tonight, we’d just go through some of it. For these few minutes, let’s take one or two.
Way back yonder, 1,500 years before the Lord Jesus Christ came into the world, the Lord God said to all of the inhabitants of darkened Egypt, "Tonight, tonight, My angel shall pass over. My angel shall pass over tonight; and the firstborn in every house, and the firstborn of the beast of the field, and the firstborn of everything that liveth, the firstborn shall die tonight! This is a night of awful wrath and the judgment of Almighty God. Tonight, the angel shall pass over" [Exodus 12:12].
"But," said the Lord God, "there’s a way of escape. There’s a way to be saved. If any man will take blood of a lamb and sprinkle it on the lintels and on the doorposts of his house – if he’ll take blood of the lamb and sprinkle it on the lintels and on the doorposts of his house; if a man will do that, the angel of death shall pass over and instead of death there’ll be life in that house" [Exodus 12:7, 13, 22].
So God gave His way, and God gave His plan to the people in the land of darkened Egypt. Now, a man could have said, "So, the Lord says we’re to sprinkle the blood of the lamb on the lintels and on the doorposts of the house? No, sir; no, sir. I don’t mind the blood of the lamb, and I don’t mind sprinkling it; but I’m not going to sprinkle the blood of the lamb on the lintels and on the doorposts of my house. I’m not going to do it. I’m going to put it back here somewhere. I’ll sprinkle it back there where nobody can see. I’ll put it in back and hide it away."
The Lord God says, "Not so! The man that is to be saved tonight is the man who shall openly display his faith in My promise. The blood is to be sprinkled on the front of the house, on the lintels and on the doorposts, where everybody can see and everybody can know this is the house of a man that believes in God. Look! There is a sprinkling of the blood on the lintels and on the doorposts." The house is to be openly and publicly, unashamedly, set apart! We are Christian people. We believe in God.
And there has never been any deviation from that great open plan of salvation. "Who is on the Lord’s side–let him come and stand by me." [Exodus 32:26] Or, again, "How long halt you between two opinions? If Baal be God, serve Baal. If Jehovah be God, serve Jehovah" [1 Kings 18:21]. But choose you this day whom you will serve [Joshua 24:15].
And here in the New Testament, could I pause for a moment of exegesis on the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Mark? I don’t know who finished Mark. The end was lost. But somebody picked up his pen, after Mark had written the Book, and he wrote this conclusion: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; and he that believeth not shall be damned" [Mark 16:16]. It’s the believing that makes the difference between a man’s salvation and his damnation, but whoever wrote that put that in there: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved."
What did he mean by that? That in baptism our sins are washed away? No, not at all. But whoever wrote that, whoever ended the Gospel of Mark – the unending part of Mark – whoever wrote that, he lived in a day when men were beginning to accept the Lord Jesus in their hearts but refused to come out openly in discipleship. And that man who wrote that was saying, "You can’t be a secret disciple of the Lord Jesus. You can’t be a follower of Christ and be ashamed of Him. You can’t follow the Lord and be saved and deny Him with your mouth. You’ve got to come out openly, and above board, and be all-out for God and all-out for Christ."
And their way of that testing was in the baptismal waters. If a man refused to be baptized, he wasn’t all-out a disciple for Christ. But when he gave his heart to the Lord Jesus, if he said, "I’m willing to go all of the way. I’m willing to be baptized," then he was a true disciple, and he was saved. That’s what he meant by that, and that’s what God means today: no man can ever be saved and be ashamed of the Lord Jesus. No man can ever be saved and be a secret disciple of the Savior. He must be all-out for God. "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, thou shalt be saved" [Romans 10:9].
And there’s a reason in that, I say. There’s a logic in it. I could not think of anything more hurtful to the heart and soul of our Savior than for a man to refuse, to refuse, to own the name of the Lord who died for him. The Lord said in the eighth chapter the concluding verse, in the Book of Mark, Mark 8: "Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed when He cometh in the glory of His Father with all His holy angels" [Mark 8:38].
Ashamed of the Lord Jesus: that was Simon Peter warming himself by the fire [Matthew 26:62-75; Mark 14:6-72]. The Lord Jesus being tried in the court of Annas and Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin that awful and terrible night, and a little maid came by, and another one came by, and the little girl came by and talked to Simon Peter and said, "You’re one of His disciples."
And again: "Yes, you are one of His disciples."
And a third time, "You are certainly one of His disciples. You talk like Him!"
And he cursed and swore and denied with an oath. And just as he was in the act of denying the Lord Jesus, the Bible says through the open door that opened out in the courtyard, the Lord turned and looked upon Simon Peter.
Simon ashamed of his Lord: "I don’t belong to Him. I’m not one of His disciples. I’m not a member of His church. I’m not a follower of the Lamb. Not I." And while he was denying, the Lord turned and looked upon Simon Peter. Then the Bible says – and thank God Simon had the heart to do it – the Bible says Peter went out and wept bitterly. Wept bitterly. To deny the Lord; to deny the Lord.
In this last and concluding chapter in the life of the Apostle Paul, he pleads with a young fellow. They are now in a day of persecution where a man to own the Christ means sometimes the dungeon, and sometimes the sword, and sometimes martyrdom. And he’s writing to Timothy, the last letter before he died:
O Timothy, be not thou therefore ashamed, be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me, His prisoner.
For I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that Day.
The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus, for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain;
But when he was in Rome, he sought me out diligently, and found me.
The Lord grant him that he might find mercy of the Lord in that Day.
[2 Timothy 1:8, 12, 16-18]
And I tell you what happened was this: Onesiphorus came to Rome, and he asked, "Where is Paul, the preacher of Christ?" And they said: "Hush, hush. Hush, hush. Don’t mention that name, Onesiphorus, for it means death in Rome now if they know you are a Christian!" And he lifted up his voice and said, "I said," and he said it where everybody could hear him, "Where’s Paul, my friend, the preacher of the Lord Jesus Christ?" And he wasn’t ashamed of his chain, and apparently lost his life.
The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus, that he may find peace in heaven in that day; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain.
[2 Timothy 1:16, 18]
"Whosoever shall confess with his mouth the Lord Jesus shall be saved" [Romans 10:9]. An open, unashamed committal of your life to Christ is salvation itself. That’s what it is to be saved.
I have a last avowal. It is the courage of an open avowal. It is the courage of an open commitment that is discipleship itself. That’s what it is. That’s what it is.
And when they came to Daniel, they said, "Daniel, it is signed by the king and is the law of the Medes and Persians. If any man shall call on the name of any god other than the king for thirty days, he’ll be cast into the den of lions" [Daniel 6:7-9].
And the Bible says as he was wont, as his custom was, Daniel opened his window toward Jerusalem and knelt down there three times every day and prayed to the Lord God in heaven [Daniel 6:10].
And they came to Daniel and said, "Do you not know the decree of the king? If any man shall call upon the name of any God for thirty days other than the king, he’ll be in the den of lions." Unperturbed because he was a disciple of God, unperturbed, he opened his windows and bowed down and prayed, as the Bible says, "as he was wont." What did it mean to be cast into the den of lions? What did it mean, the fast of the king? He belonged to the Lord God, the King of the universe, and he knelt and prayed "as he was wont." The courage of an open avowal is discipleship itself. That’s what it is. That’s what it is.
They heated the furnace seven times hotter and said to those three Hebrew children, "If you don’t bow down and worship before the golden image, you’ll be cast into the furnace of fire" [Daniel 3:14-15, 19].
Those young fellows, when all of the others bowed down in idol worship following the popularity of the day, following that clique of the crowd, while all the rest bowed down and worshiped before the golden image, those three boys – Meshach, Shadrach, Abed-nego, those three Hebrew boys – they stood straight up looking in the face of the Lord God [Daniel 3:16-18, 23-28]. Some crowd!
That’s what it is. The courage of an open avowal is discipleship itself. That’s what it is. That’s what it is.
When I was in school, we had, in my senior year, we had L. R. Scarborough come down there. He did a revival meeting, and ah, it was a hard thing; and Thursday the meeting just broke wide open. It just turned into a Pentecost down there among all of us, and here’s what did it.
Down the aisle, on Thursday night, down the aisle came our head cheerleader, and he asked Dr. Scarborough if he might not say a word; and the preacher graciously acquiesced.
And our head cheerleader stood up there in front of all of those students in the university, and he said, "When I was a little fellow" – his mother and his daddy being dead, brought up in his grandmother’s home – he said when he was a little fellow being brought up in the grandmother’s home, the only mother and the only father that he ever knew, that sainted grandmother she was a faithful Christian and a member of the Baptist church.
He said his grandmother grew ill, and before she died called the little grand boy over to her and told the little boy about his mother and his dad who were in heaven and told the little boy that she was going to heaven and said, "Son, I want you to be a Christian. I want you to give your heart to God, and I want you to follow the Lord; and some of these days, I want to meet you in glory."
And that cheerleader said, "I have done everything but be a Christian. I have done everything but follow the last prayerful appeal of my grandmother. I’ve done everything except follow the Lord. But," he said, "tonight, tonight, I want you to know, tonight, I give my heart to the Lord Jesus Christ."
And he said, "My fellow students, I have led you in these rallies, and I’ve led you at our football games, and I have led you into many other places. But tonight," said he, "I want to lead you to Jesus Christ." And then, looking up, that boy said, "And, Grandmother, I want you, I want you to prepare for me because I’m coming home some of these days to see you and my blessed mother and father in heaven."
And he made an appeal like that, something like that. And when that boy got through, when that boy got through, it looked to me like all heaven had come down. From one side of that vast Waco Hall to the other, the Spirit of God got hold of the hearts and souls of those young men and young women, and I could not describe to you the scene. Down there from everywhere, side to side in the balcony, everywhere, those young men and young women giving their lives to Christ, consecrating their days to Him. It was, as I say, it was a veritable Pentecost.
Those things come through the courage of an open discipleship. Unashamed, unashamed, unreserved. Oh, how, where everybody could see and everybody could know: "Here I stand. Here I am, so help me, God. In my heart, I do trust and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ; and before the world and the angels of heaven, I do confess Him as my Lord and Savior." And that’s what it is to be a Christian.
If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and shall believe in thine heart that He liveth, thou shalt be saved.
For with the heart one believeth unto salvation, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
That’s what it is. That’s what it is. That’s what it is to be a Christian, and that’s God’s appeal to you tonight. While we sing our song of invitation, in the circle of the balcony around and from side to side, somebody you, into the aisle and down here to the front and by the side of this preacher: "Here I am, Pastor, and here I come. Tonight, this night, openly, unashamedly, I give my heart and soul to the Lord Jesus." Or, "Here I come, Preacher. Into the heart and life of this church I want to put my membership. I’m coming by letter, by promise, by statement." However God shall say the word, make it tonight. Make it now.
In that back row, anywhere, everywhere, a family of you or one somebody you, while we sing, while we make appeal, will you do it? Will you come this moment? "Preacher, here I am."
All of this several thousand people here tonight where everybody can see you. If the world were here to see you, it’d be just the same. "I’m happy tonight and proud tonight to own the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior. Ashamed of His wounds? No. Ashamed of His cross? No. Ashamed of His name? No. Tonight, I give my heart and life to the Lord Jesus, and here I am, and here I come." While we stand and sing, make it now. Make it now.