Salvation By Grace
September 21st, 1958 @ 10:50 AM
SALVATION BY GRACE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Timothy 1:9
9-21-58 10:50 a.m.
You are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled Salvation By Grace. And the reading of the text is in 2 Timothy 1:8-10. Last Sunday evening, we left off with the seventh verse of the first chapter of 2 Timothy [2 Timothy 1:7]. This morning we begin at the eighth verse reading through the tenth:
Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;
Who hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,
But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death—annulled death, made it of none effect, made it ineffectual—and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:
Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.
[2 Timothy 1:8-10]
The text is the ninth verse, “…according to the power of God; Who hath saved us, who hath called us with a holy calling, not according to our works”—or merit, or faith, or repentance, or gifts, or dedication, or consecration, or holiness, or anything that we can, shall, have, or will do—“but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before you were born, before the world was made” [2 Timothy 1:8-9]—before creation existed, when God alone lived. That is very fine example of the doctrine of grace as it was revealed to Paul from heaven itself, and as it was preached by the incomparable missionary and evangelist and ambassador and apostle to the Gentiles.
Now may God give us grace this morning to understand and to listen, and a heart of faith to believe and to accept. The first all-inclusive avowal that is made by the apostle is this: that we are saved by the power of God. It is God who saves us. It is God who hath saved us. It is God who calls us. It is God who hath delivered us from the penalty and judgment of our sins, according to His own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus our Lord, and that before the world began [2 Timothy 1:9].
That’s Jonah’s doctrine in [Jonah 2:9], “Salvation is of the Lord.” And that is the unvarying revelation of the Holy Spirit in all of the sacred Scriptures. Our salvation is entirely of God. It springs entirely of Him. It is His love. It is His mercy. It is His grace [Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5]. It is His elective purpose and choice. “Salvation is of God.” Were it not for the mercy of God, no flesh would be saved in His sight. “According to the power of God who hath saved us, who hath called us, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose of grace given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” [2 Timothy 1:8-9].
Our salvation is a work of God our Father. For as the Lord said, our “Father Himself loveth you” [John 16:27]. It is a plan of God, thought of God, executed of God. Christ, God’s Son, was chosen to be our substitute, to bear the penalty of our sins [Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21]. All of our salvation was thought out, planned out, and presented to God in Christ, in heaven, before the world was made. It has its beginning and its execution in God.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Christ Jesus to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved
Salvation is of God our Father. Salvation is of God our Savior, the Lord Jesus.
We are in a twofold misery. We are sinners; have been. We are sinners, still are [Romans 3:23]. And we face a certain execution, a certain destruction, a certain judgment. And it is impossible for us to turn away from it. If any man think it to be different, let him stand up and say, “All other men face the dissolution of their bodies, but I do not. All other men face death and decay, but I do not.” No man can say that. All of us face a certain decay, a certain dissolution, a certain death, and a certain judgment from which we cannot turn away. The sentence is written in heaven, “The soul that sins shall die” [Ezekiel 18:20], and death and sin are the eternal links waged together by the decree and mandate of God.
In my helplessness and in my hopelessness, the case is referred to Jesus Christ. It is Christ who redeems us from the penalty of sin [1 Peter 1:18-19; Revelation 5:9]. It is Christ who delivers us from the chains of death. It is Christ who shall be our advocate in the great judgment day that is yet to come [1 John 2:1]. Our salvation is of God, our Savior the Lord Jesus [Acts 4:10-12; 1 Timothy 2:5]. And the righteousness which clothes the saints is the righteousness of the Son of God. As the Revelation begins, “Unto Him who loved us, and washed us . . . in His own blood, and made us kings and priests unto God our Father; unto Him be glory and dominion and power forever and ever. Amen” [Revelation 1:5-6].
We are saved by God. We are saved by God the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit of God that brings a man to Christ. It is the Holy Spirit of God that convicts a man in his conscience, in his soul, of sin [John 16:8-11]. It is the Holy Spirit of God that reveals Christ. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned” [1 Corinthians 2:14].
The Holy Spirit of God brings us to Jesus and reveals to us the saving grace and mercy and power and pardon of Christ our Lord [John 16:7-11]. And the Holy Spirit of God regenerates, re-creates our souls [Titus 3:5]. As the Spirit of God brooded over the face of the deep in the first chaos and destruction [Genesis 1:2], so the Spirit of God shall brood over, empower, overshadow the humblest believer in Christ, to deliver his soul from eternal destruction and to raise his body, incorruptible, from the dead [1 Corinthians 15:52]. Salvation is of God:
According to the power of God: Who hath saved us, who hath called us,
not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace,
which was given us in Jesus our Lord before the world was made.
[2 Timothy 1:8-9]
For a man to suppose, to be persuaded, that he saves himself is a gross error and mistake. Can a temple build itself? We are God’s temple, of God’s own building [1 Corinthians 6:19]. God is the architect and the planner. God is the builder, and God created the materials and gathered them out of which His temple is made. Can creation create itself? Only in the foolishness of the pseudoscientific books; creation never creates itself. Out of nothing, nothing comes. Only by the divine fiat of God can there come out of nothing the universe in which we live and the establishment of our own souls and bodies [Genesis 1:1-28]. In nowise, in no time, in no place, out of nothing can something come.
Thus it is with our salvation. God creates and God recreates. He who made us in the first place can, does, and will remake us again [2 Corinthians 5:2]. And out of the dust of ground God shall raise these temples to live in His sight, glorified, immortalized, transfigured [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17], like the glorious house in which our Savior and elder Brother is now clothed in glory [Romans 8:29; Philippians 3:21].
Does death give birth to life? Could Lazarus raise himself? Dead, corrupting, lying there in the tomb and to lie there forever and forever and forever, were it not for the power of Him who can speak life and resurrection to the dead [John 11:43-44]. As a dead man cannot raise himself, as a dead man is hopeless before God and powerless to live in His sight, so we are in our souls and in our bodies, dead, buried, corrupting, under the judgment and penalty of sin and death [Genesis 3:19].
Salvation is of God. It is the voice of the mighty God who can speak and Lazarus come forth [John 11:43-44]. It is the voice of the mighty God who shall speak to these who sleep in the heart of the earth, in the depths of the sea, wasted in the dust of creation [John 5:25; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. They shall stand up like a mighty army [Ezekiel 37:10], and live in this His sight someday, some glorious day, in the power of God, “Who hath saved us, and called us . . . not according to our works, but according to His own purpose of grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” [2 Timothy 1:9].
Now, we take these phrases, so meaningful, and see their pertinency to us today. Will you notice first the tenses that Paul uses? Who “hath” saved us. Who “hath” called us. Who “hath” given us [2 Timothy 1:9]. Past perfect, done, completed! We are perfectly saved, wholly saved, completely saved in the purposes of God. In no wise, on no account are we persons, people, disciples who are in a way of hope, who are on the road to salvation, who have great ambitions and visions that someday we shall ultimately be saved. No, in the purpose of God, in His love and mercy, we are already saved [2 Timothy 1:9]. It is not a blessing we are going to enjoy on a deathbed. It is not a blessing that we shall inherit finally by and by, but it is a life given to us now. It is a blessing bestowed upon us now! Every person who listens on this radio, who is in the divine presence of God this morning, is either saved or lost now! The work of Christ is finished [John 19:30].
And the elective purpose of Christ in God is known from the beginning; who hath saved us, who hath called us: this purpose of grace which hath been given us in Christ Jesus our Lord. It is a thing done: finished, complete! [2 Timothy 1:9-10; John 19:30]. And it is a blessing which is bestowed upon us now. And look at the unusual and singular manner in which Paul describes it, “According to the power of God; who hath saved us, and hath called us according to His mercy.” He has saved us first, and then He calls us! [2 Timothy 1:8-9]. What an unusual thing. We are saved and then called! No man ever thought of that, nor did any man ever plan that. Nor would any man ever preach that. This is the singular and revealed message of God. God hath saved us, and then He hath called us with an holy calling [2 Timothy 1:9].
In the work of the Holy Spirit, as we see it and know it here below, first, we are called, and then, apparently saved. That’s the way it looks to us, but not in the mind and purpose and plan of God. God says, “You were saved before the foundation of the world” [2 Timothy 1:9]. God says, “I wrote your name in the Lamb’s Book of Life before the world was created [Revelation 17:8].” God says, “I saw you, and I knew you, and I called you, and I saved you before you were born.”
First, we are saved, and then, we are called [2 Timothy 1:9]. In the olden days, a man might be placed in prison for being in debt, and a friend could go and pay his debt and then announce to the one in prison, “You’re free.” The man is free when his debt was paid. He only knew it when the announcement was made to him. So it is with God’s children of mercy and faith. We are saved in heaven, in the mind and purpose and revealed call of God, before the world was made [2 Timothy 1:9]. And then we hear the announcement of it that day when the Holy Spirit quickens us, and in faith we trust in Jesus for the gift of life from His gracious hands [Ephesians 2:1-9].
Don’t you ever worry, or don’t you ever be anxious that the purposes of God can be subverted by man, or by devil, or by angel, or by any other power of the kingdom of darkness. His purposes obtain forever; and “They, who are given unto Me” [John 6:37], said Christ, “no one can pluck them out of My Father’s hands” [John 10:29]. We are saved in the purposes of God from the beginning! [2 Timothy 1:9]. Do you see what that doctrine does to a man’s works, to a man’s merit, to a man’s fine presentation of himself? God says we are saved by the mercy [Titus 3:5], and the goodness, and the atonement [Romans 5:11], and the calling, and the elective purposes of heaven! [2 Timothy 1:9]. And in nowise is a man ever saved in his own worth, in his own goodness, in his own merit, in his own holiness. No! And then lest a man might think that, Paul openly says it in the negative and disavows it. “God hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling” [2 Timothy 1:9]. Then the negative: not according to our works. Not according to our works: “By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” [Galatians 2:16]. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; that not of yourselves: it is a gift of God: not of works, lest any man should” [Ephesians 2:8-9] say, “I did it; I stand here on my own. I walked into heaven head up. Didn’t need any Savior; didn’t need any atonement. No blood gospel for me, I’m here by my own strength—by the ableness and ability, by the holiness and worth and merit of my own life.” “Not of works, lest any man should boast” [Ephesians 2:9], lest he say, “I did it.”
“For to him that worketh is the reward reckoned not of grace, but of debt” [Romans 4:4]. That is, to the man that works and gains his salvation, then it’s no longer a gift, it is no longer by the grace of God. He worked for it. And it’s a debt to him that God has to pay. He won it. Just like when a man works for you, you owe him a debt, a wage, and you pay him. He worked for you and you pay him. So if a man is saved by works, it’s a debt that God has to pay to you. “But by the works of the law, shall no flesh be justified in His sight” [Romans 3:20]. You can’t work for your salvation. You can’t buy it. You can’t bribe God with any amount of good things or good deeds, for good works do not expiate the sin of a man’s life. Only blood atonement can do that [Leviticus 17:11; Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 9:22].
We’re not saved by our faith or by our repentance as though on the ground of our faith and on the ground of repentance, God accepts us. God accepts a man and saves a man only on the grounds of the atonement of Jesus Christ [Romans 5:11]. “When I see the blood, I will pass over you” [Exodus 12:7, 13]. “Not according to our works, but according to His mercy does He save us” [Titus 3:5]. And a man who depends partly on works and partly on Christ never knows Christ.
Like a man in an airplane, “I am going to ride the thing, but I’m going to keep one foot on the ground.” I just tried to visualize that out there at Love Field. That would be a ridiculous, anomalous situation. I’m either on that thing to live or to die, or I’m not on it at all. You can’t ride in a plane with one foot on the ground. You’re either in it or you’re out it.
The fellow in the old joke that said, “I never did put my full weight down on that thing,” he just didn’t know. He was in it, to live or to die. That’s the way that a man is in Christ. I’m either depending upon Him, I’ve either given myself to Him, or I haven’t. It is one or the other. I either commit a deposit to the bank, or I hold it in my hands. I either commit a package to the express company, or I hold it in my hands. I either commit my letter to the post office or I hold it in my hands. I cannot do both. So it is with the salvation of God in Christ, not according to works. I either give it to Christ and trust in Christ and look to Christ, or I’m trusting and looking to something else. It’s not both. Grace and works cannot mix any more than fire and water. It is one or the other. I’m looking to Jesus, or I’m looking to something else. “Not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” [2 Timothy 1:9]. It is, it was, it ever shall be the purpose of God to save His own [Ephesians 1:4]. Back, back, back, back before the unnavigated sea of space was disturbed by the wing of a seraph, before the stillness was disturbed by the song of the cherubim, back, back when God was alone, then did He purpose in His grace to make this gift to us in Christ Jesus our Lord [Ephesians 2:4-9].
Now, in this little moment, I want you to see what that doctrine does to us and for us. First of all, how it elevates, how it dignifies, how it exalts, how it raises to heaven itself the humblest believer in Christ Jesus our Lord [James 4:6]. His name may not be among the four hundred. His name may not be in Burke’s book of peerage. His name may not be among the VIPs. In the kingdoms and capitals cities of the world, nobody may ever know him. But his name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life [Revelation 21:27], and he possesses a nobility bestowed by the order of the cross of God [Philippians 3:20].
No longer are people, God’s children, to be looked upon as cannon fodder, as straw to be trampled down by the despotic heel of a communist or totalitarian government. But these are the saints of the Lord. These are the children of God. These are the nobility of heaven. These are the elect according to the purposes of the Almighty before the world was made [2 Timothy 1:9].
A second thing; not only does it bestow a heavenly nobility, but it is a gospel, it is a message, it is a preaching that a man can hold to, that a man can believe in, that a man can grasp. It’s a message that can hold him and see him through in life, in death, in the vicissitudes of time and fortune here and forever. A critic one time said, “You know, you can go hear thirteen lectures on geology or astronomy and go away having a pretty good idea what those sciences are. But you can go hear thirteen hundred sermons from a modern minister and have no idea what are his doctrinal sentiments.”
What an indictment, and how true, of the modern preaching of the modern day, talking about all the current events, discoursing upon the UN, UNESCO, war and peace, race, all of the economic factors of the Middle East. All of the things that pour through these magazines and editorials and on the radios; it’s yes, it’s no, it’s pro, it’s con. It’s dark, it’s light, enmeshed in the things in this world. How could a man lift up his soul to God and be the fed the husks, the shucks of these daily, common, current things in life, as though that were the eternities of God?
This is a gospel. This is a message that a man can listen to and rejoice. This is the message of life for death, a forgiveness of sins, of resurrection, of heaven, and of glory to come. In order to hear this message, that God hath saved us, that the Lord hath called us, that God, according to His own purpose, hath given us grace in Christ Jesus, before the world began [2 Timothy 1:9]—to hear that message, men have gathered in the tempest and in the storm, in a midnight hour, in dens and in caves of the earth, not fearing the wrath of the king or the sword of the prelate, in order to listen to the news from heaven that Christ hath died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was raised the third day from the dead for our justification [1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Romans 4:25], and to them who trust in Him shall God grant and give His elective purpose of life everlasting, world without end [John 3:16], looking to Jesus, hoping in Jesus, trusting in Jesus, depending upon Jesus [Hebrews 12:2].
Preparing this message, I ran across an old-time poem writ long, long ago,
Until I saw the blood,
‘Twas hell my soul was fearing:
And dark and dreary in my eyes,
The future was appearing,
While conscience told its tale of sin,
And caused a weight of woe within.
But when I saw the blood,
And looked at Him who shed it,
My right to peace was seen at once,
And I with transport read it;
I found myself to God brought nigh,
And ‘Victory’ became my cry.
“My joy was in the blood,
The news of which had told me,
That spotless as the Lamb of God,
My Father could behold me.”
And all my boast was in His name,
Through whom this great salvation came!
[Reid, William, 1814-1896, American Tract Society]
“According to the power of God; Who hath saved us, who hath called us, not according to our works, but according to His own purposes of grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” [2 Timothy 1:8-9]. No storm can take that hope away. No dark hour can rob us of that expectancy. No death, and no age, and no sorrow, and no overwhelming flood can rob us of that glorious inheritance. It is according to the elective purpose of God, and the Lord gave it to us before the world was made [2 Timothy 1:9].
What a wonderful thing to teach a man to look up to God in all things. Don’t need any beads. Don’t need any rosaries. Don’t need any confessionals. Don’t need any masses. Don’t need any purgatories. Don’t need any absolutions. We have God, we have Christ! We have His Word, His promise, His salvation, His altar, His entrance, His anchor of faith! That’s enough. What the Lord hath said, that will I believe. What the Lord doth will, that I will I do. What the Lord hath promised, that will I build on. What God hath said, that will I follow, looking in triumph unto Jesus.
I have one other thing. What this gospel does for us. All of us face an inevitable and certain and coming hour. Age is calling. The grave is calling. Death is calling. Cemetery is calling. The judgment is calling, and we move on and on, inevitably, inexorably, on and on. What comfort it is to the human soul for the gospel of the Son of God to be announced to a lost sinner. “Sir, it is not by merit. It is not by worth. It is not by your own ableness or adequacy or goodness, but it is by the mercy and favor and grace of God bestowed upon us lost sinners, poor and dying, in Christ Jesus our Lord” [Titus 3:5].
Are we black? Then there is washing in Him [1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5]. Are we dying? There is life and resurrection in Him [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. Are we naked and unclothed? There is raiment spotless in Him [Revelation 7:13-14]. Are we lost and undone? There is salvation in Him [Romans 10:9-10]. Brother, look to Jesus.
Look, look and live.
Look, my brother, and live.
‘Tis recorded in His Word. Hallelujah!
It is only that you look and live.
[“Look and Live,” William Agustine Ogden, 1849-71]
He, who hath abolished death, made it of none effect, annulled it, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel [2 Timothy 1:10]. Now, we see the ravages of death everywhere with unmitigated violence laying in the grave, but its sting has been drawn. The chain has been broken. It is now but a transition from the veil of these tears to the glorious, incorruptible immortality that shall be ours in Christ Jesus in the glorious victory by and by and by, all given to those who are called in Christ Jesus [Romans 8:28-30; 1 Corinthians 15:53-57].
My brother, has the Spirit called you? Do you want to be saved? Do you want to be enrolled in the family of God? Do you want to be in His church? Do you want to have Christ as friend and Savior? Do you? Then God has called you? Your name is writ large in the Book of Life. Come; come. He hath saved you, and now He calls you. Come; come; come. In the balcony around, down these stairwells; from side to side in this great auditorium, come; come. Looking to Jesus in faith, in repentance, in hope, in trust—looking to Him, would you come, would you come? A family to put their lives in the church; one somebody you; however God shall say the word and lead the way, will you make it now? While we stand and while we sing.
I. It is God who saves us(Jonah2:9)
work of God our Father(John 16:27, Ephesians
1:3-6, John 3:16)
work of God our Savior, the Lord Jesus(Ezekiel
18:20, Revelation 1:5-6, 5:9, 1 John 2:1)
work of God the Holy Spirit(John 16:8-11, 14, 1
Corinthians 2:14, Genesis 1:2)
To say we save ourselves is a gross mistake
Can creation create itself?(Romans 8:29)
Do the dead raise themselves?(John 5:25, 11:43-44)
II. God’s singular, unusual way of saving
tenses of the passage
“Hath” called us, “hath” saved us, “hath” given us
is perfectly, completely saved in God’s purpose; it is a finished work(John 19:30)
the order – “saved usâ€¦called us”(Ephesians 2:1-8,
explicit emphasis of the text
saying of the same thing(Galatians 2:16,
Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 3:20, 4:4, Hebrews 9:22, Exodus 12:13, Titus 3:5)
is, it was, it ever shall be the purpose of God to save His own
III. The blessing and comfort of the
even the humblest believer – his name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life
is a message a man can hold to, believe in
Critic’s view of modern preaching an indictment
Men have gathered in the tempest and storm, in dens and caves, not fearing
wrath of king or sword to hear the gospel(1
Poem, “Until I saw the bloodâ€¦”
to a poor, lost, dying sinner(2 Timothy 1:10, 1
Poem, “Look and Live”