The Way to God
March 27th, 1960 @ 7:30 PM
THE WAY TO GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-27-60 7:30 p.m.
Would you turn with me to the Book of Acts, chapter 9, the first eight verses? The Book of Acts, chapter 9, verses 1 through 8. Now let us all read it together, the ninth chapter of the Book of Acts, 1 through 8:
And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,
And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this Way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.
And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:
And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?
And he said, Who art Thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.
And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.
And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus.
In the second verse, "And he desired of him letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that if he found any of this Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem" [Acts 9:2]. You won’t find anything in the New Testament such as "the Christian faith," or "the Christian theology," or "the Christian interpretation," or "the Christian philosophy." The faith of Christ and the religion of Jesus was first referred to as "the Way." You’ll find that many times in the New Testament. The passage you just read, Acts 9:2, "That if he found any of the Way, whether men or women, that he might bring them bound to Jerusalem." Again in Acts 19:9, "When divers were hardened, and believed not," in the city of Ephesus, "but spake evil of the Way, he separated his disciples from them, and preached in a school."
The Way – you’ll find it again in Acts 22:4, "And I persecuted this Way unto the death, binding and delivering into prison both men and women." You’ll find it again in Paul’s defense before Felix, the procurator of Judea. "But this I confess unto thee, that after the Way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers" [Acts 24:14]. You’ll find it again in Simon Peter. "There shall come false teachers, and by reason of whom the Way shall be evil spoken of" [2 Peter 2:2] I suppose that that found its first inspiration and initiation in the word the disciples remembered from the blessed lips of Jesus. "Jesus saith unto them, I am the way: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me" [John 14:6].
Do you have someone here tonight whom you are interested in? Is there someone here tonight whom you know who ought to respond to the appeal of the Holy Spirit of God? We’re going to bow our heads, everybody, we’re going to close our eyes, and I’m going to ask you that question. And if there is somebody here for whom you are praying, I want you to raise your hand. Then we’re going to ask God to bless this appeal that the pastor makes tonight on The Way to God.
Now we bow our heads, shut out this whole earth, only Jesus and the Spirit of Jesus speaking to our hearts. God bless the appeal the pastor makes tonight. Is there somebody here you are interested in, somebody you know tonight who ought to respond to the appeal? If there is, would you raise your hand and keep it raised high? Raising your hand, "I know somebody here tonight that ought to respond to the appeal." Thank you and thank you and thank you.
And now, blessed Spirit, enable the preacher as he speaks of this way to God, the way to heaven. And bless the message especially and wonderfully and savingly to the hearts of these for whom hands have reached toward Thee: I know somebody tonight who ought to respond to the appeal. Now bless that somebody, and bless this great praying congregation, and bless the message of the preacher, in Thy holy and keeping blessed saving name, the name of Jesus, amen.
It is a plain way. It is a simple way. I do not deny that theology, taking the Bible as its text, is deep and profound. There are whole sections of theology, like there are whole sections of science. No man can even know all in the field of chemistry alone. There’ll be different kinds and different fields of chemistry. No man could begin to know even one field. It is no less so in the great profound depths of theology.
There are theological libraries written on the Book of Hebrews alone, theological libraries written upon the incarnation of Christ, theological libraries written upon the sacrificial system, theological libraries written upon the doctrines of atonement. I do not deny that. I am just avowing that the great fundamental basis upon which God has established the hope of our souls is always and without exception plain and simple. It’s like the functioning of our bodies: how a man can eat, and how a man can assimilate what he eats, and how the human body is able in the genius and miraculous endowment of God to take dead, inert matter and transform it into living life and a quickening spirit. I cannot understand but it is simple to eat.
It is thus with the way to heaven. It has a profound depth and unfathomable, immeasurable, inexplicable theology. You will never get to the bottom and ultimate of the doctrine of the atonement, how the blood of Christ washes our sins away [Revelation 1:5]. But the fact is very plain, and our response to it is to be very simple. And when God makes the invitation for a man to come to Jesus, He will always do it in monosyllabic language, in one sentence, plain words. How thankful we are for that; for had the way been devious and circuitous and difficult and hard, most of us would have missed it.
Practically all of us have been saved in youth time and in childhood. I was converted when I was ten years old. I was no theologian. If you had asked me to explain the doctrine of the atonement, I would have had hardly any idea what you referred to. These things are glorious to grow in, to study; for the remainder of our lives we can give ourselves to the reading of the Word and ask God to fill us with the holy wisdom of heaven. But the way of our salvation is in nowise connected with our understanding of the profound theological precepts of the gospel of Christ. It is a plain way. It is a simple way.
It is a way that a child can respond to. It is a way that any man can receive and accept. The man need not be brilliant. He need not be bright. He need not be learned. He need not be educated. He can be out of the depths of ignorance and superstition, in darkest heathenism and accept Jesus as his Savior.
I have seen them do it. I have preached the gospel to people who were in the depths of heathenism and darkness and paganism. And I have seen them out of the depths of ignorance and unlearnedness and heathenism step into the wonderful light of the saving knowledge of Christ. Not that they understand it all, I do not understand it all. But I can understand enough to know that I’m a sinner [Romans 3:23], that Jesus died for my sins according to the Scriptures [1 Corinthians 15:3], the revelation and promise of God, and that to those who will look to Him and trust in Him, He grants forgiveness of sin unto eternal life [John 3:16, 10:27-30; 1 John 5:11, 13; Hebrews 10:5-14]. The way is a plain and a simple way.
The way has a color. It is a crimson way. It is a scarlet way. It’s easy to tell when a man preaches the gospel of the Son of God. He will preach the cross. He will preach the blood. He will preach the atoning sacrifice of Jesus [Romans 5:11; Hebrews 2:17; 2 Corinthians 5:11]. When a man is preaching about the United Nations, and about war and peace, and about the latest book reviews, when a man is discussing economic issues and social amelioration, I do not deny but that they need discussing and that the more light we can bring to our democratic society, the more hope we have for the destiny of our nation; I do say that when the man does that he is not preaching the gospel of the Son of God. It is something else. It is something different.
The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ has a color to it. It may incidentally be involved with social betterment, with war and peace, with UNESCO, and with all of the things of economic determinism; but these things are corollaries and concomitants. They are not the great fundamental thing itself. The gospel has a color to it. The way is a crimson way. It is a scarlet way [Hebrews 9:27]; and anybody can see it and point it out and know it. It’s colored. The thing that binds our Bible together is that scarlet line, that golden thread.
The Bible was written over a period of a thousand years; many, many different authors with many different backgrounds wrote those sixty-six different books. And yet they are bound together in one great tremendous story and revelation. And that binding cord has a color. It is crimson. It is scarlet. It is blood red – in the garden of Eden where the Lord Himself offered the first sacrifice to cover the nakedness of our first parents [Genesis 3:21], and the blood of Abel the ground drank up [Genesis 4:8-10], and the blood of the sacrifice in the Passover [Exodus 12:7, 13, 22-23], and the blood of the atonement in the daily offering of the lamb unto God [Exodus 29:38-39], the drops of blood that stained the ground in Gethsemane [Luke 22:44], the blood in the court of the pavement where He was scourged [Matthew 27:26], the blood that dropped on the pavement of the street of the Via Dolorosa [John 19:16-17], the blood that fell from the sacrifice in the cross on Calvary [Luke 23:33; John 19:34], the blood of the martyrs and of the missionaries, and in heaven. "These are they who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" [Revelation 7:14].
It has a color. It is stained. It is scarlet. It is crimson. The blood of the sacrifices are there, the blood of the cross is there, the blood of the apostles and missionaries is there, the blood that saves us from our sins is there [Leviticus 17:11; Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 9:22]. The way is a plain way. It is a simple way. It is easily found. It goes by the cross. It has a color. It is red. It is scarlet. It’s crimson. It is stained with blood.
The way is a tear-stained way. It is a way of humility and repentance. No man ever comes to God in haughty pride and in self-sufficiency. No man stands as an equal with God. But when a man comes to God, if he ever comes, he bows. He humbles himself. He recognizes the lack and the need in his soul and in his life.
Jesus illustrated that. He said two men went up into the temple to pray. And one of the men looked up into the face of God and proudly said, "O God, I thank Thee, that I am not like other men." Then he pointed out to the sins and derelictions of other men. ‘I thank Thee, Lord, I am not like them.’" The other man that went up into the house of God to pray was a despised publican. He would not so much, says our Lord, as lift up his eyes to heaven. But he cast his eyes down in humility and in contrition, and beat upon his breast and said, "O God, have mercy upon me a sinner" [Luke 18:10-13].
Jesus said that man, who bowed his head, and who beat upon his breast, who asked God for mercy because he was a sinner, Jesus said that man went down to his house justified [Luke 18:14]. Do you know what Jesus meant when He said that? "That man went down to his house justified." That meant that God had declared him righteous; not that he is righteous, but God declared him righteous. He has a God kind of righteousness [Romans 4:25, 5:9-10].
For the human kind of righteousness, the Book says, "Is as filthy rags in His sight" [Isaiah 64:6]. He went home justified. That is, God had declared him right before God. The Lord had written his name in the Lamb’s Book of Life [Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27], and said, "This man’s sins are covered. They are forgiven. They are separated as far as the east is from the west. This man is justified" [Romans 5:8-11]. And the only man that can stand in the presence of God is a justified man [Jude 1:24].
The way is a way of humility. It is a way of contrition. It is a way of confession. No man could ever come to God without owning to God that he was a dying sinner. "Lord, I face some day an inevitable need. Life is wasting away. I face death. I face the judgment. And I’m not adequate for these great and ultimate rendezvous I have with the pale horseman, and at the judgment bar of God [Romans 14:10]. I need help. I need a Savior. I need an advocate. I need a pleader. I need Thee, O God." It’s a way of humility, of contrition, of confession. The cross itself rebukes pride.
What is that glorious hymn?
When I survey the wondrous cross,
On which the Prince of Glory died
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
["When I Survey the Wondrous Cross"; Isaac Watts]
Kneeling at the cross, bowing at the cross, O God that such a sacrifice should have been made for me, for me. The way is a tear-stained way. It’s a humble way. It’s a way of confession and contrition. It’s a way of humility. It’s a way of bowing in the presence of God.
The way is a way of acceptance and of faith. "Dear Lord, I don’t understand it all. I don’t know it all. I can’t grasp it all. It is as high above me as the heavens are higher than the earth." "But God’s thoughts are higher than a man’s thoughts, and God’s way is above a man’s way" [Isaiah 55:8-9]. I would not expect God to put into my little finite mind all of the inimitable measures that He knows and that He understands, the infinite wisdom of God; for I am so small and so little.
I do not deign, I do not aspire to the wisdom of God. It is too great. It is too much. I don’t have to understand it, nor do I have to enter into the illimitable height and depth of the wisdom of God. It is just enough that He knows, and He understands, and all things are held in His hands.
When I worry, I am just that much drawing away from that great confidence in God. I don’t have to worry. He knows. And all things are in His hands. Nor do I have to be anxious or full of trembling and fear. Nor do I have to look with askance and wonder upon these days that open, the developments that lie ahead for my life and for your life. He sees the end from the beginning, and in His mighty and able hands all things are. And even the nations are a small dust in the balance, in the mighty keeping omnipotent hands of God. I just accept it. "Dear Lord, not that I understand, for I don’t, and not that my mind is able to enter into the counsels of the Almighty, I am too finite, too limited; but Lord, I believe in Thy infinite grace, and Thy marvelous love, and Thy great heart of sympathy; and dear Master, I accept, I receive, I believe, I trust. My heart is open." That’s what it is to be a Christian.
He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.
But to as many as received Him, to them gave He the right to become the children of God, even to the them that trust in His name, that believe in Him, that open their hearts to receive Him.
That great preacher of Boston said, "This is what it is to be a Christian: f-a-i-t-h, forsaking all I take Him." This is our way, walking with the Lord: when I can understand, walking with the Lord; when I cannot understand, walking with the Lord. In the bright of the day, walking with the day; in the depths of the darkness of the night, walking with the Lord; walking with the Lord in the youth time of life; walking with the Lord in the manhood of life; walking with the Lord in the twilight and age of life; and someday, walking with the Lord into the great vistas of the beyond – that is the way.
It is a way of open confession. "Here I stand, before men and angels; I do confess my faith in Jesus as Lord. I may be a poor representative, but I’m not confessing my faith in me; I’m confessing my faith in Him. Lots of things wrong with me; nothing wrong with Him." Here may be weakness; but there is strength. Here may be unloveliness; but there is loveliness. Here may be sorrow and despair and distress; there is glory and triumph and victory. Standing in the God kind of righteousness, in the justification of the Lord, it is a way of open confession.
If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that He lives, that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
For with the heart we lean upon God, we look to God, we trust in God, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
[Romans 10:9, 10]
"Pastor, I give you my hand, I give my heart to God." It is a way of open confession.
It is a way of joy and gladness. It is called the glory road. People shout on that way. People sing on that way. There’s no song dedicated to infidelity. People don’t sing about infidelity and unbelief. People sing about Jesus, and about grace, and about mercy, and about the cross, and about heaven, and about God, and about the fellowship of the saints. We sing about those things. Why? Because it’s a glory road. It’s a happy way. It’s a joyous way. It’s the way to God. It’s the way to heaven. It’s the way to home.
The story concludes when the eunuch said, "Look, here is water. What doth hinder me to be baptized?" And the evangelist said, "If thou trustest, if thou believest, if thou acceptest in thou heart, thou mayest." And he said, "I believe that Jesus is the Son of God. And they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip that the eunuch saw him no more. And" – and how does the story end? – "And he went on his way, Bless the name of God, oh, hallelujah! Oh, glory, glory! And he went on his way rejoicing" [Acts 8:36-39].
Why, bless your soul, did you know the world thinks if a man gives his heart to Jesus, then he’s shut out the joy of living? If a man turns to be a Christian, it’s like turning to the funeral parlors; let’s drape him with sackcloth, and let’s put a wreath on his door, and let’s put crepe on the windows, for the man has given his heart to Jesus, he’s ceased to live, and all of the wild gladness of life is gone. This man’s given his heart to Jesus; all the joys of life are excluded and shut out.
Why, he’s just got it turned around. It’s the man of the world that has sorrows without solace, that has darkness and despair, that faces nothing but the grave, and the night, and the death, and an eternity without hope! He’s the man that lives in the grave. He’s the man that has crape on the door. He’s the man that faces the darkness of despair. While the Christian man, all that awaits him is the light of heaven and the glory of God. And we’re the ones who can sing, and shout, and praise His name. We’re the ones that can have a good time and a wonderful time, for the Christian way is a happy way. It’s a glorious way. It’s a heavenly way. We call it the glory road.
That’s our invitation to your heart tonight. Somebody you, like a child, "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter in" [Matthew 18:3]. Leave out of it all the metaphysics and philosophies of life, leave them out. Leave out of it all of the callousness, and censoriousness, and skepticism of the world, leave it out. That’s where skepticism, and censoriousness, and despair live; out in the world. But in God there’s just faith, and the light of the knowledge of the grace of His presence. Come like a child. Come like a child. "Lord, here I am. Here I come, humbly trusting in Thee; trusting Thee for now, trusting Thee for in the morning, trusting Thee for the next day, trusting Thee for the day at a time, looking to Jesus, walking in the way."
Would you do it? Would you do it tonight? Is there a family that ought to come, a whole family you, or one somebody you? Is there a child, or a youth, a man, or a woman? As the Spirit shall make appeal to your heart, and as our people shall pray and sing, in this balcony, coming down one of these stairways, or in this lower floor into the aisle and down to the front, "Here I am, pastor, and here I come, giving my heart in faith to Jesus, here I am." Will you? Will you do it on the first note of the first stanza? "Pastor, I give you my hand. I give my heart to God. Before men and angels I confess Him as my Lord." As the Spirit shall make appeal, would you make it tonight,? While we stand and while we sing.
the Bible, "the Christian faith" never used, but always "the way" (Acts 9:2, 19:9, 22:4, 24:14)
B. Not "a" way, but
"the" Way (John 14:6)
II. A plain way
B. Even children and
the unlearned can understand
III. A crimson way
A. Stained with blood
bound together by scarlet line (Revelation 7:14)
IV. A tear-stained way
A. A way of humility
and repentance (Psalm 51:17, Luke 18:10-14,
B. A way of confession
V. A way of faith
A. His thoughts higher
than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9, John 1:11-12)
B. Forsaking All I Take
VI. A way of open confession
A. Open and public
committal (Romans 10:9-10)
VII. A way of joy
A. The glory road
B. Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:36-39)