Great Words of Salvation: Confession
March 29th, 1961 @ 12:00 PM
THE GREAT WORDS OF SALVATION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-29-61 12:00 P.M.
Well, we greatly appreciate what those men do. They sing and incidentally, they work at the church. And the Lord bless them for all we can get out of them. This is the most enticing place to go to church that I could imagine. I love, I like, I adore popcorn, and I have an inspiration: we are going to get us a machine and put it in the foyer of the church. It is the most salubrious smell that I could know of. To see you here at this hour is a heartening and encouraging thing indeed. This is the forty-second consecutive year our church has conducted services in a downtown theater. And ever since this theater has been built, they have been conducted in this auditorium. It is a joy toward which we to look each year.
This is your busy hour, and any time you must leave, you are at liberty to do so. Do not think that the people would be hurt or the preacher would not like it if you stand up in the middle of the last sentence and walk out. Some of you have had to forgo a lunch in order to be here, and whenever you must leave, you have a task to do, you have a salary to make, you have a boss to serve, and whenever you have to leave, it is all right, everybody understands.
The theme this year has been around that question in the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Acts: “What must I do to be saved?” [Acts 16:30]. And the different sermons are regarding repentance, and faith, and confession, and discipleship, and atonement. Monday it was Repentance, and, yesterday it was Faith, and today it is Confession. From the words of our Lord in the tenth chapter of the Book of Matthew, verses 32 to 33:
Whosoever therefore shall confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father which is in heaven.
But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father which is in heaven—
and from the apostle Paul, in Romans 10:9-10—
If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
For with the heart one believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
Repentance, and faith; and today, confession.
I held a revival meeting—I called it revival, they called it something else. I held a revival meeting in one of the great universities of the Southland. They had there a devout athlete, an Olympic star who made an engagement for me to eat dinner with the football team and all the athletic group in the athletic building at the university. And through the encouragement of that athlete, that great Olympic star, why, they had a session of the football team back in a room somewhere. And this wonderful young Christian athlete was doing his best to get the football team to attend the service in a group.
So after they had their session, why, they came out and made a formal announcement to me, and it was an unusual word. This is what their spokesman said, “Now we have agreed to go to the services one night. We’ll all be there together. We’ll reserve us a place and we’ll sit together, but we want you to know before we come, that there is no ‘going down the aisle’ business for us.” And the fellow added, “If fire were to fall down from God out of heaven, we will not come down that aisle.” And they were as good as their word. That night we had one of the most unusual services I ever shared in my life. I could not tell you the number of young people who responded. But that football team, to the man, stood back there deeply moved, but not a one of them stepped out. Not a one of them confessed his faith in the Lord. And if fire had fallen down from God out of heaven, “None of that ‘come to Jesus’ stuff for us.”
Then they can’t be saved. Well, why? For very lucid and patent and plain reasons. The reasons lie in the very genius of the Christian faith itself, and it lies in the very foundation of the revelation of God and the elective purposes of God among men. What is this logic of “an open confession of faith in Christ without which a man cannot be saved”? [Romans 10:9]. Well, first it is the expression of faith that is faith itself. That’s what it is, and if a man doesn’t express it, if he doesn’t confess it, then he doesn’t possess it. For the thing is the expression of it, that’s what it is! And if you don’t express it, then you don’t have it, for the thing is the avowal of it.
Now, here is a man that you said to me, “He has great faith. That man has tremendous faith.” Well, being curious, I’d like to see his faith. I’d like to look at it. I’d like to handle it. I’d just like to hold it in my hands. You say, “He has faith.” So, I’m looking for it. And I search all over his person and look in his pockets. And there is nothing like faith on his person. So I start at the fellow’s head and I go clear down to his foot, searching for his faith. Well, here’s his cranium, and his cerebellum, and his cerebral hemispheres, and the cortex, and there is his pituitary gland, and here is his tonsils, and his bicuspids, and his clavicles, but I haven’t found his faith yet. But, you say he’s got it, so, let’s continue. Here’s his semimembranosus, and there’s his tensor fascia lataes, and here’s his vermiform appendix, and here’s his pancreas, and there’s his gizzard, but I haven’t found his faith yet. You say he’s got it. So I keep looking. Here are his femurs, there’s his tibia and his fibia, there are his tarsals and metatarsals. And finally, I’ve got to his corns and his bunions and his ingrown toenails, but I haven’t found his faith yet.
Then evidently, plainly, lucidly, patently, faith must be something that a man does. And if he doesn’t do it, he doesn’t possess it. For it’s the doing of the thing and the expression of the thing that is the thing itself; and if a man doesn’t do it and if he doesn’t express it, then he doesn’t possess it. It’s the identical thing as love, the expression of the thing is the thing itself. And if you don’t show it, you haven’t got it. And if you don’t express it, you don’t possess it.
I heard of a fella that hadn’t kissed his wife in twenty years. Then he shot another man for doing it.
One time I had a mother come to see me, she was so worried about her ragamuffin boy. And she said, “My, pastor! I don’t know what I’m going to do about him. That roughneck of mine, he won’t comb his hair, he won’t wash his ears, he won’t tie his tie, and he won’t shine his shoes. He’s the despair of my life. I don’t know what to do with him.” And I said, “Well, Mother, just let’s wait a while. Don’t worry your heart about that. Just wait awhile. By and by and by and by, there’ll come traipsing along some blue-eyed golden-haired thing, dressed in pink with clothes that swish. And that boy of yours will put axle grease on his hair, he’ll shine his shoes like mirrors, he’ll learn to tie his tie in a half a dozen different ways.” He’s got it! Just like catching the measles or the mumps, and you can’t hide it. That’s it: the expression of the thing, the feeling of the thing, the movement of the thing, the dynamic of the thing is the thing itself.
For example, when I turn in the Book, it says here in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews: “By faith, Noah [Hebrews 11:7]….” How do you know, “By faith, Noah?” Because he built an ark! [Genesis 6:13-14, 22]. It says here: “By faith, Abraham [Hebrews 11:8-10]….” How do you know, “By faith, Abraham?” Because when God said the word, he moved out! And the word for Hebrew, the Hebrew word means “crossed over.” He left his land, and his father’s house, and his country, and his kindred, and crossed over the great Euphrates into a land that God should afterwards reveal to him [Genesis 12:1-9].
It says here: “By faith, Moses [Hebrews 11:24-27]….” How do you know, “By faith, Moses?” Because he forsook and renounced the throne of Egypt that he might suffer affliction, identify with the people of God [Exodus 2:11-153].
Faith then is not something that a man possesses—go holding in his hand or put in his pocket or on a shelf or put in a bank vault. But faith is something that a man does! It is the avowal and the expression of something that a man has committed himself to in his soul and in his heart. And if he doesn’t express it, if he doesn’t show it, if he doesn’t avow it, if he doesn’t confess it, then he doesn’t possess it because the expression of the thing is the thing itself. “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus . . . for with the heart one believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” [Romans 10:9-10].
Now may I make a second avowal about those unusual things God hath wrought for His kingdom. It is this: it is the public committal of your life to Christ that is salvation itself. That’s what it is. The open, unashamed, unreserved committal of your life to Christ is salvation itself. That’s what it is to be a Christian. That’s what it is to be saved. That’s not a new or a different thing that I find here in the pages of the New Testament; that’s God’s way of saving sinners from the beginning of creation.
Out of a multitude of things, because of the pressure of time, I’ll take just one: the story of the Passover, which is our Easter. When God said to Moses, “Moses, the lamb identified with the family, kept up four days, slain, the sacrifice of the Passover, the blood caught in a basin—and with hyssop in the form of a cross, splotched the blood, sprinkled the blood on the lintels and on the doorposts; the sign of a cross in blood on the lintels and either side on the door posts [Exodus 12:3-7, 11-13]. And a man could say, “Well, well, I don’t mind sprinkling the blood on the backdoor. I’d have no aversion to putting it on the inside of the closet wall or maybe in my den somewhere. But as for the front door of my house—the sign of the cross—I refuse!” Then God says, “Then, I refuse!”
“For,” says the Lord, ”that blood of the Passover is to be placed, displayed, blotched, sprinkled openly, where every man can see it. This house is publicly set apart as a house that belongs to the people of God.” So it is with a man’s life. He is openly, publicly, an avowed Christian under the blood [Romans 10:9-13]; this house is publicly set apart. This is a Christian home, and these are the children of God!
There’s a logic in that. The eighth chapter of the Book of Mark closes with these words. “For,” our Lord said, “For whosoever is ashamed of Me and of My words; of him will the Son of Man be ashamed, when He comes in the glory of the Father with His holy angels” [Mark 8:38]. Ashamed of the Lord: “I refuse the public display of the blood. I refuse the public avowal of my faith. I refuse to stand with the people of God. I’m ashamed of the Lord, of His church, of His Book, of His wounds, of His tears, of His cross.” And that breaks the heart of the Lord.
Simon Peter stood by the fire outside the palace where the Savior was tried. Somebody said, “You are one of the disciples.”
“I am not.”
Another one came by and said, “Didn’t I see you with Him?”
“No, you did not. I do not know the Man.” A little maid came by and looked at him and said, “Why, you talk like Him. Your speech betrays you. You are a Galilean.” And Simon Peter said, “You think I talk like Him? Well, listen to this!” And he cursed, and he swore, and said, “I never saw Him, I never knew Him” [Mark 14:66-1]. And isn’t it unusual—it just happened to be that the door standing ajar was open, where the Lord could hear and see Simon Peter out there in the courtyard. And when the apostle cursed and swore that he never knew the Man, the Book says, “And the Lord turned and looked upon Peter,” and he remembered how the Lord had said, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny Me thrice. And he went out and wept bitterly” [Luke 22:61-63].
Denying the Lord; all of us have done that. Sometimes as a boy, sometimes as a youth, I remember in college lots of times when I was ashamed to get down by the side of my bed and pray because of the fellows that would be mocking and laughing. And the Lord turned and looked—for you see, what pleases God, what is the very genius of the faith itself, what is the very heart of the foundation of the kingdom of the Lord is the unafraid, courageous avowal of God’s children, even unto martyrdom and unto death.
Would you bear with me while I speak of just one thing of that here in the Book? Paul was in the Mamertine prison and to be martyred under Nero within a matter of days. And, he wrote an epistle to his young son in the ministry, to Timothy. And he pled in this last word:
O Timothy, be not thou ashamed of the testimony of the Lord, nor of me his prisoner . . . For I am not ashamed: I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him . . . The Lord grant mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus, Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains: For when he was in Rome, he sought me very diligently, and found me. The Lord grant unto him that he might have mercy of the Lord in that day.
[2 Timothy 1:8, 12-18]
Do you see what happened? Onesiphorus came to Rome, one of the Christians. And he said, “Where is Paul, the preacher? Where is the Paul, the apostle of Christ? Where is Paul?” And some overhearing said, “Onesiphorus, don’t you know? All the Christians are fed to the lions; all the Christians are in the dungeons; all the Christians are crucified and beheaded. It’s death to be a Christian!” Onesiphorus—and Onesiphorus said, “I said, where is Paul, the Christian! Where is Paul, the apostle of Christ? Where is Paul, the preacher of Jesus? Where is he?”
“He sought me diligently, and found me, and refreshed me, and encouraged me,” and apparently lost his life, for Paul says: “May the Lord grant mercy unto his house; for when he was in Rome, he sought me diligently, not being ashamed of my chains” [2 Timothy 1:16-18].
Man, if the whole world were on the other side and we stand by ourselves—so help us, God, here we stand! That’s what it means to be a Christian. That’s what it means to be saved. That’s what it means to be a disciple of the Lord: “With the heart one believes”—we lean upon God in our souls—“and with the mouth”—unashamed, unafraid, fearless, courageous—“and with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation” [Romans 10:9-10].
Let me pray. Our Lord, all of us have known what it is to be nominal in our Christian life. All of us sympathize with Simon Peter who followed afar off [Matthew 26:48; Luke 22:54], and in that situation when it might have meant death, denied his Lord [Matthew 26:69-75; Luke 22:55-62]. But, Master, we’re not proud of those moments. We are ashamed of them. And any time we have ever compromised in the courageous avowal of our faith and hope in Thee, we’ve been less of what we pray God would help us to be. Strengthen us in the work and bless us in the way, God’s children in the earth. In the Spirit of Jesus, in His saving name, amen.