November 25th, 1962 @ 7:30 PM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-25-62 7:30 p.m.
On the radio, as with us here in this great auditorium, turn in your Bible to the Book of Romans chapter 5 and read with us the first ten verses; Romans chapter 5, the first ten verses [Romans 5:1-10]. You are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing a message on the first verse of the fifth chapter of the Book of Romans, an appeal from the apostle Paul: “Let us have peace with God” [Romans 5:1]—a sermon on the assurance of our salvation in the finished atoning work of our Lord. But we shall read the first ten verses together, Romans 5 all of us reading aloud:
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.
But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.
For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
And all of those words are written with that one holy intent and purpose; that we might rejoice and be glad, thankful, filled with gratitude unspeakable for the marvelous reconciliation we have in God in Christ through the work of Hs blessed atonement. “If, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by His life” [Romans 5:10].
And that was our sermon last Sunday night. If in the death of our Lord God hath forgiven our sins [Ephesians 1:7], written our names in the Book of Life [Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27], if God hath done that in the death of His Son, how much more certainly shall we someday walk streets of glory, live in the presence of our divine and holy Lord, being presented by the enduring life of our Savior. “For He is able to save to the uttermost them who come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them” [Hebrews 7:25].
Now the passage begins with a volative subjunctive and appeal: “Therefore being justified by faith” [Romans 5:1], and in the King James Version we have it translated “we have peace with God,” as though it were an indicative active. The only difference between those two words—a volative subjunctive and this indicative active in the Greek—is the difference between an omicron and an omega. If it is an omicron echomen, the translation here is correct, “We have peace with God” [Romans 5:1].
But doubtless the correct word that Paul wrote there is an omega, a long “o,” echōmen, “Being justified by faith, let us have peace with God” [Romans 5:1]. Don’t live in misery, and in doubt, and in fear, and in terror of what the future might bring, or whether we’re saved or lost, or am I born again, driven to despair by doubts and wonderings. But the appeal of the apostle here is; “Therefore being justified by faith,” let us rejoice, let us be glad. Let us not look back but look forward in infinite and marvelous triumph, for God hath promised to us an inheritance that cannot fade away [1 Peter 1:4]. God hath given us an assurance that shall never wane or discolor. God hath given us a promise that is as certain as the foundations of the throne of heaven itself. Being reconciled to God by the death of His Son, how much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved, shall we make it, by the enduring life of our Lord [Romans 5:10].
That’s the same kind of a thing as the appeal that is written here in the sixth chapter of the Book of Hebrews. The apostle there, this great Alexandrian orator there says, “Let us not go back and try to lay again the foundation of repentance, and faith, and baptism, and the laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment; but let us go on to maturity,” translated here, “to perfection, to maturity” [Hebrews 6:1-2].
The man who lives in doubt, and in fear, and in trepidation is a man who lives in the rudiments of his Christian life; trying to repent, and then to repent, and then to feel the texture of his repentance to see if he’s repented right, and then trying to believe and to have faith, and then seeing the texture of his faith to see if it’s made right; and always trying to do over again those things that done one time are to be lived in great assurance that they are acceptable unto God. “And in that assurance, let us rejoice; let us have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” [Romans 5:1].
For when a man is saved, he is saved forever [John 3:16, 10:27-30]. And no man is partly saved and partly lost. No man is ever partly alive and partly dead. No man is ever partly justified and partly condemned. When we are saved, we are wholly saved, we are completely saved. We are saved forever and forever! And that salvation is an assurance to God in the finished work of Jesus our Lord [John 19:16-30].
It is the same kind of a thing as on that dark night in Egypt when God said; “And the death angel shall pass over, and he will look on the lintels and on the doorposts; and if there is blood sprinkled on the lintel and on the doorposts in the sign of a cross above and on either side, if there is blood when that angel passes through the land that night and sees the blood, he will pass over that house and that home, and it will be spared” [Exodus 12:7, 13, 22-23].
I can easily imagine inside of a house with the blood sprinkled on the lintel and on the doorposts, I can easily imagine those on the inside of that house. Some of them frightened to death, some of them scared out of their life, some of them wondering if the Lord will deliver them. I can just imagine all kinds of things on the inside of that house. Then I can imagine those who sit there in that dreadful night in perfect quiet and peace and assurance. But whether the faith of the man is timid and feeble or whether it is strong and founded, we’re all saved alike.
“When I see the blood,” not when you see the blood, “When I see the blood,” says the Lord God, “I will pass over you” [Exodus 12:13]. Fellow might philosophize about it, he might think these things about it, he might write those things about it, but if he’s under the blood, he’s saved. It’s not what I think about it. It’s what God thinks about it. “When I see the blood, I will pass over you.”
And it is thus in our salvation in Christ. Some of our people have great assurance, and they live rejoicing, like Paul pleads with us to live in the Lord [1 Thessalonians 5:16]. And then some of us live on the bare fringe, so timorous, so weak in the faith, so trembling in our life. But if we are both in Christ, we are both saved alike [2 Corinthians 5:17].
I one time read of a hunter way up in the north woods in Canada. And he came across a stream that was frozen over. Being new in the country and not knowing how deep the ice was, when the hunter came to the stream, he got down on his hands and his knees. And he crawled out on the edge of the water frozen over. And gingerly like a cat on top of a glass fence, he began to crawl very feebly and timorously and gingerly out there across that frozen ice. And when he was out there in the middle of the stream, dragging his gun with him, carefully crawling on top of that ice—behold, there came a log runner! There came a man out of the woods driving a great big heavy wagon loaded with logs! He came roaring down the mountain side, and across that stream, and up on the other side, and that hunter there a’lookin’ at him, crawling on the water.
That’s exactly the way with some people; in the Lord, some of them so timorously and so full of wonder and doubts, “Reckon the Lord’s able to save us? Reckon the Lord’s able to keep us? Reckon I’ve been genuinely born again? Reckon I’m saved?” And then others like that big log man just a’roarin’ down the mountainside and across the stream in triumph and in assurance! That’s what Paul says to us. “Being justified by faith, let us have peace with God” [Romans 5:1].
You see, the work of Christ for us is forever finished. Back yonder two thousand years ago, according to the Scriptures and according to the prophets, back yonder two thousand years ago, Christ paid the debt for our sins [John 19:16-29]. And on that cross when He died, bowing His head, He said, “It is finished” [John 19:30]. The whole atonement of the sins of all humanity [Hebrews 2:9; 1 John 2:2], all of it was finished on the cross, all of it.
But the work of the Holy Spirit of God in our hearts and in our lives is never finished! For the fruits of the Spirit are guided and developed by the Holy Ghost in our souls and in our lives day after day and as long as we live [Galatians 5:22-23; Philippians 2:13]. The Holy Spirit could never say, “It is finished.” The Holy Spirit could never forgive our sins; never! No regenerating power, no energizing presence, no moving of the Holy Spirit of God ever forgives sins. It is the blood that does that. “Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission” [Hebrews 9:22]. The remission of our sins is in the blood of Christ. “When I see the blood, I will pass over you [Exodus 12:13].” The great plan of redemption was completed and finished in the atoning, suffering, sacrificing work of our Lord [Matthew 27:32-50]. And that’s done. That’s completed forever! [John 19:30]. The Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world [Revelation 13:8]; the sins atoned for of those before the cross looking in faith to Jesus, and all of us this side of the cross looking back in faith to the atoning work of our Lord; done forever! [John 19:30].
But the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives is never finished. As the Spirit of God shall lead us from one spiritual victory to another; as we grow in the grace of joy, and in the grace of gladness, and in the grace of gratitude, and in the grace of loving kindness, and in the grace of all the other marvelous things that pertain to the Christian life, these things go on and on as long as we live; the fruit of the Spirit of God, the work of the regenerating power of Jesus in our souls [Galatians 5:22].
And oh how Satan wrests these things as he whispers to us. Satan says to you “Look here, fellow. Look. Look,” he says, “You better get in a better state. That’s what you better do. You better reform. That’s what you better do. You better start getting right; that’s what you better do. You better start doing better. That’s what you better do. You better reform. You better make resolutions. You better get going.” That’s what Satan whispers in your heart. And he keeps you at it all of your life, if you’ll let him.
What God says to you is, “You must be born again” [John 3:3, 7]. And reformations, and resolutions, and getting in a better state has nothing to do with that; a new creation, a new man in God [2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:24]. And when the Lord said that to learned Nicodemus, Nicodemus said, “Lord, to be born again, to be born again, how can a man be born again? Enter into his mother’s womb? I am forty years old and be born again?” [John 3:4].
“No,” said the Lord, “I am talking about a born again anōthen, anōthen, from above, from up there by the hand of God.” And when Nicodemus said, “Lord, how?” [John 3:9]. The Lord answered, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness [Numbers 21:9], so must the Son of Man be lifted up: that whosoever looks to Him, trusts in Him, believes in Him, should never perish, but have everlasting life” [John 3:14-15].
And then when the devil hears that gospel, then he has something to whisper to you, and he says, “Look here, fellow. Listen. Listen. You’ve got to look to your repentance, and you’ve got to look to your faith, and you’ve got to look to your good life, and you’ve got to look to your good deeds, and you’ve got to look to your honesty, and you’ve got to look to your panic, and you’ve got to look to your paying debts, and you’ve got to look to your righteous living, and you’ve got to get these things in order. Look to yourself!” says Satan.
But God says, “Look to Jesus, look to Jesus” [Hebrews 12:2]. And the new birth comes, and a man is made a new creation looking to Jesus [2 Corinthians 5:17].
And when a man looks at himself, he lives a life of misery, of despair. When a man looks to his repentance, and when a man looks to his faith, and when a man looks to his achievements and to his righteous deeds, all the days of his life he lives in despair and in misery. He doesn’t know whether he’s saved or not. Has he repented right? He doesn’t know whether he’s saved or not. Has he believed right? He doesn’t know whether he’s saved or not. Has he done right? Are his deeds meritorious in the presence of God? And he lives in despair and in agony; looking to yourself.
Sometimes Satan will say, “Well, look to them”; in the same misery and despair. Then sometimes Satan will say, “Well, look to the church,” or, “Look to the ordinances,” or, “Look to the creed,” or, “Look to the doctrine,” and wherever you look, you live a life of misery and despair! God doesn’t want you to look that way. “Being justified by faith, let us have peace with God, looking to Jesus” [Romans 5:1]. And when a man will keep his eye on the Lord, living in the life, in the love, in the mercy, in the goodness, in the grace, in the forgiveness of Jesus; when a man lives his life looking to Jesus, he lives a life of triumph, and of glory, of overcoming, of gladness, of hallelujah rejoicing. Most anything’s possible if a man lives looking to Jesus, looking to Jesus.
I want to show that if I can. Do you remember in the story in the Gospels; in the nighttime, in the raging sea and Jesus came walking on the water? And it frightened the disciples to death [Matthew 14:24-26]. Wouldn’t you be frightened if you saw what you thought was an apparition, a fantasy, a spirit, a ghost walking out there on the water in the middle of the night in a raging sea? And they were affrighted. And the Lord spoke to His disciples and said, “Do not be afraid. It is I.” And Simon Peter said, “You, Lord, if it be Thou Lord, bid me come unto Thee, bid me” [Matthew 14:27-28]. I want to parenthesize here to say that the Lord is delighted with any man’s faith, whatever it is. If a fellow will just trust God for it, anything is possible. And when Simon Peter asked the Lord, “Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee,” walking on the water, the Lord could have said, “That is foolishness. That is tempting God. That is foolishness. Stay in that boat!”
No. When Simon Peter said, “Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee,” the Lord replied, “Simon, get out of the boat and come to Me through these raging waves and riotous wind, come, walking on the water.” And Simon Peter clamored over the side of that boat and was a’walking to Jesus on the water. And the Book says that when he got out there in the middle of the sea, he began to look at the waves, and to listen to the roaring of the wind, and he began to sink [Matthew 14:29-30]. As long as he kept his eye on Jesus, he walked on the water. But when he began to look at himself, and listen to the roaring of the wind, and looking at those mountainous raging waves, he began to sink, and crying, “O Lord, help me!” The Lord went over there and lifted him up. “Why,” said the Lord, “did you doubt?” [Matthew 14:31]. Well, I’ll tell you why he doubted. He took his eyes off of the Lord.
Whenever you take your eyes off of Jesus you’re going to fall into trouble. Looking at yourself; oh, how reprobate we are. How vile we are. How wicked we are. How full of shortcoming and sin we are. Looking at ourselves; “Lord, how could any of us ever be in that saintly, beautiful, holy city of God? Lord, look at me. Look at me.” Taking your eyes off of Jesus, looking around you, looking around you, oh the most discouraging and despairing things even in the church, even in the house of the Lord, you can find it anywhere. Don’t look at others. Look to Jesus. Quit looking at yourself. Keep your eye on the Lord Jesus. I may be all wrong, but He is all right. The church may be all wrong, but He is all right. Our neighbors may be all wrong, but He is all right. There may be a thousand, thousand things wrong, but He is all right. Keep your eye on the Lord Jesus, looking unto Him. Lord, Lord remember me. Save me. Keep me. Lord, I hide myself in Thee.
Now in this moment that remains, look. Look. When a man staggers and stumbles at the offer of the free pardon of salvation in God [Revelation 22:17], when he stumbles at it and staggers at it, two things happen. One: to some it confirms them in their attempt. “I’ve got to work this thing out for myself. I’ve got to weep more. I’ve got to pray more. I’ve got to struggle more. I’ve got to do penance more. I’ve got to reform more. I’ve got to resolve more.” And they struggle and struggle and struggle. The other class: it confirms them in their melancholia. “I can’t ever make it. When I want to do good, I don’t. And the things that I want to do, I don’t do. And the things that I don’t do, I don’t want to. And we just live in that turmoil, “Oh, wretched man that I am!” [Romans 7:24].
How infinitely better to take ourselves to the Lord and listen to the gospel message of hope and promise in Jesus. Let Him work repentance in your life. Let Jesus give you the gift of faith. Let Jesus work in your heart to bring, to accomplish, to achieve, to bring to pass all of those things by which you would seek to glorify our Lord. Don’t do them in your own strength, in your own wisdom, in your own righteousness, in your own self. But do them in the ableness, and the adequacy, and the might of God. Let Christ be to you all of those things. And instead of sitting there, and lingering there, and waiting there, “O Lord, I’m not ready yet. O Lord, I haven’t repented right. O Lord, I haven’t patched up this thing,” as though your righteousness were a patched up thing that somehow you’ll make acceptable to God. Leave it all behind you.
Take Christ first and let Him be to you strength, and repentance, and faith, and assurance, and achievement, and righteousness, and gladness, and wisdom, and redemption, and sanctification, and all of the things by which we hope God shall bless us when we stand unashamed in His presence in that great and final day. And that is this appeal of the apostle Paul that, “No flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” [1 Corinthians 1:29-31].
This is something God hath done for me. The Lord hath wrought it. It is a gift from His gracious hands. “Ye are in Christ, who of God is made unto us wisdom” [1 Corinthians 1:30]. Seeking an answer, find it in Him. Let Him be an answer. “Made unto us wisdom and righteousness”; done with our filthy, feeble rags of righteousness, and living in the holy purity and righteousness of God our Savior; “made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification” [1 Corinthians 1:30].
O Lord, these things that are impossible to me, impossible to me; I say bitter words, and I don’t mean them. I have a violent and a volatile temper. Lord, I don’t mean it. And there are a thousand things that tear up my life; Lord, Lord, take them to Jesus. Let Him be unto you wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification. All of those holy strengths that you could ask of God; let Him be unto you wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption, and redemption [1 Corinthians 1:30]. Instead of seeking to buy it yourself, to earn it yourself, to merit it yourself, let Jesus do it for you. Let the Lord forgive your sins. Let Him do it. No one else can but He. Let Him do it. Let Jesus wash your sins away. Let Jesus work in you the miracle of turning, of repentance. Let Jesus give you the gift of faith. Let the Lord build in you that holy life of righteousness and adoration, the wonder and glory of the workmanship of God. And let Jesus be to you your great and final redemption [1 Corinthians 1:30].
Lord not of me, but of Thee; “That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” [1 Corinthians 1:31]. “This is what God hath done for me. The Lord saved me, and the Lord has blessed me, and the Lord has kept me, and the Lord hath wrought in me all of these heavenly and celestial gifts.” O praise and bless His glorious name! That’s what it is to be a Christian. That’s what it is to rejoice in one salvation. That’s what it is to believe, and to accept, and to receive the Lord Jesus. “Lord, all of these things I find in Thee, and I give myself unto Thee”—not accepting a creed, or a doctrine, or an ordinance, or a church, or anything of us but accepting the personal and blessed Lord Jesus. “And here I am and here I come, hiding my life in Christ.” Would you tonight? Would you tonight? Would you make it now?
“Preacher, here I come. I give you my hand. I give my heart in saving trust, in committal now and forever, I give my life to the blessed Jesus. And here I am. Here I come. I take Him as my Savior.” A family you, “Pastor, we’re coming into the church. This is my wife, these are our children, we’re all coming.” A couple you, or one somebody you, as God shall say the word, shall make the appeal, while we sing this song prayerfully, earnestly, appealingly, as God shall bless the message tonight, come. If you’re in this balcony, there’s a stairway on either side at the front and the back, come. There’s time and to spare, come. That one somebody you, on this lower floor, this press of people, into the aisle and down here to the front, “Preacher, here I am and here I come. Tonight I’m looking to Jesus. I’m trusting Him. And here I come. Here I am,” while we stand and while we sing.