That They Might Be Saved
September 30th, 1962 @ 7:30 PM
THAT THEY MIGHT BE SAVED
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-30-62 7:30 p.m.
On the radio, as here, you are invited to turn with us to the Book of Romans chapter 10, and we read the first ten verses. The Book of Romans, chapter 10, reading verses 1 through 10. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and the title of the sermon tonight is That They Might be Saved, and the text is in the first verse. And the context we read together, the Book of Romans, chapter 10, the first ten verses, all of us reading together:
Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.
For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.
For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.
For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.
But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:)
Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)
But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is the word of faith which we preach;
That 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 man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
And the text: “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for my people is, that they might be saved” [Romans 10:1]. This is a most unusual thing because the man who wrote these words is the appointed apostle of God to the Gentiles. He was commissioned, as Simon Peter was to the circumcision. Paul was commissioned to the uncircumcision. As Peter and James the Lord’s brother and John the son of Zebedee proclaimed the message of Christ and built up the household of faith among Israel [Acts 4:13, 12:2], the apostle Paul was chosen with the express purpose and stated commandment of Christ that he should go to the Gentiles [Acts 9:12-15; 13:44-49, 22:19-21].
The unusual thing about the apostle is this: this letter is written to a Gentile church, his ministry was to the Gentile people, but he says not one time but again and again such things as these. The ninth chapter of the Book of Romans starts:
I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,
That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.
For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.
Then that same sentiment expressed again: “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for my people is, that they might be saved” [Romans 10:1]. And he expressed that desire wherever he went. If he was sent to Pisidian Antioch in the very heart of the peninsula of Asia Minor, to one of the churches of Galatia, there first he sought out his own flesh, his own kindred, his own people [Acts 13:14-15]. And he preached the word of Christ with tears and burden of heart to Israel [Acts 13:16-41]. If he went to Macedonia and there stayed in Thessalonica, its capital provincial city, first he made his way to a synagogue that he might plead and pray with Israel [Acts 17:1-2]. And when he finally went to Rome he first called together the elders of Israel and expounded to them the hope we have in Christ [Acts 28:17-31].
That’s an amazing thing. He never got away—he couldn’t—from the burden and the concern, the intercession and the sorrow in his soul for his own people. And that is so unusually expressed in this first part of the ninth chapter: “I could wish that myself were damned, my soul condemned and in perdition, shut out from Christ and from heaven for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” [Romans 9:3]. What an astonishing avowal. “I could wish that I were damned, that my soul were cast into hell, if only by that sacrifice my people could be saved.”
I was driving along in my car upon a day, and I had a pastor in the association with me, and two pastors in the association in the back seat. And I was driving with my brethren to an associational meeting. And we came to a little town and were following the highway through the street of the little town, and then down the way it crossed over the railroad track. As we entered the little place, the pastor by my side said, “Stop at that place and let me tell you a story.” So I pulled to the side of the road in front of a certain house in the village, and this is what he said. He said, “That woman who lives in that house there had a young brother, a young fellow, who was wondrously converted, and he gave himself to be a preacher. As he was studying to be a minister of Christ, the burden of his own family lay upon his heart, and especially that sister. So upon a day he came to this house and sought to win her to Christ. And when she so steadfastly and so adamantly refused, he walked down that way with such a heavy, heavy heart. And when he got in his car he bowed his head over the steering wheel and said, ‘O Lord, that she might be saved. Lord, I so pray for her to be saved that if it takes my life to bring her to Thee, Lord, I offer my life to Thee.’”
And the preacher said that “He drove down this road and crossed the railroad track where you see the crossing ahead. And evidently the burden on his heart was so great he was oblivious to the coming of the fast track passenger train—ran into his car, destroyed his life. They carried him to his sister’s home here. And also in the car there was a Bible that was stained with his blood when he died.” And the preacher said, the overwhelming, the overwhelming tragedy broke her heart. She today, he says, is a great Christian. She won her husband to Christ, and all of the family are pillars in the house of God.
“Brethren, I could wish that myself were accursed, were damned, were in perdition, if it would change my brethren, my kinsmen, according to the flesh” [Romans 9:3]. That sentiment of a deep and abiding care for one’s own family is one of the explicable and understandable intercessions of life. However it is with the black man in Africa, or the yellow man in China, or the brown man in Polynesia, or the red man on the reservation of Oklahoma, our first prayer, our deepest intercession is in behalf of these who are our own.
Whenever a father looks into the sleeping face of his child at night and looks at his tousled head, every golden strand is an iron chain that binds him to God. You cannot escape it if there is the love of Christ in your heart. And however life or fortune may turn to any true servant of Jesus, there is always that humble, shepherdly concern and that prayerful intercession for these of our own, that they might be saved. And that never turns and it never changes however the fortunes and vicissitudes of life may develop.
There is not a more moving story in the Word of God than the story of the rebellion of Absalom. If there ever was a boy that deserved to be—to die, it was Absalom. If there ever was a boy who proved unworthy of a father’s devotion, it was Absalom [2 Samuel 15-18].
In the days of the declining years of David, when he was not able to go to war and to lead his people as he once did, in the declining years of David, Absalom, seeing that weakness in the age developing of his father, took advantage of it, won the hearts of the people [2 Samuel 15:1-6]. And because he was handsome, and beautiful, and gifted, and full of every beautiful talent and gift, he just took Israel with him. He won the hearts of the people. And when he did, he gathered them together at Hebron, had the trumpet sound and himself proclaimed king! [2 Samuel 15:7-13]. And in agony and in fear David forsook his throne, forsook the city of the great king, and with lamentation crossed over the Jordan River to escape for his life [2 Samuel 15:14-22]; then, of course, you know the story that followed.
Joab, the captain of the host of David, rallied those who loved God and were true to the faith around him. There was a great battle in the wood of Ephraim, and there, hanging by his beautiful hair from a tree—Joab ran one dart, and another, and another through the very body and heart of the young man. And they cut him down, threw him in a pit, covered him over with grievous stones, every one of them accursed for the name of Absalom [2 Samuel 18:9-17].
How was it with David? When the messenger came, he said, “We have won the war. The kingdom’s saved. You have your throne again.” David paid no attention. “How is the young man Absalom?” And the first messenger didn’t have the heart to tell him. And there came another running from Joab, and he said, “This day is a day of triumph and victory.” David paid no attention. “How is the young man Absalom?” [2 Samuel 18:24-32].
And when they told David that Absalom had been slain, the most pathetic of all of the laments to be found in the Word of God: “And David went up to the wall over the gate, and as he went he lamented, saying, O Absalom my son, my son Absalom! Would God I had died for thee, O Absalom my son, my son!” [2 Samuel 18:33]. But there never was a father that lived that could not understand that lament of King David; “that they might be saved, my prayer to God for my own” [Romans 10:1].
I talked to a father and a mother—their boy was to be executed. He was guilty of a vile and murderous crime. But as they talked to me, they said, “Oh, pastor! He was a fine boy. He was a good boy. He just happened to be with the wrong crowd.” But to them he will always be a fine boy and a good boy! He just fell in with the wrong crowd. “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer for my people is, that they might be saved” [Romans 10:1]
Nor is there any rejoicing that comes to the human heart comparable to the gladness, the sweetness, the preciousness of seeing the favor of God upon these of our own. I can easily imagine for most religion is like this. I can easily imagine a cool, calculating, caustic, and critical religionist looking and saying to the shepherd, “Why all of this emotion? Why all of this rejoicing? Why all of this expression?” And the shepherd says, “This sheep I had lost I have found. And his friends and his neighbors we have invited to rejoice together” [Luke 15:4-6].
I could easily imagine that cool, calculating cynic saying to the woman, “Why gather in your friends and neighbors? Why all of this gladness and rejoicing?” And she would say, “This piece I had lost I have found” [Luke 15:8-9]. I can easily see that same caustic critic saying to the father, “Why all of this merrymaking, and this gladness, and this happy expression?” He would say, “Why, this my boy was dead and is alive again. He was lost and is found” [Luke 15:21-24]; and when those same cool, calculating religionists get to heaven, and they see the angels rejoicing there: “Why all of this expression and why all of this emotion?” And they would say, “Because somebody has found the Lord. Somebody has been saved” [Luke 15:10]. That’s in the Bible.
Was it two Sunday nights? It was two Sunday nights ago—the expression of people is holy in the Lord when their cups overflow. I can give you an illustration of that verse that Paul so often uses: “Salute one another with a holy kiss” [Romans 16:16]. The last Sunday night I was preaching in that revival, there came a man and his wife who had been saved. She came down the aisle first to rededicate her life, for she had been a Christian. And after the service was over in a previous night, one of the fine men who was on his way to Quito, Ecuador, a minister of Christ who had stopped to visit us, he saw that husband under deep conviction, and after the service was over, he had won him to Jesus. And when he came out of the room of prayer and presented him saved to his wife, you just never saw such a scene of rejoicing and gladness in your life. Well, when they came down the aisle to join the church by baptism, both of them—why, preachers over here are busy, so they have a high pulpit, and I reached over and held out my hands like this to welcome them—and bless your heart, to my surprise, he put his arms around me and kissed me. And then to my overwhelming surprise she put her arms around me and did the same thing. But that’s not all.
Their two children—and I mention this part—their two children came down the aisle, and they said, “There’s been such a change in our home that we want to be saved, and we want to be Christians.” And there we all were crying, and rejoicing, and being glad in the Lord. Why, there’s no preciousness in this earth like that. “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for my people is, that they might be saved” [Romans 10:1].
In this little moment that remains—and it’s the most astonishing thing in the world to me how quickly a thirty minute period will pass when we’re talking about the precious things of Jesus—in this little moment that remains, I want to speak of what best we can do for those whom we love. Well, I can name a thousand things that we can do for them.
If you have a child, there’s hardly a fine mother or father in the land that does not wish for his child a splendid education. In our generation and in our time, without an education, a boy or a girl labors under an almost impossible handicap. There are a few who can overcome it, but most cannot. They are relegated and they are consigned to almost a menial situation the rest of their lives. We wish for them a fine education.
And we pray for them a cultural life of refinement, to develop those sensibilities that make them capable of living beautifully and fully and richly in this world, to look with enjoyment upon things around, to know somewhat of what God hath done in His creative work, and to listen to the music that God made it possible for us to hear, and to enjoy the cultural refinements of life. We wish those things for our children.
Sometimes some people are able to give them marvelous, marvelous and an abundance of the materialities of this life—they have clothes, and they have convertibles, and they have money, and they have all kinds of the abundances of life—and then sometimes bestow upon them a business opportunity, a great open door, an inheritance that is tremendous.
I know a man here in Dallas that bequeathed to his boy every one of those things; education, training, cars, clothes, riches, money, and an incomparable business opportunity. And the boy is a drunkard! The very aide memoire, the very satiation of life, weary of it all, its emptiness, his soul starved. Gave him everything except God, and the boy is a drunkard. How infinitely better, how infinitely better, whether we be able to educate them or not, whether we be able to give them money or not, whether we be able to bequeath them a great business opportunity or not, how infinitely richer and better to bequeath to them a reverent devotion and a holy faith in Jesus our Lord?
One of the last funerals that I had was of a dear, sainted old man who evidently had been a farmer all of his life, and in the service there were several tall, stalwart sons and several beautiful, gracious daughters. And as they stood by the casket to weep one last farewell over the fallen and silent form of their father, those children said to me, “We never had much of this world’s goods. We were brought up on the farm. But, oh, he bequeathed to us a great faith and a great hope. He won us all to the blessed Jesus.”
You tell me, you tell me, as between the riches of a drunkard destroyed in the abundances of the possessions placed in his hand and as between the child that grew up maybe in penury and want but led to the Lord; tell me which child received the greater gift? “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for my people is, that they might be saved” [Romans 10:1].
Whether they’re rich or not, what does it matter? Did you live in a big house or a little one? Did you have a great bank account or none at all? Did you live in affluence and abundance, or did every penny have to count? What does it matter when we come to the end of the way? “My heart’s desire and my prayer to God for my people is, that they might be saved” [Romans 10:1].
That’s our heart’s intercession to you tonight. Give your heart in faith and in trust to Jesus. Did you have a Christian mother? Did you have a godly father? Walking in their footsteps, listening to their prayers, come, come to the Lord. While we sing our hymn of appeal, somebody you in this balcony round, somebody you on this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front: “Pastor, I give you my hand. I give my heart to God,” or “Pastor, this is my wife; these are our children. We’re all coming into the fellowship of the church.” As the Spirit of Jesus shall open the door and shall lead in the way, while we sing the song, make it tonight. “Here I come, preacher, here I am,” while we stand and while we sing.