The Way to God in Salvation
July 8th, 1962 @ 7:30 PM
THE WAY TO GOD IN SALVATION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
John 14: 6
7-8-62 7:30 p.m.
Would you like to read the text? Turn to John 14; John 14, the fourteenth chapter of the Fourth Gospel. Now let us read the first eleven verses; John 14, the first eleven verses, and the text is verse 6, and the title of the sermon is The Way of Salvation. First eleven verses, now everybody together:
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe
also in Me.
In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so,
I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again,
and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may
And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.
Thomas saith unto Him, Lord, we know not whither Thou goest,
and how can we know the way?
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life:
no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.
If ye had known Me, ye should have known My Father also:
and from henceforth ye know Him, and have received Him.
Philip saith unto Him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.
Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip? He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, show us the Father?
Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak unto you I speak not of Myself: but the Father that dwelleth in Me, He doeth the works.
Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me: or else believe Me for the very works’ sake.
Which is an appeal for a trust—a faith in Christ—that shall bring rest, and salvation, and peace to our souls. So the text, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way” [John 14:6]. One of the interesting things you will find in the story of the Christian faith in the New Testament, they called it, “the Way.” When they referred to Jesus, when they referred to the gospel, when they referred to the Christian faith, they called it, “the Way.”
For example, in Acts 9:1-2:
Saul, breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the
disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest.
Desired of him letters that he might go to Damascus . . . and if he found anybody of this Way, why, he would bring them bound to Jerusalem, whether they were men or women.
Referred to as, “the Way”; if anybody was found of this Way, the Christian faith—you see that so often in the Bible. In the twenty-second chapter of the Book of Acts, Paul says—speaking to that infuriated mob gathered before the steps of the Tower of Antonio on the north side of the temple area—”And I, I persecuted this Way unto death” [Acts 22:4].
He didn’t say, “I persecuted this Christian faith,” or, “I persecuted the church,” or, “I persecuted the people of God,” or, “the saints of the Lord.” But, “I persecuted this Way!” referring to our blessed, blessed gospel. Then he said the same thing again in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Acts. As he stands for the defense of his life, he says, “But this I confess unto thee”—I admit to this—”that after the Way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers” [Acts 24:14]; the Way—the Christian faith, the Christian doctrine.
Now, to show you it is not isolated again, look in 2 Peter, the second chapter and the second verse: “And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of which the Way,” God’s way, Christ’s way, the Christian way, the church way, “the Way shall be evil spoken of” [2 Peter 2:2].
Now, when I was out in the country I used to hear the old-timers quote a passage out of Isaiah. In these days since I have learned that the exegesis of the passage is not quite what those old farming people said it was, but they quoted it so much it made an indelible impression on my heart. “And there shall be a way, there shall be a highway, and it shall be so plain, and so clear, that a wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err therein” [Isaiah 35:8]. And the way they used to use that passage, those old farmers and those old Christian saints and those old country preachers, they’d talk about the highway to heaven, and the way to glory, and how plain it was, and how simple it was. And how a man, if he were a fool, need not err therein; the way to God is so very obvious.
Now I can’t remember what they said, but I’d like to demonstrate tonight the truth of that appeal. The way to Christ, and the way to God, and the way to Jesus, and the way to heaven is a plain and a simple way and a sojourner or a passer-by need not err therein. First, because it is a scarlet way, it’s a red way: it is a way of blood. It has a color to it. You can see it anywhere. One time here in this church, this year on New Year’s night, New Year’s Eve, I started preaching at this hour, and we stayed here until 12:00 o’clock that night. You know what the preacher was a preaching about? He was preaching about the “scarlet thread through the Bible,” all the way through. And wherever God goes and whatever the road God takes, you can see it easily and identify it plainly because it is a way of blood; it goes by the cross.
There in the garden of Eden we began when God slew those innocent animals. And He took their skins and He made clothes to cover the nakedness of the man and his wife [Genesis 3:21], and that was the first blood that was shed. And that was the first time that Adam and Eve knew what death was, when they saw those victims chosen of God—I would say, a lamb. And when they saw God destroy its life and its blood poured out in the garden of Eden, they knew what it was when God said, “In the day that you sin, you die” [Genesis 2:17]. And there it began, in the red crimson staining the soil in the garden of Eden.
Then there you find it in the blood of righteous Abel that cried unto God [Genesis 4:10]. And there you find it in the story of the Passover night when they sprinkled the blood on the lintels and on the doorposts of their houses [Exodus 12:7, 13, 23]. And there you find it in the window of Rahab, when she saved herself and her family by a scarlet cord—a scarlet line hung in the window [Joshua 2:18-21, 6:17-25]. And there you find it in the morning and the evening sacrifice, when on the altar there was a lamb slain and offered up unto God [Exodus 29:39]. And there you find it in the life of the prophets who poured out their souls unto death [Hebrews 11:37]. And there you find it in the life of John the Baptist as he lay in his own blood, sealing with his life of testimony he gave to Jesus [Mark 6:14-28; John 1:29-34].
And there you find it in the life of our Lord as He breaks bread for the last time with His disciples. And He says, “This is My body which is given for you.” And then He drinks of the cup Himself. And He gives to each one of them. And He says, “Each one of you, drink of it, for this is the blood,” of the new promise, of the new contract, of the new covenant,” of the New Testament which is shed for the remission of sins” [Matthew 26:26-28].
Then He went across the Kidron, into dark Gethsemane, and stained the ground with the blood of the agony of His intercession before God [Luke 22:41-44]. And then on the pavement there, the blood drops fell as they beat and as with the cat-o’-nine-tails they cut His flesh to ribbons [Matthew 27:26-31]. And these, on the way of Dolorosa, to “the place of the skull” that you call Calvary; there you see the stains of the life of the Son of God [Matthew 27:32-33; Luke 23:33]. And then lifted up between the earth and the sky, from His face, from His hands, from His feet, from His side, love and grace, mercy, forgiveness, and blood flowed down, stained the ground of the earth [Matthew 27:32-50; John 19:28-34].
And you see it in the lives of His martyrs! Stephen poured out his life as a witness [Acts 7:2-53], as a martyr, as a witness for the testimony of the Son of God [Acts 7:54-60]. And follow it all the way through until you get to heaven. And John amazed to see so vast a host clothed in white, was told, “These are they who washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” [Revelation 7:9-14]
Why man, you could preach forever on that—forever on that! You could never exhaust the marvelous infinitude of the riches of the glory and the grace of God in Jesus our Lord! We just tried from now until midnight, and barely touched the hem of the garment.
Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
[“Are You Washed in the Blood?” Elisha Hoffman]
It’s easy to tell when a man is preaching the gospel. He will always talk about the cross, always refer to the cross, always take us by the cross, always point us to the cross. It is a plain way. It has a color. It’s stained. It’s scarlet. It’s crimson. It’s red. It’s a way of blood [Matthew 27:32-50]. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, [but] by His stripes, by His tears, by His sobs, by His agony, by His suffering, by His cross, we are healed” [Titus 3:5].
Another thing about it, this way to God; it’s a way of tears. It’s a way of contrition. It is a way of repentance. It is a way of confession [Luke 18:13]. I have never, never, never, never, never felt that a man could walk into the presence of God—standing straight up in his pride and in his self-sufficiency and in his own adequacy—I have never felt that a man could walk up to God and say, “Put her there!” equals. I have always felt that if a man really drew nigh to God, he’d be like Isaiah, who when he saw the Lord high and lifted up, cried saying, “Woe is me! I am undone. I am undone: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts in His glory” [Isaiah 6:5].
I’ve always felt that a man would be like the apostle Peter—Simon Peter, when he saw the miraculous drought of fishes. He said, “Lord, Lord, Lord, depart from me. Depart from me; I am a sinful man” [Luke 5:8]. I’ve always felt that man, when he came into the presence of God, would be like that publican who beat on his breast saying, “Lord, be merciful to me, the sinner” [Luke 18:13]. “A broken spirit, a contrite heart, God does not despise” [Psalm 51:17]. When a man comes into the presence of God, he does so with a bowed head. He comes on his knees. He comes in confessions, in contrition, in tears: “Lord, I am not worthy. I am not worthy. O Lord, be merciful to me, the—the sinner.”
And it is remarkable! It is amazing. It is astonishing. It is unbelievable. It is unimaginable! It is indescribable what a change God does with a man who will bow, who will kneel, who will ask, who will confess, who will admit. The man who is lost is the man who won’t bow. He won’t confess. He won’t repent. He won’t turn. He won’t kneel. But the man who will confess, who will humble himself, God will forgive. God will raise him up [1 Peter 5:5-6]. God will write his name in the Book of Life [Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27]. What a remarkable thing a confession will make.
When I grew up in our family, I was always the young minister of the gospel of the Son of God. I, oh, I don’t know, there [are] a thousand things about that, psychologically, that I turned over a thousand times in my mind. From the beginning, I can’t remember when it wasn’t that way, from the beginning I was “the young minister of the gospel.” When I went to grammar school I was “the young minister of the gospel.” I wasn’t but maybe, six, seven, eight years old, but brother, I was a “young minister,” I was a young preacher.
Well, my dear old mother—God bless her—doted on me. I was the young minister of Jesus. So upon a day when I was a teenager, my brother and I were in the backyard and we were in the ding-busted-ist, awful fight you ever saw in your life. Well, right in the middle of that, we were just going at it for all we were worth, right in the middle of it she called us for supper. Now you—you understand what I mean by “supper.” We didn’t eat dinner at our house; we ate supper! We ate dinner at high-noon, just like it is in the Book. You read that Book, they ate dinner at high-noon, and they ate supper in the evening, and that’s the way God’s people ought to do it.
Well, my mother went to the backdoor and looked out there. And to her amazement that brother and I—we were just tearing up the earth. Well, she called us, in, and my brother disappeared. And I sat down at the table with my father and my mother—and I here, and that empty place for my brother. So mother proudly said, “And now son, you will lead us in grace for the food.” And we bowed our heads. I tell you, I can’t describe the psychological turn of being out there—for all I was worth and as mad as I could be, a fighting my best, just going at it and then the next minute, my mother proudly saying, “Now son, you will ask God’s blessings upon the meal.”
Well, I bowed my head. And they bowed their heads. And I started off. Well, the turn of that—the anger that I had felt and the fighting I was doing and there, calling on the name of the Lord. Oh! It just, it just tore me up. And I began to cry. With my head bowed, I began to cry. And instead of mother and dad just immediately doing something or saying something—why, they just waited. And I cried. Well, finally mother put her hand over on mine and patted my hand, you know, and said, “Ah, son. It’s all right. It’s all right.” So they lifted up their heads and quietly began eating while I was sitting there.
Then I looked to my right at the door and leaning on the door facing was my—my brother, my younger brother. And when I looked up there, the tears were running down his face as he was looking at me down there at the table. And he said—he said, “Brother, I’m sorry, it was all my fault.” Well, I stood up. I went around the table there and I put my arms around him. I said, “Oh, no, Currie, oh, no! It was my fault. It was my fault. It was my fault.” Well, that’s the last time we ever had a quarrel much less the last time we ever had a fight.
But I have seen that a thousand times, a thousand times. If a man will just say, “I’m sorry,” then it will make a new home out of your house. It’ll do it. Just say to your wife, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” Or a wife say to her husband, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it that way.” Or, “I didn’t mean to do it like that. I’m sorry, I ask you to forgive me.” It will make a new life for any true Christian if he will say, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” And it will change the world even for an infidel. “I am sorry.”
I preached one time where there was a family that hadn’t spoken to another family for twenty-five years over something that happened in those days past. They—they had been eating, they had eaten at the same table; they had been together in the community time and a time and time again. But they never had dealings with each other. They never had spoken to one another.
And one day in my pastorate in that church, the man that belonged to my church went to the other man’s house and knocked at the door; the first time he’d made a gesture of kindness or friendship in twenty-five years. Went to the door and when the man came to the door, he said, “Listen, neighbor. Back yonder, twenty-five years ago—so long ago, I’ve almost forgotten what it was—there came enmity and bitterness between us and we haven’t spoken since. And our children don’t speak to each other. I want you to know that I am sorry for it all. And I ask you to forgive me. And let’s be friends.” And in that sentence and in that gesture they had a rebirth. And when I left the community, they were the fondest, fastest of friends; both the families and their children. Just that little simple thing of “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
And what you find in the kingdom of God is no different than what you find anywhere else. It works everywhere. And it works with God marvelously. When a man will bow, when he will confess, when he’ll say, “Lord, when You talk about sinners, You are talking about me. And when You are talking about somebody that needs God, You are talking about me. And when You are talking about people that need to turn and to repent, You are talking about me. And when You talk about people that need to come nigh, You are talking about me. And when You are talking about people in need, You are talking about me. Lord, remember me.” And it works! Oh, all heaven comes down when a man repents, when he bows, when he looks up, when he confesses to God. That is the way, a simple way, “Lord, I’m sorry. Forgive, forgive me.”
Then it is a way of faith, “Forsaking all, I take Him.”
He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.
But unto them that received Him, to them gave He the right—
the privilege, the power, the prerogative—
to become the children of God, even to them that trust, that believe in His name.
“What must I do to be saved?” “Believe in, trust in, lean on the Lord Jesus” [Acts 16:30-31]. Look to Him. Look to Him. It’s a way of faith; it is a way of trust in Jesus [John 3:14-17; Numbers 21:5-9].
It’s a way of open confession, unashamed. Every time you have ever heard me baptize anybody in my life—if you were there in Leon River when I had my first baptism—from that day until this, I may vary and change that baptismal word a thousand times, yes, and no, and back again many times—but there is one thing in it that is always the same and that is, “Upon a public, unashamed confession of your faith in Jesus, I baptize you, my brother, upon an unashamed confession, open and public.”
If thou shall confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, thou
shalt be saved. For with the heart one believeth unto righteousness;
and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
“Whosoever shall confess Me before men, him will I confess before My Father which is in heaven” [Matthew 10:32]. And when a man comes to God, the first thing he wants to do is to make it known: tell his friends, tell his family, tell everybody that he meets, “Go down the aisle and tell the preacher, confess Jesus before men and angels!” You just can’t help being that way. It’s in your soul. “O God, that I could publish it to the whole earth and to the heavens that look down from above.” It is a way of open confession.
In a revival meeting that I held in one of our cities where there’s a great oil play, there was a man that came to the front who gave his heart to Jesus and asked to be baptized into the fellowship of the church. And he was a partner of an old illustrious white-headed deacon in the congregation. And when the sermon was done and the man had given his heart to Jesus and had given his hand to the preacher and he was introduced, why, the preacher had him stand up like I do and told the people how marvelous it was to see that oil man trust in the Lord and coming to the front. And when the preacher got through introducing him and the oil man stood there facing the congregation, there stood up in the congregation that illustrious, God-bless him, that illustrious old, white-headed deacon, the partner of the man standing down there at the front. And he said to the preacher in one of the most precious and one of the most moving of all of the questions that I’ve ever heard; he said to the preacher, he said, “Pastor,” and called the name. He said, “We’ve been partners for over thirty years. We’ve been through the Depression together. We’ve been through riches together. We’ve been through poverty together. And we’ve shared everything together these thirty years. Now,” he says, “preacher, I see him standing there today confessing Jesus as his Lord. And preacher, I’ve stood by him for thirty years in a thousand other places. Could I stand by him now as he takes his place with the people of God?” Well, in our church you know we just kind of do that anyway. Of course, the preacher said, “Yes.” And that illustrious old God-blessed, white-headed deacon came down there and stood by the side of his partner where all angels above and all men in the earth could see and know, “We belong to God.” It’s a way of open and unashamed confession.
It is a way of gladness and of superlative, enduring, abiding, celestial, incomparable joy. In the [eighth] chapter, you follow the life—in the Book of Acts—you follow the life of the evangelist Philip. And it says, “And there was great joy in that city” [Acts 8:5-8]. And then when the Lord sent him down to Gaza, why, you have that same thing again [Acts 8:26-38]. “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 he went on his way,” glory to God, “rejoicing” [Acts 8:39] “And he went on his way rejoicing.” It is a way of gladness, and of happiness, and of glory, of gratitude; it is a way of superlative joy.
One time in one of my pastorates, I had a disintegrating life among young people. It is amazing how those things come in waves; drinking, carousing, slipping out at night. All the things that go with a sordid life among young people, and it is possible and easily so for any group, any group. All you’ve got to do is just drift into it. So the mothers came to me, and they said, “Pastor, you are young,” and I was then, “and you know their hearts and you’re interested. Oh, help us!” they said. “Help us. Help us.”
“Well,” I said, “by the grace of God I will.” And I did. And God helped me, and the Lord blessed it. And we got those young people organized in the Training Union. And we got those young people coming to church and singing in the choir. And we got them trying to win others to Jesus. And we got them in the whole program of the mercy and the love of God for their lives. Why, it was one of the most miraculous transformations I ever saw in my life!
Well, how is it? Because they turned to Jesus and because they found the Lord, did they fall into a glum, and a melancholy, and a lugubrious, and a doleful and a sad life? Did they? Why, man, they might have thought they were having a good time before, getting drunk, slipping out at night, going to those off-colored dances and all those joints and dives. They might have thought they were having a good time before, but it wasn’t possible to compare with the new life that they were having in the Lord Jesus.
Some of those young people are preaching the gospel—one young man in one of the finest churches of the South—this very hour, preaching right now at this very minute. Some of them are teaching in our schools and some of them are some of the finest leaders we have in our Baptist convention, coming out of that glad, glorious group that God did when He got the hearts of those young people. And that’s where I heard this song the first time. They were singing it, and it went like this:
On Monday, I am happy,
On Tuesday, full of joy.
On Wednesday, I have peace within,
That nothing can destroy.
On Thursday, and on Friday,
I am walking in the light.
O! Saturday is a heavenly day,
And Sunday’s always bright.
O Glory, glory, glory.
O! Glory to the Lamb.
Hallelujah! I am saved,
And I’m so glad I am.
O! Glory, glory, glory,
O! Glory to the Lamb,
Hallelujah! I am saved,
And I’m bound for the Promised Land.
[“Glory to the Lamb,” Traditional Hymn]
And then they’d usually add:
Jesus will never fail,
Never fail, never fail.
Jesus will never fail,
No! No! No!
I tell you, when I think about it, I get religion all over again. Praise God! Praise God! Oh! I used to be the happiest preacher that ever lived in this world. I just overflowed all the time. And once in a while, I feel like I do tonight. Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!
Well, let’s sing it—not that but this—let’s sing:
Happy day, happy day.
When Jesus washed my sins away.
He taught me how to watch and pray,
And live rejoicing every day.
Happy day, happy day.
When Jesus washed my sins away.
[“Oh, Happy Day,” Phillip Doddridge, 1704]
Never had a baptizing in my life—in the river, in the creek, in the pond—that the folks didn’t sing that song. That’s what I’m preaching about. It’s not a sad, a defeated, a disappointed way. It’s a glory way. It’s a happy way. It’s a way of celestial victory. God be praised for His goodness to us.
Could I close with this simple testimony? Being a pastor for thirty-five years, I have stood by the side of I do not know how many who have crossed over the great divide, but I never, never, never, never yet have heard anybody say to me, “Preacher, that day I went down the aisle and gave my heart to Jesus,” I’ve never, never heard one say, “It was a sad day. It was a bad day for me.” But as I have—in this ministry, in these years—sought to mediate the grace of God to Jesus, I could not tell you the number that I have heard say, “Preacher, I settled that long ago, long ago.” And they’ll tell me back yonder in a little country place, they were in a revival meeting. And on a Thursday night, or on a Sunday night, or a Saturday night, or a Monday night, “I gave my heart to Jesus, and He has been sweeter to me as the years go by.”
And I would think if we live—and we shall—ten thousand times ten thousand years, we will just have begun the glory, and the gladness, and the joy and the celestial, superlative, overflowing, abounding gladness of what Jesus means to us. If you’ve got any problems, let Him share them. Any burdens? Let Him bear them. Got any battles to fight? Let Him fight them. Got any races to run? Let Him give you strength. Got any needs? Let Him answer them. He is our all adequate, all sufficient Savior, trust Him. Love Him and see if the glory and the grace of God doesn’t flood your soul.
And that’s why we sing our song of appeal, prayerfully, earnestly, hopefully, expectantly, praying that you will join with us in this blessed pilgrimage from this world to the world that is yet to come. Make it tonight. Make it tonight. There is a host of you in this balcony, come down one of these stairwells, there are four of them. Come down one of these stairways and here to the front. And there’s a throng of us, a press of us on this lower floor, into that aisle and down to the front, bring your family with you. Or just one somebody you, while we sing the song of appeal, come tonight, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.