The Way Made Plain
October 13th, 1963 @ 7:30 PM
THE WAY MADE PLAIN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-13-63 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the evening message entitled The Way Made Plain. In our Bibles, we turn to the First Gospel, the Gospel of Matthew, and we read together the first fourteen verses, Matthew chapter 18, reading out loud together the first fourteen verses. And if your neighbor did not bring his Bible with him, share your Bible and let us all read this holy passage out loud together. It is a passage concerning God’s little ones, from which the pastor gains his subject tonight, the way made plain—plain and simple, so that a child could understand and respond. Matthew 18, the first fourteen verses, all of us reading it out loud together:
At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the
greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
And Jesus called a little child unto Him, and set him in the midst of
And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and
become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of
Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the
same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
And whoso shall receive one such little child in My name receiveth
But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in Me,
it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck,
and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
Woe unto the world because of offenses! For it must needs be that
offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh!
Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and
cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or
maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into
And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is
better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having
two eyes to be cast into hell fire.
Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say
unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of
My Father which is in heaven.
For the Son of Man is come to save that which was lost.
How think ye? If a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them
be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth
into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?
And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more
of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.
Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one
of these little ones should perish.
What an astonishing, what a comforting, what a reassuring passage! God’s eye is on the least of His saints. He has a care for the smallest of these children. He whose eye is on the sparrow [Luke 12:6-7], looks down even upon me, and His love and His grace reaches even to me. And from this subject in the eighteenth chapter of Matthew, the pastor took His sermon topic, the way made plain, and the message begins with four suppositions.
The first supposition is this: that if God someday shall require of us our souls, if someday all of us shall be judged, we shall stand at the bar of God [Revelation 20:11-15], then I would suppose, I would suppose that the way would be plain enough and easy enough that any man could understand it. If that man is accountable, if someday he should stand at the judgment bar of God, and the Lord shall decide on the basis of a rejection or an acceptance that he made in this life, then I would suppose that the way would be easy enough and plain enough that any man could understand enough to reply.
I do not mean that there are not profundities and infinite wisdom that lies in the provisions of God, but that the fundamentals of it always would be simple, and plain, and easy. I find God working in all of our life according to that basic assumption and supposition. However difficult to understand, and however ramified its processes, yet the substance of the life itself and its sustenance is always easy and plain.
For example, assimilation is a difficult thing for any man to understand. It’s difficult for any scientist to enter into, how a man can take into his body lifeless matter and it be turned into blood, and heart, and soul, and mind, and love, and life; the miracle of assimilation! I don’t think anybody, I don’t think any mind could explain that. We can watch its process, but we don’t understand how. Yet for a fellow to eat is simple, he’s born that way, born that way.
Why, I’ve got a little grandson, four years old, and he is still a-sucking his thumb. He was born sucking his thumb. It just beats anything you ever saw. You don’t have to teach him to eat, he just does. He came into this world a-screaming, and a-hollering, and a-crying to eat. Yet the mystery that lies back of that process of assimilation is beyond what any mind can enter into! But to eat is the most delightful and the simplest of all of the invitations I know a preacher could accept. Just invite him. That’s God, that’s God.
All of life is like that. How a man can walk on the face of this earth and not fall off of it is a mystery. All the scientists who ever scientist, and all of the thinkers who ever thought, and all of the men who ever wrote could never begin to understand the mystery of why the oceans don’t spill out, and why a man can walk of the face of this round globe and not fly off. But to walk is the simplest thing in this world, just walk, just walk. It’s just so easy and just so simple. I don’t even think about it. I just get up and walk. That’s God. That’s the Lord.
Same way about the mysteries of the whole universe about us; life in its intensest living is ours. To breathe; God’s world around us, to breathe; God’s world to look upon, to see it; God’s world of sound and motion, to hear it. No man can enter into those fundamental marvelous mysteries of sight and sound, he just observes, and he sees this and how it happens, but the Creator that made it is beyond a man’s finite mind to grasp the miracle of it. Yet to see, and to hear, and to look, and to breathe, and to live is the ecstatic joy of intensest life and living. That’s God. However fundamentally, however basically deep, and erudite, and abstruse, and hard to understand and infinite in its mystery, yet to do the thing and to enjoy what God’s done is very simple and plain.
All right, my second presupposition: I would suppose that if a man has in him that capability, and that desire to know God, I would suppose that God provides an answer for the man’s soul and the man’s life. He does it everywhere else. God makes us hungry. That’s God. And if God makes us hungry, there is bread to eat. God makes us to thirst, and if a man thirsts, there is water to drink. God makes a man lonely in his heart, and He provides love and companionship that he might be comforted, and strengthened, and encouraged in his life.
If God were to make a man hungry and He didn’t provide bread, make a man thirsty and He didn’t provide drink, make a man hungry in his soul and there’s no companionship and no love and no friends, what a tragedy, what a tragedy! But God hath provided for these things that He has made fundamental in a man’s life. And so it is with his thirst after God, and his hunger after the Lord, and his desire for a heavenly and celestial companionship; God has provided it in the goodness of His grace.
My third supposition: I would suppose, I would suppose that if this is so all important that God someday shall judge us according to whether we accept or reject the great truth of His grace, I would suppose that that would be the first revelation that He would give us, that God would take time to teach us that we might know.
Many things, most things are immaterial; God let us discover them for ourselves. He let us learn them in our time and in our day. For example, it’s immaterial, pretty much so, whether people learn to work with metals or not, so the Lord just let us discover them and how to use them. It’s somewhat immaterial what we do with the minerals that we find in the earth, so the Lord let us take time to discover them in our day and in the generations. It wasn’t until my lifetime that the man discovered the ether waves that God had created in this universe from the beginning of time; it is just now that we have come to discover them. And a thousand other things; God knew they were not all important, so in time, He let us find them. And in time, we did discover them. And today, we are beginning to enter into the vast mysteries of what God has built into this universe.
But it was immaterial. Whether you had a radio or not, whether you had a television or not, whether you rode in a jet airplane or not, these things are not basically fundamental.
But it was fundamental and basic that a man know how to meet God from the beginning. From the beginning, God taught the man how to seek God’s face and how to make reconciliation though he was a sinner.
Now I have a fourth presupposition: I would suppose that if someday God shall judge us according to whether we reject or accept, if we stand at the judgment bar of God and the Lord someday shall assign us into heaven or into perdition [Revelation 20:11-15], I would suppose that if God is a God of justice and mercy and grace, that what I couldn’t do for myself, He would do for me. I would suppose so.
If the Lord holds me accountable, if someday I’m chargeable to Him, would it be right and would it be just of God to condemn me for what I was unable to do, for what, however I might try, I was unable to encompass and to achieve. Wouldn’t it be right to suppose that God would provide for my inability and my weakness? Wouldn’t you think so? Wouldn’t you? And that’s what God did [Romans 5:6]. What shall I do with my sins? How can I atone for my sins?
Could my tears forever flow,
these for sins could not atone.
Thou must save and Thou alone.
In my hand, no price I bring
Simply to thy cross I cling.
[from “Rock of Ages,” Augustus M. Toplady, 1776]
I cannot wash the stain of the sin out of my soul. I cannot live holy and righteous without spot and blemish. And I confess that to God, and if God is good, and right, and just, and if He is a God of love and mercy, then God provides some way for me, that my sin might be washed away [John 3:16].
Now with those great four presuppositions that I think are eminently right and correct, may I turn to what God hath done to make this way so plain that the least of His little ones can see it, and understand it, and respond to it, and be saved.
First: first, there is a provision for us who are lost; who are sinners, God has made a provision for us. First, in the beginning, He taught us the language of heaven. He taught us to understand what God means by these things. He did it in types, and in rituals, and in ceremonies, with the tabernacle and with all of the sacrifices of the Levitical system [Hebrews 9:9-11]. God did that in order that we might learn the language of heaven.
What is an altar? What is an altar? What is a sacrifice? What is a propitiation? What does God mean by atonement? What are these things that pertain to the confession of our sin and the washing away of our sin? God had to teach us what He means by the language of heaven, and so these institutions were given to men that we might understand. An altar, I know what an altar is. And a sacrifice, I can see what a sacrifice is. And an atonement, I can see what an atonement is. All of those pictures and types in the Old Bible were to teach us the language of heaven. Then we could see with our eyes what that meant, and what God was teaching to us.
The night of the Passover, the blood in the form of a cross, on the lintel up here, and on the doorposts on either side, and the blood in the form of a cross, and the angel of death passed over, and anyone who lived in that house under the blood was safe [Exodus 12:7,13,23]. That was a type; that was a picture—that we might see.
This holy, holy sentence from the Lord Jesus, “As the serpent was lifted up by Moses in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up” [John 3:14]—that brazen serpent raised in the wilderness, and if a man were bitten and were dying, if he would look, he would live [Numbers 21:8-9]. That was a type; that was a picture that we might see and understand the raising up of the Son of God [John 3:14-17].
These things that God gave us back there in the Old Testament, these pictures, that we might understand what it is that God was doing for us; and when the Lord Jesus came into this world [Matthew 1:20-25], it was easy to understand, for God hath taught us what sacrifice was and what it meant [Leviticus 1-16]. God had taught us what propitiation was and what it meant [1 John 2:2; Leviticus 16:8-10]. God had taught us what it was to wash and be clean [Revelation 7:14; 2 Kings 5:10-14]. That’s the first thing God did, was to show us and to teach us what He means by the sacrifice that cleanses from the stain of our sins [Hebrews 10:1-14].
Then the Lord did another thing. The Lord raised up witnesses and preachers to make known the wonderful good news that Jesus had done this for us [Romans 10:14], and without that witness no man is ever saved. Isn’t that an unusual thing? No man’s ever saved; there has to be that witness, there has to be the deliverer of the Word of God: We are saved by the word of God which “liveth and abideth for ever . . . and this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you” [1 Peter 1:23, 25]. James 1:18: “Of His own will begat He us by the word of God.” John 15:3: “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” Ephesians 5:26: “We are sanctified and we are cleansed with the washing of water by the word.”
To me, that’s the exegesis of John 3:5, when the Lord says, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” That is except a man be born, sanctified, cleansed with the washing of water by the word, except a man be born of the word of God, and of the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.
There has to be a witness, a testifier, a preacher; that Jesus hath done this for us. And that’s the meaning of this glorious passage, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. But how shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” [Romans 10:13-14].
So then, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing the word of God” [Romans 10:17]. So the second thing God says, “You must listen to My preacher. You must listen to the message of salvation. I send you My great testifier. I send you My preacher. I send you My witness.” Listen, listen. “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things” [Romans 10:15]. So God raises Him up a preacher that he might announce the glorious good news that Jesus hath died to wash our sins away [2 Corinthians 5:21].
Then the third and the last thing: there must be a response, a response in the souls, in the hearts, in the lives of those who listen to God’s preacher and God’s witness. “Lord, that preacher says my sins are forgiven in Jesus [Colossians 1:14]. That preacher says I am to turn and in faith look to the Lord Jesus [Acts 16:30-31; Ephesians 2:8]. O God, that preacher says that today, if I hear the voice of God, I am to respond with my soul and with my life” [2 Corinthians 6:2]. And when the preacher makes that appeal, on the inside of the man’s heart, the Holy Spirit corroborates His witness and His testimony.
“That’s right,” says the Holy Spirit of God, “Jesus died on the cross that we might be forgiven our sins [John 16:7-11]. That’s correct,” says the Holy Spirit of God, “in your heart, the Lord opened the way into heaven through the veil of His flesh” [Hebrews 10:20]. He died that we might someday see the face of God [Revelation 22:4]. “That’s right,” says the Holy Spirit of Jesus, “when the preacher pleads for you to accept that witness to turn and be saved, do it,” says the Holy Spirit of God, “do it” [Romans 10:13-14].
And in that response, a man finds life. “For,” said the same great apostle in the same marvelous chapter, “For if thou shalt confess with thy mouth, Jesus as thy Lord, and shall believe in thine heart that He liveth,” that He reigns at the right hand of God, that someday He is coming again [Hebrews 9:28], “that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart one believeth unto a God kind of righteousness; and with the mouth confession is publicly made unto salvation” [Romans 10:9-10].
That’s the great and final invitation; “And whosoever will, let him come, let him drink at the fountain of the life of the water of life freely”; come, come. “The Spirit and the bride say, Come. Let him that heareth say, Come. Let him that is athirst, come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” [Revelation 22:17]. And when the faithful minister of Jesus stands and gives that invitation and presses that appeal, God works [John 6:44], and the Holy Spirit convicts [John 16:8], and the Lord sends the harvest [Matthew 9:38]. Whosoever will; the door is so wide, wide open, and the way is so simple and plain. This is the Lord; take Him. Let him come and take freely. This is the Lord; take Him. This is the road to glory and to heaven; walk on it. This is our blessed Savior; “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” [Romans 10:13]. This is our Lord in His appearing and someday He is coming again, “and not unto me only shall He give that reward of life, but to all those also that love His appearing” [2 Timothy 4:8]. “It is appointed unto men once to die, and after that the judgment. But unto them that look for Him shall He come again, shall He appear a second time, apart from sin, unto salvation” [Hebrews 9:27-28].
It’s the reward and the gift of the Holy Spirit of God to that whosoever will. Let him come. Let him come [Revelation 22:17]. And will you tonight? Will you tonight? “Preacher, I understand. I see. I know. It’s for me, and here I am, looking to Jesus in the confession and forgiveness of my sins [Romans 10:9-10]. Here I am. Here I come. Looking in faith to the Lord for strength in the pilgrimage of this life, here I am. Here I come. Looking to the Lord in that great and final day when we shall stand before the great God and our Savior [2 Corinthians 5:10], trusting Him, looking unto Him. Here I am, pastor, and here I come.” Look and live [John 3:14-15; Numbers 21:8]. Trust and be saved [Acts 16:30-31]. Wash and be clean [Revelation 7:14; 2 Kings 5:10-14]. Come, take, do it tonight. Do it tonight. You, somebody you, “Here I come, pastor, and here I am.” While we sing this song of appeal and invitation, in the throng in this balcony round, somebody you, coming down the stairway at the front, on either side, or at the back; there is time and to spare, to the topmost part of that balcony, come, make it now. In the throng and press of people on this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front, “Here I am, preacher, and here I come. This is my wife, and these are our children, all of us are coming tonight.” However the Spirit of God should open the door and lead in the way, make it now, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.