HOPE AND SALVATION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-16-68 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message from the tenth chapter of the Book of Romans. You could entitle it Hope and Salvation. The reading is from verses 8 through 13:
What saith the Scripture? 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 Jesus as Lord, 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.
For the Scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed.
For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him—
and the text—
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Now, I never did in my life give an outline of a sermon that I am going to preach. I thought I would try it this morning and see if you could follow me the better. First: I shall speak of the presupposition that we are all lost. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” [Romans 10:13]: that is built upon the presupposition that we are all lost. Second: I shall speak of Him who is presented as the Savior of the world: “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” [Romans 10:13]. Then, third: I shall speak of that heavenly salvation. I shall do it in three ways: nationally, theologically, and personally.
Now to begin, first: the presupposition that we are all lost outside of God and outside of Christ. I need not belabor that affirmation because what the Scriptures say is verified by all that we know in human history, in human life, and in human experience. We are a dying people ourselves, all of us. “The wages of sin is death [Romans 6:23], and “The soul that sins shall die” [Ezekiel 18:20]; moral death, spiritual death, the second death, physical death.
Before I came to the church this morning, the telephone rang at the parsonage. They wanted to know what to do, for death had suddenly come into the circle of one of our families; death. And the depravity of human nature is in every headline and in every syllable of history; total depravity, an old time doctrine which means not that we are as vile and as evil as we can be, but that sin has entered all of our faculties. We are a fallen humanity. The presupposition of the Scriptures always is that we are lost and need a Savior [Romans 3:23; Ephesians 2:12].
Now this, in the day in which we live, is the critical point at which the Christian faith is vigorously and violently challenged. It would never have occurred to a Christian theologian of any past generation but that the hope of our salvation lay in Christ. But that affirmation of the Word of God is openly challenged and vigorously denied by men of the cloth, men of the pulpit, and men of the divinity school today.
I do not live in the academic, theological world—I only touch it by reading—but last week I was overwhelmed by listening to one of the presidents of one of the greatest seminaries in the world. And he was telling me the redefinition of that modern word ecumenical, and ecumenicalism, ecumenicism. He said in days past the word ecumenical, ecumenicalism, ecumenicism, he said that used to refer to the Baptists and the Methodists getting together: we all are going to be ecumenical in our outlook, we are all going to be together in some kind of an organization, find some kind of a common denominator.
But he said these modern theologians don’t refer to that anymore. He said they don’t even discuss that anymore. That’s a part of the past. We all are going to be in that ecumenical movement of Baptists, and Methodists, and Presbyterians, and Episcopalians, and Catholics, all getting together. But he said what that word means today is—then he illustrated it with a conference to which he had been called, about seminary life on the national level and in the national organization.
What that word refers to now, he said, is that on the seminary faculties to which our young ministers are to attend and where they are to be taught—but the modern seminary of this day and tomorrow’s day is to have on its faculty some Christians, yes, certainly there are to be Christians on the faculty, but the faculty also is to include professors from the Hindu religion who teach Hinduism, and Buddhist professors who teach Buddhism, and Mohammedan professors who teach Mohammedism, and communist professors who teach Karl Marx and Nikolai Lenin.
These things overwhelm any man of God who has ever in his background been taught as I have and as you have. I stagger before it! I haven’t time to expatiate on this sentence, but I tell you the truth of God when I avow there is no undercutting and undermining of the Christian faith comparable to the doctrine of universalism: that we all are saved already, and whether a man is an atheist, or a communist, or a Buddhist, or a Mohammedan, or a Hindu, or a Christian makes no difference at all; that just happens to be his own personal persuasion of how it is we all get to heaven.
So the first thing I am avowing from my text is this: that the Word of God unfailingly, always presupposes that we are lost without Christ, always [Romans 10:13]. Now we must hasten. And always, as it is artistically wrong for an artist to paint a picture of a forest without a road leading out, some way out, some light between the trees shining through, so it is always wrong for a man to stand in a pulpit to preach—and however dark our present tragic prospect may be, it is the divine call of the minister of Christ to point to the hope of the world; always. There is some great, good word from God. That is why it is called the gospel, the evangel, the good news [Romans 1:16]. In the same sentence and against the same background of sin and depravity and the lostness of our souls, there will always be that looking to Jesus: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” [Romans 10:13].
You know, used to, a long time ago, when I would read ancient history, I would come across a word attached to a man’s name, an epithet that was the funniest word: sōtēr, sōtēr—you’d read about Demetrius Soter, Philadelphius Soter, Ptolemy Soter, Antiochus Soter, Seleucus Soter; it just occurred again and again and again, sōtēr. That was such a funny looking word, sōtēr. Nor could I find it in the English language, nor could I find its meaning. Soter, S-o-t-e-r: you can look it up in your dictionary. You won’t find it there. Yet there that epithet was after the names of those rulers, again and again and again: sōtēr, “so-and-so Soter.”
Well, then, when I learned to read Greek, though it looks so different in Greek, sōtēr is the ordinary common Greek word meaning “savior.” And what those men did is most apparent as you read their lives and look at that epithet they put behind their names: this man Demetrius, or Ptolemy, or Antiochus, they would present themselves as leaders and saviors to the nation and to the people. And if you’ll read those same stories to the end, you will always find that they led their people into disaster, into war, into decay.
But that word is applied to Jesus: Iēsous Sōtēr; Jesus Soter. And that is the one universal theme and message of the Bible. He is the Savior of the world [1 John 4:14]. There is not a more impressive cathedral in Europe than this one, that is placed at the high altar an impressive statue of Jesus Christ, and around the church are statues of the great prophets and apostles of the Bible, all of them pointing to Jesus. Here will be the statue of Isaiah, facing and pointing to Christ. And on the pedestal where he stands will be these words, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all” [Isaiah 53:6], and Isaiah points to Jesus. Coming around the church, next to him will stand Zechariah, and on the pedestal inscribed his words, “And His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, and they shall look on Him whom they have pierced” [Zechariah 14:4, 12:10]. And next to him will stand John the Baptist, and on the pedestal the inscription, “Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world” [John 1:29]. And next to him will stand the apostle Peter, and the inscription on the pedestal, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” [Matthew 16:16]. And next to him will stand the apostle Paul, and on the pedestal the inscription, “He was delivered for our offenses, and raised for our justification” [Romans 4:25]. And next to him will stand the sainted apostle John, and on the pedestal inscription, “Unto Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood; unto Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” [Revelation 1:5-6]. That’s the Book. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. If thou shall confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” [Romans 10:13, 9]
Now I speak of that great gift from heaven: God’s salvation, a gift the Lord will bestow upon a people, upon a people nationally; a gift God will bestow upon His churches theologically; a gift that God will bestow upon us personally, individually. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” [Romans 10:13]; a national salvation, a theological salvation, a personal salvation.
First: nationally. All of us, of course, are deeply sensitive of the critical hour in which our life has been cast and these tragic days through which we are living. There are developments in America that frighten your soul. I don’t think there is a finer demonstration of it than what happened a few weeks ago in Columbia University. I don’t know whether you read into that or probed into that or looked at that very carefully, but there are things about what happened when those leftist students who took as their slogan, “Karl Marx won, Lenin won, Castro won, and we shall win,” and a handful of leftist students subverted one of the great universities of the earth; and what they say they could succeed in doing in Columbia, they think they can succeed in doing in the capitals of our states, and finally they think they can succeed in doing in the White House.
That is hard for me—I kind of shake my head, to think am I looking right, am I reading right, am I understanding right? Is this happening where I live, in America? And, of course, the implementation of these things by violence is an astonishing development in our modern life. To destroy, to murder, to pillage, to steal is flaunted before America as being virtuous because the end justifies the means: “We are right and these things by which we seek to subvert modern morality and modern law are explicable and defensible because we are marching and striving for great social principles.” I haven’t time to speak of these things. I’d make one comment that I can’t help but share regarding the violence that is attending our modern march of American society. I could not but be amused; sometimes unlettered people will have far more sense and more intellectual acumen than somebody who is highly educated.
The day that Robert Kennedy was assassinated, some of us were in Houston, and there was an unlearned, unlettered, colored janitor in the hotel, working, had an assignment somewhere in the hotel. So he found out that there were preachers there, and he said, he said, “Rev”—that’s an unusual thing to start off with, “Rev”—“Rev,” he says, he says, “These weren’t no Americans who doing all this killing!” he said, “When President John Kennedy was assassinated, that was a communist. That weren’t no American.” And he said, “When Martin Luther King was killed, that was a convict who had lost his citizenship. He weren’t no American!” Then he said, “This man who has just killed Robert Kennedy, he didn’t love our country enough even to take out a piece of paper for citizenship. He weren’t no American!” He paused and with great wisdom said, “It’s these foreigners who are killing us Americans!”
Well, I am not defending his language or his grammar, but I sure am willing to defend his postulates and his conclusions. He’s not an American who assassinated President Kennedy, and he’s not an American who killed his brother, and I still believe—though I was surely hammered on it at the press conference—I still believe that the great throng and majority of our American citizens are overwhelmed and aghast at bloodshed and murder, assassination.
We are not like that.
Well, what makes you think we are not like that? Well, I want to tell you, the background of America through all of her history—and I’m not denying that there are rough places in it; I am not denying that American history is not full of war and bloodshed and violence—but I am saying that the background of American history has been the story of a people who look upward to God. And if we had hours I could illustrate it. In the days of the American Revolution there was a general who knelt and asked God’s guidance as they sought to win freedom for the American colonies. And though historians may deny such an incident, there is not a more effective artist’s picture in America than George Washington, our general, kneeling down under an elm tree asking God’s guidance for his army.
And a Britisher, in the days of the American Constitution, a Britisher asked a friend, “Which one of these men is General George Washington?” And the American colonist replied, “When Congress goes to prayer, the one that kneels will be General Washington.” And in the days of the War Between the States, when our part of the world was prostrate and the South was crushed and ruined, Abraham Lincoln walked into Richmond, Virginia and through the streets of the city. He would not ride. He walked into the state house and to President Jefferson Davis’ office and sat down in his chair, at his desk, and bowed his head in prayer and wept.
In the trial of America when we were at war with Hitler and with Japan, D-day was announced as a day of prayer and supplication to God. The great heart of America has been committed to the Christian faith and to the Christian God and to the Lord Jesus. And by the millions and the millions do Americans stand today in that same faith, in that same love, and in that same devotion. We just need to arise and proclaim it. Stand up and say it, calling our people to repentance, and to faith, and to commitment in God [Romans 10:13-14].
And that leads me to speak of our theological salvation [Romans 10:13]. We come here to this marvelous church. We look at it. Here are these youngsters, about a half acre of them here every morning, just so sweet and pretty and precious and fine, you want to squeeze every one of them. And this great auditorium would be filled three times every Lord’s Day. And we say as we are here in this wonderful church, oh, the kingdom of God has come, look!
But it’s not that way really throughout Christendom. So many, so many of our churches in this world, this world, throughout the nation, so many of them will have a pittance, a handful, an apologetic little group gathered in great mausoleums. And when you read modern theology, here is the minister himself, saying, “the Bible is not true,” and here is the divinity professor himself, saying, “God is dead,” and here is the theological leader of his denomination of his people, saying, “There is no truth in Christ as being born of a virgin, the Son of God, raised from the dead; all these things are myths and legends.” The theological complexion of the modern world is explicable when you see what has happened to the fabric of our faith. What we need is this calling upon the name of the Lord theologically! [Romans 10:13].
This week I reviewed for my own soul the incomparable ministry of Dwight L. Moody. There is an amazingness about that man that I still cannot understand. He was a miracle. Uneducated, father died when he was a little boy, never had opportunity to be schooled, uneducated, and all of his life, all of his life, outside the pale of good grammar, spelling, any of the common rudimentary things that any schoolboy knows; Moody never introduced into any of them. And in his ministry, John R. Mott, the great world missionary statesman, converted under Dwight L. Moody; Dr. Greenfield, the great missionary to Labrador, converted under Moody; Gypsy Smith, the incomparable evangelist, moved to give his life to God under Moody; and ten thousand others. Standing in Boston in the days when the Cabots spoke only to the Lowells, and the Lowells spoke only to God, there stood this unlettered Moody. And to England—an England that was under the spell of Darwin and Huxley, an England that was under the spell of Newman and Spurgeon, an England that was under the spell of a Disraeli and a Gladstone, an England that under Dickens and Thackery looked upon Americans as boors and barbarians—Moody stood in England as he had stood in America, and the whole nation was moved God-ward by that incomparable man.
Moody would come to the edge of his wooden platform and say, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” [Acts 16:31], and in those meetings of after-service, there would be all these who would say, “But, Mr. Moody, I can’t believe!” Then he would come back with that devastating question: “Whom can you not believe? You cannot believe whom?” Can’t we trust Jesus as Lord? [Romans 10:13].
Oh, for a turning to America like that! Oh, for a turning of the nations of the world to God like that! That’s one reason I pray as you do for Billy Graham. Lord, bless Billy Graham, his radio ministry, his television ministry, these tremendous crusades, as he’s holding now and today in the Hemisfair in San Antonio. Lord, through him maybe we can find a turning back to God [Romans 10:13].
“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” [Romans 10:13], nationally, theologically, personally; personally. If I will open my heart to the blessed Jesus, if I will trust Him as my Savior, I am saved. Not trusting a church, not trusting a denomination, not trusting a system of theology, not even trusting interpretations of man, but trusting Somebody, I am saved. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved”: that’s God’s promise. That’s God’s Word [Romans 10:13].
And no word or promise of God shall ever fall to the ground [Isaiah 55:11]. If I will open my heart to the Lord, if I will open my house and home to the Lord, if I will open my life to the Lord, God will come into my heart, into my house, into my life, and God will save me; save me now; save me in the hour of my death. He alone is on the other side of that deep, swollen, dark river of death to take me and to receive me to Himself. And in the judgment that is to come, it is Jesus alone who can stand by me, my Advocate and my Savior [Acts 4:12]. Not in a thousand years would I ever be able to understand why anybody would turn down the love and grace and invitation of Jesus our Lord. “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved [Romans 10:13]. If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe on Him in thy heart, thou shalt be saved” [Romans 10:9].
While we sing our hymn this morning, you, would you do it now? “I’ll accept that invitation, and here I come. I’ll give my life and heart to Jesus, and here I am.” A couple you, a family you, as the Spirit of God shall press the appeal to your heart, come now. Do it now. Make it now. On the first note of this first stanza, come. Into this aisle and down to the front, “Here I am, pastor. This is my wife; both of us are coming today,” or, “This is my whole family; we are all coming this morning.” Do it. Decide now, and when you stand up in a moment, stand up coming, and God attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.