HOPE AND SALVATION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-16-68 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Hope and Salvation. If you would like to turn to the passage that is the text, you will find it in Romans chapter 10, verses 8 through 13. Romans chapter 10, 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, that He lives, 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: the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him.
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
And that is my text: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” [Romans 10:13]. I have never done this before, but today I thought I would present the outline of the message. Maybe we can follow it a little more closely, attentively, profitably, if I did it that way.
I shall speak first of the presupposition that the Bible always presents the presupposition that we are lost without God. We are lost without Christ. Second: I shall present what the Bible presents, pointing to Jesus as the Savior of the world. “If thou shalt call upon the name of the Lord, thou shalt be saved” [Romans 10:13]. Then, third: I shall speak of that gift and hope and blessed salvation, and I shall speak of it three ways: nationally, theologically, and personally. Now that is the sermon.
So we shall begin. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” [Romans 10:13]. The very word “saved” carries with it the presupposition that we are lost without the Lord. Now, I need not expatiate upon that background or that persuasion or that presupposition. I look around me in myself, in you, and in the history of all mankind, and in this present hour; all of it is an exclamation point back of the fundamental, primary, basic fact that we are lost without God. I find it in myself and in you.
This morning, before I came to church, one of the dear families called out at the parsonage. There had been a death in the circle of the home, and they wanted to know what to do and where to turn. There is no week that passes by but that death enters and tears and destroys the circle of our families. One week not long ago we had nine funerals in this church. That is the sign and the witness of our mortality, our lost, undone, dying condition, and there is no man that can point to others and say, “They die and they fall into the grave, but we don’t.” No, the judgment of God upon sin is universal. In Adam we all die [1 Corinthians 15:22].
“The wages of sin is death” [Romans 6:23], and “the soul that sins shall die” [Ezekiel 18:20]; physical death, mental death, moral death, spiritual death, the second death, the sentence is passed upon all men. Not only do I see that in myself, who am a dying man, and you, who are a dying people, but I see it, this judgment of God and the judgment of sin, in all of the areas of life.
It is again that old-time doctrine of total depravity that is never preached anymore. The doctrine of total depravity is not that we are as vile and as iniquitous as we can be or could be, but the doctrine is that sin has entered all of our faculties, all of our relationships, all of our emotions. There is no area in a man’s life in which he is not a fallen creature, and there are no relationships in the world, whether national, international, state, political, personal, monetary, mercantile, dramatic, educational, physical; there are no relationships in life that are not marked by frailty and mistake and shortcoming. The Bible presupposes that we are a lost humanity, and that without God and without Christ we are without hope [Romans 10:13]. Now, it is just there and it is just here that the modern theological world has undermined and is undercutting the Christian faith.
There never has been a time in any generation or in any era, or in any century—there never has been a day in Christian history when that supposition has not been presented as the truth of God and of this Book: that we are lost without God and that we are lost without Christ. That has been the beginning, the primary, foundational background of the preaching of the gospel of Christ: our salvation, our redemption, our regeneration, our hope for heaven in Him [Romans 10:13].
Yet in this day and in this time, that whole groundwork and background is being cut away and destroyed by modern theologians. Last week I could hardly believe my ears as I listened to the president of one of the tremendously great theological seminaries in the world. And in talking to me he said, “You know, that word ecumenical, ecumenicity, that used to refer to getting our Baptists and our Methodists and our Presbyterians and our Episcopalians together, a united front, and, of course, as the movement continues in some kind of an organic organization; but,” he said, “that word ecumenical, to the modern liberal theologian, has no reference to getting Baptists and Methodists and Episcopalians together. That is so far done in their minds, that belongs to such past history and achievement, they don’t review it anymore. And the word does not refer to that at all.” He says, “Now and in this day when some of these liberal, modern theologians gather together and they use that word ecumenical, what they are talking about is bringing into the seminary today a Buddhist to teach Buddhism, and a Hindu to teach Hinduism, and a Muslim to teach Mohammedism, and a Shintoist to teach Shintoism, and a communist to teach communism and atheism.” And thank God for this unusual and gifted president; he said, “When it comes to the standards of accreditation that would demand that of us, we are parting company with the national accreditation agencies.” But that is the drift of modern liberal theology!
The young minister no longer taught that the Christian faith is unique and a revelation from heaven and the only way by which a man can be saved, but taught today that any man’s religion is as fine and acceptable as any other man’s religion, whether it be Buddhist, or Hindu, or Mohammedan, or Shintoist, or Christian. Such a persuasion as that is a diametrical repudiation of the Word of God. “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” [Acts 4:12]. And against that background the gospel is preached, and the Bible is written. “If thou shalt call upon the name of the Lord, thou shall be saved” [Romans 10:13].
Second: not only is this Book written against the background and in the presupposition that we are lost outside of Christ [Romans 10:13], but the second great avowal and announcement, the kerygma, of the gospel of the Son of God—the great declaration and proclamation, the preaching that in Christ, in Christ, in the atoning death [Romans 5:11], and resurrection of our Lord [Romans 6:5], in Him we have forgiveness from sins [1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5], deliverance from judgment [1 Thessalonians 1:10], and reconciliation to God [Romans 5:10]; it is in Him [Romans 10:13]. He alone is the Savior of the world! [1 John 4:14].
When I began reading ancient literature, I would notice an epithet that followed the names of so many of those ancient rulers, and it was an unusual word. It was sōtēr, s-o-t-e-r, sōtēr. The man’s name, the ruler, the king, the tyrant would be called Demetrius Soter, or Philadelphius Soter, or Ptolemy Soter, or Antiochus Soter, or Seleucus Soter, and I used to wonder what that word meant, sōtēr, and I went through every dictionary that I knew how, and I never found the word sōtēr. You won’t find it in the dictionary. Yet there it is after the names of those men: Soter. Then, when I began to be taught to read the Greek language, I saw the word in Greek. It looked so very different from what it does in English; sōtēr is the common Greek word for savior: sōtēr, savior.
And what happened in those ancient days was this: there would arise a leader, a military genius, a general, there would arise some kind of a gifted man, and he would present himself to the people and to the nation as the savior of the world. He had the answer to all of their hopes and desires and visions and dreams. But if you read those histories and follow the life of those men, you will find that almost inevitably he led his people and he led his nation into disaster, and into catastrophe, and into decay. He called himself Soter, savior! But actually he failed to bring to his people hope and life and blessing.
It is that word that you will find taken by these Greek authors and applying them marvelously, gloriously, wondrously, triumphant to Jesus. Jesus, Savior; Iēsous Sōtēr. He and He alone, and the whole Bible, the whole Word of God will point to Jesus as that One who is able to deliver us from our sins and to save us from this death [Acts 4:12].
In one of the great cathedrals of Europe is a most impressive and gloriously biblical Christ-centered illustration of that message in God’s Book. In the front of the church at the great high altar is a magnificent and imposing statue of the Lord Jesus, and around, all the way around the church, are the figures of those great characters, prophets, and apostles in the Book, that are pointing to Jesus. On one side standing here will be Isaiah, and on the pedestal on which he stands will be inscribed the 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 next to Him will be standing a Zechariah, and on the pedestal engraved, “And His feet shall stand in that day on the Mount of Olives, and they shall look upon Him whom they have pierced” [Zechariah 14:4, 12:10]. And next to him will be standing John the Baptist, and engraved on the pedestal on which he stands, “Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world” [John 1:29]. And next to him will be standing Simon Peter, and on the pedestal on which he stands the words engraved, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” [Matthew 16:16]. And next to him will be standing the apostle Paul, and engraved on the pedestal on which he stands the words, “He was delivered for our offenses, and raised for our justification” [Romans 4:25]. And next to him will be standing the sainted seer and apocalypticist John, and on the pedestal on which he stands will be inscribed his words, “Unto Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, to Him be glory and power and dominion forever and ever. Amen” [Revelation 1:5-6].
This is the testimony of the Word of God. All the prophets, all of the apostles, all of the saints, all of the inspired writers, the Father in heaven and the Holy Spirit poured out into the earth, all point to Him as the Savior of the world. It is Jesus; “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” [Romans 10:13].
I speak now of that blessed gift: hope and salvation in Jesus. I speak of it first nationally. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” [Romans 10:13]. “Blessed” is it written in the Book, “Blessed is that nation whose God is the Lord” [Psalm 33:12]; a national deliverance. I need not remind you of the tragic day in which our life and the life of our country is cast. All of us are increasingly sensitive to it. There are things that have arisen in the life of our people that are startling, full of agonizing foreboding for the future. Out of a hundred of them I can point to no one more impressively tragic than what happened a few days ago in the left-wing students of Columbia University, taking over that great institution, one of the far famed bastions of learning in the world.
And I don’t know whether you followed it carefully or whether you read intently concerning it, but every development in that seizure of that great university is startling and fearful and awesome. Just a handful of violent students, left-wingers, who printed on their placards “Karl Marx won, Lenin won, Castro won, Stalin won, and we shall win!” And in ways unbelievable in a free and God fearing America, these blaspheming communists took over one of our greatest sanctuaries of learning and academic achievement, and held it! And so successful were they in that that their organization boasts, “We shall next seize the state house, and finally we shall seize the White House.” This is in our day and in our time, and is happening before our very eyes. And not only that, but the record that we have written in these last several months in our cities, records in fire and blood and violence and destruction, seemingly are but the introduction of deeper violence and destruction and bloodshed in the summer in which we are now plunged, and in the years that lie ahead. Is this America? I don’t recognize it if it is America. America is not like that, nor has America been like that! Nor is that the background and the faith and the history of our people. It is something other and something else; it is something alien, something strange and something foreign.
I couldn’t help but be amused in the word of an unlettered, illiterate Negro man in Houston, commenting on the tragedy of the assassination of Senator Kennedy. He said, “Rev”—well, that would bring you to attention no matter where you were. “Rev,” he said, “they weren’t Americans doing all this murdering and killing. They weren’t Americans!” He said, “When President Kennedy, John Kennedy was assassinated, that was a communist,” he said, “that weren’t no American!” Then he said, “When Martin Luther King was assassinated,” he said, “that was a convict who lost his American citizenship. He weren’t no American!” Then he said, “And Rev, the murderer, the assassinator of Senator Kennedy, he didn’t love our country enough even to get a slip of paper to take out his citizenship. He weren’t no American!” Then he made his final deduction: he said, “Rev, it’s these foreigners and outsiders that are killing us Americans!”
He may not have been learned in his grammar, but his philosophy is correct. This is not America! This is somebody else, and something other, and something strange, and something foreign. For America, its background, its history, its great dreams and hopes have been founded in God and in the Christian faith! This has been our strength and the blessings of God upon us; a people who knew and called upon the name of the Lord.
There is not a finer piece of painting in this world than that of George Washington in the days of the American Revolution, kneeling down under an elm tree asking God’s blessings upon his Continental army. There is no finer figure in world history than George Washington at the Constitutional Congress. When a Britisher said to a colonist, “Which one of these men is General Washington?” the colonist turned to the Britisher and replied, “When Congress goes to God in prayer, the one who kneels is General Washington.”
In the days of the tragic War Between the States, when Abraham Lincoln, born and reared, sired and mothered in a devout humble Baptist home, when Abraham Lincoln entered Richmond, he didn’t ride. He walked through the streets of the torn and destroyed city. And making his way to the Confederacy state house, he entered the office of President Jefferson Davis and sat down in a chair and buried his face in his hands on the desk and prayed for the stricken and the destroyed and suffering South and for the healing of the wounds of the nation.
And when D-day came, and our Americans were storming the bastions of Hitlerite Europe, D-day was a day of prayer for the millions and the millions and the millions of American. Our churches were filled at the midnight hour beseeching God’s favor and remembrance of our troops. This is America, and this has been the strength of our nation, and this is our present help. A mighty fortress is our God. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” [Romans 10:13]. It is a national salvation. When a people turn to God, God turns to the people.
It is a theological salvation. It is not hard or difficult, nor is the answer erudite, and recondite, abstruse. It is not easy to see why that the churches of the world, for the most part, are vacant and empty. They look like vast, dark mausoleums. They are funereal and sepulchral and empty. People who come down here to this church at 8:15 in the morning and see it jammed, a half acre of teenagers here, come back at this hour and at the evening hour, they think that the kingdom of God has come; surely the millennium is here. It isn’t like that. It isn’t like that. Most of our churches in the world are empty. Not two percent of the people will attend them. I say it isn’t difficult to see why. The preacher there, standing in the pulpit, if he refers to the Bible at all, he will refer to it as a book of myth and legend, a piece of antique literature.
And the seminary where he is taught, the divinity professor himself will be saying “God is dead,” and the whole academic background in which he studies the Lord and the message of the Lord will be one of supercilious, sophisticated superiority. “This is old, antiquated, medieval, so much baggage and luggage to be dispensed with. It doesn’t fit modern day, modern time, modern thinking, modern scientific discoveries.” That is what they hear in the modern pulpit and in the modern day! And no wonder they go home and don’t come back. No wonder they don’t bring their children up in the love and admonition of the Lord [Ephesians 6:4]. No wonder we are becoming as a world secular and material and seeking to find some answer to existential despair! They turn to anything! And these students think maybe they have an answer in communism and in atheism. Theologically, theologically we need a great turning to God. In the pulpit, in the seminary, in the Christian college, in the preacher, we need a great calling upon the name of the Lord [Romans 10:13].
The time escapes; I don’t know where it goes. I must close. It is a personal salvation. Whosoever, you, shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved [Romans 10:13]. You. Moody, in his after-service, when he got through pleading for Jesus, would step to the edge of the wooden platform and say, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” [Acts 16:31], and almost always there would be a reply, “But, Mr. Moody, I can’t believe.” And he would always come back with that devastating question: “Whom, whom can you not believe?” We are not asked to believe a system of doctrine. We are not asked to believe in a church. We are not asked to believe in a denomination. We are not asked to believe in a preacher or a man. What God calls us to is a faith in the blessed Lord Jesus [Romans 10:13], and however I may be wrong, however the churches may be wrong, however all Christendom may be wrong, there is nothing wrong with Him, nothing, nothing.
“Whom can you not believe?” I can believe in Jesus. I can trust in the Lord, and God’s promise is explicit and clear and lucid and plain. “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” [Romans 10:13]. Let God come into your heart; come into your house; come into your home; come into your life. Let God have you and see what God can do to enrich, to bless, to sustain, to see you through, now, in death, and in the world that is yet to come.
While we sing this hymn of appeal, come; a family you, a couple you, one somebody you, while our people prayerfully wait, while we sing this hymn of appeal, in the balcony round, on this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front: “Pastor, this is my wife. The two of us are coming.” Or “Pastor, my whole family is here. All of us are coming.” Or just you, you’re coming. Make the decision now, and in a moment, when we stand to sing, stand up coming. Do it. That first step will be the most meaningful and blessed you will ever take in your life. Do it, and God attend your way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.im be glory and power and ominion forever and ever, Amen.