THE WAY MADE PLAIN
Dr. W.A. Criswell
5-9-68 7:30 p.m.
The title of the sermon tonight is The Way Made Plain, and the reading of the Book is the eighth chapter of Acts. Acts chapter 8:
And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?
Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same Scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?
And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
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 rejoicing.
This is the last part of a story that consumes most of the eighth chapter of the Book of Acts. Philip was a deacon. He was not one of the apostles; he was not one of the Twelve. He was a man ordained in the church at Jerusalem to take care of the ministry to tables, the physical necessities that surrounded and attended the congregation [Acts 6:1-6]. He was a deacon, and God put on his heart—being a Hellenist, a Greek-speaking Jew [Acts 6:1, 5], not a Hebrew, not an Aramaic-speaking Jew; he evidently was a part of the diaspora, the great scattering [1 Peter 1:1]. He was a Hellenist; he was a Greek-speaking Jew. And in the persecution that arose around Jerusalem and around the preaching of the gospel, those Hellenists were scattered abroad. And this man Philip being one of them, was one of those that was persecuted out of Jerusalem, and his heart was full of the testimony of Jesus. A layman, a deacon; and he went down to Samaria out of the bitter persecution that hounded them out of the city, and in Samaria he began to tell the people about Jesus. And a revival broke out. It’ll almost always do that when people begin to talk about the Lord. A revival broke out, and there was a tremendous turning to God, and there was the great joy, the Bible says, in that city [Acts 8:5-8]. Now in the midst of the revival, in the very heart of it, while everyone was singing and rejoicing and shouting and praising God, in the midst of that revival the angel of the Lord came to that deacon, that Philip layman, and said to him, “Arise and get thee down to Gaza” [Acts 8:26]; you pronounce it “Gah-zah” today. “Get thee down to Gaza.”
And he left that meeting and went down to Gaza and stood by the side of the road that leads from Palestine down to Egypt, and while he was standing there, wondering why God had sent him to such a lonely place—while this deacon was standing there by the side of the road, down the highway came a chariot, and in that chariot was the treasurer of the country of Ethiopia. They had a queen, her name was Candace, and this man belonged to her court [Acts 8:27].
He was a eunuch: he was a victim of that terrible and tragic and sorrowful Oriental harem. He was a dry stick and an emasculated man with no hope of family or home or issue. But he must have been a brilliant man and a gifted man like Daniel, who also was a eunuch in the court of Nebuchadnezzar [Daniel 1:1-7]. He must have been a gifted and a brilliant man, for he was the treasurer of all of that country and nation of Ethiopia [Acts 8:27]. And somehow God had taken pity upon that man, and he had become a convert to the name of the true God and had gone to Jerusalem for to worship [Acts 8:27]. While he was in the city of Jerusalem, he had either bought or there was given to him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.
And as he returned back to Ethiopia from his pilgrimage to the holy city of Zion, he was in that chariot while his charioteer was driving those steeds down the highway. He was there in that chariot, reading out loud the prophecy of Isaiah [Acts 8:28]. And when he came to the place where Philip was standing, the eunuch was reading the fifty-third chapter of the book [Acts 8:28]. And all of us have memorized that chapter from the days of our youth. Do you remember how it goes?
He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace is upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.
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.
And as the eunuch was reading that fifty-third chapter of Isaiah out loud, the Spirit of God said to Philip, that lay deacon, “Join yourself to the chariot” [Acts 8:29]. So he walked by the side of the chariot—such a strange thing in an open country, away from town or city—and asked, as he walked by the side of the chariot, he asked the eunuch if he understood what he was reading. And the eunuch said, “I do not,” and he desired Philip to come and sit with him in the chariot [Acts 8:30-31]. And the two seated side by side, as the chariot moved down the highway, and the eunuch pointed to the verse in the Scripture and said, “Of whom speaketh the prophet this?” [Acts 8:34]. Who is this that was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities? Who is this upon whom God hath laid the iniquity of us all, who is this? [Isaiah 53:5-6]. And the Scripture says, “And Philip began at the same Scripture,” the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, “and preached unto him Jesus” [Acts 8:35].
Don’t you wish that men would do that today? “And beginning at the same Scripture,” taking God’s Book and opening it, and preaching Jesus. Was it, Jack, day before yesterday, in Paul Crume’s “Big D” column, he told the story of an automobile, a car in Dallas driving down the street? And the man in the car had the radio on, and it was a service from a church. And the man reached over there and turned it off. And the little boy who was riding in the car said, “Daddy, don’t turn it off, that preacher was telling about Jesus!” And the little boy commented, “And Daddy, you hardly ever hear anything about Him anymore.”
Did you read that? Oh, I wish that was my radio program, and somehow I believe it was. Do you know why I think it might have been me? Do you know why? Because Paul Crume said in that column, he said it was one of those preachers that was just firing away. But I thought, isn’t that the Lord’s truth? You don’t hear much about Him anymore. The pulpits are so full of all kinds of stuff and more stuff and more stuff, all of which stuff you can hear from any commentator; you can read it in any editorial. You can hear it discussed by the bushels full and the barrels full on every newsstand. But who’s preaching Jesus? Who is today?
“And he began at the same Scripture, and preached unto him Jesus” [Acts 8:35]. Now with all of your hearts, I want you to listen to me tonight. First: what is the gospel message? If a man preaches the gospel, what does he preach? We have our offerings, and we send out missionaries to go across the sea to preach the gospel to the heathen. When a man goes across the sea to preach the gospel to the heathen, what does he preach? This man preaches the gospel. What is the gospel? In the fifteenth chapter of the first Corinthian letter, you have the gospel by inspiration defined. Paul says:
My brethren, I make known unto you the gospel…
Wherein you stand, wherein you are saved…
How that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures:
He was buried, and the third day He was raised from the dead for our justification according to the Scriptures.
[1 Corinthians 15:1-4]
When a man preaches the gospel, he preaches Jesus from this Book! That is the gospel: Jesus, Jesus, born of a virgin [Matthew 1:20-25]; Jesus, preaching the gospel to the poor, the good news [Matthew 11:5; Luke 4:18]; Jesus, dying on the cross for our sins [Matthew 27:32-50]; Jesus, buried in the grave [John 19:38-42]; Jesus, the third day rising from the dead [Matthew 28:5-7; Luke 24:5-7]; Jesus, ascending into heaven [Luke 24:50-51]; Jesus, someday coming again [Acts 1:11]. That is the gospel! And when you sing about Jesus, you’re singing the gospel. When you’re preaching about Jesus, you’re preaching the gospel. And when you’re telling about Jesus, you’re witnessing to the gospel of the grace of the Son of God. That’s what it was. The gospel is Jesus. Christianity is Jesus. Our hope is Jesus. Heaven is Jesus. “And beginning at the same Scripture, he preached unto him Jesus” [Acts 8:35].
Second, not only is the gospel the story of Jesus, second: the great plan of salvation is trusting Jesus [John 3:16-17; Acts 16:30-31]; that’s what it is. With all of our theological tomes and all of our libraries of books, the way to be saved, the way to go to heaven when you die, the way to have the Spirit of God regenerate your soul and heart, the way to have your name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life [Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27], the way to become a Christian, the way to be saved is that simple thing of trusting Jesus. “And beginning at the same Scripture, he preached unto him Jesus” [Acts 8:35].
Bless your heart, one time I went through the Bible with a red lead pencil, and I marked everywhere in God’s Book that God tells a man how to be saved. And when I went through the Bible marking all those passages, I reviewed it and looked at what I’d done, and I discovered an amazing and an astonishing thing. It is this: wherever in God’s Word God tells a man how to be saved, He always does it in one simple, monosyllabic sentence. Never two sentences, never; but whenever God tells a man how to be saved, He does it in one simple sentence, and there’s no exception to it in the whole Word of God.
Look, for example, John 1:12: “But as many as received Him, to them gave He the right to become the children of God, even to them that trust in His name”—one simple sentence. Look again, John 3:14-15: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life”—one simple sentence. Look again, the next sentence, John 3:16: one simple sentence and the greatest sentence ever written in the world, and the whole gospel message in one sentence: everybody say it with me, upstairs, downstairs, in the choir, on the platform. When you say John 3:16, one sentence, you’re saying the whole message of God’s redemptive purpose. Say it with me: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life”—one simple sentence!
There’s never an exception to it. John 5:24: “Verily, verily—truly, truly, I say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed out of death unto life”; one simple sentence. Take it again, Acts 16:30: “What must I do to be saved?” Well, we shall write a book about it, or we shall have theological classes about it, or we shall have special theo-philosophical discussions about it—no! This is God! Acts 16:30: “What must I do to be saved?” Acts 16:31: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved”; one simple sentence, always one sentence.
Take again—we will not spend the night, but I just want you to feel it, the truth of it. Romans 10:9: “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth that Jesus is Lord, and shalt believe in thine heart that God raised Him from the dead, that He lives, thou shalt be saved”; one sentence! Or take the next verse, verse 10 of Romans 10: “For with the heart we believe unto a God kind of righteousness, a salvation kind of righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” [Romans 10:10]. One sentence, never more, never more. When God tells us how to be saved, it will always be in one sentence, for the great plan of salvation is this: trusting Jesus, trusting Jesus.
What I did when I was a little boy, ten years old—I knew no theology; I was no theologian at ten years of age. No boy is a theologian at ten years of age, but I was saved when I was ten years old because the way is simple and plain: trust in Jesus. One of these boys, he was about thirteen years old, was told by the doctor that he could not live. And the boy was not saved, and the pastor asked the nurse if he could put his head underneath that oxygen tent and talk to the boy. And the pastor put his head under the oxygen tent and took a little New Testament and read to the little boy how he could be saved. Then, as he read these passages as I have quoted to you tonight, why, the boy broke in and said, “Uh, sir, is it that easy?” And the pastor pointed heavenward and said, “Son, it’s easy for you, but it wasn’t for Him.” The reason it’s easy for us is because Jesus took our sins in His own body and bore them on the tree [1 Peter 2:24]. He died in our stead, that I might not be judged and condemned to everlasting death for my sins. Easy for me, but it was hard for Him. That’s how we’re saved. That’s my third point.
First: the gospel message is the simple story of Jesus [1 Corinthians 15:1-4]. Second: the great plan of salvation is that simple plan of trusting Jesus [Acts 16:31]. Now, the third: the great act of conversion, which is the most meaningful, decisive thing that any soul ever chooses, ever decides, ever experiences, the great tremendous conversion experience is this: the committal of your life and your soul to Jesus [2 Timothy 1:12]. That’s what it is. Now preacher, how can you be so sure of that? Ah, because of something I asked of God one time.
I got down on my knees one day with my Book, and I said to the Lord Jesus, “Lord, I want You to show me, plainly and clearly, what it is to believe on Jesus. What is saving faith? What is it? ‘Whosoever believeth on Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life’” [John 3:16]. Lord, what is it to believe on Jesus? Why, it says in the Book “the devils believe, and tremble” [James 2:19]. Lord, what does that word ‘believe’ mean? What is saving faith? I said, “Lord, show me in this Book, what is it to believe on Jesus, to trust Him and to be saved in that faith?” And the Lord answered. God will talk to you, just as your best friend will talk to you, if you’ll let Him. And God said to me, “This is it. This is what saving faith is. This is what it is to believe in Jesus, and be saved.” And I read it, 2 Timothy 1:12: “I know whom I have believed.” And that’s my word, “Lord, what does it mean?” “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.” What is it to believe in Jesus? It is to commit to Him, to commit to Him my soul and my life, my heart, and when I do, I’m saved. That’s what saving faith is. That’s what believing on Jesus is. It is the committal of my life to Him [2 Timothy 1:12]. Now, when I die, after all of the eternity that is to come, I trust Him; I commit my life to Him.
When I was a little boy my mother took me to Trinidad, Colorado, the nearest city to the place where we lived, for an operation—oh, I will never forget those days—for an operation. Nor can I ever forget that doctor; I can just see him as plainly now as I did fifty-three years ago. Have you ever had an operation? Did they put you to sleep? Tell me; didn’t you commit your life to that doctor? Didn’t you? Didn’t you? You committed your life to that doctor. Why, sweet friend, we do it every day.
Every time I get in an airplane I look up there, all those ten thousand gadgets on that board up there. Man alive, I don’t know what any of them turns on and turns off. I sure hope that pilot does, because I’ve committed my life into his care. Isn’t that right? Isn’t that right? I do it every day. And that’s what it is to be saved when I commit my life to Jesus; that’s what it is. The simple thing of the committal of my life to the Lord; that’s what it is [2 Timothy 1:12].
I was born in Oklahoma. I began my ministry in Oklahoma. I came to this church from Oklahoma, and while I was up there I heard one of the sweetest stories I have ever listened to in my life from the lips of an old missionary. There are many kinds of Indians, as you know, in America, and the fiercest were the Plains Indians, the Comanches, the Apaches. Ah, the fierceness of a Geronimo! The Plains Indians are blanket Indians, and they lived in tepees, and they were wild and savage men.
And the missionary in western Oklahoma had gone to preach the gospel, and what did I say that was? To tell them about Jesus. He had gone to the Plains Indians of western Oklahoma to preach the gospel to those savage people. He had spread a large tent, and he was there in his pulpit, preaching the gospel, telling about Jesus to those Indians, and the Spirit of God was with him. And I can know exactly how he felt. Preaching to some of those Choctaws and preaching to some of those Cherokees I’ve had the Spirit of God fall on me.
Well, this missionary was standing there preaching the gospel to those Indians, and the Spirit of God came upon him. And the old Indian chief stood up and walked down to the front and laid his tomahawk at the feet of the missionary, and looking up into his face, said, “Missionary, Indian chief give his tomahawk to Jesus.” But the missionary paid no attention, just kept preaching the gospel, telling about Jesus. And the old Indian chief stood up a second time, walked down to the front, took the blanket from around his shoulders and laid it at the feet of the missionary, and looking up into his face, said, “Missionary, Indian chief give his blanket to Jesus,” and he laid it at his feet. The missionary paid no attention, just kept preaching the gospel, telling about Jesus. And the old chief rose again and went outside the tent and in a while came back and up to the front, looked up into the face of the missionary, and said, “Missionary, Indian chief give his pony to Jesus.” He had gone outside, brought it, tied the pony to a stake at the tent, and had given to Jesus the last possession he had in the world. And the missionary paid no attention, just kept preaching about Jesus. And the old chief stood up the last time and, trembling, came down to the front and fell on his knees, and looking up into the face of the missionary said this time, “Missionary, Indian chief give himself to Jesus” [2 Timothy 1:12].
That’s what is it to be saved: when I give myself to Jesus. “And beginning at the same Scripture, he preached unto him Jesus” [Acts 8:35]. That’s what it is to be saved: when I give myself to Jesus.
And that’s our appeal to you tonight. In a moment we shall sing our song, and while we sing that song, into that aisle and down here to the front, “Tonight, pastor, I give my heart to Jesus, and here I come.” In the throng in this balcony round, there’s a stairway at the back and at the front, on either side, there’s time and to spare, come, come, come. The press on this lower floor, into that aisle and down to the front: “Here I come, pastor. Tonight, I give myself to Jesus.” Make the decision now where you sit, decide for Him now, and in a moment when we stand to sing, stand up coming. The first step you make will be the greatest, most meaningful step in your life. Into that aisle, down to the front, down this stairwell, down this stairwell, here to the front: “Pastor, tonight, I give myself to Jesus.” Do it now, on the first note of the first stanza, and God bless you as you come. Come, come, come, while we stand and while we sing.