Salvation by Grace
December 7th, 1969 @ 8:15 AM
SALVATION BY GRACE
Dr. W.A. Criswell
12-7-69 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Salvation By Grace, and it is a message from one of the greatest verses, one of the greatest sentences in the Bible. In these morning hours, we are preaching through the Book of Ephesians and have come to the second chapter and verses 8 and 9. And the tremendous sentence, the tremendous verse is this:
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Not of works, lest any man should boast.
There are two ways; there are two possible ways for us to be saved. One would be our way, and the alternative is God’s way. And there are only two. There are not three possibilities. There are not one and a half. There are two possible ways for us to be saved; one for us to do it ourselves, the other for God to do it.
Now, we consider first man’s way, our way. When a man works out his own salvation, how does he do it? He will follow one of four patterns. One: when he tries to save himself, there are those who do it by self mortification, by self chastisement, by inflictions of all kinds of hurts and griefs and painful procedures. All of us have seen pictures of Hindus who, for example, will hold up their hands to heaven and do it for years, so much so that they cannot lower their hands. Or they lie on beds of nails. Or they make pilgrimages on their knees. Or they starve themselves to death.
Then all of us are most familiar with a great religious system that has in it doing penance. You try to work out some measure of suffering for yourself whereby you can make atonement for your sins. The affliction of the body for the salvation of the soul; that is one of the concomitants of religion that is the most commonly seen and observed.
Martin Luther – there is a film, presented sometime ago – Martin Luther, if you read his life or if you looked at that film, one of the things that Martin Luther did as he struggled with his sense of sin and guilt was self flagellation with a flagellum, a whip with several thongs. He would beat himself and whip himself so much so that when he lay down at night he was covered in blood. The tremendous church father named Origen with his own hand destroyed his manhood with self-emasculation. This is one of the commonest means that we observe how a man tries to save himself.
Another method, the perversion of sacrifice: the use of others or things and especially the spilling out of blood to make atonement for sin, to save the soul, and here again you are introduced to that almost everywhere. Have you been in Old Mexico? Have you looked at the carved signs and symbols of the ancient Aztec Indians in the pyramids? There are those sites carved by those ancient Aztecs. And the priest is with a long knife ready to take the heart out of a young warrior, for the blood must be spilled hot, and the heart must be carved out of the body throbbing; human sacrifice.
I have stood by the banks of the Ganges River and reviewed the uncounted centuries of the stories of the children that have been thrown to the crocodiles in the Ganges. In the Old Testament, Ahaz, in the Valley of Hinnom, offered his sons to Molech, a great image of brass whose arms were protruded in front of him. And when the image was heated hot, [they] threw their children into those arms, and lest their screams of the cries of the little children affect the parents, all kinds of loud screaming and gyrations characterized the orgies.
Ahaz did that. King Manasseh did that. And that’s where the Valley of Hinnom, Gehenna, the New Testament word for hell, comes from: under the great revival under Josiah – he defiled the valley. If you’ve been to Jerusalem, one of the most distinguishing topographical marks of the landscape is the Valley of Hinnom. And it was used to dump the offal and the filth of the dirt and garbage of Jerusalem for centuries. Josiah defiled it because it was used as a place for human sacrifice; a man’s attempt to save himself.
I’ve walked around Africa and seen blood on stones, and on posts, and on trees, and on rocks. An animist, a man who believed that these things contain spirits, an animist had offered a sacrifice of some kind of an animal and spilled its blood on the posts, or the rocks, or the stones, or the trees. There have literally been Amazons, Amazons of blood poured out, human and animal, for the remission of sins; a man trying to save himself.
Then a third way: all of us are familiar with those who believe in good works. "If I’m just good enough, I can be saved. I’ve got to do this, and do that, and do that." It’s like a man with a ladder: "And this rung, and the next rung, and the next rung, and if I can step on this one and be herein good, and herein good, and herein good, and herein good, finally I can reach the gates of glory by being good." God says that our righteousnesses are as filthy rags in His sight [Isaiah 64:6]. There is an element of depravity in whatever you do. You cannot escape it. That black drop is in your blood. Even our most altruistic gestures have in them something of selfishness and pride. "If I keep the Golden Rule, surely I will be saved." "I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me" [John 14:6]. I cannot be good enough to inherit heaven. There is in me and around me and in all of my faculties a lack, a depravity, a fallen nature, and I cannot escape it.
A fourth and a last way that men try to save themselves: they love rituals, and ceremonies, and ordinances, and sacrifices by which they might enter the presence of God: "If I observe this ceremony and if keep this sacrament and if I follow this ritual, I’ll be saved." To me, that is Satan’s masterpiece. As I study the Scriptures and as I watch his works in the earth, I have come to the conclusion that the greatest religionist that God ever created is Lucifer himself. He loves religion. He sponsors it.
For example, in the third temptation of the Lord Jesus when Satan took the Lord up to a high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them, what did he say? "I will give You this, if" – – and here is an act of worship, a religious response – – "all of this will I give to Thee, if Thou wilt fall down and worship me" [Matthew 4:9]. He is a religionist. He’s incurably religious, and the hoisting of that religion you find in all the earth, everywhere, in some kind or another.
An atheist has his faith and his religion, and the animist has his, and the Buddhist has his, and the Mohammedan has his. Religion and men are persuaded that if I observe these rituals and follow these ordinances, I will be saved. There are some who teach us that if we are baptized, we’ll be saved. "Yes, we will. I am saved. My sins are washed away in those baptismal waters. A ritual, a ceremony can save me." Others [say] if you join the church you’ll be saved. I heard a very gifted man one time say, "You stay with mother church, and mother church will take you to heaven." And in our modern nomenclature, that’s what the word sacrament meant, means. Sacrament: it is an agency of grace. You observe this ritual, and you follow this ceremony, and you’ll be saved. We must conclude. There are four ways, and I’ve named them, by which a man tries to save himself.
But there is another alternative in salvation, and that is God’s way. What is God’s way? If a man is going to be saved like God would save him, how is he saved? This, I repeat, is the greatest verse to be found in this epistle, and one of the greatest verses in the Bible. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is a gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast." For by grace are ye saved through faith [Ephesians 2:8-9].
Now we’re going to take both phrases. "For by grace are you saved." That is one of the most beautiful words in any language. Charis, the objective in the objective case, charin, charin, charin, charin. Don’t you have a girl named Karen? Karen, Karen, Karen: "grace." So many of those Greek words are beautiful. Margarite; margarite, that’s just the Greek word for pearl, margarite. Eirene, that’s just the Greek word for peace, eirene; Stephen, the Greek word for crown. Theodore, Theodora, Theodore, or turn it around, Dorothea, Dorothy, "gift of God." The same word: Theodore, or turn it around, Dorothea, "gift of God." All those beautiful words; charin is one of them, "grace." The Greeks loved that word. It referred to that nameless quality of charm and loveliness, and came also to mean that burst of generosity bestowed upon someone without thought of return or reward. Charis, grace, and the evangelists and apostles took that beautiful Greek word and elevated it further in the Christian concept and context.
Charis, grace, originally it referred to a gift. You have it somewhat in the Bible when they talk about charisma, the charismatic gift, the charismatic gifts of God. Originally it referred to a gift, charis, then it referred to forgiving a debt – how generous of a man to forgive a debt – and finally it came in the Christian faith to refer to the forgiveness of sins. Charis, the unmerited abounding love of God toward us poor sinners! For by nature we are lost, like falling autumnal leaves we perish, but it is a grace of God, unmerited on our part, that saves us.
For the nature of God, the Bible says and reveals, the nature of God is not that He is like a tideless sea, blissful, holy, unmoved, untouched, but rather the Bible reveals the Lord as a living stream of abounding love and affection. God is like you, and you’re like God, capable of illimitable devotion. You just are. You fall in love, these kids say; you fall in love. You’re made that way because you’re made like God; the great outpouring of the heart of the Almighty. God loves. God is gracious.
Because God is gracious, full of grace, therefore sinners are welcome to approach Him. Because God is infinite abounding love, therefore we are forgiven. Because God’s mercy endureth forever, we never perish. Because God is all compassion, therefore we can be saved. Our salvation is in the heart, and the love, and the mercy, and the abounding graciousness of God, therefore our part is to be one of hope, and faith, and trust, and acceptance, and commitment. And Paul says it positively and negatively. By grace, the love of God, the graciousness, the abounding infinitude of His mercy, "By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." We just take it.
Now, I must come to the last part of this message; "through faith, through faith." God does it, and He does it through a channel, through a common denominator that all of us share. The one common denominator that characterizes all of us in our souls and hearts, the real me, the one common denominator that all of us share is trust, faith, belief. Now I want you to look at that just for a moment.
I believe the sun will rise in the morning, don’t you? I believe that. I trust that. If you were to press me for a positive proof, I’d be incapable, but I believe it just the same. I believe the sun will rise tomorrow, and I live my life according to that faith. I trust in the bank. I believe in the bank. I trust these bridges these highway departments build across the creeks and rivers and streams and valleys. I don’t get out and examine a bridge before I drive my car across it. I just drive down maybe too fast. I just drive down the highway. I never got out and examined a bridge in my life. I never did. I’d say you’re an idiot if you do that. You live by faith. It’s a common denominator in all of us. Nor do I examine these roofs; why, bless you, if this roof were to fall on my head I’d perish, but I don’t examine that roof up there before I walk into a building. I take it by faith. I eat by faith.
Did you know this last week I heard one of the most interesting discussions about manners? You know, how you ought to act at the table: manners. All right, this expert and counsel woman in how to do said when you sit there at a beautiful banquet, and there you are around the table with all the candelabra, and silverware, and beautiful china, the porcelains, everything set, now when you sit down there, why, in old times, the waiter must serve the hostess or the host first. And the reason for that was the food might be poisoned and you didn’t know it, so in order to give you peace of heart and mind, in olden days, when the servants came out with the food, they always served the hostess first. Then if she ate it and didn’t fall dead, why, then you could go ahead and eat it. Now, that was why that was done.
But today we have confidence and faith in our hostesses. So the new rule is – I’m just telling you what the radio says, I’m no authority on this, I’m just repeating – the new rule is that when the servant comes out with the food, he is to serve first the guest of honor, the one on the right of the hostess, the one who sits here, and then go around the table serving the ladies first. And that’s the new rule, because we don’t have to worry about the food being poisoned. You just trust them for it today.
You know, I got to thinking about that. I can’t tell you the number of times I have sat down to dinner with a family, and the dear hostess will be here, and I’ll be seated here, and they’ll serve me first. Oh, its so delicious, piping hot, and I’m starved to death, and that hostess will talk, and talk, and talk, and talk, then she’ll leave the table and go in the kitchen, do something, comes out, and my food gets cold, and cold, and cold, and finally I’ll say to her, "Please, sweet dear, take a bite so I can eat!" Because, to be nice, you know, you’re not supposed to eat before she eats first; she eats first. "Eat, so I can eat while it is hot."
I’m trying to get you to see that faith enters every little minute particle of your life. We live by faith. It was that common denominator that the Lord chose as the channel through which His grace could be bestowed upon us. And there are three parts to that channel. One, by grace are ye saved through faith, there are three parts to that faith. One is hearing. I must listen. "Faith cometh by hearing," Paul writes in the tenth chapter of Romans, "and hearing the word of God" [verse 17]. That’s why a minister ought to preach the Word of God: "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing the word of God."
Not hearing all about these economic developments, not hearing about all these political currents, not hearing about all of these military problems, not hearing about these racial crises and a thousand other social revolutions; you can listen to those on the radio. You can read them in the newspaper. You can talk about them through the magazine articles. You can hear them forever, and nobody will be saved. And when the preacher stands in the pulpit and he preaches that, nobody’s going to be saved.
For the Scriptures say that "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing the word of God." But I’ll tell you what will happen; if a minister will stand up in the pulpit and open that Bible and preach God’s Word: somebody’s going to be saved. God uses His Word to convict the heart. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing the word of God." If you’ll get people to come to church, I’m not saying all of them will be saved, but some of them will be saved. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing the word of God."
Do you remember that glorious passage in Isaiah 55? "Ho, ho, ho, every one that thirsteth" – you got a song like that – "Ho, ho, ho, every one that thirsteth," now listen to it, "incline thine ear, and come unto Me: hear, and your soul shall live" [Isaiah 55:1-3]. Oh, that’s a glorious anthem. Isn’t it an anthem? It’s a glorious anthem. It’s singing the Bible, singing the Word of God, hearing. I repeat, we must hasten.
The second part is "By grace are ye saved through faith" [Ephesians 2:8] – the second part of that saving faith is acceptance; acceptance. I hear and I believe what I hear. Yes, I do! I believe the testimony of the Scriptures, like those Bereans; they searched the Scriptures to see whether those things were so or not [Acts 17:11], and I accept the testimony of those who have seen and heard before me. I’ve never been to Tibet, but I believe there is a Tibet. I’ve never been to Afghanistan; I believe there is an Afghanistan.
I listened to a missionary one time as he’s trying to describe to some of those Congolese that were – – and it never gets oh, below say sixty-five degrees in that part of Africa, on a cold day it’ll be about sixty-five – – this missionary was trying to explain to those Africans that water got hard and you could walk on it. Water got hard, and sometimes it’d come down like little white snowy fluffy feathers. Ha, those Congolese, they thought that was ridiculous. But if they believed the missionary, they could believe, accept it by faith that water could get hard and you could walk on it, or it came down like little fluffy puffs. You see, that’s what God uses to bring to us His abounding grace.
I must take it, and the hand is made on purpose to take. It just is. Just to accept; the hand’s made that way. Your soul’s made that way. Your soul is made on purpose to receive. That faith, I say, is the channel through which God pours out His saving grace. Many of you’ve been in Rome. You’ll see those old Roman aqueducts. One of them is still in use, the channel they bring from the Apennine Mountains in the center of that boot, that flowing water, down to the city of Rome. It’s been there for about two thousand five hundred years, and you can look at it. You can look at it. The channel through which God’s grace comes to us.
And the last part of it is commitment. The sower sows his field. He believes that the grain will rise. And the mariner in the midst of a trackless sea will trust the stars and the mariner’s compass. And when you’re sick, you’ll trust the doctor, sometimes in serious surgery. When you get on an airplane, you trust in the pilot.
And that’s what it is to be saved. I believe the witness of the Scriptures to Jesus, I believe the witness of my brethren to the saving grace of Jesus, and I believe it so much that I am willing to trust my own soul and destiny into His gracious hands. And when I do that, I’m in. I’ve walked through the gate. I’ve crossed the line. God does something to my heart; I’m saved. "For by grace are ye saved through faith" [Ephesians 2:8]. Not something I do; I just take it, lest someday in glory I should boast, saying, "I’m here because of what I did." No, when I get to glory, it’ll be, "I’m here because of something He did. Jesus saved me." Isn’t that a great gospel? Why, you just want to shout and sing and praise the Lord. Oh, and it’s forever!
Now our time’s gone, and while we sing our hymn of appeal, a family you, a couple you, a one somebody you, coming into the fellowship of our dear church, opening your heart to the blessed Lord Jesus, as the Spirit shall press the appeal, come. In the balcony round, the stairway is still open on either side. On this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front: "Here I come, pastor, and here I am." Do it now, on the first note of the first stanza, come, while we stand and while we sing.
I. Man’s way of saving himself
torment of the body
1. Martin Luther
B. The tragic
perversion of sacrifice
C. Good works
1. God says our
righteousness is as filthy rags(Isaiah 64:6)
2. No man can be
saved by his own righteousness(John 14:6)
D. Religious ritual,
ceremony and sacrament
masterpiece is religion(Matthew 4:9)
II. God’s way
A. By grace – charis
the Greeks, refers to the unnamable something that makes you love somebody, be
attracted to somebody
Also refers to burst of generosity that would bestow a lavish gift unmerited,
without thought of return
exalted it in Jesus
3. Our salvation
the achievement of the grace of God
4. Our part one
of acceptance, trust, hope, surrendered yieldedness
B. Through faith
1. God mediates
His love to us through the channel of faith
2. All of us have
one thing in common – we live by faith
3. Three parts to
a. Hearing (Romans 10:17, Isaiah 55:3)
c. Committing(2 Timothy 1:12)