The Simplicity in Christ
August 22nd, 1971 @ 7:30 PM
THE SIMPLICITY THAT IS IN CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Corinthians 11:1-3
8-22-71 7:30 p.m.
Tonight, the title of the sermon is a text in the Bible from 2 Corinthians chapter 11, 1 through 3. And I want us to read it out loud together. And if on the radio, you are sharing with us this service, this is the pastor, this is the First Baptist Church, and the title of the sermon is The Simplicity That Is in Christ. Now, if you are listening on the radio and have a Bible, turn to the passage and read it with us; 2 Corinthians chapter 11, the first three verses. Now all of us reading it out loud together:
Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me.
For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
[2 Corinthians 11:1-3]
And that is the text and the title, The Simplicity that is in Christ.
Let me first speak of its context, why the apostle wrote it like this. Wherever he went he was dogged by Judaizers. And in Philippians he calls them dogs [Philippians 3:2]. He was hounded by people who perverted the gospel, saying that you could not be saved, you could not be born again, you could not go to heaven just by trusting the Lord, but they added to it so many other things [Acts 15:5]. And in the case of the Judaizers, they added to it all of that multiplied, voluminous tradition of the elders [Galatians 4:9-10]. You had to observe this and that and keep this and that. And finally, if a man kept enough of that Halakhah and observed a proportion of the Haggadah, why, he might finally get to heaven. But nobody could be saved just by trusting Christ. Now that was the doggedness of the Judaizers [Galatians 5:1-10].
In reply to what they were pressing upon the new Christian converts, which in this instance not only encompasses what the Judaizers would say, adding to the faith of Christ all these other commandments to keep in order to be saved [Galatians 2:16], but he encompassed also in his subject here all of those perversions of the gospel [2 Corinthians 11:3]. And they were many. We think that we have confusion in the theological world today as we face all of the modern developments, and angles, and facets that the theological seminaries and the professors, and the ministers, and the students pour into this in the name of Christ. But this is as nothing today as it was when the gospel first met the Greco-Hellenic world; its philosophy, a thousand different kinds of sophistries.
So the apostle in writing to the church here at Corinth, says, “That I am afraid that as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty” [2 Corinthians 11:3], and he is a subtle beast, the most subtle of all the beasts of the field [Genesis 3:1]––there’s no avenue by which he does not seek to corrupt the gospel of the grace of the Son of God. And one of them is philosophically, intellectually, academically––“as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty” [2 Corinthians 11:3], the ingeniousness of his approach, what he’s referring to is when Eve saw that the tree was one to make one wise [Genesis 3:6]. “You’re stupid, you’re dumb. The reason you believe as you do and trust as you do is because you don’t know any better. But if you were educated, and if you were inducted, and if you were sophisticated, and if you knew the books and the language, all of these philosophical and ecclesiastical backgrounds, you wouldn’t be as you are.”
“As Eve was seduced and beguiled through the serpent’s subtilty, I am afraid that your minds can be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” [2 Corinthians 11:3].
Now may I make a personal observation about all of this theology? I do not deny, nor would Paul, that there are depths of theological understanding and study that is presented in the gospel of the Son of God. You can’t fathom it. You could study it forever. And there are literally libraries of books written about the theological implications of the gospel of Christ. I do not deny those theological implications, and those tomes, and tomes, and tomes, and books, and libraries have in them great profit in study.
But at the same time it is to my heart what Paul has written here: that the fundamental of the faith, the actual gospel of Christ is always and necessarily simple [2 Corinthians 11:3]. It is plain. It has to be because most of us heard it, accepted it, and believed it when we were children. We were not theologians. And the same way with the great mass of the unlettered peoples of the earth. If the gospel is intricate and erudite, if it is academic and scholastic, then there are uncounted peoples, nations, and tribes, and families, and languages who could never enter into it.
Many of them can’t read. They can’t write. Or, even being able to read and write, they are unlettered. They are agrammatoi kai idiotai. They are not learned. But that does not take away from the power of the message to convert, to regenerate, to save, because of the text and the avowal that the apostle makes in this message I’m preaching tonight; The Simplicity that is in Christ.
Sometimes I have the attitude in my heart, as I read these endless books and pore through all of this theology, I sometimes think that I am as a man in an attic of an old, old house. And he’s looking out a window that is covered with cobwebs of a hundred ten years old. The window is clouded. The cobwebs besmirch it and dirty it. Sometimes I think, I do believe the best thing to do is just to take a clean cloth and wipe it all away, and come back to those great, simple fundamentals that lie at the very heart of the gospel of the grace of Christ; the simplicity that is in Christ.”
Now, the message. First, the gospel message is a simple message, always, always. When a man preaches the gospel, he is preaching a simple message. Well, how do you know that pastor? Because Paul, statedly and by sentence and word, describes and defines the gospel; listen to it. “My brethren,” this is the beginning of the fifteenth chapter, one of the greatest chapters in the Bible, the fifteenth chapter of 1Corinthians, “My brethren, I make known unto you the gospel, I declare unto you the gospel, I define unto you the gospel, wherein ye stand, wherein ye are saved” [1 Corinthians 15:1-2]; what is it? “How that,” and here’s his description, this is the definition: “How that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; He was buried, and the third day He was raised again according to the Scriptures” [1 Corinthians 15:3-4]. When a man preaches the gospel, what does he preach? He preaches Jesus! His subject is Jesus. His text is Jesus. His theme is Jesus. His message is Jesus. His appeal is the Lord Jesus. The gospel is the simple story of Jesus; Jesus, born of a virgin [Matthew 1:20-25]; Jesus, going about doing good [Acts 10:38], preaching the gospel to the poor, healing the sick, opening the eyes of the blind [Matthew 11:4-5]; Jesus, in a precious, and lovable, and glorious ministry of sympathy and compassion. “Jesus, moved with compassion,” is always His enduring name [Mark 6:34]. Jesus, the friend of sinners [Matthew 11:19]; Jesus, dying on the cross [Matthew 27:32-50]; Jesus buried in the tomb [Matthew 27:57-60]; Jesus, raised from the dead for our justification, to declare us righteous [Matthew 28:1-6; Romans 4:25]; Jesus, ascending back up into heaven [Acts 1:9-10]; Jesus, interceding for us in glory [Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25], to whom we pray in confidence and faith; Jesus, someday coming again [Acts 1:11]: that is the gospel. That’s it.
When I was a lad, a little fellow, we had what they call the Card Class. When we went to Sunday school, they gave us little cards, little colored cards. And on them were pictures of the blessed Savior, and what He was doing. Sometimes He had a little lamb in His arms; sometimes talking to a young man who in sadness turned away. And as a lad, as a small boy, a very small boy, I remember the lessons in the Sunday school that were centered around those little, colored pictures of the blessed Savior. That’s the gospel. That’s the gospel. That’s it.
Now, for the most part the whole Christian ministry has turned away from that. And we’ll just take this week. This week when I came back, on my desk was a large envelope from an ecclesiastical organization here in Dallas, representing all of these churches. And inside were three sermons for me to look at. So, I looked at them. And one of the sermons was on the political and economic situation. One of the sermons was on bussing situation. And one of the sermons was on race relations, the racial situation.
I do not deny that maybe there ought to be here in the city of Dallas going on every hour on the hour, editorial comment and political invective about what’s going on, what the governor’s doing, and what the president is doing, and what the Supreme Court is doing, and all of the other things that belong to the ferment of our modern society. But I do say this. That is not the gospel! It just isn’t. It just isn’t. Well, what is the gospel then, as you would define it in its pertinency to us today? Well, I can do it just in a second.
This is the gospel: Preston Smith, governor of the state of Texas, have you confessed your sins to Jesus Christ? Are you a born again believer? Have you committed your life and soul to Jesus? Mr. Governor, are you saved? Are you right with God? Are you? That is the gospel. Mr. Supreme Court Justice, Mr. President of the United States, Mr. Businessman, Mr. Head of the AFL and the CIO, Mr. Head of General Motors, Mr. Janitor in the church, to the whole world:
Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing pow’r?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
[“Are You Washed in the Blood,” Elisha A. Hoffman]
That is the gospel.
Now somebody says, “Oh, what inanity, what adolescent foolishness!” My brother, if the leaders of America, its business, its manufacturing, its merchandising, its political life, its social life, its cultural life, its academic life, if the leaders of America were right with God, and they loved the Lord, and they’d given their hearts in trust and faith to Jesus, you wouldn’t have to worry about a stock scandal, nor would you be in lawsuits by the FCC going around and around about the political leaders of our nation. You wouldn’t have to worry about ten thousand other problems that plague us every day and assail us every night, for the man is right with God, and right men will seek a way to do right by one another.
The gospel addresses itself to the human heart. That’s the gospel: Christ dying for our sins according to the Scriptures; and raised again the third day for our justification [1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Romans 4:25]. Prayer, and devotion, and worship, and love, and commitment, this is the gospel of the grace of the Son of God. It is as simple as the love of Jesus. The death of our Lord, the sacrifice of our Savior for us––that is the gospel [1 Corinthians 15:1-4].
Second, not only is the gospel, “the simplicity in Christ,” not only is the gospel a simple story, the story of Jesus coming down out of heaven, loving us, dying for us, pouring out His life for us, not only is the gospel a simple message [1 Corinthians 15:1-4], second: the plan of salvation is a simple plan: “the simplicity that is in Christ” [2 Corinthians 11:3].
Do you remember, I have referred to something that I did one time; I took my Bible and a red pencil, and I started at the front and went clear through the back, and wherever in the Bible God tells a man how to be saved, I underscored it with that red pencil. And when I had finished going clear through the Book, then I looked at what I had underscored, and I discovered an amazing and a surprising thing. Wherever in God’s Word the Lord tells a man how to be saved, He says it in one simple, monosyllabic sentence; never in two sentences, never. There is no place in the Bible where God tells a man how to be saved in two sentences. Always it is one simple, complete sentence, without exception.
For example: John 1:12, “But as many as received Him, received Him, to them gave He the right to become the children of God, even to them that trust in His name.”
John 3:14-15: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in Him, trusts in Him, looks to Him, should not perish, but have eternal life”; one sentence. And the next sentence, John 3:16, the whole gospel in one sentence; everybody say it together with me, if you can say that one sentence you can say the whole gospel of the Son of God! Let’s all say it together for people on the radio to listen to, all of us, John 3:16, “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, always!
Acts 16:30, “What must I do to be saved?” Here is the way to be saved. Look at these rows and rows of theological discussion. Listen to these interminable and endless explanations, and expositions, and sermonic material. No! 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.
Romans 10:9: “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in thine heart that He lives, thou shalt be saved”; one simple sentence. There’s no exception. It is always that, always. The plan of salvation is that simple plan of trusting Jesus, looking to Jesus. A man’s preaching the gospel when he says, “My brother, look and live, wash and be clean, believe and be saved!”
A pastor was called to see a teenage boy who was dying; doctor said he couldn’t live––this was in one of our Baptist hospitals––and he wasn’t saved. He wasn’t a Christian. So the pastor came into the room and asked the nurse if he could talk to the boy. He had to put his head underneath the oxygen tent, and the nurse gave him permission to do so. So the pastor put his head underneath the oxygen tent and began to talk to the teenage boy.
And he talked to him like this. He said, “Son, I have been told that the doctor has already made you aware that you’re not going to live. You’re going to die.” He said, “Yes sir, the doctor has told me I’m going to die.” He said, “Son, I have also been told that you’re not a Christian, that you’re not ready to die. You’ve never trusted Jesus as your Savior.” And the boy replied, “Yes sir, yes sir, that’s true. I have never trusted Jesus as my Savior.” Well he said, “Son, I want to show you how to be a Christian.” And he took his Bible, his little New Testament, and he read those passages that I have just quoted, how to be saved.
And when he was done the boy turned to the pastor and said, “But sir, is it that easy? Is it that easy?” And the pastor replied, “Son, it is easy for you, but it wasn’t for Him. He took our infirmities, and He bore our iniquities. The chastisement of our peace is upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed” [Isaiah 53:5]. It is easy for us. It was hard for Him. He bore our iniquities [Isaiah 53:6]. That’s what it is to be a Christian: is to thank God and love the Lord. “This He did for me.”
At the crusade in Plainview, Mabel Ann sang a song. And then when she got through singing, to my amazement she burst into that little chorus that I hear these young people sing:
Oh, oh, oh, what He’s done for me.
Oh, oh, oh, what He’s done for me.
Oh, oh, oh, what He’s done for me.
I never shall forget what He’s done for me.
He lifted me out of the miry clay,
That’s what He’s done for me.
Isn’t that wonderful? I’m not talking about the song. I’m talking about Jesus, what He has done for us! That’s what it is to be saved. That’s what it is to be a Christian. This is what He did for me, and I just adore Him, and worship and thank God forever; this is what He has done for me.
He lifted my burden and gave me a song,
That’s what He’s done for me.
You know some of these things that I heard when I was a boy, ooh, they just stay in my heart! I was far more sensitive to the message that a minister brought than I am today. There was a medical student, a medical student; and when the year of graduation came and he had finished all of his work, he was brought up and presented with a gold medal. He was the brightest, most gifted of all the students they had ever graduated from that medical school. And the preacher said, when I was just a boy listening to him out there, and the preacher said that when the boy stood up before all of the applauding throng to receive the gold medal, the brightest student that they had, and when the boy took it he called for his mother, and had her come up on the platform, a little humble woman who had worked hard to make it possible for that boy to go through medical school. And the boy took the gold medal, and he pinned it on his mother and said, “Mother, all of it, all of it is due to you, all of it.”
Oh, that said it to me as a little boy! All of it we owe to Jesus. “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe”; that’s the gospel plan of salvation. I am grateful. I am glad. I am thankful, “God in heaven, what a marvelous day when Jesus washed my sins away” [Revelation 1:5]. That’s the plan of salvation, that’s it [Acts 22:16].
All right, we must hasten. Not only is the gospel message a simple gospel, a simple story [1 Corinthians 15:1-4], and not only is the plan of salvation a simple plan, trust in Jesus [2 Corinthians 11:3], but the great act of conversion is a simple act, plain, simple. What is that act of conversion? It is committing your life to Jesus, trusting Him [Acts 16:31]. Not the ordinances, you can be baptized every hour on the hour every day and not be saved. Not joining the church, not being good, not, oh…we are saved by the committal of our lives to the Lord Jesus [Romans 10:10-11].
Upon a day I asked the Lord, “Lord, show me what that word ‘belief’ is.” Saving faith, if I trust in the Lord, if I believe in the Lord I’m saved. What is that belief? “For the devils believe, and tremble” [James 2:19], James says, the apostle says. Well, what is that saving faith? And, Lee Roy, the answer came to my heart with such conviction. It is the song you sang. I didn’t know you were going to sing it. It’s the song you sang tonight: “For 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” [2 Timothy 1:12].
That’s what it is to believe. Those words are used right there: “I know whom I have believed, whom I have trusted; and I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.” The act of conversion is actually in reality a simple act of committing your life and soul to Jesus; a committal [Romans 10:10-11].
I do that with a letter; put it in the box, trusting the postal service to deliver it for me. I do that in paying an insurance premium. Why, when that policy comes due, I’ll be dead, that’s what the policy is about; but I trust that insurance company to make good on the promise, and I pay the premium month by month, just trusting the insurance company. That’s what I do when I go to the bank. I go down there with my thousand dollar bills and my ten thousand dollar bills and my pocket stuffed with money, and I leave it all down there at the bank. I trust them, and I commit to them those funds. That’s what it is when you stand by the side of a man you love and you give him your life. What would you think of a girl, she was doing it for pay? Love isn’t love if you don’t give it away.
And that’s what it is to be saved. You just commit yourself. You just give yourself to the Lord Jesus like a bride at an altar, like a man before his country in the uniform of his people. It is a committal of your life to Jesus [Romans 10:10-11]. That’s what it is.
Lord, I trust You now, and I get down on my knees and pray. I trust You, Lord, in a thousand decisions that face me. And they come to all of us. There’s wisdom, Lord, in Thee. And I believe You live, and You can answer prayer. I trust You, Lord, in that final and ultimate hour when the doctor says to the grieving family and the friends who gather round, “In just a little while, he will be gone.” I trust Him then, and at the judgment bar of Almighty God, Lord, whom have I in heaven but Thee? [Romans 10:10-11].
That’s what it is to be saved: the committal of your life to Jesus. Will you do it? Will you? “Pastor, tonight I will take that decisive and ultimate step. I will commit my life to Jesus. I’ll do it now in strength and health. I’ll do it in the hour of my final and ultimate need, and I’ll be trusting Jesus at the great judgment day of Almighty God; and I’m coming. I’m coming. I make that decision now. And I’m on the way.” Will you? Then come and stand by me. In a moment we’re going to sing our song of appeal, in the balcony round, you, there’s time and to spare, there’s a stairway on either side and at the back and the front, come. On this lower floor, you, into that aisle and down to the front, “Here I come, pastor, I make it now.” A couple, a family, or just you, make the decision now in your heart, and in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up coming. God bless you in the way as you come, as we stand and as we sing.
gnostics presented themselves as having a superior wisdom
Paul fears they will pull church away from simplicities of Christ – like the
serpent in Eden(Genesis 2:16-17, 3:1-6, 2
do not deny depths of study presented in the gospel
Fundamental of the faith, actual gospel, is always simple and plain
II. The gospel message is a simple message
gospel defined(1 Corinthians 15:1-4)
When a man preaches the gospel, he preaches Jesus
week three sermons from ecclesiastical organization, one on political and
economic situation, one on bussing, one on racial issues
addresses itself to the human heart
III. The plan of salvation is a simple plan
presented in one or two sentences(Matthew 10:32,
Mark 1:15, John 1:12, 3:14-16, 5:24, Acts 16:30-31, Romans 10:9-10)
Easy for us, but not easy for Him(Isaiah 53:5)
He has done for us
IV. The act of conversion is a simple act
show me what saving faith is.”(2 Timothy 1:12)
act of committing your life and soul to Jesus