A Christian Manifesto
June 18th, 1972 @ 8:15 AM
A CHRISTIAN MANIFESTO
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-18-72 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 message entitled A Christian Manifesto, the Christian Magna Carta. Beginning today, and for the Sundays that immediately follow, the pastor will be preaching from the Book of Galatians. We shall follow it chapter by chapter, almost verse by verse; the Book of Galatians.
“Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither of man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead;) … unto the churches of Galatia” [Galatians 1:1-2]. That would be a surprising thing because it is addressed to churches of Gaul, Galatia. When I think of Gaul I think of France, I think of Western Europe. Yet these churches that Paul addresses this letter to are in Asia Minor. They were formed and founded by the apostle upon his first missionary journey. They are Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, and others that were formed out of that first Pauline missionary journey. They are Gauls. Usually the great migrations of humanity, of tribes and nations, have been from the east to the west. Out of the steppes of central Asia poured those tribes, always going west.
But in this one instance, after these Gallic people had finally come to the Atlantic, they found the climate inhospitable, in some instances the land poor and sterile; so they turned back eastward, and in a southeasterly direction came finally to Greece, and there were repulsed. Then they crossed the Hellespont and won Central Asia Minor, and settled there. This was about 280 BC. Then in about 180 BC they were conquered by the Roman armies. And in 26 BC they were organized into the Roman province of Galatia. And it is to those churches, those Gallic churches, the Gauls, that Paul addresses this letter. “Paul, an apostle, (not of men, nor of man, but by Jesus Christ, and by God the Father, who raised Him from the dead;)…unto the churches of Galatia” [Galatians 1:1-2].
Now the tone of the letter is severe and condemnatory in the extreme. There are no commendations in it, nor does he speak of their standing before the Lord, but he speaks in passionate severity. The apostle is greatly and deeply moved. For example, in the first chapter he writes to them:
I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:
Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
All right, take another passage out of the book, this one out of the third chapter:
O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?
This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?
Or take one other typical passage, this in the fourth chapter:
But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?
I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain.
[Galatians 4:9, 11]
By the very tone of the language, by the very spirit of the words, you can see that the apostle is passionately moved. He is deeply troubled.
Well, what is the trouble? It is twofold. First, the churches founded by the apostle are in danger of apostatizing. They are in danger of turning aside from the truth of God as it is revealed in the grace if the Lord Jesus; and they are in danger of going back to “the beggarly elements” of the law [Galatians 4:9].
There have been teachers who have said to them that you cannot be saved by trusting in Christ alone; but you are saved only by believing in Christ and keeping the law. That’s the first thing [Acts 15:5]. The second thing that troubled the apostle Paul was the personal attack that was made upon him [Galatians 6:17]. For these false teachers, who came in to subvert those churches said that the apostle Paul is a pseudo-emissary of Christ [Galatians 4:16-17]. He does not belong to one of the Twelve, nor was he a member of the original apostolic band, but he is a false apostle. He never saw Christ in the flesh. He was not commissioned by the Lord Jesus or ordained by Christ. But rather, everything that he knows he learned from the Twelve. Everything that he preaches he got from other men, and he preaches that in a perverted form. He is a false, pseudo-apostle.
Those are the two things that brought to the apostle such a passionate, deeply moving reply. Now the reply is the Book of Galatians. He speaks first in defense of his own apostolic ministry. That’s chapters 1 and 2 [Galatians 1:1-2:21]. Then he speaks second of the doctrine of the grace of Christ, wherein we are saved. Those are chapters 3 and 4 and 5 [Galatians 3:1-5:26]. And then finally he speaks in a hortatory and appealing manner to the Galatians that they will be true to the faith [Galatians 6:1-18].
First, he speaks of his own apostolic calling, and he does it vigorously, and passionately, and movingly. In the first chapter he says, “Brethren, I certify unto you, I swear unto you, I guarantee unto you that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. Neither received I it of man, neither was I taught it, but I received it by direct revelation from Jesus Christ” [Galatians 1:11-12].
In the Lord’s Supper, in the eleventh chapter of the first Corinthian letter, he begins just like that, “My brethren, I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you: how that. . .” [1 Corinthians 11:23], and then the institution of the ordinance [1 Corinthians 11:23-25]. “As oft as you eat this bread, drink this cup, ye show forth the Lord’s death till He come” [1 Corinthians 11:26]. “I received it directly from Christ Himself.” So Paul says the whole gospel that he preaches, he received it by divine confrontation with Christ. It came to him in a direct revelation. It came to him from the lips of the Lord Himself, not by some human intermediary such as an apostle [Galatians 1:11-12].
Then he says,
When I was saved, when I was converted on the Damascus road, I did not go up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and I stayed there three years. And then afterward, I returned again unto Damascus. And after those three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother, the pastor of the church at Jerusalem. I did not receive this gospel from the apostles, from the Twelve, but I received it directly from Jesus Christ.
Then in the second chapter he begins, “Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also” [Galatians 2:1]. And that is the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Acts, when there was a great controversy in Antioch where Paul and Barnabas were preaching, and where those Gentiles, those idolaters, came directly out of idolatry into the faith of Christ. They were saved not by keeping a law, not by observing a ceremonial, but they were saved by trusting Jesus and Christ alone [Acts 15:7-11].
Then came the Judaizing teachers saying in Antioch, “You cannot be saved by trusting Christ. You must trust Christ and keep all the ordinances, and ceremonies, and rituals of the law” [Acts 14:26-15:2]. It created a tremendous faction and altercation in the church at Antioch. So they went to Jerusalem, and there Paul and Barnabas met with the apostles in the mother church at Jerusalem, and he describes that [Acts 15:3-29].
And in this second chapter of the Book of Galatians, having described that confrontation in the Jerusalem conference, he says, “When James,” that’s the Lord’s brother, the pastor of the church at Jerusalem, “and Cephas,” that’s Simon Peter, “and John,” the sainted apostle John, “who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship, that we should go unto the Gentiles, and they unto the Jews” [Galatians 2:9].
That’s why denominations never bother me. You had a denomination there in the beginning. It was decided that Peter and James and John would go to the Jews, and they would have a Jewish church, observing the Jewish law. Whereas Paul and Barnabas and men like that would go to the Gentiles, and they would have a Gentile church. And they were compeers. They were equal. Paul was not below James and Cephas and John, but they were equals. They were peers and they shook hands in a fellowship in the faith of Christ.
Then Paul goes one step further. Not only that, “But when Simon Peter came to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before certain men came from [James], he did eat with the Gentiles: but when these men were come from Jerusalem, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision” [Galatians 2:11-12]. And Paul says, “I withstood Simon Peter to his face and said to him, ‘You are acting hypocritically, thus placing upon the Gentiles rules that you yourself do not observe, and laws that you yourself do not keep’” [Galatians 2:11, 14]. Didn’t I say it was a polemical letter? It is moved with passion and feeling in this first defending his own personal apostolic ministry.
Now second, the doctrinal part of the epistle: that we are saved by faith in Christ alone. In the third chapter when he begins the doctrinal position, he says, “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” [Galatians 3:6], referring back to the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Genesis when Abraham came before God and said, “I am childless, and my heir is this Eliezer of Damascus; and I am growing old, and Sarah my wife is old, and I have no child” [Genesis 15:2-3]. And God took Abram out under the stars and said, “Count the stars in the heavens, the multitude; and God said to Abram, So shall thy seed be, which shall be born out of thy loins, and out of the womb of Sarah thy wife” [Genesis 15:4-5]. Then the famous verse, “And Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” [Genesis 15:6]. That is, Abraham was saved by his trust in the Lord, not by works, not be ceremony, not by ritual, but he was saved by believing God and believing in God alone [Galatians 3:6-7].
Then as he follows the doctrinal argument he says, “It is set in the law” [Galatians 3:8-10], and he quotes from [Deuteronomy 27:26]: “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them . . . But it is written,” and then he quotes from Habakkuk 2:4, “The just shall live by faith” [Galatians 3:11]. Look at those two: “Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all the things which are written in the law to do them” [Galatians 3:10], it’s like a chain, it’s like a chain. You don’t need to break everyone of those laws to break the chain, just break one link and the thing falls. So it is with the law, Paul avows. You can keep all of the law, but break one thing and you’re lost, you’re cursed, the Book says so. A man could be saved by keeping the law, but he’d have to keep all of it [James 2:10]. And when he breaks one part of it, immediately he falls into sin and he is lost. If we are therefore ever saved we are saved by faith, by trusting Christ, casting ourselves upon the mercies of God, because no man is justified by the law in the sight of God [Galatians 2:16]. No man is good enough to stand before God and say, “I have kept the law perfectly. I am without sin.”
“Wherefore,” he says, “the law was a paidagōgos, to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith” [Galatians 3:24]. The purpose of the law was to show us that we are sinners, to reveal to us our lost condition, that we have faults, and failures, and shortcomings, and sins before God. And having been taught that by the law, the law brings us to Christ; the paidagōgos, the school leader, the slave as it was in the Roman life, that took the child by the hand and led the child to the teacher in the school across the streets, down the way, through perils, a paidagōgos. So the law, he says, is a paidagōgos to lead us to Christ, there to confess to Him our shortcomings and our sins, that we’re a dying people, that we cannot save ourselves. And if we are saved at all, we are saved in the love and mercy and grace of the blessed Lord Jesus [Galatians 4:4-7].
Then follows his exhortation and his appeal: “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace, ye have turned aside from grace” [Galatians 5:4]. Then a final verse in the appeal, “God forbid that I should glory, that I should boast, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” [Galatians 6:14]. Ah, you can’t read the epistle, you can’t sense its feeling, without all over again reviewing the liberty and the grace and the mercy that God has given us in the Christian faith [John 1:16].
This Book of Galatians is our great Magna Carta. It is our great Christian manifesto. When Martin Luther was on his knees climbing up the Scala Sancta before the church of St. John Lateran in Rome, there trying to do penance, there seeking to work his way into heaven, there trying to find forgiveness of his sins by observing rituals, and ceremonies, and law; it was there that he stood up, and that verse from Galatians and from Habakkuk came like a thunderbolt into his soul, “The just shall live by faith” [Habakkuk 2:4, Galatians 3:11]. And he walked down those steps and back to Wittenberg, and nailed those ninety-five theses on the wall of the church, on the door of the church, and the Reformation was on! And the great thundering instrument in the hands of Martin Luther was this Book of Galatians: “The just shall live by faith” [Galatians 3:11].
Now today, the one great heresy that constantly afflicts the Christian church and affects the gospel of Christ is the Galatian heresy; trying to add something to the faith in order that we might be saved. As though the grace of Christ, and the cross of Christ, and the blood of Christ [Galatians 1:8], are not alone enough to save us, but we must believe in Christ and add to it something else. That heresy is ever with us, and apparently shall be until the consummation of the age.
That heresy is expressed in a thousand ways. Here’s one. Belief in Christ is not enough; you must believe and be baptized. Mark’s Gospel ends at the sixteenth chapter and the eighth verse; beginning at the ninth verse some unknown somebody tried to finish it. The end of Mark’s Gospel was lost from the beginning. When Matthew wrote his Gospel, when Luke wrote his Gospel, they used Mark, but the end of Mark was lost, even when Matthew and Luke wrote their Gospels. And some unknown writer wrote there that heresy, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” [Mark 16:16]. Nothing could be further from the truth, except as you might mean by, “He that believeth and,” then you could add anything. Take the Lord’s Supper, pray, and read the Bible, kneel, anything. But baptism has nothing to do, there is no ceremony and there is no rite to be added to the faith of Christ when one is saved. We are saved by Christ alone [John 14:6; Acts 4:12]. And when we add to it, it is a Galatian heresy. Baptism is one.
The Lord’s Supper is another. “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and observe the Lord’s Supper, observe the mass, and you’ll be saved.” Or, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and live a good life, keep the moral law, and you’ll be saved.” Or, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and observe the Sabbath day.” There are those who say the mark of the beast and the mark of Cain is observing Sunday, and yet the Christian disciples met on Sunday from the beginning. And yet they say in order to be saved you must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and observe the Sabbath day. The Galatian heresy is over the earth, and is regnant and dominant today!
But what is the gospel? The gospel, according to the revelation in the New Testament, and according to the apostle Paul, and according to the preaching of those first disciples is always this: it is Christ and Christ alone! [John 14:6; Acts 4:12]. It is “Look and live” [John 3:14-15; Numbers 21:8-9]. It is “Wash and be clean” [2 Kings 7:1-14; Revelation 7:14]. It is “Believe and be saved,” and that alone [Acts 16:30-31]. It is “Look and live.” “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” [John 3:14-15]. It is “Look and live,” and that alone. It is “Wash and be saved, and be clean, and be white.” Revelation 7:14, “These are they who have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” It is “Believe, and be saved.”
“What must I do to be saved?” [Acts 16:30]. Acts 16:31, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” Always our salvation is in Christ. “The just shall live by faith [Galatians 3:11]. “And he believed God, and it was accounted unto him for righteousness” [Genesis 15:6; Galatians 3:6]. We are saved by Christ alone, and not by Christ and something else [John 14:6; Acts 4:12].
Now briefly may I say the three things that come to my heart that avow that, that delineate that in my own soul? One: our salvation is always personal and not legalistic, or ceremonial, or ritualistic. It is always and ever personal. We are saved not by a code, not by a law, not by a set of rituals or ceremonies, not by observing days or times, or anything, but we are saved by a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It is He that saves us and He alone [John 14:6; Acts 4:12].
I can easily find that in life. There’s not anything that will change anybody like falling in love; falling in love. When you fall in love, the whole tenor of your life becomes something else. You seek to please that somebody whom you love, to do things for them, to be cognizant of their wishes and desires. And to become a Christian is exactly that! You have fallen in love with Christ, and the whole issue of your life thereafter flows toward Him: praying to Him, loving Him, walking with Him, giving your life to Him, hoping in Him, dying in Him, trusting in Him, believing in Him now, in the hour of death, and in the judgment that is to come. It is a personal relationship. You are saved by loving, believing in, trusting Christ [John 14:6; Acts 4:12]. First, it is personal. It is never legalistic. It is never ceremonial. It is never ritualistic.
Second: it is always inward, and not outward. It is of God, and not of men. Many, many, times––and even this week have I been asked it––many times am I asked, “Why do you have these children to come twice?” And the answer is very plain. It is very easy for a child to get the idea that they become Christians by joining the church, that they become Christians by being baptized; and most young children will get that idea, they are saved by joining the church, they became Christians by being baptized. And that’s why I have them come twice: one, to come forward to confess their faith in the Lord Jesus, this is accepting Christ as my Savior. This is something that no man can do for me. It has to happen in my heart. I’m saved by trusting Jesus in my heart [Acts 8:37]. He forgives my sins [1 John 1:9]. He regenerates me by His Holy Spirit [John 3:3, 7; Titus 3:5]. He writes my name in the Book of Life [Luke 10:20; Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27]. It is something on the inside of me. It is between the child and God. And He alone can do that. And that’s what it is to confess your faith in the Lord as the Bible says [John 14:6; Acts 4:12].
Second, I can make you a member of the church. I can baptize you into the household of faith, but that is something else. That is something different. That is an altogether different world. You can be a member of the church and be lost. You can be a Sunday school teacher and be lost. You can be a deacon and be lost. You can be a member of the church ever since you were cognizant and be lost. First, we must be saved, and that’s something that only God can do [Ephesians 2:8-9]. It is inward and not outward. There’s not anything that a man can do for me that saves me. It is something that God does for my heart [Acts 4:12; Romans 10:10].
Not only is it personal and not legalistic or ceremonial; not only is it inward and not outward; not only is it of God and not of man, something God has to do that a man cannot do. Third and last, it is spiritual. It is spiritual and not material. It is of faith and of promise. It is looking to God. As the last verse, the eighteenth verse in the second Corinthian letter, chapter 4, says, “While we look not at the things that are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal,” the whole thing, everything that the naked eye can behold, “for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” [2 Corinthians 4:18]. It is spiritual. It is inward. It is upward. It is God-ward. It is not outward. It is not materialistic, legalistic, or of man. It is of faith and of promise! [John 1:12].
Oh dear! when I began preaching, I was seventeen years of age. I listened to those marvelous experiences that people had in the Lord. They saw balls of fire from heaven. They saw lights from heaven. They saw angels from heaven. I had no experience like that. I was saved as a little ten-year-old boy. And as I listened to those marvelous testimonies, I concluded that I wasn’t born again. I wasn’t saved. I wasn’t regenerated. And when I was a boy beginning to preach, on Sundays I’d preach at my little church, then every night during the week I’d get down by the side of my bed and cry unto God, saying, “O God, I’m not saved. I’m not really born again. I’m not a Christian, actually; for I haven’t seen a light, and I haven’t seen an angel, and I haven’t seen a ball of fire fall from heaven.”
Those were the most agonizing days in the world, for all I had done as a ten-year-old boy was in faith accept Jesus as my Savior. And with many tears I went down to the front and gave my hand to the pastor and asked him, told him, that I had given my heart to God and asked that I might be baptized and be a member of the church. That’s the way I was saved, just by trusting in the Lord.
And then as I listened to these marvelous testimonies, I concluded, “Why, that’s not enough. I’ve got to see an angel.” And I bowed down on my knees every night and prayed, “God, O God, give me a sign. Let me see an angel. Let me see a light from heaven. Let me see a ball of fire. Please, God.”
As I read, as I prayed, as I studied, oh, the revelation that came to me from God’s Book. Never an angel, never a light, never a ball of fire, never; I’m saved by accepting the Lord, by trusting in Jesus, His word and His promise. And the verse that I clung to back there and cling to today is 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.” And that verse never changes.
I can awaken at two o’clock in the morning, there it is. In youth, in manhood, and in old age, there it is. I’m saved by trusting Christ alone! [John 14:6; Acts 4:12]. Why, my brethren, if I were to see an angel today, if I were to see a light from heaven, if I were to see a ball of fire from the sky, it would never occur to me now to connect it, to interlace it with, to make it an addendum to my salvation, for I’m saved by trusting in the Lord, and that alone [John 14:6; Acts 4:12]. I’m saved by believing the promises of God, and I cast myself upon the mercies of Christ [Romans 10:9-10]. And when I do, I am saved. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved [Romans 10:13] … The just shall live by faith” [Galatians 3:11]. Just trusting.
So I go on, not knowing—I would not know if I might—
I had rather walk with Christ by faith,
Than to walk by myself with sight.
I had rather walk with Him in the dark,
Than to walk alone in the light.
[based on “Faith and Sight,” Mary G. Brainard]
That’s what it is to be a Christian. That’s what Paul wrote to the churches of Galatia. And that is the true gospel, when a man preaches it today. It is not Christ and good works. It is not Christ and a ceremony. It is not Christ and a ritual. It is not Christ and the observance of days or seasons. It is not Christ and anything. It is Christ alone! It is He that saves us! [John 10:14; Acts 4:12].
“For by grace are ye saved by faith,” the channel is through faith, “not of works, lest a man should boast saying, I did it” [Ephesians 2:8-9]. It is of Him and Him alone. And when you get to heaven, we’re not going to sing up there in glory, “Here I am, saved by Christ and my good works,” or, “Saved by the Lord and by the ministries of some pastor,” however sanctified and holy he may be. No, when you get to heaven, this is what you’re going to sing: “Unto Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood . . . to Him be glory, and riches, and dominion, and honor, forever and ever. Amen, and amen” [Revelation 1:5-6]
Saved by the blood of the Crucified One
All praise to the Father, all praise to the Son
All praise to the Spirit, the great Three in One
Saved by the blood of the Crucified One
[from “Saved by the Blood,” S.J. Henderson]
It is He and He alone who saves us [John 14:6; Acts 4:12].
Our time is spent. In a moment we stand to sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing it, in the balcony round, the throng of you, somebody to give himself to Jesus; the press of people on this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front, “Here I come, and here I am.” A family you, a couple you, or just one somebody you, while we sing that appeal, come. Down one of these stairways, into the aisle and to the front, “Here I am, pastor, I’ve made the decision in my heart, and I’m coming.” Accepting the Lord as Savior, coming into the fellowship of the church, obedient to Him who loved you and gave Himself for you [Galatians 2:20]; as God shall press the appeal to your heart, make the decision now. Do it now. Make it now. And in a moment when we stand, stand answering with your life. “Here I am, pastor, and here I come.” Do it now. Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.