Faith and Freedom
November 26th, 1972 @ 10:50 AM
FAITH AND FREEDOM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-26-72 10:50 a.m.
You who are listening to this service on television and radio are in the Spirit with us in the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Faith and Freedom. In our preaching through the Book of Galatians, we are in chapter 5, and I read the text:
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.
For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.
Christ is become of none effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are turned away from grace.
For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith that worketh by love.
Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?
This persuasion cometh not of Him that calleth you. . . .
I have confidence in you through the Lord, that you will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear the judgment, whosoever he be.
And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offense of the cross ceased . . .
For, brethren, you have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
For just a moment of review—when the apostle Paul on his first missionary journey, preached the gospel to the inhabitants of the Roman province of Galatia in the center of Asia Minor [Acts 16:6; Galatians 4:13, 19], the message was wondrously received. And out of heathenism and paganism and idolatry, these turned to Christ and were wonderfully saved [Galatians 3:1-5]. They received the gift of the Spirit by faith. While they were rejoicing in the Lord, and the favor of God, and the gifts of the Spirit, and the presence of the moving Spirit of Jesus among them and in them—while they were glad in the Lord, there came Judaizers who said to them to believe in Christ is well and good, but that alone cannot save you. You must add to it all of these works of the law [Galatians 1:6, 4-9, 17].
The response of the apostle was vehement. It was immediate and it was thunderous. For example, in the passage that I just read, he says in chapter 5, verse 1, “You who would go back unto the law are becoming entangled again with the yoke of bondage” [Galatians 5:1]. In verse 2, “You who would keep the law in order to be saved, verily, Christ shall profit you nothing” [Galatians 5:2]. Verse 3, “You who would be justified by the law, truly, you are a debtor to it, a slave to it all the days of your life. And after you have slaved under it, you still do not know whether you are saved or not” [Galatians 5:3]. Verse 4, “You who would be saved by personal merit and obedience to law, Christ is become of no effect unto you. There is no need for Him. He is extraneous and peripheral” [Galatians 5:4]. Verse 5, “You who would be saved by ceremony, and ritual, and man’s devices, and obediences to commandments, verily, the hope of righteousness by faith is lost. It has atrophied. It ceases to exist” [Galatians 5:5]. And verse 6, he sums up the whole meaning of the Christian faith, “the faith which worketh by love,” the definition of the whole message of Christianity [Galatians 5:6]. With one sweep, Paul would turn aside, take away the whole man-made device of a man that sets to save himself, whether it is keeping rituals and ceremonies, or laws, or obediences, or commandments, all of it—all of it does the apostle sweep away [Galatians 2:15].
And he thus brings us to the one revelation of salvation we find in the Word of God; which is through faith in Jesus Christ. Now we shall look at that carefully and prayerfully in these moments afforded us. What kind of faith is it that saves our souls from sin and delivers us to God and salvation? What kind of faith is that? One, it is not a commandment keeping. It is not an acknowledgment of righteousness. It is not an assent to the reality of God and the Holy Scriptures. It is something different from intellectual perception and acknowledgment.
James, the pastor of the church in Jerusalem, in the second chapter of his letter said, “You believe in God; well, good: the devils also believe, and tremble” [James 2:19]. They know all about the faith, and they know it more intimately and prayerfully than we do. We are not saved by knowledge, by intellectual assent. The faith is not perception and understanding. I can talk about the Lord, write books about the Lord, sing about the Lord, preach about the Lord, discuss the Lord, be knowledgeable in the things of the Lord, and still be lost. Again, this faith is not the recitation of creeds. “I believe in God, the Father, maker of heaven and earth.” It is not a truth that we can take out and put back and shuffle around like a piece of paper. Again, it is not joining an organization, a church, a philanthropic group, a fraternity. The faith that saves is something in an altogether different world.
One time I bowed my head in the presence of the Lord and asked God, “Lord, when You say in the Book, “Whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting, eternal life” [John 3:16], what is that to believe? What is the saving faith that devils believe, and tremble?” The acknowledgment of the fact and truth of Christ, on the part of many, has been known and published through the centuries. But that does not say what is saving faith.
And as I asked of the Lord, there came to my heart that passage that Paul wrote in 2 Timothy chapter 1, verse 12: “For I know whom I have believed” [2 Timothy 1:12]. Faith—belief, for I know whom I have trusted, believed, faith in. “For I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day” [2 Timothy 1:12]. Saving faith is a commitment of your life to Christ. It is the handing over—the turning over of your soul to Him. Faith that saves is a trusting in Christ, a trusting on Christ, a trusting upon Christ.
“What must I do to be saved? Believe in the Lord Jesus, on the Lord Jesus, upon the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved” [Acts 16:30-31]. Did you ever get in an airplane and the door to the cockpit be open? Did you ever look in that door and see those hundreds of instruments on the panel? As I sometimes will be in one of those great planes—thirty-three thousand, thirty-five thousand, thirty-nine thousand feet in the air—how would I do? What would I do if the landing of that plane were dependent upon me? I know not a single instrument on the panel. I know not a single knob to move or button to punch or lever to turn. I would surely die. I trust that pilot completely, implicitly, and I sit there in the plane in perfect confidence that he will bring it to land. Trust in, trust upon, trust on; saving faith is a trust in Christ [2 Timothy 1:12].
Did you ever have an operation? How completely do you lay your life into the hands of the physician? If you were under anesthetic—not even know anything—trust him completely. Commit your life into his hands. That is saving faith! It is not only the committal of our lives, it is not only full trust, but it is the abandonment of any hope of any kind in anyone else or in any other way. It is a resignation of ourselves to Christ. There is nothing else to save. There is no one else to turn to. As the Lord said to His apostles, “Will ye also go away?” [John 6:67] And Simon Peter answered for the twelve, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that Thou art that Christ, the Son of God” [John 8:68-69] that should come into the world. It is the abandonment of any other hope save in Christ.
On Christ, the solid Rock I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand . . .
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found,
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.
On Christ, the solid Rock I stand.
All other ground is sinking sand. . . .
[“The Solid Rock,” Edward Mote]
That is the faith that saves [2 Timothy 1:12].
Now, why did God choose that way for us to be saved? Answer one: because there is no other way. There is no alternative. It is that or nothing besides. Look, if I seek to save myself by merit, by self-righteousness, what shall I do with my sins in the past? Look, if I seek to save myself by my merit and self-righteousness, what shall I do with my sins in the future? However I may stand here and avow before God, “From this moment on I shall live perfectly, sinlessly, virtuously, there shall be no error or mistake in my life”; if I swear before God that from this moment on I shall live in His presence perfectly, I know I cannot keep that oath. Error will attend my way and mistake and sin dog my path as long as I live in this carnal body. What shall I do for my sins of the future, as what can I do with my sins of the past? Somewhere, someday, somehow, if I am ever to be saved, I must cast myself upon the mercies, and goodnesses, and forgiveness of God. There is no other way!
Job cried in the seventh chapter of his book, “I have sinned; what shall I do?” [Job 7:20]. And the apostle Paul admitted in the seventh chapter of the Book of Romans, “O wretched man that I am!” [Romans 7:24] What I would do, I do not do. What I do not do, I would do [Romans 7:19]. “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Somewhere, sometime, somehow, someday, if I am ever saved, it must be in the mercy and forgiveness and goodness of God. There is no other way! [John 14:6].
Second: why does God choose this way of faith in order that we might be saved? Because herein God shows Himself and reveals Himself as being merciful, and redemptive, and gracious, and full of loving kindness and tender mercy [Titus 3:5]. In the first chapter of Genesis and in the second chapter of Genesis, we have the story of God revealed. No man was there. It had to come by revelation. And God reveals Himself in the first chapter and in the second chapter of Genesis as being the great, mighty Creator [Genesis 1:1-31, 2:1-25]. Think of someone who could just speak worlds into existence—the whole creation by fiat. “Let it be,” and there it is. Light shines [Genesis 1:3]. The stars are placed in their orbit [Genesis 1:16]. The earth is created [Genesis 1:1, 2:1]. God speaks into the creation beauty and wonder and glory; all the revelation of God in Genesis, chapter 1 and chapter 2.
But there is more to God than just the great, mighty pantokrator—the great Creator. Beginning in chapter 3 [Genesis 3:1], and for the rest of the whole Bible, God reveals Himself as being redemptive, as being merciful, as being full of lovingkindness and tenderness and graciousness. And that is why our gift of salvation is not by our works, but we receive it from His kind and gracious hands. “For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” [Ephesians 2:8-9]. Lest he should say, “I did it. I bought it. I purchased it. I won it.” It is the gift of God. It reveals the gracious, merciful, redemptive heart of the Almighty.
Why does God choose to save us by faith, by trust? Not only because there is no other way; if we are ever saved, it is because He is merciful to us [Titus 3:5]. Not only is it because God chose to bestow it upon us as a gift, that we might know Him as a gracious and merciful God [Ephesians 2:8-9]; but our salvation through faith is suitable and is suited for all of us poor, dying sinners [Romans 5:8; Ephesians 2:8-9].
What would you say to a dying man? “Do this. Do these works and thou shalt live.” But he is a dying man. He cannot do them. How could he be saved? That is why the Lord said, in describing the gospel in 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 should not perish, but have eternal life.” Less could not be asked; more by some could not have been offered. The man is dying. He has been struck by a venomous, poisonous snake, and he’s dying. What would you say to a dying man that he do and be saved? That man in the wilderness who was struck by a venomous snake, and is dying, is a type and a picture of all of us [Numbers 21:5-9]. You and you and you and I and all of us, we are a dying people. What do you say to a dying man that he be saved? In the wilderness, the gospel was, “Look and live” [Numbers 21:8-9; John 3:14-18]. And that is the gospel of the whole revelation of God. It is always, “Wash and be clean” [2 Kings 5:10; Revelation 7:14]. It is, “Believe and be saved” [Acts 16:30-31]. It is, “Look and live.”
Look and live, my brother, live!
Look to Jesus Christ and live;
‘Tis recorded in His Word, hallelujah!
It is only that you “look and live”
[“Look and Live,” William A. Ogden]
It is suited for us dying sinners that we be saved by trust and by faith [Ephesians 2:8]. Not only that, but it is an open door and possible to all mankind—to the helpless, to the hopeless, to the unknowing, to the untaught, to the untrained, to the old, to the young. There is no group, there is nobody but to whom God opens the door of salvation through faith [Acts 16:31; 2 Corinthians 5:19]. If He said, “Buy it, sir,” some of us so poor, we could never pay for it. If He said, “Keep these laws and be perfect and be saved,” there is none of us that knows how to be perfect. Whatever the requirement that God would make, there would be some of us who could not equal it. But when God says, “Trust, look, believe, accept, take, receive,” then any of us can respond! All of us can accept! I have preached the gospel in the heart of darkest Africa.
I have preached it in the Indian subcontinent. I have preached it in Indonesia. I have preached it on the borders of China. I preached in the isles of the sea. I have preached it around the earth. I have seen people untrained, untaught, having lived their life in the darkness of ignorance and superstition—I have seen them come out of the darkest of life into the light of the glory of the gospel of the Son of God just by looking to Jesus. It is an open door to all of us, to the man who can do nothing but just look, just receive. To him God mediates the marvelous gift of eternal life.
What could the thief—the malefactor who was nailed to the cross by the side of Jesus [Luke 23:32-33]—what could he do? He turned his face toward the central cross and to that dying Savior and said, “Lord, when Thou comest into Thy kingdom, remember me” [Luke 23:42]. And his word of trust and his word of faith were enough. He was saved—for the Lord Himself said, “Today, sēmeron, this day shall thou be with Me in Paradise” [Luke 23:43]. Why God chose that way in order that we might be saved—because it is open to any one of us; it is suited for us dying sinners; it reveals the goodness and preciousness of God; it is a gift from His hand [Ephesians 2:8]; and there is no other alternative [Acts 4:12]: if we are ever saved, it is because of the goodness and the mercy and the forgiveness of God [Titus 3:5].
Now last; not only what is this faith that saves—it is the committal of our lives to Christ [Matthew 10:39]—not only why did God choose it [Ephesians 2:9], but last: the method of His working. Oh, how dynamic and how marvelous it is; one, faith—that faith—the committal of our life to Christ [Acts 16:31]. One: we become a somebody else. We become a new creation. We are in the Lord, somebody different. We’re not the same anymore. It is a new life. It is a new love. It is a new heart. It is a new phase. It is a new vision. It is a new hope: 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” When a man is saved, when he gives his heart to Christ, he is somebody else. He is somebody new. He is a different somebody.
You don’t change a man by law and by regulation. You know, I saw that when a man doesn’t have it in his heart. Look, I’ll give you an illustration of it. Let’s go out here and pass us a law—and I’d be in favor of it. Let’s go out here and pass us a law, and let’s close down all these bars, and let’s close down all these saloons, let’s close down all these liquor establishments. And I’d be in favor of it because it keeps it out of advertising and out of the sight of those who walk up and down the street. I’d be much in favor of it. But I want to show you something. When you do that—when you do that and you don’t change the hearts of the people; you know where you will find the bar; you know where you will find the saloon; you know where you will find the brewery? You will find it in the home. You will find the bar inside the house. You’ll find they are making beer in the home. You’ll find them distilling the stuff in the kitchen because the man’s heart isn’t changed.
When a man is in Christ, he is a new creation [2 Corinthians 5:17]. He is something else. He’s something different. He’s a different kind of a man. That’s what happens to him when he becomes a new creation in Christ, in faith. He’s a different kind of an individual. He has a different interest. He has a different love. He has a different heart. He has a different soul. He has a different outlook. He is somebody else! [2 Corinthians 5:17].
Second: he has a new motive and a different motive. When a man thinks to save himself by the keeping of commandment, he lives under the fear all of his life, “If I don’t do this, I’ll be damned.” And what he does, he does out of a motive of fear of damnation and hell and judgment, and he lives a slave all the days of his life. There is a greater motive and a more powerful one. That’s why I had to read this passage in the thirteenth chapter of the Book of Romans: “For this,” I say, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” that is a commandment; “Thou shalt not kill,” that is a commandment; “Thou shalt not steal,” that is a commandment; “Thou shalt not lie,” that is a commandment; “Thou shalt not covet,” that is a commandment; “And if there be any other commandment, briefly it can be comprehended in this, “Thou shalt love”—and here he is thinking of all mankind and all that it means—”thy neighbor as thyself” [Romans 13:9].
Let’s look at that for just a moment. Let’s examine that motive. These past several days I have been bombarded by somebody who listens to me preach. And I’m grateful for that. And they certainly listen. I have been bombarded by somebody, and I thank God that he does listen. I have been bombarded by letters from somebody who has been listening to me as I preach through the Book of Romans. And sarcastically, and sardonically, and contemptuously he writes to me, and he says, “So we are free, free, free”—underscored big FREE. “We are not under the law, according to what you have been preaching.” Oh, I have been expounding in the Book of Galatians, “We are free.” So whoever he is, he is a crude, rude, carnal, lustful sort of a fellow.
So he writes this, “So I am free. Wonderful, wonderful; I will sleep with a different woman every night.” That is one of his illustrations in the letter to me. And I apologize to you for quoting from him, but I need to drive home the point that Paul is making here. And he makes no apologies about what he says. “Fine,” says this man, “I am free. I will sleep with a different woman every night. I’m not under commandment, I am free. I’ll do that every night.”
All right, let’s look at that just for a moment. For this—now, let’s take the commandment. “Thou shall not commit adultery” [Romans 13:9]. Let’s look at the motive that lies back of that. Suppose that fellow, whoever that carnal, lustful fellow is, suppose he fell in love with a wonderful girl. Suppose he asked her to be his wife and suppose she gave her life to him. You tell me, if he really loved her, if he really loved her, you tell me, would he like to sleep with a different woman every night? Would he? If he really loved her, would he like to break her heart and destroy her faith, and her love, and her life? Would he? Would he? What about that motive?
All right, let’s take the next one. “Thou shall not kill” [Romans 13:9]. Here is a man who has befriended you, and he’s been kind to you, and what you do in love to repay him? You stab him in the back or you shoot him through the heart. Or take the next one, “Thou shalt not steal” [Romans 13:9]. You have a boy that you love. And the boy wants to go to college. And you don’t have any money for the lad to go to school. And the boy works, and he works hard to save money to go to school. And I know all about that, wanting an education, wanting to go to school. And the boy works hard and he’s your boy. And you love the boy. But you steal the money that he makes. You tell me that love is not a more dynamic motive for righteousness [John 14:15]. If the man loved the boy, he couldn’t do it. If he tried, he couldn’t do it. And if there be any other commandment [Romans 13:9], there is no motive so central, so dynamic in this earth like the motive of a devoted love, a commitment of life, for the Lord knows, the Lord sees, and I gave my life to Him [Luke 9:23]. And oh, what a change in wanting, in desiring, in value. The whole earth is different, for you are different. This is the dynamic of love that Paul speaks of here. I’m quoting from Romans [Romans 13:8-9]. He writes the same thing again in my text: “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even this; Thou shalt love” [Galatians 5:14]. For love doeth no ill to anybody [Romans 13:10]. If I love you truly, I will want to help you and encourage you and be a blessing to you. I don’t want to hurt you. I don’t want to hinder you. I don’t want to break your heart or your life if I love you.
The method of love; not only is it the gift of a new heart and a new life [2 Corinthians 5:17], and not only is it the portraying of a new motive [Romans 13:9]: but it is a new relationship [Galatians 4:7]. I’m not in the father’s house longer as a slave, trying to make a reward, a stipend, earn a salary. And when I’ve slaved and worked all my life, I am still, at the end of the day, still a slave, still a servant, still working for money. But I am adopted into the family of God [Galatians 4:7]; I am a son. I am a fellow heir [Romans 8:16-17]. And what I do, I don’t do for pay, or for reward, or for stipend, or more money like a slave. For what I do now, I do because I am a child of the King. I’m a son of the heaven. I am a joint-heir with Jesus Christ [Romans 8:17]. I belong to the family of God. And as such, I am free. I am free.
In the eighth chapter of the Book of John, the Lord said, “Verily, verily, truly, truly I say to you, Whosoever commit a sin is a slave of sin [John 8:34]. But if the Son of Man shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed!” [John 8:36]. Not slaving to be accepted of God. Not living in fear lest I haven’t merited the favor of the Lord. But I’m free. I am a son. And what I do now I do to bless and honor the name of my heavenly Father. This is what I want to do; a joint heir with Christ [Romans 8:17]. And as such the adoration and the praise of our lives flows fully and heavenwardly [Romans 11:33-36].
I don’t go to church by commandment. All my life I have loved to go to church. I don’t sing these songs by commandment. All of my life I have loved to sing these praises. I don’t associate with Christian people out of commandment, by law. I love to be with Christian people. I love to be with you. This is the blessing and the favor and the glory of God upon those who come to Christ by faith [Ephesians 2:8]. Not under a whip. Not by coercion. Not by commandment, but out of a free spirit.
O Lord! In the fullness of my soul, I bow in Thy presence. I praise Thy blessed name. And if God were to give me a thousand lives, all thousand of them, Lord, would I want just to glorify, and to worship, and to adore, and to praise Thee. I’d rather be a Christian than anything else in the earth. I’d rather walk with the Lord than to do anything else in the earth. I have it in my heart to love God ‘cause of faith. He has spoken to me, and I’ve heard His voice and answered with my life.
Will you do that? In a moment when we stand up to sing our hymn of appeal, in the balcony round, you, on this lower floor, you, a family you, a couple you, or just one somebody you, while we sing this hymn of appeal, to give your heart to Christ, or to come into the fellowship of the church, to love God and to answer God’s whispered invitation in your heart, to answer with your life, “Here am I and here I come,” would you make it now? Make the decision in your heart now, and in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up, coming down one of these stairways, down one of these aisles, “Here I am, pastor. Here I come.” Do it now, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.
Dr. W. A.
A. The conversion of the
B. Then the visit of the
C. The reaction of Paul
swift and thunderous(Galatians
1. Makes a clean
sweep of all trust in the externals of religion
is this faith?
A. It is not intellectual
B. It is not empty
recitation of creeds
C. It is not joining the
church, lodge, order, fraternity
D. It is a personal
committal of your life to Christ(2 Timothy 1:12)
E. It is trusting in Him,
on Him, upon Him(Acts
F. It is removing all
other hope save in Him(John
God chose this as the way of salvation
A. No other way possible(Job 7:20,
Romans 7:15, 24)
reveals Himself as merciful, redemptive and gracious(Genesis
1, 2, 3, Ephesians 2:8-9)
C. It is
suitable for poor sinners(John
door to all mankind(Luke
A. A new creation(2
B. A new motive(Romans
C. A new relationship
D. A new freedom(John
E. A new adoration