The Highway to Heaven
March 12th, 1972 @ 7:30 PM
THE HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-12-72 7:30 p.m.
I want you to turn for the reading of the Scripture to the tenth chapter of Romans. Romans chapter 10; we shall read the first ten verses. The text is in John 14:5-6:
Thomas saith unto Him, Lord, we know not whither Thou goest;
and how can we know the way?
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life:
no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.
And the title of the sermon is The Highway to Heaven; “I am the way, the truth, and the life” [John 14:6]. But we are going to read the first ten verses of the tenth chapter of Romans.
And all of you who share with us this hour on the radio, you are worshiping with the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor leading the reading of God’s Book. And if you have a Bible where you are, get your Bible and on the radio read it out loud with us, Romans 10:1-10. Now may all of us stand together as we read this God inspired Word? The first ten verses of the tenth chapter of Romans, all of us reading it together:
Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.
For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.
For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.
For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every man that believeth.
For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.
But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:)
Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)
But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
And now Lord, as we have read this way to God, the Highway to heaven, bless Thou the preached word and the appeal that is made. And in God’s grace and goodness, grant us tonight a gracious harvest, trophies of grace to lay at Thy dear feet, in Jesus’ name, amen.
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me [John 14:6],” the highway to heaven. There are four things tonight that I have prepared to say about it. First: it is a plain way. Isaiah 35:8-9:
And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness . . . wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.
But the redeemed shall walk there:
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
It is a plain way, the highway to heaven. “Wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein” [Isaiah 35:8]; it is not recondite or necessarily erudite. It is not devious or circuitous. It is not difficult or hard. It is plain and simple and easily marked. However the theologian may delve into the apologetics and the forensics of the theological background of the Christian faith, the way to be saved is always simple, and the highway to heaven is plain and easily found.
In my first pastorate out of the seminary, every Saturday afternoon I went down to the courthouse, and there, standing on the curb, I preached the gospel of the grace of the Son of God. I did that every Saturday for three years. There was a time when a man came to me from Governor Kerr’s office in Oklahoma City. And he said, “I think you ought to know what happened this week in the governor’s office. The governor had a man before him who was a convict from the state penitentiary at McAlister, Oklahoma. And the governor pardoned that man. The parole board had brought him to the governor,” who at that time was one of the noblest Baptist laymen––he’s in heaven now––one of the noblest Baptist laymen in our Southern Baptist Zion, Governor Kerr of Oklahoma.
They had brought that convict to the governor and recommended for him to have a pardon. And this man talking to me had been there in the governor’s office and listened to the conversation. The parole board recommended the man because he was an ideal prisoner, as fine a man as they had behind those high brick walls in McAlister, Oklahoma. So Governor Kerr asked him, he said, “The parole board reports to me that you are an ideal prisoner, and they suggest that I pardon you. May I ask you what happened to you that you have become so exemplary in your life, and before you went to the penitentiary were so vile and iniquitous a man?”
And the man replied, “I was in the cell on the top of the jailhouse at Chickasha, Oklahoma, where the men who are under the severest security are kept.” And in Chickasha they seemingly had a jail on top of the jail, where the men were gathered who were taken later to the penitentiary. He said, “I was in that maximum security cell on the top of the courthouse at Chickasha, Oklahoma.” And he said, “On a Saturday afternoon, having been taken to the jail on my way to the penitentiary, on a Saturday afternoon I listened to a young man preach the gospel of Christ below me. He was standing on a street curb at the courthouse, and I couldn’t help but hear him.”
And I can understand that part of it. He said to the governor, “Not that I wanted to hear, nor that I was interested, but I couldn’t help but hear him; he was down there preaching.” And he said, “While he was preaching, conviction came into my heart, and I accepted Christ as my Savior, there, that moment, that hour.” And he said to the governor, “When I was taken behind the walls at the penitentiary in McAlister, Oklahoma, I was taken there as a Christian. I had given my heart to Jesus, and I am a follower of Christ. I trust Him as my Savior, and I ask God to bless me.”
“That moved the governor,” this man said to me, “and Governor Kerr pardoned him right there on the spot.” It is a plain way: “A wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err therein” [Isaiah 35:8].
I never received a sweeter or a finer letter than one that came to me here in the pastorate at the First Baptist Church in Dallas. It was a captain in the Air Force. He said to me in that letter that, “I picked up your service at Texarkana, and I listened to it all of the way flying over Texas to the line of New Mexico.” And he said to me in that letter that, “Up there in the sky, my radio turned to the service of the First Church in Dallas. And listening to you preach,” he said, “up there in the sky, in my airplane, I gave my heart to Jesus, and I want you to know it.” It is a plain way. It is a simple way.
“Wayfaring men, a sojourner, need not miss it” [Isaiah 35:8]. Now, there’s a reason for that. It is a color. It is red. It is crimson. The highway has a color in it. It’s blood red. Wherever the gospel of Christ is preached, always it is a message of redemptive love. It is a message of blood! It is a message of the cross! It has a color in it. It is a crimson way! It goes by Calvary, and there’s no gospel without the cross [Romans 1:16], and there’s no forgiveness of sin without the shedding of blood [Hebrews 9:22]. It has a color to it. It is a crimson way. It is a blood stained way.
I preached a sermon here that some of you remember. We started at seven thirty o’clock in the evening, and I preached until past midnight; and it was when a New Year’s Eve fell on a Lord’s Day evening. And the title of that sermon is The Scarlet Thread through the Bible. And I began at Genesis, and went clear through the consummation in the Revelation, following the blood stained redemptive plan and theme of God. In the garden of Eden, the slaying of the innocent animals, the very soil and ground of Paradise stained in innocent blood; making coats of skins to hide the nakedness of our first parents [Genesis 3:21]. Then the story of Abel, righteous Abel, who laid down his life, who is a faithful witness to Christ, God testifying of the gift of his faith and love and offering to God [Genesis 4:4-8; Hebrews 11:4].
Then the story of the Passover and the shedding of blood, and the sprinkling of the blood in the form of a cross in front of each house, on the lintel at the top and on the doorpost on either side [Exodus 12:5-7, 13, 22-23]. Then the story of the whole sacrificial system: in the morning oblation, at the evening oblation, the slaying of the lamb, the pouring out of its blood and the offering of the carcass, the body, a burnt offering to God [Exodus 29:39].
Then the story of the institution of the Lord’s Supper: “This is My blood, shed for the remission of sins” [Matthew 26:28]. Then the story of the cross itself; His beating, His flagellation, and the blood falling down on the marble pavement, and the Via Dolorosa, and the blood on the way to the cross, and finally the poured out encrimsoned life of Christ on the cross itself [Matthew 27:26-50]; then the blood of the apostles and the martyrs [Revelation 6:9-11]; and finally the question of John:
I do not know these in heaven, dressed in white robes, who are they and whence came they? And the elder replied, These are they who have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
From earth to heaven, from time to eternity, it is always that story of redemption [Galatians 3:13, 4:5]. It is a plain way. It is a crimson way. It has a color. It is blood red. It’s the preaching of the cross [Romans 10:13-15]. It’s in the sacrifice of the Son of God that we find forgiveness of our sins [Ephesians 1:7]. It is a plain way [Isaiah 35:8].
It is easily seen because it is tear-stained. It is a way of confession and humility. No man ever comes into the presence of God in human pride. The door is not that wide that he could enter through it, nor is it that tall that he could stand up. When we come into the presence of God it is always in confession and humility [James 4:6; 1 John 1:7, 9]. It is tear-stained.
In the ninth chapter of the Book of Acts, Saul, proud Pharisee, Hellenistic Jew from the university center of Tarsus, a student of Gamaliel [Acts 22:3], possibly a member of the Sanhedrin, a brilliant, able, forensic, apologete, one who could stand up and debate and defend the Pharisaical faith, proud of it, learned, gifted; this Saul, breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, on his way to Damascus to hale them into prison and to death [Acts 9:1-2]. Now the story: “And Saul arose from the earth; and his eyes were blinded; and they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus” [Acts 9:3-8].
Can you imagine such a difference? In personal human pride leaving Jerusalem on his way to Damascus, breathing out threatening and slaughter [Acts 9:1-2]; but when he got there, they led him by the hand into the city a broken man, a humble man [Acts 9:8-9]. That is the way into the kingdom of God.
No man comes down this aisle, stands before God, and says, “See what a wonderful specimen I am? Every merit and every work commends me to God.” No, when we stand in the presence of the Lord we do so with bowed heads. I don’t think there is a symbol of our confession and humility that is more moving than kneeling down here before men and angels and asking God to receive us, to save us. It is a way of tears. It is a way of confession. It is a way of humility. There’s no other way to God except by bowing, by yielding, by surrendering.
Do you remember the story of Naaman? Captain of the host of the king of Syria, never lost a battle, a mighty man of valor, a tremendous general; but he was a leper [2 Kings 5:1]. You remember the little maid waiting on his wife said, “Would God my lord were in Israel, there is a prophet there that could heal him” [2 Kings 5:2-3]. Word of that came to the king. He sent Naaman down to Israel before the king of Samaria, laden with gold and silver and gifts, chariots of them; and said in a note to him, “I have sent my servant Naaman, captain of the hosts, chief of staff of the army, I have sent him to you to recover him of his leprosy.” And when the king of Israel heard that he rent his clothes in despair and said, “He seeks war against us. Who could forgive and heal and cleanse leprosy but God? And am I God to do it?” [2 Kings 5:4-7].
And Elisha the prophet heard about it and said to the king of Samaria, “Send him to me” [2 Kings 5:8]. So Naaman came and stood at the door of the house of Elisha, with his retinue, with his servants, with his chariots, and with his horses, laden with gold and silver and raiment and gifts. Elisha didn’t even come out to see him. He sent his servant Gehazi out to meet Naaman and said to him, “You go down to the Jordan River and dip yourself,” the Septuagint Greek says, “and baptize yourself seven times, and your flesh will come again like the flesh of a little child and you will be clean” [2 Kings 5:9-10].
And now listen to the exact words of the Bible: “And Naaman was wroth, and Naaman was wroth, and said, Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus,” and have you seen the Abana and the Pharpar, they run crystal clear out of Mt. Hermon, beautiful streams; and the Jordan, after it leaves Galilee, because of its heavy descent is immediately muddy, “Are not Abana and Pharpar, the clear crystal rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? May I not was in them and be clean? And he turned and went away in a rage” [2 Kings 5:11-12].
I can just see Naaman in his wrath and in his fury, insulted! Was he not the captain of the host of the king of Syria? Was it not true he never lost a battle? He was a general of the first order, and Elisha didn’t even bother to come out to see him. And Naaman said, “I thought he would come out at least and strike his hand over the place of leprosy, and call on the name of his God in some dramatic way, and I would be clean” [2 Kings 5:11]. So, driving his steed to that chariot, followed by his retinue, he was furiously returning to Damascus in his pride, and in his leprosy [2 Kings 5:12]. And while he was driving down the road, one of his servants put his hand on the hand of the great man of valor, Naaman, and said, “My father,” a word of endearment and reverence:
My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great and mighty thing—
if he had said, Go overwhelm the kingdom of Pharaoh, or declare war against the Hittites, or take the fenced cities of Heron and Mesopotamia—
my father, if the Lord had bid thee do some great and mighty thing—
if he had said, Bring me a thousand talents of gold and ten thousand talents of silver—
if he bid thee do some great and mighty thing, wouldst thou not have done it? How much rather then, when he saith unto thee, Wash and be clean, wash and be clean.
[2 Kings 5:13]
I can see Naaman as he takes the reins, the lines of that chariot, and pulls back, “Whoa, whoa, whoa.” And he turns those steeds around, and drives down to the muddy Jordan, dipped himself one time and twice, five times and six, and the Holy Scripture says that, when he dipped himself the seventh time, his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean [2 Kings 5:14]. Wash and be clean [2 Kings 5:10; Revelation 7:14]. Look and live! [Numbers 21:8-9; John 3:14-16]. Believe and be saved! [Acts 16:30-31]. Bow and walk into the kingdom of God. It is a way of humility, of confession, of bowing, of looking up into the face of Jesus [Isaiah 35:8; James 4:6].
Last: it is a way of assurance, and joy, and gladness, and gratitude, and happiness. Death is a specter. It is an awesome and a fearful thing. What lies beyond in the eternity of the eternities, into which our lives shall be plunged? To have assurance that someday we shall see God’s face and live, oh, oh, what a benedictory gift from heaven [Revelation 22:3-4]. And the highway of holiness, the highway to heaven, this way of salvation is one of infinite assurance. God has pledged it [Isaiah 35:8]. Christ has died as a testament to seal it [John 14:6; Hebrews 10:20]. And it is ours in fullness of heart for the asking.
And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?
And Philip answered and said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest; if you accept the Lord as your Savior. And he said, I believe that He is all that He said He was, able to do all that He promised to do; I believe He is the Son of God, the Savior of the world.
And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, and the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. And he went on his way rejoicing!
[Acts 8: 36-39]
It’s a hallelujah way. It’s a way of Christian assurance. God has something for us, something precious, something wonderful, something glorious. “And he went on his way rejoicing” [Acts 8:39]. It’ll be better tomorrow.
On Monday, I am happy; on Tuesday, full of joy
On Wednesday, I have peace within, that nothing can destroy.
On Thursday and on Friday, I’m walking in the light,
On Saturday is a heavenly day, and Sunday’s always bright.
Oh glory, glory, glory, O glory to the Lamb,
Hallelujah, I am saved, and I’m so glad I am.
Oh glory, glory, glory, O glory to the Lamb,
Hallelujah, I am saved, and I’m bound for the Promised Land.
[from “Glory to the Lamb,” Selected Hymns, the New Onward and Upward, Home Music, Co) circa 1900]
It’s a way of joy and happiness. It’s a way of Christian assurance. It’s a way of commitment to some more glorious and better and marvelous day, tomorrow. Living in that faith, living in that optimism, living in that assurance, God shall do some marvelous thing for us.
Will you take it? Will you receive it? Not that we’re worthy, not that we merit, not that I could ever amass fortune enough to buy it, not that I ever could be good enough to deserve it but, “He died for me [1 Corinthians 15:3]. He was raised for me [Romans 4:25]. He is coming for me” [John 14:3]. He is preparing for us [John 14:1-2]. Take it, receive it, and believe it. Come, trust, be saved [John 3:16; Romans 10:9-13]. Will you?
In a moment we shall stand to sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing it, somebody you, in the balcony, you, on this lower floor, you, to give your heart to Christ, to come into the fellowship of the church, to give your life to the blessed Savior, while we sing the appeal, make the decision and come. Decide now in your heart, and when you stand up in a moment, stand up into that aisle, down to the front, down one of these stairways, here to the front. Come now, come tonight. A family you, a couple you, or just one somebody you, make the decision in your heart now. Do it now this moment. And when we stand up to sing, on the first note of the first stanza, into that aisle and here to the front, “Here I am, pastor. Here I come. I make it tonight.” Do it now. Come now, while we stand and while we sing.
HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN
I. A plain way
A. “Wayfaring men,
though fools, shall not err therein.” (Isaiah 35:8-9)
B. Chickasha prisoner
C. Air Force captain
II. A crimson way
A. Stained with the
blood of atonement
Preaching The Scarlet Thread Through the Bible, Genesis to Revelation
(Matthew 26:28, Revelation 7:13-14)
III. A tear-stained way
A. Way of turning and
repentance, confession and humility
of Paul (Acts 9:1-8)
Story of healing of Naaman (2 Kings 5:1-14)
IV. A hallelujah way
A. Way of glad
assurance, joy, happiness
eunuch (Acts 8:36-39)