February 20th, 1974 @ 7:30 PM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Corinthians 7:10
2-20-74 7:30 p.m.
Now in the little book, we are going to read what he was speaking of: justification, what God has done for us in delivering us from the penalty of sin; sanctification, what God is doing for us in breaking in our lives the power of sin; and glorification, first time I ever heard it expressed like that, what is going to happen when we are up there apart from sin?
Now we are going to read it out loud together. If you have a copy, why, you share it with your neighbor, and we are going to read it out loud together; the fourth article, Salvation. And you will see in there all three of these things: justification, sanctification, glorification. Now let us read it out loud together, all of us:
Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer. In its broadest sense salvation includes regeneration, sanctification, and glorification.
Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God’s grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace. Repentance is a genuine turning from sin toward God. Faith is the acceptance of Jesus Christ and commitment of the entire personality to Him as Lord and Savior. Justification is God’s gracious and full acquittal upon principles of His righteousness of all sinners who repent and believe in Christ. Justification brings the believer into a relationship of peace and favor with God.
Sanctification is the experience, beginning in regeneration, by which the believer is set apart to God’s purposes, and is enabled to progress toward moral and spiritual perfection through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. Growth in grace should continue throughout the regenerate person’s life.
Glorification is the culmination of salvation and is the final blessed and abiding state of the redeemed.
Now Dr. Radmacher––some of you who came in late, he’s the president of the Western Conservative Baptist Theological Seminary in Portland, Oregon––Dr. Radmacher tonight gave a resume of all three of those, with emphasis on the second one, sanctification. Now what we’re going to do is, tonight I’m going to take the first one, regeneration, and then next Wednesday night we’ll follow through with sanctification and glorification but the first part, regeneration.
There has never been but one plan of salvation for all the world from the beginning of the creation. That one plan is summarized in Ephesians 2:8, “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], saying, “I did it.” There is but one plan of salvation in the Old Testament. There is one plan of salvation in the New Testament. There has never been but one way to be saved.
But in the Old Testament, could not one be saved by keeping the law? Paul says in Galatians 2:16, “By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified,” simply because no one can keep the law. There’s only One who ever did, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ! [Matthew 5:17; Hebrews 4:15]. If one could keep the law perfectly, he could be saved, but no man is able to do it. He is born with the affinity, the predilection of sin on the inside of him; and he cannot escape that falling into sin, that making mistake. You cannot do it. No man can live perfectly, so I cannot be saved by keeping the law. Some provision has to be made for me over and beyond and beside.
Well, is it in the Old Testament that one could be saved by animal sacrifices? When David cried in the fifty-first Psalm his penitential appeal to God, he says, “Sacrifices and offerings Thou wouldst not” [Psalm 51:16]; and in Hebrews 10:4, “For the blood of bulls and of goats do not suffice for the saving of the soul.” There has to be some way whereby our sins can be washed away, and the blood of animals will not do it. Nor can a man’s good works do it [Ephesians 2:8-9].
So God’s way of salvation in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, whether it is David or whether it is Simon Peter or whether it is you, we’re all saved alike, namely, by casting ourselves upon the mercy of God [Titus 3:5; Hebrews 11:6]. There is no other way.
In the fifty-first Psalm David cried, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of Thy tender mercies, O God, blot out my transgressions, wash me, cleanse me” [Psalm 51:1-2]. Why doesn’t he say, “All I have to do to wash my sins away is to offer up a bullock, offer up a lamb”?
No. “Thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: Thou delightest not in burnt offering” [Psalm 51:16]. “I would gather together all of the sheep and the goats and the bullocks in this whole kingdom and offer them unto Thee, O God, if that could wash away my sins.” “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise” [Psalm 51:17]. There is no difference, whether it’s then, whether it’s now, it is all alike. We are saved by casting ourselves upon the mercies of God. God has to save us [Acts 4:12; 1 Timothy 2:5].
Abraham was saved in the same way. In the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Genesis, in the sixth verse, “Abraham believed God, he trusted in God; and his faith, his committal, was counted for righteousness” [Genesis 15:6]. That’s how we’re saved. In John 8:56, the Lord Jesus said, “Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it, and was glad.”
Do you ever think, “When did Abraham see the day of Jesus?” I could make a guess. I think Abraham saw the day of our Lord when he lifted up that knife to plunge it into the heart of Isaac, and the Angel called, saying, “Abraham, Abraham”; and Abraham lifted up his face, and the Lord said, “Now, I know that you love Me and trust Me.” And Abraham saw a ram caught in a thicket, and he took the ram, and substituted it for the life of his son [Genesis 22:10-13]. I think that is when Abraham saw Christ, and he saw the day of redemption and was glad [John 8:56]. We’re all saved alike [Ephesians 2:8-9; Hebrews 11:6].
Do you remember the great eleventh chapter of Hebrews: “By faith, Abraham . . . by faith, Isaac . . . by faith, Jacob, Israel . . . [Hebrews 11:8-9] by faith, Moses [Hebrews 11:23] . . . by faith, David, Gideon [Hebrews 11:32]. And time would fail me to speak of Barak and Daniel” [Hebrews 11:32-33]. You see, it is all alike. We’re saved by casting ourselves upon the mercies of God, by looking to God [Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5; Hebrews 11:6].
In Luke 9:31, at the transfiguration of our blessed Lord, there appeared to Jesus, Moses and Elijah. Now look, “Who spake of His decease, which He should accomplish at Jerusalem” [Luke 9:30-31]. Why, Moses and Elijah, talk to Jesus about the death that He should accomplish, look at those words, “that He should accomplish in Jerusalem.” Why? The reason why is this. Moses and Elijah were talking to Jesus about their hope of deliverance, of salvation, in Him. And Elijah says, “Lord, I’m here.” And Moses says, “Lord, I’m here on the basis of Your promised redemption” [Luke 9:31]. They looking forward, and we looking back, oh, it’s the same, whether it be this way or whether it be that way. The hill of Calvary looks just the same, whichever side of the slope; you raise up your head and look at the redemptive blood of the Son of God [Luke 23:33-46]. There is one way to be saved, not two [Acts 4:12; Ephesians 2:8-9].
Salvation has two sides, however, like a coin. It is the same thing. It’s a something with two sides. Salvation has a divine side, God’s side, and that’s called regeneration [Titus 3:5]. It has a human side, man’s side, and that’s called conversion. Regeneration is God turning the soul to Himself, and conversion is the soul’s turning to God [Acts 3:19]. So we’re going to talk about regeneration and conversion.
First: regeneration. Regeneration by the Holy Spirit is God’s side. We call it sometimes, and Jesus called it, the new birth [John 3: 3,7]. It is an act of God that creates in us a new heart, and we become a new creation. The governing disposition of the soul is made holy. We seek heavenly things. We love spiritual things. There is a new affection and a new love. You are a new creation [2 Corinthians 5:17]. You have been regenerated [Titus 3:5]. The sinful nature is not gone, you are still you. That doesn’t take place until glorification, until we are raised from the dead [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17], or raptured, and this body is changed [1 Corinthians 15:51-52]. But in regeneration, when a man is saved, when he’s born again [John 3:3, 7], the governing power of sin in his heart is broken. It is thrust from the heart, thrown center to the circumference. Christ is on the throne now! [Romans 8:10].
We’re not like those who in naked orgy danced around the golden calf [Exodus 32:19, 25]. If you’ve ever been saved, you’d be the most miserable creature in the earth dancing naked around that calf. Not the world out there. These off-colored movies, these x-rated movies, all of this pornographic literature, all of the sensual sexuality that has engulfed America and the whole world, they would revel in it. But you can’t. You can’t. There’s Somebody else on the throne of your heart. You’re a different somebody. That is the work of God.
Now this work is wrought by the Holy Spirit. It is essential to our salvation. Jesus said in the third chapter of John, “Ye must be born again [John 3:3,7].” God has to do something. A blind man, take that blind man in the ninth chapter of the Book of John [John 9:1-7]. No increase of light could make that man see. He’s blind, and the only way he could ever see is that God do something. God has to do something. So it is with us. God has to do something. He has to create in us a new heart, “Born,” John 1:13, “not by the will of the flesh, not by the will of man, but by the will of God.”
An old Negro was testifying and he said his conversion was due to himself and to God. He said he fought against God with all his might and God did the rest. That was just his funny way of saying that his conversion was only of the Lord. It all was of God. God must quicken the man. You can hear sermons all your life and still remain unsaved. A man can see, and see, and see, and see, and then one day he sees. He can hear, and hear, and hear, and hear, and then one day he hears. To the great tragedy, there are some men who never see and never hear.
There was a man who sat right over there, and for twenty-five years I preached to that man. His wife was a very faithful member of this church. He sat by her side for twenty-five years. And when his wife died, he has never come back again. I have talked with him. I’ve visited with him. I have prayed for him. He was never regenerated. He was never converted. He was never saved. He’s a lost man now.
Isn’t that strange? Can you explain that? It is beyond. He sees and sees and sees everything that you see here, but he never saw. And he hears and hears and hears and hears; he heard everything you’ve ever heard here for twenty-five years, and he never heard. God has to do something.
The Holy Spirit uses truth, the truth of the Scriptures, to bring this miracle of regeneration to pass. In 1 Peter 1:23-25, Simon Peter says that, “We are born again by the word of God, and this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.” In James 1:18, the pastor of the church at Jerusalem says, “Of His own will begat He us by the word of God.” In Ephesians 5:26, the apostle Paul says, “Now ye are cleansed, ye are washed with the washing of water by the word.” In John 15:3, the Lord Jesus says, “Now you are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.”
Now Dr. Radmacher, there are a lot of people who’d quarrel with me over this, but I think that’s what the Lord meant in John 3:5, “Except a man be born of the Spirit, and of the water,” the water is the washing of the word. And without the word no man is ever saved; “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. But how shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” [Romans 10:13-14]
We have a vital, significant part in God’s miracle of regeneration. He uses you. He uses the testimony of the missionary. He uses the message of the truth of the Book. He uses the means of the Scriptures to convert, to change, to regenerate the soul.
All right, that’s God’s part, regeneration [John 3:3, 7]. God never says, “Get yourself born again,” because you can’t do it. It’s something God does. Regeneration is God’s side of salvation [Titus 3:5].
Now conversion is man’s side; the turning to God [Acts 3:19]. Conversion is simply a turning. It is the human side of our salvation. I could not illustrate conversion more, turning more, than the story of Naaman, coming before Elisha with his horses, and with his chariots, and with his retinue and his servants [2 Kings 5:1-14].
He was a great man, Naaman was. And he was laden with gold, and silver, and changes of raiment. And he came to be healed of his leprosy. Elisha didn’t even go out there to look at him. He sent Gehazi his servant. He said, “You go tell him to go down there to that muddy Jordan River and dip himself” [2 Kings 5:1, 5, 9-10] The Septuagint said, “baptizō, to baptize himself seven times,” not sprinkle himself, “to baptize himself seven times, and his flesh would come again, like unto the flesh of a little child” [2 Kings 5:10].
And when Gehazi told him that, he was indignant! “Why,” he said, “I thought at least he would come out and call on the name of the Lord his God in dramatic and multitudinous intercessions, and strike the face of the leprosy, and oh,” he had it all in his mind. “Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage” [2 Kings 5:11-12]. That’s what the Book says, “and he turned and went away in a rage.” He’d insulted his dignity and his pride.
And while he was driving those horses furiously back to Damascus, a leper, a servant riding with him in the chariot put his hand on Naaman’s arm and said, “My father.” How deeply was Naaman loved and respected! “My father,” he said, “if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? [2 Kings 5:13] If the prophet had said, ‘Naaman you’re a great general, go and conquer the Parthians,’ wouldn’t you have tried it? If he’d have said, ‘Bring me five hundred thousand talents of gold,’ wouldn’t you have tried to confiscate all the gold in the world and bring it? If he’d have bid thee do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much rather? But he says, ‘Wash, and be clean’” [2 Kings 5:13].
Now this is conversion. And Naaman pulled back on those reigns, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa!” Turned those steeds around, turned that chariot in the opposite direction, went down to that muddy Jordan, dipped himself one time and twice, five times and six, and the Book says, “And when he came up the seventh time, his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean” [2 Kings 5:14]. That is conversion; it’s a turning, it’s a turning.
The great purpose of preaching is to persuade men to turn. Acts 20:21, testifying to the Jew and to the Greek, “Repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is turning from sin, that’s what you call repentance; and it is turning to Christ, that’s what you call faith.
It is an instantaneous change. Conversion is a beginning, and a beginning is never progressive or gradual. You begin or you do not begin. The beginning may be small, but there is an instant when you begin. We may gradually come to the realization of our new affection, of our new love for Christ, but when we began it was instantaneous. And when you were converted, you were converted instantaneously. It’s a beginning and a beginning is never gradual.
Now there are two elements. There are two component parts and sides that make up conversion: repentance and faith [Acts 20:21]. First: repentance. Repentance is necessary to salvation. Luke 13:3, 5: “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”
Now, what is repentance, true repentance? True repentance is more than conviction. The realization of sin is not repentance. “I have sinned,” said hardened Pharaoh in Exodus 9:27. “I have sinned,” said double-minded Balaam in Numbers 22:34. “I have sinned,” said remorseful Achan in Joshua 7:20. “I have sinned,” said insincere Saul in 1 Samuel 15:24. “I have sinned,” said despairing Judas in Matthew 27:4. But in no case was there repentance. It is not conviction of sin that is repentance.
True repentance is more than reformation. I read a sentence preparing this lecture tonight—it is not reformation, it is a complete change and committal to God—and the sentence was, “One former,” f-o-r-m-e-r, “is worth a thousand reformers.” Isn’t that a brilliant sentence? Do you see it? “One former,” f-o-r-m-e-r, “One former, one man who is really changed is worth a thousand reformers who, you know sets himself to clean up his life.”
Now I want to show that to you. In Matthew 12:43-45, there is a story of a man and the unclean spirit went out of him. And the unclean spirit, going out of him, went around looking where he could find reincarnation. And finding none he came back to that same man and looked on the inside of that man’s heart, and his heart was empty, empty, swept, cleaned, and garnished. He had reformed. He had reformed. His heart was empty, clean, swept, garnished. Didn’t have the Holy Spirit in there. He just reformed. He cleaned up his life, and he had done a good job cleaning it. And that evil spirit, when he saw the heart of that man empty, he went out and got seven other spirits worse than himself, and the last state of that man was worse than the first state.
Here is a man that has an evil spirit of drinking, or cussing, or whoremongering, or lying, or stealing, or beating his wife, or whatever, just bad. He has an evil spirit on the inside of him, an evil disposition. And he says, “I’m going to quit beating my wife, and I’m going to quit getting drunk, and I’m going to quit cussing, and I’m going to quit stealing, I’m going to be a new man.” And he is. He is really reformed. He’s something else.
But there’s nothing on the inside of his heart. He’s not saved. He’s not born again. He doesn’t have the Holy Spirit on the inside of him. And that spirit goes and looks in that man’s heart, and there’s nothing in there, just absolutely empty. He’s just reformed. He’s kept it clean and sweet and nice. And pretty soon that evil thing is back on the inside of him, and he’s gotten seven other spirits worse than himself, and that man that was so fine in his reformation is worse than he ever was. True repentance is not reformation.
Again, true repentance is more than remorse. Judas, in Matthew 27:3, 5 would you like to turn to that? Because so many times will you find people read that:
Then Judas, which had betrayed Him, when he saw that He was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,
Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What’s that to us? See ye to it.
And he cast it … and went out and hanged himself.
All right, now what is that? Here is the thing that I wish that we could have found in this King James Version. There are two words, metanoeō and metamelomai; metamelomai means “to feel remorse.” In a minute we’re going to look at 2 Corinthians 7:10, where both of those words are used. And metamelomai means “to feel remorse,” translated here, “repent.”
“Then Judas, when he had betrayed Him, who betrayed Him, when he saw that He was condemned,” it says, “repented himself . . . he was filled with despair,” you would say it. He was filled with remorse, the awesomeness of what he’s done came upon him, and he cried, I have sinned, and he went out and hanged himself [Matthew 27:3-5]. No, it is not remorse, sorrow for sin, fear of consequences.
Well, then what is repentance? True repentance has an intellectual element in it. It’s a change of view, metanoia, Matthew 3:2, Romans 2:4, repentance. In Psalm 51:3, 7, 11 David recognizes his sin as personal guilt, and his helplessness to wash it away. There is an intellectual element in repentance. It’s a change of view. “I don’t look at it as I did before, I just don’t!” It is a hateful, and a despicable, and a despised thing! There’s an intellectual in it, a change of mind, metanoia, “change of mind.”
But intellectual element is not enough. A drunkard does not have anything like the sense of the degrading effect of his drinking as much as his miserable wife and his children. Intellectual apprehension and knowledge of what we do that’s wrong is not enough. There is, in true repentance, not only the intellectual element, there is an emotional element. There is also a change of feeling. Sorrow for sin, not boastful or uncaring; so David cries in the fifty-first Psalm.
But emotional sorrow is not enough. In 2 Corinthians 7:10, you have a lupē kata theon, a sorrow according to God that leads to repentance. But a lupē tos kosmos, tou kosmos, it leads only to despair, the sorrow of the world. There is a sorrow for sin that is metamelomai; it’s a remorse.
It’s the sorrow of the rich young ruler [Luke 18:18-24]. He had the opportunity to come to the Lord, and he wanted to come, but the Book says, “He went away sorrowful, sorrowful” [Luke 18:23]. Sorrow for sin is not enough. In true repentance, there is an intellectual element, but the intellectual is not enough, a change of view. There is a change of feeling, sorrow for sin, but even that is not enough.
I used to use an illustration when I was a young fellow. My first pastorate was at Chickasha, Oklahoma. And there’s a man over there who was dying, and I went to see him. And he made a confession of faith, and I just thought was gloriously converted, and I thought died. He was just right at death’s door. And I used to speak of that, the wonderful conversion of that man on his death bed.
And to my amazement, I met his child in Vacation Bible School, and I asked about the death of her father. And she said, “Well, he’s not dead. He got well.” I said, “That’s unbelievable. He was turning dark. He was absolutely gone I thought.”
“No,” she said, “he got well.” So I went over there to rejoice in his salvation. He said, “My salvation? I don’t care anything about the Lord. I don’t care anything about you, don’t care anything about the church, and what happened then was nothing.” That’s what that man said to me. That’s what he said.
There’s a man who is a nominal member of this church, was a nominal member of the church. He was never saved, never converted. If there ever was a vile man, that man was one. Well, he had an awesome heart attack, an awesome heart attack. And I went out to Baylor Hospital, and I prayed with him, and I talked to him.
And he said, “I’ve been a lost sinner, but I am going to give my heart to God, and you’re going to see me there at that church. And I’m going to get right, and I do get right,” and on and on, and he thought he was going to die. Doctor said he was going to die. Everybody said he was going to die. He thought he was going to die, and he really got right, that is, as long as he thought he was going to die. He got up. He lived about ten years after that. I never saw him in this church in all that ten years. And when I’d talk to him, you never saw anybody that was more uninterested. That’s not repentance.
Well, what is then, repentance? It has an intellectual element, the recognition of sin. It has an emotional element, a sorrow for sin. But there must also be that third element. There is a volitional element in sin, a change, there is a volitional element in repentance. There must be a change of purpose, a change of action, a change of living, a change of direction. There is an inward turning from sin to seek pardon and cleansing. There is repentance from sin, not of sin. Now that’s what that word metanoia means. It is a change of mind, and purpose, and direction. It is an abandonment of sin. This is repentance. When the prodigal son sits on the top of that corral fence, and looks down at the hogs, and he says, “My father’s servants have more than I do, and here I am feeding the hogs. I will arise and go back to my father and home” [Luke 15:18-21]. That is repentance.
Thieves do penance by giving a part of their ill-gotten wealth to charity. In Louisville at Churchill Downs, on the day that they run the Derby, the fifth race is run for charity. Robbers murdered a bank president. I read this in the paper: robbers murdered a bank president and it was on Friday, and they were in a place—started to eat meat, and while they were starting to eat meat, one of those robbers who had just murdered a bank president said, “Wait, wait! This is Good Friday,” and pushed the meat away.
Metanoia is a change of life. It’s a change of mind. It’s a change of purpose. It’s a change of direction. It is an abandonment of sin! I will arise and go. And when a man does that he has repented.
Oh dear, we just better stop! We will pick it up from there next Wednesday night.