The Way Made Plain
January 11th, 1976 @ 7:30 PM
THE WAY MADE PLAIN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-11-76 7:30 p.m.
We welcome you who are listening to this service on KRLD, a radio station that blankets the great Southwest, reaching into New Mexico, into Colorado and Oklahoma, into Arkansas, into Louisiana and throughout the state of Texas. You are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the sermon entitled The Way Made Plain.
In your Bible, in the Book of Matthew chapter 18, turn with me to the second and the fifth verses and read it out loud together. Sharing your Bible, all of us reading God’s Word out loud together, Matthew chapter 18:2-5; now having found the passage and sharing our Bible, read it out loud with me. Matthew 18:2-5. Now together:
And Jesus called a little child unto Him, and set him in the midst of them,
And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
And whoso shall receive one such little child in My name receiveth Me.
And the title of the message is The Way Made Plain.
Years ago a far-famed preacher and pastor was dying in London, and his fellow minister and closest friend sat by his side and asked him saying, “Is there one last message you would like to leave with the world?” And the great preacher replied, “There is. Tell the ministers of the world this: Oh, preacher, make it plain; make it plain how a man can be saved.” If the kingdom of heaven is entered into as one would be converted and become as a little child, then there are some corollaries, some addenda, some conclusions, some deductions to be brought from such a teaching of our Lord who said, “Except to be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” [Matthew 18:3]. If that is true there are some things that follow after.
One is this: we would suppose that the way into the kingdom of heaven, if it is made for little children to walk on, the way must be plain and simple and easy. There is no doubt that there are profundities and inexplicables in the theological world. There are tomes in the great libraries of the seminaries that are full with deepest and erudite discussion. Yet the great fundamentals of the Christian faith are always simple and always easily understood. All of God’s work is like that. It’s like assimilation. How in the world does somebody eating something become the man, the being himself? How does that come to pass? Here is a plate of inanimate stuff and you eat it and it becomes you; it becomes love and feeling and emotion and hatred and response. You don’t believe that, but you are a monument to hamburgers and cokes and fried potatoes and pies. If you don’t believe that, just quit eating for awhile and see what happens to you. The miracle of assimilation is almost inexplicable by the whole gamut of human science. But that doesn’t bother at all. To eat is just simple. Man, just set it down there and start. That’s all it takes.
All of God’s great profundities are like that. This marvelous mechanism of our human bodies, how does it function? It is a miracle of God. But I breathe, and I see, and I hear, and I touch, and I feel, and I walk, and I talk. All of it is a miracle of God. It is profound in the extreme as you seek to delineate it and dissect it and describe it. But the simplicity of doing it is something from the hands of the Almighty. So it is in the kingdom of heaven. It is a simple and an easy thing for one to become a Christian.
A second deduction: I would suppose therefore that if God is going to require something of us, places a necessity in us, that somehow He will provide for that necessity; He will answer that need. If God makes me to be hungry, then He will provide food for me to eat. If God makes me to be thirsty, then He will provide water for me to drink. If God provides a hunger for love and companionship, then He will provide friends and families to sustain me and to keep me. And if God places in me a love for beauty, there will be rainbows and sunsets and skies that are blue and meadows that are emerald. So it is if God senses in me a need for regeneration and for conversion and for salvation, then God will provide an answer for it.
Another deduction: if I need to know the truth of the Lord, then God will provide that truth. He will reveal it to me. Do you ever look at the Bible and wonder, “Why is it that all of these marvelous things that we know in science—jet propulsion and penicillin and a thousand other things that have glorified scientific achievement, God knew all about those from the beginning—why were they not revealed to us in this Holy Book? Because they are extraneous; they are peripheral; they’re not central or dynamic or fundamental. It was fundamental and primary that I know how to be saved, that I know God, that I know how to live before God. And these things of a man walking on the moon, or a plane going twelve hundred miles per hour, or all of these things that amazes in the gadgetry of scientific exploration and discovery, these are incidental. But the great and important things, God revealed from the beginning, the truth of how we might know God and how we ought to live.
One other deduction: if it is plain and simple to enter the kingdom like unto a little child, then this deduction: the things that I cannot do that God requires that I must do, then God will do them for me. He will provide it for me. If God demands righteousness and I’m not righteous; if God demands purity and I’m not pure; if God demands sinlessness and I’m a sinner; if God demands holy and heavenly worship and I’m mundane and terrestrial and human, then God will provide that righteousness and that holiness and that purity for me. What I cannot do myself, God will do for me.
As Abraham walked with his only son Isaac up to a sacrifice and the boy Isaac said, “My father, my father, here is the fire and here is the wood: but where is the lamb?” And Abraham replied, “My son, God, God will provide for Himself a lamb” [Genesis 22:7-8]. That is the lad through whom all the world was to be blessed [Genesis 18:19, 22:18], and God said, “Take him and sacrifice him” [Genesis 22:2]. What God requires of us that we cannot offer, He will provide.
What a wonderful and marvelous way the Lord hath made for us to be saved! So we look at it for these moments that remain. God had to teach us a language of heaven that we could understand, and He did it in all of these types and ceremonies and rituals; a language of heaven that we had to be taught. For example, an altar! What is an altar? God says ‘altar’ and a sacrifice. What is a sacrifice? God uses the word sacrifice. Atonement, what is atonement? God uses the word atonement. Propitiation, what is propitiation? God uses the word propitiation. What is sanctification? God uses the word sanctification. What is sanctification?
The nomenclature of heaven I am taught in the Bible by types and rituals and ceremonies. I know what an altar is. There it was in the tabernacle and the temple. I know what a sacrifice is: over the head of an innocent victim the high priest placed his hands and confessed the sins of a nation [Leviticus 16:15-24]. I know what a sacrifice is: the life of the innocent animal was taken away and its blood poured out at the base of the altar [Leviticus 4:30]. I know what expiation and propitiation mean: they took the blood and sprinkled it on the mercy seat that hid away our sins [Leviticus 4:24-30, 16:14-15]. And I know what sanctification is: it is the washing of the cleansing of the Holy Spirit in water [Titus 3:5].
God taught us His language, the nomenclature of heaven, in the types and ceremonies in the Book. And then God taught us what these things meant by incidents that we can see with our eyes. For example in 1 Corinthians 5, Paul says, “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us” [1 Corinthians 5:7]. What could that mean? I know what that means. It is something God did. The angel of death passed over the land of Egypt one dark, dark night. And the people who took blood and sprinkled it on the lintels and the doorposts in the form of a cross [Exodus 12:7], if they were behind the blood, if they were under the blood, they were saved [Exodus 12:7, 12, 13, 22-23]. I know what “Christ our Passover sacrificed for us” means. In the third chapter of the Gospel of John, it says, “And He shall be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” [John 3:14-15]. I know what that means. As Moses lifted up the serpent of the wilderness, the people were dying, being bitten by venomous serpents [Numbers 21:6], and God said to Moses, “Raise in the camp a brazen serpent, and it shall be that if one is bitten if he will look, he will live” [Numbers 21:8-9]. I know what that is; to look and to live. My brother, live. Look to Jesus Christ and live [Isaiah 45:22; John 3:14]. “It is recorded in the Word, Hallelujah! It is just that you look and live.” God taught us that in the Book. And when John writes, “If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with the other, and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin” [1 John 1:7]. I know what that means.
In the story of Naaman, the prophet said, “Go wash. Dip yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will come again, like unto the flesh of a little child, and you will be clean” [2 Kings 5:10]. And Naaman went down to the Jordan and dipped himself seven times, and on the seventh time when he came up he looked and his flesh had become like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean [2 Kings 5:14]. The ableness of God in Christ to wash our sins away and to make us pure and spotless and clean in the presence of the great God our Savior—what God hath done to make the way understood, to make it clear and easy and plain, not only that but God has sent preachers to tell us the good news of this marvelous evangel in Christ Jesus. As the apostle wrote in the tenth chapter of the Book of Romans:
For all—anyone—for all who shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
But how shall they call upon 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?
God raises up and God calls men to be sent forth to preach the gospel of the grace of the Son of God. Any part of that prophetic fulfillment is in our presence tonight as we listen to the preaching of the gospel of the saving grace of Jesus by one of His preachers.
The angel said to Cornelius: “Send down to Joppa in the house of a tanner and ask for one Simon who will come and tell thee words whereby thou and thy house may be saved” [Acts 10:3, 5, 6]. Why didn’t the angel tell him the words whereby he and his house might be saved? Because no man is ever saved apart from the witness of the preaching of the gospel of the Son of God. One of these men tonight prayed for one of our members who is on his way now back to his field in Brazil. Why did we send him? That he might bring to them, the good news of the gospel of the Son of God. How shall they hear without a preacher? [Romans 10:13-14].
And last: and the Lord has pressed upon us the invitation of response, the answer of your life. “The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” [Revelation 22:17].
For God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and has committed unto us the ministry of reconciliation . . .
Wherefore, whereby, wherein, we plead with you in Christ stead, as though Christ Himself were saying it, be ye reconciled to God.
For God hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.
We then, as workers together with Christ, beseech you that you receive not the grace of God in vain.
For He saith, in a time accepted, have I heard thee and in the day of salvation have I succored thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
[2 Corinthians 5:19-6:2]
It is now; God invites. It is today the Lord has opened wide the door of invitation, and it is for me to answer with my life.
There are thousands of you who have listened on radio. If you’re in an automobile driving down a road, would you pause, would you pull to the side of the road, would you bow your head over the steering wheel? Would you say, “Lord Jesus, come into my heart, regenerate me as a little child [John 3:3, 7]. I ask God’s grace and mercy and forgiveness [Matthew 7:7-8; Luke 18:13-14]. Write my name in the Book of Life [Luke 10:20; Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27]; count me among the redeemed” [1 Peter 1:18-19].
If you’re in the bedroom kneel, maybe by the side of the bed. If you’re in the living room, kneel by the side of your chair. If you have a family, call them together and say, “Tonight let’s give our lives in trust and faith to the Lord Jesus” [Ephesians 2:8-9]. In the great throng that fills this vast auditorium tonight, a family you, or a couple you, or just one somebody you, answering with your life God’s call, “I need to accept Christ as my Savior.” “I need to be baptized in His blessed name.” “I need to place my life in the fellowship of this dear church.” Or, “God has spoken to my heart and I’m answering a call from heaven.” As the Spirit whispers the word, as God Himself makes the appeal, answer now. Make the decision in your heart now, and in a moment when we stand to sing, stand walking down one of these stairways or walking down one of these aisles. “Here I am preacher. I’m coming now.” God bless you and angels attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
THE WAY MADE PLAIN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. The way must be plain and easy
B. If God places a necessity in us, He will provide for it
C. If I need to know the truth of the Lord, God will reveal it to me
D. The things required that I cannot do, God will do for me(Genesis 22:7-8)II. The message, the way
A. God had to teach us the language of heaven
1. Used types, ceremonies, rituals
B. That we might see with our eyes(1 Corinthians 5:7, Exodus 12:12, 13, 23, John 3:14-15, Numbers 21:8-9, 1 John 1:7, 2 Kings 5:1-14)III. A preacher, a witness, a messenger
A. God raises up and calls men to preach the gospel (Romans 10:13-14, Acts 10:5-6)IV. A response
A. God invites us to respond(Revelation 22:17, 2 Corinthians 5:19-6:2)
B. It is for us to answer with our lives