The Invincible Conviction
May 1st, 1977 @ 8:15 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-1-77 8:15 a.m.
Once again, to the great throng that are listening on the radio of the city of Dallas, and on KCBI, the radio of our Bible Institute, we are happy to share with you this early service of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Invincible Conviction. It is a message in our preaching through the Book of Acts, and now in chapter 4, it is a message on the twelfth verse of the fourth chapter of the Book of Acts:
Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved—
Simon Peter’s avowal about the Lord Jesus Christ—
Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
That is a fine reflection of and description of the spirit and conviction of the church of the New Testament in the first Christian century. They did not pray that God would lessen their danger; they only prayed that they might have greater boldness in presenting Jesus. For example, in the last part of this same chapter they pray:
And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto Thy servants, that with all boldness—
they may speak Thy word…
And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spake the word of God with boldness.
And their actions corresponded to their praying. They plunged into a world of paganism, and heathenism, and idolatry, and imperialism, and slavery, and oppression with indescribable zeal, unafraid, challenging the Roman government itself, challenging the imperial Caesar himself, challenging the whole system of world religion.
They did that under a mandate from heaven; they possessed an all inclusive Commission, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” [Mark 16:15]. They were commanded to make disciples of all the nations of the world [Matthew 28:19]. Acts begins in the first chapter with a like commission, “For ye shall receive power . . . and ye shall be witnesses unto Me in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” [Acts 1:8]. And that intrepid little band, facing a veritable floodtide of fierce opposition, gave themselves with invincible courage to the preaching of the gospel of the Son of God.
They started in Jerusalem, Acts 2; then in Samaria, Acts 8; then in Caesarea, Acts 10. Then in Antioch, where for the first time heathen Greek idolaters came directly out of their idolatry into the faith of Christ—no legal Mosaic training—directly out of idolatry into the church [Acts 11]. Then in Acts 13, they are preaching the gospel to the civilized world; to Pisidian Antioch, to Ephesus, to Athens, the intellectual center of all humanity, and finally to Rome itself [Acts 13-28]. And they preached that message with unswerving devotion, uncompromising conviction.
Look at that text: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name given under heaven among men, whereby we must be saved” [Acts 4:12]. Look at a like text from our Lord in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life”; not an optional way or an optional truth or an optional life, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me” [John 14:6]. They confronted Athenian philosophy with that one message. They confronted Roman idolatry with that one message. And they confronted Talmudic legalism with that one message. There is no other way whereby we can be saved [Acts 4:12; John 14:6].
We now look at the modern church as it confronts this new age and twentieth century generation in which we live. What kind of conviction and dedication do you see in the spectrum of the whole Christian church? Not just the fundamental wing of it, but looking at the whole Christian church, what kind of a world does the church face today, with what kind of conviction and what kind of a message? It would be easy for a blind man to answer that. We face a world where dogma is decried, conviction is discredited, belief is discarded. We’re not to be sure about anything, and the man who has a decided and firm belief is looked upon, one who is intellectually fossilized. This man who is not sure of anything is exalted; he’s the pattern of the great broad-mindedness that is to characterize all of our approach to God. And this text is unthinkable in our day, “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” [Acts 4:12]. This text is unthinkable in our day; that there is only one way, and one truth, and one life by which a man can come to know God. And this broad-minded liberalism of this present hour is devastating to the great, worldwide missionary movement, such as we found in that first Christian century.
I am quoting from United States News and World Report; that’s no religious journal, that’s just a weekly news magazine. Listen to it:
It’s a time of mounting pressure against missionaries. Long the vanguard of Western enlightenment in Asia and Africa, countries they helped bring to nationhood now are expelling them as nationalizing Christian beliefs with an infusion of pagan customs. At home too, the missionary is under fire from churchmen who say his day is finished.
Then naming a great theologian, he made this address at an interfaith conference discussing missions, quote:
The era of the foreign missionary involvement is definitely over, because the goals and objectives of that movement are no longer valid. There has been a widespread assumption that the church was destined to convert the entire human race to Christianity. This must be rejected as a valid goal, because it has no biblical foundation—
This is a theologian in the church who was speaking—
I suggest that the church voluntarily dismantle our present missionary organization and structure
[It] has no place either in the Word of God or in the great assignment of heaven to us, the conversion of the lost. And not only does that devastate the missionary movement, but it disintegrates the very fabric of theology itself, the revealed truth of God itself. I’m quoting now from another esteemed theologian. Listen to him:
Much theology is projected fantasy. Religion, all religion, is nothing more than a heritage by which a community of believers shares the crises of life, and celebrates nature’s time table of the seasons.
Man is part of the world of nature, that is all. Written theology, such as Dr. Merrill would teach in the seminary:
Written theology, the collocation in reasonable form of what all is taught in the Bible, written theology, a book on theology is a linear typographical thing, and all of that has exploded. We live in the time of the death of God.
You stagger at the inroads of rationalism, and liberalism, and so-called “broad-mindedness” by which the modern church faces this lost and darkened world.
Think of the sound of this text, the ring of the text, the thought that lies back of the text, the substance of the text, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” [Acts 4:12]. So we shall look at it together; there are three ways of broad-mindedness and narrowness of mind by which we can confront the world and all of the truth therein. In two of those ways, we ought to be broad-minded; but in one of them, we ought to be narrow in the extreme.
These are the two ways in which a man ought to be broad-minded as he looks at the world. One: we ought to be broad-minded in our sympathies. There are no people for whom our prayers ought not to be offered unto God. There is no sorrow, or poverty, or need, or distress that ought not to find sympathetic repercussion in our hearts. Wherever men are, wherever families live, there we ought to extend the loving, tender hand of our saving Lord. For His sake—loving the world as God did for our sakes [John 3:16]—in that sense we ought to be broad-minded in our great, and vast, and worldwide sympathies.
Number two: we ought to be broad-minded in our horizons. As we look at truth, it ought always to be in relation; it ought to be in relation to the whole world. It ought not ever to be narrow. Let me say it another way, our acceptance of the truth ought never to be based upon ignorance or upon prejudice. Our avowal of the truth, acceptance of the truth, ought to be in perspective, in relationship to the whole world of God, up above, all around, underneath, inside, outside. And we ought never to give ourselves to convictions that are based upon our lack of knowledge, our lack of understanding, our ignorance, or our prejudice. In that second regard, we ought to be broad-minded; looking at God’s truth in relationship to God’s whole world.
But in the third respect; we ought to be as narrow as truth itself; and that is, we ought never to compromise the truth as God has revealed it to us, and especially the truth of the Word of God, because truth is always narrow and circumscribed, always. It is not forensic or debatable or optional; it is always factual and real. Truth is always narrow. For example, mathematical truth is very narrow. It is not subject to debate. Mathematical truth is as narrow as truth itself; two plus two equal four; just one number, four. There are a thousand, thousand, thousand numbers that two plus two does not equal. Error is broad; but truth is narrow.
“Well, you don’t understand me, pastor, I’m a broad-minded man. I’m not mathematical bigot.” So you go down to the bank—and you deposited two dollars in the bank last week, and you deposited two dollars in the bank this week—and you go down there to cash a check for five dollars. And the banker says, “You deposited two dollars last week and two dollars this week, and you got a check here for five dollars; two plus two equal four.” And you say to the banker, “Ha, ha, you bigot. I’m a broad-minded mathematician, to me two plus two equal five; give me that five dollars!” He would look at you as though you had lost your marbles.
Scientific truth is narrow. If it is the truth, if it is factual, it is very narrow. Water freezes at thirty-two degrees Fahrenheit. But here’s a fellow on a bridge, about two feet above the water, and it is forty degrees. And he says, “I’m one of these broad-minded individuals. To me, water freezes at forty degrees, and it is now forty degrees.” So he steps off the bridge into the water. He’s a broad-minded individual. He’s no scientific bigot.
Historical truth is narrow. A certain thing happens in a certain century, at a certain place; very narrow. “But I’m no historical bigot. Why I think it happens in any century, and in any place. For example, let’s you and I go downtown and visit Julius Caesar. Let’s talk to that great founder of the Roman Empire.” You know, they’d take you to the funny farm. It is very narrow.
Geographical truth is narrow, very narrow. “But I’m no geographical bigot. You know, they speak of the Gulf Stream as flowing through the great Atlantic Ocean, and bathing the shores of England. But I’m no geographical bigot. To me, in all of the liberty and broad-mindedness of my understanding, the Gulf Stream flows from the islands of Hawaii up through the Pacific and bathes the shores of Japan.” Can you imagine such things as these? Truth is always narrow, always. It is always factual, always real, and always narrow; that narrowness of geographical truth.
Oh! I remember reading some time ago, when people rode on trains. I remember a mother holding in her arms a little baby. The train was going through those vast, flat prairies of Kansas. It was the dead of the winter and there was a howling blizzard on the outside of that train; snow falling, blinding cold, with a howling wind sweeping out of the north. She was to get off, this mother and baby, at a little station on those vast, flat plains called Prairieview. And because of the howling storm, and the blotting out of the vision by the snow, she became apparently anxious about knowing the station at which she should get off of the train. There was a kind gentleman there, a gracious gentleman who, seeing her anxiety spoke to her and said, “Sweet mother, you don’t need to be anxious. I ride this train over this vast Kansas prairie all the time. And I know exactly where the little town of Prairieview is. And when we come to it, I will tell you. And then you can get off.” So the train, riding through that awful blizzard, came to a stop. And the kind gentleman said to the sweet mother and little baby, “This is Prairieview,” and he helped her off the train. And the minute she stepped off, the train left.
And going miles and miles down the track, the conductor came back and he looked around, and finally he said aloud, “Where is that mother with her baby who was to get off at the little station of Prairieview? I can’t find her.” And that gentleman spoke up and said, “Why, she got off at Prairieview, at the last station, when the train stopped.” And the conductor replied, “Then she got off to her death! For the train stopped at a switch, and we’re just now coming to Prairieview.” And I thought of that poor mother, with the babe in her arms, left as the train pulled out on a switch, on a siding, in that vast prairie with a blinding blizzard all around her. Truth is narrow, wherever you find it. Whether it be mathematical truth, or whether it be historical truth, or whether it be scientific truth, or whether it be geographical truth, it is narrow.
And how is it then that we can come to the greatest truth in human life for our souls, for our destiny, for our eternity, and then stand to say, “But I am broad-minded. God may have spoken these things, but I am broad-minded. There’s not just one name where a man can be saved; there are a hundred names. Why, there is Mohammed; a man can be saved by Mohammed. Or there is Buddha; a man can be saved by Buddha. Or there is all of those vast backgrounds of Krishna, and the three hundred thirty million manifestations of Krishna in Hindu religion.” Or coming down to us in America; it is optional whether a man accepts Jesus as his Savior or not. We live in a broad-minded spectrum; this is a new and an intellectual day.
What am I going to do with these plain passages in the Word of God? “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son hath not life; but the wrath of God abideth upon him” [John 3:36]. What shall I do? Or what shall I do with that message of this same Bible, when Paul was preaching to those Athenian philosophers in Athens:
The time of this past not knowing, God overlooked; but now commandeth all men every where to repent. In that He has set a day when He will judge the world in righteousness, by that Man whom He hath raised from the dead; even Jesus Christ…For there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
[Acts 17:30-31, 4:12]
In Him we come to know God [John 14:7-10]; in Him our sins are dealt with [1 Corinthians 15:3, 1 John 1:9]; in Him we have the Holy Spirit of heaven [John 16:7-15]; and in Him we have assurance of the world that is to come [John 3:16, 10:27-30, 14:2-3]. But outside of Him, we are lost in speculation and hesitation; we are lost in the darkness of this world [Ephesians 2:12, 4:18]. Invincible conviction; that was the message of the church in its first Christian century [Acts 4:12, 29-31]. That has been the true message of the minister of God through all of the generations since, and if we are true to the revelation of our Lord, it is our message today.
Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
[“Are You Washed in the Blood of the Lamb?”; Elisha Hoffman]
There is no other way to be saved. I am either saved in Christ or I am lost in rejection [Acts 4:12; John 14:6]. I have found a new life in Him, or I grovel in the darkness of this world. It is that simple. It is that plain. It is that true.
And that’s our invitation to you this day. Accepting the Lord for all that He promised to be, believing in Him for all that He is, and giving my life to Him in a devotion that God has promised to sanctify and to bless. “This day, this day I answer the call of God with my life, and I’m coming. I want to be numbered among God’s redeemed [1 Peter 1:18-19]. I want my name written up there in the Book of Life [Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27]. I want to share in the preaching of the gospel, the saving message in the world; and I’m coming.”
Some of you, accepting Christ as Savior, “Here I am, pastor” [Romans 10:9-13]. Some of you coming into the fellowship of the church, “Put my name down among those who love the Lord, who pray to Him, and who believe in His saving grace” [Ephesians 2:8]. As God shall press the appeal to your heart, answer now, come now. On the first note of the first stanza, may angels attend you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
CONVICTION CONCERNING CHRIST
I. New Testament Christianity in the
A. Was of all things
The commissions of Christ (Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:14, Luke 24:47, John 20:31, Acts
The obedience of the apostles (Acts 2:31-60, 8:4-8, 10:11, 11:19, 13:2)
substance of the preached message (Matthew 3, John 3:3, Acts 2:38, Acts 4:12,
10:32, 11:14, 17:30-31, Isaiah :1)
B. Was zealously narrow
with the Roman Empire
II. New Testament Christianity confronts
the modern world
A. Demanded to be
liberal and broad-minded
B. The heresy of
C. Modern rationalism
III. Our dedication to the truth
A. We ought to be broad
in our sympathies
B. We ought to be broad
in our horizons, perspective