The Invincible Conviction
May 1st, 1977 @ 10:50 AM
THE INVINCIBLE CONVICTION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-1-77 10:50 a.m.
That is the way we love to hear you sing, as though you believed it and meant it. And that is in keeping with the message that is brought today entitled Invincible Conviction. You are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message which is built upon a text in Acts chapter 4 and verse 12 [Acts 4:12]. In our preaching through the Book of Acts, we are in the fourth chapter. And reading the context, Peter and John going up into the temple see a beggar who all of his life, forty years of age now, all of his life had been lame, born that way. And they laid him each day at that old Zion Gate—the Beautiful Gate of the temple—to beg [Acts 3:1-2]. And Simon Peter in the name of the Lord Christ lifts him up, and the man is strong and whole and well [Acts 3:3-8]. And when the people came together, because this man began to praise God for his healing [Acts 3:9], Simon Peter addresses them [Acts 3:12], and in the sermon he says:
Be it known unto you all, and to all of the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from among the dead, even by Him doth this man stand here before you whole.
This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.
And then 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.
That has a ring of assurance, doesn’t it? And has a ring of conviction. “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]. I would say, having read the Bible as you have, that that text reflects the heart and the spirit of the first Christian church in that first Christian century. They had a prayer, not that God would take away the danger but that they would have boldness in facing it. In this same chapter when they were imprisoned and then beaten and threatened, it says:
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 all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spake the word of God with boldness.
That was the only thing they asked of the Lord, “Just give us boldness, courage to deliver the message” [Acts 4:29]. And they did it just like that. A little band [Acts 1:15], a small band of disciples of the Lord faced a whole world of idolatry, and paganism, and heathenism, and slavery, and imperialism, and oppression [Acts 1:8], and they did it fearlessly with great and invincible conviction. It’s hard to realize that God would match the souls of a little handful of men against the imperial idolatry Caesarism, paganism of the whole world. But that’s God, and that’s these men, and that is this first Christian church.
They had a commission from the Lord. They had a mandate from heaven. They were to make disciples of the whole world [Matthew 28:19-20]. They were to preach the gospel to every creature. This Book of Acts begins in the first chapter with that mandate. “Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and Judea, and Samaria, and unto the ends of the earth” [Acts 1:8]. And in keeping with that mandate, courageously did they begin scattering abroad the message of Christ in Jerusalem in Acts 2 [Acts 2:14-40], in Samaria in Acts 8 [Acts 8:5-25], in Caesarea in Acts 10 [Acts 10:1-48], in Antioch in Acts 11 [Acts 11:19-27], the first place where men out of heathen, pagan idolatry came out of their idolatrous worship into the glorious life of Christ. Heretofore, always they’d been trained in the Mosaic legislation. Every convert before had been either a Jew or a proselyte to the Jewish faith, but in Antioch, Greeks, heathen Greeks, idol-worshipping Greek’s were plucked out of their idolatry into the light of the saving knowledge of Christ [Acts 11:21].
Then in Acts 13, the message is brought to the ends of the earth, the great missionary movement [Acts 13:1-3] that carried it to Pisidian Antioch, to Ephesus, to Athens, that even then was the cultural, intellectual, academic center of the world; to Corinth, the great merchandising city in the Roman Empire, and finally to the imperial city of Rome itself [Acts 13:1-28:31]. And they delivered that message with invincible and uncompromising conviction. Don’t you see the depths of their commitment in that little word that Simon Peter is saying here? “There is salvation in none other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” [Acts 4:12].
And the whole gamut and spectrum of the Christian deliverance is just like that, standing before the Athenian group of philosophers, Stoic, Epicurean, the members of the supreme court in the very heart of the intellectual center of the world [Acts 17:18-33]. Isn’t it a marvelous thing, the advancement that the Greeks made in every area of art and science and literature? After these thousands of years, we’ve never been able to improve upon what those Greeks did. Their architecture, most beautiful in the world, there are no columns in the world comparable to a Corinthian column. There are no temples in the world that can be built that excel in beauty the simplicity of the lines and order of Greek architecture.
It is the same thing in philosophy. There have never been philosophers that even rival those great philosophers of the world of Hellas. Same way in literature; there is no literature that excels that of Homer, Aeschylus, Euripides, Sophocles. Incomparable! And they had the latest science. If you want to learn about the atomic theory of matter and substance, go back and read it in those Greek scientists. Unbelievable! And yet in the midst of that Athenian assembly, the apostle Paul says:
The times of this not knowing—agnoias, ignorance—the time of this not knowing did God overlook; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
For He hath appointed a day, in which He will judge the world by that Man whom He hath raised from the dead.
What a message! And the whole deliverance of the preaching of the gospel of Christ is just like that. There’s no salvation in Athenian philosophy or Greek literature. And there’s no salvation in Roman idolatry, whatever the name of the god. And there is no salvation in Talmudic legalism. There is only one way to be saved, and that is through Jesus Christ the Lord. “There is none other name under heaven given among men” [Acts 4:12].
Now that is the Christianity of the first century. As the church confronted the world of idolatry and slavery and darkness, that was the message that they preached. What does the church do as it confronts this modern age? Its message is so diluted with rationalism and universalism until it is not recognizable, eaten through like a honeycomb, has compromised, destroyed the thrust and the march of the modern Christian day.
Dogma is decried, conviction is discarded, belief is held in the same category as bigotry and narrow-mindedness, in nothing is a man to reach a final conclusion. And the broad-minded fellow, who’s not convinced of anything, believes nothing ultimately or finally, is exalted. And if he did come to believe something, he would be looked upon as an intellectual fossil. You see the vast destruction of that lack of conviction and that so-called broad-mindedness in the destruction of the Christian movement in the world.
The United States News and World Report magazine is not a religious magazine. It is just a reporting magazine. I read from it. 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. Christian beliefs are now diluted with an infusion of pagan customs. At home too, the missionary is under fire from churchmen who say their day is finished.
Then they quote one of the great modern theologians who is speaking at an interfaith conference discussing missions. Now I quote:
The era of the foreign missionary movement 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!
That is unthinkable and unbelievable, “has no biblical foundation” when the whole gospel message is this, “that a man is lost without Christ” [Acts 4:12].
I suggest—and I continue his quotation—I suggest that the church voluntarily dismantle our present missionary organization and structure.
If you assume the foundation upon which that theologian rests, that one religion is as good as another, then there is no reason why the preaching of the gospel in Asia or Africa or in heathen America. If a man can find God in Krishna of Hinduism, or Gautama in Buddhism, or in Mohammad of Muslimism, or in the secular material philosophy of modern America, if he can find God and be saved in those avenues, then there is certainly no reason to preach the gospel of the Son of God. Just let them alone; they’re saved already. But if this text is true, “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], if that is true, then men are lost and nations are lost without Christ. And however you say that philosophically, sociologically, psychologically, any way that you name it, if that is true, the world is lost without Jesus [Acts 4:12].
Not only does that liberalism, and modernism, and rationalism, and broad-mindedness destroy the missionary movement, but it devastates the very preaching of the gospel itself. Theology turns to dust and to ashes. You listen to this distinguished theologian writing today. I quote from 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 and that is all. Written theology—when a man studies the Bible and writes down the great doctrines and precepts of the faith—written theology is a linear typographical thing, and all of that has been exploded. We live in the time of the death of God.
It’s unbelievable against the background of this Book. It is unbelievable what has happened to the modern Christian church.
Now we’re going to look at this thing of broad-mindedness, of modern rationalism, of a failure and a refusal to reach any finality about anything, about conviction, and God and Christ; we’re going to look at it honestly. As we face the world and truth and life—all the gamut and spectrum of whatever we see and know and feel and do—as we look at the whole circumference of life, there are three areas in which we can either be narrow-minded or broad-minded. There are three.
Number one: number one, we ought to be broad-minded. As we look at the world, we ought to be, in the first instance, broad-minded. We ought to be broad-minded in our sympathies. Wherever people are, our hearts ought to go out to them in love and compassionate understanding. Some of them are wretched, and some of them are poor, and some of them are sick, and some of them are degraded, and some of them are under governments that are oppressive, wherever men are in Asia, in Africa, in South America, in North America, in the isles of the sea, we ought to be broad-minded in our sympathies. “God so loved the kosmos, the whole created world, all of it” [John 3:16], and in that sense we ought to be broad-minded; broad-minded in our sympathies.
In the second response we ought to be broad-minded; we ought to be broad-minded in our horizons, in our perception and relationship of truth. A man ought not to base his conclusions upon ignorance and upon prejudice. When we look at the world and all of its life and all that it means, we ought to take into consideration the most broad-minded understanding of which we are capable, never to make our conclusions on things that we don’t know, on our not knowing, upon our ignorance, or upon our basic and small and unforgiveable and carnal prejudices. In that second sense also we are to be broad-minded.
But the third way that we face the world and the truth, in that way we ought to be narrow-minded, and that is in our defense of truth and especially God’s revealed truth. In that sense, we are never to be conviction-less and broad-minded and liberal. We are to be men of narrow-mind, of conviction, of commitment because all truth is narrow; all of it. There is no truth that is not narrow; all of it is narrow. If it is true, it is decidedly narrow. Gives us no room for options; never. For example, mathematical truth; could you imagine anything more narrow than mathematical truth? Two plus two equal four; just one number, one. And there are thousand, thousand, thousand numbers that “two plus two” does not equal. Error is broad, but truth is always narrow.
Then you say I’m not going to be a narrow-minded mathematical bigot. Two plus two to me equals, say, five, not four. So you go down here to the bank and you see Pat Henry and you say, “Pat, I put two dollars in your bank last week and I put two dollars in your bank this week. Now here’s a check for five dollars. I want five dollars.”
And Pat says, “Why, you don’t have but four dollars in this bank. You put two dollars in there last week, and two dollars in there this week and two plus two equals four.”
And he says, “You narrow-minded, mathematical bigot. I’m broad-minded. Two plus two equals five. Give me that five dollars.”
If you did they’d fire you. Narrow. There’s no exception to it.
Scientific truth is narrow and there’s no exception to it. Scientific truth is narrow; never liberal and broad-minded or optional.
See that boy Gene Green there? He had a brother-in-law named Bob Thompson, and those two boys run one of the most interesting companies in this city; all kinds of intricate, scientific developments of printing and pictures and color and all of that. Well, I was looking at that when they were dedicated.
I was looking at that with Bob Thompson, and he had a little old thing there they showed me; an eye scans it. It is made for an electric eye, and he said, “If I miss that line by one one-thousandth of an inch, it won’t work.” Now one one-thousandth of an inch; you ever see such blind, bigoted, narrow-minded men in your life? One one-thousandth. Why, goodness alive. If I were running the thing, I’d say, “If I came within five one-thousandths that’d be good.” And yet he says to me, “If I miss it by one one-thousandths of an inch it won’t work.” Narrow. You know when I get in one of these airplanes, dear me, if that man who scientifically worked out that airplane, didn’t get that wing just so and that tail assembly just so, we’re coming out of the sky. You’re going to pick us up with greasy blotters. It’s just as narrow as it can be. Scientific truth is narrow.
Historical truth is narrow. “Well, I’m not going to be one of those historical bigots that believe that a thing happens just at a certain time and a certain place. Why, how narrow can you be? I’m broad-minded.” It could have happened in any century, in any place. For example, let’s you and I go down here and visit with Julius Caesar; let’s go down there and talk to this founder of the Roman Empire. You know they’d look at you and say, “We’re going to take you to the funny farm.” Just as narrow as it can be; all truth is narrow.
Geographical truth is narrow. If a man were lecturing to his class in school and he says, “Now you know these narrow-minded geographers say that the Gulf Stream flows from the Caribbean up through the Atlantic Ocean, and laves the shores of England and Northern Europe, and makes it habitable, even though it is further north than Labrador; that’s the Gulf Stream,” but this fellow says, “I’m not one of those geographical bigots. Why, to me, I placed the Gulf Stream in the Pacific, and it flows from the islands of Hawaii up north, and laves the shores of Japan and South Korea.” What would you think of a teacher like that? It’s as narrow-minded as fact itself! All truth is like that. It supports, it gives room for no options; it is that way and that way alone, all truth is.
One of the most moving stories I ever heard about occurred back in the day when people rode trains. And this one was heading west across the vast, flat prairies of Kansas. It was in the dead of the winter in a howling, blinding blizzard of a snowstorm. On the train there was a woman with a little baby in her arms. She was going to a place, a little tiny stop on the railroad track called Prairie View. Because of the blinding snowstorm, she became anxious and was visibly so, as to, that she knew the time and the place to get off of the train with the baby in her arms. There was a kindly gentleman in the car who noticed how anxious she was. And he said to her, out of the goodness of his heart, he said, “Sweet mother, I see you’re anxious about how to know when you come to the little place of Prairie View. You can’t see in the blinding storm.” He said, “I ride this train back and forth all the time. I know exactly where we are. And when we come to your little station, I’ll tell you and you don’t have to be anxious anymore.” So the train sped on and finally came to a stop, and the kindly gentleman said to the mother with the babe in her arms, “This is Prairie View.” And he helped her off the train. And the minute she was off the train, the train speeded up and went down the track.
After they’d been speeding down that track for a mile, through that blinding blizzard, the conductor came, and he looked around, and he looked around, and finally he said, “Where is that mother with the little baby in her arms?”
And the gentleman said, “She was getting off at Prairie View, and at the last stop I helped her off the train.”
And the conductor said, “My God, my God, then she got off the train to her death, for that stop of the train was at a switch before a siding, and we’re just now coming to Prairie View!”
Truth is so narrow and so demanding! Now, you know, I just thought and when I think of it I still have that feeling, think of that poor mother with a babe in her arms in a blinding snowstorm and that train speeding away, and she is left at a switch in those broad and desolate prairies. Truth can be so narrow. But it is so vital that we know its factuality and its reality. My brother, if truth in mathematics, and in science, and in history, and in geography is always narrow, don’t persuade yourself that truth becomes any other thing when it pertains to God, and eternity, and heaven, and hell, and our salvation. It is just the same. Truth is always narrow, always and never optional.
It was so in the Old Testament. For one hundred twenty years Noah pointed to that door in the ark; there was one way to be saved, just one way to be saved, just one door, and Noah for one hundred twenty years preached and pointed to that way of escape [Genesis 6:3,12-17]. Most of them laughed. I imagine some thought if anything were to happen, what Noah was preaching, “I’ll climb up to a high mountain and I’ll be perfectly safe.” There is just one way to be safe in the days of the Deluge and that was that door; just one way [Genesis 6:16, 7:23].
It was thus in the days of the Passover in Egypt. God said, “Sprinkle the blood in the form of the cross, on the lintel at the top, on the doorposts on either side, and it shall be if a man is under the blood, he will be saved. He will be saved” [Exodus 12:7, 13, 22-23]. There’s no option; it is that. God said so. Isaiah 45:22: “Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else” [Isaiah 45:22]. Krishna, Mohammad, Shinto, Gautama, philosophy, pseudoscience, these things are lures of Satan to drag us down to damnation and to hell. There is one God [1 Timothy 2:5], and there is one way to be saved and that is through Him [John 14:6].
So it was in the New Testament; they preached, “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life, but the wrath of God abided upon Him” [1 John 5:12; John 3:36]. And my text, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name given to men under heaven, whereby we must be saved” [Acts 4:12]. If I come to God, I must come through Him. He said, “I am he hodos, he alētheia, he zōē; I am the way, the truth, and the life” [John 14:6]. He is not a way—an optional way, a forensic way, a debatable way, one among many ways—He is he hodos—the way, the truth, and the life. And then that ultimate corollary, “And no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me” [John 14:6]. If I am to know God, I must know Him in Jesus Christ [John 14:6, 9]. If I am to be saved, I am to be saved in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ [Acts 4:12]. If I am to have forgiveness of sins, my sins must be washed away in the blood of Jesus Christ [Ephesians 1:7]. And if I have someday a hope to stand in the presence of the great God and live, I must stand there clothed in the righteousness of the faith that comes through Jesus Christ [Ephesians 1:7, 2:8].
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 [John 14:6]. There is no other name given among men under heaven, whereby we must be saved [Acts 4:12]. And that is our appeal to your soul this morning. If the Spirit has opened your heart to the truth, to see the way, to find the life [John 14:6], would you come and stand by me? “Pastor, today, God has spoken to my heart, and I am coming, giving my life in faith to the Lord Jesus, and here I am” [Ephesians 2:8]. Maybe the family of you, placing the circumference of your home to rear your children in the heart of this dear church, you come. A couple you, “We’ve just married; we’re going to have a Christian home, inviting Jesus to be with us every day, walk with us every step of the way, and we’re coming.” As God should lay the appeal upon your heart and bid you here, make the decision now. And in a moment when we stand to sing, stand up, walking down one of these stairways, coming down one of these aisles, “Here I am, preacher, God has spoken to me, and I am answering with my life.” May the angels of heaven attend you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.