The Message of Salvation
March 20th, 1977 @ 8:15 AM
THE MESSAGE OF SALVATION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-20-77 8:15 a.m.
Now the message today; this is the last day of our Good News Dallas Revival, our living proof, soul-winning campaign, and our sermon is from the eighth chapter of the Book of Acts, Acts chapter 8, beginning at verse 26:
And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip –
who was in a revival meeting in Samaria [Acts 8:5-12]. In the midst of that revival, this is what God said to him –
Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza –
they pronounce that Gah-za today –
And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, a man who had charge of all her treasury, had come to Jerusalem for to worship,
He was returning, and sitting in his chariot was reading Isaiah the prophet.
Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.
And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Isaiah, and said, Do you understand what you are reading?
And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he invited Philip that he come up and sit with him.
The place of the Scripture which he read was this –
he was reading the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah –
. . . And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? –
Is he talking about himself when the prophet says, All we like sheep have gone astray, and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all? Is he talking about himself or is he talking about some other man?
Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same Scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
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 said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus the Christ is the Son of God.
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, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.
You have a story here that arises out of the attending curse of the Oriental harem – that is the ever present eunuch. And this Ethiopian was a victim of that terrible institution. He was an emasculated man; he was a dry stick; he was a withered branch with no hope of posterity or family or issue. He must have been a man of great gifts, for even though he was an eunuch – like Daniel was an eunuch; like the Hebrew children were eunuchs [Daniel 1:3, 6-7] – even though he was a eunuch, he must have been endowed as Daniel was. He had charge of all of the finances of the nation of Ethiopia; what we would call today in the British Empire, the chancellor of the exchequer, or in the United States the secretary of the treasury. But he also was something else. He had a heart hunger for spiritual truth. In some way that we do not know, he had been won to the faith of the Scriptures. And in a way that we do not know, he had come into possession of a precious scroll in Jerusalem. And returning to his capital city in Ethiopia, he was seated in his chariot reading out loud [Acts 8:28-33].
I thought I would tell you many times, all of the Bible was written to be read out loud, all of it, every syllable of it. They didn’t have printing presses, and the Bible was written to be read out loud. It was a precious thing, a scroll. And he was reading out loud as he turned the scroll and had come to the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah [Isaiah 53:7-8; Acts 8:32-33]. It was then that God, having in His compassion and pity, sent this deacon preacher; whom they later called an evangelist; it was then that God sent Philip, who was standing in that place where the treasurer would pass by – God said to him, “Join yourself to that chariot” [Acts 8:29]. And he came and began to walk by the side and said to the eunuch as he read, “Do you understand what you are reading?” [Acts 8:30]. And the eunuch said, “I cannot. I do not know what the prophet is talking about. “Somebody to take our sins away [Isaiah 53:6, 10], by whose stripes we are healed [Isaiah 53:5], when God shall see the travail of His soul and shall be satisfied [Isaiah 53:11]; I do not understand, would God I had someone to teach me.” And he invited Philip, the deacon, the lay-preacher to come and sit by his side. And beginning at that same Scripture, he preached unto him Jesus” [Acts 8:3-5].
First: the gospel message then is Jesus. The gospel, the good news; what is the good news? It’s Jesus. When a man preaches the gospel, what does he preach? When we send a missionary across the seas to preach the gospel, what does he preach? Paul defines the gospel by inspiration. He begins the incomparable – there are many scholars who say that this chapter is the high watermark of all revelation – he begins the fifteenth chapter of the first Corinthian letter with a definition of the gospel. “Brethren, I make known unto you” – I define for you – “the gospel . . . by which ye are saved” [1 Corinthians 15:1-2].
Well, what is it? “How that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” [1 Corinthians 15:3-4]. When a man preaches the gospel, that’s what he preaches; he preaches Jesus. Jesus, born of a virgin [Matthew 1:23]; Jesus, ministering to the people [Matthew 11:4-6, 15:30-31, 20:28]; Jesus, dying on the cross [Matthew 27:46-50]; Jesus, buried in the tomb [Matthew 27:57-60]; Jesus, raised from among the dead [Matthew 28:5-7]; Jesus, ascending into heaven [Acts 1:9-10]; Jesus, at the right hand of God, our Intercessor and Mediator [Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25]; and Jesus, coming again [Acts 1:11; John 14:2-3]. That is the gospel, “and he preached unto him Jesus.”
Let me tell you one of the most poignant stories I ever stumbled into about Dr. Truett, my great predecessor. In his ministry he made a trip, a preaching mission, around the world, and came to India, and in that populous subcontinent was invited to preach at one of the state universities in India. Before he came to speak, one of the men said to Dr. Truett, “Now prepare yourself for a scathing rejoinder. The Brahman priests will be there. The intellectuals of Hinduism will be there. And when you present your message, it will be in a hostile atmosphere, so do not be offended because after you speak, they will ask the president of the university for the privilege to answer you, to ask you questions, and it will be a very trying hour.” Dr. Truett prayed and when the hour came presented the message of Christ as only he could do. And when he finished his message and was seated, the president stood behind the pulpit desk and waited. There was a great silence. Eventually, a Brahman stood up, and addressing the president of the university, said, “Sir, we have nothing against the Christ that man has preached.” It is indeed difficult for any man of any persuasion to find fault with Him. As Pilate said, “I find in Him no fault” [John 19:4].
Wouldn’t it be great if we could present the glory and the beauty of our Lord in all of our ministries? It’s a seldom thing that we bog down in the quagmire and the miasma and the swamp of the things that afflict us in the church if we can only keep our eyes upon the Lord. “And he preached unto him Jesus” [Acts 8:35]. That is the gospel, and when a man preaches the gospel, that’s what he preaches; he preaches the Lord Jesus.
Will you notice again – “And he preached unto Him Jesus” – will you notice number two? This is the plan of salvation: Jesus [John 14:6; Acts 4:12]. Not some philosophical, speculative approach to all the things that afflict us and all of the panaceas for our deliverance from them. No! The great plan of salvation is this: it is Jesus [Acts 8:37]. Could I say not a plan or a program, but a person? It is Jesus. All of our hope is in Him. And if you carefully look to the Holy Scriptures, you will find that inevitably and always they point toward Him; Him, always toward Him, Jesus.
I one time had a man describe for me a cathedral that he had visited in Europe. He said it was an unusual house of worship. He said there at the front of the sanctuary was a statue of the Lord Jesus. And all the way around the sanctuary, there were statues of the great patriarchs and prophets and apostles of the Holy Scriptures, pointing toward Him. And on the base of the statues were the words that they were saying. For example, he told me, here was a statue of Jacob, and on the base, the passage: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto Him shall the gathering of the people be” [Genesis :10]. And then around a statue of the patriarch Job: “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that in the latter day He shall stand upon the earth” [Job 19:25]. And then, the statue of Isaiah the prophet: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all” [Isaiah 53:6]. And next to him, John the Baptist: “Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world” [John 1:29]. And next to him, Simon Peter: “To Him give all the prophets witness, that through faith in His name, we should receive remission of sins” [Acts 10:43]. And next to him, the apostle Paul: “God hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be [made] the righteousness of God in Him” [2 Corinthians 5:21]. And next to him, the sainted apostle John: “Unto Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood . . . unto Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” [Revelation 1:5-6]. Isn’t that the finest thing that ever could be described for you? And this is the witness of all of the saints of God through the ages. The gospel is Jesus. And the plan of salvation is Jesus. You could take every place in the Bible where it says how a man is to be saved; it is Jesus. “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But to as many as received Him, to them gave He the right” – the privilege, the prerogative – “to become the children of God, even to them that trust in His name” [John 1:11-12]; Jesus. “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness [Numbers 21:8-9], so must the Son of Man be lifted up: That whosoever beileveth in Him should not perish, but have eternal, unending, everlasting life; Jesus” [John 3:14-15].
“What must I do to be saved?” [Acts 16:30]. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” [Acts 16:31]. “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in thine heart that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved”; Jesus [Romans 10:9-10]. Always one message, always one hope, always one faith, always that one Lord: “And he preached unto Him Jesus” [Acts 8:35].
Will you notice again; the great act of conversion is the acceptance of Jesus? “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” [Acts 8:31]. One time, I bowed my head before the Lord, “Lord, what is saving faith?” Believe, trust in the Lord, have faith in the Lord, and thou shalt be saved. What kind of belief is that? What kind of faith is that? James says that the devils believe, and tremble, but they are lost [James 2:19]. What kind of faith is saving faith? What kind of belief is converting belief? Lord, what? And God answered in the Book: 2 Timothy 1:12, “For I know whom I have believed,” and that was my word. What does belief, saving belief, mean? “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have commited unto Him against that day” [2 Timothy 1:12]. And that was God’s answer to my heart. What is saving faith? It is the committal of your life, and your soul, and your destiny to the blessed Jesus. That’s what it is to be a Christian. That’s what it is to be converted. That’s what it is to be saved; to commit your life to the Lord Jesus. And I see that demonstrated everywhere in all of our lives. In fact, we live lives of faith. Even though many people are hesitant to give God the honor – “I trust Thee, and live in Thee” – yet they cannot escape the life of faith.
When I was a little fellow living on a farm, a little boy, I developed a very serious abscess in my body, very serious. And my mother took me – because the nearest town of size was Trinidad, Colorado – my mother took me to Trinidad, Colorado, and put me in the hospital in Trinidad. We went up there on a train; she carried me in her arms; I can well remember my mother’s arms carrying me in that affliction. And she took me to a doctor there named Friedenthal, Dr. Friedenthal, a Jewish physician; Dr. Friedenthal. And she told the doctor about me, and they set the time for the operation and took me on that little table and into the operating room and put me to sleep and operated. I never saw that man before, nor did my mother; but she told me that this man would make me well. And she trusted me into his hands. It was that same mother who, when we went to the revival service, turned to me and said, “Son, will you trust the Lord Jesus this day as your Savior?” I said, “Mother, I will.” And I committed my heart to Him, trusting Him. That is what it is to be saved. It is a committal of your life to Him [Romans 10:9-10]. And it shall be that in the hour of my death, “Lord, into Thy hands I commit my soul.” And I trust Him, believe in Him, to see me through.
Why, you live a life like that. Did you ever get in an airplane? All of those instruments on that panel? I would be lost without that pilot. But I trust him. And I sit down there in the airplane, and he calls over the P.A. system, “Beautiful weather; we’re going to be on time; be seated; relax; have a pleasant day and a fine journey.” So I gather together all of those sorry, old worn-out magazines, and I pile them there, and I read all through that stuff and junk and trash and look at it, you know, just think nothing at all because I’m trusting that pilot. Just live a life like that all the day, just like that.
That’s what it is to be saved; the great act of conversion is that simple act of committing your life to the blessed Jesus. I trust Him. Will you notice that the entrance into the church is being baptized in obedience to the command of the Lord Jesus? [Matthew 28:19-20]. “Go,” the Lord said, “into all the world, and preach the gospel” [Mark 16:15]. What was the gospel? The message of Jesus: baptizing your converts in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit [Matthew 28:19]. “And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, Look, here is water; I want to be baptized. And the deacon said, If you believe, if you trust, if you commit your heart to Jesus, you may. And he said, I believe.” Christ is all that He said He was, and able to do all He has promised to do. “I believe He is the Son of God. And they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him” [Acts 8:36-38]. “By one Spirit are we all baptized into the body of Christ” [1 Corinthians 12:13]. And by that same holy ordinance does God join us to the church of the Savior [Matthew 28:19-20]. We are baptized into the fellowship of the Lord; all of us, all of us; and what a privilege. When a man hesitates to be baptized, he hasn’t trusted. He hasn’t believed. He hasn’t committed his life to Christ. But when he has believed in the Lord, that is, committed his life to the Lord, the first thing he’ll want to do, “I want to be baptized.” That’s God, and the Spirit of the Lord leading us in our hearts. I want to be baptized. I want to belong to the fellowship of God’s saints, baptized into the body of Christ.
Just once again, “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” [Acts 8:39]. The happy life, the abundant life, the glory life is following the Lord Jesus; pilgrimaging with the blessed Savior. Do you want to be happy? Let Jesus come into your heart. Do you want to be blessed? Look in faith to the Lord Jesus. Do you want to live an abounding and overflowing life? Trust in the blessed Jesus. “And he went on his way rejoicing” [Acts 8:39].
I heard an old, old story,
Of a Savior that came from glory,
How He gave His life on Calvary
To save a wretch like me;
I heard about His groaning,
Of His precious blood’s atoning,
And I repented of my sins
And won the victory!
Oh, victory in Jesus,
My Savior, forever.
He sought me and bought me
With His redeeming blood;
He loved me e’er I knew Him
And all my love is due Him,
He plunged me to victory,
Beneath the cleansing flood.
[from “Victory in Jesus,” Eugene M. Bartlett, 1939]
“And he went on his way rejoicing” [Acts 8:39]. What a happy story. What a glorious life. What a heavenly providence; the goodness of God to that Ethiopian eunuch. And He is thus good to us, and He is thus good to you. It’s just that we take from God’s gracious, generous hands the gift of salvation [Ephesians 2:8]. “Lord, come into my heart and into my life.” Would you do that this morning? Would you? Not all the world with everything in it is as precious as the gift of life in Christ Jesus. And He is ours for the having, for the asking, for the receiving, for the accepting [Romans 10:13]. Would you do that this morning?
In a moment, we stand to sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing the song, in the balcony round, you; on this lower floor, a family you; a couple you; or just one somebody you, “Pastor, today, I have decided for God. And if I hesitate in my faith and my committal, may God help my unfaith, my lack of faith, my stubborn will that is difficult to break [Mark 9:24]. May God help me, and I’m trusting Him for it. I’m coming.” On the first note of the first stanza, come now, while we stand and while we sing.