The Message of Salvation
March 20th, 1977 @ 10:50 AM
THE MESSAGE OF SALVATION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-20-77 10:50 a.m.
Once again we welcome you who are sharing with us this service on television and on radio. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Message of Salvation. This Sunday concludes our eight days of Good News Dallas Revival, our living proof, soul-winning appeal. And we are believing that God will crown this service as He has all the rest of them with a beautiful and precious harvest. Tonight at six thirty, our baptismal service and at seven o’clock the message of the pastor entitled The Harvest is Past; the summer has ended and some of us are not saved.
In the eighth chapter of the Book of Acts:
And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying –
and what an amazing come to pass. Philip was in the midst of a tremendous revival meeting in Samaria [Acts 8:5-12], and while he was at the height of that incomparable outpouring of the saving grace of God in Samaria, the Lord said to him –
Arise, and go down into the desert, into Gaza –
They pronounce it Gahza today –
And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship –
I like that old English, King James, Shakespearean language –
he had come to Jerusalem for to worship, he was returning, and sitting in his chariot read 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, Understandest thou what thou readest?
And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would 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 [Isaiah 53:7-8] –
He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and as a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened He not His mouth:
In His humiliation His judgment was taken away: and who shall declare His generation? For His life is taken from the earth.
And the eunuch answered and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? Is he talking about himself, or of 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: and 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 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 praising God and rejoicing in the Lord.
That’s a marvelous story and is the beginning of the Ethiopian church called the Coptic Church. You have the introduction here of a man, and a sad and pitiful man he is. One of the attendant curses of the Oriental harem was the ever-present eunuch. And this Ethiopian was a victim of that terrible institution. He was an emasculated man. He was a dry root. He was a withered branch with no hope forever of family or issue or posterity. He must have been a very gifted man. Daniel was a eunuch. The three Hebrew children were eunuchs [Daniel 1:3, 6-7]. And this man must have been a gifted man like Daniel, for he had charge of all of the treasury of the nation [Acts 8:27]. In England, they would have called him the chancellor of the exchequer. In the United States, we would call him the secretary of the treasury; a man of great importance and influence. He must also have been a man with spiritual hunger in his heart. In some way that we do not know, he had been won to the truth of the Scriptures. He had made his way to Jerusalem; there to call upon the name of the true God, and in a way that we do not know, he came into the possession of a precious scroll, the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.
And returning back to his native land, seated in his chariot, he was reading out loud the prophet Isaiah [Isaiah 53:7-8; Acts 8:28-33]. Haven’t I told you a thousand times every syllable in the Bible was to be written to be read out loud? Before the printing press, a scroll was precious. And the Bible was read out loud, always; never any other way. He was seated there in the chariot reading the scroll of Isaiah and had come to chapter fifty-three. The Lord had taken pity and compassionate grace [was] extended toward that eunuch, and had commanded Philip, a deacon evangelist, a deacon lay preacher, to stand by the road in the desert, because God knew that eunuch would be passing by. And the Spirit of the Lord said, “Join yourself to the chariot” [Acts 8:29], and walking along, he was listening to the eunuch read the prophet Isaiah. And then he said, “Do you understand what you read?” [Acts 8:30]. And the eunuch said, “I do not, nor can I except some man should guide me” [Acts 8:31]. So, he invited Philip, the deacon, to sit with him in the chariot, and as the driver drove along, they began to look at that scroll, the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah [Isaiah 53:7-8], and when the eunuch said, “Of whom speaketh the prophet this” [Acts 8:34], the Book says, “Philip opened his mouth, and began in the same Scripture, and preached unto him Jesus” [Acts 8:35]. Preached unto him the good news, preached unto him the gospel.
What is the gospel? What is the good news? The inspired record says it’s Jesus; the good news, the gospel is Jesus. When we send out a missionary to preach the gospel, what does he preach? When a man stands in the pulpit and preaches the gospel, what does he preach? We have an inspired answer to that, for in the fifteenth chapter of the first Corinthian letter; which many scholars say is the high-water mark of all inspiration; in the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul begins that resurrection chapter like this: “Brethren, I declare unto you, I make known unto you; I delineate for you, I define for you the gospel which I preached unto you . . . by which ye also are saved, namely, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures: He was buried, and the third day, He was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures” [1 Corinthians 15:1-4]. What is the gospel message? It is Jesus and Jesus only. It is Jesus born of a virgin [Matthew 1:23]. It is Jesus ministering to the people [Matthew 11:4-6, 15:30-31, 20:28]. It is Jesus dying on the cross [Matthew 27:46-50]. It is Jesus buried in the tomb [Matthew 27:57-60]. It is Jesus raised from the dead [Matthew 28:5-7]. It is Jesus ascended into heaven [Acts 1:9-10]. It is Jesus at the right hand of God, our mighty Mediator and Intercessor [Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25]. And it is Jesus coming again someday for His own [Acts 1:11; John 14:2-37]. The gospel message is Jesus [Acts 8:35].
One of the most moving stories I ever heard about Dr. Truett came from a man who had been with him in India. In the years gone by, my great and famous predecessor, Dr. Truett, was sent on a preaching mission around the world and finally came to that vast, populated subcontinent called India. There in that nation, he was invited to preach to a state university, but before he came to the school, he was warned of the reception he would most certainly receive in that hostile environment. “There are Brahmans there, and there are intellectuals there, and when you are done preaching,” they said to the pastor, “they will accost you in the message you’ve delivered. And they will ask you questions that are difficult to answer, and they will contradict and interdict everything that you’ve said. And don’t be upset; and don’t be surprised at the reception that you will receive.” So Dr. Truett prayed and he prayed and the time came when he stood before the university to deliver God’s message about Jesus. And when he had done delivering that sermon, as only Dr. Truett could ever deliver it, he sat down, and the president of the school stood behind the platform desk waiting for the reply. But he waited, and there was nothing but a long and interminable silence. Finally, a Brahman stood up, and addressing the president, said, “Sir, we have nothing against the Christ this man has preached.” “I find no fault in Him at all” [John 18:38].
How much we can say against the church and the people in it? How much criticism, and much of it justly said, against the way we live and do His work in the earth? But it is difficult to find fault with the Son of God. That is the gospel message. It is Jesus. And beginning at the same verse at the same Scripture, he preached unto him Jesus [Acts 8:35].
Second, the great plan of salvation is Jesus. Always and without variation in the Bible, wherever God tells a man how to be saved, he points to the Lord Jesus. There is no other thing, there is no other Scripture, there is no other way [John 14:6; Acts 4:12]. It is always that and the same, pointing to Jesus. Look to Jesus! The great plan of salvation is Jesus [Acts 8:35, 37].
I one time had a man describe for me a cathedral that he had visited in Europe. It was unusual. He said to me that at the front of the cathedral was a statue of our Lord Christ Jesus. Then he said all the way around the great sanctuary, there were statues of the patriarchs and the prophets and the apostles. And he said to me that they were arranged like this: over here would be a statue of Jacob whom God named Israel. And on the base of the statue would be a word from the Scripture like this: “He shall not have fail of a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto Him shall the gathering of the people be” [Genesis :10]. And then next to him would be a statue of Job, and on the base, the Scripture written: “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that in the latter day He shall stand upon the earth” [Job 19:25]. And next to him, the prophet Isaiah: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all” [Isaiah 53:6]. And next to him would be the statue of John the Baptist: “Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world” [John 1:29]. And next to him a statue of 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 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].
That, I thought, was one of the most beautiful things I could ever have imagined. The whole Word of God points to Jesus, and there is no place in the Bible where God tells a man how to be saved, but that He does it pointing to Jesus. “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But unto as many as received Him, to them gave He the right to become the children of God, even to them that trust in His name” [John 1:11-12]. “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness [Numbers 21:8-9], even so must the Son of Man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal, unending, enduring, everlasting life” [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]. As Paul wrote in our passage, “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” [Romans 10:9-10]. Always it is Jesus. The great message of the gospel is Jesus [Acts 8:35, 37]. And the simple plan of salvation always is Jesus.
Third: the great soul-determining act of conversion is the simple thing of committing your life and destiny to Jesus [Acts 16:31]. One time, I bowed my head before the Lord and said, “Lord, what is it, saving faith to believe?” The Bible says – James says – “The devils believe, and tremble” [James 2:19]. What is it to believe a saving faith? And the Lord answered that prayer with a Scripture. In 2 Timothy 1:12:
For I know whom I have believed” –
And that’s my word; faith, trust, belief –
For I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.
Believing faith, saving faith is the committal of your life to Him. And lest one might say, “Well, how unusual”; no, for all of life is just that; it is a committal of faith daily, hourly. You drive down the highway across one bridge after another; you never get out to look at the supports of the bridge. You have faith in the highway department that built it, and you drive over it; not thinking, just trusting. A pharmacist gives you a vial of medicine; you don’t know actually what’s in it, he did it, but you trust him, and by faith you take the prescription. When you get in an airplane, it is an unusual one amongst us that knows all of that vast array of gadgets on that panel, but we just sit there trusting that pilot by faith. Maybe the time comes for the surgeon to operate, and you commit your life literally into his hands, by faith.
When I was a little boy living on a farm, a large abscess developed in my body, and thin and emaciated and unable to walk, my mother took me to the nearest large town, which was Trinidad, Colorado. And there she placed me in the hospital, and a doctor came, a surgeon by the name of Friedenthal, Dr. Friedenthal. He was a Jewish physician, a Jewish surgeon, and mother told him all about me and placed me in his hands. And that doctor, taking me to the operating room, put me to sleep under an anesthetic and operated. I didn’t know him, nor did my mother. But seeking someone who could help me be well, she carried me in her arms and trusted that physician. How completely in his hands, and it was that same mother who in a revival meeting turned to me and said with tears, “Son, today, will you trust Jesus as your Savior?” And I replied, “Mother, today, I will trust Jesus as my Savior.”
That’s what it is to be a Christian. It is the committal of your life to Him. And when I die, that same committal will bring peace and assurance to my soul: “Lord Jesus, into Thy hands do I commit my soul. Take care of me, Lord, and save me,” and He will. The great act of conversion is this simple committal of your life in His care and His keeping.
The entrance into the church is in obedience to a great commandment of our Lord Jesus. He had said, “Go, and make disciples of all the people, baptizing them in the name of the Triune God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” [Matthew 28:19]. And in keeping with that commandment of the blessed Jesus, preaching to him Jesus, he preached to him about the church, the body of our Lord, and the ordinance of baptism [Acts 8:35-38]. “By one Spirit are we all baptized into the body of Christ” [1 Corinthians 12:13]. And by that same commandment, are we all baptized into the fellowship and communion of the saints, baptized in water into the fellowship of the church [Matthew 28:19-20], baptized by that same Spirit and made a member of the body of Christ [1 Corinthians 12:13]. And as they went on their way, the eunuch said, “Look, look, look! Here is water. I want to be baptized!” And Philip said, “If you believe, commit your heart, trust, you may.” And that Ethiopian replied, “I have! I do take the Lord as my Savior. I do trust Him and commit my life to Him. I want to be baptized” [Acts 8:36-37]. They commanded the chariot to stand still, and both of them went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he buried him in the likeness of the death of our Savior and raised him in the likeness of His glorious resurrection, baptized into the fellowship of the church [Acts 8:38; Romans 6:3-5]. Why, man, we can’t do much for God. He said, “If I were hungry, I would not tell thee [Psalm 50:12]. The cattle on a thousand hills are Mine [Matthew 50:10]; the gold and the silver is Mine” [Haggai 2:8]. We can’t do much for God. But what we can do, let’s do. I can be baptized. He asked me to be baptized [Matthew 28:19-20], and I can be baptized just like that eunuch [Acts 8:38] – Buried and raised, added to the body of our Lord, baptized into the fellowship of His people.
And do you notice how the beautiful story ends? “The Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way, rejoicing” [Acts 8:39]. Glory to God! O, bless the name of Jesus; happy in the Lord. The abundant life is always the Christian life. The happy life, the life of assurance and rest and peace is always the Christian life. And he went on his way rejoicing.
I heard about an old, old story,
Of a Savior who came down from glory,
How He gave His life on Calvary
To save a wretch like me;
I heard about His groaning,
And His precious blood’s atoning,
And then I repented of my sin
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,” by Eugene Monroe Bartlett, 1939]
O, glory! Bless His name! And he went away rejoicing [Acts 8:39]. That’s the abundant life, the happy life, the beautiful life, the God-blessed life. It’s in Jesus. And He is ours, knocking at the door of our hearts, and says if you will open the door, I will come in and sup with you, and you with Me [Revelation 3:20]. I will stand by you in the hour of trial. I will guide you with My unerring eye [Psalm 32:8]. I will lead you into heaven. What preciousness God hath given to us, we who look in faith and trust and committal to the Lord Jesus [Ephesians 2:8]. And that is our appeal to you today.
In a moment, we stand to sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing it, to trust in the Lord, to commit your life to God; would you come and stand by me? In the balcony round, the throng seated; the press of people on this lower floor; down one of these stairways, walking down one of these aisles, “Pastor, today, I give my heart in trust to Christ, and here I come.” Bring the whole family with you; “Pastor, we are all coming today.” Just a couple you, or just one somebody you, make the decision now in your heart, and in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up walking down that stairway, walking down this aisle, “I’m on the way, pastor, here I am.” May angels attend you and God strengthen you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.