What I Must Do To Be Saved
February 20th, 1977 @ 8:15 AM
WHAT I MUST DO TO BE SAVED
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-20-77 8:15 a.m.
On the radio of the city of Dallas, WRR, and on radio of our Bible Institute, KCBI, you are listening to the service of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled What I Must Do to be Saved. In our preaching through the Book of Acts, we are in the middle of the second chapter. And our text before us reads like this, “Therefore,” says Simon Peter, concluding his Pentecostal sermon,
Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, whom ye have crucified—
addressing the very men who had slain the Prince of Glory—
God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now when they heard this, they were stricken, convicted in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? What shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, metanoeō, turn.
There are great scholars who say that the poorest translation in the New Testament is translate metanoeō, “repent.” To us repentance has an overtone of remorse, sorrow in it. There is nothing like that in metanoeō; there is a word for sorrow and remorse, metamelomai; metanoeō has nothing to do with feeling or emotion, it literally means to turn, to change in heart and mind, in direction of life.
Peter said unto them, metanoeō, turn, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ eis, because of, the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this lost, skolias, untoward—
this lost, perverse generation.
Save yourself out of its future judgment and condemnation; how ever they may be lost and how ever they may run into the awesome judgments of Almighty God, you save yourself out of, from among, this judged generation.
Now because the most famous verse in the Bible, quoted by those who believe in baptismal regeneration; that is, that water washes away sins, because in the midst of my passage is this same, is this famous verse of Acts 2:38; I must speak of it first. Then we will come to the message as Simon Peter delivered it on that Pentecostal day. “Simon Peter said unto them,” metanoeō; Turn, turn around; the direction you are going, turn around, face God, “Repent, and be baptized every one in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” [Acts 2:38]. I realize that I will not at all be able to change the mind of any man who believes that water washes our sins away; for he will translate that word eis, “in order to.” “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, in order to the remission of your sins.” And if one believes that water washes sins away, that’s the way he will translate eis, e-i-s, the Greek preposition eis, “in order to the remission of sins.” Yet the Bible plainly, and explicitly, and undeviatingly avows, that it is not water that washes our sins away; it is the blood of Christ that washes our sins away. It is a spiritual thing between us and God in the atoning grace of our Lord, and not anything a man could do for us—such as to baptize us, to wash us with water—would ever suffice to wash the stain of sin out of our hearts. The Bible expressly says, for example in 1 John 1:7, “And the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin.” The Lord, in the institution of the holy memorial supper, said, “This is My blood of the new covenant, shed for the remission of sins” [Matthew 26:28]. But to someone who believes that water, not the blood of Christ, water washes our sins away, I cannot change him.
I just point out to you one thing that is forever true, both in English and in Greek: the word eis, e-i-s, translated here “for,” not only means “in order to” but it also means “because of.” We use it that way in English. For example, “for,” meaning “because of”: this man is decorated for bravery; that is, because he was brave. Or, he was cited for good grades; that is, because of his good grades. Or, this man is greatly exalted among the citizens of his community for his civic work; that is, because of his civic work. For, “because of”; we use it all the time, incessantly like that: this man was electrocuted for murder; that is, because he was a murderer. Or this one was arrested for shoplifting; that is, because of shoplifting.
Now the Greek word e-i-s, the preposition eis, is used that way also throughout the New Testament. For example, in Matthew 10:41-42, “He that receiveth a prophet,” eis a prophet, “shall receive a prophet’s reward,” that is, he that receiveth a prophet, because he is a prophet. . .not because he’s rich, or not because he’s famous, or not because of any remuneration he could offer you, but you take him and receive him just because he is a man of God, “shall receive the man of God’s reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man” eis, the Greek preposition eis, “because he is a righteous man, shall receive a righteous man’s reward” [Matthew 10:41]. And the next verse, “Verily I say unto you, whoever gives one of these little ones in the faith a cup of water only,” cold water, “eis, “in the name of a disciple,” because he is a believer, “verily he shall not lose his reward” [Matthew 10:42]. The word is used throughout the New Testament like that: eis, “because of.”
Look again, in Matthew 12:41, “The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented,” eis—they turned—eis, translated here, “at the preaching of Jonah; they repented,” they turned, eis, “at the preaching of Jonah”; that is, eis, “because of” the preaching of Jonah. Not “in order to,” but always because of, “And behold a greater than Jonah is here” [Matthew 12:41].
So, putting the Bible together in its whole teaching, this is the meaning of that word, preposition, eis: “Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ,” eis, “because of the remission of your sins in His blood, in His atoning grace” [Acts 2:38]. That is what he was preaching about: that they, with cruel hands, had nailed the Prince of Glory to a tree [Acts 2:23]. But it was in the foreordination of God that He should thus die for our sins [1 Peter 1:20], and now God calls us to repent, to turn, to believe in Him; and upon that confession of faith to be baptized every one of us, eis, because of the remission of our sins, and we will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit [Acts 2:38].
You can easily see that, for example, in the tenth chapter of the Book of Acts, when Simon Peter is preaching in Caesarea [Acts 10:34-42], he closes his sermon about the Lord in the household of Cornelius, “To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins” [Acts 10:43], and that concluded it. “Whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins,” and while he spoke that word, the Spirit of God fell upon the hearers [Acts 10:44]. And Simon Peter turned and said,
These have been saved as we; they have received the Holy Spirit as we. Can any forbid water, that they should not also be baptized the same as we?
And they were baptized in water, as a sign of their open confession of faith in the Lord [Acts 10:48]. But it was the blood of Christ; it was the atoning goodness of our Savior that mediated to them the forgiveness of sins [Ephesians 1:7; 1 Peter 1:18-19].
Now having spoken of that verse we turn now to the message, “And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this dying and lost and judgment-bound generation” [Acts 2:40]. This is the gospel that Simon Peter preached. Number one: first, that all of us alike are sinners before God [Romans 3:23]. This is the common ground and the common denominator upon which all men do stand. A thousand times have I been asked, “When you preach over there in the heart of Africa and those heathen animists, who have never even heard the name of Jesus, or when you preached in India,” the nation to whom Dr. Patterson visited about two weeks ago, “or when you preach in Australia, or in the Orient, or among the Stone Age Amazon jungle Indians, what do you do? How do you present the message?” And the answer is simple: I start where all of us stand, on the ground that our hearts condemn us, we are all sinners alike [Romans 3:23]. And when I speak of that, there is something on the inside of every man’s heart that witnesses to its truth: we are all lost sinners before God. We don’t have to be taught to sin, we sin anyway! There is no one that does righteously all the time [Romans 3:10]. We don’t have to be taught to do evil, we do evil naturally; and not only do we do evil naturally, but we also volitionally and knowingly choose evil. All of us experience that, and culture and environment and education cannot change it.
Here is a poor sinner: give him money and the same man will be an affluent sinner. Here is an uneducated sinner: send him to school, and he will be a scholarly and learned and academic sinner. Here is an uncouth, and rude, and crude, and boorish sinner: cultivate him, let him learn the amenities of life, and he will be a cultured and cultivated sinner. Education and environment and culture have no effect upon the sinfulness of our lives. That is first: all of us are lost sinners before God [Romans 3:23; Ezekiel 18:4, 20].
Number two, the message that Peter preached when he exhorted and testified that they save themselves from that dying generation [Acts 2:37-40], number two: as sinners, all of us alike face the death and the judgment of Almighty God. There is no escape. As Hebrews 9:27 writes, “It is appointed unto men once to die,” but that’s not all, “It is appointed unto men once to die,” there’s something else, “and after this the judgment.” All of us some day shall stand at the judgment bar of Almighty God; either at the bema of Christ [2 Corinthians 5:10], or at the great white throne judgment [Revelation 20:11-15]. “It is appointed unto men once to die” [Hebrews 9:27], I face death, inevitable and inexorable. And after that, I must stand in the presence of Almighty God. Revelation 20:15, “And whosoever name was not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” And the previous verse said, “And this is the second death” [Revelation 20:14]. When a man sins, he dies twice: one, he dies in his physical body; number two, if his soul is separated from God, he dies a second death, an eternal death, a spiritual death, a separated death from God [Hebrews 9:27; Revelation 20:14-15]. This is the peril that all men face everywhere.
Number three: the announcement of the good news, of the glory and grace of God in Jesus Christ; God is not against us—God is for us; and always His hands and His arms are extended and open toward us. As Ezekiel 33:11 says:
As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked;
but that the wicked turn from his evil way and live:
turn ye, turn ye, from your evil ways; for why will ye die?
And in Isaiah 1:18:
Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord:
though your sins be as scarlet, they will be as white as snow;
though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
Always and in every generation, in every century, in every millennium, always God provides a way of escape, a way of salvation for a lost, and a sinful, and a judgment-bound man. There is no exception to that.
When God drove out the first parents out of the garden of Eden, He set at the east gate the cherubim [Genesis 3:24]. What were they for? Cherubim in the Bible are always emblems of God’s grace; they were there to teach the man how to come back to God. Always a way of escape and salvation is provided in the love and grace of God for the lost man. Look again; in the day of the judgment of God upon the earth in the Flood, when God told Noah to build the ark [Genesis 6:14], He placed in the ark a wide-open door [Genesis 6:16]. And as Noah built that ark, for a hundred twenty years [Genesis 6:3], he pointed that evil generation to that door in the ark. And any man could walk in, any man could bring his family in, any mother could bring her child in, any father could walk in with his son. God not only provided for the elephants, and the lions, and the zebras, and all of the animals, but He also provided for the people [Genesis 6:17-20]. Any man could walk in—only Noah, and his wife, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and their wives walked in [Genesis 7:7]—and it was God that closed the door [Genesis 7:16]. But for a hundred twenty years while that ark was a-building, Noah pointed to that one hope, and that one way of escape, and any man could have walked in; that’s God, and God’s mercy [1 Peter 3:20].
It is the same in the days of the Passover; it was not just an Israelite that could gather his family together and kill a lamb, and sprinkle the blood on the lentil and on the doorposts, on either side—in the form of a cross [Exodus 12:3-7]—any Egyptian could have done it. Because when the death angel passed over Egypt that night, he was looking for the blood, for the blood; any man could have done that, any man can be saved [Exodus 12:7, 13, 22- 23].
It is the same way when the people were smitten and bitten of those tenuous and fiery serpents and they were dying [Numbers 21:6], and God said to Moses, “Raise a brazen serpent in the midst of the camp, and it shall be, if any man is bitten, if he will look, he will live” [Numbers 21:8]. Any man could look, a passing Midianite who was bitten by a serpent could have looked and lived; always the door is open and the hands of God are outstretched.
Same way about the cities of refuge, they were throughout the whole kingdom, to which a man might flee and live [Numbers 35:6-24; Joshua 20:1-9; Joshua 21:13-39]. When I think of that, I often think of—“O, God! think of the preachers who changed the directions to the cities of refuge; instead of preaching the true faith that only can save us, they changed the direction and people are lost, they don’t know where to flee.” But God placed those cities all throughout the kingdom that a man might escape for his life, running to the cities of refuge. Thus it is, through the centuries; always God’s hands are outstretched and always God makes a way of escape that we might be saved.
And that is the marvelous good news of the announcement of Simon Peter [Acts 2:37-40]: we have a way of escape. The forgiveness of our sins, even though our hands have pressed upon His brow the crown of thorns, and even though our sins nailed Him to the tree [Matthew 27:29-50], yet for us this dying Savior has become the resurrected Prince of Glory [Matthew 28:1-7], and whosoever looks in faith to Him and in trust to Him can be saved [Romans 10:9-13].
As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God so loved the world, that He gave us Jesus, that whosoever trusts in Him, believes in Him, should never, ever perish, but have eternal, undying, unending, everlasting life.
[Numbers 21:8; John 3:14-16]
This is God, and God’s grace extended to every man, extended to you, extended to us.
Now men and brethren, what shall we do? How can I accept that grace and be saved? One: I must listen, I must hear. I must listen not just with my hearing ear; I must also listen with the ears of my heart. I must open my soul upward and God-ward. I must turn aside from the din and the noise of this cheap world with its tinsel rewards, and I must listen for the voice of God; the eternities of the world that really is the true world. As Paul wrote in the tenth chapter of Romans, “Faith cometh by hearing, that is, hearing the word of God” [Romans 10:17]. I must listen. Isaiah, who himself is an evangelist, cried in Isaiah 55:3, “Incline your heart, hear. . .and your soul shall live.” I must listen. I must open my heart God-ward. And if I do, God speaks. The Lord can speak to us as plainly, and as really as you hear my voice with the hearing of a physical ear. God speaks to the soul and to the heart; and you can hear Him. And that is the first thing that I must do to be saved: I must listen to the voice of God [Romans 10:17; Isaiah 55:3].
Number two: I must face Him, I must turn to Him, and that’s the reason I took time to explain that word. “Then Peter said unto them,” metanoeō, “Turn” [Acts 2:38]. I must face God, “Lord, You have a word for me?” And He will always say, “Yes, yes.” I must listen to the voice of God, and I must turn, I must face Him. What does God say to me? God, in His grace and mercy has a wondrous word for every one of us; no one is excluded or forgot. We pay no attention to the sparrows that fall to the ground, but He does. And the Lord said, “Of how much greater worth are ye than many sparrows?” [Matthew 10:29-31]. God will speak to you if you will face Him, turn to Him, “Incline your ear, hear . . . and your soul shall live” [Isaiah 55:3].
Third: what will God say? The Holy Spirit [John 16:13-15], and the Father will always point to the Son, always. “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” [Matthew 3:17]. Or again, “This is My beloved Son . . . hear ye Him [Matthew 17:5] . . . And the Spirit of God will not speak of Himself, but He will take the things of Christ, and show them unto you” [John 16:13-15]. Always, always, God will speak and He will speak, saying, “Listen to My Son. Look to My Son.” And when I do, I find the strangest thing: I may be poor, but He has a wonderful word for me; I may be uneducated, but He has a wonderful word for me; I may come out of the very depths of the ghetto, but He has a wondrous word for me. “Come unto Me”. . .He says, “and take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me”. . .He says, “and ye shall find rest for your souls” [Matthew 11:28-29]. A troubled life? Look to Jesus. A heartbroken spirit? Look to Jesus. A lost sinner? Look to Jesus.
Look and live, my brother, live!
Look to Jesus Christ and live;
‘Tis recorded in His Word, hallelujah!
It is only that you “look and live.”
[“Look and Live,” William A. Ogden, 1887]
So simple yet so mighty because God is in it: I become a Christian [Romans 10:13]—I become born again [John 3:3, 7], my name is enrolled in the Lamb’s Book of Life [Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27]—when? I look in faith and expectancy and in trust to the Lord Jesus [Ephesians 2:8].
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 prerogative, to become the children of God, even to them that trust in His name.
And I am in, I am in the kingdom. I am in the Lord’s goodness, and grace, and forgiveness; I am saved by looking to Jesus [John 3:14-16; Acts 16:30-31]. How could such a thing be? It is because God is in it. He testifies to the saving grace of His Son [Hebrews 10:15-17].
Then after that, to confess the Lord is an open, open gladness and joy. There is not a man here who has been saved but that in all honesty could come down that aisle and give me his hand and say, “Pastor, you know every time you preach a sermon about giving your heart to Jesus, I want to do it all over again.” It is something—a repercussion, a concomitant—that is inevitably following after. When I look in faith to the Lord Jesus, I want to confess His name, to tell the whole wide world, “I have been saved. I have found the Lord.” That’s why Paul wrote it in Romans 10:9 and 10:
If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in thine heart that He lives, that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
For with the heart one believeth unto a God kind of righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation . . .
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
[Romans 10:9-10, 13]
And that’s why the Lord said, “If you confess Me before men, I will confess you before My Father which is in heaven” [Matthew 10:32].
And now you look: “And then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and that day there were three thousand added to the church” [Acts 2:41]; that is, baptism is a way of open confession, “I have put on Christ [Galatians 3:27]. I am a follower of the Lamb [Revelation 5:12]. I have been enrolled in the Lamb’s Book of Life [Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27]. I’ve been saved.” And the sign thereof is our following the Lord in the waters of baptism [Romans 6:3-5]; this is what Simon Peter preached and this is the good news [Acts 2:38]. And this is what every true servant of Christ ought to preach: look to Jesus and be saved [Acts 16:30-31].
May the Lord honor the message this morning with your response, “Pastor, today I accept the Lord Jesus as my Savior [Romans 10:9-13; Ephesians 2:8], and I am coming. In fullness of heart, in happiness, and gladness, and joy of spirit, I’m coming.” Bring your family with you; are you here with your wife? The two of you come. Do you have a little child by your side? As God shall press the appeal to your heart, make the decision now, and in a moment when we stand up to sing our hymn of appeal, stand up, walking down that stairway, walking down this aisle, do it now. On the first note of the first stanza, come. To put your life in the fellowship of the church, to answer God’s call, listening to His voice, “I’ve heard Him call me, pastor, and here I am.” Do it now, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.
MUST DO TO BE SAVED
B. Use and meaning of
the word “for” in Acts 2:38
1. In the Greek
“because of” (Matthew 10:41-42, 12:41, 1 John 1:7)
2. Baptized on
the confession of faith (Acts 10:43-47)
C. “With many other
words” (Acts 2:40)
II. All of us are lost sinners
A. Common ground
B. By nature and by
III. We all face death and judgment
(Hebrews 9:27, Revelation 20:14-15)
A. Physical death
B. Spiritual death – to
die without God
IV. God’s love and grace extended to us all
A. God is for us
(Ezekiel 33:11, Isaiah 1:18)
B. God’s way of
salvation always provided for us (Numbers 21:8)
C. What God has done
for us (John 3:14-16)
V. What we must do
A. Hear (Romans 10:17,
B. Turn (Matthew 3:17,
17:5, John 16:13-14)
C. Accept, believe
(Acts 2:4, Romans 10:9-10)