What We Must Do to Be Saved
February 20th, 1977 @ 10:50 AM
WHAT WE MUST DO TO BE SAVED
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-20-77 10:50 a.m.
This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas bringing the message entitled What We Must Do to Be Saved. In our preaching through the Book of Acts, we have come to chapter 2, the great Pentecostal chapter. And we are preaching now in the middle of the chapter, and the text begins at verse 36. “Therefore”—Simon Peter said, concluding his message—“let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” [Acts 2:36].
Instead of destroying the purposes of God by the seizure of the Lord and His violent execution on the cross, they but carried through God’s redemptive grace for us when He offered Christ as a sacrifice for our sins [1 Corinthians 2:8; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 10:4-14]. So he concludes his sermon: “let all the people know that God,” all of this is of God. Sometimes it is difficult for us to believe that in all things God works together for good to them that love the Lord [Romans 8:28]. But He does unfailingly:
Let all the people know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom you crucified—on a tree—both Lord and Christ.
And when they heard this, they were cut in their heart—convicted of their sins—and said to Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
The blood of the Lord is upon our hands—ours. We also pressed upon His brow the crown of thorns [Matthew 27:29], and we also drove those nails through His hands and His feet [Luke 24:39; John 20:25-27]. It was our sins that pierced His side and shed forth the crimson of life upon the ground [John 19:30-34]. What shall we do that we might be saved? [Acts 2:37]. “Then Simon Peter said to them, Repent” [Acts 2:38]. A great scholar and others like him have said that is the poorest translation in all the Greek New Testament—mostly because it is difficult for us to take the Greek word metanoia and say it in English—to us “repentance.”
Peter said unto them: “Repent” [Acts 2:38]. To us, repentance carries with it sorrow or remorse. There is a Greek word for that, metamelomai. It means “to be sorry” or “to be remorseful.” But metanoeō has nothing of that in it. There is nothing of emotion or of feeling or of remorse or regret in metanoeō. Metanoeō literally means “to change your mind, to change your way, to change the way you think, to change the way you do, to change the direction in which you go”; metanoeō, “turn.”
I don’t know of a better English word for it than that—“turn.” You have been going in this direction; turn around. You have been with your back to God; face the Lord. “Turn—change, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ eis”—e-i-s, eis—“the remission of sins”—translated here—“for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and all that are afar off” [Acts 2:38-39]. And that includes us and as many as call on the name of the Lord. “And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying: Save yourselves from this skolios”—translated here “untoward, from this lost and judgment-bound generation” [Acts 2:40]. Save yourself out of the world that is fast plunging to destruction, and damnation, and judgment, and conviction. With many words did he testify and exhort saying: “Save yourselves out of a generation that is doomed before the judgment bar of the mighty God” [Acts 2:40].
Now there is one thing that I must do first, and that is because the most famous verse quoted by those who believe in baptismal regeneration, is in this passage; I must speak of it. “Repent,” said Peter, “and be baptized every one of you in the name of Christ for the remission of sins” [Acts 2:38]. And these who believe in baptismal regeneration, that is that the water washes our sins away, I cannot change you even though God says different, and even though all that we know of the preciousness of Christ says different. I cannot change you, but I can point you to the Word of God.
These who believe in baptismal regeneration—that is, that the water washes our sins away—will use the word “for, in order to,” “be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for, in order to, the remission of sins,” e-i-s, they translate “for, in order to.” But you must not forget that in English, as in Greek, “for” can mean “because of”—and does mean “because of,” as it means “in order to.” In English we will say he is decorated “for” bravery, not “in order to” but “because of” his bravery. Or, he has been cited “for” good grades, not “in order to” but “because of” his good grades. Or, you would say, “He was electrocuted “for” murder, not “in order to” but “because” he is a murderer. Or, this man was arrested “for” shoplifting, not “in order to” but “because of” shoplifting. So it is here in the Greek: “be baptized every one of you in the name of Christ who died for our sins for, in order?” No, “for, because of the remission of your sins” [Acts 2:38] in the Lord.
Look for just a moment how the Greek will use that word, e-i-s—for. “He that receiveth a prophet”—eis a prophet “shall receive a prophet’s reward” [Matthew 10:41]. “He that receiveth a prophet,” eis—just because he is a prophet, not because he is a rich man or could repay you, or not because of fame and fortune, but just because he is a prophet—again, “he that receiveth a righteous man,” eis a righteous man; “he that receiveth a righteous man just because he is a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward” [Matthew 10:41].
And the last verse in Matthew 10: “Whosoever shall give unto one of the least of these little ones that trust in Me a cup of cold water only”—just an encouragement—eis, “in the name of a disciple, because he is a believer in Christ, verily, he shall not lose his reward” [Matthew 10:42]. It is a common word here in the New Testament. I turn the page of Matthew to chapter 12, verse 41: “The men of Ninevah shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented”—eis, e-i-s—“at the preaching of Jonah; and, behold, a greater than Jonah is here” [Matthew 12:41]. They repented—e-i-s—at the preaching of Jonah, in order to the preaching of Jonah? No, “because of” the preaching of Jonah they repented—e-i-s, eis—“because of” the preaching of Jonah. So it is used here. “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Christ”—e-i-s, eis—“because of the remission of your sins” [Acts 2:38]. In Christ; and the Bible so explicitly avows that. First John 1:7: “And the blood of Jesus Christ God’s Son cleanseth us from all sin”—not water. You could scrub you with lye soap. Water cannot wash the stain of sin out of our hearts. This is a spiritual thing between you and God, not something that somebody else does for you. I can baptize you. I baptize every Sunday night. I cannot wash your sins away. It is the blood of Christ that washes sins away [Revelation 1:7]. In the memorial of the Lord’s Supper, we break bread and the Lord said at the cup: “This is My blood of the new covenant shed for the remission of sins” [Matthew 26:27-28]. We are washed clean and white by the blood of the Lamb.
And that is what Simon Peter says: “and be baptized every one of you because of—eis, e-i-s—because of the remission of our sins in Christ, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” [Acts 2:38]. In Simon Peter’s preaching in chapter 10 of the Book of Acts, he concluded his message: “To Him,” to the Lord Jesus, “give all of the prophets witness, that through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins” [Acts 10:43]. And when Peter said that, “whosoever believes in the Lord shall receive remission of sins,” while Peter spoke these words, the Holy Spirit came upon them [Acts 10:44]. . . . and Simon Peter said: “Can any forbid water, that these should [not] be baptized, who received the Spirit of God the same as we? . . . Then they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” [Acts 10:47-48]. First, they were saved by trusting in the Lord’s blood and atoning grace for the remission of sins, then on that confession and commitment, they were baptized into the fellowship of the church of the Lord.
Then my text concludes: “And with many other words did He testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this lost, judgment-bound generation” [Acts 2:40]. What did Simon Peter do? What did he say when the Book says: “And with many other words did He testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves?” [Acts 2:40]. By reading this sermon in the second chapter of the Book of Acts [Acts 2:14-40]—by reading this sermon of Simon Peter that followed after—these are the things that he said.
Number one: all of us before God are lost sinners; all of us [Acts 3:19; Romans 3:23]. There is a common ground upon which every man stands and that is this: he is a lost man and he is a sinner man. A thousand times over have I been asked, “Pastor, in these days past, when you preached to the Stone Age Indians in the Amazon jungle, when you preached to the animists and the Hottentots in darkest Africa, when you preached in Australia and the Orient, what do you say?” And the answer is very simple and most plain. I begin by talking to them where they are because I know that is where I am. I begin talking to them about the sin in our hearts. And there is no man that sinneth not [1 Kings 8:46; Ecclesiastes 7:20], nor are there any degraded so low but that they have a deep moral consciousness in their souls. I begin with our sins, the black drop in our hearts; it is universal. By nature we are sinners. A man does not have to be taught to sin. A child does not have to be taught to sin. By nature, he has that affinity and a proclivity for evil. Not only that, but by volition and by choice, we are sinners—nor does education or culture or environment change it.
Here is a poor sinner. If he becomes wealthy, he will be an affluent sinner. Here is an unlearned and uneducated sinner. If we send him to school, he will be an educated and an academic sinner. Here is a rude, crude, boorish sinner, teach him the amenities of life, and as he moves among the highest culture, he will be a cultured sinner. There is no difference. “All of us sin, and come short of the glory of God” [Romans 3:23]. It is the one common denominator upon which all men stand. Thus it is Simon Peter addressed those who had crucified the Lord [Acts 2:22-23], and our sins also share in that unbelievable tragedy [Acts 3:17-19].
Number two: not only are we all lost sinners before God, but we face inevitable and inexorable death and judgment. Hebrews 9:27 says: “It is appointed unto men once to die.” But that is not all. “It is appointed unto men once to die, and after that the judgment.” You shall certainly die. And no less so, you shall certainly stand someday before the judgment bar of Almighty God [Hebrews 9:27]. In the twentieth chapter of the Book of the Apocalypse: “And whosoever [name] was not found written in the Lamb’s Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire” [Revelation 20:15]. And the preceding verse: “And this is the second death” [Revelation 20:14]. A man can die two times. One, he dies in his physical frame. He shall certainly die: “It is appointed unto men once to die” [Hebrews 9:27]. We all shall die; just a matter of when; some time, some where the hour comes. But there is a second death [Revelation 20:14], and that is the death of the soul—when we are separated from God; the second death, which is the sorrow of all sorrows, and the sadness of all sadnesses, the tragedy of all tragedies—for a man to die without God [Revelation 20:15].
Third: God in His love and grace has extended salvation and invitation to all men everywhere [John 3:16; Acts 17:30; 1 John 2:2]. And He has never failed in any century, in any generation, in any eon, in any millennia. Always the arms of the Lord are outstretched to dying sinners. God is always for us. God is never against us. In Ezekiel 33:11, the Lord said: “As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from their evil ways and live: O turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will you die?” [Ezekiel 33:11] Why will ye die when the crimson cross is so nearby? Why will you die? Why would a man choose to be lost and damned and spend eternity away from God when the way to be saved is so near and so dear? God is for us, always.
In Isaiah 1:18, he begins—which is, I take the text of that great evangelical prophet: “Come now, saith the Lord, and let us reason together.” God is not extraneous or far out or unreasonable. God is the most reasonable person you could ever talk to. He doesn’t delight when a man is destroyed. He doesn’t delight when a man chooses ways that ruin him. God delights when a man turns and faces the Lord and talks to God about the finest and best in his life here and in the life that is yet to come. “Come, saith the Lord, and let us reason together; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” [Isaiah 1:18].
God always opens the door of salvation an invitation for us, nor has He ever failed to be just that through all of the centuries and the generations. When our first parents were driven out of the garden of Eden on the east side of the gate there were the cherubim [Genesis 3:24]. Who are they? The cherubim were placed at the east side of the gate of the garden of Eden—the cherubim. Without exception they are always emblems of God’s mercy and God’s grace. They were there to teach the fallen man and the fallen family how to come back to the Lord.
In the days of the terrible judgment of the Deluge [Genesis 6-8], God instructed Noah to build an ark [Genesis 6:14-22], and for one hundred twenty years that righteous man pointed to the door of that ark [Genesis 6:3]. Not only was it big enough and wide enough for elephants to lumber in, for zebras and for giraffes to enter in, but it was big enough and wide enough for a man to enter in [Genesis 7:13-16]. And for one hundred twenty years [Genesis 6:3], Noah pointed to that door, beseeching men and women to be saved, and they mock, and they laugh, and they scorn, and they ridicule. I can just hear them as they laugh and laugh and laugh at this preacher of righteousness [2 Peter 2:5], building his ark with a door so wide and so big and standing there inviting people to enter in, that they might be saved. Then the Book says: “God closed the door. God closed the door” [Genesis 7:16].
There is a line by us unseen,
That crosses every path;
The dividing line between
God’s mercy and God’s wrath.
[“The Hidden Line of No Return,” J. Addison Alexander]
But before the judgment falls, always God provides that way of escape. It was so in the days of the Passover. Listen, not only could an Israelite save his house by placing on the front of the house the sprinkled blood in the form of a cross, there on the lentil and either side, on the door posts [Exodus 12:7]—had an Egyptian done that, he would have been saved. Had any one done that, they would have been saved. When the death angel passed over, he was looking for the blood, the blood, and those who were seated behind the blood, under the blood, were saved [Exodus 12:7,13,23]; God’s open invitation to the lost of the whole world.
In the days when the sinners of Israel were smitten and bitten and were dying from the bite of a small tenuous snake [Numbers 21:5-7], God said to Moses: “Make a brazen serpent, and raise it in the midst of the camp; and it shall be if any man is bitten and is dying, if he will look, he will live” [Numbers 21:8]. Had there been a Midianite passing by who had been bitten by one of those fiery serpents, had he looked he would have lived. Any man can look and live.
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]
God’s provision is always open. His arms are always outstretched. In the building of the kingdom of Israel, all through the kingdom north to south, east to west, there were cities of refuge. And if a man found himself facing condemnation and execution, he could fly to the city of refuge and be saved [Numbers 35:9-35].
I often think of preachers who change the directions to the cities of refuge, and the people are lost, not knowing where to go or what to do. But that’s God’s love and provision for us; directions that point to the cities of refuge—how we might be saved. And of all the things God has done, nothing is so wondrous and so simple and so life-changing as what He has done for us in Jesus our Lord. We sing a little chorus:
Oh, oh, oh, what He’s done for me.
He lifted me up from the miry clay
Set my feet upon a rock
Oh, oh, oh, what He’s done for me.
What God has done for us—opening to us the gates of heaven and the gates of grace. “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up: That whosoever”—looks to Him, trusts in Him—“believes in Him shall . . . have everlasting life” [John 3:14-15]. What God hath done for us!
“Men and brethren, what shall we do?” [Acts 2:37]. This is the way to be saved. Number one; I must listen. I must hear. I cannot be saved if I do not listen and I do not hear. I have ears and eyes not only in my physical frame, but my soul has eyes and my soul has ears. And I must listen with my heart. I must shut out the din of this noisy and busy and empty and sterile world, and I must listen to the voice of the eternal God. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing [by] the word of God” [Romans 10:17]. That evangel Isaiah in his fifty-fifth chapter and third verse: “Incline your ear . . . hear, and your soul shall live” [Isaiah 55:3]. I must listen, I must hear, I must open my heart God-ward and heavenward and Christ-ward.
Second; I must turn. “Then Peter said unto them metanoeō” [Acts 2:38]. And that is why I took time to expound it a moment ago. I must turn. If I am walking down this road and it leads away from God and away from the Lord’s people and away from the Lord’s will, I must turn around. I must face God. I don’t need to be afraid to face God. He died for my sins that I might be saved [1 Corinthians 15:3]. And He offers the omnipotence of heaven as my eternal inheritance [1 Peter 1:3-4]. God is my friend. God is for me, not against me. Metanoeō, I am to turn [Acts 2:38], I am to face God and when I turn and face God, what will God do? One thing always; whether it be God the Father or God the Holy Spirit, when I turn and face God, the Lord God will always point to Jesus the Son. “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” [Matthew 3:17]; He will say. Or again: “This is My beloved Son, . . . hear ye Him” [Matthew 17:5]. God the Father will always point toward Jesus the Son. And God the Holy Spirit will always speak of Jesus the Son. “He will not speak of Himself,” said our Lord, “but He will take the things of Mine and show them unto thee” [John 16:13-14]. Always when I face God, what God will do is, He will point me to the blessed Jesus. And that leads to my entrance into the kingdom. For the moment I open my heart to the Lord Jesus, the moment I call upon His name, the moment I trust Him and believe in Him, that moment I am saved. I am saved [Acts 16:31]. Oh, glory to God, I am saved!
All praise to the Father, all praise to the Son,
All praise to the Spirit, the great Three in One!
Saved by the blood—and the love and the grace—
Of the Crucified One!
[“Saved by the Blood,” S. J. Henderson]
When a man preaches truly and wondrously; when you go out the door, you shall have met in a new and beautiful and precious way the Lord Jesus. If you have a prayer meeting and the Lord has been in it, you will have a feeling of having been in the presence of the Lord. If the services are moved by the Spirit of God, it will be an exalting of the Lord Jesus.
I have said it so many times, I know you are weary of it. That is why I love for you to sing: “Worthy is the Lamb,” and songs like that. They magnify the Lord. They lift up the Lord. All I need to be discouraged is to just look at me. I am so full of mistakes and lack. I get discouraged looking at me. But there is nothing wrong when I look at the Lord. It helps me to get out of myself into the Lord. I get many times discouraged looking at the church. There are so many weaknesses in the church. Sometimes I cry over them and weep over them and do pray over them. But there are no weaknesses in the Lord. Everything is right with Him. And that’s what God does, He always leads us to the Son. And when we look full into the face of the Lord, we are transfigured. Paul says so: “from glory to glory”; transfigured, looking at Him [2 Corinthians 3:18].
And then, that one other thing that they did; “They that gladly received His word were baptized: and the same day there was added unto the church about three thousand souls” [Acts 2:41]. What happens to a man is this: when he has opened his heart God-ward and Christ-ward, there is a joy and a gladness and a strength inevitable that just overflows his soul. And he can’t keep from saying it. “I have found the Lord. I have given my heart to Jesus. I am a born again new child of God.” So Paul wrote it like this: “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 we believe unto a God-kind of righteousness; and with the mouth public confession is made unto salvation” [Romans 10:9-10].
For as the Lord would say it: “He that confesses Me before men, him will I also confess before My Father which is in heaven” [Matthew 10:32]. And being baptized is a form of confession. “I have put on the uniform of the Lord. I belong to the people of Christ.” This is an open avowal, an open commitment; coming down that aisle is an open publication to the world that I have given my heart and life to the blessed Jesus. And when the Lord sees it, He delights in us. He is glad for us. You see, He is our friend. He sees us through.
And that is the invitation we press upon your hearts even now. To give your life to the Lord, would you come? To bring your family into the fellowship of the church, would you come? To answer with your life some appeal the Holy Spirit presses to your heart, would you come? In a moment we shall stand to sing our hymn of appeal, and as we sing the song, down one of these stairways, down one of these aisles: “Here I am, pastor. This is my wife, we’re both coming today.” Maybe, “These are our children. Pastor, we are all coming today.” Or just one somebody you, as the Spirit shall speak, as God shall give invitation, answer with your life. Make the decision now in your heart, and on the first note of the first stanza, come. Angels will attend you in the way, and Jesus stands waiting to bless. Do it now. Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.