HOW CAN I KNOW THAT I AM SAVED?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
07-09-78 10:50 a.m.
This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, bringing the message entitled: Life’s Greatest Question: What Must I Do To Be Saved? And the answer to that question is God’s disclosed mercy and infinite grace: “Believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” [Acts 16:31].
Sin has entered all of our faculties. We are a fallen race, and a dying people. And however you choose to say it – philosophically, or academically, or sociologically, or psychologically, or theologically, the most sorrowful and tragic fact of human life is that we are a lost humanity, and are facing death and judgment.
Nor can I save myself. I am helpless before the awful striking of death, inevitable, inexorable, and the judgment that is to come. I have the sentence of death written in my members. The color of my hair proclaims it. The lines that are in my face confirm it. And the years of my pilgrimage in this earth are affirmations of an inevitable and inexorable day.
The first verse of the second chapter of the Book of Ephesians says that we are dead in trespasses and in sins [Ephesians 2:1]. And how can a dead corpse and a dead cadaver deliver itself and save itself? How can I save and deliver my soul when I am dead? Sin carries with it the inevitable judgment of death. “The soul that sins shall die” [Ezekiel 18:20]. “The wages of sin is death” [Rom 6:23]. I shall certainly die. How can I save myself?
However I entertain great and noble thoughts and give myself to the heroics of human life, I am cursed, and I am damned in my soul and in my spirit by the iniquity that drags me and by the hounds of death that seek after me, and finally I go down into inevitable and inexorable defeat. However I try, whatever dreams I entertain, whatever achievements and reformation and advancement I made in which I may find success, inevitably that judgment falls upon me. As a sinner, I die, fall into the grave, and face the judgment day of Almighty God. We are a lost humanity. We are a dying people and we cannot deliver ourselves.
Then salvation and deliverance must come outside of ourselves, beyond ourselves. If I am a cadaver, somebody must speak life, for I cannot speak it to myself, and you cannot speak it for me. Somebody who is able, and mighty, and loving, and merciful must deliver me and save me. I cannot save myself and you cannot save me for me, a dying people.
And that is the mercy, and the goodness, and the grace, and the loving kindness of God. Salvation is of him. All of it is of Him. Salvation is a display of the love and mercy of our great God and Savior Christ Jesus.
He does it. He does it. He does it and He alone does it. Salvation is of the Lord. It is a gift from His gracious hands.
Now, there are two things in it. Number one, God has to deal with the sin question. How does God overlook my sin? If God just forgets it and passes it by, then the whole moral universe collapses, for the law of God is that sin demands punishment, retribution, death.
“The soul that sins shall die.” “The wages of sin is death.” How can God overlook my sin, for sin carries a penalty inevitable? And the whole universe, in its moral structure, welds those two together: the sin and the penalty. There is no sin that does not carry its penalty.
How does God forgive my sin, overlook it, obviate its inevitable judgment? How can God save me? As Paul raises the question: how can God be just, and at the same time justify the ungodly? How can God be true to His character, and true to His law, and true to His moral universe, and at the same time I escape from the judgment of everlasting damnation and death? How can God do that?
That’s the first thing God does. He deals with the sin question in my life. And this is the way in His goodness and grace God did it: God took all of my sins – all of them – and he laid them upon His only begotten Son. He took all of the debts that I owe Him, and He made them chargeable to the account of Jesus. And the death I should have died, He died in my stead. And the debts I couldn’t pay, Jesus paid it all; and the Lord substitutes Jesus for me. He paid the penalty of our sins; In His own body, He bore them on the tree. His death is the death of the judgment upon my sins. He died for me. That’s first: how God dealt with the sin question. Jesus is my substitute; He died, paid the penalty in my stead.
Number two: how can God face the question of free moral agency. How can God save me and not violate my personality? For I am free. If God coerces me, I’m not free. If God forces me, and makes me, I’m not free. How can God save me, and at the same time leave me morally free, and not violate, destroy my own personality, my freedom of heart and choice?
This is the way God did it: God left it to me to make the choice in a free moral act. The Lord lays before me the whole story of the self-revelation of His heart. He loved me and gave His Son to die for me. His Spirit woos and makes appeal, and the gospel message tugs at the strings of my heart. And God, having opened wide the door, leaves the choice to me.
I can say “No” to God. I can. Even though I’m made of the dust of the ground, I can say “No” to God. I can double my fist, and shake it in the face of God. I can curse God. I can trample under my feet the blood of the covenant that sanctified Jesus. I can reject His every overture of love and mercy. I remain free.
But I also can accept. I can trust. I can look. I can believe. I can be washed. I can be saved. Thus God has done for me. O, the depths of His love, and the heights of His grace, and the breadth of His immeasurable kindness to us lost and dying sinners!
And God speaks life and deliverance to that man who bows in humble hope, expectancy, belief, for a gift of life from His gracious hands. That’s God. That’s salvation. That’s deliverance. God does it, and He does it out of the love and mercy and grace of His heart.
Come ye sinners, poor and needy
Lost and ruined by the fall.
If you tarry till you’re better,
You will never come at all.
I will arise and go to Jesus.
He will embrace me in his arms.
In the arms of my dear Savior,
O, there are ten thousand charms.
I heard the voice of Jesus say:
Come unto Me and rest.
Lay down, thou weary one,
Lay down thy head upon My breast.
I came to Jesus as I was.
Weary and worn and sad
I found in Him a resting place.
And He hath made me glad.
[“Come Ye Sinners,” Joseph Hart]
Welcome. Welcome. God has forgiven us. God has pardoned us. In Christ, God is reconciled to us. The judgment is passed. The storm is over. Death is vanquished. The grave is conquered. Nothing remains but life everlasting, eternal – His presence now, His blessing tomorrow, and the golden days of a new and heavenly home in eternity. Thus has God done for us. And it is ours in a great moral act. I look and I live. I wash and I’m clean. I believe, I trust, and I’m saved.
Will you? The Holy Spirit bids you come. May angels attend you; may the Holy Spirit of God encourage you; may the presence of Jesus walk by your side as you come, while we stand and while we sing.