The Doctrine of Salvation
June 18th, 1978 @ 7:30 PM
THE DOCTRINE OF SALVATION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-18-78 7:30 p.m.
And God bless the multitudes of you who are listening to this hour on the great radio station of the Southwest, KRLD, and on the radio station of our Bible Institute, KCBI. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas bringing the message entitled The Doctrine of Salvation. Turn with me to the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Acts, and we shall read out loud together verses 25-33 [Acts 16:25-33]. And wherever you are in the great southern portion of the United States, if you have your Bible turn to it and read out loud with us this passage in the Book of Acts, chapter 16, beginning at verse 25, reading through verse 33. Now all of us out loud together:
And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.
And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.
And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled.
But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.
Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas,
And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?
And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.
And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.
Wherever it is in the Bible that God tells a man how to be saved, He will do it in one simple, monosyllabic sentence. Not one time in the Word of God does the Lord take even two sentences to tell a man how to be saved. Always it is in one sentence—such as in this unusual passage that described the conversion of the Philippian jailer that we just read: “What must I do to be saved? [Acts 16:30]. And they replied, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” [Acts 16:31]. And that gave rise to the title of the sermon tonight: The Doctrine of Salvation.
Always there are three things in a man’s being converted; becoming a child of God. Number one: there is always an avowed, a felt, and an expressed need. No man can be saved who does not feel a need to be saved. No man can be forgiven his sins unless he has the burden and the consciousness of sin upon his heart; that’s why a child, a small child can take a step toward God—“I love Jesus.” But to be converted, to be born again, to be forgiven, to be saved, the experience of regeneration is in an altogether different world. If Jesus is a Savior, He must always save us from something; and that something is the guilt and the condemnation of our sins. Salvation always begins in a felt need: “I am not what I ought to be. I am not what I can be. I am not by the grace of God what I shall be.” Being lost and the consciousness of being lost brings us to the Lord Jesus [Ephesians 2:11-13].
Now this man, this Philippian jailer, is down on his knees. He is down on his face. He is facing execution, in disgrace and ignominy and shame, so much so that he was attempting to take his own life with his short Roman sword [Acts 16:27]. And in abject misery, lost, undone, in despair, down on his knees before Paul and Silas, he asked that question of deepest human need, “What must I do to be saved?” [Acts 16:30]. When a man finds himself needing God, he is near the kingdom. I don’t care who he is, or what he has done, or his status in life.
I remember eating dinner in a country home. And the family had invited the hired hand, a most untutored, untaught, and ignorant boy, young fellow, invited him to eat dinner with us. And the young fellow sat right across the table from me. I began talking to him, and asked him if he knew the Lord, if he was a Christian.
And he replied, he said, “Sir, I ain’t no Christian. I am a lost sinner” [Romans 3:23].
And I replied to the young fellow, “Young fellow, you are near the kingdom. And in these days of revival, I predict you will be wonderfully saved.” And he was. The beginning of salvation is in a need in our hearts and in our lives: “I need God. I need the Lord” [Romans 3:23].
Second, the doctrine of salvation: there is a Savior to whom we can make appeal; sent into the world to save us from that judgment and condemnation of God upon our sins [John 3:16; Romans 5:8]. They said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” [Acts 16:31]. And when this Bible was written, all of the words, by which the people were named, had deep and everlasting significance. “Jesus”—that is Hebrew “Joshua.” That is Hebrew for Savior—Savior, Jesus. “Christ” is the “anointed One” of God, and “Lord” refers to His deity. This is God’s Son, sent into the world to pay for our sins. He died as our substitute [2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24]. “The wages of sin is death” [Romans 6:23]. “And the soul that sins shall die” [Ezekiel 18:4, 20]. And if I have no advocate and no savior, no intercessor, no mediator, no substitute, then I die. I die two ways: I die physically, I die spiritually: my body dies, my soul dies. And how shall I live if the judgment of death is passed upon me because of my sins? God made a way. In His love and grace, he sent the Lord Jesus to die in my stead, to pay the penalty for my sins [John 3:16; Colossians 1:14]. Therefore, in Christ I never die; this dissolution of this body of clay is but the entrance into heaven, against the hour when God shall give me a new and a resurrected body [John 11:25-26], and my soul is regenerated and goes to be with Jesus in the hour of my translation and coronation [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. He is the Savior and He delivers us from the penalty of death—physical death, which to us now is an entrance into heaven [Romans 6:23]; and spiritual death, that we shall never face the second death [Revelation 20:6]. We are delivered in the goodness and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ [Ephesians 1:7].
First, the doctrine of salvation: a need; I am a sinner [Romans 3:23]. Second, a Savior: He came to pay the price for my sins, and to be my substitute that I might live forever [John 3:16; Romans 5:8; Hebrews 10:5-14; 2 Corinthians 5:21]. And third, a response: all God asks from us is a response and acceptance. “Believe,” accept, trust in, commit your life to the Lord Jesus Christ, “and thou shalt be saved” [Acts 16:31]. But I must respond. God has so made it that the grace of the Lord Jesus is not mediated to me unless I accept it [Acts 17:30]. A pardon is not a pardon by American law, expressed by the Supreme Court itself, unless I accept it. And that’s the law of God. If I am pardoned, I must receive it and accept it. And it is that simple, that response—“whosoever believeth” [John 3:16]. But I must believe: “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus” [Romans 10:9]; but I must confess. If I look to that brazen serpent dying—if I look I will live, but I must look [John 3:14-15; Numbers 21:8-9]. Always there is that response. And always, when I respond, God does some marvelous thing for my soul and for my life.
Reading in the history of missions, in the years and the centuries gone, the young Count Zinzendorf, rich, noble, personable, gifted, worldly, using his wealth for his own personal enjoyment and amusement; Count Zinzendorf, Moravian, was in the Düsseldorf gallery in Germany. And walking through that gallery, stood transfixed before an Ecce Homo—a picture of the Lord Jesus crowned with thorns, suffering for our sins. He stood transfixed before that picture. And underneath read the Latin caption hoc prace pro quid pracese prome, “This have I done for thee, what hast thou done for me?” And the young count there in that Düsseldorf gallery gave his life to that Christ dying, suffering for him. And that began the greatest worldwide missionary enterprise we have ever known. There must be that response in our hearts, as the conversion of that young, rich nobleman; a commitment, an answer to God from our hearts, from our lives. As Isaac Watts wrote it:
Was it for crimes that I have done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!
But drops of grief can ne’er repay
The debt of love I owe;
Here, Lord, I give myself away,
‘Tis all that I can do.
[“At the Cross,” Isaac Watts].
That’s it. A need—I am a lost sinner [John 3:16]; a Savior—that is the Lord Jesus; and a response—I accept Him and trust Him, for all that He said He was, and for all that He promised to do [John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9-10].
Now for just a moment, the obverse; what is it not? The doctrine of salvation, what is salvation not? Number one: it is not a matter of works. It’s not something that I work for, and God gives it to me because He owes me a debt. I don’t work for it. Ephesians 2:5, 8, 9: “For by grace”—unmerited favor and love of God—“for by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is a gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” [Ephesians 2:8-9]. When I get to heaven, I won’t pat my hand and say that’s one for me; my salvation. Or, I will not pat my foot, saying my foot gained for me my salvation. Nor shall I pat my head and say my head gained for me my salvation. No, when I get to glory, it will be, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain” [Revelation 5:12]; “Who hath washed us and redeemed us by His own blood, and made us kings and priests unto God for ever and ever” [Revelation 1:5-6]. It’s all of grace [Ephesians 2:8]. It is nothing of works [Ephesians 2:9]. As Paul wrote in Titus 3:5: “By the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Spirit; and not by works of righteousness which we have done did He save us” [Titus 3:5]. It is all of God. Bless the name of the Lord for what He has done for me.
Oh, Oh, Oh, what He’s done for me!
He lifted me out of the miry clay
Set my feet upon a rock.
Sent me gloriously
On the way.
That’s what He’s done for me.
It is not of works [Ephesians 2:8-9]. It’s not anything that a man does. It is not by the observance of any rituals or any ceremonies that we are cleansed. It’s not saved by baptism, and not saved by the ordinances, and not saved by any ceremonial ritual in the church. It is not by—saved by any works of righteousness that we have done. It is the grace of God that saves us [Ephesians 2:8-9]. That’s first. It is not a matter of works. It is a gift of God—something that the Lord bestows upon us.
Second: it is not a matter of worth. I don’t become saved because I deserve it or that I am good enough to attain it. How could any man ever say that he deserved the suffering and the sacrifice and the cross of the Son of God? Beyond anything of humility, it’s not a matter of worth. We do not be good enough for it. And we do not deserve it. And when the Lord died, He did not die just for the best of us. He also died for the worst of us. And if a man seeks to make himself worthy of the love and grace of God in Christ Jesus, he will never attain it. He will never reach it. He will never come to it.
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,
Oh, there are ten thousand charms.
[“Come Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy,” Joseph Hart]
It is not a matter of worth. It is a matter of God’s grace and love and our acceptance in Him; never good enough for it.
Third: it is not a matter of temporalities. It is not something for a moment and evanescently fades and passes away. It’s forever and forever. John 10:28:
I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither
Shall any one pluck them out of My hand. My Father, who gave
them Me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.
It is not a matter of temporalities. It is a matter of eternities. When a man gives his heart to Christ, and when he is saved, he is changed. He is somebody new. He is somebody else. And it’s forever and forever [John 10:28-30].
I had a fellow out there at the camp; and talking to me, he asked me about this thing of being saved forever. I think in his young experience, he had come across Christians who were not quite as he thought they were. In any event, he was asking whether they were genuinely saved or not. And I replied to him, “Christians can live carnal lives as anyone else can. But this is the difference: when a man is not saved, he’s lost. He is a man of the world. When he goes out in the world and lives in iniquity and in wickedness and in sin, he will enjoy it. He will love that life. He will like it. He will live it up. ‘Man, isn’t this something!’ out there in the world, doing all of those things that worldly, sinful people do. That’s the man who has never been saved.”
Now I said to the young fellow, “But if he is saved, if he is a Christian, he may get out there in the world. But I will tell you what, he will be so miserable, he will be so unhappy; he is out there where he ought not to be, he is doing things that he ought not to do, and his heart condemns him. You see, he is a child of God. He has been saved. And the seed of the Lord stays in his soul forever. He is somebody else. He has been changed.” It is exactly as a sheep. When a pig falls in the mud, he wallows in it and likes it. When a sheep falls in the mud, he struggles to get out of it. And that is a child of God. It’s forever and forever. When you are saved, you are saved forever [John 10:27-30].
God says we are born again [John 3:3, 7]. We are born children into the kingdom of God when we are saved. And you don’t unborn your children. My child is my child for ever. I do not care what my child may do: belongs to me, my flesh and blood. That is the way it is in the kingdom of God. We are born in the kingdom of God [John 3:3, 6], and we do not unborn our children. Second Corinthians 5:17 says: “If any one be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creation.” We are somebody new. God has touched us, and He has promised that He will be with us [Hebrews 13:5], see us through, and bless us forever and ever [Titus 3:7], someday take us to heaven; someday open wide the doors of glory, and welcome us in [John 14:2-3]. That’s what it is to be saved. And that is what it means to trust in Jesus. And that’s what God does to our hearts when we look in faith to Him [2 Corinthians 5:17].
And that’s our invitation. First, to the thousands of you who have listened on the radio; do you know the Lord? Have you trusted Him as your Savior? Wherever you are—in a car, in a house, in a home, maybe even in a bar—wherever you are, if you have never accepted the Lord Jesus as your Savior, would you open your heart heavenward tonight and say, “Lord Jesus, come in. Live in my heart. Forgive my sins [1 John 1:7]. Make a new somebody out of me [2 Corinthians 5:17]. Be my Friend and Savior, blessed Jesus.”
And in the great throng in the sanctuary of God’s church tonight; a somebody you, “Tonight I open my heart to the Lord Jesus. I accept Him as my Savior in the full and free pardon of my sins, and I am coming now” [Romans 10:8-13]. A family you, coming together; a couple you, coming together; or just a one somebody you, in the balcony round, down one of these stairways, in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Tonight, pastor, I am accepting Jesus as my Savior, and I am coming” [Romans 10:8-13] “As God has commanded [Matthew 28:19], and as this Philippian jailer, I want to be baptized” [Acts 16:33]. Or, “Having been baptized, already saved and washed, I want to be in the church, and I am coming.” God bless you and angels attend you in the way as you answer with your life, while we stand and while we sing.