The New Life In Jesus
July 2nd, 1978 @ 7:30 PM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-2-78 7:30 p.m.
It is an infinite gladness for us in the First Baptist Church of Dallas to share this service with thousands and uncounted thousands who listen to the Radio of the Southwest, KRLD. There are people in Florida; there are people in the Carolinas; there are people in the far western countries and states of Colorado and Wyoming who listen to this hour on KRLD. There are other thousands who share the service on KCBI, the radio station of our Center of Biblical Studies. And wherever you are, we pray that the Lord will have a word of comfort and blessing for you in this sacred moment tonight. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas bringing the message. It is something that came into my heart as I looked carefully at the order in a story here so familiar to us in the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Acts.
If you will then, wherever you are and can, turn with me to Acts chapter 16, and we are going to read out loud together verses 25 through 34; Acts chapter 16, beginning at verse 25 and reading through verse 34. The message is an exposition in the latter part of the story that we now read. Now everywhere, you out there, and we in this great sanctuary, read it out loud together Acts 16:25-34 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.
And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.
And the sermon that came to my heart as I followed the story minutely, prayerfully, carefully is found in the order of what that man did; who had before, been so cruel, so hard of heart. These are two preachers; dare I say, they are two Baptist preachers. Here are two preachers. They are men of God. They have not desecrated a temple. They have not robbed a corporation. They have not done violence to the government. They have not been guilty of treason against Caesar. These are men who have been preaching the gospel of the grace of the blessed Jesus. But this hardened jailer treated those men as though they were vile and dangerous criminals. Far beyond any sense of duty; far beyond any necessity of confinement or incarceration, he presides over their flogging, their beating. He cast them in the innermost part of a cruel and vile dungeon. And then as though that were not enough, he fastens their feet in the stocks [Acts 16:23-24]. That meant, of course, that they had to lie down flat on their back on the floor of the prison – their feet fast in the stocks, lying in their own blood. They had just been cruelly and unmercifully and ruthlessly beat. That is this hardened jailer.
But after the word of salvation to his heart [Acts 16:30-32], this came to pass – he took them, the same hour of that midnight, and then the order. First, it says he washed their stripes. That is first. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes [Acts 16:33], which brings to my heart one of the tremendously great characteristics of the Christian faith; namely, it makes humanity sensitive to Christians. It makes humanity sensitive to human suffering. He had not thought anything about flogging those men. He thought nothing about cruelly incarcerating them. He thought nothing about fastening their feet in the stocks that they lie in their own blood. He thought nothing about placing them in the innermost cell of that harsh prison. He was a hardened sinner. But after he opened his heart to the preaching of the gospel of the Son of God, look at the difference in him – immediately, immediately he becomes sensitive to human suffering. He took them the same hour of the night and the first thing he did, he washed their stripes [Acts 16:33]. What do you think of that?
As I look at history, and as I look at the whole world, there is not anything more characteristic, more typical of the Christian faith than just that; its sensitivity to human suffering. In the day of that Philippian jailer, in all of the Roman Empire there was not one house for the poor. In the day of that Philippian jailer, there was not one hospital in the whole wide world. In the day of that Philippian jailer, there was not one orphan home in the civilized world. In the day of that Philippian jailer, there was not one place for the care of the leper. In that day of the Philippian jailer, there was not one institution where the deranged could be ministered to. Before Jesus Christ, and before the preaching of the gospel of the Son of God, the heart of the world was harsh and cruel and hard. The biggest difference that has been made in human history has been made by the loving and tender and compassionate Jesus. Wherever the gospel is preached, there you will find a new hope, and a new day, and a new comfort, and a new ministry, and a new home for the poor, for the sick, for the disabled, for the deranged, for those who are in those echelons of life hurting and suffering.
Let me show you. In the story of the mission of our Lord on the other side of the Sea of Galilee in the land of the Gadarenes, there was a man there, the Book says, who was demented. Tell me, where did he live? The Book says that he lived in the tombs [Mark 5:1-5]. He lived in the cemeteries. Pushed out of society, he lived wherever he could find some escape from the awful and harsh judgments of a cruel people and merciless culture. His home was in the tombs. Look again, in the story of the man who fell among thieves on the road to Jericho, who passed him by on one side? A priest. And who passed him by on the other side? A Levite? And who left him there to die in his own wounds and his own suffering? [Luke 10:30-32]. Those who were supposed to represent the kingdom of God. The whole world was like that. Suffering and bleeding and wounding all were a part of somebody else, but never a charge to us.
Look again in the story of the lepers in that ancient day. Where did they live? And what were they commanded to do? The lepers were pushed out. They were cast out. They were not allowed into the villages or into the cities. They were not allowed where people were. And wherever the leper went, he was to place his hand over his mouth and to cry as he walked, "Unclean! Unclean! Unclean!" [Leviticus 13:45]. That is why in the story, in the [eighth] chapter of the Gospel of Matthew [Matthew 8:1-3]; when the Lord was surrounded on every side, a great throng, all the way around Him, it says, "an leper walked up to Him." How could that leper just walk up to Jesus? The answer is very apparent. As he walked with his hand over his mouth, "Unclean, unclean, unclean," immediately a great circle opened before him and he just walked up to the blessed Jesus. It was a day insensitive to human suffering. All of these great institutions of ministry and of tender care and thoughtfulness and love, these are the fruits of the Christian faith, of the preaching of the gospel of the Son of God.
One of the most poignant memories I have in all of my life was in Africa – making a great circuit with Dr. Goldie, one of the missionaries of our Southern Baptist Convention, in Africa. And what he had done in a great arc, he had gathered together all of the lepers into what he called a clan settlement – and then miles and miles and another clan settlement, and miles and miles another clan settlement, and so a great semicircle. He asked me if I would like to go with him as he ministered to his lepers. I said, "Yes." And in his little English car, we drove to the first one – ah, what a ministry – and then to the second one and to the third one and the fourth one and so on around that great arch.
Did you know little children can have leprosy just as well as these that are old? These sweet girls describing the leper with his hands eaten away, and his toes and his feet eaten away, and his ears eaten away, and the most abject hopelessness in their eyes – beyond description! He gathered all of those people together because, in any heathen society and in any pagan society, the leper is pushed out to die of exposure and starvation. He had gathered them up, gathered them up, gathered them up, and he was ministering to them in those clan settlements.
And as I would stand there and watch him working with a child, working with a father or a mother, working with a family – as I stood there and watched him, I thought in my heart, "Who sent out that missionary?" We did, who love the Lord Jesus. As I saw him take out his medicines and minister to those people, who bought that medicine? We did, who love the Lord Jesus. And as I looked and visited those clan settlements, who made it possible to gather that loathsome, flotsam and jetsam of humanity together, and there teach them the Word of God and minister for their healing? Who did that? We did, who love the Lord Jesus.
That’s one of the sweetest things about the Christian faith. This is an addendum, this is a corollary, this is an axiomatic following after – sensitive to human suffering. "He took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes" [Acts 16:33]. That was first: washing stripes. And the Christian faith has been doing that ever since; washing stripes, ministering to human need, praying for the lost, encouraging the discouraged, seeking to heal the sick, taking care of the orphan, providing a place for the deranged; helping. The culture that we have in our modern Western world has been framed and created by the preaching of the gospel of the Son of God. "He took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; the first thing that he did."
Second: it says, "and was baptized, he and his household, straightway" [Acts 16:33]. Sometimes I see people hesitate before that, and I bow my head in wonder. It seems to me such a privilege, and a precious one, to follow our Lord in baptism. He didn’t need to be baptized. When He came to John the Baptist to be baptized, "John forbade him, saying, I have need to be baptized of Thee, and comest Thou to me? [Matthew 3:13-14]. And the Lord said, "Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness. And then he suffered Him [Matthew 3:15]. And Jesus, when He was baptized, came up straightway out of the water. . .and the Spirit of God fell upon Him" [Matthew 3:16], preparing Him for His messianic ministry. And the voice of the Father commended Him, "My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" [Matthew 3:17]. To follow the Lord in baptism is one of the sweet privileges of life.
There is not much that I can do for God. He said, "If I were hungry, I would not tell thee" [Psalm 50:9]. "The gold and the silver are Mine [Haggai 2:8]; the cattle on a thousand hills are Mine" [Psalm 50:10]. There is not much we can do for God. But what we can do, we ought to do, should do; and, by God’s grace let us do, and I can do that. The Lord asked that we be baptized upon a confession of faith [Matthew 28:19-20]. He Himself set the beautiful example, holy and pure in His own baptism in the Jordan River [Matthew 3:13-17]. And every disciple in the New Testament thereafter followed our Lord in the likeness of that holy and heavenly ordinance. In this chapter, Lydia, when she opened her heart to the gospel, the first thing that Lydia did, she was baptized [Acts 16:14-15]. As the Ethiopian eunuch listened to Philip the evangelist in the eighth chapter of the Book of Acts:
. . .they came to a certain water: and the eunuch said, Look, see, here is water – I want to be baptized – what doth hinder me from being baptized?
And Philip replied, If you believe with all of your heart, you may. And he answered saying, 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 God drew away Philip, and the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.
Bless God. Praise the Lord! There is always a fullness of heavenly reward when a man follows the mandates and the commandments of God; "I want to be baptized." And that Philippian jailer that night immediately after he had washed their stripes, in the same water, in which he washed their stripes, in the same pool, in the same body of water in which he washed stripes, there was he was baptized and those who listened by his side to the gospel of the Son of God [Acts 16:33].
Now, third: "And he brought them into his house, and set meat before them, and rejoicing, believing in God with all his house" [Acts 16:34]. What a remarkable thing – this man washing stripes, baptized, and now rejoicing, believing in God with all of his heart. I want to show that to you if I can.
In my reading, I began to follow the life of one of the world’s great preachers named Thomas Chalmers. There are two mighty preachers from Scotland: the first, John Knox, and the second Thomas Chalmers. Chalmers was born in 1780; he died in 1847. He was one of the most illustrious Scotsman of his day. Prime Minister Gladstone of England wrote this about that wonderful preacher, quote:
The world can never forget his warrior grandeur, his unbounded philanthropy, his strength of purpose, his mental integrity, his absorbed and absorbing earnestness, and above all, his singular simplicity. He was one of nature’s noblemen.
That is what Prime Minister Gladstone said about this preacher. Thomas Carlyle wrote a sentence about him. Thomas Carlyle, and I quote from him talking about Thomas Chalmers, quote: "A strong-featured man and a very beautiful character."
Now, having introduced him, I want to show you what happened to him. He was called of God and licensed to preach at the age of nineteen and became pastor of the little church at Kilmany, in Scotland. And for eight years, for eight years that brilliant, and oratorical, and forensic, and educated, and scholarly, and academic young man, he stood there before his little congregation, and every Sunday as he stood there, he denounced them for their sins. He preached on the Ten Commandments [Exodus 20:1-17]. And he delivered his message, in such a way, as though all of the members of the little church had broken all ten of them, every day of the week, before he stood up to preach. Once in a while, there was an exception, and that was this – once in a while he would deviate from that tone of thundering denunciation, and he would speak about the designs of Napoleon Bonaparte. And he would denounce the ravages of Napoleon Bonaparte over Europe. And his little congregation, recognizing the academic superiority and the brilliant gifts of their young pastor, sat there in bewilderment. They were as bewildered at his denunciations as they were when he turned aside and denounced Napoleon Bonaparte. How in the world would Napoleon Bonaparte ever know what he was doing there in that little church there in Kilmany, as he fragrantly, and openly, and violently laid bare those atrocious designs of the French general. And that continued without a break for eight solid years, and then something happened. And after this something happened, the people were more bewildered than they were before.
After eight years of vigorous denunciation, suddenly, they did not recognize him. He stood there in the pulpit for the next four years, until he came to the great pulpit in Glasgow, and finally, to the University of Edinburgh. He stood there for the next four years in Kilmany, and this time instead of thundering against those grossness of crimes and sins, and instead of expatiating on the inequities of those Napoleonic crusades, you know what he did? Sunday after Sunday, with tears in his heart and in his eyes, he pled with men about the grace of God in Christ Jesus; preaching the cross and the love of the Lord – asking men to come to Jesus and receive Him as their Savior.
They say in his biography that many, many times, when he rose to pronounce the benediction, he would start all over again. And plead with men to accept Jesus as their Savior. They couldn’t understand. A revival broke out. People were saved. People came forward accepting Jesus. It was a new day, and a new rejoicing. You know what? In the thirty-first year of his life, Thomas Chalmers was converted, he was saved, he found the Lord, he had an experience of regeneration. And for the first eight years of his ministry, his message was one of thunder and denunciation, and then for the last four years he was at Kilmany, his sermons and his message was "turn and look and be saved" [John 3:14-15; Numbers 21:8-9] – rejoicing, believing in the Lord.
Chalmers’ great biographer writes of the change and he treats it like this – "before he preached do and live [Deuteronomy 4:1]; but now he preached believe, and be saved" [Acts 16:31]. What a difference – to preach do and do and do, and be saved, and then to preach believe and be saved. And his farewell message at Kilmany, before going to the great city of Glasgow, and finally to the University of Edinburgh – in his last message, in his farewell message, he spoke of that change – how God had turned in his heart, his soul, and his mind, and his message to a new gospel, to a new faith, to a new commitment.
My brethren, we all know that we ought to do good. There is not a criminal in the land that doesn’t know that he ought to do good. All of us know we ought to do good. The problem lies in our human nature. How do I do good? When I would do good, evil is present with me. How do I overcome the weaknesses of the flesh? How do I live a new life? How do I find grace to serve God? How can I be different from what I am? I am not happy in the weaknesses of my life. I am not happy in the carnality of my life. I am not happy in all of the things that bring heartache and shame to my soul. I know to do good. And there are no people in the world but who know to do good. Our problem lies in where do we find the strength and the grace to achieve those holy purposes that well up in our souls? And as long as the preacher preaches "do and live," the people will listen and go out and find themselves weak and helpless.
But when the preacher preaches, "Believe and be saved" [Acts 16:31], the people go out and find in Christ a new hope, a new strength, a new presence, a new blessing, a new prayer, a new vision, a new day, and a new life. It is the difference between the condemnation of the law and the love, and grace of God, in the Lord Jesus. It is a difference between Mt. Sinai, which, if a man touched, he had to be thrust through with a dart [Exodus 19:12-13]. And Mount Calvary [Luke 23:33], to which anybody might attend. Anybody can kneel at the cross. Anybody can look up into the face of Jesus. Anybody can believe and be saved – anybody [Romans 10:13]. And that means me, that means us, that means you, that means your family.
We don’t have to be as we are; Jesus can change us. We do not have to fall increasingly behind in what God expects of us. We can find fulfillment, achievement, presence, blessing in the Lord Jesus. And that is what that means. He was rejoicing, believing in God [Acts 8:39]. The gospel message is never do and live. The gospel message is always believe and be saved [Acts 16:31], wash and be clean [2 Kings 5:10; Revelation 7:14], look and live [John 3:14-15; Numbers 21:8-9]. It is in His omnipotent and gracious hands that we find strength for the way. That is what it is to look in faith to the Lord Jesus.
And that is our wide, open invitation to your heart tonight. "Lord Jesus, just as I am, I am coming. You can do for me what I cannot do for myself. You can make of me what I am unable to make. You can take this discarded and twisted life of mine and You can reshape it and remake it anew. Like the potter working with the clay, You can remake me, Lord, I believe, and I am coming." It is the way of gladness and rejoicing – rejoicing, believing in God. It is the happy way. It is the glory road. It is the road that leads to heaven and to home. Come, come, come. A family you, "Here I am, pastor, my wife and my children, we are all coming." "This is the two of us, we are coming." Or just one somebody you. In the balcony round, there is time and to spare, in the press of people on this lower floor, into one of these aisles and down to the front, "Pastor, I have decided, I am accepting Jesus as my Savior, my friend, my pilgrim companion. I am coming tonight, accepting Him as my Lord, following Him in baptism, putting my life in the circumference and fellowship of the church. I am on the way, pastor, here I am." I will be standing there by the side of that communion table. Make the decision now in your heart, and on the first note of the first stanza, come.
And could I say to the great throngs of you who have listened to this message on radio wherever you are, Jesus is there as He is here. And just in the bowing of your head, in the opening of your heart heavenward and Christ-ward, Jesus will answer your prayer. He will come into your heart and into your life. He will forgive us our sins. He will show us a new and a glorious way. Believe and be saved. Look and live. Wash and be clean. In this moment that we stand and sing our hymn – on the first note of the first stanza, Come. Do it now. Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.
THE NEW LIFE IN JESUS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. "And washed their stripes"(Acts 16:33)
A. Before – the jailer cruel, harsh beyond requirements of the law
1. First thing he did was wash their stripes
C. Characteristic of Christianity through the centuries
1. Gadarene demoniac
2. Story of the Good Samaritan
3. The leper(Matthew 8:1-4)
a. Dr. Golden in Africa – clan settlements for lepers
II. "And was baptized, he and his household" (Acts 16:33)
A. To follow the Lord in baptism a sweet privilege(Matthew 3:14-17)
B. What we can do for God, we ought to do(Psalm 50:9)
C. Jesus set the example; every disciple thereafter followed(Acts 8:36-39, 16:15)
III. "And rejoiced, believing in God with all his house"(Acts 16:34)
A. Thomas Chalmers
1. Eight years of vigorous denunciation – "do and live"
2. Four years pleading, preaching the cross – "believe and be saved"
3. God had turned his heart
B. We find in Christ a new hope, new strength, new life
1. Difference between condemnation of the law and love and grace of God in Christ Jesus
2. Jesus can change us