THE WAY MADE PLAIN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-12-78 7:30 p.m.
So once again we are your debtors, soloists, choir, instrumentalists, and the thousands of you who are listening to this hour on the radio of the Southwest, KRLD, and on the radio of our Bible Institute, KCBI. You are listening to the service of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And you are listening to the pastor of the church bring a message, one of sixteen favorite sermons, and it is entitled The Way Made Plain.
We want you to open your Bibles with us in this great auditorium and read out loud from the eighth chapter of the Book of Acts; Acts chapter 8, beginning at verse 35 and reading to verse 39, almost to the end of the chapter, 35 through 39. Now, all of us, let’s read it out loud together. Acts chapter 8, beginning at verse 35, reading through verse 39 together:
Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same Scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?
And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, 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 the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.
One of the most poignant of all of the conversions that is described in the Bible.
One of the attendant evils of the Oriental harem was the ever-present eunuch. And this man was a victim of that terrible institution. He was an emasculated man. He was a withered branch. He was a dry stick. He was without hope of issue or posterity or family. But he must have been a most gifted man. Because even though he was a eunuch, he was the treasurer. We would call him the secretary of the Treasury. In England he would be called the chancellor of the exchequer. He was the treasurer of the great ancient nation of Ethiopia under Candace the queen.
He must have had a wonderful conversion to the truth. Somehow, he was a convert to the one and only God. And coming to Jerusalem for to worship, he had found there a scroll of the prophet Isaiah [Acts 8:27-28]. And as he returned in his chariot to the capital of Ethiopia, he was reading aloud the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah [Acts 8:32-33; Isaiah 53:6-8].
The Lord was merciful to that man. He had sent Philip the evangelist down into the desert to stand by the roadside that goes through Gaza [Acts 8:26]. And when the chariot came by with the attendant driving those horses, and that treasurer sitting in the chariot reading out loud the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, the Holy Spirit said to the evangelist, "Join thyself to the chariot" [Acts 8:29].
And when the Ethiopian eunuch invited Philip to come and sit with him, he was reading that passage that describes the blessed Jesus. "All we like sheep have gone astray: we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all." "He was cut off. . .and who shall declare His generation?" [Isaiah 53:6, 8].
And the eunuch turned to the evangelist and said, "Of whom is the prophet speaking? Is he talking about himself or of some other man? [Acts 8:34]. And beginning at the same Scripture," the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, "he preached unto him Jesus" [Acts 8:35]. So, there are some mighty and wonderful things revealed to us in that simple avowal, "And he preached unto him Jesus."
First: the gospel message is the simple story of Jesus. That’s what it is. In the fifteenth chapter of the first Corinthian letter, Paul describes, he delineates, what the gospel is. He says, "Brethren, I declare unto you, I make known unto you, the gospel wherein ye stand, wherein ye are saved" [1 Corinthians 15:1-2]. What is it? "How that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, He was buried, and the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures" [1 Corinthians 15:3-4].
The gospel is the simple story of Jesus. If we send a missionary across the sea, and he preaches the gospel, what does he preach? He preaches about Jesus. If a man stands in the pulpit and after the service is over, you go out the door and you say, "That preacher preaches the gospel," what do you mean? You mean he preaches Jesus.
The gospel is the story of the Lord Jesus: Jesus born of a virgin [Matthew 1:20-25]; Jesus going about in His ministry doing good [Acts 10:38]; Jesus dying on the cross for our sins [Matthew 27:26-50; 1 Corinthians15:3]; Jesus buried in the tomb [Matthew 27:57-60]; the third day, Jesus raised from among the dead [Matthew 28:1-7; 1 Corinthians 15:4]; forty days later Jesus ascending up into heaven [Acts 1:9-10]; Jesus at the right hand of God [Colossians 3:1; 1 Peter 3:21-22]; and some triumphant golden tomorrow, Jesus coming again [Acts 1:11; Revelation 1:7, Revelation 19:11-16]. That’s what you preach when you preach the gospel. You preach Jesus. "And beginning at the same Scripture, he preached unto him Jesus" [Acts 8:35].
I one time heard of a city preacher, learned, gifted, taught, educated, an academician. And Sunday by Sunday he brought messages to his congregation, fashionable and rich, concerning all of the things of academia: things about literature, things about economics, things about philosophy, things about science. Speaking to his people each Sunday about all of these things up there in the high intellectual world in which he lived.
Upon a day, a little girl came to his office at the church and said her mother had sent for him. And her mother was sick and dying and would he come and tell her how to die? He demurred for he found that the child lived in a slum area, in a tenement area, in the great city. But the little child was so insistent that her mother had sent her, that finally, acquiescing, he followed the child down into the slums of the city at a certain tenement building, up all of those stairways into a darkened room. And there on a bed lay a dying woman. He took his place by her side and said, "You have sent for me. What can I do?"
And the mother replied, "I cannot live. I am dying, and I’m not ready. Would you tell me how to die? Would you tell me how to meet God? Would you tell me how I can be saved?" That fashionable preacher, who for the years had been in that pulpit speaking of all of these philosophies and all of these high intellectual speculations, began to speak to her in the terms and in the language and in the thought by which he had been preaching all through the years. The poor woman, with deepening disappointment, could not even understand the nomenclature that he used, much less what he was talking about. The preacher bowed his head and cried, "O God, help me. Help me."
And when he prayed, there came back to his heart the memories of his godly mother and how she had taught him the simple story of Jesus as a little child. And that preacher by the side of that dying woman began to tell her about Jesus – how we were lost [Romans 3:23; Ezekiel 18:20; Romans 6:23], and He came down from heaven to teach us the way [Hebrews 10:5-14], and how He died for our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3; Matthew 27:26-50], and how He was raised [Matthew 28:1-7] and ascended back to glory [Acts 1:9-10]; and He is waiting there for those who put their trust in Him. And when he began to talk about Jesus, and the simple story of the Lord, and how if we trust in Him, He will save us [John 3:16; Acts 16:30-31], and He is waiting now to receive us, she began to nod her head, "Oh, yes," she said. "Oh, yes," she said, "I can trust a Savior like that."
You know what happened? The next Lord’s Day he stood up in his fashionable pulpit, and before all of those people in the city he described to them what had happened the week before. And he ended it with this sentence. He said, "My dear people, I want you to know, I got that woman into the kingdom of heaven this day. And what is more, I got in myself."
That is the gospel. And however we may explain it, exegete it, however we may expound it, preach about it, the heart and the core and the center of the gospel message is always the simple story of Jesus. "And he preached unto him Jesus" [Acts 8:35]. Not only is the gospel message the simple story of Jesus, but the way of salvation is that plain and simple way of trusting Jesus [John 3:16].
One time I went through that whole Bible and I underscored wherever in the Bible God tells a man how to be saved. Then when I had finished going through the Bible, I looked at all of the passages I had marked. And I looked and was astonished to behold a certain thing. It was this: wherever in the Bible God tells a man how to be saved, He always does it in one simple, monosyllabic sentence – never two sentences, never. Not even two sentences! When God tells a man how to be saved, He will always do it in one simple sentence.
For example, in the first chapter of John, verse 11 it says, "He came unto His own, and His own received Him not" [John 1:11]. Then verse 12, "But to as many as received Him, to them gave He the right to become the children of God, even to them that trust in His name" [John 1:12] – one simple sentence. Or again, in the third chapter of John, verses 14 and 15, "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 eternal life" [John 3:14-15]; one simple sentence.
And the next sentence telling us how to be saved is the most famous sentence in the world, in human literature, the most preciously meaningful – John 3:16. Say it with me together, one simple sentence. Say it out loud with me together. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life"; one simple sentence.
John 5:24, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed out of death into life"; one simple sentence. Or Romans 10:9-10, "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in thine heart that He liveth, that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved, for with the heart one believeth to a God-kind of righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation"; one simple sentence.
When a man comes down that aisle and openly confesses his faith in the Lord Jesus, he is saved; one simple sentence. There is no exception to that. Wherever God tells us how to be saved, He will always do it in one simple sentence.
I have a dear preacher friend. Somebody sent him word saying there is a thirteen year old boy in the hospital who is dying, "Would you go tell him how to be saved?" And the pastor went to the hospital to such-and-such room, and there that boy was in an oxygen tent. And he asked the nurse if he could speak to the boy. And the nurse kindly said, "Yes." And so he put his head under the oxygen tent with the boy, and he said, "Son, they tell me that you know that you are not going to live."
And the boy said, "That’s right. I’m going to die."
And the pastor said, "And son, they tell me you’re not a Christian, you’re not saved."
And the boy said, "That’s right. I’ve never been saved."
And the pastor said, "Son, I want to tell you how to be saved. I want to tell you how to die. I want to tell you how to meet God." And he read to him those simple passages that we have just quoted, how to be saved.
And the boy broke in, and looking into the face of the pastor in astonishment, he said, "But sir, is it that easy? Is it that easy?"
And the pastor replied, "Son, easy for you, but not for Him. Not for Him. You see, He took our sins and bore them in His own body on the tree [1 Peter 2:24]. He suffered in our stead [1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21]. By His stripes we are healed" [Isaiah 53:5].
Easy for us, because He won that battle for us! He took our sins for us. He paid the penalty for us. He died for us that we might never die, but have everlasting life in Him. How to be saved is simply trusting Jesus [Acts 16:30-31]. "And he preached unto him Jesus" [Acts 8:35].
Number three: not only is the gospel message a simple message – it’s Jesus – and not only is the way to be saved a simple way – it’s Jesus – third, the great mighty act of conversion is always a simple act, committing your life to the Lord Jesus.
One time I got on my knees and I said, "Dear God, You say in Your Word, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved’ [Acts 16:31]. Believe on the Lord Jesus. Lord, what is it to believe? What is saving faith? What is saving trust? "’Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.’ Lord, what does it mean to believe?" And the Lord spoke to my heart with this passage, 2 Timothy 1:12, "For I know whom I have believed" – there is my word – "for I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that final and ultimate day."
God’s answer: what is saving faith, what is it to trust in Jesus unto salvation? It is that simple thing of committing your life to the Lord Jesus. This day, this evening, tomorrow’s day, to old age, in death and forever. I commit my life, my soul, my destiny, my every tomorrow, every hope I have, Lord, I commit it unto Thee. I place it in Thy dear, nail-pierced hands. That’s what it is. The great act of conversion is the committal of your life to the Lord Jesus, that plain and simple thing. From now on it belongs to Him: my heart, my destiny, my every tomorrow.
I grew up, as you know, out in West Texas and Oklahoma. And in the days of the missionary preaching to the Plains Indians, there was one of these gospel men who had a tent, and in western Oklahoma had pitched it on those high prairies. And he was preaching the gospel to an Indian tribe, the Plains Indians. And as the meeting progressed and as he was preaching the gospel to those Indians, in one of his services the Indian chief stood up and came down there and stood in front of the missionary. And looking up into his face, said, "Missionary, Indian chief give his tomahawk to Jesus." And he laid it at the missionary’s feet. The missionary paid no attention to him, just kept on preaching about Jesus.
The Indian chief arose a second time, walked down to the front and looking up into the face of the missionary, said, "Missionary, Indian chief give his blanket to Jesus." And he laid his blanket at the feet of the missionary. The missionary paid no attention to him at all, just kept on preaching about the Lord Jesus.
He arose again, went outside of the tent, tied his pony to a stake of the tent, walked back in and looked up at the missionary and said, "Missionary, Indian chief give his pony to Jesus." That’s the last thing that he had. Missionary paid no attention to him at all, just kept on preaching about Jesus. The chief arose one other time, came down to the front; only this time he knelt and, looking up into the face of the missionary, he said, "Missionary, Indian chief give himself to Jesus."
That’s what it is to be saved. We don’t buy our way into the kingdom of heaven. We don’t bribe our way into the kingdom of heaven. We just give ourselves in faith and in trust and in committal to the Lord Jesus, and He saves us. He writes our name in the Lamb’s Book of Life. He numbers them, He numbers us, among God’s redeemed. The great act of conversion is the committal of your life to Jesus [2 Timothy 1:12]. "And he preached unto him Jesus" [Acts 8:35].
Will you notice in the fourth place, the entrance into the church, the family of God, is in obedience to the great commandment, the Great Commission of the Lord Jesus. We are to "go and to make disciples of all of the people, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" [Matthew 28:19-20]. In 1 Corinthians 12:13, "By one Spirit are we all baptized into the body of Christ" [1 Peter 3:21].
There are two kinds of baptism. There is the Spirit baptism, when God adds us to the body of the Lord. We become a member of the household of faith. It is a baptismal work of the Holy Spirit [1 Corinthians 12:13]. Then there is an outward sign of it, water baptism; baptized into the body, baptized into the family of Christ [1 Peter 3:21].
"And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? [Acts 8:36]. I want to be baptized. Philip answered and said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I do believe. I take Jesus as my Savior. I believe He is the Son of God [Acts 8:37]. 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 [Acts 8:38]. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit took away Philip, and that Ethiopian treasurer went on his way" [Acts 8:39].
Hallelujah! Glory to God! Happy in the Lord – our entrance into the church, into the body of Christ, is in our baptism, a simple, humble obedience to the Great Commission [Matthew 28:19-20], and the great commandment of Jesus. And that’s the first thing that will come into the heart of somebody who trusts in the Lord as Savior. "Pastor, I want to be baptized just as Jesus was [Matthew 2:13-16], just as He commanded [Matthew 28:19], and just as all of the saved of God have been. See, here is water; I want to be baptized" [Acts 8:36].
Fifth and last: and our assignment now and forever is praising the blessed Lord Jesus. He is everything. He is all in all; loving Him, serving Him, dedicating heart and life and tomorrow to Him, just loving the Lord, praising God forever. Is not that the sign and the image and the revelation of heaven itself? "Unto Him" – I’m quoting now the redeemed of all of the ages, revealed to us in the Apocalypse – "Unto Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood . . . unto Him be glory and dominion and power forever and forever!" [Revelation 1:5-6]. That is the paean of praise. That’s the text of the anthem that we shall sing in heaven and in earth – just praising Jesus, our all in all.
I entered once a home of care,
And penury and want were there,
But joy and peace withal.
I asked the aged mother whence
Her helpless widowhood’s defense.
She answered, "Christ is all."
I saw the martyr at the stake –
The flames could not his courage shake,
Nor death his soul appall.
I asked him whence his strength was given;
He looked triumphantly to heaven
And answered, "Christ is all."
I stood beside the dying bed,
Where lay a child with aching head,
Waiting Jesus’ call.
I saw him smile – ’twas sweet as May –
And as his spirit passed away,
He whispered, "Christ is all."
I dreamed that hoary time had fled,
The earth and sea gave up their dead,
A fire dissolved this ball.
I saw the church’s ransomed throng,
I caught the burden of their song –
‘Twas this, that Christ is all in all in all.
["Christ Is All," W. A. Williams]
A people waiting for the Lord, loving the Lord, serving the Lord, committing heart and life to the blessed Jesus. "And he preached unto him Jesus" [Acts 8:35].
And that is our prayerful and humble and precious invitation to you tonight: to give your heart and life and every tomorrow in faith and trust, in love, in committal to the blessed Lord Jesus; a boy, a girl, a father and mother, a whole family, a couple, just one somebody you. In a moment we shall stand and sing our hymn of appeal, and the pastor will be there at the front, praying and waiting for you. And if the Spirit of God invites you to the Lord Jesus, would you answer with your life? "I’m coming tonight. I want to accept Jesus as my Savior." Or, "I want to be baptized just as the Lord commanded us in His blessed Book." Or, "We want to place our life and letter here in this church." Or, answering some other call of the Spirit of God in your heart.
Make the decision now. And in a moment when we stand to sing, stand coming down that aisle, coming down that stairway, on the first note of the first stanza. When you stand up, stand up coming. May God bless you; may the angels attend you. May the Lord give you that faith to commit time and eternity in His blessed hands. Come now. Take the Lord now. Follow Him in faith now. Do it, on the first note of this first stanza, while we stand and while we sing.