Two Words Of Salvation


Two Words Of Salvation

November 19th, 1978 @ 10:50 AM

And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house, Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

Acts 20:20-21

11-19-78    10:50 a.m.



This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  This is the pastor bringing the message entitled the Two Words of Salvation.  In our preaching through the Book of Acts we are in chapter 20, in the middle of the chapter beginning at verse 17, Acts 20:17:

And from Miletus – which is a town down on the seashore – Paul sent to Ephesus, and called for the pastors, the elders, the bishops of the church. 

And when they were come to him, he said unto them, You know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I had been with you in all seasons, 

Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears and trials. . . . 

And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have showed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, 

Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

 [Acts 20:17-21]


These are the two words that define the gospel, the way of salvation – "repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" [Acts 20:21].  The two words of salvation are "repentance" and "faith."  Words can be dynamic and moving and even inflammatory.  When you read the history of the French Revolution, their watchword aroused a whole nation to fanatical fury – "Liberty, and equality, and fraternity."  Or even here in Texas, when we read about the war for our independence, the watchword for the battle cry was, "Remember the Alamo."  But words also can lose their dynamic and their moving and inflammatory appeal.  If I were to stand anywhere in France today and announce and proclaim that battle cry of the Revolution – "Liberty, equality, and fraternity" – I suppose those citizens over there would look upon me as being a strange kind of an aberration.  Or if I were to stand up somewhere in Texas and say, “Remember the Alamo,” why, I suppose that the people who hear me would think I was referring to some kind of a tourist attraction down there in the southern part of our state.  Words can lose their dynamic and moving appeal.  In fact, you can pervert them, and they lose even their content and connotation. 

I listen to these modern theological liberals and read what they write.  And they will use the same nomenclature that we use – the same language exactly – but they empty it of its content, doesn’t mean anything at all to them what it means to somebody like us.  Same way with the communists; they will take our words and they will use them, but they mean an altogether different thing in their nomenclature and in their context.  They will use the word "democracy"; they will use the word "republic"; they will use the word "social righteousness"; they will call it the "People’s Republic of China"; they will call it the "Democratic Republic of East Germany"; and yet, when they use those words "peace, and justice, and democracy," there is no even approach to the meaning that we use them for.  Words can change and words can be perverted, and words can lose their content and connotation altogether. 

Well, there are two words of salvation.  And when they were first used, oh, with what brilliant announcement did it bear a message of glory and salvation to a waiting world.  The gospel begins like this – Mark says, "After John was cast into prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel. . . . And saying" – what is the gospel and this marvelous new announcement that Jesus made to the world? – "The time is at hand, the kingdom of God is here; repent ye" [Mark 1:14-15].  That is the first word.  And "believe the gospel" – that’s the second word.  When those words were first used, Oh, with what moving brilliance did God anoint them.  And with what dynamic meaning did the people listen to them.  So Paul says in this marvelous Ephesian ministry, "Remember, that by the space of three years" [Acts 20:31], "I was testifying to the Jews, to the Greeks, . . . publicly, and from house to house, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" [Acts 20:20, 21]. 

Now, in our modern day, those are philosophical, speculative descriptions.  "Repentance" – now, just exactly what is that?  And "saving faith" – just exactly what is that?  Well, when they were first used, they were dynamic and not lethargic; they were active and not passive; they were moving and marching and not sedentary words.  So, let us see if we can recapture in our present moment and in this holy hour some of the meaning that God poured into those two words of salvation – how to be saved; the way we are saved – two words. 

The first one, metanoia, translated "repentance"; metanoia – a plain simple Greek word that means actually and exactly "change your mind."  And as we would apply it in its use, metanoia refers to a change of attitude, a change of purpose, a change of lifestyle, a change, a turning around.  Here in the twelfth chapter of the Book of Matthew, the Lord says, "The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment upon this generation, and condemn it: because they metanoia; metanoia – they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and, behold, a greater than Jonah is here" [Matthew 12:41].  Well, what is that?  What happened back there in Nineveh?  Jonah came preaching saying, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be destroyed" [Jonah 3:4].  And when the king heard it and when the city heard it, they set in ashes and in sackcloth from the king down to the most menial servant.  They even put sackcloth on their beasts of burden.

 And when God looked down from heaven, it says, "and God repented Him of the evil, that He purposed to do against Nineveh" [Jonah 3:10].  That is, when Nineveh repented, God repented.  That is, when Nineveh changed, God changed.  God is unchanging only in His character.  He is the same God forever.  But God changes toward us when we change.  And when Nineveh changed, repented; God changed, repented.  You have an exact definition of that word in the life of our Lord, Matthew 21 – "What think ye?" – He says – "A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work today in my vineyard.  And he answered and said, I will not; but afterward he repented, and went" [Matthew 21:28-29].  He changed and went; he turned around and went.  Then the father came to the second, and said, Go work in my vineyard. "And he said, I go, sir: and he did not go. Now, which of those two," says the Lord, "did his father’s will?" [Matthew 21:30-31].  Of course, the first one did.  Then the Lord says, "John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and you, when you saw it, repented not afterward, that you might believe him" [Matthew 21:32].  So, that metanoia; "repentance" is a plain and simple thing referring to a change, a turning around in a man’s life – in his mind, in his attitude, in his purposes.  I have changed; that is, I have repented. 

I remember when I was going to school all the pulpits of the land were filled with pacifists.  They did not believe in bearing arms or defending their country.  Pacifism was a fad in the gospel ministry when I was growing up as a boy and going to school.  Then the seventh day of December 1941 came, and the Japanese attacked the American navy station in Pearl Harbor.  And then pacifism went out the window.  I hardly heard it.  "I have changed.  I believe in defending our country.  I have repented from my old attitude.  I believe in bearing arms."  Would to God we would stay that way.  This world and this nation, as Bill McCord prayed, it’s worth defending.  It’s worth living for.  It’s worth dying for.  Well, this thing of a change in my mind – I’ve turned around. 

I remember a man in Kentucky who was very, very sympathetic with all of those distilleries there.  I lived in a county one time that had a distillery behind every hill, and then a moonshine aggregate behind every bush.  Well, this fellow was an arch defender of the liquor industry.  And upon a day, he helped pry up a man out of a ditch – one of the men there in our community.  He’d been in a bar – been in a bar and stayed in the bar; stayed on drinking.  And finally, the bar keeper, when the fellow became an offense in his drunkenness, pushed him out.  So, the drunk staggered around and finally fell in a ditch and froze to death that cold, cold winter snowy night.  And this man that I am talking about helped find him and pried him up.  And he said to me, “When I pried him up out of the ditch and stood him up, a stiff there frozen before me with the mud all over his face," he said, “I’ve changed.  I’m no longer a wet.  I am a dry.  Anything that would do that,” he said to me, “to a man made in the image of God, I am against it.”  That is what repentance is – I have changed; I’ve repented. 

I remember a fellow giving a testimony.  And he said, “All these years of my life I’ve been a professional gambler.  I made my living gambling.”  Then he said, “One time I happened to see a ragged, poor half-starved boy, and I started talking to him.  And I listened to that boy describing his home, and his mother, and his brother and sisters, and that boy, so ragged and poor and hungry.”  And the man said, “The night before I had, in a gambling game with that boy’s father, I had won all of his money, all of his salary, all of it.  And the father of that little family, instead of taking his wages home and buying food and clothing and fuel and shelter, he had been gambling with that man.”  And this professional gambler had won everything that the father had in his check.  And he said in that testimony, he said, “Looking at that hungry and ragged boy, I said, I’ve gambled my last time.  I’ve changed.  For me to do something that results in that, I’m done.”  That’s repentance – I have changed.  "I’ve turned around.  I’m going in another direction. 

Now when we take that plain Greek word and apply it to us today, it means the same when it is used – eis; toward God; "repentance toward God" – eisEis is a moving word.  It is a dynamic word.  It is repentance toward God – turning around facing God.  If a man said that in Ephesus, he would be like this, "All these years of my life, I have been a devotee of Artemis of Diana, worshiping her in this beautiful Ephesian temple; but I have changed.  I am now a Christian, and I follow in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus."  That is repentance – I have changed.  Or, take another instance; in that world in which Paul lived, there were Greek sophists everywhere.  They were supposed to be men of superior intelligence and superior training.  And they spoke in philosophical and metaphysical terms, and they just discussed everything.  And those people, those Greek sophists were everywhere.  So, I can easily imagine a Greek sophist saying:  "In these years past, I’ve been speculating about this other world, this world, the values of life, all those things that Greek philosophers talk about.  I have been a sophist, but I have changed.  I am now a Christian.  And I believe in the revelation of the true God in Christ Jesus.  And I am a follower of the Lord.  I have changed." 

That is exactly what it is today.  "I have passed by the church, and I have passed by the people of God, but I have changed.  I now love the Lord and God’s people.  And I look forward to those beautiful hours when we can gather together in the Lord’s house and sing and pray and listen to an exposition of the Holy Scriptures together.  I have changed.  I’ve said no to God, but now I say yes.  When the Lord makes appeal, my heart is open heavenward.  I listen now to the voice of the Spirit in my soul.  I have changed.  I am somebody else."

  I remember a man in this church.  He had two grocery stores.  And oh, that was before he joined our church.  He was a fine man, but out there, you know, making money with his grocery stores, and he had big signs on his stores – "Open Sundays; Open Sundays."  Well, the Lord got hold of that man, and he came down this aisle and became a fellow member of our church.  And the next week when I passed by his beautiful grocery stores, he had a sign up there – "Closed Sundays; Closed Sundays."  I have changed.  I have turned around.  I am doing something else. 

I remember the story of an infidel who in a hotel lobby was talking to a preacher.  And he was scoffing at the preacher, making fun of him and ridiculing.  And among the things the infidel was saying to the preacher, “You pray.  You pray.  Bah,” he said, “you might as well be talking to the wind.  Prayer doesn’t change anything, and it certainly couldn’t change me.” 

Now, the preacher said to him, “Would you be seated here?  Would you be kind enough to be seated here?  I am going to kneel down by your side and pray for you.” 

And the infidel laughed, that is the biggest joke he ever heard in his life – "Pray for me.  Bah!  Ridiculous, inanity!” 

The minister said, “Would you be seated here?” 

And the fellow said, “Well, yeah.  I will be seated.”  So he sat down there in a chair in the lobby, and the preacher knelt down by his side and prayed for him.  And when the preacher got through praying for him, the infidel laughed and said, “See there, I haven’t changed.  Prayer hasn’t changed anything at all.” 

And the minister said, “But God is not done yet.  God is not done yet.”  And did you know there came a day when the newspapers had an article about a great revival in another city.  And when you read the newspaper, guess who was leading it?  It was that layman, it was that infidel!  That is repentance.  Prayer changes things – namely me.  Metanoia; "I’ve changed my mind.  I have been going this way; I am going to turn around and I am going this way.  I have been passing God by.  Now, I listen to His voice and follow after.  I’ve been saying no to the invitation of the pastor; I’ve changed, I’ve changed.  Preacher, if you will just get through preaching and sing that hymn, I will be right down that aisle.  I have changed."

 And this is a commandment of the Lord.  This is a commandment of God.  It is not optional that I do that. Not a matter of my feeling or my wanting or my anything; it is a mandate under which I am born.  I am commanded of God to repent!  In the seventeenth chapter of the Book of Acts, out of which I am preaching, when Paul preached his sermon on Mars’ Hill to the Areopagus, the supreme court of the Athenians, he said, "God overlooked our ignorance in these days past, but now God commandeth all men everywhere to repent, to turn" [Acts 17:30].  In the passage I had you read in the thirteenth chapter of Luke:  All of us are commanded to repent; "If you do not repent, if you do not change, you will all likewise perish" [Luke 13:3].  That is God.  And the Lord demands an answer.  I am to return an answer to the Lord regarding my attitude, and my mind, and my way of life toward Him and toward His people in the earth. 

I remember one of the most dramatic stories I ever heard in history.  Antiochus Epiphanes, in about 165 BC, was trying to make Greeks, and especially Greek religionists, out of the Jews in the little country of Judea.  So he rededicated the temple of God in Jerusalem to Jupiter – to Jove.  And he boiled a swine, a sow, and took sow’s juice and spread it all over the altar of the sacred vessels of the sacred temple in order to defile it.  And he was making, at the pain of death he was making those Jews bow down and worship before Jupiter – before Jove.  Well, that’s who Antiochus Epiphanes was.  And that monarch, king of Syria, capital up there in Antioch, began to make war against all of the countries around him and add them to his empire.  So he took his army down into Egypt, and he was conquering Egypt, and his army was laying siege to the city of Alexandria.  Now as long as he was way over there in the East, why, that little fledgling empire called Rome didn’t pay any attention to him, but when Antiochus Epiphanes lead his army down into Egypt, he was touching the breadbasket of Rome, the granary of Rome, because Rome depended upon the grain in the Nile Valley to feed her people.  So, the Roman senate sent Gaius Laenas Popilius to confront Antiochus Epiphanes before the walls of Alexandria.  And when the Roman legate stood in front of the king, he delivered the message – the mandate of the Roman senate to Antiochus Epiphanes.  And the message said, "You will desist from this campaign.  And you will cease from this war.  And you will lift this siege of Alexandria and take your army out, or you will face war with the Roman legions!  And you tell me the answer."  Well, the history book said that Antiochus Epiphanes, when he was faced with that alternative, that he demurred and asked for time to consider it.  And when he did, Gaius Laenas Popilius, the Roman legate, took his staff and drew a circle around him in the sand and then said, "Sir, you will give me an answer before you step out of that circle that I can bear back to the Roman senate."  And, of course, Antiochus Epiphanes, fuming and fussing and furious, raised the siege and went back to Antioch, and on the way did an awesome thing in the destruction of Judea. 

But I think of that so often times.  God says I am to turn from sin and from the world.  It is not how I feel about it, not a question debatable, it is a mandate; I am to turn!  It is a decision I am to make in my heart, and God demands an answer.  I want to illustrate that to you, how that is the beginning of God’s dealings with us in my repentance, in my turning.  Let’s say there is a little boy, and he plops down in the living room on the sofa looking at a comic book.  And the father says to the boy, he says, “Son, I want you to run this errand for daddy.”  And the boy stands up, and he slams that book down on the floor, and he says, “Every time I sit down, somebody says get up and do some crazy thing!” 

And the father says, “Son, I’m not asking you to do anything crazy. I just want you to run this errand for daddy.  That’s all.”

“Well, I’m not going to do it!”

And the father says to him, “Son, you see that book on the floor?  I want you to pick it up very carefully and quietly I want you to put that book down on the table, and then you run this errand.”

“I’m not going to do it!”


And after that confrontation, the boy stands there weeping and weeping, weeping.

And the father says to him, “Now, son, pick up that book and put it on the table very quietly.”

The source of his trouble, and of his tears, and of his trials, and all the troubles he’s having is his recalcitrance, his incorrigibility, his obstreperousness, his disobedience.  And there is no way out, absolutely none!  There is no way out for that home, for that family, for that father, or for that boy until that is resolved.  And if that boy doesn’t obey, and if that father doesn’t make him obey, they’re going to have a dissolved and decimated family life.  It’s that plain.  You don’t need to philosophize.  You don’t need to speculate.  It’s that plain.

“Son, you either pick up that book and put it quietly on the table, or you’re going to have trouble in this family and with me.  And you’re going have lots of troubles in this family and with me.”  And if the father doesn’t see it through, he’s going to have troubles in his heart and in his life.  I’m trying to get you to see that the beginning of our right relationship with God is our attitude.  It is our willingness, our yieldedness to obey, to listen.  That is called repentance!  "I’ve said no to God but not anymore.  It’s yes, God.  I’ve passed God by, but not anymore.  Lord, Lord, You and I are walking together in Your way.  And I’ve said no to the church and no to the pastor.  Not any longer.  Preacher, if you’ll just quit preaching, I’m ready to come right down that aisle now and bring my family with me and bring my children with me."  That’s repentance.


I have decided to follow Jesus;. . .

No turning back. . .

The world behind me, and the cross before me;

. . .

Should no one join me, I still will follow,

. . .

[adapted from "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus, by S. Sundar Singh]


That is repentance.  And that’s the first beginning, walking into the kingdom of Jesus. 

Now, I have just a moment for this second one.  Faith:  the second word of salvation, faith; what is saving faith?  Not for me but for God to define it and to say it.  Saving faith:  the great faith chapter is the eleventh of the Book of Hebrews.  Faith is first of all a commitment:  "By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house" [Hebrews 11:7].  When God said:  "Yet one hundred twenty years and I will destroy this world by flood" [Genesis 6:3], Noah believed God.  And out of fear, he built an ark, built it a hundred fifty miles away from any water to float it.

I can imagine the ridicule and the scorn and the sarcasm by which all of his people and friends and neighbors scoffed and laughed at Noah building that big boat a hundred fifty miles from any water that could float it.  But he believed God.  And when the ark was prepared, he moved in with his wife and his three sons and with their three wives to the saving of his house.  That’s faith.  Faith moves.  Faith is dynamic.  Faith marches.  And Noah moved into the ark, which is a type of Jesus our Lord, in the Lord, safe in Him, the "Rock of Ages," the house of refuge.  That’s faith.

All right, again, faith is moving out for God.  By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place, which he should later receive for an inheritance, obeyed.


And he went out, not knowing whither he went. 

And by faith he so journeyed in the land of promise, as in a strange country. 

For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

[Hebrews 11:8-10]


That’s faith, that is, the Bible says it’s faith.  He moved out, he stepped out.  Faith walks down that stairway.  Faith walks down that aisle.  That’s faith.  You can be seated where you are and be eternally lost and undone because faith is dynamic.  Faith moves!  And by faith Abraham when God called him, he moved out, looking for a city that hath foundations whose builder and maker is God [Hebrews 11:10].  That’s faith.

One other thing about faith: faith is devotion.  By faith Moses, is what God says it is, "By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the approach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures in Egypt" [Hebrews 11:24-26].  That’s faith; that is the Bible says that’s faith, a great devotion, love for God and for God’s people – this man, Moses, the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, the prince of Wales, the heir apparent to the throne of Egypt, renouncing it and choosing rather to cast his life and lot with the slaves of Egypt.  That’s faith, God says it is. 

I want to show you a little piece of that in my own life.  I was in Kharkov, in Russia.  Kharkov is a great industrial city where they have their General Motors make their tanks and all the heavy equipment of war, Kharkov.  And as always, practically always, the government, communists, owning everything, places the Baptist church on the edge of the city and almost always behind a wall.

So, in visiting our brethren, our Baptists in Kharkov, why, we were taken out to the edge of the city.  And there’s a high wall.  And then beyond the wall, way over there, is the Baptist church.  So, we go through the big door, the wide gate in the wall.  And when we did so, there, on the other side, coming out of the church to greet us was the pastor.  And behind the pastor, there came the deacons.  And then behind the deacons, the wives, and the children, and the families, and the members of the church.  And they walked toward us to meet us.

Well, it was a moving sight to me, to see that pastor leading his flock to welcome the preachers from America.  The Intourist guide, the state paid Intourist guide, was by my side, and looking at the pastor and his people as they marched toward us, he sarcastically said to me, “Look at that bunch.  Look at that bunch.  Look how poor they are and how ignorant they are, the trash of society!”   Walking by his side and toward the pastor, I turned to him, and I said, “But friend, these are my people.  These are my brothers and sisters, and I want to be identified with them.”

My brother, if you were starving, I want to starve with you.  If you’re having troubles, I want to be having troubles with you.  If you’re having a hard time, I want to have a hard time with you.  If you are in jail, I want to be in jail with you.  As long as you’re in jail, I’m not free.  When you’re sick, I’m not well.  And when you’re in trouble, I’m not delivered.  I want to be numbered with the people of God.  Where you are, I want to be.  And when God raptures you up to heaven, I want to go and be raptured with you.  I want you to put my name on that church roll.  I want to be counted among those who love God in this place.  And I pray that in the Book of Life, when God writes the roll of His redeemed in heaven and your name is there, I want the Lord to write my name there too.  I want to be identified with you and the people of God.  That, the Bible says, is faith; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to be heir apparent to the throne of the pharaohs; that is salvation.  In my heart and mind and life, I turn toward God, and in my love and devotion I follow after the blessed Jesus.  And His way leads us to glory.

And that’s our earnest appeal to you this morning.  Bring your family, come, welcome.  Just a couple you, maybe just married, welcome.  Or just one somebody you; the doors of God’s grace and love are open wide, wide, come.  Down that stairway, down this aisle, "I have decided for Jesus and here I am."  May angels attend you as answer with your life, while we stand and while we sing.