The Public Confession of Christ
July 25th, 1982 @ 8:15 AM
THE PUBLIC CONFESSION OF CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-25-82 8:15 a.m.
It is a joy for us to welcome the great multitudes of you who are sharing this hour with us on radio. This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message in the doctrinal series on soteriology, on salvation, and the message today is entitled The Public Confession of Christ. There are two passages to be read: Matthew 10 verses 32 and 33, and then Romans 10 verses 8 through 10. First the passage in Matthew, Matthew 10:32-33, "Whosoever therefore shall confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father which is in heaven," the public confession of Christ. Now let us turn to Romans 10. Romans 10, beginning at verse 8; Romans 10:8:
What saith the Scripture? What saith the Lord? The word of salvation is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach –
Namely, what is the word of faith, the word of salvation? –
If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God raised Him from the dead –
that He lives –
thou shalt be saved. . .For the Scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all who call unto Him.
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in thine heart that –
He lives, that He is a living, present, Savior –
thou shalt be saved.
For with the heart one believeth unto God’s kind of righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
The public confession of Christ, "If thou shalt confess Me before men, I will confess you before My Father in heaven. If you deny Me before men, I will deny you before My Father in heaven," the public confession of Christ [Matthew 10:32-33].
A long time ago, years ago, I held a week’s revival meeting in one of the great universities of the world, back in the days when they did those things. There was in the university a famous Olympic star athlete; he was a very devoted young man. And he took me to the athletic dormitory where, for the most part, the men on the football team played. And he had a meeting with those men and invited them to the revival meeting. They asked me to leave the room while they discussed it. Then they opened the door for me to come back. And the captain of the football team addressed me and said, "We have agreed to come to the revival service as a group, as a body, one night. But we want you to understand that there is to be none of this ‘Come down the aisle’ stuff for us. If fire were to fall from heaven, we would not come down that aisle."
They were as good as their promise. They all came to the revival meeting one night. That night was one of the most moving, soul-saving evenings I’ve ever shared. There were scores of those young men and women in the university saved. And I watched that group on that athletic team stand back there and literally hold to the back of those chairs with their hands rather than respond. They were as good as their word. "If fire were to fall down from heaven, we will not come down that aisle." Then, you cannot be saved. Now that’s a strange avowal! "You mean coming down that aisle saves the soul?’ It’s just God’s way of doing it. Not in this particular instance, as though it were unique and strange, but God has always called His people to a public avowal and confession of faith in Him.
In the days of the Passover, God said for His people to display the blood on the outside of the house in the form of a cross on the lintels and on the doorposts on either side [Exodus 12:7, 23]. Is God blind that He could not have seen the blood displayed inside the house? I suppose He could have seen the Passover blood on the inside of the kitchen door, but God said it was to be on the front of the house where the whole world could see it: "This is a family that trusts in God," a public confession of faith. It was so in the life of Moses as he stood in the midst of the camp and said, "Who is on the Lord’s side? Let him come and stand by me" [Exodus 32:26]. It was thus in the days of Joshua: "Choose you this day," he said, "whom you will serve. But as for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord" [Joshua 24:15]. It was thus in the days of Elijah: "Why halt you and how long between two opinions? If Baal be God, serve Baal: but if Jehovah be God, serve Jehovah" [1 Kings 18:21]. It was thus in the days of the New Testament and of our day, in the spurious ending that somebody wrote to close the Gospel of Mark, "It is said, ‘He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved’" [Mark 16:16]. What did that man, whoever he was, write that? Why? What did he mean? Simply what God was saying: in order to be saved, a soul must publicly, openly, display his avowal of commitment and faith in Christ.
When we think of that, which is what God says, "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth ‘Jesus is Lord,’ thou shalt be saved" [Romans 10:9-10], there’s a reason for that. Faith without an expression is meaningless, it is nothing, it is destroyed inside of the man himself. If I say I believe I can play the organ, but I never try, how could I ever play it? If I say I believe I can walk, but never try to walk, how could I ever do it? If I say I believe I can talk, but if I never try to talk, how could I ever speak? If I say I can paint, but if I never try to draw a picture, how could I ever paint?
"Faith without works," James says, "is dead" [James 2:26]. It is meaningless. A man can be lost just by doing nothing. He can drift into hell. In the twenty-fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells the story of the talents [Matthew 25:14-30]. And there was a man with one talent who buried it. And when he gave a reckoning to the Lord, you ought to read in the twenty-fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, what God said to that man. He didn’t do anything, and God said "Cast him out into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth" [Matthew 25:30], just because he didn’t do anything.
The one big sell
That will damn you in hell
Is just to do nothing at all.
[Adapted from "He Made No Mistakes," Author unknown]
What a man needs to do is to act, to respond however the measure of faith that he has, large or small. I one-time heard of a learned professor. People were praying for him and in the service invited him to come forward. And he said, "I don’t believe. I don’t have any confidence or faith in Jesus Christ." "Well," they said, "go down the aisle and tell the people what you do believe." He replied, "I don’t think they’d like to hear it." "Do it anyway."
He replied to that invitation and came down to the front to tell the people at the church what he believed about Jesus. So the professor stood there, and he said, "I believe Jesus was a good man." Then he paused and said, "Wait. I believe He was the best of men." Then he said, "I believe Jesus was a great man." Then he paused and said, "But wait. I believe He was the greatest of men." Then He said, "I believe Jesus changes hearts and lives. Wait!" he said, "I believe He has changed my heart and my life."
When we act upon the faith that we have, whatever it is, we are led from one height of confession and avowal to the other. The Lord invites that. "Try Me," He says. "Test Me," He says. "Prove Me," He says, as the thirty-fourth Psalm avows: "Taste and see that the Lord is good" [Psalm 34:8]. Try. "Prove Me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not pour you out blessings your heart cannot contain it" [Malachi 3:10].
"Come and see," that’s the beginning of the gospel of Christ in the first chapter of John, "Come and see" [John 1:39, 46]. It is the expression of faith that is faith itself. That’s what it is. If I don’t express it, I don’t possess it, I don’t have it. But if I have faith, faith is an expression of something in a man’s heart.
Look at this: here is a man, and you point him out. "This man has great faith." I’ve heard that so many times. "This is a man of faith. This man has great faith." Well, I’d like to see it. I’d like to know what it is. You say, "This man has it. He has faith." Well good. I’ll get me a scalpel, and I’ll get me other surgical instruments, and I’ll start at the top of that critter’s head to find his faith. You say he’s got it. I want to see what it looks like. So I start at the top of him, and there’s his skull, his cranium, and his cerebral hemispheres, his pituitary gland. Well, I haven’t found it yet, but I’m a-keepin’ at it.
So there are his tonsils, and his bicuspids, and there are his clavicles, and there’s his sternum, and then I go on down, probing for his faith. There’s his vermiform appendix, there’s his pancreas, there’s his gizzard, there’s all these other unnameable things that he has. I haven’t found it yet, but I’m a-stayin’ at it. You say he’s got it. There’s his femurs, there’s his tibia, there’s his fibula, there’s his tarsus, his meta-tarsus. Finally I get down to his corns, bunions, and toenails. Now I haven’t found any faith yet.
But you say he’s got it. "This is a man of great faith." Well, then, it must be that faith is the way a man does. It’s the way a man acts. It’s the way a man responds. He has faith. It’s because of the way he does. It’s like love. Love is the way a fellow acts. It’s the way a fellow feels. It’s the way a fellow does. And if he doesn’t do it, if he doesn’t express it, he doesn’t have it.
I one time heard of a fellow that hadn’t kissed his wife in twenty years. Then he shot another man for doing it. He doesn’t have faith. Once in a while, a mother will come up to me, and she’ll say, "This ragamuffin boy of mine, I don’t know what to do with him. He won’t keep his shirttail in. He won’t comb his hair. He won’t tie his tie. He won’t even wear one. He won’t shine his shoes. I don’t know what to do with him." I say, "Now listen, mother, you forget it. Just wait and by and by, they’ll come traipsing along some little blue-eye, blonde-headed girl, and that boy of yours will put axle grease on his hair, he’ll learn to tie his tie half a dozen ways, he’ll shine his shoes, he’ll have a crease in his pants you could cut your hands on. Just wait." He’ll fall in love. And that’s how you know it, by the way that he acts.
All of faith is just like that. It’s the way you do. In the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews, it says, "By faith, Noah…" How do you know "By faith, Noah?" When God told him He was going to destroy this world by a flood, he built an ark to the saving of his house by faith [Hebrews 11:7]. Says in that same chapter, "By faith, Abraham…" How do you know "By faith, Abraham"? Because when God called him to go into a country that he had never seen, he went out. That’s faith [Hebrews 11:8]. It says, "By faith, Moses…" How do you know "By faith, Moses"? Because he renounced the throne of Pharaoh in order to suffer with the people of God, rather than to enjoy all the pleasures of Egypt for a season [Hebrews 11:24-26]. That’s faith! Faith moves! That’s what it is. It’s the expression of it that is the thing itself.
Thus it is the way to God. The prodigal said, "I will arise and go" [Luke 15:18]. And he turned back to his father at home [Luke 15:20]. That’s faith. The woman with an issue of blood said, "If I but touch the hem of His garment, I will be saved" [Matthew 9:20-21]. And she touched the hem of His garment and was saved [Matthew 9:22].
I received last week a letter from a brilliant young lawyer. I had won him to Christ when we were students in Baylor University. And I said to the young fellow, who was a law student, I said to him, "If you don’t ever start, you’ll never be saved." But he says, "I don’t know whether I’d carry through or not." I said to the young fellow, "Listen, it would be better to start and to fail, than never to start at all." He said, "I’ll do it." And he’s been a glorious Christian for all of these decades since.
Paul concluded this wonderful passage on how we can be saved with a marvellous universal avowal. "There is no difference between the Gentile and the Jew: the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" [Romans 10:12-13]. What an unusual avowal is that! "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."
God says He is sensitive to the cry of His people. He bows down His ear to hear. "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" [Romans 10:13]. God is sensitive to the cry and the call of His people. God said to Moses on the back side of the Midian desert [Exodus 3:1-2], "I have heard the cry of My people. The cry of My people has come up to Me" [Exodus 3:7, 9]. God sent him down to deliver Israel [Exodus 3:10]. That’s God.
When old Eli rebuked Hannah, she was there in the tabernacle of the Lord praying, her lips moved but she did not say anything out loud. And old Eli, the pastor of the church, rebuked her and said, "Woman, put away your wine. You act drunken." And she replied, "My lord, thy handmaiden is not drunken. I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit. And I have asked God to give me the desires and the prayer of my heart. And God answered from heaven," sensitive to the cry of His people [1 Samuel 1:12-20].
Elijah, on Mount Carmel, knelt down by the altar that he had repaired, and he cried, "O Lord, hear me! Hear me. Hear me, I pray, that this people might know that Thou art God." And God answered by fire [1 Kings 18:36-39]. When the people said to Bartimeus, "The Lord is too busy, hush up!" blind Bartimeus but cried out the more, "Jesus, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me!" And Jesus heard him [Mark 10:46-52].
When the Lord said to the Syrophoenician woman who asked Him to heal her daughter, He said, "It is not meet to take the bread and feed to the dogs. I am sent just to the house of Israel." And the dear woman said, "Please, my daughter; even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the children’s table." And the Lord heard her importunity and healed her child [Mark 7:25-30].
One of the most poignant stories told by the Lord Jesus concerned, for one part, a publican sinner who went up to the temple to pray. Would not even lift up his face to God but beat on his chest and cried, saying, "Lord be merciful to me a sinner." And Jesus said, "That man went down to his house justified, saved" [Luke 18:13-14]. God heard him! He listens to the cry of His people.
This week, I read about two little waifs, two little ragged urchins from the streets of London. They were in a charity hospital in the city, and their cots happened to be side by side. One of the little boys was ravaged with a high burning fever. And the other little lad had been grievously hurt under the wheels of a heavy wagon. And the little boy who was injured said to the little fellow next to him on the cot, he said, "Willy, I went down to a mission Sunday school, and they told me there that if we would call on the name of Jesus He would help us." And little Willy replied, "But how will He know when He comes by that I want Him to help me?" And the little injured lad said, "Willy, you just hold up your hand, and when He comes by He will see it, and He will help you."
When the evening came, little Willy said to his injured friend next to him in the cot, "What if He comes by and I’m asleep?" And the injured lad said, "Why, little Willy, you just hold up your hand. Keep your hand held up." And little Willy said, "But I can’t. I don’t have strength to hold up my hand." So the injured lad took his own pillow and propped up little Willy’s hand so when Jesus came by, if he was asleep He would see his hand held up. The next morning when the nurse came by, she stopped at little Willy’s cot and looked at him there with his hand held up. The little boy had died in the night with his hand held up. I want you to think about the theology of that for a minute. Those two little street boys had no depth of understanding at all, none at all. I would think that they thought of Jesus as some great physician from the skies who would be coming by.
I want you to look at how naive they were, how simple and without understanding. But I want you to look at one other thing. What do you think? Do you think Jesus saw that wasted little hand, raised up, going "God, Lord, help me! Help me?" That’s what God says: "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" [Romans 10:13]. Not my theological understanding or training or depths of wisdom; it’s that I call upon His name. That’s how I’m saved. I may admire the Lord and be lost. I may speak eloquent perorations about the Lord and be lost. I might write books about the Lord and be lost. I may sing about the Lord and be lost. But I can’t call on His name and be lost. For God says if I call upon His name, I will be saved [Romans 10:13].
Lord, how wonderfully simple has God made it that all of us poor lost sinners might find deliverance, and help, and healing, and life, and heaven in Thee. Bless His name forever.
May we stand together?
Our Lord, so many things in the Bible call us back to this great truth: "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter in" [Matthew 18:3]. God doesn’t save us because we’re smart, or because we’re beautiful, or handsome, or wise, or rich, or learned. God saves us because He loves us [John 3:16-17], and He made it plain and simple. If I’ll just turn and ask, God will answer [Romans 10:13]. If I’ll just lift my hand, God will save me. And in this moment when our people pray for you, a family you to give your life to God and to us in this dear church, a couple you to answer with your life, or one somebody you, "This is God’s day for me and for us. I’m coming. We’re coming," make the decision now in your heart, and in a moment when we sing our appeal, answer with your life. In the balcony, down one of those stairways, in the throng on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, "Pastor, I have decided for God, and I’m coming."
And our Lord, may the angels in heaven who rejoice attend their way as they come, in Thy precious name, saving name, amen. Welcome, while we sing.