The Two Words of Salvation
June 27th, 1982 @ 8:15 AM
THE TWO WORDS OF SALVATION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-27-82 8:15 a.m.
And welcome to the great throngs of you who are listening to this hour on radio. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas delivering the message entitled The Two Words of Salvation. In our series on "The Great Doctrines of the Bible," we are in the section on soteriology, on salvation, and the message: The Words of Salvation.
In the twentieth chapter of the Book of Acts, Acts chapter 20, Paul is describing his incomparable ministry in Ephesus. The nineteenth chapter of the Book of Acts is a recounting of the blessing of God upon the witness of Paul in that ancient Greek city Ephesus. And in the twentieth chapter of the Book of Acts, speaking to the pastors of the church in Ephesus, he recounts his three years of soulwinning among them. And this is what he says in verse 31: "Watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears" [Acts 20:31]. Then in verses 20 and 21, he describes again his soul-saving ministry: "I have showed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" [Acts 20:21]. The two words of [salvation]: "Repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ."
As I read the Bible, I suppose there has never been a more powerful witness to the truth of God than the Spirit gave to Paul in the Greek city of Ephesus. In chapter 19, verse 10, it says, "So that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks" [Acts 19:10]. And then verse 20 reads, in chapter 19, "So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed" [Acts 19:20]. That Roman province of Asia was turned heavenward and God-ward by this unusually effective work of the apostle in Ephesus. The seven churches of Asia were founded in this ministry, Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, [Thyatira,] Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea [Revelation 2:1-3:22], beside the churches in Hierapolis and Colosse [Colossians 4:13]. The whole province was aware of the gospel of Christ, and made sensitive to the atoning grace of our Lord, and I would suppose – wouldn’t you? – that this is an exemplary model for all of us in our modern day and in this present church.
Do you ever sometimes think of the activities and of the organizations in the church that seemingly just go on for their own sakes and have no ultimate, real purpose? Don’t you think that every organization in the church ought ultimately move and be in existence and be viable just for one great purpose, to win people to Christ? Don’t you think every activity in the church ought to have that same ultimate purpose, to win others to Jesus?
In the Reminder this week, there is a presentation of a young man, Dr. Tom Melzoni, who is coming to be our minister of education and church programming. And as I listened to that young fellow who has had a marvelous spiritual conversion, his family an immigrant Italian family, his grandfather came to America from Italy with ten children, settled in Eastern Kentucky; they belonged to a Roman Catholic communion, and one of those children attended a Vacation Bible School and was won to Christ. And that one little boy won his nine brothers and sisters, his father and mother, and the whole family to Christ Jesus, and the boys became Baptist preachers, and one of them [is] the father of this young doctor of education who is coming here to be with us. Isn’t that what Vacation Bible School is about? Don’t you think? Isn’t that what the Sunday school is about? Isn’t that your persuasion? Isn’t that what the whole church is about, to win others to Christ?
Can you imagine staff members that don’t win people to Jesus? Deacons that don’t win members to the Lord? Church fellow communicants, we, who never win anybody to Jesus? How different we are in some of our efforts and in some of our lives from the model and the example that we find here in the Word of God. "Remember that by the space of three years," his entire ministry in Ephesus, "I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears [Acts 20:31]; testifying both to the Jews and to the Greeks," that is, to everybody, "house by house," he says, "publicly, and from house to house, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" [Acts 20:20-21]. The word that Paul uses here to describe his work in that heathen, pagan city of Ephesus is a very impressive word: diamarturomai. The Greek word for "witness" is martus: "martyr." So many times did the witness to Christ lay down his life, that the word came to mean "martyr," "martyr." Now the verbal form of it is marturomai. Now did you see that word I just pronounced, diamarturomai: it is an intensive prefix, diamarturomai, translated here "testifying, witnessing"; more accurately would it be "zealously, earnestly witnessing, testifying both to the Jews and to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" [Acts 20:21].
Those two words that he uses there to describe the message of salvation describe the same thing: "repentance" and "faith." They are like the two sides of a coin: you couldn’t have a coin without two sides, nor can you have salvation without these two words: "repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ"; the two words of salvation [Acts 20:21]. First, "repentance toward God," toward God: a change in life and destiny, God-ward and heavenward. Repentance toward God: there is no salvation apart from it. We cannot be saved without repentance, without turning. Our Lord said, in Luke 13:3, "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." And then as though that were not enough that He said it one time, He repeated it in verse 5, "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" [Luke 13:5]. There is no salvation apart from repentance.
I am under obligation to repent. I am commanded to repent. The apostle Paul said in his sermon to the Athenians, another ancient Greek city, in Acts 17:30, "But now commandeth all men every where to repent." I cannot be saved without it. I am under commandment to repent. I have no other choice. God cannot deal with me, and I cannot come to God, except through repentance. May I illustrate that? In the sitting room of a home is a father and a mother, sewing, and a little boy over there reading a comic book. And the mother says to the little boy, "Son, would you go upstairs and get that spool of thread on the dresser, and bring it to mother?" And the little boy stands up, and he throws that comic book in fury on the floor, and he says, "All you do around here is think up things for me to do, and I’m tired of it!" And he storms out of the room. And the father says, "Son, come here. Come here, son." And the boy turns around, and the father says, "Now, son, you see that comic book you threw on the floor? Now, pick it up, son, and quietly lay it on the table, and come over here and apologize to your mother, and then go upstairs and get that spool of thread." And the boy says, "I will not." And the father says, "Son, you will pick up that comic book and put it on the table quietly and walk over here and apologize to your mother." And the boy begins to weep and to cry. And the father says to him, "Son, your weeping and your crying and your lamenting means nothing at all, nor will we even discuss it. Son, you pick up that comic book and place it on the table quietly and go over here and apologize to your mother." And until that boy does that there is no communication, there’s no harmony, there’s no rapport in that family between that boy and that father. That’s why God says to us: except I turn, except I ask forgiveness, except I repent, there is no possibility of my having peace or rapport with God. I am commanded to turn; to repent [Acts 17:30].
There is a vast difference in the Bible between remorse and repentance. It’s a shame that in the Bible both metamelomai and metanoeō are both translated "repent." Metamelomai is "remorse." "Judas repented," says the New Testament here, the King James Version, "Judas repented, metamelomai, he was remorseful" [Matthew 27:3], but he never turned, he never changed. The word for "repent" is metanoeō, which is "a change in mind, a change in destiny, a change in life, a change in purpose." "Repentance, metanoeō, repentance toward God," it is a turning to God [Acts 20:21]; and without it, I can never find peace with the Lord.
Repentance, a change in destiny and life and purpose, is very easily seen. You find it in the life of the prodigal son. As he wasted his life in riotous, worldly living, and came down to need and to poverty and to want [Acts 15:13-16], he said to himself, "How many of my father’s servants have more to eat and to spare, and I perish here with hunger?" [Acts 15:17]. And as he thought about his father’s house, he said, "I will arise and go back to my father and my home" [Luke 15:18]. That is repentance. I have decided to turn; I have decided to change. I’m changing my course, I’m changing my destiny, I’m changing my thoughts, I’m changing my mind, I’m changing my way of life; I am repenting, I’m turning God-ward.
As you know, I came to Dallas from Muskogee, Oklahoma. It was the capital of the five civilized tribes that the federal government moved to Indian Territory: the Cherokees, and the Chickasaws, and the Choctaws, and the Creeks, and the Seminoles. And being there as a pastor, I dug through many, many things of Indian Territory days. And I found an incident that happened in the old Indian Territory days and is a part of the history of the Chickasaw nation. There were ninety criminals who had been arrested and rounded up by United States marshals: Indians, and Mexicans, and blacks, and whites, and robbers, and outlaws. And this incident happened in the night, in the middle of a storm, and a parson, a preacher is preaching to them. And what happened has been written in a poem by the editor of the Muskogee Daily Phoenix, back there in those long ago Indian Territory days. And that poem goes like this. It starts off with the parson saying:
"I am going to preach, and I’ll try to teach
To the ninety men in here,
Of the words of love, from the throne above,"
And his tone was loud and clear.
"I preach to you of a Savior true,
And a happy home on high;
Where the angels dwell, all saved from hell,
And the righteous never die."
And he prayed a prayer in the prison there,
As the ninety bowed their heads;
The bold Choctaw, and the Chickasaw
The whites, the blacks, and the reds.
He prayed for the chief, with his unbelief,
For the black highwayman bold;
For the robber too, and his bandit crew
For the criminals young and old.
Then he sang an hymn, in the prison grim,
He sang, "Turn sinner, turn.
It’s not too late to reach God’s gate,
While the lamp holds out to burn."
Then from his bed, twixt the black and the red,
Up rose an outlaw bold;
With trembling step, to the parson crept
All shivering, as with cold.
And a vicious flash of the lightning’s crash
Showed his features pale and stern,
As he bowed his head, and slowly said,
"I am resolved to turn!"
And it seemed to me, no one shall see
A scene so weird, so grand
As the white and the red on their blanket bed
Round the Christian one did stand.
While the night came down like a silvery crown
And a promise gave to all
For the ninety men, in the marshal’s den
Heard only the Savior’s call.
["The Criminal Convert," Clarence B. Douglas]
That is repentance! "I am resolved to turn! I am going to change. I’ve been going this way from God; I’m going to turn around. I’m going that way, toward God." Repentance is always toward God.
I don’t know whether she’s here this morning or not. There was a woman, who married to a worldly man who drank heavily, lived out in the world – in order to try to win and to influence her husband, went with him, and she drank, and she caroused by the side of her husband. One evening, while he was drinking and she filled her glass, when she raised it to her lips, her little boy ran to her and said, "O mother, don’t drink that! It will make you crazy as it does my father." The mother set the glass down and the next morning called one of the dear, precious, faithful members in our church, and said, "I don’t know what to do. I don’t know where to turn! I have resolved," she said, "I will not go with my husband anymore to the bar, to the drinking. I have changed! But I don’t know what to do." And the dear woman in this church said to her, "Meet me at nine-thirty o’clock in the morning, Sunday, on the steps of the First Baptist Church in Dallas." She came, she came to Sunday school, she came to church, she came to the Lord, she entered into the kingdom of God. That is repentance! "I have resolved to turn. I have changed! I’m going this way no longer; I’m going God’s way"; repentance toward God [Acts 20:21].
The second word of salvation is no less dynamic and moving: "faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" [Acts 20:21]. Faith is always volitional. The seat of our salvation is always in our wills. Not in our emotions, not in our feelings, it is always in a destiny determining decision; it’s in a great commitment. I see that so many times in the Word of God. Paul will write in 2 Timothy 1:12, "For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day." "I have deposited," that would be a good translation, "I have deposited my soul in His hands, and I am persuaded, I believe He is able to keep that that I have committed, deposited in His hands." You see that overtone again, John 1:11-12: "He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But to as many as received Him, to them gave He the right, the prerogative, the privilege of becoming the children of God, even to them that trust in His name, that believe on His name." Faith is always dynamic. It is never lethargic. It is always active. It is never inactive. It moves.
I haven’t time to expound this eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews; that’s the great faith chapter in the Bible. And it is a long chapter; and all it is, is giving one Scriptural example after another of what faith is, faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. What is faith? Faith, I say, is a commitment. In the seventh verse, he speaks about Noah: "Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear" [Hebrews 11:7] – by the way, I don’t think that’s a bad reason to come to Jesus. I am afraid of the judgment, and I’m afraid of hell, and I’m afraid of damnation, and I’m afraid of the condemnation of God; "moved with fear." The beginning of wisdom is the awesome fear of the Lord [Proverbs 9:10]. "Noah, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house" [Hebrews 11:7]. Well, that’s what it is to have faith: he got in the ark, and he was saved [Genesis 7:1, 13-23]. In the twenty-eighth verse of this same chapter, he speaks of the Passover and the sprinkling of blood [Hebrews 11:28]; that’s faith, getting under the blood when the death angel passes over [Exodus 12:7, 13, 22-23]. Look again; in the eighth verse, he speaks about "Abraham, called of God that he should go out, obey, and he went out trusting God" [Hebrews 11:8-9]. Faith moves out, it goes down that aisle, it comes down this aisle, it walks down that stairway, it comes down one of these stairwells, it comes to the preacher, it takes his hand, says to the preacher, "By God’s grace, I’m accepting Jesus as my Savior. And I stand before men and angels," that’s faith. It moves; it doesn’t stay in the seat. It is not inactive, it doesn’t pass, "Some other day, some other time"; it’s now, that’s faith. Abraham moved out.
Look again: an illustration of Moses, "Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God . . . esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt . . . for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible" [Hebrews 11:25-27]; loving the unseen Christ. Wouldn’t that make a wonderful sermon? Loving the Unseen Christ, that’s faith, that’s faith. We use the expression describing that, trying to describe that, "I’ve given my heart to Christ." Well, what do you mean by, "I’m giving my heart"?
Last night in this very place we had a beautiful wedding. And that young man gives his heart to that bride, and she gives her heart to that groom. That is, he sets his affections upon her, he strives to please her, he places her first in his life, he always remembers her. That is faith. How do you know how it’s going to come out? You trust. How do you know what’s going to happen to us? We by faith believe that He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we could ask or think [Ephesians 3:20]. Faith is always dynamic, always moving.
You say, "Pastor, before I come forward, before I move out in trust and in faith, I need to make myself better." You’ll never come. You’ll never come. If our salvation were a matter of making ourselves better, there’d be no need for the death of Christ, no need for the blood of Jesus; we just make ourselves better. Do you ever notice these great hymns of the faith, how they speak of that? Here’s one:
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,
O there are ten thousand charms.
["Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy," Joseph Hart]
But I must arise and go. If I wait till I’m better, I’ll never come, never. Look again at the hymn that is so often sung:
Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee
O Lamb of God – just as I am – I come, I come.
["Just as I Am, Without One Plea," Charlotte Elliot]
Salvation is a gift; and I must take it, I must receive it [Ephesians 2:8-9]. That’s what it is to be saved.
Somebody will say, "But I don’t feel like it. I don’t have the feeling." I guarantee you, I guarantee you, before God in heaven and before these witnesses on earth, you can’t do that without being deeply moved. You come down that aisle, you accept Jesus as your Savior, you ask Him to forgive your sins, you turn your life in the direction of God, serving Him, you follow the Lord through the waters of the Jordan, being baptized, you walk in and out and be counted in the family and the people of God, I guarantee you will have feelings that you have never known before; some of them so deep you will bow your head and cry.
"But pastor, God doesn’t seem near to me. He seems far away. God doesn’t speak to me." That’s because you drown His voice in your heart. God speaks to you in every providence of life. God speaks to us in the rising of the sun; He has given us another day. God speaks to us in the beauty of the sunset, giving us rest for the night. God speaks to us in the stars that shine from the sky. God speaks to us in the vernal showers that fall from heaven. God speaks to us in every breath that we breathe. God speaks to us in age and in death. God speaks to us in a little child. God speaks to us in our hearts. God speaks to us from His Holy Word. God speaks to us in the message of the preacher. God is speaking to your heart now. God’s voice is heard in your heart, if you will open your spiritual ears heavenward, Christ-ward, God-ward.
It is a marvelously true word that Paul avows in Romans 10:8, "For the word of salvation is nigh thee, even in thy heart, and in thy mouth; namely," then verse 9, "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in thine heart that He lives, raised from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart one believeth, trusts, commits himself to a God kind of righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" [Romans 10:9-10]. He pleads, He knocks, He invites, He is in your heart inviting you to Christ. And that is the faith: when I respond, into that aisle, down one of those stairways, "Pastor, my hand, my heart, my life, I have decided for God." That’s what it is to be saved. May we stand together?
Our Lord, these words in God’s Book are so meaningful for us. They change our hearts, they change our homes, they change our lives, they open heaven’s door for us; these are God’s words. They lead us to heaven. And while our people stand in the presence of angels and the Holy Spirit takes these words from the Scriptures to your heart in appeal, answer with your life. "Pastor, this is God’s day for me, and I have decided for Him; and I’m on the way." On the first note of the first stanza, a family you, come; a couple you, come; one somebody you. On the first note of the first stanza: "Here I am, pastor, and here I stand. By God’s help, I offer Him my life." And thank Thee, Lord, for the sweet harvest You give us this moment, in Thy precious and saving name, amen. While we sing our song, welcome, down this aisle, down this aisle.
TWO WORDS OF SALVATION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Paul in Ephesus, soul winning for three years(Acts 19:10, 20, 20:20-21, 31)
B. An example for us in our work in this great city of Dallas
1. Activities in the church ought to be for one purpose – to win souls
2. Tom Melzoni – won to Christ through VBS
C. Paul in his witnessing testimony – diamarturomai
1. Salvation has two sides, both vital in our reconciliation to God
II. Repentance – a turning toward God
A. It is necessary to salvation(Luke 13:3, 5)
1. We are commanded to repent (Acts 17:30)
B. It is more than remorse(2 Corinthians 7:10, Matthew 27:3)
C. It is a change of purpose, action, direction, mind, and living
1. Prodigal son(Luke 15:17-18)
2. Poem, "The Criminal Convert"
3. Woman who drank with her husband resolves to turn
III. Faith – an acceptance of Christ as personal Savior
A. A volitional choice(2 Timothy 1:12)
1. More than historical acknowledgment or intellectual assent(James 2:19)
B. It is a commitment, a moving out, and a living consecration(Hebrews 11:1, 7-10, 15-16, 24-28)
IV. A response is necessary
A. "But I must make myself betterâ€¦"
1. We accept salvation as a gift
2. Hymns, "Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy", "Just As I Am"
B. "But I mustfeel differentâ€¦"
1. Feelings follow after tremendous commitments to God
C. But God seems far away