A Regeneration In Confession
April 14th, 1987 @ 12:00 PM
A REGENERATION IN CONFESSION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-14-87 12:00 p.m.
As has been suggested, the theme for the seventy-first year of our annual pre-Easter services is “The Golden Chain of Salvation.” Yesterday: A Turning in Repentance; today, A Regeneration in Confession, a confession unto salvation; tomorrow, A Baptism Into the Family of God; on Thursday, A Growing in the Grace of Our Lord; and on Friday, Our Entrance Into Heaven; today, regeneration in our confession, a confession unto salvation.
Reading two passages, one from our Lord, in the tenth chapter of Matthew, verses 32-33: “Whosoever therefore shall confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father who is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father who is in heaven” [Matthew 10:32-33]. And the second passage, in Romans, the tenth chapter also, verses 9 and following:
If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in thine heart that God raised Him from the dead, that He lives, thou shalt be saved.
For with the heart one believeth unto a God-kind of righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
[Romans 10:9-10, 13]
A confession unto regeneration, unto salvation.
In these years past, I was conducting a series of revival services in one of the great universities of America. The men who had made possible that convocation in the name of the Lord, made an arrangement for me to speak to all of the athletes of the great university in their athletic dormitory. And the purpose was to get all of those men in the athletic programming of the university to come to the services in a body one night.
So I made my best appeal, and after I had done what I could to encourage them to attend, they asked me to leave; they were going to discuss the possibility. And after I was absented for ten or fifteen minutes, why, they asked me to return. And in the group was a world famous Olympic star. He was the spokesman for the athletic men in the dormitory. And the Olympic star said to me, “After discussion we have agreed that we’re coming to the service one night, and we’ll all be together. But we want you to understand, there’s none of this coming to Jesus stuff for us, and there’s none of this coming down the aisle to confess the Lord for us.” Then he added, “If fire were to fall down from heaven, we will not go down that aisle.” Then you cannot be saved.
Well, why? Because it is the confession of faith that is faith itself; that’s what it is. If you don’t confess it, if you don’t profess it, you don’t possess it, it’s nonexistent. It is the avowal of the commitment that is the commitment itself.
Well, that’s such a strange thing. Well, look: here is a man who has faith. We say, “This is a man of great faith.” Well, I am intrigued. I’m interested. So I searched through all of his pockets and through all of his person to find his faith. You say he has faith. And I don’t find it in any part of him. But you say he possesses faith, then I’ll start anatomically.
I’m looking for his faith, and I see his cerebellum, and his pituitary gland, and there are his tonsils and his bicuspids, and here’s his lung. There’s his liver. Here’s his gizzard; come on down, here’s his femurs. There’s his tibia, here’s his fibula. Finally here’s his tarsals, his metatarsal, and ultimately, his corns, bunions, and toenails. And I haven’t found his faith yet. Well, maybe I overlooked it. So I examined his tensor fasciae lataes and his semimembranosus, and I don’t find faith in him. But you say he has faith, then faith must be something that the man does. It must be something that characterizes his life and his walk. Faith, it’s like love. It’s expression of the thing that is the thing itself.
I one time heard of a man who hadn’t kissed his wife for twenty years, and he shot another man for doing it. Love is the expression of something, and if you don’t express it, you don’t have it.
A mother came up to me one time and said, “What am I going to do with this ragamuffin boy of mine? I can’t get him to comb his hair. I can’t get him to tie his tie. I can’t get him to shine his shoes. I don’t know what I’m going to do with him.” I said, “Mother, forget it, forget it. By and by there’ll come traipsing along a little blond, blue-eyed, lace-covered doll, and that boy will put axle grease on his hair. He will learn to tie his tie a dozen different ways. He’ll shine his shoes.” He’s got it. How do you know he’s got it? By the way he acts, by the way he does. It’s something you do.
Faith is exactly like that. Faith is something that characterizes your life. The Bible will say in Hebrews 11: “By faith Noah.” What do you know, “By faith Noah”? Because when God said He was going to destroy the world, he believed it, and he built an ark [Hebrews 11:7]. Same chapter says, “By faith Abraham.” How do you know by faith? Because when God called him he went out as a stranger and a pilgrim in the earth, looking for “a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” [Hebrews 11:8-10, 13]. Same chapter says, “By faith Moses.” How do you know by faith? Because he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, and despising the allurements and emoluments of being a pharaoh, he cast his life and lot with the people of God [Hebrews 11:23-25]. Faith is something you do. It’s the way you act.
Not only that, but a second avowal. It is the commitment of your life in public, open confession to Christ that is salvation itself [Romans 10:9]. That’s what it is, the substance of it. The whole definition of it is the open, public unashamed commitment of your life to Christ. That’s salvation. “Whosoever shall confess Me before men, him will I confess before My Father in heaven” [Matthew 10:32]. “With the heart one believeth unto a God-kind of righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” [Romans 10:10]. That’s not strange or peculiar. God has never deviated from that way of salvation through all of the millennia and the centuries of time.
When the Lord God said to the children of Israel in Egypt, “The death angel will pass over, but whoever displays the blood openly, unashamedly in the form of a cross on the lintel and on either side of the doorposts, when the angel passes over and he sees that blood, whoever lives inside that house will be saved” [Exodus 12:7, 13, 22-23], well, why on the front of the house? Why on the lintel? Why on the doorposts? Why couldn’t the man sprinkle the blood or place the blood on the back door or inside the pantry or somewhere in a closet? Because God has ordained that the way of salvation is to be open and publicly displayed and to be unashamed on the part of him who thus commits his life to God; there is no other way. Salvation is the open, public, unashamed commitment and avowal of your faith and discipleship in the Lord Jesus. And if I don’t do it, I am not saved. Again I say there’s a reason for that and I can understand it. To be ashamed of the Lord, and to disown and to disavow the Lord, breaks His heart. Simon Peter cursed and swore, saying, “I never saw Him! I never knew Him!” [Matthew 26:69-74]. And while he was cursing and disavowing, disowning, discrediting, the Lord turned and looked upon Peter, broke his heart. He went out and wept bitterly [Matthew 26:75; Luke 22:61-62].
One of the great tributes in the Bible is in the first chapter of 2 Timothy, when Paul speaks of Onesiphorus who came to Rome. And Paul says, “He diligently sought me out, for he was not ashamed of my chains” [2 Timothy 1:16-17]. That’s what it is to be saved. That’s what it is to be a Christian. That’s what it is to follow the Lord. Unashamed, unabashed, an open and public committal, an avowal [Romans 10:9], and I say, God hasn’t changed [Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8]. Moses cried in the midst of the camp, “Who is on the Lord’s side? let him come and stand by me” [Exodus 32:26]. Joshua said, “Choose you this day whom you will serve . . . but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” [Joshua 24:15]. Elijah before Israel said, “How long halt you between two opinions? If Baal be God, serve Baal; but if Jehovah be God, then serve Jehovah” [1 Kings 18:21].
And our Lord asks of us a like, public, unashamed, open avowal and committal [Romans 10:9]. When He was brought before the Sanhedrin, He was accused vehemently, blasphemously [Matthew 26:59]. He stood up, one of His accusers, “He said He is God incarnate, the Son of God. I heard Him say it” [John 19:7]. Another said, “I heard Him say ‘I can forgive sins.’ And who can forgive sins but God?” [Matthew 9:6]. Another said, “I heard Him say He is the Savior of the world, there is no way to God but by Him. I heard Him say it” [John 14:6]. And the high priest says, “What think ye?” And they said, “He is worthy of death” [Matthew 26:66].
In an amazing way, in so solemn a pronouncement, the high priest in that day, before a condemnation of death, the high priest went to each member of the Sanhedrin, seventy-two of them, and put his right hand upon the shoulder of the Sanhedriner. And if the member voted that the man is guilty and worthy of death, he remained seated. But when the high priest put his hand on the shoulder of the Sanhedrinist, if he voted that the man was innocent and to be given life, he stood up. And when the high priest that day put his hand on the shoulder of each one of the members of the high tribunal, every one of them remained seated; every one of them. “He is worthy of death,” and they remained seated. And our Lord stood there before the Sanhedrin, “despised, a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from Him” [Isaiah 53:3].
And as He stands there despised and condemned, I think of that holy family that came to Bethlehem. And there was no room for them in the inn [Luke 2:7]. Had I been the innkeeper, I would have made room for my Lord, or would I? After He had fasted for forty days and forty nights [Matthew 4:2], I would have given Him bread to eat, or would I? When He sat thus weary by the well and thirsted [John 4:6-7], I would have given Him water to drink, or would I? When in Nazareth they brought Him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built to cast Him headlong down [Luke 4:29], I would have unashamedly walked by His side, or would I? When in Gadara they asked Him to leave their country [Mark 5:17], I would’ve invited Him to stay, or would I? When the crowd and the mob at the Passover raised their voices and said, “Crucify Him! Away with Him!” [John 19:15]. I would’ve championed His cause. Would I? And when the priest put his right hand on the shoulder of each Sanhedrinist, would I have stood up?
I believe Him for all that He said He was and all that He promised to do, the Son of God, the Savior of the world [1 John 4:14]. I would have stood up. Would I?
That’s what it is to be a Christian. That’s what it is to be saved. It is an open and public confession of our faith and commitment of life to the Lord Jesus [Romans 10:9]. I would have stood up. Let’s stand in the presence of our Lord.
Our Lord, grant that we, in our day and before our generation, will thus be faithful to the Lord God who called us into such salvation, into such love and service. O God, before an unbelieving, gainsaying world may we shine as lights, testifying to the love and grace of our blessed Savior, in whose precious name we pray, amen.