THE WAY OF SALVATION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-20-87 7:30 p.m.
It is a joy to welcome you as a part of our dear First Baptist Church in Dallas. The message tonight is built upon a way that is most familiar to people who are taught in the art, in the approach of soulwinning. We have all of our lives heard of the Roman road of salvation. It is a beautiful way to present the gospel. There are about four famous passages in Romans that are used [Romans 1:20-21, 3:23, 5:8, 6:23]. This message tonight is in keeping with the emphasis of our church this month upon our inviting others to a faith of saving grace in our blessed Lord. Every Sunday evening this month, from six to seven o’clock, here in this sanctuary, we gather for that study. It has been most profitable and blessed. The exception to the evening will be this coming Lord’s day when we have our Acteen Coronation. Then we go back for the rest of the month at 6:00 o’clock in our instruction in how to be an effective soulwinner.
Now tonight, instead of just taking those three or four or five verses in the Book of Romans, that are used in what we call the Roman road of salvation, I have taken the whole book and have sought in so brief a moment as I now possess to present Paul’s picture of our way of salvation. Then after the message tonight and our appeal, why, we shall have the beautiful privilege of ordaining several of our fine and consecrated men to the fellowship of deacons.
Now to begin, Paul presents the way of salvation first in our desperate and tragic need. In the first chapter of the Book of Romans, there is a phrase that he uses to describe us, all humanity. And as I read it, it reminds me of that tragic theme in Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, da-da-da-da, and you hear it over and over and over again. In describing the breach that developed between God and the man that He made, that phrase is used again and again and again. In Romans 1:24, in Romans 1:26, in Romans 1:28, the phrase is, “God gave them up. God gave them up.”
You see, God created man for fellowship, that we could think His thoughts and speak His language and be one like Him [Genesis 1:26-27]. I don’t know whether any of you remember that black play called Green Pastures, but in that play, God is pictured as seated and looking upon His beautiful creation. There are the stars that swing in the sky and all of these planets in their orbits. Then He looks upon the beautiful and verdant earth with its mountains, and its streams, and its lakes, and its great oceans. But do you remember, when God sits down at the end of His creation and looks at all of the wonder of the work of His hands, he says, “I am lonesome, I am lonesome”?
How could a man find fellowship with an ocean or with a planet or with a star? “I am lonesome.” So the Lord God made a man like Him, and He made him for fellowship. So, Genesis 2:7, “The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul,” like God. So Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female, created He them.” God made us like Him. Love, joy, and peace, and happiness were our portion. Misery, and sadness, and war, and death were never intended by the Lord God. They were interlopers and intrusions in what God had so beautifully wrought.
Now, sinful disobedience broke that fellowship.
- Deceived by Satan [Genesis 3:1-6],
- man was separated from God and cast out of the garden of Eden [Genesis 3:22-24],
- and separation from God brought inevitable death, and that meant death for the whole human race [Romans 5:12].
We all became sinners and inherited propensity and affinity from Adam. The whole generations became sinners, and thus became subject to the penalty of death.
- In Romans 3:10: “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one.”
- Verse 16, “Destruction and misery are in their ways” [Romans 3:16].
- Verse 23, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” [Romans 3:23].
- Romans 5:12, “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”
- Verse 19, “By one man’s disobedience, many were made sinners” [Romans 5:19].
- Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death.”
- Ezekiel 18:4, “The soul that sins shall die,” and that is not just physical death—that my body would die—but my soul dies, which in the Bible is called the second death.
- Revelation 21:8, “The . . . unbelieving . . . shall have their part in the lake of fire which burneth . . . with brimstone: this is the second death.” I die two ways, being a sinner, born into sin with a predilection for sin, I die two ways: my body dies and my soul dies—it is separated from God.
Now, God made provision for our restoration in His goodness and in His grace. Romans 5:6-8:
For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
Scarcely for a righteous man would one die: maybe peradventure for a good man one would dare to die.
But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
And then, that marvelous, incomparably meaningful passage that we read together in Romans 10:9-13. God’s omniscience foresaw our fall, and God made a plan for our deliverance. Another Somebody was to take our penalty and was to be substituted for our deserved death.
- Romans 5:8: “God commended His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
- Second Corinthians 5:21, “For God hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”
- First Peter 1:18, “Ye were not redeemed with silver and gold… But with the precious blood of Christ, the Lamb without blemish” [1 Peter 1:18-19].
- Revelation 13:8, “He is the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world.”
The Old Testament, in all of its prophecies, looks forward to the propitiation of Christ [1 John 2:2]; looks forward to the atoning death of our Lord [Matthew 27:32-50; Romans 5:11]. All of the sacrifices pictured the outpouring of the crimsoned life of our Savior. All of the Old Testament looks forward, and all of the New Testament and the generations since look back to that pivotal moment when our Lord paid the penalty for our sins [Matthew 27:22-50]. And He divided time when He died. Before, we call it BC, before Christ; after that tragic moment of atoning death, we call it AD—Anno Domini…the year of our Lord—I don’t know what’s the matter with that! We look back to the death of our Savior, and that is the great mountain-shed of all of God’s grace and God’s goodnesses to us.
Our fellowship with God is restored in Christ. John 1:12, “As many as received Him, to them gave He the exousia,” and you can translate that in many ways. You can translate it authority: “To them gave He the authority.” You can translate it power: “To them gave He the power.” You can translate it privilege: “To them gave He the privilege.” You can translate it right: “To them gave He the right.” Translate it ability: “To them gave He the ability,” the privilege, the prerogative, the authority, the power, “to become the sons of God, the children of God, even to them who believe on His name” [John 1:12].
Now, God’s terms of restoration and salvation are very plain and very simple. Hopeless, dying, we cannot save ourselves. We have nothing to offer when we come before our Lord. In Romans 2:9:
For us there remains nothing but tribulation and anguish upon every soul that doeth evil . . .
For there is no respect of persons with God.
For as many as have sinned without law shall perish outside the law:
and as many have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law.
[Romans 2:9, 11-12]
In [Isaiah 64:6], “All our righteousnesses in God’s sight are as filthy rags.” In James 2:10, “Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”
The meaning of that is very plain. Righteousness and holiness is like a great chain, a great chain. God is holy and God is righteous, and righteousness is like that great chain. But if you break one of the links, it’s not holy, and it’s not righteous, and it’s not perfect anymore. If God were to sin one time, if Jesus had sinned one time, He could never be our perfect sacrifice and our wonderful Savior. We are like that; holiness and righteousness are like a golden chain, and one link broken and the whole chain falls to the ground.
That’s what James means when he says, “If we were to keep the whole law, if we break one link in it, if we offend in one point, we are guilty of all of it [James 2:10]. We have become sinners in the sight of God.”
Reconciliation to God is achieved by the acceptance of Christ’s atonement. We don’t buy it. We’re not good enough to deserve it. There’s no way that we could work for it and earn it; it is a gift of God. Roman 5:10, “For if when we were sinners, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” His atoning death paying the penalty of our sins [Romans 5:11], and His intercessory ministry in heaven, where He now lives [Hebrews 7:25]; these are the assurance of our everlasting salvation.
It is so beautifully written in Ephesians 2:4-9:
But God, who [is rich] in His mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us,
when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together in Christ,
And hath raised us together, and made us to sit in heavenly places in Him…
For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is a gift of God:
Not of works, lest any man should boast, saying, I did it.
Could I place that beautiful passage in my own stumbling words? When I get to heaven and stand in the presence of the Lord, it will not be, “O, Lord God, look what I’ve done. I have won the race. I have kept the faith. I have been perfect in all of my ways, and I am here because I deserve to be here. It is my righteousness and my holiness and my goodness that have made it possible for me to stand in the presence of the great King of glory.” I’ll not be able to do that. But what shall I say when I stand in the presence of the marvelous and wonderful King of heaven? I will say unto Him who loved me and gave Himself for me [Galatians 2:20]. “To Him be glory and majesty for ever and for ever” [Revelation 1:6]. His atoning grace stooped down to remember me, and in His shedding of blood I have found forgiveness of sins [Hebrews 9:22], and in His loving remembrance and shepherdly care, here I stand. It will be all glory to the Lamb.
The refusal of God’s atoning grace and love is a thing that brings spiritual darkness and condemnation. Roman 2:5, : “Thy hardness and impenitent heart treasures up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath; unto them who are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness,” for them remains nothing but indignation and wrath [Romans 2:8-9]. John 3:18, “He that believeth on Him is not condemned: he that believeth not is condemned already, because He hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” And that great third chapter closes in the thirty-sixth verse, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth upon Him” [John 3:36].
I am a sinner and a child of wrath, condemnation, ultimate judgment, and if I refuse the proffered love and grace and forgiveness of God, nothing remains but that I die in my sin, separated from God [John 8:24]. And that is what the Bible calls the second death, or hell. Hell was not prepared for men. Matthew 25:41, It is an “everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” The heart of God pleads against our choosing to spend an eternity in separation from God in the second death, in hell [Revelation 20:14-15].
As Ezekiel 33:11 quotes God, “As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked would turn from his evil way and live: turn ye, turn ye; for why will you die?” And John 3:17, “For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.” Second Peter 3:9: “The Lord is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” The purpose of God for us is not that we be separated from Him in death, and in damnation, and in a burning condemnatory hell. That’s not the purpose of God for us. God made us for fellowship. God made us to be with Him, and He has made provision for our sanctification, our cleansing, our salvation, our forgiveness [2 Corinthians 5:19], and God pleads with us that we accept that grace and come to be forever and forever in heaven with Him [John 3:16].
And this last: God has an Edenic plan for mankind, a beautiful one and a precious one. He speaks of it in an unimaginably beautiful peroration that closes the great eighth chapter of the Book of Romans:
For who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Could it be tribulation, or distress, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
Nay, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
Nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
[Romans 8:35, 37-39]
As our Lord said in John 14:2-3, “I am going to prepare a home for us,” an abiding place, a mansion for us, “that where I am, there you may be also.” As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:9, “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, and the heart has not imagined the wonderful things God hath prepared for those who love Him.” And as the beautiful passage in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 says we are caught up, we are caught up out of this world into the arms and love and presence of grace of the Lord Jesus, forever to be with the Lord. That’s God’s intention for us. That’s God’s purpose for us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance, to turn, to acceptance, to a beautiful life of love and service and discipleship in our wonderful Lord [2 Peter 3:9].
And that is our humble invitation to you tonight. In a moment we’ll sing us a song, and I’ll be standing right here. To give your heart to the Lord Jesus [Romans 10:9-13], or to come into the fellowship of our dear church, or to answer some call of the Holy Spirit in your heart, come on the first note of the first stanza, that first step so preciously meaningful, and welcome, while we stand and while we sing.
I. The breach
gave them up (Romans 1:24, 26, 28)
God created man for fellowship
Green Pastures – “I am lonesome, I am lonesomeâ€¦”
So God made a man like Him(Genesis 1:27, 2:7)
Love, joy, peace and happiness were our portion – misery, sadness and death
were never intended
disobedience broke the fellowship
Deceived by Satan, man was separated from God and cast out of Eden(Genesis 3:22-24)
Separation from God brought inevitable death for human race
We all inherited propensity for sin from Adam(Romans
3:10, 16, 23, 5:12, 19, 6:23)
Not just physical death, but the second death (Ezekiel
18:4, Revelation 21:8)
II. God’s provision for our restoration(Romans 5:6-10, 10:9-13)
God’s omniscience foresaw our fall and He made a plan for our deliverance
Someone else was to take our penalty and be substituted for our deserved death (Romans 5:8, 2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 1:18-19, Revelation
The Old Testament looks forward to the propitiation of Christ – New Testament
looks back to that pivotal moment
divided time when He died
Our fellowship with God is restored in Christ(John
III. God’s terms of restoration and
dying, we cannot save ourselves – we have nothing to offer(Romans 2:9, 11-12, Isaiah 64:6)
Righteousness and holiness is like a great chain – if you break one of the
links, it is not holy and righteous anymore(James
Reconciliation is achieved by the acceptance of Christ’s atonement(Romans 5:10, Ephesians 2:4-9)
IV. Refusal of God’s atoning grace brings
spiritual darkness and condemnation
am a child of wrath, and if I refuse His proffered love and grace, nothing
remains but that I die in my sin(Romans 2:5, 8,
John 3:18, 36)
was not prepared for men(Matthew 25:41)
The heart of God pleads against our choosing to go there (Ezekiel 33:11, John 3:17, 2 Peter 3:9)
Hell is not His purpose for us
still has an edenic plan for mankind(Romans
8:35-39, John 14:2-3, 1 Corinthians 2:9, 1 Thessalonians 4:17, 2 Peter 3:9)