HOW TO BE SAVED
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-8-89 10:50 a.m.
This is the pastor bringing the message entitled How To Be Saved. It is a presentation, an exposition, of one of the most dramatic scenes recorded in the Book of Acts. Number 8—Acts, chapter 8, beginning at verse 26:
The angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, go toward the south, along the highway that reaches from Jerusalem to Gaza. . .
And—in obedience—he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace, the queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all of her treasure, had come to Jerusalem for to worship,
Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Isaiah the prophet.
And the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.
And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Isaiah, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?
And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he invited Philip to come and sit with him—in the chariot.
And the place which he read was this—and it was the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah. . .
Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same Scripture—that fifty-third chapter of Isaiah—and preached unto him Jesus.
As they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder my being baptized?
And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe—I accept Jesus Christ as my Savior, the Son of God.
And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water; both Philip and the eunuch: and he baptized him.
And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way—praising God, went on his way—hallelujah—went on his way, rejoicing.
One of the attendant curses of the Oriental harem was that ever-present eunuch. And in the nation of Ethiopia, one of the greatest in that day and time, he was a victim of that tragic institution. He was a eunuch, a dry branch, a withered tree, a stick without progeny or family. And yet, being a eunuch, a piece of a man, he was greatly endowed. The Scriptures say he was a man of great authority under the queen Candace, had charge of all of the financial programming of the nation [Acts 8:27]. Somewhere, sometime, he had come into the knowledge of the true God; had gone to Jerusalem to worship Jehovah, and there had found, came into possession of a copy of the scroll of Isaiah [Acts 8:28].
If you have been to Jerusalem, you have seen that beautiful building that houses the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah. Just such a like copy of the ancient prophet did this Ethiopian eunuch possess. And riding back home in his chariot, he was reading aloud that wonderful revelation from God [Acts 8:30].
Up there in Samaria, Philip the evangelist was being blessed of the Lord in a mighty revival. There was great joy in that city [Acts 8:5-8]. In the midst of that revival, the Spirit of the Lord said to Philip, “Go” [Acts 8:26]. And in obedience he went into the desert alone [Acts 8:27]. And standing there by the highway, wondering the providence and the call and will of God, down that highway in the desert, he sees this chariot arriving, and the Spirit saying, ”Join yourself to it” [Acts 8:29]. And as he walks along by the side of the chariot, he hears this eunuch reading aloud this fifty-third chapter of Isaiah. And he asks him, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And the eunuch replies, “No, and I cannot except someone should guide me,” and he invited Philip to come and sit with him [Acts 8:30-31]. And starting at that same Scripture: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned each one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all” [Isaiah 53:6; Acts 8:32-33]. “Of whom is he speaking?” [Acts 8:34]. “And Philip began at the same Scripture, and preached unto him Jesus” [Acts 8:35]—my text. Beginning at the same Scripture, he preached unto him Jesus.
Several avowals. Number one: the gospel message is the preaching of Jesus. It is the Lord Jesus. When a man preaches the gospel that is what he preaches. He preaches Jesus. There are many scholars who say the high watermark of all revelation is the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians. That is the great resurrection chapter. Do you remember how it begins? Verse 1, 1 Corinthians, chapter 15: “Brethren, I declare unto you”—I define for you, I make known unto you, “the gospel” [1 Corinthians 15:1], which is “Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures: He was buried, and the third day He was raised again according to the Scriptures” [1 Corinthians 15:3-4].
That, by inspiration from God Himself [2 Timothy 3:16], is a definition of the gospel. The gospel is the preaching of Jesus; Jesus born of a virgin [Matthew 1:20-25]; Jesus ministering to the poor and to the lost [Matthew 11:5; Luke 19:10]; Jesus dying on the cross for our sins [Matthew 27:32-50; 1 Corinthians 15:3]; Jesus buried in the heart of this earth [Matthew 27:57-60]; Jesus raised triumphantly from the dead [Matthew 28:1-7]; Jesus ascending into heaven [Acts 1:9-11] in session at the right hand of God [Hebrews 1:3]; and Jesus someday in majesty coming again [Revelation 19:11-16]. That is the gospel.
When I was a youth, I would listen to the great pastor of this church, George W. Truett. Dr. Truett, in a mission around the world was in India, and they asked him to come to a Hindu university and speak to those professors and students who were so violently anti-Christian and antagonists. And the Lord put it on the great pastor’s heart to accept. And he stood there in the midst of that university with those Brahmans and Hindus so much antithetical to everything that is presented and bound up, defined in the Christian faith. Well, the great pastor stood there and preached Jesus—preached the gospel. And after he was done, the master of ceremonies said, “Now is there any question you would like to ask or is there any confronting remark you would like to make?” There was a long, long pause, and finally a Brahman stood up and said, “Sir, we find nothing wrong with the Christ this man has preached.”
I have been a pastor sixty-two years. I have preached around this world several times. I have preached in every kind of a situation that mind could imagine, and I have never been confronted in my life. Never. There is nothing so sweet and so dear and so precious as the story of the loving sacrifice of the Lord Jesus for us poor lost sinners [1 John 4:10]. That is why Pilate, Pontius Pilate, who examined Him, went out before the bloodthirsty throng and avowed, “I find in Him no fault at all” [John 18:38]. Jesus, precious Savior—“And he preached unto him Jesus” [Acts 8:35]. That’s the gospel.
Number two: the way of salvation is the acceptance of Jesus, trusting Jesus, believing in the Lord Jesus. That’s the way. That’s the sum of it. Nothing to be added, just trusting the Lord Jesus. One time I did an unusual thing. I went through the Bible and marked in my Bible everywhere, anywhere that God tells us how to be saved. Then I reviewed the whole Book of Scripture, looking at those passages I had marked. And I saw an amazing thing. Wherever in the Word of God, the Lord tells a man how to be saved, He always does it in one simple sentence; never two. Always in one simple sentence, such as John 1:12: “As many as received Him, to them gave He the exousia—the authority, the privilege, the power—to be the children of God, even to them that believed in His name”; one sentence. Or, [John 3:14]: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” [John 3:14-15]; one sentence. Or the famous sentence John 3:16; or the great word of Simon Peter to the Romans in Caesarea: “To Him give all the prophets witness, that through faith in His name we should receive remission of sins” [Acts 10:43]. Or, as Paul and Silas to the Philippian jailer, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” [Acts 16:31]; always one sentence, one simple sentence; never two, always just one. The plan of salvation is this simple, humble, sweet, dear thing, program, approach, way of believing and trusting and loving the Lord Jesus.
I have a dear friend who is in heaven now, a wonderful pastor. He went to see a teenage boy, who was dying, under an oxygen tent in the hospital. And the pastor put his head underneath that oxygen tent and showed the boy how to be saved just as I’ve quoted; simple, one sentence. And the lad looked up into the face of the godly pastor and said, “But sir, is it that easy? Is it that simple? Is it that plain? Is it that easy?” And the godly pastor replied, “Son, easy for you. Easy for you, but not for Him.” He took our sins and He died in our stead, and we are forgiven [2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24]; washed clean and white in the blood of the Lamb [1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5]. Standing before God uncondemned, faultless [Jude 1:24]; that is the way of salvation. It is the simple thing of trusting, believing in the Lord Jesus [Romans 10:9-13].
The third avowal: the tremendous, meaningful act of conversion is committing your life to the Lord Jesus. Paul writes of it in 2 Timothy 1:12: “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded He is able to keep that”—my soul—“which I have committed unto Him against that ultimate and final day.” “Which I have committed unto Him”—the great act of conversion is that. It is a commitment of your life, soul, destiny, every tomorrow to the Lord Jesus [2 Timothy 1:12].
All through the Word of God, that is involved—a choice, a commitment. Moses stood in the midst of the camp, and cried, saying, “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” [Joshua 24:15]. Elijah on Mount Carmel cried saying, “If this Baal be God, serve Baal. But if Jehovah be God, serve Jehovah” [1 Kings 18:21]. Our Lord said, “Come and follow Me” [Matthew 19:21]; always that choice, that commitment, that dedication. And to give to the Lord Jesus what we give to men here in the earth, oh, how sweet a privilege!
When the doctor places me under an anesthetic and he takes the scalpel and I am operated on, I’ve trusted him with my very life. The simple thing of sitting down in an airplane, I trust my life to that pilot; or a beautiful, precious girl here at this very altar, give her life in trust to a fine Christian young man, dedicating her whole life in love to him—a beautiful thing. That’s what it is to be saved. That’s the great act and experience of conversion. I commit my life to the blessed Lord Jesus [Romans 10:9-13].
Number four: the entrance into the fellowship of the family of God, of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, is in obedience to His great command. “Go into all of the world and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” [Matthew 28:19] the triune God. “By one Spirit,” Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12:13, “By one Spirit are we all baptized into the body of Christ,” into the family of God. And this Ethiopian, “See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” [Acts 8:36]. And Philip said, “If you believe, if you trust with all your heart, you may” [Acts 8:37]. And he answered and said, “I believe, I trust, I commit my life to the Son of God” [Acts 8:37]. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water. . .and he baptized him [Acts 8:38]. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit. . .took away Philip; the eunuch did not see him anymore: and he went on his way rejoicing [Acts 8:39].
In these sixty-two years of being a pastor, I have baptized in every kind of a place that you can imagine. And always, always, it is been with rejoicing. I have never yet seen one soul, never, ever, who regretted following the Lord Jesus in baptism. He was baptized in the Jordan River [Mark 1:9-11]. I have baptized in the Jordan River, as well as in tanks and ponds and creeks, always with that same result: “I am glad to follow the Lord in His beautiful example and in commitment of my life to Him.”
Number five, last: when we get to heaven, and in all of the succeeding eternities that are to come, we are going to praise the name of the Lord Jesus. What a beautiful assignment! “I beheld,” in the fifth chapter of the Revelation:
I beheld, and heard the voice of many angels and of the saints and of the four living ones and of the elders and the number of them was muriades, myriads, ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands;
Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain. . .
Every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth, in the sea . . . heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sits on the throne, and unto the Lamb. . .
And the four living ones saying, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshiped Him that liveth for ever and ever.
Amen. That’s what we are going to do in heaven. “And he preached unto him Jesus” [Acts 8:35]. And that is what we are going to do in all of the eternity to come. We are going to praise the name of the Lord Jesus. We are going to bow in His presence. We are going to walk in and out before our blessed Savior. Oh, think of it! Could it be that someday I would touch Him? Could it be someday I could speak to Him? Could it be someday I could hear His voice? Lord God in heaven, and to have you there; you and we, singing His praises, and we worship Him and rejoice. “And he went on his way rejoicing” [Acts 8:39], just happy in the Lord. Lord God, what a happy prospect. What a glorious promise, praising and loving our Savior through all the ages of the eternity to come.
I entered once a home of care,
Penury and want were there,
But joy and peace withal;
I asked the aged mother whence
Her helpless widowhood’s defense,
She answered, “Christ is all.”
I saw the martyr at the stake,
The flames could not his courage shake,
Nor death his soul appall,
I asked him whence his strength was giv’n,
He looked triumphantly to Heav’n,
And answered, “Christ is all.”
I stood beside the dying bed,
Where lay a child with aching head,
Waiting for Jesus’ call,
I saw him smile, t’was sweet as May,
And as his spirit passed away,
He whispered, “Christ is all.”
I dreamed that hoary Time had fled,
The earth and sea gave up their dead,
A fire devoured this ball,
I saw the church’s ransomed throng,
I caught the burden of their song,
‘Twas this, “Christ is all in all in all.”
[from “Christ is All,” W. A. Williams]
That will be our rejoicing and our gladness through all the eternity that is yet to come—praising, loving, adoring, worshiping, serving the blessed Lord Jesus. To do it now, to do it in the hour of our death, to do it when we enter the gates of heaven and to be a part of the family of God, world without end; O Lord, how wonderfully good You are to us, thus to share with my poor lost soul eternal life, and to be a part of the family of God [John 1:12].
PREACHED UNTO HIM JESUS
I. Story of Philip and the Ethiopian
eunuch (Acts 8:26-39)
A. Attendant curses of
Oriental harem was the ever-present eunuch
B. A man of great
C. Came into the
knowledge of the one true God
D. Asked Philip for
help understanding Scripture (Isaiah 53:6)
II. The gospel message is the preaching of
A. Definition of the
gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)
B. Dr. Truett in India
III. The way of salvation is trusting Jesus
presented in one simple sentence (John 1:12, 3:14-15, 16, Acts 10:43, 16:31,
Romans 10:9-10, 13)
for us, not for Him
IV. The act of conversion in the committal
of your life to Jesus
A. What it is to trust,
believe (2 Timothy 1:12)
B. A choice is involved
(Exodus 32:26, Joshua 24:15, Matthew 19:21)
V. The entrance into the church through
obedient to the command of Jesus
A. The body of Christ
(Matthew 28:19, 1 Corinthians 12:13, Acts 8:36-39)
VI. Our song of praise now and throughout eternity
A. We will do it in
heaven (Revelation 5:11-14)