THE WAY MADE PLAIN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-28-93 10:50 a.m.
This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Way Made Plain. And it is an exposition of a beautiful incomparably effective story in the eighth chapter of the Book of Acts. And the reading of this marvelous event is like this, Acts 8:26:
Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying: “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza,” through the desert.
So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace, the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all of her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet.
Then the Holy Spirit said unto Philip: “Go near and overtake this chariot.” So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said: “Do you understand what you are reading?”
And the eunuch said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him in the chariot.
The place in the Scripture, which he read was this—
In chapter fifty-three—[Isaiah 53:7]
“He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; And as a lamb before its shearer is silent, So He opened not His mouth.”
One time in Chicago, back in the day when those tremendous slaughterhouses filled about one half of the city, it seemed to me, I went into one of those slaughterhouses. Where the cows, where the bovine, were slaughtered, it was a fury of noise. Where the pigs were slaughtered it was also a fury of noise. But where the sheep and the lambs were slaughtered, not a sound was heard except the clanging of the machinery that moved those animals around. It was an astonishing comparison to me. And every time I read this, I think of that: “As a lamb before its shearer is silent, So He opened not His mouth” [Acts 8:32]. It is a remarkable thing—those creatures, the sheep.
“In His humiliation, His justice was taken away, And who shall declare His generation? For His life is taken from the earth.”
So the eunuch answered Philip and said: “I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself, or of some other man.”
Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at the same Scripture preached Jesus to him.
I like the Greek a lot better. The Greek is: “Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at that same Scripture, preached unto him Jesus!” [Acts 8:35]. The emphasis in the Greek sentence is Jesus. “He preached unto him Jesus.”
Now as they went down the road, they came to a certain water. And the eunuch said: “Look, here is water. What doth hinder me from being baptized?”
Then Philip said: “If thou believe with all your heart, you may.” And the eunuch answered and said; “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”
So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.
The Greek is: “He baptizō”—they don’t translate it. “He baptizō, he immersed him.” He buried him and raised him up. “Now when they came 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, rejoicing!” [Acts 8:39]. That’s one of the sweetest stories in all the world.
One of the attendant curses of the Oriental harem was the ever-present eunuch. And this man of Ethiopia was one of them. He was an emasculated man. He was a dry stick. He had no hope of issue, of family or descendants. He was a eunuch.
And yet, as a eunuch, he must have been marvelously gifted, endowed, for he was the secretary of the treasury. He had charge of all of the finances of his nation Ethiopia [Acts 8:27]. He was like Daniel. Daniel was a eunuch in the court of Nebuchadnezzar and of Cyrus in ancient Babylon [Daniel 1:1-21, 6:28].
This man was a eunuch like Daniel [Acts 8:27], but wonderfully gifted. And in some providence of life, to which we are not introduced, he became a convert to the faith. I don’t mean he was a proselyte of the gate; you know, just accepting the moral life of the Jewish people, but he was a proselyte of the temple. He was a full-fledged convert to the faith of the Hebrew. And as such, and being affluent, he had made his way to Jerusalem, there for to worship the true God [Acts 8:27].
Somewhere in the city of Jerusalem, he had come across a copy of the prophet Isaiah—a scroll, a script [Acts 8:28]. If you are ever in Jerusalem, there is a marvelous monument called the Shrine of the Book. And in that Shrine of the Book is the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. You couldn’t buy that thing for millions of dollars. But somehow, some way, this eunuch came across one of those scrolls and bought it. And in his chariot, having worshiped the true God in the temple, riding back through the desert to Ethiopia in northern Africa, he was reading that scroll of Isaiah [Acts 8:28].
The fifty-third chapter of Isaiah [Isaiah 53:1-12], is as though the prophet were standing looking at Christ Himself, describing the character, the personality, the response of the Messiah of God. And reading it, he asked Philip: “Of whom is this prophet speaking?” [Acts 8:34]. Isn’t it a wonderful thing that the Holy Spirit of God, watching over all of that, as He watches over us, and spoke to the heart of Philip saying: “You go join yourself, as this chariot passes by, you join yourself to that eunuch”? [Acts 8:29].
And Philip, walking by the side of the chariot, listening to him read, was invited to sit beside that Ethiopian treasurer [Acts 8:30-31]. And as they read, the eunuch said: “I don’t understand. I can’t understand. Of whom is the prophet speaking this? ‘He was led as a sheep to the slaughter: And as a lamb before His shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth?’” [Acts 8:32], silently, humbly, bearing the assignment that God had given Him: to take our sins away [2 Corinthians 5:21]. “Of whom speaks the prophet this? And Philip, beginning at that same Scripture,” taking that as his text, “preached unto him Jesus” [Acts 8:34-35].
I have a marvelous message from God’s Word this morning. And it begins like this: the message of salvation is preaching Jesus. Paul avows in 1 Corinthians, chapter 15: “My brethren, I make known unto you, I declare unto you, that which I have preached unto you, wherein you are saved, the gospel of Christ, namely: He was crucified for our sins, He was buried for our iniquities, and He was raised for our justification” [1 Corinthians 15:1-4, Romans 4:25].
When a man preaches the gospel, what does he preach? He preaches Jesus! If we send a missionary across the seas, like this boy here, Jimmy Hooten, over there in Uganda and over there in Kenya preaching the gospel, what does he preach? He preaches Jesus!
Jesus, the incarnate Son of God [John 1:14];
Jesus, born of the virgin Mary [Matthew 1:20-25, John 1:14];
Jesus, baptized by John the Baptist and filled with the Holy Spirit [Matthew 3:13-17, Luke 3:21-22];
Jesus, going about doing good [Acts 10:38];
Jesus, crucified for our sins [Matthew 27:32-50, 1 Corinthians 15:3, John 12:27];
Jesus, buried in the tomb [Matthew 27:57-60];
Jesus, the third day raised in triumph from the dead [Matthew 28:1-7];
Jesus, ascending into heaven [Acts 1:9-10];
Jesus, at the right hand of God interceding for us [Romans 8:34];
And Jesus, someday coming again in triumph and glory to receive us unto Himself [John 14:1-3]. That is the gospel! “And he preached unto him Jesus” [Acts 8:35]. The gospel message is the preaching of Jesus.
There’s not an incident in pastoral ministry that I have heard repeated more often, or read more often, than this. In London, pastoring an affluent and elegant congregation, was this man of God. And Sunday by Sunday he stood there in his sacred pulpit speaking of the things of interest to the people: the social use of remuneration, the political conflicts and configurations in the British Empire, literature, philosophy, all kinds of things such as you hear in a modern liberal pulpit today. And in those times, there came into his study at the church a little dirty, ragged urchin of a girl. And she said to him that her mother was dying, and had sent for him, and wanted the pastor to come and talk to her that she might know how to die.
Well, the pastor, when he asked where the mother lived, hesitated. It was in a slum—in a tenement section of the city of London. But the little girl was so insistent; her mother was dying and had sent for him. He acquiesced, and taking him by the hand, she led him through the streets of the city of London down to a slum, and to a certain tenement. And up on the top floor of the tenement house, walked into a dirty room, and there on a dirty, filthy bed lay a dying woman.
He pulled up a broken chair and sat by her side and said, “You have sent for me?”
And she said, “Yes. I have just a moment to live and I’m not ready to die. I don’t know God and I need to be prepared to meet the Lord.”
So he started out talking to her. And he used the language that he’d been using for all those years in the pulpit. And he was speaking to, you know, a philosophical outlay of what lies beyond the grave, and all the things that philosophically they surmise about the life to come. And the woman looked at him and couldn’t understand the words that he used, much less the philosophy he was portraying. The preacher bowed his head and prayed, “God, O God, help me to get this woman into the kingdom!”
And God answered that prayer! As the preacher prayed, there came back to him in memory the days when he was a little boy, and stood at the knee of his mother, and she told him about Jesus. And remembering those days, he began talking to that dying woman about Jesus, the sweet story of Jesus: how He came, born, laid in a manger [Luke 2:7-16], grew up as a lad [Luke 2:42-52], ministered to the people, loved and healed [John 13:1; Acts 10:38], died for our sins [Matthew 27:32-50], was buried [Matthew 27:57-60], raised from the dead [Matthew 28:1-7], is in heaven waiting for us [Romans 8:34]. And as he told her the simple story of Jesus, she would nod. “Oh yes, oh yes,” she would say. “Yes. I can love Him. Yes, He loves me. Yes, I can trust Him as my Savior. Yes. Yes. Yes.”
The next Sunday, the preacher was back in his eloquent pulpit, and describing what had happened that week with that dying woman, ended the story with this sentence: “My dear brothers and sisters, I want you to know,” he said, “I got that woman into the kingdom of God that day. But what is more, I got in myself!” That is the gospel! When a man preaches the gospel, that’s what he preaches. He preaches Jesus. “And beginning at the same Scripture, he preached unto him Jesus” [Acts 8:35].
As you know, my predecessor, Dr. George W. Truett, was one of the greatest preachers of all time. He was preaching around the world and was in India; and in India, was invited to preach before a Hindu university. It was a time of bitter, critical affront to the Christian faith. And he stood there before that critical group in the university, presided over by those Brahmins, and Truett stood there and preached in that Hindu university and to that critical audience, Jesus. And when he had done, one of the leading Brahmins stood up and said, “We have no fault with the Christ that this man has preached.”
The gospel message, the simple message of Jesus: isn’t that what Pontius Pilate avowed after listening to the trial and all of the accusations against our Lord? Pilate said, “I find in Him no fault at all” [John 18:38]. Jesus, just loving the Lord Jesus! And sweet people, you can’t brag on Him too much. You can’t exalt Him too much. You can’t say too good things about Him. You can’t praise Him in song, or in sermon, or in poem too much. Jesus: the gospel message is Jesus [Acts 8:35].
My second avowal: the great plan of salvation is simple; just trusting the Lord Jesus, loving the Lord Jesus. Did you know, one day I did an unusual thing. I went through the whole Bible and I took a pencil and I marked wherever in the Bible it tells us how to be saved. And then I looked back through all the places that I had marked and l discovered an amazing thing: there is no exception to it—wherever in the Bible God tells us how to be saved, He does it in one sentence, just one sentence, never two. No exception to that in the Bible.
“Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else” [Isaiah 45:22]. One sentence. “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not [John 1:11]. But to as many as received Him, to them gave He the right, the prerogative, the authority, the power, to become the children of God, even to them that trust in His name” [John 1:12]. Just one sentence! “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, 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. John 3:16, one sentence. “What must I do to be saved? [Acts 16:30] And they said: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” [Acts 16:31], one sentence. “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in thine heart that He lives, thou shalt be saved” [Romans 10:9], one sentence. “With the heart one believeth unto a God kind of righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” [Romans 10:10], one sentence. “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” [Romans 10:13], one sentence. Sweet people, there’s no exception to that in the entire Word of God; one sentence, just one sentence.
The pastor, walking into the hospital room where lay a little boy who was dying; he was underneath one of those covers, one of those things they put over your head when you haven’t any oxygen—some kind of a tent. And he turned to the nurse and said: “Nurse, could I put my head under that tent and talk to the boy.”
And the nurse said: “Why, yes.”
So the pastor put his head under the oxygen tent and began to talk to the little boy. And he said to the little lad, “They tell me that you know that you are dying.”
“And you’re not saved.”
“Do you know how to accept Christ as your Savior?”
“No,” said the boy, “I have never been taught.”
And the pastor said, “Could I tell you how to be saved, so when you die you go to heaven?”
“Oh yes,” said the lad, “I’d love to know.”
So there it began again. The pastor began to talk to him about Jesus, the simple story of Jesus, and how He is in heaven, having paid the penalty of our sins, waiting to receive those who trust in Him.
And the boy broke in and said, “But mister, is it that easy? Is it that easy? Just trusting the Lord Jesus, just believing on the Lord Jesus, just giving my heart to the Lord, is it that easy?”
And the pastor replied, “Son, easy for you, but not for Him. He died! He paid the price for our sins, our salvation [John 12:27, 1 Corinthians 15:3]. We just receive it, His love and forgiveness and grace, as a gift from God [Ephesians 2:8]. Easy for us, but not for Him.”
Was it for sins that I have done,
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!
But drops of grief can ne’er repay
the debt of love I owe.
Here, Lord, I give myself away;
‘tis all that I can do.
[“Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed?” Isaac Watts]
The plan of salvation is a simple one of believing, trusting, receiving the Lord Jesus [Acts 16:31].
The next avowal: the great act of conversion is committing your life, your soul, yourself, your heart to the Lord Jesus. That is the great and mighty act of conversion: you, giving yourself to the Lord Jesus.
As some of you know, I was born on the plains of western Oklahoma. And I grew up out there in that vast, empty country in western Oklahoma, the Panhandle of Texas, and eastern New Mexico. As you also know, a long time in the past, the Plains Indians roamed over that vast, empty wilderness. And a missionary, a godly missionary, took his tent, set it up out there near the camp of one of those tribes of Plains Indians, and preached the gospel.
In one of those services where the Spirit of God moved, while the preacher was preaching Jesus, there came forward the Indian chief and laid his tomahawk at the foot of the preacher and said, “Indian chief give his tomahawk to Jesus.” Preacher paid no attention to him, just kept on preaching the Lord. The Indian chief rose a second time, took a blanket from around his shoulders and laid his blanket at the foot of the preacher and said, “Indian chief give his blanket to Jesus.”
Preacher made no acknowledgment, just kept on preaching Jesus. The Indian chief went outside of the tent, got his pony, tied the pony to a stake, came once again and said, “Preacher, Indian chief give his pony to Jesus.” That was all he had; everything he possessed he had given to Jesus. Preacher made no acknowledgment of it at all, just kept on preaching about the Lord. And the Indian chief came forward one more time. And this time he knelt at the front of the tent congregation and looking up into the face of the preacher he said, “Preacher, Indian chief give himself to Jesus!” That’s it: giving you heart and life, you, to the Lord Jesus. That’s the great act of conversion.
Two other things briefly. One: the first thing that you will want to do when you have given yourself to the Lord Jesus is, “Look, here is water… Look, here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptized? I want to be baptized!” [Acts 8:36].
Evidently, in “preaching to him Jesus” [Acts 8:35], Philip had quoted the Great Commission of our Lord: “Make disciples, believers, of all the people, baptizing them in the name of the Triune God” [Matthew 28:19]. “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body” [1 Corinthians 12:13]. The entrance of God into the church is to be baptized in the name of the Lord.
“See, here is water: what doth hinder me to be baptized?”
And Philip answered and said: “If you believe with all your heart, you may.”
And he said: “I believe. I accept. I commit.”
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 God caught away the preacher. And the eunuch went on his way glorifying God, rejoicing!
You ought to do that! If you have not been baptized, there is not much you can do for Jesus. But you can do that—you can be baptized and be raised from that watery grave with the fullness and gladness of the Spirit of the Lord in your heart [Romans 6:4].
And one other: “He went on his way rejoicing” [Acts 8:39]. That’s what we are going to do forever. We’re going to praise the Lord Jesus forever and forever. Isn’t that the beginning of the Revelation? “Unto Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood. . . unto Him be glory and honor and dominion and power for ever and ever. Amen” [Revelation 1:5-6].
That’s what we are going to do throughout eternity; we’re going to praise the Lord Jesus. We’re going to worship the Lord Jesus. We’re going to bow in His presence and sing His name in praises forever and ever. No separation, just being together, praising God. O Lord, what a heaven! What a future! What a hope! What a prospect! What a promise! Just praising Jesus.
I entered once a home of care,
And penury and want were there,
But joy and peace with all;
I asked the aged mother whence
Her helpless widowhood’s defence;
She answered, “Christ is all.”
I saw the martyr at the stake,
The flames, 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 Jesus’ call;
I saw him smile, ‘twas 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 dissolved this ball;
I saw the church’s ransomed throng,
I caught the burden of their song,
‘Twas this, that “Christ is all in all.”
[“Christ Is All,” W. A. Williams]
That’s our song, and our praise, and our glory, and our joy forever: “And he preached unto him Jesus” [Acts 8:35]. What a sweet privilege, just to love, and to call, and to trust, and to believe in the name of the Lord, in life, in death, and in the world that is yet to come.
And that is our appeal to you.