WHAT MUST I DO TO BE SAVED?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-7-93 12:00 p.m.
The theme this year, “The Five Great Questions of the Bible”: Monday, Am I My Brother’s Keeper?; yesterday, What Shall I Do with Jesus Who Is Called Christ?; tomorrow, My God, My God, Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?; on Friday, If a Man Die Shall He Live Again?; and today it is a doctrinal message entitled What Must I Do to Be Saved? And in our reading from the Scripture, it is in the Book of Acts, chapter 16, beginning at verse 22. Acts 16:22:
Then the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates tore off their clothes, and commanded them to be beaten with rods.
And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely:
Who, having received such a charge, put them in the inner prison, and fastened their feet in the stocks.
But at midnight, Paul and Silas—
instead of finding fault with God or complaining—
at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises to the Lord: and the prisoners heard them—
Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s chains were loosed.
And the keeper of the prison—
awakening from sleep, seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword, and was about to kill himself.
But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, Do yourself no harm: we are all here.
Then he called for a light, ran in, fell down trembling before Paul and Silas,
And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?
They said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your house.
Then they spoke the word of the Lord to all who were in his house.
And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and immediately he and all his family were baptized.
Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them, and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his house.
The background of that attempted suicide is very plain. That jailer was responsible for his inmates. And when he awakened in the middle of the night and saw the doors open, supposing as anyone would that the prisoners had fled, he was responsible for their lives—his life for theirs. And before a Roman court, he would have been condemned and slain in shame. And rather than face a tribunal of death and disgrace, he took out his short Roman sword and raised it to plunge it into his heart. When Paul saw what he was doing, he cried saying, “We are all here. We are all here. Don’t take your life” [Acts 16:28]. And he came in, fell down before Paul and Silas, and asked that question, the only time in all of the Bible that that question is directly asked—“What must I do to be saved?” [Acts 16:30].
The pertinency of the inquiry pertains to all of us. There are inevitable, inscrutable providences that come in all of our lives that bring that question from the deep of our souls—“What must I do to be saved?” Sometimes it is brought because of a great sorrow. When I was a youth, the most famous world entertainer was Sir Harriet Lauder. He could sing. He could act. He could speak. He was worldwide renowned. And in those days, his only son was killed in the First World War. In his testimony, he said, “In that indescribable hurt and sorrow that came to my life, three things I could have done. One, I could drink. I could drown my sorrow in liquor, in drunkenness and debauchery. Or, I could have committed suicide and drowned my sorrow in the grave. Or, I could have turned to God.” And he said, “I turned to the Lord.”
What must I do to be saved? A great sorrow will sometimes press that on your heart. Sometimes it will arise out of your own soul; a feeling of inadequacy and vacuity and emptiness and need. What must I do to be saved? The most well-read book in all the world outside of the Bible is John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. Do you remember how it begins, the first sentence?
I saw a man standing in a certain place, clothed with rags and his face turned from his own house. He had in his hand a book, and a great burden on his back. I saw him open the book, and as he read, he wept and trembled; and being no longer able to contain, he cried with a great and lamentable voice, “What shall I do?”
And that begins that incomparable story of Pilgrim’s Progress. The question arose out of his own soul and his lack and need of God. Again, that question can arise out of a realization of our certain death and the grave. Being a pastor, as you know, for sixty six years, time and again, have I been asked, “Pastor, the doctor says I cannot live. What shall I do? What shall I say? I need direction and comfort and strength and help as I meet God.”
The answer of the apostle Paul, “What must I do to be saved?” [Acts 16:30]. The answer is amazing. You would think he would have replied, You must do good works. You must arrive to certain achievements. You must somehow prepare yourself and be ready and be worthy. He did not even approach an answer like that. His answer is in another world. You must receive a gift of God’s grace. Trust the Lord. Look in faith to Him. What an amazing reply. What must I do to be saved? I receive a free gift from God’s grace. I trust Him. I look to Him [Acts 16:31]. So he wrote in Ephesians: “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” [Ephesians 2:8-9]; saying “Look, I did it.” Or, as he wrote in the Book of Titus: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His grace, He saved us” [Titus 3:5]. What an amazing reply! I am saved by receiving a gift of life from God. Then I look at that carefully. If the Lord had said be rich and buy it, what of the poor in the earth? If the Lord had replied be erudite and encompass it, what of these who are unlettered and unlearned? What if God had said be strong and obtain it, win it? What of these who are weak and feeble? And what if the Lord had said be good enough to deserve it, what of me? And what of us who are sinners and fall short of the perfection and holiness of God? [Romans 3:23]. What an amazing reply! What must I do to be saved? Receive it as a gift of God’s grace. Undeserved, unworthy, no matter who or where or how or when, just take it by faith. Believe, and it is yours [Acts 16:31].
You know, reading in the life of Thomas Chalmers, the greatest preacher Scotland ever produced. In the early days of his ministry, he preached, “Do and be saved.” He preached the Ten Commandments [Exodus 20:1-17]. He preached works. Then when he was thirty-one years old, in the midst of his ministry, even as a preacher, he had a marvelous conversion. And that mighty preacher then stood up and preached, “Believe, trust, and be saved” [Acts 16:31]. That is what God says. Not that we deserve it. Not that we can obtain it. Not that we can achieve it. Not that we can work and process it. But take it as a gift from God [Romans 3:23]. So the text—you could call it for the entire Bible, in Isaiah 45:22: “Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none other. Look unto Me, and be ye saved” [Isaiah 45:22].
A life for a look at the crucified One,
A life for this moment for thee;
Then look, sinner, look unto Him and be saved,
Unto Him who was nailed on the tree.
[from “There Is Life For A Look At The Crucified One,” Amelia M. Hull, 1832]
“Look unto Me, and be ye saved.” How different and how glorious a gospel!
I heard a Catholic prelate say in a convocation, “You stay with mother church and mother church will take you to heaven. Look to the church and the church will open for you the doors of paradise and glory.” Wouldn’t that be a simple thing to say? You join the church, and you will be ushered into glory. Don’t look at anybody, anywhere, anyhow of any constitution. That includes us. Don’t look to yourself, good works, strivings, worthiness; “Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth” [Isaiah 45:22]. Look unto Jesus. O God, look at Him on the cross, dying for our sins [Matthew 27:32-50]. Look at the empty tomb [Matthew 28:5-7]—raised for our justification [Romans 4:25], and look at Him in heaven from whence He is coming again [Acts 1:9-11]. “Look unto Me and be saved.”
I want to point out to you something, a concomitant of that. Do you notice that without fail, always, without exception, our salvation is always and everlastingly presented as outside of ourselves? That’s an amazing thing! Not of me, but of Him—always outside of ourselves. For example, God said, “I shall destroy this earth in a flood” [Genesis 6:17]. But there is an ark. There is an ark [Genesis 6:14]. You walk through that door into that ark and you will be safe [Genesis 6:18, 7:1, 7, 23]—outside of ourselves, in an ark. Look again, God said, “Tonight My death angel passes over and any one who has not the blood on the lintel of the doorpost, death will enter that house” [Exodus 12:22-23]. Can you imagine? Somebody placing that blood of sacrifice on the lintel, on either side of the doorpost in the form of a cross [Exodus 12:7, 13], and can you imagine sitting there in the dead of the night—just sitting there, doing nothing, achieving nothing, just believing God? If I put the blood on the lintel of the doorpost and trust in the blood, the death angel will pass over me; always outside yourself [Exodus 12:22-23]. Salvation is always beyond us.
Or think again, out of a multitude of things in the Bible: “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 eternal life” [John 3:14-15; Numbers 21:8-9]. Look, look outside yourself. Look, look.
“Look and live,” my brother, live.
Look to Jesus Christ, and live;
‘Tis recorded in His word, hallelujah!
It is only that you “look and live.”
[“Look and Live,” William Ogden, 1887]
Always outside of ourselves; looking unto Jesus, bowing in His presence, kneeling before our wonderful Lord, committing heart and life to Him. “Look unto Me, and be ye saved” [Isaiah 45:22].
I have to close. If you ever read the life of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the most incomparable preacher who ever lived—I read him all the time, have all of my life. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, as a young fellow, as a young man, he went from place to place, service to service, church to church, lost unhappy, miserable. And upon a day in Colchester—and if you’re ever in England, I hope you’ll visit this place, northeast of London, there’s a Primitive Methodist church. It only has three members now and they’re thinking about tearing it down. You know, I am crazy some times in what I think. I wish I had the money to buy that little tiny church and bring it here to Dallas. I wish I could. Anyway, he was on his way to church, and it was in a heavy winter snowstorm, and he couldn’t make it. So he turned aside into that tiny, little Primitive Methodist church—a chapel. The preacher was not there. The weather was too bad. And Spurgeon sat right over there. If you visit that chapel, there is a great big bronze plaque citing, pointing out where Spurgeon preached, where Spurgeon sat. Well, the layman, so Spurgeon says, was very unlearned and uneducated. But he took his text, that layman, Isaiah 45:22: “Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.” And he pointed to that young fellow and said to him, “Young man, you look so miserable. Look to Jesus. Look to Jesus.” And he shouted it with all of his voice. “Look to Jesus!” And Spurgeon said, “That day I looked, and I lived.” Look and live [John 3:14-15].
There is life for a look at the crucified One,
There is life at this moment for thee;
Then look, sinner, look unto Him and be saved,
Unto Him who was nailed to the tree.
[“There Is Life for a Look At The Crucified One,” Amelia M. Hull, 1832]
What must I do to be saved? Look and receive salvation as a gift from the grace of God [Ephesians 2:8-9]. What a gospel! What a message! And anybody can look and anybody can receive. Precious Jesus, thank You for the gift. Now let us stand.
Our Lord in heaven, we have not words to describe the depths of our gratitude to Thee for what You have done for us. O praise Thy name! You made it so plain and so simple that, even as a ten-year-old boy, I received and believed and trusted and was saved [Isaiah 45:122; Acts 16:30-31]. And without exception, Lord, may the throng in God’s house today, without loss of one, look to Thee in saving faith [Romans 10:9-13; Ephesians 2:8]. In Thy dear name, amen.
I DO TO BE SAVED?
I. An inevitable question
A. Sometimes brought to
us through a great sorrow
1. Sir Harry
B. Sometimes brought to
us throughpersonal realization of our lost condition
1. John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s
brought to us through the realization of certain death(Hebrews 9:27)
II. The answer of Paul(Acts 16:31)
not of works, achievement or merit, but of faith, trust and committal(Titus 3:5-7, Ephesians 2:8-9)
provision of God for us all
III. Looking unto Jesus(Isaiah 45:22)
A.Not looking to the
B. Our salvation is outside
of ourselves – it is in God
in the Bible true to that declaration
a. The ark(Genesis 6:17)
b. The blood(Exodus 12:23)
C. Conversion of Charles