The Simplicity in Christ

The Simplicity in Christ

September 18th, 1994 @ 7:30 AM

2 Corinthians 11:3

But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

2 Corinthians 11:3

9-18-94     7:15 p.m.




Now our sermon tonight is also the text.  In 2 Corinthians chapter 11, Paul writes in verse 3, “But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” [2 Corinthians 11:3].  The title and the text, The Simplicity That is in Christ.

The reason that that text so stands out in such underscored emphasis to me is to be found in these vast theological libraries.  In a place like Harvard, they’ll have hundreds of thousands of heavy tomes, big volumes, on theology, on Christ, on the gospel message.  Even in our school here in Dallas there is something like a hundred thousand volumes there.  Homiletically, theologically, philosophically, in every erudite approach, the gospel message is configured, and presented, and discussed in the minds and in the pulpits of the Christian world, for these two thousand years.  And I say, it is against that background of infinite philosophical approach and discussion that that text so comes out of its place here in my Bible, and finds lodgment in my mind and in my heart.  The Simplicity That is in Christ.

First, the gospel message is a simple message.  When I turn to 1 Corinthians chapter 15, one of the greatest chapters in the Bible, it starts off, the apostle Paul writes, “My brethren, I declare unto you, I make known unto you, I define for you the gospel, the message I preached… and wherein you were saved” [1 Corinthians 15:1-2].  What is it?  “How that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; He was buried, and the third day He was raised according to the Scriptures” [1 Corinthians 15:3-4].  The gospel message is a simple message: it is the story of Jesus.

When you send out a missionary to preach the gospel across the seas, what does he preach?  If he preaches the gospel, he preaches Jesus.  When you say that this man in the pulpit is a glorious gospel preacher, what do you mean?  That he stands there in that sacred place and preaches about Jesus.  The gospel message is the simple story of the Lord Jesus, born of a virgin [Matthew 1:20-25], ministered to the people, loved the poor [Matthew 11:3-5], was crucified, died [Matthew 27:32-50], suffered for our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3], was laid in a tomb in death [Matthew 27:57-60], was raised by the power of God [Ephesians 1:20], ascended up into glory and someday is coming again [Acts 1:9-11].  That is the gospel, the simple story of the Lord Jesus, the simplicity that is in Christ.

There was a fashionable London preacher speaking to an elitist congregation.  And Sunday by Sunday, standing in his fashionable, far-famed pulpit, he expounded on social amelioration, political confrontation, the headlines of the newspapers, book reviews, travellogues, the events of the day, always with a philosophical and erudite presentation.  Upon a day there came to his study at the church, a ragged, little urchin of a girl.  She said to him that her mother was dying, and she had been sent by her mother for him, that he might come and tell her how to go to heaven when she died.  The elitist, fashionable pastor asked where her mother lived, and it was in a slum district on the Thames River in East London.  He refused to go.  But the little child was so insistent; her mother was dying, had sent for him, and she wanted to know the way to heaven.

He finally acquiesced, and she took him by a finger and led him through the streets of the city of London, down to a settlement, up into an apartment house, into a dirty room, and there on a ragged bed lay a dying woman.  He pulled up a stool and seated by her side asked what he could do.  And she replied that she was dying, and she wanted to know the way to heaven.  So he started out, and he started out in the philosophical way that he’d been preaching for all of those days and months and years in his fashionable pulpit.  She could not understand the nomenclature, the language that he used much less those philosophical approaches by which he was seeking to tell her how to go to heaven.  He bowed his head in consternation and despair, and asked God for help, “O God!  Help me to get this woman into the pearly gates.”  And when he prayed, there came to his heart the memory of the day when he stood at his mother’s knee, and she told him the simple story of the Lord Jesus.

So he started out with that dying woman, the simple message of Jesus: how we were lost in our sins, facing death [Romans 6:23], and how the Lord Jesus came incarnate in the form of a human being [John 1:14], and how He taught us the way of salvation [John 11:25-26, 14:6], and how He died for our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3].  And as he spoke, the woman began to nod in acquiescence, “Oh yes!  Oh yes!”  And how the Lord ascended into heaven and is waiting for us [John 14:2-3].  And she would reply, “I can love a Lord like that.  I can trust a Lord like that”; saying, telling the simple story of Jesus.

The following Sunday he stood in his fashionable pulpit in the city of London, told the story of what had happened that day, and ended it with this word:  “My brothers and sisters, I want you to know I got that woman into the kingdom of heaven that day.  But what is more, I got in myself.”  The gospel message is a simple message.  It’s the message of Jesus.

My great, our great predecessor, George W. Truett, was sent around the world by the Foreign Mission Board preaching.  And in India he was brought to a Hindu university, and the Brahman priests were there to interdict and to contradict and to hold in contempt the message that he brought.  Instead, George W. Truett, that great preacher who stood here for forty-seven years, told the people there, the students there, the professors there, the assembly there about Jesus, about Jesus.  And when he was done, and there was given opportunity for any kind of a reply, one of the Brahman professors stood up and said, “Sir, we have nothing against the Christ this man preaches.”  There’s a simplicity, there’s a holiness, there’s a sweetness, there’s a glory, there’s a heavenliness about the simple story of Jesus that is incomparably dear.  Like Pilate said, “I find in Him no fault at all” [John 18:38].  The simplicity that is in Christ:  the gospel message is a simple message; it is the story of Jesus.

The great plan of salvation is a simple plan:  it’s Jesus.  You know, I did something one time: I went through my Bible and I underscored everywhere in the sacred page that God tells us how to be saved.  And when I had gone through the Bible and underscored it, I went back and looked at the passages I had underscored, and I was amazed!  Wherever in Holy Scripture God tells a man how to be saved, He will always do it in one simple sentence.  There is never an exception. 

  • Mark’s Gospel begins that way:  “In those days Jesus came preaching and saying, The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel” [Mark 1:14-15].  One sentence. 
  • And I turn the page, John 3:14, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up: that whosoever looks to Him, believes in Him, trusts in Him, shall not perish, but have everlasting, eternal life.”  One sentence—and what a sentence!


In the Book of Numbers, the people, because they had transgressed and fallen into sin, they were dying because they were bitten by fiery serpents [Numbers 21:5-6].  And in the midst of such raging death, they cried to Moses and cried to God, and God said to Moses, “Make a brazen serpent, and raise it in the midst of the camp; and whosoever looks shall live” [Numbers 21:7-9].  And as Moses raised that serpent, and anyone who just looked would live, so the Son of Man raised, and anyone who will just look can 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 who was crucified

And who died for thee.

[“There is Life for a Look at the Crucified One,” A. M. Hull]


Look and live, my brother, live!

Look to Jesus Christ and live!

I’ve a message from the Lord, hallelujah!

It is only that you look and live.

[“Look and Live,” William A. Ogden]


A child can look.  I did.  An old, feeble and dying man can look.  A poor man can look.  The rich man can look.  Anyone of us can look.  The simplicity that is in Christ:  just look and you will live.  I repeat, wherever in the Bible it tells us how to be saved it is always in one sentence. 

  • John starts like that:  “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not” [John 1:11]; but the verse 12 in the first chapter, “But as many as received Him, as opened their hearts to Him, to them gave He the right, the prerogative, the privilege, the power to become the children of God, even to them that believe in His name” [John 1:12].  One sentence. 
  • John 3:16, one sentence. 
  • John 5:24, one sentence:  “He that hears My word, and believes on Him that sent Me, shall have everlasting life, shall not come into condemnation; but is passed out of death into life.”
  • I don’t know of a more meaningful sentence in the earth than Acts 16:31.  Verse 30:  “What must I do to be saved?” [Acts 16:30] Thirty-one:  “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” [Acts 16:31].  One sentence. 
  • Romans 10, verse 9, “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thine heart that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” [Romans 10:9].  One sentence. 
  • The next verse, Romans 10:10, “For with the heart man believeth unto a God kind of righteousness, and confession is made unto salvation.” 
  • In Romans 10, verse 13, “For whosoever, whosoever, for whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” [Romans 10:13].  One sentence; never an exception to it in all the Word of God.


The pastor to the hospital; a teenager dying.  He said to the nurse, “May I put my head under the oxygen tent and talk to the boy?”

“Oh yes,” said the nurse.  “He’s soon dying.”  He put his head under the tent, and he talked to the boy and said, “You realize you will soon die?”


“And you’re not ready to meet God?”

“I am not.”

“May I tell you how to meet the Lord, how to go to heaven when you die?”

“Oh, do.”  And he told him the simple story of Jesus.  “He saw that we were under the condemnation of death, and He died for us that we might go to heaven when we die” [John 8:24; 11:25-26]

And the lad looked at the pastor and said, “But sir, is it that easy?” 

And he replied, “Easy for you, but not for Him.” 

Easy for us, not for Him:  He paid the penalty of our transgressions and our wrong and our sin in His death on the cross [1 Corinthians 15:3; 1 Peter 1:18-19].  The simplicity that is in Christ, the great plan of salvation is a simple plan:  Jesus.

Last, the simplicity that is in Christ, the great act of conversion is a simple act.  So one day I bowed before the blessed Lord Jesus, and I said, “Lord Jesus, what does that mean, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved’? [Acts 16:31]   Show me what that means.”  And as I waited for an answer from Him, the Lord replied in my heart, “You read 2 Timothy 1, verse12.”  So I turned to 2 Timothy, chapter 1, verse 12, [2 Timothy 1:12] and I read:  “For I know whom I have believed”—and that’s the word now—“For I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day” [2 Timothy 1:12].  What is it to believe?  It’s to commit your heart and your life to the Lord Jesus.

Do you have a family?  You commit that family to the Lord Jesus.  Do you have a little girl?  Do you have a little boy?  What it is to believe in Jesus is to commit that little precious child to the Lord Jesus.  Do you have a business?  To commit your business to the Lord Jesus.  Do you have a day?  Commit that day to the Lord Jesus.  And an ultimate day, committing your soul to the Lord Jesus.

Pastor, I have often thought about what they call our service at the cemetery:  they call it a committal, a committal.  About a week ago I had three services in one day, and a committal for each one.

What is it to believe in the Lord Jesus?  It’s to commit your life, your heart, your days, and ultimately your death, your soul, to the Lord Jesus, “O God, remember me” [Luke 23:42].

Well, when I was ten years old, I spoke of, I did that.  I was reared in a little town of about three hundred people.  And in the little white crackerbox of a church house they were having a spring revival, and the preacher stayed in our home.  I asked my mother if I could ask my teacher if I could be dismissed from school and to attend the revival service in the morning, ten o’clock in a weekday morning.  She acquiesced.  And the teacher in the school was gracious, and I was dismissed.  And when I went to church, I just happened to be seated back of my old, sainted mother.  When the preacher had done his sermon and presented the invitation, my mother was crying, and she turned to me, I was seated right back of her, and she said, “Son, today would you accept the Lord Jesus as your Savior?”  With many tears I replied, “Mother, yes, yes.”  And I stepped out into the aisle, down to the front; couldn’t even see the preacher for crying.  And I gave my heart to the Lord Jesus.  That was my experience of grace.

When I started to preach, I was seventeen years old.  And for ten years I preached out in the country.  And in those beginning days, I had two little part-time churches.  And back yonder, sixty-seven years ago, the farmers would lay by their store  their crops—that’s what they used; they called it “laying by”—and from the last part of August to the end of September they were free, and that’s when I would preach in those brush arbors and in those open tabernacles.  Everybody came.  They came by horseback, they came by buggy, they came by wagon, they came by foot, they came once in a while somebody might have an old T-model Ford.  Everybody came to those brush arbor revivals and those tabernacle assemblies.  And there I was.  I didn’t know I was that way: you could hear me ten miles on a clear night.  I preached all over those brush arbors and those tabernacles, up and down, back and forth, hollering and screaming, just pouring my soul and life into those sermons such as I was able to deliver.

Then, always we had what they called grove prayer meetings.  The women would stay under the arbor or under the tabernacle, and the men would go to a grove of trees and they’d have a testimony service there, and a prayer meeting there.  I never heard such testimonies in my life as I listened to those grove prayer meetings.  Why, a man would stand up and he would say, “I grieved and was burdened for my sins for years, and I had a visitation from heaven.  I saw an angel of light, and he came to me. And I was gloriously converted.”  Then he described the new life after having seen that angel from heaven.

Or another one, he’d say, “I was burdened for my sin for years.  And I was plowing with my mules out in the field, and suddenly there came a fire from heaven, and struck me to the ground!  And how long I lay prostrate I do not know, but when I came to myself,” then he would describe how the mules looked, how the plow looked, how the furrow looked, how the field looked, how the whole world looked.  And I came to the conclusion I had never been saved.  I had never seen an angel.  I had never seen a fire ball from heaven.  I came to the conclusion that I was not saved.  And you cannot imagine the conflict and the agony in my heart when on Sunday, Saturday night and Sunday, I would try to preach, and every night during the week agonize before God, “O God!  I’m not saved.  O God!  Send an angel.  Let me see an angel.  O God, let a ball of fire fall on me.”  Can you imagine that kind of a conflict and agony in my soul?  And that lasted for years.

And of course, in those days I read the Bible.  And in 2 Corinthians chapter 11, I read where angels, Satan says he turns himself into an angel of light to deceive those that are upon the earth [2 Corinthians 11:14], and I turned to the thirteenth chapter of the Apocalypse, and the fourteenth verse of that Revelation, and I learned there where Satan sends fire from heaven to confound them upon the earth [Revelation 13:13-14].  And then the Lord put it together in my heart.  Someday at the great assize, at the great judgment bar of Almighty God, when the saints go marching in, and I assay to join their number and to enter into that golden city, and the Lord God stops me and He says, “By what right and by what prerogative and by what authority do you enter My beautiful city and walk on My golden streets?”  And I say, “Lord God, I know I’m saved.  I know I’m a Christian.  I know I’m born again.  I saw an angel from heaven.”  And Satan laughs, “Ha, ha, ha, ha!  He saw an angel from heaven.  I was that angel!  And I turned myself into an angel of light just to deceive him.”  And he drags my soul down to damnation and to hell.  What could I say?  What could I do?

Or, at the great assize, at the judgment bar of Almighty God, and the saints of the Lord are marching in, and I assay to join their number, and the Lord God stops me and He says, “By what right, by what prerogative, by what power do you enter My beautiful city and walk on My golden streets?”  And I say, “Lord, I know I’ve been saved.  I’ve been born again.  I saw a ball of fire from heaven, and it struck me to the ground prostrate!  I know I’ve been saved.”  And Satan laughs, “Ha, ha, ha, ha!  Listen to him!  He saw a ball of fire.  I sent that ball of fire just to deceive him!”  What could I say?  And what could I do?

Sweet people, when the great assize comes and we stand at the judgment bar of Almighty God [Acts 10:42], and the saints are marching in, and I assay to join their number, and the Lord stops me and He says, “By what right, by what authority, by what prerogative, by what power do you enter My beautiful city and walk on My golden streets?”  You know what I’m going to reply?  “Dear Lord, I was just a boy, ten years old, and I gained from my mother the excuse to leave school and go to the revival meeting.  And I happened to be seated back of her.  And in the invitation she turned and said, ‘Son, today would you receive Jesus as your Savior?’ And with many tears I said, ‘Mother, I will.’  And I went down that aisle and I gave my heart to the Lord Jesus.  And Lord Jesus, I am doing no other thing than depending on You and believing on You, that You will keep Your word.  For You have said, John 1:12, ‘To those who received Him, who trusted Him, who believed Him, to them gave He the right and the power and the authority and the privilege to become the children of God, even to those that trust in His name.  And Lord Jesus, I’m just trusting You to keep Your word.”  Then I defy Satan to challenge my entrance into glory!  My salvation is not between me and Satan.  I’m no equal for him.  But my salvation is between me and Jesus.  And if Jesus keeps His word, I’m saved.  I have a mansion in glory [John 14:2-3].

O God!  What a sweet privilege just to lean upon Thee, just to love Thee, just to commit every moment of life to Thee, just to die in Thy loving arms.


The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,

I’ll never, no never, devote to its foes;

That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,

I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

[“How Firm a Foundation,” John Rippon]


And as long as I can trust in the Lord to keep His word, just so long am I:

Safe in the arms of Jesus,

Safe on His gentle breast;

There in the love of my blessed Lord,

There to find peace and rest.

[“Safe in the Arms of Jesus,” Frances J. Crosby]


Oh what a preciousness, the simplicity that is in Christ!  Just loving Him, committing every day to Him, and someday our life in the world to come.

And while the choir sings, if tonight you would just humbly, preciously, simply give your heart and life to the Lord Jesus, you come.  You come [Romans 10:8-13].  There are many other things in this invitation.  If you want to be baptized and belong to the church, come [Hebrews 10:24-25].  If you want to answer a call of the Lord Jesus in your heart, come.  If you would like for these godly men to pray for you, you come.  The invitation is His.  You answer as from His voice from heaven in your heart.  And in this moment that we sing, upon the first note of the first stanza, come.  And God bless you as you give your heart and life, the day, the tomorrow, and the eternity to come to the blessed Lord Jesus.  All right, Bob, we sing; and you are welcome to come.


Dr. W. A. Criswell

2 Corinthians 11:1-15


I.          Introduction

A.  Judaizers, gnostics presented themselves as having a superior wisdom

1. Paul fears they will pull church away from simplicities of Christ – like the serpent in Eden(Genesis 2:16-17, 3:1-6, 2 Corinthians 11:3)

B.  I do not deny depths of study presented in the gospel

1. Fundamental of the faith, actual gospel, is always simple and plain

II.         The gospel message is a simple message

A.  The gospel defined(1 Corinthians 15:1-4)

B. When a man preaches the gospel, he preaches Jesus

1. Card class

2.  This week three sermons from ecclesiastical organization, one on political and economic situation, one on bussing, one on racial issues

C.  Gospel addresses itself to the human heart

III.        The plan of salvation is a simple plan

A.  Always presented in one or two sentences(Matthew 10:32, Mark 1:15, John 1:12, 3:14-16, 5:24, Acts 16:30-31, Romans 10:9-10)

B. Easy for us, but not easy for Him(Isaiah 53:5)

C.  What He has done for us

IV.       The act of conversion is a simple act

A. “Lord, show me what saving faith is.”(2 Timothy 1:12)

B.  Simple act of committing your life and soul to Jesus