The Simplicity That Is In Christ
April 1st, 1996 @ 12:00 PM
2 Corinthians 11:3
THE SIMPLICITY THAT IS CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Corinthians 11:3
4-1-96 12:00 p.m.
The theme for this year is “The Way Made Plain.” Sometime that inevitable hour comes when we face God and face the eternity that is yet to come, and that is the theme of this week. How is it that we prepare for that inevitable day and that tragic hour when we say goodbye to this world and all that we have known in it and face the future with God? For it to be a triumphant confrontation is the reason for our assembly and our speaking of this subject. The five messages: today, The Wonderful Simplicity in Christ; tomorrow, The ABC’s of Our Salvation; the next day, Come and See; the next day, Thursday, Look and Live; and the last day, The Open Door, that on Friday our Savior prepared for us in His death. Today, The Simplicity that is in Christ.
This is from a text in 2 Corinthians 11:3, “But I fear,” writes the apostle, “lest somehow as Satan deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” I cannot deny that that text is one of the most amazing that I could ever think for, “the simplicity that is in Christ.” For I think of it against the background of thousands of Christian libraries and uncounted multitudes of volumes that are written about the teachings of our Lord. Homiletical discourses, philosophical aberrations; all kinds have approaches in the exegetical and homiletical world.
Yet Paul refers to our Lord in this word, “the simplicity that is in Christ” [2 Corinthians 11:3]. So I turn it through my heart and mind; how could the apostle make of our Lord—against that background of thousands of volumes that discuss Him—how could he speak of our Lord in those terms, His simplicity? Then I called to mind these things. The gospel message is a simple message. It is Jesus. When I turn to the fifteenth chapter of the first Corinthian letter, one of the great chapters of the Bible, it begins with this word: gnorizō. And I’m astonished, gnorizō—a declaration, an avowal, an announcement—Euaggelion—of the gospel, of the evangel—and what is it, this glorious announcement that the apostle begins in that chapter? It is this; it is Jesus. “My brethren,” he says, “I make known to you, I declare to you, I define for you the gospel, how that Jesus came down from heaven, died for our sins, raised for our justification, and someday coming again” [1 Corinthians 15:12]. The message from God’s heaven is Jesus, just Jesus.
I heard of an eloquent, learned preacher in the city of London; pastor of one of the elite and fashionable congregations. Year after year he would ascend into that beautiful pulpit, and he would discourse in his learned way of exegesis and philosophical understanding; things in history, things in this modern day, things that have to do [with] philosophy, with learnedness; year after year, Sunday by Sunday, standing in that elite pulpit expounding on the philosophical prerequisites that attend our life.
One day, there came to his study in the church a little ragged, dirty urchin of a girl. She said to him that her mother was dying and that her mother had sent her to ask him to come to see her, to help her prepare for heaven and for God. The learned pastor asked the little girl where her mother lived, and the little girl gave the location. It was in a slum, in a tenement section, down there next to the Thames River, in a dirty section of that vast city.
The elite and learned pastor hesitated. But the little child was insistent. Her mother was dying and had sent for him. He acquiesced, and she held him by the tips of his fingers and made their way through the city of London, down to a slum, down next to the river, to a tenement house, up a creaking stairway, and in a dirty room, and there on a ragged bed, lay this dying woman. He got his stool, placed it by her side and said, “What can I do to help?” And she replied she had just a little while to live, and she wanted to know how to meet God and how to enter heaven. So he started off, and he spoke in the terms that he’d been preaching through all of the years in that fashionable pulpit to that elite congregation. The dying woman looked at him in consternation. She couldn’t understand his nomenclature, she couldn’t understand his vocabulary, she couldn’t understand his words, much less the philosophical approach he was making to immortality. In despair and desperation, he bowed his head and prayed, “O God, help me with this dying woman!”
And the Lord answered. His mind went back to the day when he was a little boy standing at his mother’s knee, and his mother spoke to him as a little child about the blessed Lord Jesus. How we were lost and dying, and God sent Jesus from heaven to this earth to live our life, to bear our sins, to open for us the door into heaven. And as he talked to that dying woman about Jesus, she began to nod, “Oh, yes! Oh, yes! Oh, I can love a Savior like—I can trust a Savior like that—Oh, yes. Oh, yes!”
The following Sunday he stood in his fashionable pulpit speaking to his elite people and described for them what had happened that week and closed it with the word, “And 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!”
What is the gospel? It is Jesus. And when a man preaches the gospel, that’s what he preaches: Jesus. When we send out a missionary to the ends of the earth, what do they preach to those heathen? Jesus; coming down from heaven [Hebrews 10:5-14], living our life [Hebrews 4:15], dying our death, raised for our justification [Romans 4:25], and someday coming again for those who found hope in Him [Hebrews 9:28].
As you know, Pastor George Truett preached in this pulpit for forty-seven years. He made a trip around the world, a preaching mission. And one of the strangest things; he refused to go sight-seeing or to see national shrines. He prayed and preached the gospel of Christ, and when he was standing before a great throng in India, there had come to the convocation a large group of Brahman Hindu priests. They had arrived in order to confront and to criticize the pastor. And Truett stood there and delivered his message about Jesus, and when he was done and was seated, there was a long silence. And finally, one of the Brahman Hindu priests stood up and said, “We have no criticism and no confrontation with the Christ this man has preached.”
As Pontius Pilate said at the trial, “In Him I find no fault at all” [John 18:38].
The simplicity that is in Christ; the gospel message is a simple message, it’s Jesus [Matthew 1:21]. The great plan of salvation is a simple plan, it’s Jesus [John 3:16]. One time I went through this Bible, and I underscored all of the passages where God tells us how to be saved. And after I had gone through the Bible and underscored every one of those passages, I went back and looked at them. And I was amazed! Everywhere God tells a man how to be saved, He does it in one simple sentence, never two. There’s no exception to it—always in one sentence. Like the text of the Old Testament in Isaiah 45:22, “Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth,” one sentence. John 1:12, “As many as received Him, to them gave He the right to become the children of God, even to them that trust in His name,” one sentence. John 3:14, “As Moses lifted up the serpent, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,” one sentence; John 3:16, one sentence. John 5:24, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life,” one sentence. Acts 16:30, “What must I do to be saved?” Acts 16:31, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,” one sentence. Romans 10:9, “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in thine heart that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved,” one sentence. [Romans] 10:10, “For with the heart one believeth unto a God-kind-of righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation,” one sentence. Romans 10:13, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved,” one sentence. There’s no exception to it, just one sentence.
A pastor speaking to a boy, a teenage lad, on how to be saved, because the boy was facing death, and the lad said to the preacher, “Is it that easy?” And he replied so knowingly, “Easy for you, but not for Him. He took our sins [1 Peter 2:24], and bore our iniquities” [Isaiah 53:5].
And last, the great act of conversion is a simple act; the simplicity that is in Christ. May I take a leaf out of my own life? I was converted when I was a little boy of ten years age. My mother—in the little white crackerbox of a church house, in the revival—my mother turned to me as I was seated in the pew right back of her and said to me, “Son, today, would you take the Lord Jesus as your Savior?” I said, “Yes, Mother.” And I went down the aisle, couldn’t even see the preacher for crying, that’s how I was saved.
When I was seventeen years of age, I began pastoring my little country churches and preaching the gospel. Two of the little churches out in the wide open country were quarter time. And one of them did not have a church house; just had a tabernacle and a campground. Well, this is sixty-nine years ago. The ends of the earth came to that tabernacle revival. And we had grove prayer meetings under a grove of trees. The women would meet for a prayer meeting, and under a grove trees the men would meet for a prayer meeting. And of course, I attended the grove prayer meeting with the men. I never heard such testimonies in all of my life.
Typically a man would stand up and say, “I saw an angel of light. And he led me into the confession of faith. And I was saved.” Another one would say, “I grieved for my sins for years. And as I was plowing with a team of mules, I saw a ball of fire come down from God in heaven. And how long I lay unconscious I do not know.” Then he described when he came back to life how the mules looked, how the field looked, how the furrow looked, how the world looked; and you know what? I came to the conclusion, even though I was pastor of the church, I came to the conclusion I had not been saved.
I’d never seen an angel of light, I had never experienced a ball of fire striking me to the ground; I came to the conclusion I had not been saved! And you cannot imagine the psychological turn when I would preach on Sunday! I’d prepare the sermon the best I could as a teenage boy and deliver it on Sunday. I would preach to my people on Sunday, and every night and every day during the days of the week, I would cry to God, “O God, I’m not saved! I’m not saved! I’ve never had an experience like that, Lord, I’m not saved! O God, save me, give me a glorious experience!” Now that went on for several years. Preaching on Sunday and every night of the week crying unto God, “O God, I’m not saved! I’m not saved!” And the Lord looked down in pity and in mercy upon me and led me into this experience. I dreamed that I was standing in the great assize at the end of the age. And the saints of God were marching in, and I assayed to join their number. And the Lord God stopped me and said, “By what authority, and by what right, and by what privilege do you enter My beautiful city and walk on My golden streets?”
And I say, “Lord, I know I’m saved, I saw an angel of light from heaven.” And Satan seizes me and drags me down to hell and damnation and perdition. What could I say? What could I do? For this passage in the eleventh [chapter] of 2 Corinthians says that Satan transforms himself into an angel of light, just to deceive them that live in the earth [2 Corinthians 11:14]. And if I depend upon that angel of light, what shall I say when he drags my soul down to torment and damnation? Or, in my dream I’m standing at the great 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 says, “By what right, by what prerogative, by what authority do you enter My beautiful city and walk on My golden streets?” And I say, “Lord, I know I’m saved. I saw a ball of fire fall from God out of heaven and strike me to the ground. I know I’m saved.” And Satan seizes me, and he drags me down to damnation and hell and torment. And he says, “I sent you that ball of fire just to deceive you!” What could I say? For in the thirteenth chapter of the Revelation it says, “He sends fire on the earth” [Revelation 13:13]. Satan sends fire on the earth just to deceive those that walk on this planet.
You know what? And this is what God did for me. When I stand at the great judgment bar of Almighty God and the saints of the Lord go marching in, and I assay to join their number; and the Lord 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 to the Lord, “Lord God, when I was a boy, ten years of age, my sainted mother turned to me in our little crackerbox of a church and said, `Son, today, would you receive the Lord Jesus as your Savior?’ And I answered, `Mother, yes. Yes. Today, I open my heart to the Lord Jesus, and I receive Him as my Savior.’ And Lord, You have written in Your Book:
He came into His own, and His own received Him not—
but the next verse—
But as many as received Him, to them gave He the right—
the prerogative, the authority—
to become the children of God,
even to them that believe in His name.
And Lord Jesus, when I was a little boy, ten years of age, I received You in my heart as my Savior. And I trusted in Your name. And Lord Jesus, that’s all I’m doing now, I’m just trusting Your Word and Your promise. Then I defy Satan to lay hands upon me, to drag me down, to condemn me to eternal damnation and hell! For my salvation is not between me and him—Satan—I’m no equal. My salvation is between me and Jesus. And I know in that confrontation who is victor; it is Jesus. It is Jesus. And as long as that promise is in the infallible, inerrant Word of God [1 John 5:4], I am safe in His loving arms. “You know, preacher, it’s a strange thing how psychology in your human mind works. I’m not exaggerating it when I say to you if I were to see an angel from heaven, or if I were to be struck down with a ball of fire, it would never occur to me to link that with my salvation. I thank God for the experience, praise His name for the angel or for the ball of fire, but I’d never think of it in terms of my standing at the judgment bar in that great and final day of the Lord; just trusting God.
The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
I’ll never, no never desert to its foes.
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.
[“How Firm a Foundation,” J. Rippon, Selection of Hymns; 1837]
My soul is at rest in the loving arms of God.
I. The gospel message is a simple message
gospel defined(1 Corinthians 15:1-4)
When a man preaches the gospel, he preaches Jesus
W. Truett preaching in India
Pontius Pilate – “I find no fault in Him” (John
II. The plan of salvation is a simple plan
to Jesus, believing; receiving Jesus, trusting
Always presented in one or two sentences(Isaiah
45:22, Matthew 10:32, Mark 1:15, John 1:12, 3:14-16, 5:24, Acts 16:30-31,
Romans 10:9-10, 13)
Easy for us, but not easy for Him
III. The act of conversion is a simple act
personal testimony – saved when I was ten years old
in the country – marvelous stories of conversion experiences caused me to doubt
answer God gave me(2 Corinthians 11:14,
Revelation 13:13-14, Hebrews 9:27, John 1:11-12, Isaiah 40:8)
“How Firm a Foundation”