Calvary Road Baptist Church


This morning I want to leave you with the simplicity of the gospel. One of the benefits of listening to sinners, eliciting feedback from folks about their understanding of the gospel message and the means by which God reconciles sinners to Himself, is to discover what sinners think they have to do in order for their sins to be forgiven, in order to be born again, in order to become a heaven-bound child of God.

A heartbreaking to me illustration of the importance of the gospel minister listening carefully to what sinners say about sin and salvation occurred some years ago on the only occasion of my family eating at an Outback Steakhouse. Pam and Sarah and I, along with my mom, were with another couple who were members of the church, but who never attended a service except in response to a visit from me. Phone calls did not do the trick, only visits. If I visited on Saturday, they came on Sunday. If I did not visit, they did not attend. Faithfulness and worship of God were obviously not that couple’s concern, as the heartbreaking consequences in the lives of their now adult children, and their grandchildren (none of whom have been born with benefit of married parents) attests. We were sitting in a circular booth, with me sitting at the left end, next to my mother, who was next to the unnamed woman, her husband, Sarah, and my wife Pam was on the other side sitting at the right end. One of the waiters (I guess you call them wait persons in our politically correct, anti-sexist speech of today) lost control of a large tray that had, among other things, a bowl of hot melted cheese on it. When it hit the floor, hot melted cheese splattered all over my slacks. We all laughed, the waiter was embarrassed, and conversation continued. Moments later, the conversation turned and my mother for some reason said, “Of course, you become a Christian by being baptized. That’s how I became a Christian.” The woman sitting next to her said, “Iris, that’s not how you become a Christian.” My mother then responded, “Of course it is, isn’t it John?” She really put me on the spot, and in public. I already knew my mother was not a Christian. Everyone on the planet except for my mother knew she was not a Christian. However, she was also a very proud woman, without the humility necessary for a teachable spirit. My response to her was, “No, mom. No one becomes a Christian by being baptized. The Bible teaches that you are baptized after you become a Christian.” For some reason, my mother refused to let the matter drop. She actually engaged her Baptist pastor son in an argument in an effort to prove to me that the reason I called myself a Baptist was because I baptized people in order to make Christians of them. Imagine her exasperation when I continued to deny what she insisted, and further pointed out that in fact it was Roman Catholics and Church of Christ churches that believed one became a Christian by being baptized, not Baptists.

What happened to my mom in the restaurant more frequently takes place in my office when I interview people to elicit information from them. By elicit, I mean that I want to find out what people believe. It is important to me to discover what people, both saved and lost, believe. This is because I cannot minister to someone effectively so as to teach God’s Word unless I have a good idea what that person already believes. Additionally, I am unable to gage anyone’s agreement with what I teach and preach unless I have a good idea what they think I taught or preached. Bottom line? What matters even more than what I say is what someone thinks I said. Added to that is the important truth that the Lord Jesus Christ spoke of in Matthew 12.37: “For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” Supporting this important truth is First Peter 3.18: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” Thus, the words that we speak are profoundly important as verification and validation of our claim to be Christians, to be God’s children, and to having had our sins forgiven.

Allow me to illustrate in a very simple way: My house is a very short distance from where you are seated. My house is very easily arrived at by anyone who has ever been there. It is so easy to get to my house from here that a very straightforward test can easily verify your claim that you have been to my house. Just tell someone, anyone, how to get to my house from here. Those of you who know where my house is located, because you have actually been to my house, can rather easily discern whether someone is telling the truth about having been to my house recently by how he responds to a simple directive: Tell us how to get to pastor’s house from here. If you cannot tell us how to get to my house from here, it is almost certainly because you have never actually been to my house. Would you not agree? Jonathan can tell you how to get to my house. Joseph can tell you how to get to my house. Christian can tell you how to get to my house. They are quite young. Yet those of you who are much older, more experienced, and far more knowledgeable about many things, cannot tell us how to get to my house. Why not? Because you have never been there, that’s why not. Discerning someone’s spiritual condition is admittedly more difficult, but I think my illustration proves the point that I am making. My mother was tragically mistaken about a simple matter for only one reason: My mother was not a Christian.

I say all of this to point out to you that listening to people relate to you what they believe about the gospel, about how sinners’ sins are forgiven, can be extremely enlightening for a gospel minister. Not for the purpose of being judgmental or deciding who is saved and who is not saved, mind you. The purpose for carefully listening and comparing what is said with the truth of God’s Word is not to determine whether or not someone is saved, but rather as an attempt to discover someone’s spiritual condition. This is because there is no warrant in scripture for accepting as true someone’s declaration that he is a Christian without corroborating evidence. Even God constrains Himself to operate by this principle that is found throughout God’s dealings with men.[1]

In my ministry, making use of this vital but mostly forgotten principle in evangelism, I have recently been reminded again of its benefit. Allow me, therefore, to make some very general statements that are well-supported in scripture, before leaving you with three main points for consideration: First, there is nothing an unsaved person has that God wants. The lost man’s main problem is sin, which offends God and deadens the spirit, which separates from God and defiles the soul, and which demands God’s punishment for crimes against God in word, thought, and deed. Thus, you cannot hope to be saved by giving God what He does not want, presuming it were in your power to do such a thing (which it is not!). Second, it is not possible for any unsaved person to perform any deed, or execute any task, which in any way merits God’s favor and deserves the salvation which God mercifully bestows on the undeserving. Third, though powerful scriptural arguments can be arrayed against the notions of “accepting Jesus as your savior” or “asking Jesus into your heart,” suffice it to say at present that such concepts are foreign to scripture.[2]

This matter of the sinner’s salvation requires a bit of clarification. On one hand, it is an astonishingly complex matter. God does all kinds of things to bring about the sinner’s salvation. Many ways of portraying salvation in the Bible, so utterly beyond our comprehension and experience, can actually be illustrated in ways designed to be understandable to us before conversion occurs and explanatory to us after conversion takes place. However, on our side of the situation, this matter of salvation is astonishingly simple, so simple that young children and uneducated farmers, herdsmen, and fishermen can grasp the essentials.

Granting that the Bible is true, that God is one, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God born of the Virgin Mary who died on the cross and rose again on the third day, now seated at God’s right hand on high, the Spirit of God has been dispatched for the purposes of ministering the Word of God to sinners to bring some to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Three things to focus your attention on this morning:


I hold in my hand a copy of the God’s Word, the Bible. Allow me to state simple but profound truths about the Word of God that are related to the saving of your eternal and undying soul:

First, its eternity. In our Bible study last Wednesday, we dealt with a comment made by the Lord Jesus Christ during His Olivet Discourse, shortly after teaching the Parable of the Fig Tree. He said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”[3] Though originally useful in our Lord’s answer to a question posed by four of His apostles, the statement has broader implications about the eternity of the Word of God. Psalm 119.89 comes to mind: “For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.” Understand something about the Bible, God’s Word. Though it was penned by more than 40 different men, over a 1,600 year time span, in three different languages, it has stood the test of time and multiple attempts to discredit it, without its character being tarnished and without errors being found.

Next, inspiration. Inspiration is that word which provides understanding concerning how we came to possess the Word of God. How did that which is eternal come to be in time and into our possession? As mentioned before, God gradually introduced the truth of His Word to the human realm by means of such men as Moses, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the Apostle Paul, to name a few. There are two verses among many that stand out as the clearest explanations of the process, Second Timothy 3.16 and Second Peter 1.21:

Second Timothy 3.16: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”

Second Peter 1.21: “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”

Now that we are given how this eternal Word of God came to be in our possession, consider its usefulness. John 17.17 records a portion of the Lord Jesus Christ’s prayer to His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before His crucifixion: “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” He pleads with His heavenly Father to use His Word (which He characterizes as truth) to sanctify, to set apart, in other words to make holy. Turning to James 1.18, we see in this first penned New Testament epistle, another specific use of God’s Word, as James recounts to his readers their own born again experience: “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth.” Thus, the Word of God is a most marvelous divine tool that is useful in the lives of those who make the right use of it, as James 1.21-22 shows:

21     Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.

22     But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

So you see, God’s Word is remarkable in its usefulness in the lives of those who make proper use of it and with a proper attitude toward it. Do you not enjoy reading God’s Word? Then listen to John Gerstner’s remark: “Who was ever converted reading what the sinner liked to read, but sinners were known to be converted forcing themselves to read the Word they hated.”


Of course, I speak now of the Holy Spirit of God, the Spirit of grace, the Spirit of Christ, the Third Person of the Triune Godhead, Co-Equal and Co-Eternal with the Father and with the eternal Son of the Living God.

It is quite obvious from those passages that we have already read that the Holy Spirit is the Author of scripture, the One who gave God’s Word to us by inspiration, the One who bore along the holy men of old as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. That speaks to the Holy Spirit’s involvement in bringing God’s Word to us. What about the Holy Spirit’s involvement in using God’s Word in our lives in answer to the Savior’s prayer to the Father to “sanctify them through thy truth?”

Setting aside any consideration of the Holy Spirit’s involvement in the life of a Christian for just now, let us restrict our consideration to the Spirit’s work in the lives of those who are unsaved, who are lost, who are not born again. This, of course, would include both the elect and those not elect. In the lives of those not chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, Ephesians 1.4, there is a whole range of involvement by the Spirit of God. On one hand, some who are not elect are wholly untouched by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. They go through their entire lives unmoved, unbothered, unawakened, without illumination of spiritual things of any kind. I suppose these are among those who are so cocksure and confident about spiritual matter they are entirely ignorant about, including being so sure there is no God. As well, there are among those not elect some who are touched by the Holy Spirit and do become alarmed about their spiritual condition and alienation from God. However, there is no real response and over time their alarm diminishes as they move through life on their way to death and damnation in the lake of fire. Then there are those unsaved people who are the elect of God, who will be drawn by the Father to Jesus Christ, His Son, for salvation and cleansing.[4] By what means will God accomplishes this gracious salvation of a sinner? By means of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. In John 16.8-11 we read of the Holy Spirit’s felt dealings with an unsaved person, changing his mind about himself and about the Savior so that he will want to be saved from his sins:

8      And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:

9      Of sin, because they believe not on me;

10     Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more;

11     Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.

Is the sinner always consciously aware that it is the Holy Spirit who is dealing with him? No, he is not. All he knows is that he is damned and in need of a Savior, who bids him to come to him, Matthew 11.28: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Of course, we know that there is faith that is vain and unsaving, such as Paul referred to in First Corinthians 15.1-2:

1      Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;

2      By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.

As well, there is indication in God’s Word that there is such a thing as genuine faith that though genuine is still not saving, such as was the case with Abraham’s faith from the time God first appeared to him in Ur of the Chaldees until he was justified by faith in Genesis 15.6.[5]

The part the Holy Spirit plays in the life of an unsaved person, then, is to persuade him by the application of God’s Word of his sinfulness and guilt and of his need to be saved from his sins. As well, the Holy Spirit is of course indispensable in imparting life to the spiritually dead sinner at the moment he is joined to Jesus Christ. That is the thrust of John’s gospel, in verses such as John 1.12-13 and John 3.3, 5, 7, and 8. I read John 1.12-13:

12     But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

13     Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

Now, the Lord’s words from John 3.3, 5, 7 and 8:

3      . . . Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

5      . . . Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

7      Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

8      The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

So far, we have been reminded from God’s Word that God uses His Word to bring about the salvation of sinners. We also know that the Holy Spirit is the One who actually imparts spiritual life to that sinner who was before spiritually dead. However, there is confusion among many about how the Holy Spirit and this thing called faith actually come together.

We know God uses His Word. You are probably also familiar with Romans 10.17: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” However, many are not aware of the Holy Spirit’s direct role in bringing faith to the sinner. That is revealed in Second Corinthians 4.13, where Paul writes, “We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed.”

So you see, the Holy Spirit is identified to the Corinthians by Paul as the Spirit of faith, and in Ephesians 2.8 we are told that faith is the gift of God, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” Thus, the faith the sinner must have to believe is given to him as a gift by the Holy Spirit of God.


The Word of God does not save anyone from his sins. However, God’s Word is God’s choice means that is used to convey the saving truth that Jesus saves. That said, by itself the Word of God is capable of saving no one. The Spirit of God must work to impart both faith and life into the spiritually dead sinner.

We have seen evidence that there can be genuine faith without salvation, such as was the case with Abraham for approximately ten years. We also saw in First Corinthians 15.2 that the Apostle Paul acknowledged the possibility of believing in vain, faith without salvation. Perhaps that was what happened in the lives of Judas Iscariot, Simon the Magician, and the Corinthian fornicator, men who passed themselves off as believers (and perhaps they were believers in a sense), though they were by no means saved men.

Understand that there is only one savior of sinful men’s souls. Though the distinct Persons of the Triune Godhead were not revealed in the Old Testament as clearly as in the New Testament, we now know that no sinner is saved by an attempt to come to God the Father instead of the Lord Jesus Christ. No sinner is saved by “believing in God,” something even the demons do.[6]

The Lord Jesus Christ is explicitly simple in His declaration, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”[7] The Apostle Paul and Silas were explicitly simple in their response to the Philippian jailor: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”[8] The Apostle Peter expressed the simplicity of the matter in his first epistle, when he wrote of the sinner’s faith in Christ: “Who by him do believe in God.” Do you want to believe in God? Then believe in God by believing in His Son, Jesus Christ.

Why do men complicate the simplicity of the gospel? For two reasons, I think: First, they are inwardly proud and want to so alter the gospel that a portion of the glory reserved for God alone falls upon them, though that in fact is not possible. Secondly, they are confused to the place of complicating so simple a matter. I earlier mentioned that the gospel is complex . . . on God’s side of things. However, on man’s side of the situation the issue is very simple. If you want life, real life in Christ, eternal life resulting from the forgiveness of your sins, you must turn from those sins and come to Christ. It is explained in God’s Word. God’s Word was brought to us by the Holy Spirit, who applies the truth of it to our hearts and persuades us of the urgency of our condition and the need to turn to Christ, as well as by actually imparting to us the faith with which to come to Christ. However, understand that only Jesus Christ became a man and shed His blood an atonement for our sins. Only Jesus Christ died and rose again the third day. Only Jesus Christ is the saving Object of faith in whom we must believe or forever perish.

A sinner does not need to know much to be saved from his sins, but what he thinks he knows must be accurate. Once you know you are lost, know God’s Word is true, and know that Jesus saves, you must then come to Him for the forgiveness of your sins. I urge you to come to Jesus now.

[1] Numbers 35.30; Deuteronomy 17.6-7; Joshua 24.22; Ruth 4.9-11; Job 10.17; Isaiah 8.2; 43.9-12; 44.8-9; Jeremiah 32.10, 12, 25, 44; Matthew 18.15-20; Luke 24.46-48; Acts 1.8; 2.32; 3.15; 5.32; 10.39; 13.31; 2 Corinthians 13.1; 1 Thessalonians 2.10; 1 Timothy 5.19; 6.12; Hebrews 10.28; 1 John 4.1; 5.7-9; Revelation 1.1

[2] Rather, it is God who accepts, Ephesians 1.6, with Jesus Christ enthroned at God’s right hand in a glorified human body rather than in anyone’s heart (except by means of His indwelling Spirit), Psalm 110.1; Matthew 26.64; Mark 12.36; 14.62; 16.19; Luke 20.42; Luke 22.69; Acts 2.33, 34; 7.55, 56; Romans 8.34; Ephesians 1.20; Colossians 3.1; Hebrews 1.3, 13; 8.1; 10.12; 12.2; 1 Peter 3.22; Revelation 5.6.

[3] Matthew 24.35

[4] John 6.44

[5] Acts 7.2-7; Hebrews 11.8; Genesis 12.1-15.6; Romans 4.1-5; Galatians 3.6

[6] James 2.19

[7] Matthew 11.28

[8] Acts 16.31

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