To all those who cry out with the Philippian jailer, the gospel message comes with all its simplicity and mercy, 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved'. To those who in anguish of soul long for a freedom from this body of death, the clarion sound is 'Look unto me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth' (Isa. 45:22). The true gospel message is not one which tells men the things they must do to appease the justice of a sin-hating God, but it is one which proclaims that Christ has done that and more for sinners who look to Him in faith. With such a simple message it would seem that the whole world would flock to Christ to receive this free pardon. But alas this is not the case as we can obviously see. So we may ask the question, "Why don't men come to Christ?" And the simple answer is "Because they don't believe they are helpless sinners whose only hope for salvation is in Christ".
The jailer, faced with the awful power of God and convicted of his lost estate by the spirit of God, earnestly sought the salvation of his soul. And the Lord in sovereign mercy provided a preacher (Rom. 10:14-17) with the message of free grace that he might hear and believe and be saved. Truly he saw himself to be a vile sinner in need of help and he received that help from the hand of a merciful God.
It's relatively easy to find men who know they have sinned. All honest men admit that readily. But when they are pressed about their sinfulness we hear such things as, "Well, I'm not perfect, but then nobody else is either", or "Sure I'm a sinner but I'm not as bad as so and so", or "I'm not really a bad sinner", etc. So, the hardest thing to find is a completely lost, helpless, hopeless, vile sinner. Men will admit their sin but not their absolute depravity and worthlessness to stand before a holy God.
A poet has written:
"A sinner is a sacred thing,
The Holy Ghost has made him so."
And how true it is that unless a man is awakened by the Spirit of God to see his absolute sinfulness he will never cry out for deliverance from it. As long as men have some trust, no matter how small, in their own righteousness they will never be saved. Suppose two men fall overboard a ship, and one can swim and the other one cannot. If a life preserver is cast out to them, who do you think would be the first to grab it? Naturally, the man who knows he shall perish without it. This is precisely why the Lord told the Pharisees that 'the publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of God before you' (Mat. 21:31) and is why the publican went down to his house justified while the Pharisee did not (Lk. 18:9-14). Those who know themselves to be the vilest of the vile and who have no confidence in any righteousness in themselves are those who flee to Christ for refuge and receive it.
If you can identify yourself with the offscouring of the earth, with those who are 'unworthy of the least of the Lord's mercies', then I tell you there is a Saviour for sinners like you, for 'Christ died for the ungodly' (Rom. 5:6). Are you unfit for the kingdom of God? Then I say, 'this Man received sinners' (Lk. 15:2). But if you say you deserve anything more than a place in eternal hell, then I say to you, there is no room for you for He is 'not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance' (Mat. 9:13). The Lord has provided a Saviour for all those who need one, but no provision whatsoever has been made for those who have no need. Shall you stand before the Lord disclaiming any righteousness of your own so that you may be clad in the spotless garments of Christ's righteousness? (Phil. 3:9) Or shall you stand there clinging to your own filthy rags (Isa. 64:6) as your hope for heaven?
Oh, my brother, my sister, cling not to the vain notion of any worthiness residing in your breast, but throw it aside and flee to the One whose blood washes whiter than snow. Oh may the Spirit of the Living God open your eyes to your vileness and lost estate without Christ and enable you this very moment to cry out, 'Pass me not O gentle Saviour. Hear my humble cry. While on others thou art calling, do not pass me by'. Broken hearted sinners find a sweet relief in leaning on the bosom of the blessed Lamb.
Come ye souls by sin afflicted,
Bow'd with fruitless sorrow down;
By the broken law convicted,
Through the cross behold the crown.
Look to Jesus... Mercy flows through Him alone.
Take His easy yoke and wear it,
Love will make obedience sweet;
Christ will give you strength to bear it,
While His wisdom guides your feet;
Safe to glory, where His ransom'd captives meet.
Blessed are the eyes that see Him,
Blest the ears that hear His voice;
Blessed are the souls that trust Him,
And in Him alone rejoice,
His commandments then become their happy choice.
What is It To Believe the Gospel?
To believe the Gospel is to believe in God. Yet the scripture says: "The devils also believe and tremble" (Jas. 2:19) To believe is to have faith. Yet the scripture says: "Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone" (Jas. 2:17) To believe is to begin trusting Christ. Yet the scripture says: "For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end" (Heb. 3:14). So when the scripture admonishes us to 'believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and be saved", it means more than to simply believe that God exists. It means more than to simply assent to some facts about the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord. It means more than to merely make a decision to follow Him only to turn back to the way of sin, being unmoved and unchanged in your heart.
To 'believe the gospel' is to positively exercise faith and trust in Jesus Christ for our salvation. Because of His death and resurrection we have confidence that He is able to save us to the uttermost and present us faultless before the Father (Jude 24). It also includes the negative aspect of forsaking all hope of being saved by any other means than through the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ. For no man comes to the Father except through Him (Jn. 14:6) because "there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
This kind of faith is the 'gift of God' (Eph. 2:8). Since He is the Author of it, we may not boast of having it, but simply fall upon our faces and worship and thank Him for His mercy and grace in bestowing it upon us. Do you have this faith which causes a man to rest in Christ for full pardon from his sin? This faith is that which causes a man to rise from his prayers, of thankfulness to God, to endeavor to walk in a path that shows his thankfulness and love for Christ. True faith is never devoid of good works, but stirs up the heart of a man to seek to honor the God who gave it. True faith is not a 'faith' which continues for a season and then falls away in time of testing (Mat. 13:1-23). God is not only the Author of true faith but the Finisher of it as well (Heb. 12:2). He does not begin a work in a man only to let that work fail but "He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6). Have you thus believed on the Lord Jesus Christ?
The Lord proclaims His name;
And sinners hear His voice;
His mercy ever stands the same,
And we'll in Him rejoice.
His name is gracious still,
And freely He bestows
The bounty of His sovereign will,
On all who feel their woes.
His patience long endures,
And saved sinners know,
A God, long-suffering, still restores
Their joy and peace below.
Ten thousands whom He loves,
He pardons and forgives;
Their persons He in Christ approves,
And will while Jesus lives.
Lord, help us to believe,
And make Thy name our choice;
Thy mercy freely to us give,
And we'll in Thee rejoice.
William Gadsby (1773-1884)