Print Sermon

These sermon manuscripts and videos now go out to about 1,500,000 computers in over 215 countries every year at www.sermonsfortheworld.com. Hundreds of others watch the videos on YouTube, but they soon leave YouTube and come to our website. YouTube feeds people to our website. The sermon manuscripts are given in 35 languages to about 120,000 computers each month. The sermon manuscripts are not copyrighted, so preachers can use them without our permission. Please click here to learn how you can make a monthly donation to help us in this great work of spreading the Gospel to the whole world, including the Muslim and Hindu nations.

Whenever you write to Dr. Hymers always tell him what country you live in, or he cannot answer you. Dr. Hymers’ e-mail is rlhymersjr@sbcglobal.net.




IS IT JUST AN IDLE TALE?

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, January 4, 2009

“Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:30-31).


The roots of “decisionism” are very deep in much of the preaching in our day. Preachers may loudly proclaim that they reject decisionism, but at the same time, their whole approach in preaching is often tainted with it.

I heard a good man preach like this some time ago. At the end of his sermon, he called for an immediate “decision” for Christ. There were no conversions from his sermon. Why? Because he gave too much material, and tried to answer all the related questions, to a congregation of lost people who were unprepared for conversion. I believe that this kind of preaching, which seeks to give all the answers to the question of conversion, does not take into account the fallen nature of man. If preachers spent more time listening to sinners after they preach, instead of giving them mountains of advice without listening, they would soon learn from their own experience of listening that very few of the people who hear them understand what they are talking about. The people may raise their hands, or come forward, out of emotion, and have no real understanding of the gospel, or any real feeling of conviction of sin – without which true conversion is impossible. Let us think about two famous conversions to illustrate this.

I. First, the example of the Philippian jailer’s conversion.

Though there may be some exceptions, most people need to see their sins sharply and clearly before they experience conversion. It must become a living reality to them that they are indeed lost sinners, under the wrath of God. Dr. J. Gresham Machen wisely said,

Without the consciousness of sin, the whole of the gospel will seem to be an idle tale (Dr. J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism, Eerdmans, 1923, reprinted 1983, p. 66).

If a person does not feel that he is a lost, doomed sinner, he will not feel that he truly needs the Saviour in any real sense. An unconverted person usually goes through “stages” leading up to conversion. Spurgeon once wrote,

There may be such a thing as faith by first sight [my own wife experienced that], but usually we reach [saving] faith by stages: we become interested, we consider, we hear evidence, and so are led to believe (C. H. Spurgeon, Around the Wicket Gate, Pasadena, Texas, Pilgrim, 1992, p. 57).

Take the case of this jailer in our text. Paul had come to the city of Philippi. A woman named Lydia had been converted. She and the members of her household were converted and baptized. The news of this spread through the city. As they went to pray, a demon possessed girl followed them, crying out,

“These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation” (Acts 16:17).

Paul cast the demon out of her. Those who had made money from the girl telling fortunes

“Caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers. And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city”
      (Acts 16:19-20).

The jailer heard about this great commotion in the city. He heard about the conversion of Lydia and her family. He heard about the deliverance of that demon possessed girl. Thus, the jailer and his family had heard about the gospel before he ever met Paul. He was already thinking about the gospel before he ever heard Paul preach.

Then Paul and Silas were arrested and beaten.

“And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks” (Acts 16:23-24).

Those who brought Paul and Silas to the prison must surely have told the jailer why they had been arrested. Thus, the jailer again heard about Christ and the gospel. The facts about Christ were going through his mind.

He put Paul and Silas into the prison.

“And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them” (Acts 16:25).

The jailer, too, would have heard them. His mind was filled with thoughts about Christ and the gospel as he drifted off to sleep that night.

Then an earthquake struck. It broke open the prison. The jailer ran out of his house. He thought that all the prisoners had escaped. He knew that the Roman authorities would hold him accountable for their escape, and that he would be punished. He drew his sword to commit suicide.

“But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. Then he [the jailer] called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:28-30).

You see, this jailer went through a series of experiences that were described by Spurgeon. He heard the gospel. He became interested. He came trembling with fear and conviction. He was now prepared to be converted. And Paul said to him,

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house” (Acts 16:31-32).

Notice particularly verse thirty-two,

“And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house” (Acts 16:32).

We need to realize that this jailer had by now been confronted with the gospel several times already. By this time, the man was frightened and convicted. And now Paul takes much time to go over the way of salvation carefully with him.

By the time he was baptized, much later that night, he had heard the gospel several times, he had been deeply disturbed about the condition of his soul, and had been carefully counselled and instructed by the Apostle Paul. This man knew what he was doing when he trusted Jesus Christ.

There are young people here this evening who are like him. You have been coming to church here for some time. You have heard me preach the gospel and explain the way of salvation through Christ. You have thought about getting saved. Now, what are you going to do about it? What will you do with Jesus? Will you trust Him and be saved? Or will you reject Him, and remain lost?

Most people need to see their sin sharply and clearly before they experience true conversion. Their sin must become a living reality to them, that they are indeed sinners by nature, under the wrath of God. Only then will they feel their need for Jesus, and His Blood atonement for their sins. As Dr. Machen said,

Without the consciousness of sin, the whole of the gospel will seem to be an idle tale (ibid.).

II. Second, the example of the Apostle Paul’s conversion.

Many people think that Paul was converted on the road to Damascus, but I believe that this view is untrue to the Scriptures. I believe that Paul was awakened on the road to Damascus, but not converted until he spoke with Ananias later. Please turn with me in your Bible to Acts 9:17-18. Let us stand and read these two verses aloud,

“And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized” (Acts 9:17-18).

You may be seated.

Many of the old commentators did not think that Paul was converted on the road to Damascus. They felt that he was awakened and convicted of sin, but not yet converted. For instance, Matthew Henry said,

We have reason to think he was all this time rather in the belly of hell, suffering God’s terrors for his sins, which were now set in order before him: he was in the dark concerning his own spiritual state, and was so wounded in spirit for sin that he could relish neither meat nor drink (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Hendrickson, 1996 reprint, volume 6: Acts to Revelation, p. 91).

Commenting on verse eighteen, Dr. John Gill said,

“And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales,” which were little thin skins of films, which were formed from the defluxions that fell from his brain, through the excessive light that shone around him, and the surprise he was thrown into by it: these, as soon as Ananias put his hands upon him, dropped off; which were an emblem and representation of the scales of ignorance, of himself, of sin, of Jesus…and unbelief in him…which, upon his being enlightened by the Spirit of God, fell from him: “And he received sight forthwith”; his [physical] sight, which was an emblem of that spiritual sight he had also received (John Gill, D.D., An Exposition of the New Testament, Paris, Arkansas, The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1989 reprint, volume II, p. 227).

This, then, is the actual conversion of Paul – which came after his awakening on the road to Damascus.

Dr. J. Oliver Buswell points out the “process of conviction” that “lead up to conversion” in Paul’s case (J. Oliver Buswell, Ph.D., A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion, Zondervan, 1971, part III, p. 183). Dr. Buswell says,

A careful reading of the record…will show that there are definite steps in the process of conviction leading to instantaneous conversion. Paul tells us afterward that he was impressed by the testimony of Stephen…(Acts 22:20). The heroism of Christians as they suffered under persecution must have impressed him…The very intensity of Paul’s persecution is a psychological evidence of a conflict of mind… the convicted mind fighting against the evidence and resisting the conviction. We see then that even in the case of such a sudden conversion as that of Saul of Tarsus, there is…a process (ibid., pp. 183-184).

Most people need to see their sin sharply and clearly before they experience true conversion. Their sin must become a living reality to them, that they are indeed sinners by nature, under the wrath of God. Only then will they see the need for Jesus, and His Blood atonement for their sins. As Dr. Machen said,

Without the consciousness of sin, the whole of the gospel will seem to be an idle tale (ibid.).

Please turn with me to I Corinthians 15:3-4. Let us stand and read these two verses aloud.

“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (I Corinthians 15:3-4).

You may be seated.

That is the gospel of Christ. But “without the consciousness of sin, the whole of the gospel will seem to be an idle tale.” You have heard about Christ, and have become interested. You have thought about becoming a Christian. You have heard the evidence. Now you need to be convicted of your sin! Only when you feel the awfulness of your sin will you feel your need for Jesus to save you from it.

I saw One hanging on a tree, In agony and blood;
He fixed His languid eyes on me, As near His cross I stood.

My conscience felt and owned the guilt, And plunged me in despair;
I saw my sins His blood had spilt And helped to nail Him there.
Oh, can it be, upon a tree The Saviour died for me?
My soul is thrilled, my heart is filled, To think He died for me!
   (“He Died For Me” by John Newton, 1725-1807).

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on “Sermon Manuscripts.”

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Isaiah 53:1-6.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“He Died For Me” (by John Newton, 1725-1807).


THE OUTLINE OF

IS IT JUST AN IDLE TALE?

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:30-31).

I.   First, the example of the Philippian jailer’s conversion,
Acts 16:17, 19-20, 23-24, 25, 28-30, 31-32.

II.  Second, the example of the Apostle Paul’s conversion, Acts 9:17-18;
Acts 22:20; I Corinthians 15:3-4.