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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Morning, April 13, 2003

"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:31).

Make no mistake about it, I believe that people are saved by faith in Christ alone. This is a Bible truth that was reemphasized during the days of the great Reformation. Baptists have also believed it for centuries. Sola Fide, salvation by faith, was the great watchword of Protestants and Baptists since the days of the Reformation, but this great truth was well known by many Baptists and others even before the Reformation. Salvation comes only by believing in Jesus.

"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" 
   (Acts 16:31).

But there are antecedents to a person truly believing in Jesus unto salvation. There are things that happen before a person actually becomes a true believer in Christ.

Believing on Christ is the one and only ground of true conversion. It is necessary to say that in our post-modern age, when countless multitudes think they are saved because they believe certain things about Christ, or have a mere emotional experience, or go through some outer ritual, such as coming forward, reciting a sinner's prayer, raising their hand in a church service, or making a conscious effort to make Christ Lord of their lives. All of these are external responses, and in no way constitute true saving faith in Jesus.

"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" 
   (Acts 16:31).

This morning I am going to give you five facts about salvation.

I. One, sinners must hear the gospel to be saved.

We read in Romans 10:14,

"How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?" (Romans 10:14).

In Romans 10:17 we read,

"So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17).

The first thing God uses to bring about conversions is preaching. This is clear in the New Testament. God sent Paul to open men's eyes and convert them (Acts 26:17-18). God sent an angel to Cornelius, not to preach the gospel, but to direct him to a human preacher, because God wanted to do things in the usual way, and to have a preacher speak to the lost man (Acts 10:3-5). This is why Christ stopped Paul in a vision, and sent him to Ananias for instruction (Acts 9:6-10). It was by preaching, the preaching of Peter, that three thousand people were added to the church all at once (Acts 2:37-41). It was God who opened the heart of Lydia, but why did He open it? He opened her heart to listen carefully to Paul's preaching, so she could be converted (Acts 16:14). God sent an earthquake to prepare the heart of the jailor, but he was not converted without the preaching of Paul and Silas (Acts 16:32). If people would not hear preachers, the preachers were to shake the dust off of their feet and "depart out of that house" (Matthew 10:14). It is by preachers that Christ teaches His churches (Ephesians 4:11-12). Every person  who  refused  the  preaching  was  to  be  "destroyed  from  among  the  people" (Acts 3:23).

I think this is clear in the New Testament. God's usual way of converting people is through preaching. If a person refuses to hear preaching, he neglects the main means God has ordained to bring about his conversion.

When Philip asked the eunuch whether he understood what he read, that wise man said to him, "How can I, except some man should guide me?" (Acts 8:30-31). I turn your attention to Paul's great question again, in Romans 10:14 and following,

"How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!" (Romans 10:14-15).

The Lord has ordained for God-called and God-sent preachers to preach the gospel, according to this passage of Scripture. So, I say again, sinners must hear the gospel to be saved! The usual way, given time after time in the New Testament, is for lost people to get saved by hearing preaching!

"So then faith cometh by hearing,and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17).

Without apology I tell you to come to this church every Sunday. Yes, I believe a person can be converted in any Bible-believing church where salvation through Christ is preached. To the people reading this sermon on the Internet, I say, "Go to a Bible-believing church in your area, listen to the sermons, talk with the pastor, and get saved!" But to you who are listening to me here, I say, "Come to this Bible-believing, gospel-preaching church every Sunday, listen to the sermons here, talk with the pastor and deacons, and get saved!" Listen to the preaching!

"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved"
   (Acts 16:31).

II. Two, the local New Testament church is the God-ordained institution
given for sinners to hear gospel preaching.

After Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost, "there were added unto them [the local church at Jerusalem] about three thousand souls" (Acts 2:41). After more of "the apostles' doctrine" (Acts 2:42) the preaching added even more people to this local church, "and the Lord added to the church [the local church at Jerusalem] daily such as should be saved" (Acts 2:47). "And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily" (Acts 16:5).

The evangelism in the New Testament was always centered around the ministry of local churches. Dr. Harold B. Sightler once said,

Without any fear of contradiction the greatest agency in all the earth of evangelism is the local church of born-again believers. I think God planned it this way. He ordained it this way. I think we ought to give ourselves as a local church to the matter of evangelism (Dr. Harold B. Sightler, The Church, Tabernacle Baptist Church, Greenville, SC: 1983, p. 37).

Again, Dr. Sightler said,

Matthew 28, the great commission (Matthew 28:19-20) given by the Lord (I believe given to the local church) where Jesus said, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations," this is the marching orders of the church in the matter of evangelism (ibid., p. 36).

Jim Gent's book, God Says You Need the Local Church, was endorsed by Dr. Tom Malone, Dr. Harold B. Sightler, and Dr. Lee Roberson. In that book, Jim Gent asked,

Why aren't we content to work within the context of the New Testament church as the early Christians were? Dare we think that we have a better plan to do God's work than God's clearly prescribed plan?…We can truly say that the apostles founded churches and they founded nothing else, and the local church is still, today, the pillar and ground of the truth! According to the Scriptures, the church is still God's means to fulfill His program and  plan  for  this  age  (Jim  Gent,  God  Says  You  Need  the  Local  Church,  Old  Bridge,  NJ:  Smyrna  Publications,  1994,  pp.  89-90).

So, we say without apology that the local New Testament church is the God-ordained institution given for sinners to hear gospel preaching and get saved, and then come in and become members of the local church.

Church attendance never saved anyone. I repeatedly say that, because it is true. People are saved only by faith in Jesus Christ! "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:31). But the local church is the God-ordained means, the main means God has given, for sinners to hear the gospel, get saved, be nurtured in Christian fellowship, and be taught how to live the Christian life. That's the reason we say, Why be lost? Come to Christ! Why be lonely? Come home - to church!

Sure, I know a person can be saved outside of a church building. The thief on the cross was saved on a cross and died a short time later. Some people have been led to Christ on their deathbeds - and never got to go to a church after they were saved. The Ethiopian eunuch was saved out in the desert. But these are cases of special emergency. The normal way, by which the great majority of saved people are converted, is through the God-ordained institution of the local church and the preaching of the gospel there.

And even the thief on the cross and the Ethiopian eunuch were not converted without a person talking to them and leading them to salvation. And both of these men were convinced and prepared by God, over a very short period of time, before they trusted Jesus.

And I'll tell you something else - real conversion, and even real awakening - points a person to church and takes him there - if he lives to get there. The Ethiopian eunuch didn't run away from church forever - he founded a church!

Do you think that if the believing thief had lived that he would not have gone to church? He would have been right there in Jerusalem, praying for the revival which came at Pentecost!

Salvation is inseparable from the church! And the main way God has ordained for people to get saved through faith in Jesus is through His ordained institution of the local church, through the preaching of God-called men in the local church!

I say that a person who is awakened will get to church as fast as he can. Our deacon, Dr. Cagan, began going to church on his own right after he became awakened to the reality of God, before he was converted.

I say that a person who gets saved will get to church as fast as he can. The only thing that can keep him away from church is death! And that's the only thing that should keep any Christian out of church!

Coming to church won't save you - but hearing the gospel preached in church and then trusting Christ will save you! Come on home to church! It is the God-ordained institution for sinners to hear the gospel! I make no apology for preaching this like an old-time Baptist!

"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved"
   (Acts 16:31).

III. Three, sinners must be convinced of sin or they will not believe
savingly in Jesus (they will not trust Him).

Sinners will not savingly believe in Jesus without being convinced by God that they are lost. Please turn to John 16:8,

"And when he is come, he will reprove [convince] the world of sin…" (John 16:8).

The main work of the Holy Spirit is to reprove lost people "of sin." The Greek word translated "reprove" means to "convince, tell a truth" (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, number 1651). The sinner must be convinced of his sinful, lost condition. He must be told the truth in his heart by the Spirit of God.

If a lost person is not convinced he is lost - in his own heart - he will not repent and turn to Jesus. He will not believe savingly in Jesus until he has been "told the truth" and "convinced" of his lost condition by the Spirit of God.

You see, man in his natural state will never believe savingly in Jesus. The Bible tells us that man, in his natural state, always rejects Jesus,

"When we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men…we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not" (Isaiah 53:2-3).

All lost people hide their faces from Jesus - until they are convinced of their danger and lost condition by God's Spirit! Until a lost sinner is convinced, he will never believe in Jesus savingly, for

"The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (I Corinthians 2:14).

Until a lost sinner is convinced by the Holy Spirit, he will never come to Jesus. He will say "quick prayers," believe Bible verses, come forward, get baptized, or memorize a catechism, but he will not actually come to Jesus, and believe "on him" until he is convinced, awakened to his danger and sin, by the Spirit of God. As John Newton put it, in his great hymn:

Amazing grace! how sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found, Was blind, but now I see.

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear, The hour I first believed.
   ("Amazing Grace" by John Newton, 1725-1807).

Sinners must be convinced of sin, and their hearts "taught…to fear," or they will continue to "despise and reject" Jesus and try to save themselves by various human efforts. Sinners must be convinced of sin or they will not trust Jesus. When they, like the Philippian jailor, are convinced by God's Spirit, they will

"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" 
   (Acts 16:31).

IV. Four, convincing by the Holy Spirit may vary in length and depth.

Someone may say, "How much conviction is necessary? How could a lost person know when he was convinced enough?" But it does not matter whether a person knows "when he is convinced enough"! All that matters is whether he was convinced enough to stop trusting something else and trust Jesus! Some people require very little convincing before they trust Jesus. Others require more. Because human beings are individuals, each case will be slightly different.

The inner turmoil of conviction leads the sinner to believe wholeheartedly in Jesus. Conviction is not necessarily a long, drawn-out process. Sometimes it is, but many times it is not. It can be a sharp and quick conviction. The thief who was saved on the cross next to Jesus went through a very short time of conviction. He said to the other thief,

"Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward for our deeds, but this man hath done nothing amiss" (Luke 23:40-41).

This passage of Scripture shows that he had conviction, but it only lasted a few moments before he believed in Jesus and was saved. He said,

"Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom" 
   (Luke 23:42).

Jesus said to him,

"To day shalt thou be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43).

So, this man had a few moments of conviction and then immediately believed in Jesus, and said so, by calling him, "Lord." He believed in Jesus in his heart, and then said so, "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture saith, Whoseover believeth on him shall not be ashamed" (Romans 10:10-11).

Thus, many people go through a very short time of conviction and then believe in Jesus in their hearts. They are instantly saved, without any long process. My wife was saved the very first time she heard the gospel. She had been brought to church by a friend. She heard me preach a simple sermon on John 3:16. She believed in Jesus and was saved on the spot, the very first time she heard the gospel. My wife is a truly wonderful Christian woman. Her conversion illustrates what I said on page 50 of Demons in the Smoke of the World Trade Center (1) She came to church and heard the gospel (2) She was convicted of sin (3) She threw herself on Jesus for mercy. "It can all happen in a few moments of time" (p. 51).

One of our deacons, Mr. Griffith, was saved the first time he heard the gospel. Another of our deacons, Dr. Chan, was saved the first time he heard the gospel. Our third deacon, Dr. Cagan, was saved out of atheism after only hearing the gospel a time or two. Yes, I believe in instant conversion, like the conversions of the thief, the Philippian jailor, my wife, and our three deacons.

But other conversions take longer. I myself attended a gospel preaching church for seven years before I believed in Jesus. I went through a long period of conviction, like John Bunyan, John Wesley, and Charles Spurgeon did. Sometimes sinners must indeed go through a period of inner turmoil, which lasts longer than it does with others, before they truly see the need for Jesus Christ to save them.

Nebuchadnezzar and Manasseh went through a longer experience of conviction. Nicodemus struggled for several hours one night, under conviction as he talked with Jesus. Some of the disciples of John struggled without receiving the Holy Spirit for a longer period. One woman in our church went through seventeen years of doubt before she finally believed in Jesus with simple, child-like faith.

On page 51 of our book Demons in the Smoke of the World Trade Center, I said:

When you put the full weight of your belief on Jesus Christ, the Son of God, He will forgive your sins and you will be converted - by Him. This can all happen in a few minutes of time if you throw yourself on the Son of God! (Demons in the Smoke of the World Trade Center, by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr. and Dr. John S. Waldrip, Hearthstone Publishing, 2003, p. 51).

On page 50 of that book I quote Joseph Hart's famous hymn to support that point:

The moment a sinner believes,
And trusts in his crucified God,
His pardon at once he receives,
Redemption in full through His Blood.
     ("The Moment a Sinner Believes" by Joseph Hart, 1712-1768).

It is a straightforward proclamation of what Paul said,

"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" 
   (Acts 16:31).

Hart simply wrote the same thing in the words of his hymn,

The moment a sinner believes,
And trusts in his crucified God,
His pardon at once he receives,
Redemption in full through His Blood.

Could it have been said better - or clearer? I doubt it.

V. Five, evangelistic sermons should be preached in the churches.

Many preachers today give "expositions" instead of sermons. Many do not even know how to prepare an evangelistic sermon in these sad days of apostasy. The evangelistic sermon has been largely forgotten. I wish preachers would read the great evangelistic sermons of Whitefield, Nettleton, and John R. Rice, and learn their methods!

I am enough of an old-fashioned Baptist to believe in the primacy of the local New Testament church. Some modern Baptists downgrade the church and say it is unimportant. They don't even want the name "Baptist" on their church signs. I disagree. I think we need to "go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled" (Luke 14:23). I think we need to preach old-fashioned gospel sermons in our churches to get these people saved. Paul said to the church at Corinth,

"For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified" (I Corinthians 2:2).

"For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God" 
   (I Corinthians 1:18).

We have built a wonderful church in the heart of the wicked, godless city of Los Angeles by preaching Christ crucified in both the morning and evening services for many years. Am I to be faulted for preaching the gospel too much? Am I to be condemned for making sure people understand salvation comes only by turning from sin to Jesus? Am I wrong to take Paul's preaching in the church at Corinth as my model? Am I wrong for holding the old-time Baptist belief in the primacy of the local church? Am I incorrect for telling people to be in church every chance they get to hear the gospel? I know people can get saved by hearing the gospel outside of church, but they still need to get into the fellowship of a local church.

Am I wrong to tell sinners that the Holy Spirit must convict them of sin, as Jesus said in John 16:8?

"And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment" (John 16:8).

Am I wrong to emphasize conviction and repentance, and faith in Jesus - as the Saviour Himself so often did?

Am I wrong to tell sinners, "You must throw yourself on Jesus for mercy. He has risen from the dead," as I did on page 51 of Demons in the Smoke? No, I am not wrong! That is exactly what you need to do!

What is my emphasis? It's just old-fashioned Baptist practice to get sinners to church, preach the gospel to them, get them saved and baptized, and discipled in the local church. What's wrong with praying for them to see that they are lost, and telling them to hate their sin and repent? What's wrong with telling them to throw themselves on Jesus? There is nothing wrong with telling you that!

"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" 
   (Acts 16:31).

As I said, "It can all happen in a few moments of time" (Demons in the Smoke, p. 51). And I want to talk to you about that - about you trusting Jesus - about you getting saved. I want to talk with you about that in my office. Jesus died to pay for your sins. He rose physically from the dead. He ascended physically, in His resurrected body, back to the third Heaven. He is seated on the right hand of God. Let's talk about you trusting Jesus and getting saved. While we sing the last song on the song sheet, leave your seat and come and stand here in front of the pulpit. While we sing, you come.


Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Acts 16:25-31.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"Amazing Grace" (by John Newton, 1725-1807).



by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.


"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:31).

I.   One, sinners must hear the gospel to be saved, Romans 10:14, 17;
Acts 26:17-18; Acts 10:3-5; Acts 9:6-10; Acts 2:37-41;
Acts 16:14; Acts 16:32; Matthew 10:14; Ephesians 4:11-12;
Acts 3:23; Romans 10:14-15, 17.

II.  Two, the local New Testament church is the God-ordained
institution given for sinners to hear gospel preaching,
Acts 2:41-42, 47; Acts 16:5.

III. Three, sinners must be convinced of sin or they will not believe
savingly in Jesus (they will not trust Him), John 16:8;
Isaiah 53:2-3; I Corinthians 2:14.

IV.  Four, convincing by the Holy Spirit may vary in length and depth,
Luke 23:40-43; Romans 10:10-11.

V.   Five, evangelistic sermons should be preached in the churches,
Luke 14:23; I Corinthians 2:2; I Corinthians 1:18;
John 16:8; Acts 16:31.

You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."