The Man with a Crisp, Clear Faith – Acts 18:4-8


Crispus was the chief-ruler of the Corinthian synagogue. This indicates that he was an influential person in the Jewish community. He had enough respect to have been placed in the second highest office in their synagogue, just under the officiating rabbi. We might assume that he was honest, upright, intelligent, and reasonably wise. But after the arrival of Paul, those same people who had respected him turned on him. He did a very foolish thing: He believed on the Lord and encouraged his family to do the same. He gave up working to please God and his neighbors and cast himself down before the Lord’s mercy.

Despite the fact that Crispus had been an important man to his community, people today wouldn’t know his name, if wasn’t for what we find here in Acts 18 and again in I Corinthians 1. This man has been immortalized based on two things: He believed on Christ, and he was baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Think about that for a moment: No matter how wealthy that man had been as a businessman in the commercial city of Corinth … No matter how much influence he had among his peers … No matter how many important children he raised … Whether or not he had built that synagogue with his own hands or with his own money, and his name was carved on the cornerstone … Those things were forgotten by the time that his grandchildren died. Furthermore, I can tell you based upon the Word of the Lord, that God wasn’t moved by any of those things either. But that he was a believer, and he had been baptized, made his name as immortal as his soul. Since these two things appear to be important, logic demands that WE understand them.

Perhaps we should notice that Crispus had not been TRYING to be a Christian, or trying to become one. He was probably quite happy in his old life, until like Saul of Tarsus, he was brought to his knees by the power of the Holy Spirit. One of the saddest things in all world is sight of a man TRYING to be a Christian. Perhaps surprisingly, it is sad because he REFUSES to be like those who love sin and reject Christ. Yet, both of these men are headed in exactly same direction; they face the same eternal condemnation. The problem with the first man is not the desire of his heart: To be a Christian is the best thing a man can choose. But the man who is TRYING to be a Christian has been blinded by Satan, “lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ should shine unto him.” Usually that sort of man has been deceived by false teachers into thinking that Heaven is like a house which can be bought on time with credits earned by the sweat of his brow. So he joins a synagogue or a church; he receives baptism; he forsakes his vices, and he tries really hard to behave the way he expects that Christians should behave.

But this is as wrong as wrong can be. True Christians are sinners who are forgiven and saved by grace through faith. They are saved without any of the works sinners might ever do. They are saved apart from any dilution or confusion by obedience to any law. Any victory over sin comes as a result of his salvation, not as the cause of it. And even though Acts 18:8 refers to “baptism,” it doesn’t praise Crispus for being baptized. What, first and foremost, sets this man apart from the rest of the people of the Jewish synagogue, was that he believed Paul’s message and trusted that Jesus was the Messiah – and his personal Saviour.

This was the preaching of Paul; this is the Truth; this is Bible; this is Baptist doctrine, Romans 5:1: – Being justified by faith we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.” John 20:31: – “And many other signs truly did Jesus, in the presence of his disciples, but these are written that he might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that believing ye might have life through his name.” Romans 10:9: – “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” Acts 13:39: – “And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye can not be justified by the law of Moses.” Galatians 3:24: – “Wherefore the Law was our schoolmaster, to bring us unto Christ that we might be justified by the faith of Christ.” Acts 16:31: – “Believe on the Lord Jesus Chrsit, and thou shalt be saved.” Galatians 2:16: – “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed on Jesus Christ, that we might justified by faith of Christ.” On and on and on we could go with verses declaring that salvation is received by faith – not by works. Crispus had a nice clean, crisp faith, unlike so many professing Christians in our world today.

Crispus’ faith was not a SUBSTITUTION for Old Testament WORKS.

But remember that this man was a Jew; he had been born and raised a child of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He grew up under the Law of Moses, and judging from his office in the synagogue, he probably was an expert in his religion. But when he believed the Gospel, it wasn’t just a swap of Christ for Moses.

This is more a criticism of a false understanding of Old Testament than of a false New Testament faith. The majority of Christendom thinks that Old Testament saints became saints by keeping Moses’ law. But that is farther from the truth than Bagdad is from Washington.

Yes, God gave many orders to Israel, like a general on the battlefield. And the Lord expected explicit obedience to those orders. But that obedience didn’t make those sinful Jews any less sinful. If mother asks her son to take out the trash out of his bedroom, his reluctant obedience doesn’t change the historical fact – his room hasn’t been cleaned in months contrary to dozens of requests. And his current obedience doesn’t make him any more or less her son than he was before. Nor does his obedience change him into some sort angel. The only thing that it does is please Mom and makes the smell in his room a little sweeter. On the other hand, what if Junior refuses to take out the trash? That would prove him to be a descendent of his father. Really! It would prove him to be a sinful rebel, like his father and his grandfather. The apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree. The Bible teaches that sin is passed from fathers to their children. Junior, like his sister and like every other child on this planet, is a sinner, a rebel – in need of salvation. Obedience doesn’t change that fact, and disobedience doesn’t create it. Personal disobedience only proves that we are sinners.

Before Paul came to Corinth and clarified the truth Crispus and his friends pictured themselves as Old Testament saints. They were striving to obey God, to do good works – tithing, giving alms, and maintaining Sabbath worship. But they were no more perfect in their obedience and works than their predecessors had been. The very best in Jewish history were proven to be sinners by their failure to perfectly keep the law. But those saints, like David and Abraham, were saved by grace through faith, just as were New Testament saints, like Crispus and Justus. “What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.”

Saving faith is not a New Testament substitute for Old Testament works, or works of any kind for that matter – not for Crispus and not for us.

But it also needs to be understood that it’s not really faith that actually saves sinners anyway.

I know that the Bible seems to say that, but what does it mean? Satan has filled the world with an army of imitation saviours; like manikins in store windows. Human works and effort baptism for example – are often humanistic imitation of faith. Another false saviour called “prayer.” There are a lot of evangelists who tell their victims, “Just ask Jesus to come into your heart, and He will save you from your sins.” That is no more salvation than taking a cute little puppy into your heart, makes you a dog. Not once, not one time, do we read an exhortation in the Bible to utter a prayer and salvation from sin automatically pops into the soul. And we certainly don’t read that Crispus prayed “the sinner’s prayer.”.

Tragically, some other people even have an imitation saviour whose name is “faith.” That “faith” can save a soul from hell is an extremely subtle, despicable, lie. But Satan does not fight according to the Marquis of Queensberry rules. The Scripture says: “for by grace are ye saved, through faith.” In other places it says, “The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin.” Why does one verse saysaved by grace,” another says “saved by Christ,” and a third says “saved by the blood of Christ?” Seeing the link between Christ and His blood is fairly easy, when the Holy Spirit opens our eyes. The sinless, infinite, perfect blood of God’s ordained sacrifice, is the only remedy there is for sin. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.” We are saved by the blood of the Crucified One. And it was through God’s GRACE that Jesus Christ was sent into the world to shed that blood. It was grace that the sacrifice of Christ was offered to sinners like us. But that sacrifice and that salvation is PERCEIVED, RECEIVED and ENJOYED through faith. We are saved by grace; we are saved by the blood, AND there is a sense in which we are saved by faith.

But there are far too many people who end up putting faith IN THEIR FAITH. When asked about their souls, some people say, “Well, back in ’74 I believed on Jesus.” There MAY be nothing wrong with that statement. But question is: “Are you now trusting Jesus’ shed blood, or are you trusting what you did back in ’74?” Crispus was saved by faith, but he wasn’t trusting his faith; his faith was trusting Christ. Forget about when and where you once believed on Jesus; is your faith in Christ now? And even now, it’s not your current TRUSTING that saves, but IN WHOM you trust. Just as reading may be the reaching out for knowledge and bringing it home to the mind, Faith is our reaching out to Christ and His saving blood. Faith is the purse in which we bring home the pearl of great price. Faith is valuable, faith is essential, but only as the carrier of the real gem – Christ.

Crispus was saved by Christ; but he was described as believing on Him.

Similarly, saving faith is not a means of MANIPULATING GOD.

People are erroneously taught that when Crispus put faith in Christ, the Lord became obligated to jump through his fiery hoop like some sort of trained circus dog and to save his soul. It’s as though they think, “If I believe on Jesus, God MUST save me from my sin. I’ve backed the infinite God into a corner, and there is no way that He can escape.”

A million times “NO!” Saving faith is merely the recognizing and accepting of the gift of the grace which God has given. There is no obligation laid upon the Lord to save a single soul with or without our faith. The obligation is upon Crispus, the sinner, to repent and receive God’s gift. How do we receive it? By faith, by believing God, by trusting God to keep His Word. And from where does that faith come? Ephesians 2 says that “it is the gift of God.”

Verse 8 couples faith to hearing the gospel. The Lord has ordained that Whom we are to trust, is to be conveyed through His Word. It’s “by the foolishness of preaching” that people are saved. “Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” If Paul, or some other evangelist hadn’t told Crispus “Jesus is the Christ, the Saviour,” then that poor Corinthian would never have become a Christian.

There are many people who misunderstand, thinking that faith is simply agreeing with God or the Bible.

“Oh, did the Bible say that I’m a sinner. Well, I know that. My wife has told me a hundred times.” That agreement with your wife, and even with your Bible, is not saving faith. “And does the Bible say that Jesus, God’s Son, died on the Cross for my sin? Well I believe that too. Does God say, If I turn from my sin and believe on the Lord Jesus I shall be saved from those sins? I believe all these things.” Yes, and so do Satan’s demonic angels. To assent to these things is not the same thing as saving faith.

Such things as these are the grounds upon which saving faith is built. But the question remains: “Are you trusting Christ and His shed blood?” Even believing God’s promise that Jesus’ shed blood can save, is not trusting Christ and His blood. Saving faith is not an intellectual acceptance of certain facts. Saving faith is resting upon Christ, relying and depending upon Him.

And by the way, notice that the verse says that Crispus “believed on – THE LORD.” Remember that this man was an Hebrew of the Hebrews. This man wouldn’t even utter the tetragrammaton, the four Hebrew letters that the Jews substituted for the name of God – “Yahweh.” He had always believed in, and on, Jehovah, but He was addressed only as “the Lord.” And yet Luke, the writer of Acts, while talking about “Jesus,” called Him “the Lord.” For the first time in his life, Crispus had a face to put with that most holy Name. And at the time he believed on the Lord Jesus Christ his life was changed; he was born again.

Another mistaken idea is that saving faith is a FEELING, or at the very least that it CAN BE FELT.

It’s the general notion that if we can’t see, smell, taste, touch or hear something, then it’s not real. And this is a problem which has infected professing Christianity. If something looks good, smells good and sounds good it must be good; If it looks bad and smells bad then it must be bad, But If I can’t see it, smell it or hear it, then I can’t be sure that it even exists. But once again these things are not necessarily true.

Faith is not linked to any of the five senses. It is the gift of God, flowing out of the Divine heart to you – and then back again. It doesn’t originate in any of your senses; your mind or even your soul. If you are not sure that you have saving faith, don’t go examining your heart for some indication of it’s presence there; don’t feel for it. Stop looking inside and start looking top side. “Faith is the gift of God.It can’t be grown or maintained inside a believer. If you have doubts about your faith, then beseech the Lord for it; don’t go trying to manufacture it yourself.

And saving faith is not presumptuous confidence in spiritual safety. Just because a person may say “I believe,” or “I think that I’m a Christian” doesn’t make it so. Saving faith is grounded upon the promises of God, nothing else. I hope that your faith can say, “I am child of God, because here is what God has said.” That means that faith is simple; if it weren’t we’d be kept in life-long perplexity. Biblical faith is sure; it doesn’t have any secret closets of conjecture, speculation or doubt.

And by the way, it’s not sufficient to repeat what some preacher has said that God has said. This is important, and it needs to based upon the assured Word of the Lord. John said, “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” It must be faith which God has given to you, not faith which others around you have.

The point of all this climaxes in a very simple question:

Have YOU placed simple scriptural faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ on Calvary? To put it another way, Are you trusting Jesus’ shed blood for your salvation from sin? This gift of God is like air. The question is are you breathing this morning?

Why not? What are the doubts that are killing your ability to believe? Is the problem that you love sin too much to repent and turn from it? Are you so ignorant of Hell, that you’re willing to spend eternity there just for a few years of insipid pleasure here in this world?

Crispus was at the pinnacle of Jewish society and perhaps in Roman life as well. He was probably a man of wealth, respect and position. He was a man filled with religion, good works and the love of his family who were willing to follow him. But until he had Christ, he had nothing; no man does. Until you repent before God and until you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, you have nothing either. “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”