RECEIVING THE GRACE OF GOD IN VAIN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Corinthians 6:1
11-26-44 7:30 p.m.
(Original shorthand transcription courtesy of Dorothy Lewis Ivey and Elizabeth Lewis Packer)
SUNDAY EVENING SERVICES, FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH, DALLAS, TEXAS
HYMNS: “Whosoever Will” “The Way of Cross Leads Home”
Led by Mr. Robert H. Coleman; organist Mrs. J. H. Cassidy
ANTHEM BY SUNDAY EVENING CHOIR – “O Jesus, When I Think Of Thee”
ANNOUNCEMENTS BY Mr. Coleman
EVENING OFFERING – Prayer, Mr. O. E. Parris
DUET – Glenn Lechleitner – Alvin Bean – “The Name of Jesus Is So Sweet”
SERMON: by Pastor Dr. W. A. Criswell
In the second Corinthian letter:
If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;
To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.
For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.
We then, as workers together with Him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.
(For He saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succored thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)
[2 Corinthians 5:17-6:2]
The text is this: “We beseech you that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.” There is something sad and tragic about the wording of that text, “that ye receive not the grace of God in vain,” [2 Corinthians 6:1] for all that God hath done to end in sterility, fruitlessness, and futility; “receive the grace of God in vain.”
You know I sometimes think in those terms with regard to our country and the supreme sacrifices that are being made for it by our soldier men. The other day I walked into the lobby of our educational building and looked through the names of the several hundred men who have gone out from our church to fight our battles, and as I read those lists of men, I saw here and there and further along a gold name, a boy who had given his life for his country. You know, it may be—I don’t know, but it may be that those men shall have laid down their lives in vain. They said in the last war that our men fought and died in vain, and there are some that say that the same great sacrifice is being made again, in vain. In my humble heart the very thought of that is sadness and tragedy itself. Sometimes the very highest and noblest hopes of our people end in disappointment and heartache, in vain.
Some few weeks ago I went to our Oklahoma Baptist Hospital located in Muskogee. There was a dear little mother there that I came to visit. After I had spoken to her, I noticed by her side in the maternity ward was another little mother, weeping quietly there by herself. I went to her side, and I said, “Little mother, is there something some of us might do for your? She shook her head. I said, “Could I speak to the doctor or nurse? Are you hurt? Are you sick?” She said, “No.” When I went away, I had the feeling that it was not illness that made her weep. I felt her hurt was in her soul. I went to the head nurse, a lady that I knew. I said, “You know, that little mother over there in that ward in the corner, she just weeps so quietly and sadly. There is something wrong with her heart.” She said, “Well, brother pastor, that is right. She has been here in the hospital for several days. At the first part of the illness before the baby was born, her husband came to see her one time. The baby has been born, and her husband has not come one single time to ask how she is or to look at the baby.” As I thought of her, I thought of a young bride, and I thought of the hopes and visions of a home and of a little child and a happy father; and it all ended in dust and ashes. The little mother weeps quietly by herself, in vain!
A lot of times our lives demonstrate that. Some of us, I suppose, to some extent have gone through it several times. I remember while I was preaching out in the country, visiting for a weekend in the home of one of our fine families; the mother in the home said, “Brother Criswell, when my husband comes in, I want you to say a word of cheer to him.” I asked, “Why?” She said, “It was like this. We planted a field in wheat, and all of our hopes were built on the returns of that harvest. Last week it came a hail storm. My husband went out after the storm had passed. He looked over the field and sat down by the side of the field and cried like a child.” All in vain!
Well, that’s what Paul was talking about when he was speaking of the heart of God. Oh, my brother, how you and I many, many times break the heart of God! All He has done for us, received in vain. And my brother who is lost, for whom Christ died, how true! Oh, how tragic and tragically true is that of you; receiving, receiving the love, and the mercy, and pardon, and grace, of God in vain! What is it our Father said? “All day long have I extended my arms to a disobedient and gainsaying people. Yea, the ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib, but My people, My people know not their God!” [Isaiah 1:3,Romans 10:20-21]
How, how many times has our Lord looked upon His people with all of His love and all of His grace, and His favor and mercy have been in vain. Those children of Israel whom He led out of Egypt; performed the miracles for them; delivered them from the Red Sea [Exodus 14:15-31]; gave them manna from heaven [Exodus 16:12-21]; gave water to drink out of solid rock [Exodus 17:5-6], cared for them as a father might care for his children: it ended in death, and futility, and unbelief, and stubbornness [Exodus 32:9], and they turned their backs from their Promised Land to die in the wilderness [Numbers 14:22-35, 26:64-65, 32:11-13]—receiving the grace of God in vain!
We are told in the witness of John in his first chapter that our Savior “came unto His own, and His own received Him not” [John 1:11]. There is no other way to explain the sorrow and the tragedy of God’s first chosen people except that they were lost; they turned their backs upon the grace and love and mercy of God. And my brother, outside of Christ, that thing is what you are doing tonight. For all God has done, all His grace and His mercy to you is vanity and sterility and fruitlessness.
Look at it: “receiving the grace of God in vain” [2 Corinthians 6:1], the atonement and suffering of Christ on the cross [Matthew 27:26-50]. My brother, the Son of God died for us, for me and for you, not for His own sins. He didn’t sin; not His own mistakes and waywardness. He was pure like a virgin, like the driven snow. He died on the cross for us, for you and me [1 Corinthians 15:3]. Think of it, that He might have died for you in vain; bore the cross, died on its timbers, His blood shed unto death on the ground, His life poured out for you. And then it issued in vanity and futility; no repentance in your heart, no acceptance of the Savior. Think of it, that He died in vain! His people that He has raised up, that His name might be known and that you might hear of it tonight, all of it in vain. Think of it tonight, this minister and his appeal, this Bible and its message, the hymns, the prayers — all of them in vain! Think of it, my friend: heaven prepared for God’s people, a place for you. “I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” [John 14:1-3].
There in heaven, being prepared tonight, is this meeting place for you; for you. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him” [1 Corinthians 2:9]. The good things, but for you, it is all in vain! “And I John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” [Revelation 21:2]. But, for you it is all in vain. The open gates will never see you entering in. The golden stairs will never hear your footsteps. All in vain!
Think of it, my friend. Think of what God has done for you. Think of what God has done for your friends, for someone you love. And yet you have not let God do all for you what He has done for me, what I have seen Him do for others. He has given us a new heart and life [2 Corinthians 5:17], encouragement in this world, and promise of heaven and glory in the world to come [Psalm 73:23-26]. But for you, all in vain! All in vain!
Some of you, your wife is saved, but you are lost. Some of you, your dear old mother and father are saved, but you are lost. Every member of your family is saved, but you, you are lost. Your friends are saved; all around you are saved, but you are lost—receiving the grace of God in vain!
I heard this when I was a little boy. Whether it happened, I don’t know, but it is the gospel truth. A dear saintly man was being called to God for his reward, and he gathered his family around to tell them goodbye, and he called his wife and put his arms around his wife and said, “Good night, wife. I will meet you in the morning on the other side. I will meet you by the river where all sorrow and sighing have been driven away, at the end of life’s dreary way. Good night, wife, I will see you in the morning.” He called one of his boys and another boy, a daughter and all of his children. “Good night, son, I will see you on the other side. Good night, daughter.” And he had one other lad, a wandering, prodigal, and unrepentant and lost boy. He called him and said, “Goodbye, son, goodbye.” The lad says, “Why tell me goodbye like that?” The father said, “Son, your dear old mother, you have broken her heart. Son, you have broken your dad’s heart. You have trod upon our hearts. You have brought sorrow to our souls and shame to our home. You have been wayward, prodigal, and unrepenting. Mother will be in heaven. Brother and sister will be in heaven, but son, you are lost; and mother and dad, brother and sister will never see you again. It is goodbye, son, goodbye.”
Oh, that thing I heard as a boy! It stayed in my heart. Oh, my soul, it is true! It is true. God has saved mother, dad, brother, sister, but you, you are lost. To you, it is vain, it is nothing; it is an issue in futility. Say, my friend, search your heart tonight. Is it hard? Can’t you hear the voice of God? Say, my brother, can you open your ear to the voice and appeal of God tonight? Can’t you hear Him at all? Can’t you hear Him at all? Isn’t it true? Isn’t it true that in your deepest soul there is a longing to be a friend of God? “Oh, brother pastor, I want to be a Christian! I don’t want to be lost. I want to be a Christian, too, like that old mother of mine, that yearning, sainted Christian. I am not like that, preacher, in hardness of heart.”
Then it is like this: how many of you hear the word, and like Moses on Mt. Nebo see in the distance the Promised Land? [Deuteronomy 34:1-6]. We allow the word and appeal to die out in our hearts. We are dust. We intend to come; we put it off. We are almost saved and turn away; indecision robs us of the greatest heritage God ever bestowed upon man. The rich young ruler came to the feet of Jesus and knelt in His presence, and then went away a lost young man [Mark 10:17-22]. King Agrippa cried out to Paul as he preached; “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” [Acts 26:27-28], and then died in his sins. Oh my brother, how tragic! How tragic! To see, to know, to understand and respond, and then finally fail to receive the grace of God. In vain!
Do you remember a word of Paul? “I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all; yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” [1 Corinthians 15:9-10].
My brother, let that be true with you tonight. “It isn’t because I am worthy; I am the least of His children. It isn’t because I am able; I am the weakest of all God’s people. But His grace [Ephesians 2:8], His love [Galatians 5:20], His mercy [Titus 2:5], the outstretched arms [Isaiah 65:2], the fullness of His heart, the atonement of the cross [Romans 5:11], the death of His Son [1 Corinthians 15:3], His grace shall not be in vain; but by His strength, and in His power I will try to do better than in my life I have thought I could.”
“Preacher, I am coming tonight. By the grace and mercy of God, I am going to come. This is the last night I am coming down here to this church and go home, with my wife being in the will and heart of our Savior, and I on the outside. That isn’t going to happen again. Beginning tonight, the little wife and I are going to walk side by side straight in the arms of Jesus, side by side.” “This is the last night my mother is going to pray for a lost boy. I am coming tonight.” “This is the last night that any friend of mine will pray that I will be saved. I will be walking by their sides. I am coming to the Lord, preacher.” “Oh, the temptations I must face! Oh, the weakness in my soul! Oh, brother, I am coming. I am going to come.” This pastor will be down here in the front. My friend, to love God, to trust in Jesus, to let Him see you through, that His gospel might bear fruit in your life, will you come to say, “I receive Him”? Will you respond, as we stand and sing?
INVITATION HYMN: “Trusting Jesus, That is All”
(One person came for rededication to the Master’s work. Two came by letter from other churches.)