JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-16-56 10:50 a.m.
This is the service of the First Baptist Church in Dallas; this is the pastor bringing the morning message, a textual message, from Ephesians 2:20 entitled Jesus Christ Himself. The reading of the context in the second chapter of the Book of Ephesians:
At one time we were without Christ, without hope, without God;
But now in Christ Jesus, we who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ . . .
For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
Now we are no longer strangers and foreigners, but we are fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.
[Ephesians 2:12-13, 18-19]
That is where we left off last Sunday night. Now this Lord’s Day morning:
And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone;
In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:
In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
And the text is the title of the message, Jesus Christ Himself [Ephesians 2:20]. It is a type of a sermon that, when a man has preached it, there comes over him, and shall this time again, a feeling of inability and inadequacy, like a sermon on the text, "When Elijah had vanished away, and Moses had vanished away, they saw no man anymore, save Jesus only" [Matthew 17:8]. Oh, that you had the tongues of men and of angels to preach as it ought to be preached – Jesus Christ Himself! We shall think this morning of Jesus Christ Himself, the theme and the substance of the gospel message, what we preach; Jesus Christ Himself, the means of our salvation; Jesus Himself, the object of our faith; and Jesus Christ Himself, the comfort of our souls.
First, Jesus Christ Himself [Ephesians 2:20], the theme, and the substance, and the essence of the gospel message, the gospel that we preach; the Christian religion has in it many wonderful things, but the most wonderful thing is Jesus Christ Himself. Of all of the miracles in the Bible, the greatest miracle is the miracle of Jesus. It is a mass of marvels; but the miracle of it is Jesus. The wonder of the wonderful is the wonderful Jesus Himself. He is unique, and separate, and apart, and incomparable; there is none like Him in the earth, there never was, there never will be; separate, undefiled [1 John 3:5]. Of every great man, gifted, that you can name, I can name another as equally great and gifted. You name Homer, I shall name Shakespeare. You name Mozart, I shall name Beethoven. You name Rafael, I shall name Michelangelo. You name Marshall, I shall name Blackstone. You name Caesar, I shall name Alexander. You name Plato, I shall name Aristotle. You name Jesus the Christ, and I am silent. There is none to be compared with Him. We challenge, yea, we defy any unbeliever to imagine another comparable with Jesus Christ. Let them select any novelist, and let him conjure up any other character of any age, of any century, of any station, of any rank, and let him present to us a like biography that shall compare with the incomparable Christ Jesus. Let him put in his biography a god and a man, and harmoniously blend them together where one will not overshadow the other. Let us read it, this new Christ. Nay, we go further. We would defy any man of any literary genius or any fertile imagination to add to the recorded record one other incident comparable with the facts and congruous with the life that is here presented in the four Gospels. They say they are forgeries. We challenge them to write a fifth one, separate, unique, apart, Jesus Christ, the substance of our gospel message.
In Him is the incarnation of all truth, and all wisdom, and all knowledge. Colossians 2:3, "For in Him are hid all the wisdom and knowledge of God." Truth, fact, knowledge separate from the personality of Christ is cold and removed. There is a preciousness about theology, but it’s an empty throne: what we see is the King Himself. Not just His garments, though we prize every thread, but the holy character who through the energy of His life made even the hem of His garments to heal and to save [Matthew 9:20-21, 14:36]. We need not heavy tomes taken from libraries to understand the great revelation of God. We need not to read mysterious sentences of double meaning. Just look upon Jesus, come and see for to know Him and the power of His resurrection is the highest degree of spiritual knowledge. He is our subject, He is our theme, He is our message. Paul said, in the fifteenth chapter of I Corinthians, "Brethren, I declare unto you the gospel . . . how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; that He was buried, and the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures" [1 Corinthians 15:1-4]. The gospel message is the message of Jesus Christ.
When a man is done preaching Christ, he is done preaching, period. When we have done teaching Christ in our Sunday school lessons, we have nothing further worthy to do. The light’s gone out, the life is gone, and there’s a darkness left that can be felt. But the more of Christ, the more of Jesus Himself that is in our teaching, and in our preaching, the more of light and of life, the more of comfort, the more of the power to save. So many ministers are guilty of the most wearisome tautology, vain repetitions, vain repetitions; over, and over, and over again the same things. But it couldn’t be laid to their charge that their theme has been Christ Jesus. They’re like some who remind you of an organ that can grind out four or five sermons, and these they grind out over and over again forever and ever, amen.
But did you ever hear anybody anywhere complain that their preacher extolled Jesus too highly, that he presented our Lord too gloriously and too triumphantly, too earnestly, and too joyfully? Tell me, did you ever see anybody go out one of these church doors with a long sad face and say, "Our pastor today lifted up Christ too much and too high"? Tell me, did you ever visit anybody who is sick, these for whom Dr. Fowler so often prays? Did you ever visit any one of them and hear them say, "On the radio this morning, I heard the pastor preach, and he spoke of Jesus too much and too highly"?
He is our theme. He is our gospel. He is our message. He is our preaching. And the more of Him that we can place in our sermons, and in our teaching, and in our ministry, the more of the life and the glory of God there is about us and in us and through us. When we have done, we can say with the author of Hebrews, in Hebrews 8:1, "Now my brethren, of this that I have said this is the sum: We have a High Priest in heaven, seated at the right hand of the Majesty in glory." He, Christ Himself, Jesus, is the substance of our gospel message.
He is the means of our salvation, Jesus Christ Himself, "For He is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth" [Romans 1:16]. If a man is converted, if he’s saved, he is saved by the power of the gospel message of the Son of God. Paul said it like this one time, "Unto Him who loved me and gave Himself," Jesus Christ Himself, "Unto Him who loved me and gave Himself for me" [Galatians 2:20]. Jesus gave up His throne in glory, gave up His crown, gave up heaven, gave up celestial joys, but most of all He gave Himself, giving up all of the luxuries of life, gave Himself to bear all of the sorrows, and disappointments, and sicknesses, and agonies, and our death, Jesus Christ Himself [Philippians 2:5-8].
His grief was beyond what was interdicted for the suffering Job. For the Lord God said to Satan, when he afflicted Job, "But on the man himself, lay not thine hand" [Job 1:12]; and then again, "But only spare his life" [Job 2:6]. But no reserve was made around the sufferings of Christ. The hilt of the sword was plunged into His bleeding heart [John 19:34]. He gave Himself. And that sacrifice, that atonement, has been accepted of God in heaven for the remission of our sins [Matthew 26:26-28]. What God saw when He saw the person of His Son, a sacrificial victim, was in God’s sight an atonement equal to all of the combining, all of the sins of all of the families of the world [1 John 2:2, 4:10]. It is conceivable that an angel could have come and sacrificed himself; but it is not conceivable that the same result should have followed. The means of our salvation lies in the merit and character of Him who died, Jesus Christ Himself. "By Himself He purged our sins" [Hebrews 1:3]. "Once in the end of the age did He appear, to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, Jesus Christ Himself" [Hebrews 9:26], the means of our salvation.
Jesus Christ Himself is the object of our faith. It is so declared in Scripture. In Isaiah, listen to the word of the Lord, "Look unto Me, look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth" [Isaiah 45:22]. Not, "Look unto My sacraments," or, "Look unto My church," or, "Look unto My servants," but, "Look unto Me", "These things are written, that ye might believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; and that believing you might have life in His name" [John 20:31]. All of the prophets, and all of the testimonies, Moses and Isaiah, all point to the Son of God, the object of our faith. We love the types because they are types of Him. We love the psalms because they are singing of Him. We love the ordinances because they picture Him. We love the whole preciousness of the Bible because it speaks of the preciousness of Him. The object of our faith according to the Holy Scriptures is Jesus Christ Himself.
The object of our faith is Jesus Christ according to His own words and His own testimony. Jesus said, "Come unto Me, come unto Me, all ye who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Come unto Me [Matthew 11:28]." Jesus Christ Himself said, "Philip, have I been so long time with thee, and yet hast thou not known Me? He that has seen Me hast seen the Father [John 14:9]." And again, "And Jesus Christ showed Himself unto His disciples" [John 21:1]. And again, "And beginning at Moses and the Prophets, He expounded in all of the Scriptures the things concerning Himself" [Luke 24:27]. There might have been many things that the disciples ought to know, but the great knowledge then and now and forever is the knowledge of Jesus Christ Himself.
It is the witness of the Holy Spirit, the office work of the Holy Spirit is to teach us the Lord Jesus. The Comforter is our teacher; Jesus is the lesson. Jesus said, "And He shall take of Mine and show it unto thee. He shall not speak of Himself, He shall glorify Me" [John 16:13-15]. This is the great knowledge and the great understanding. What if a man knows theology, but he doesn’t know the Lord Jesus? What if a man can speak with the tongues of angels, but he can’t speak from a personal acquaintance with the Lord Jesus? The great knowledge of all truth and wisdom is to know the Lord Jesus Himself, the object of our faith [1 Corinthians 1:30].
The motto of the Christian is always this: "Looking unto Jesus, looking unto Jesus who is the author and the finisher of our faith" [Hebrews 12:2]. That’s why we fall so oft into misery and despondency, into disappointment and despair: we take our eyes off of the Lord and look at ourselves. We examine our faith to see if our faith is worthy. We examine our progress to see if our progress is worthy. And we look upon ourselves, at our poor, feeble faith, and we’re filled with despondency and despair. He never said, "Look to your faith." He never said, "Look to your progress." But He did say, "Look unto Me, and be ye saved" [Isaiah 45:22]. That’s the reason, Mr. Souther, the hymns that we sing about ourselves are poor hymns; but the great hymns are the hymns that sing about Jesus. That’s the reason that I say that when a man preaches, and he preaches about the things that are subjective, things that concern us, feeling of ourselves, examining ourselves, I do not say that it’s not necessary and does not have its necessary uses; psychiatry, and psychology, and behavior, and all of those self-examinations have their place, I suppose; but I do avow that the great faith, and the great commitment, and the great religion does not rely ever in subjective realms, but it lies in the love and adoration of Him who loved us, and gave Himself for us [Galatians 2:20], out of ourselves, and into Christ, looking away from ourselves and looking to Jesus.
It is Jesus Christ Himself, it is the message that comforts our souls. Do you not sense in your heart a spiritual rise, a reverberation in the chords of your soul when you read a passage like this? "For since His brethren were partakers," since the children, since we, "were partakers of flesh and blood, it behooved Him also to be partaker of the same" [Hebrews 2:14]. Or again, "For Himself took our infirmities, and bore our sicknesses" [Matthew 8:17]. Or again, "He was tried in all ways such as we are, though without sin, that He might be able to succor, to comfort them who are tried in any way" [Hebrews 2:18, 4:15-16]. Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself knew all the sorrows, and all the agonies, and all the disappointments that come to any one of us in our lives. There is not any battle you have in your heart that Jesus does not know and understand. Nor is there any sorrow that overwhelms in your life that He has not tasted to the last bitter drink. Nor is there any overwhelming misfortune into which our great High Priest cannot enter, made of flesh and blood, like His brethren, and tried in every way as we are [Hebrews 4:14-15].
That’s the reason, that’s the reason that many and many a sufferer in the lone watches of the night is strengthened by thoughts of Jesus. That’s the reason that many and many an agonizing man has found light in the darkness of the story of Gethsemane. He suffered, He agonized [Luke 22:44]. That’s the reason that many and many a saint who has lain in prison for the years of his life has walked as if he were at liberty because Jesus walked by his side. That’s the reason that many a man on the rack of torture has found it as a bed of ease and of down, because He stood by. That’s the reason that many a martyr, whose fingers dipped in pitch burned like lighted candles, have clapped their hands and said, "Christ is all."
I saw the martyr at the stake,
The flames could not his courage shake,
Nor [death] his soul appall;
I asked him whence his strength was giv’n;
He looked triumphantly to heav’n,
And answered, "Christ is all."
[from "Christ is All," W. A. Williams, 1904]
And that is our prospect for eternity. When we go through the fires of that last conflict and battle, they shall not touch us; the flames shall but break asunder our bonds and set us free as the One, the fourth, like unto the Son of God, walks by our sides [Daniel 3:25]. The Christian is never to be afraid, he’s never to be downcast, he’s never to despair; for the Lord is with him. "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and staff," Thy strong arm and presence, "comfort me" [Psalm 23:4]. And that is our prospect for all of the eternity that is yet to come: to be with Jesus. It may be thirty minutes for some. Did you know, two or three Sundays ago, while I was preaching over this radio, one of our blessed members listening to me preach, seated there, fell asleep in Jesus, listening to me preach? It may be thirty minutes, it may be a day, it may be an hour, it may be a month, it may be a decade, but that is our final prospect: to be with Jesus. What shall it be like? How could a man say?
One of these poor, little precious girls of ours in a hospital, and the doctor said, "My child, you have one hour to live." And waiting patiently for the sands of life to run out, one hour, when the last quarter hour came, the little thing said, "One more quarter hour, and then," she was unable to finish the sentence, and I can’t do it either. "One quarter hour more, and then," then what? One more day and then, one more year and then, one more decade and then; all I know is, as I have sat by the side of these who faced that eternity, all I know is sometimes they lift up their faces, and their eyes are aglow, and they will exclaim, "O Jesus, O Jesus!" Sometimes they will lift up their faces, and their eyes aglow, and they will exclaim, "Oh, Mother! Oh, Mother!" Sometimes they’ll lift up their faces with their eyes aglow and say, "Oh, my son, my child!" Sometimes lift up their faces, their eyes aglow, and cry, saying, "Oh, oh, the beautiful city, the angels singing." I can’t finish it. "One more quarter hour, and then, and then." All I know is this: that God’s Book says, "Eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard, neither hath entered in the heart, the good things God hath prepared for those who love Him" [I Corinthians 2:9]; all of that and more in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I think in my humble persuasion, the greatest privilege that a soul has in life is to come down an aisle somewhere and stand before a church somewhere and witness the great confession, "This day, by God’s heaven, I give my soul, my life in faith, in keeping, to Christ Jesus, to live and to die in Him, looking to Him." The great motto of the Christian life, "Looking unto Jesus the author and the finisher of our faith" [Hebrews 12:2].
"He that hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ Himself" [Philippians 1:6]. That’s why we make these appeals, sing these songs, open the doors of the kingdom of heaven for you to walk in. And we do it happily, gloriously, triumphantly, prayerfully, appealingly once again for you. Have you never given your heart to Christ? Would you now? Have you never taken Jesus as your Savior, would you now? Have you never put your life with your fellow Christians in the fellowship of a church? Would you now? While we sing this song, anywhere, somebody you, trusting Jesus, or into His church a whole family of you by letter; however God would say the word and bid you come, would you make it now? While we stand and while we sing.