Our Resurrection from the Dead
November 25th, 1956 @ 7:30 PM
OUR RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-25-56 7:30 p.m.
Now, I’ll tell you, I left off this morning preaching at the fourteenth verse of the first chapter, but I came to the conclusion I will never get through this Bible if I don’t go a little faster. So, in preparing the message for the evening, I started at the second chapter. Maybe some of these days, if God will let us live, we can go back to some of these magnificent passages and glorious texts that we’re not taking time to preach now. But that’s in His will. Tonight, the second chapter, and it’s an exposition from the first through the seventh verses. So let’s read them together. Ephesians, the second chapter, verses one through seven, and that’ll be the whole sermon tonight. All right:
And you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins,
Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience,
Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us,
Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved),
And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
That’s the text, and the title of the sermon is Our Resurrection from the Dead – our spiritual resurrection. He begins here with a description of us. He says, "You" – we – "who were dead in trespasses and sins, and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others" [Ephesians 2:1, 3]. Paul says that an unregenerate man – a man who is out of Christ – is a dead man. He’s a corpse.
It’s a somber and sobering sight to see a dead body and how much more so when maybe it is a member of a loved family. There’s nothing pretty about death. There’s nothing sweet about death. It’s a ghastly and a horrible thing. You can heap this church full of flowers, and you can sing all manner of pretty songs. You can say all kinds of beautiful things, but that corpse in that casket is a ghastly sight, and we hide it away.
I say again: a dead body is a sobering sight. Here’s one in our midst who yesterday walked but now we carry him to his grave. He saw us with his own eyes, and now they are glazed in eternal darkness. He spoke to us with lips and tongue, but now they’re nothing but lumps of decay. And the frame and the stature that God Himself made [Psalm 139:13-14] is now a thing ruined and corrupt [Genesis 3:19; 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, 53], a brother to the worm and a sister to corruption.
Abraham said in purchasing the cave of Machpelah to bury Sarah, his wife, he said, "That I might hide my dead out of my sight" [Genesis 23:4]. That’s the metaphor that God uses to describe us in our un-second born, in our unregenerate, in our unbelieving, unsaved state. He says that we are corpses. We are dead in trespasses and in sins [Ephesians 2:1, 5; Colossians 2:13].
That’s a final thing. There’s nothing so final as death, and there are no degrees in it – dead: the beautiful girl of Jairus, twelve years of age, lying there just as though she were asleep [Mark 5:22-24, 35; Luke 8:41-42, -53]; or the son of the widow of Nain whom the Lord met at the gates as they carried him out of the city [Luke 7:11-12]; or Lazarus who has been in the grave four full days [John 11:11-14, 17]. Whether the body is corrupting or whether having just died, it appears to be just asleep. It is all death. There are no degrees in it. To us, the appearance may be more than others, but the man that is dead is dead whether he dies now just as though he slept or whether his body is in putrefaction and decay. Death is death.
Last Saturday, yesterday, I had a funeral service here in the church, and the sweet dear child of God and our friend looked so beautiful in her casket. And yesterday, I saw a picture of the soldiers that had been slain at Port Said in the Middle East. And those things that looked like rice scattered around over the body and around the ground, they were unspeakable, destructive little things – horrible. But those soldiers that were mangled and decaying – loved ones held their face as they sought them, longed to them among the dead – those mangled soldiers with maggots and worms were no more dead than that beautiful corpse that we laid to rest yesterday. There are no degrees in it – death. That’s what God says: the man outside of Christ, he is dead in trespasses and in sins [Ephesians 2:1].
You look again. God says that by nature, we are the "children of wrath, even as others" [Ephesians 2:3]. Not by practice. I might be able easily to be persuaded by practice, but God says not by practice, by nature. By birth, we are children of wrath, even as others; all of us alike, all of us.
Born in sin and conceived in iniquity [Psalm 51:5], God says. All of us. The children of the judgment and wrath of God – that’s a Hebraism. A Hebraism is a saying characteristic of the Hebrew language. They’re unusual. They’re different from any other language. For example, if a man were condemned to death and doomed to die, the Hebrew would say he is a child of death. If a man were poor – very, very poor – a Hebrew would say he is the child of poverty. That’s the Hebraism that Paul uses here in the Greek. By nature, we are children of wrath [Ephesians 2:3].
Do you teach your children to lie? Do you? Do you? I couldn’t conceive of a father or a mother that loved his child that taught the child to lie. Did your children ever lie? Who taught them to lie? They are born that way. You never put it in them. They do lie.
Do you teach your children to be selfish, to grasp? From babyhood, from infancy, they seize and grasp and are selfish. Did you teach them? They are born with a wart in their nature. There is a black drop in their blood. By nature, God says, we are the children of wrath. We are born that way. We weren’t educated that way. We weren’t trained that way. We were born that way in iniquity and in sin.
I used to – not so much anymore – but I once just constantly read the fusions of preachers and of philosophers and of pedagogues, and they have no other thesis than this: the excellence of human nature. God says that "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" [Jeremiah 17:9] There is every evil possibility lurking in every man’s heart – every man. He is born that way. You can play with a sack of gun powder or with a stick of dynamite, but the possibility is always in the powder and in the dynamite. It’s made that way.
One time I read of a flood in India, and the whole country was covered with the boiling, turbulent, rushing waters. On a little island in the path of the flood, there were gathered there a few inhabitants, and among them a hunter. And there came onto the island out of the flood animals as they were able to make their way to the little bit of dry ground. And as the little group was there huddled together on the island with the swirling waters around, a tiger swam out of the stream and climbed up, wet and shivering and afraid, cowed and timid. The tiger swam to the island and at one end crouched down there afraid. The hunter took his gun and walked down to the end of the island and shot it. What a cruel, bestial thing to do! That tiger, so cowed, and so cold, and so wet, and so afraid; that hunter go down there and mercilessly and ruthlessly slay the thing. But he was a tiger, and how could you go to sleep on the island and have any peace and any security? Now, he’s tame and afraid and cowering, but tomorrow, he’s a vicious man-eater and hunter, and the gunsman slew it.
That’s we by nature. By nature, we are children of wrath [Ephesians 2:3]. We are corpses [Ephesians 2:1]. We are dead. "Preacher, what an awful way, what a terrible thing God’s presentation of the unconverted, the unregenerate human heart." But that’s the Word of God. "Then, Preacher, how can a man ever be saved?" He can’t – not in himself. But look at the next verse:
God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us,
Even when we were dead in sins, God hath quickened us together with Christ . . .
And raised us up and made us to sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
How could a dead man believe? How could a dead man ever be saved? He couldn’t! There’s no such a thing, and if you don’t believe it, follow me as I follow the caskets of the dead. There’s no such a thing as a dead man quickening himself. No dead man ever raised himself to life. No dead man ever rose to believe and to trust in God – never.
Nor does any man ever quicken himself. Nor does any man ever rise in living power unto God. He is dead, and if he is saved – if he believes, if he’s converted, if he’s regenerated, if he’s resurrected – God has to touch him. God has to raise him up. God has to quicken his soul [John 5:21, 6:63; Romans 4:17; 1 Timothy 6:13]. God has to do it. There’s no feeling on our part. There’s no eye on our part to see. There’s no ear on our part to hear. You can go to church, and go to church, and go to church, and go to church, but unless God quickens the heart, there’s not any response. We are beyond the call. We are beyond the reach. We are beyond the touch of humankind. The preacher can preach, and preach, and preach, but we are dead to it until we have been quickened by the spiritual power of God.
I sat one time like you’re seated. I sat one time in Germany, and I listened to a man preach. He preached in Russian, and I listened to another man preach as he translated. He translated in Ukraine. And I listened to another man preach, and he translated it into German. And I was dead to all of them! I was dead to Russian, dead to Ukraine, dead to German. That’s the way with the lost man as he listens to a preacher today. He is dead to the call, dead to the appeal, dead to the sermon; and he sits there, if he came, and wished he was some other place: "Wished I’s in the picture show, wish I’s watching TV, wish I’s out on the road, wish I was in a tavern." He’s dead. He’s a corpse, and if he’s not quickened, he’s beyond the power of human touch to reach.
Then how is a man saved? Only by the grace and the mercy of God who for His great love wherewith he loved us when we were dead, God quickened us. We were even as others [From Ephesians 2:3-5].
What’s the difference between us and an unconverted man? What’s the difference between us and a lost man? They are the children of wrath [Ephesians 2:3]. They are corpses [Ephesians 2:1]. Why are not we? Because of the love and mercy of God [Ephesians 2:4-5].
They will cry for the rocks and the mountains to fall on them [Luke 23:30; Revelation 6:16], and we would cry. They will be given to the fire and to the worm, and we would be given to the fire and to the worm [Revelation 9:17-18]. But the mercy of God was great toward us, and the Lord spoke to us, and the Lord raised us up, and the Lord quickened us, and we heard the call [1 Thessalonians 1:10, 5:9-10].
We heard, and heard, and heard, and one day, we heard. And we saw, and saw, and saw, and one day, we looked. God touched our hearts, and we were saved. It’s God who made us in the first place [Genesis 9:6; Psalm 139:13-14; Isaiah 44:24], and it’s God who remakes us now [2 Corinthians 5:17]. It is God who gave us breath and life in the first place [Isaiah 42:5; Acts 17:25], and it is God who quickens the soul now [1 Timothy 6:13]. There is no earnest preacher in this world that can make a soul alive unto God. There’s no prayerful parent, there’s no tearful teacher, there’s no humankind that can quicken the soul. It has to come from the mercy and the spiritual quickening power of God. "God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, when we were dead . . ." [Ephesians 2:4-5]. When we were corpses, God spoke to us and said, "Live," and we lived. God spoke to us and said, "See," and we saw. He said, "Hear," and we heard. It is a gift of God. Wasn’t the Lord merciful to us that He didn’t let us die before He regenerated us, before we heard His call, before we answered?
John Bunyan [1628-1688], one time, was to take his place as the sentinel, and another soldier took John Bunyan’s place, and that night the soldier was shot. Why weren’t you killed in that accident that I read of this last week here in the City of Dallas? You were riding down that street. Why weren’t you killed? That disease that this last week I saw take away one in the prime of life, why weren’t you taken away? It’s a mercy of God. The Lord was good to you. The Lord gave us opportunity and delayed the day of our death until we could trust in Jesus as our Savior. It is a gift of God, the quickening hand of the Lord laid upon us in love and in mercy.
Now look what He’s done to us. We who were dead, God in His rich mercy and for His great love wherewith He loved us, He hath raised us up together and made us to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus [Ephesians 2:5-6]. God’s done that: raised us up and made us conscious. He’s quickened us [Ephesians 2:5]. He’s made us sensitive. We are sentient beings, conscious of God, changed – not patched up but recreated [2 Corinthians 5:17].
Fellow walked down the aisle and gave the pastor his hand and said, "Pastor, something’s changed." He said, "Either I’ve changed or this whole world is altered, but something’s changed."
A man said, he said, "I’ve been living fifty years – fifty years – and I’ve never been conscious of God." And the fellow he was talking to replied, said, "Listen, man. You’ve been dead fifty years! You’ve been dead fifty years, but if you were alive fifty seconds, you’d know the great eternal fact in this world is God."
Jacob said, "Surely the Lord’s in this place, and I knew it not" [Genesis 28:16]. You might as well tell the fish, "Why, there’s no water in this sea," and he’s swimming in it, as to tell a man who’s quickened, "Why, there’s not any God." You’d might as well tell a man who’s breathing God’s air there’s not any air to breathe as to tell a man who’s been quickened there’s not any God. When God touches the soul and quickens the spirit, the great consciousness of his life is that the Lord is [Hebrews 11:6], that He lives [Hebrews 7:25], and He hath made us to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus [Ephesians 2:6].
Dead man? He’s not going back to the cemetery and the grave to sleep or to live. The old ways of the dead – their manners and their customs, their shrouds and their coffins – they’re not pleasing to alive men! He’s out and away and gone. That’s the way with the man who is quickened by the Spirit of God. He’s not out there among the dead any longer.
Why, these taverns all over this town are jammed full of people tonight – dead. If you were out there, if you’d been quickened by the Spirit of God, if you were out there, you’d feel, "I’m among dead people. I don’t like the smell of them. I don’t like the stench of the tavern. I don’t like the bubble and froth of the stuff that they drink – rotten slop. The racket, the manners and the habits and the company: don’t like it!"
A quickened man, a man made alive, is up and out and away. Those old habits and those old manners and those old companies, they’re not pleasing any longer. He’s alive in Christ, and he’s sitting together in heavenly places in Jesus [Ephesians 2:1-6]. Why, he’s here tonight. He’s listening to this choir sing. He’s out there watching this preacher open the Book and read out of God’s Word and listening to what God has to say to our souls. There’s a difference between the man that’s dead and the man whom God hath raised from the dead. Let’s haste to this last verse:
And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
May I speak now just a moment of our eternal destiny? We who have been quickened by the Spirit of God, we who have been raised up together in the ages to come, God hath done that for us: quickened us, redeemed us, saved us, spoke to our souls. God hath done that that He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus [Ephesians 2:7]. God says it through all eternity. We are to be reflectors of the love and grace of God – the mercy of Christ toward us.
It was a great wonder when God made the heavens and the earth [Genesis 1:1] and the morning stars sang together [Job 38:1-7] and the angels looked upon it in awe and in amazement. But in the age that is to come, it will not be said, "the Lord who made heaven and earth," but it will be said, "the Lord who redeemed lost men and women [Revelation 5:9], and saved them [2 Timothy 1:9], and quickened them [Ephesians 2:1, 5], and raised them up from the dead [1 Corinthians 15:52]."
That’s going to be the praise and the eternity that is to come for the children of God: "Look what God hath wrought! Look what God hath done. Listen to that choir as they sing the song of Moses and the Lamb. Listen to the praise of those people who’ve been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ" [Revelation 15:1-4].
That’s going to be the praise and the glory of God in the age that is to come: "that in the ages to come, He might show forth the riches of His grace through us in Christ Jesus" [Ephesians 2:7]. This is what God could do; and you’re there, and you’re there, and we’re all there sitting together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
May I make this one comment? We’re going to make it. We’ll be there. God does not repent of His redemptive appeal [Romans 11:29]. He never draws it back. He never takes it away. He never changes His mind. We’ll be there. God’s eternal purpose is being wrought in our souls and in the ages to come. We’ll be there to show forth the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus [Ephesians 2:7].
I read in the sixth chapter of the Book of Genesis this week, I read where God repented of Himself that He had made man on the earth and that He was grieved in His heart [Genesis 6:6]. I read that in the Bible. But one thing I never have read in the Bible, I have never read that God ever repented that He gave us Jesus. I have never read that God ever changed His mind about His elect. I’ve never read that God ever withdrew His purpose and His supporting love and grace for those who had placed their trust in Him, and I never will [Romans 8:38-39; Hebrews 13:5]. It’s forever and forever.
You who were dead in trespasses and sins [Ephesians 2:1], you who were by nature the children of wrath [Ephesians 2:3], God, in His rich mercy for His great love wherewith He loved us [Ephesians 2:4], God hath raised us up and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus [Ephesians 2:6], that, as surely as He lives, that in the ages to come we might be there. We’ll arrive there to show forth the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus [Ephesians 2:7]. That’s our eternal destiny in the love and mercy and grace of God. May we pray?
Our Lord in heaven, how thankful we are. We who have been touched by the Spirit of God, who have been made sensitive to the presence of our Lord, who feel in our souls the consciousness of God, oh how grateful we are that the Lord spoke to us and we live – that God in His mercy, in the rich love wherewith He loved us when we were children of wrath – by nature born that way – when we were lost, when we were dead in trespasses and in sins, that God’s holy power quickened us and made us sensitive, that God made us conscious of His presence that we could hear His call, we could hear His voice. Our eyes could behold the Lord God in Christ, and in answer to His quickening voice, we felt in our souls God’s call to us and answered with our lives.
As the Lord Jesus said, "In this rejoice not, that you have power over demons and over devils to cast them out; but in this rejoice, that your names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life" [Luke 10:20] – that you’re saved, that you’re heaven bound. And we thank God for that tonight: that we are a heaven-bound people, that God in His mercy spoke to us, and quickened us, and delivered us from among the dead.
Now, our Lord, help us to come out. Help us to sit together in heavenly places in Christ. And tonight, dear Lord, as we make appeal in Thy name, are there those here tonight whom God hath called out from the dead, from the world? Are there those here tonight whom the Spirit of Jesus hath quickened? Then, Lord, in this sacred while, with the praying people waiting for the moving of the Spirit, and in this song of invitation, may, Lord in heaven, our God, may those whom the Spirit hath quickened, may they come out and sit with us in the heavenly places in Christ. May they join with us tonight in this pilgrimage we make from this world to the glorious world that is to come, and thank Thee for them all, in Jesus’ saving name, Amen.
And while we sing that appeal, somebody you, "Pastor, God hath spoken to my heart, and in answer to His call, here I come and here I am." Into that aisle and down here to the front, immediately will you come? Will you come? I cannot make a soul alive to God. All of the praying people, however earnest they are in intercession, cannot make a soul live to God. This is of our Father in heaven. This is of Jesus. But if God quickens your heart, if the Spirit calls, if He names your name, would you come? Into the aisle, down to the front, "Pastor, God hath spoken to my heart, and here I am; here I come." A family into the church, however God shall lead the way, would you make it now, while we stand and while we sing?
I. "Who were dead" – the condition of
unregenerate human nature
A. The solemn sight of
a dead body(Genesis 23:3-4)
B. A metaphor for the
soul without Christ
1. There are no
degrees in death (John 11:39)
II. "By nature the children of wrath"
A. A Hebraism- one
doomed to die, "a child of death"
B. We are born in sin(Psalm 51:5)
C. Some cry up the
excellence of human nature(Jeremiah 17:9)
1. Hunter in
III. "But Godâ€¦"(Ephesians
A. The point – God must
enable us(Acts 11:18)
B. God’s grace and
mercy made the difference(Ephesians 2:6-7)
IV. "Raised us up"
A. The new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17, Genesis 28:16-17)
B. The new resurrected
V. "Hath made us sit together in the
heavenlies in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:6)
A. Our eternal destiny
B. Purpose of God that
He might show the riches of His grace in us
1. We are to be
forever reflectors of what He can do