The Atonement for Sins

1 Corinthians

The Atonement for Sins

January 22nd, 1956 @ 7:30 PM

1 Corinthians 15:3

For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

1 Corinthians 15:3

1-22-56    7:30 p.m.


Now in our Bibles we turn to the fifteenth chapter of the first Corinthian letter, the fifteenth chapter of the first Corinthian letter.  As I said in the first sermon that I preached on this chapter, the sermon on “this is the gospel,” This is the Good News; as I said then, this is possibly one, if not the greatest of all of the chapters in the Book of God.  Certainly as I said then, the great modern apocalyptic, Christless theology of Karl Barth and Emil Brunner, “our greatest living theologians,” they build their theology around this chapter.  Up and up and up, and this is the climactic peak:

Brethren, I declare unto you the gospel.  I make known unto you the euaggelion, the good news, that I preached unto you, that you received, that whereby you are saved.

For I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures:

that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.

[1 Corinthians 15:1-4]

Now the rest of the chapter will have to come in a later message or messages, but tonight, I am speaking on that third verse.  And in the third verse, that little word, “first of all: brethren, I declare”—I make known—“unto you the gospel which is . . . first of all . . . that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” [1 Corinthians 15:3].

There are two kinds of Christianity.  And when you go to any church anywhere, as you sit in the pew and listen to the man as he preaches, it’ll always be one of those kinds.  There are two kinds of Christian preachers.  There are two kinds of systems of theology.  There are two different types of sermons.  I say, there are two kinds of Christianity.

There is a Christianity that looks upon Jesus as a great teacher, a great reformer, a great philanthropist, a great martyr, a great inspirer.  They look upon Christianity as a source of inspiration, as an encouragement to education and good works.  That is the Christianity of inspiration.  It is the Christianity of education.  It is the Christianity of social amelioration.  It is the Christianity of personal goodness.

There is another kind and another type of Christianity.  That is the Christianity of redemption [Ephesians 1:7].  That’s the Christianity that looks upon men, all men everywhere, as sinners [Romans 3:6].  It looks upon those men, sinful, as being unable to save themselves [Romans 3:23, 6:23].  Looking in compassion upon a lost humanity, it is the Christianity of a compassionate God who sent Christ His Son into this world to die for sinful man [John 3:16-18].  And by the expiation of His blood [1 John 2:2], by the sufferings of His cross [Matthew 27:32-50], all who look in faith to Him are forgiven [Ephesians 1:7].  They are justified in the sight of God [Romans 5:1].  Their names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life [Revelation 20:12, 15], and they are redeemed [1 Peter 1:18-19].  They are saved.  They are regenerated.  They have eternal life! [John 10:27-30].

Now, which one of those types of Christianity is the faith and the revelation of the Book?  Well, you wouldn’t have far to read to find an ultimate, a conclusive and a final answer.  For in this thing that Paul describes as the gospel, he uses my text: “I declare unto you first of all, first of all, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. . . .” [1 Corinthians 15:3].

Well, what does that mean, “first of all?”  It doesn’t mean, I told you that first in time.  He means first in importance.  The great cardinal doctrine of the Christian faith and the Christian revelation is this—that Christ died for our sins!  Just as there’s a first and great commandment of the law [Matthew 22:36-38], there’s also, according to Paul, a first and cardinal doctrine of the Christian faith! [1 Corinthians 15:3]. The Christian revelation has many cardinal doctrines in it.  The doctrine of the Fatherhood of God is a tremendous revelation [Romans 8:15; Ephesians 1:5].  The doctrine of the incarnation is a tremendous revelation [John 1:14; Philippians 2:7].  The doctrine of the kingdom of God [Luke 8:1; John 3:3], and the coming of the Lord [Acts 1:11; Revelation 1:7], and the millennial reign [Revelation 20:4-6], those are tremendous doctrines.  But Paul says, the first and the cardinal doctrine of the Christian revelation is this, the atonement of Christ—how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures [1 Corinthians 15:3].  That is first and above all.  In other words, Christianity is primarily a religion of redemption [Romans 3:24; Ephesians 1:7].  And in that regard, it is separate and apart from every other religion in the earth.

Confucianism has a great ethic.  Zoroastrianism is a great monotheism.  Many, many other of the great religions of the world have marvelously fine and acceptable doctrines.  But the doctrine that separates the faith of Christ from every other faith in the earth is this, that it is a gospel of redemption [Titus 2:14].  It has to do with the deliverance of man from the slavery and the mastery and the chains and fetters of sin!  That is why Christ died according to the promise of God—that He might deliver us from the penalty and the wrath and the judgment of God upon our sins! [2 Corinthians 5:21].

Now, Christianity is ethical.  It has an ethic.  But it is not just an ethic.  It is mostly a dogmatic, a pronouncement, a heralding.  Christianity has a theology, but it is not a theology.  It is a soteriology; that is, it is a telling unto men how to be saved! [Acts 4:12]. The sign of the cross is the sign of the church.  The insignia of Christianity is not a burning bush, and it’s not a seven-branched candlestick.  It is not even a halo around a submissive head.  It is not even a crown, resplendent in glory.  The sign of the Christian faith is the sign of the cross.  And in that, the name of Christ is exalted above every name.

In the second chapter of Philippians, that incomparable passage, He emptied Himself, “made Himself of no reputation… became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.  Wherefore God hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name” [Philippians 2:5-9].  Why?  Because He “died for our sins according to the Scriptures” [1 Corinthians 15:3].  The tremendous impact of the faith of Jesus on this earth is found in His sufferings.  It’s found in His cross.  It’s found in His death! [Matthew 27:32-50; Hebrews 2:9].  This is the gospel message of the Son of God for lost men everywhere—that in Him we look and live! [John 3:14-18; Numbers 21:9].  We can trust; we can have faith [Acts 16:31].  We can commit and be saved! [Romans 10:9]. This is the sublimest work of God.  This is the vastest spectacle in the whole earth.  This is the all in all of the preaching of the Son of God.  The man who stands in the pulpit, his highest, most excellent knowledge is this: “Brethren, I determine not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” [1 Corinthians 2:2].  It is the glory of the preacher.  For “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ . . .”  [Galatians 6:14].  This is, “First of all that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” [1 Corinthians 15:3].

Jesus was an incomparable teacher.  “No man ever spake like that Man” [John 7:46].  But when the apostles began to sow down the whole Roman Empire with the knowledge and the doctrine and the faith of Jesus Christ, did it ever occur to you how infrequently they quoted from the lips of Jesus?  Now tell me, I can remember the apostle Paul quoting a word, a beatitude of the Lord Jesus in the twentieth chapter of Acts, where he says: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” [Acts 20:35].

I can remember that.  I can remember in the eleventh chapter of the first Corinthian letter, Paul says: “I received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, how the night He was betrayed, He took bread and blessed it” [1 Corinthians 11:23-24].  I can remember that.  Dr. Fowler, outside of those two passages, is there any other instance that comes to your mind, in all of the ministry of the apostles where they quoted the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, any sentence from His lips?  Do you remember any?  Right now, I can recall none.  And yet, if Jesus was just a great teacher, isn’t that a startling and an astonishing thing that they never refer to His teaching?  They never quote Him.  They never say, “Jesus said this, and Jesus said that.”  But what they do throughout their preaching is, they are talking about the Son of God as He “died for our sins according to the Scriptures” [1 Corinthians 15:3].  Isn’t that a marvelously unusual thing?

Jesus was a great reformer.  But they never referred to His reformations.  Jesus was a great philanthropist; that is, He was a lover of men.  But they never referred to His personal ministries.  Jesus was a great martyr.  He gave His life for truth, but they never refer to Him as a martyr.  Those men of God who wrote that Book and who preach the gospel of Christ, they refuse to enroll Jesus as a martyr, or a reformer, or a teacher, or a philanthropist.  They never thought to place Jesus in the class of a Seneca, or a Socrates, or a Martin Luther, or an Abraham Lincoln.

In the Bible, Jesus is separate and apart [1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 7:26].  He is the great Redeemer of mankind: “Brethren, I declare unto you the gospel…For I delivered unto you first of all—the great cardinal doctrine of the Christian faith—how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” [1 Corinthians 15:1-3].  The redemptive work, the atoning death of the Son of God is the cardinal doctrine around which all of the other teachings of the Son of God cluster and cling; all from the cross, before, after, the Son of God dying for our sins [Matthew 27:32-50].  I think that the whole summary of the whole Bible, of the whole message and ministry of God among men is summed up in the little sentence by which John, the first Baptist preacher, introduced the Son of God to the world:  and “The next day John saw Jesus passing by, and he said: Behold, behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world” [John 1:29].  That’s expressive of the whole ministry and purpose of Christ—the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world [Revelation 13:8] manifested to take away our sins [1 John 3:5].

That’s the message of the New Testament.  It’s the message of the Gospels, without which, we have no knowledge of the life and ministry of Jesus at all.  I want you to look at those Gospels for just a moment.  John says, “I suppose that if all of His words were written down and all of His deeds recorded, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that should be written” [John 21:25].  Now you think about that.  There are thousands of discourses of the Lord Jesus that are never referred to in this Book.  There are a thousand blessed and precious deeds that the Lord did that are not never recorded in this Book.  Yet in these Gospels, all four of them, they give at least one-fourth of all the space they command to the recounting of the last few days and the last few hours of the life of the Son of God.  Isn’t that an astonishing and startling thing?  Is the greatest thing about Jesus His parables, or His miracles, or His teachings?  No.  The great thing about the Son of God as the Gospels present Him is this—that He died for our sins according to the Scriptures [1 Corinthians 15:3].

And you see that inwoven all through the story of His life.  When He began His public ministry, immediately He began to say that He should suffer, that He should die, that He should be raised from the dead [Luke 9:22].  At the first cleansing of the temple in the second chapter of the Gospel of John: He said: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” [John 2:19].  They didn’t know what He meant.  We know what He meant.  He was referring to His death and His resurrection.  In the next chapter of John, there comes to Him a Pharisee, Nicodemus, and He said to this learned teacher in Israel: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up” [John 3:14; Numbers 21:8-9].  Nicodemus didn’t know what He meant.  We understand what He meant; all through His ministry, that great theme, over and over again, recurring.

When the Jews said, “Show us a sign.”  Jesus replied: “Evil generation seeketh for a sign; no sign shall be given it, but the sign of the prophet Jonah” [Matthew 12:38-40].  They didn’t know what He meant.  We understand: in the heart of the earth, raised from the dead [Matthew 28:1-7].  At Capernaum, He preached that incomparable sermon on the bread of life, “Except a man eat My flesh, and drink My blood, ye have no life in you” [John 6:53].  They didn’t know what He meant, and they strove with one another, saying, “How can a man eat His flesh, and how could a man drink His blood?” [John 6:48-52].  We know what He meant.  We understand.

When the Greeks came to see Him: “We would see Jesus” [John 12:21], these Gentiles from afar, the Lord was moved in His spirit, and said:  “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me” [John 12:32].  Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” [John 12:24].  Those who stood by, they didn’t understand what He meant.  We understand: “I, if I be lifted up from the earth” [John 12:32].

When Mary anointed Him with the precious spikenard, they murmured saying, “Remember the poor, why was it not sold for them?”  Jesus said, “She has anointed Me for My burying” [Matthew 26:6-13].  They didn’t know what He meant; we understand.  All through that Book, that same theme—like that theme in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.  You hear it again, and again, and again, and again.  And the great movement of the life of Christ is irresistibly and inevitably borne along to the cross.  Jesus never said, “This miracle is wrought for the remission of sins.”  He never said, “This great sermon is preached for the remission of sins.”  He never said, “This temptation is endured for remission of sins,” or “This glorious transfiguration is for the remission of sins.”

But He did take bread, and He did take the fruit of the vine, and in sobs and in tears said to His disciples; “This is My life, My blood, My body…which is given for the remission of sins” [Matthew 26:26-28].  “I delivered unto you first of all that which I received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” [1 Corinthians 15:3].  Is there anything other than that in the rest of the Bible?  There is not a variation, not a shadow of aberration.  What they are preaching, what they are proclaiming to the world is that same gospel of redemption, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures [1 Corinthians 15:3].

Peter, he’s not writing here of theology.  He is writing to men, he’s won to Christ.  Listen to him as he says:  “You know that you are not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of the Lamb without spot and without blemish: verily foreordained before the foundation of the world, and manifest in these later times” [1 Peter 1:18-20].  That is the preaching of the apostle Peter.  Listen to him.  “Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto Him” [1 Peter 2:24].  That’s Simon Peter.

His great friend and fellow disciple John, how did he preach?  Listen to John as he says: “And the blood of Jesus Christ God’s Son cleanseth us from all sin” [1 John 1:7].  Look at the next chapter: “And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” [1 John 2:2].  Look at the Revelation.  It begins in a marvelous doxology: “Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood” [Revelation 1:5].  The triumphant, glorious chapter of worship is the fifth of the Revelation, and in the center of it is the Lamb as It had been slain [Revelation 5:6], and they sing, “Worthy art Thou, for Thou was slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and tribe, and people,” under the sun [Revelation 5:9].

The Book of the Hebrews is no less given to that great doctrine, “For if the blood of bulls and goats . . . sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God. . . purge us from our sins” [Hebrews 9:13-14].  “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission” of sins [Hebrews 9:22].

“And as it is appointed, unto men once to die, but after that the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation” [Hebrews 9:27-28].  That is the gospel.  When a man preaches an ethical message, he may be preaching from Confucius, and do it just as well.  When a man may be preaching the Fatherhood of God, he could be preaching in a Jewish synagogue and it be just as well.

I met with a group of Jewish rabbis not long ago, and when they began their prayer, they began their prayer like this: “Our Father in heaven.”  What is the difference in their prayer?  When they got to the end of it, they said: “Amen.”  But you and I say, “In the redemptive name of Him who loved us, and gave Himself for us [Galatians 2:20], in the name of Jesus our Savior.”

How different in practically all of the modern pulpits of our generation.  You go to most any church.  You sit there and listen to most any sermon, and it’ll go like this.  It will be a message on the domestic graces.  It will be a message on a man’s duty and responsibility.  It will be some kind of a discourse regarding the great things that we ought to do.  It will be talking about some social subject or some political responsibility, but it’ll be a rare thing in the modern pulpit—I am talking about all over America—it will be a rare thing that you’ll ever go and listen to a man who is standing there preaching what Paul describes as the gospel of the Son of God! [1 Corinthians 15:2-4].

Somehow we have fallen into the persuasion ourselves that the Christian message is another philosophy.  It is another ethic.  It is another social encouragement.  It’s another morality.  It’s not any of those.  It may have in it a moral calling.  It may have in it a great ethical teaching.  It may have in it things that belong to personal responsibility and social betterment, but as such, they are not the gospel of the Son of God.  The gospel of the New Testament is that we were sinners, and we were lost, and we could not save ourselves [Romans 3:23, 6:23], and God sent Christ to die for our sins [John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 15:3], and to those that look in trust to Him, God, for Christ’s sake, will forgive, and He will justify—that is, He will declare us righteous whether we’re righteous or not, and not any of us is [Romans 3:10].  And we are justified in His sight [Romans 3:24].  We are acceptable in His presence, and we’ll see God’s face some of these days [Revelation 22:4].  That is the gospel!  Brethren, I declare unto you the gospel; “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” [1 Corinthians 15:3].

Now, I want to say a very brief word about how is it that the cross of Christ saves us?  How could Christ make atonement for us in His death?  Well, that is the biggest subject in the theological world.  I took a seminar on it one time.  In my graduate work, one of them was “The Atonement of Christ.”  I have read books and books and books.  Briefly, a little summary like this; way back yonder, years and years ago, almost two thousand years ago, those great tremendous theological minds, Irenaeus, Origen, Gregory of Nyssa—those men wrestling with that problem, “How does the cross of Christ save us from our sins?”—they seized upon that passage of a ransom.  “So the Son of Man came to give His life a ransom for many” [Matthew 20:28], and they said—and this is their doctrine of the atonement, those great theologians lived back there almost two thousand years ago—they said that the devil had us, and the Lord God gave Christ as a ransom to pay for our deliverance and our redemption.  And for a thousand years, that was the accepted doctrine of the atonement in all Christendom.

In about 1050 AD, there came along a great preacher in Canterbury by the name of Anselm.  And he said, “That’s not so.  That’s not right.”  And he gave his great doctrine of the atonement, seizing upon that word “debt”—debt.  We were infinitely in debt to God because of our sins.  And there is infinite worth and merit in the cross of Christ, and our sins are paid for in the death of Christ [1 Peter 1:18-19].  And for about four hundred years, that was the doctrine of the atonement that swept and kept all Christendom.

Then in the days of John Calvin and Martin Luther, those men said, “No, Anselm’s not right.”  And they seized upon that word that I read in the first epistle of John, “propitiation” [1 John 2:2].  And their doctrine of the atonement was that the great moral law was broken and man was condemned, but Christ came and kept the law, and the merit of Christ in His keeping that law, dying in our stead, His merit has come to us [Matthew 5:17].  He died for us [1 Corinthians 15:3].  He was our substitute [2 Corinthians 5:21].  He died.  We lived.  He paid our penalty—the propitiation of God.  That was the wonderful doctrine of the atonement.

Then Hugo Grotius, a Dutchman, came, and he said the death of Christ was a spectacle to the world to show God’s holiness and God’s infinite horror as He looks upon sin.  And you come down to this present time with these modern theories of the personal, the pouring out of the life of Christ as the atonement for the sins of the world.

But my dear people, after you have read those books, and books, and books, and books, and after you’ve listened to those men speak and teach and teach and speak and lecture, you come to the end of it, and if you’re like I am, you have a feeling in your heart: it’s all so mechanical, it’s all so trivial, it’s all so artificial, it’s all so nothing compared to the great, illimitable truth of God in Christ Jesus reconciling us and our lost world unto Himself [2 Corinthians 5:19].

“Well, preacher, then how is it—how is it that Christ can save us in His death and by His cross?”  I don’t propose to say.  I would be like God Himself if I could explore the mysteries of that divine atonement.  But I can say just one little thing, and that is all; how Christ’s death saves us.  There are three ways you can look at God.  A savage looks at Him as being vindictive, and capricious, and terrible.  Like some of those natives in Africa; I asked, “Why do you worship the devil?”  And they said to me, “God is good, and we don’t fear God.  But the devil is bad, and we must placate him.”  To them, God is just like some other savage, removed somewhere.  And if He ever does anything, it’s vindictive and capricious.  Their god is a devil, and they worship him.  That’s their god!

Another view of God is the pagan view.  That is the view of God, that He is removed, that He is disinterested, that He doesn’t care.  That is the god of Greek philosophy.  That is the god of all the pagan world.  He is not interested in us.  He lives out there on some star far, far away, or He is busy running His for universes. And what happens down here on this insignificant, inconsequential, lost, and forgotten planet is nothing to Him.  It was an impossible, inconceivable concept to the Greek Epicurean and Stoic and the Greek philosopher that God would ever interest Himself down here in this minuscule of a world.  That is the second view of God; that He is removed, and He doesn’t care.

The other, the third—the other view of God is the Christian revelation, which is this.  That God feels, and because He feels, He sympathizes.  And because He sympathizes, He suffers.  And because He suffers, He carries the wounds of our sins in His heart and in His soul [Hebrews 4:14].  Preacher, isn’t that a strange definition of God, that the holy, placid, heavenly, peaceful, perfect, illimitable, almighty great God, that God suffers?  I am not trying to reconcile anything.  I am just saying that as I read this Book it seems to me that God cares, and God cries, and God pleads, and God prays, and God suffers, and God died for our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3].  And that He bears the mark of that sympathy and that love and that care in His soul and in His body [Luke 24:39].  It’s written on His heart.  God loves us, and He died for our sins [Galatians 3:20; Revelation 1:5].

I have to close.  I just want to tell you how—if I could use the word vulgar in its real sense—how commonplace, how low-down, how ordinary I am in this thing of theology and the preaching of the gospel of Christ.  I will just give you an illustration of it.  I went to school long, long time.  And I studied hard, and I read those books endlessly.  Years and years did I do it.  But this is just I, and I say, I’m just kind of low-down and vulgar when it comes to my theology, reading this Bible.

After I listened to those professors and after I read those books and books and books, I give you my simple word of truth and honesty.  That the doctrine of the atonement that I heard from the lips of those unlettered men who pastored those little, tiny churches in which I grew up as a boy, it meant more to my soul, and it somehow explained more to me than all of those high-flown, intellectual, philosophical presentations of the cross of Christ that I read in all their books, or that I heard in all of their lectures.

“Well, what do you mean, preacher?”  I mean this.  I mean this.  Those untutored, unlettered, untrained preachers who are so far out there where I lived—nobody ever heard of them.  Nobody ever saw them.  They were just our pastors, out there where nobody else would go—they would stand up, and with hearts that were just moved and with many tears, they’d tell things like this; about a mother who was scarred so terribly scarred, but so wonderfully loved by her husband and by her beautiful children, that when he would say, “Why did he marry somebody like that, and why do his children so adore a creature like that?”  Then they’d tell the story of how the house was on fire and how the little children were inside, and she gave the beauty of her body and sacrificed her life unto death that she might carry those little bundles of preciousness out of the flames and into life.  And he would say that is what God does for us.  He loves us like that.  Then they would tell the story of that fellow in the Civil War who couldn’t go, and he got a friend to go for him.  And that friend died.  He was killed in the war.  And when they buried him, he put on his tombstone a little, simple word, “He died for me, in my stead.”  Then they would tell the story of the—of the little fellow that was going to be whipped, and the big brother who stooped over him and bared his back and said, “Take the stripes and lay them on my back and let this little friend go.”

And those old-time preachers would just cry as they’d tell those stories trying to illustrate the infinite love of God.  And I just told you how low-down I am in understanding the cross of Jesus.  I saw it better and felt it more when they were talking about the sacrificial love of some wonderful friend or some precious mother than in all the mechanical theories of the atonement that I ever read.  And I think—see that’s—I say I think, I think that’s the way it is.  Christ died for us in our stead [1 Corinthians 15:3], and He did it because we couldn’t be saved any other way.  We were lost and undone, and death was the penalty! [Romans 6:23].  And God looking upon us, loved us and sympathized with us.  And He sent Jesus to die for us [John 3:16-18].

And that’s the reason Paul could say, “Crucified with Him; yet I live; but not I, for the life that I live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God”—and do you remember it?—“who loved me, and gave Himself for me” [Galatians 2:20].  That’s what it is to be a Christian.  And that’s what it is to be saved.  And that’s what it is to preach the gospel of the Son of God: that He loved me, and gave Himself for me.  “Brethren, I declare unto you the gospel, first of all that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” [1 Corinthians 15:3].

These theologians, they like to purge out of the pulpit all the reference to the blood and to the sufferings of Christ.  And they like to go through these hymnbooks and take out all the songs about the atonement and about the blood.  Not we.  Not we.  That’s the gospel [Romans 5:11].  That’s how we’re saved.  And though it’s in sobs and in tears, that’s what we’re singing about, Jesus dying for me [1 Corinthians 15:3].

Now Billy, I can’t remember our invitation hymn, but if it isn’t “There’s a Fountain Filled with Blood,” let’s sing it anyway.  Let’s sing it anyway.

There’s a fountain filled with blood,

Drawn from Immanuel’s veins,

And sinners plunged beneath the flood

Lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see

That fountain in his day,

And there may I, though vile as he,

Wash all my sins away.

[“There Is A Fountain Filled With Blood,” William Cowper]

That’s the gospel.  That’s the message of the Son of God.  That’s the preaching of Jesus.  And the promise is sure and steadfast—God’s in it—never falls to the ground.  To the one who’ll place his trust in Jesus, “Look, look, and live” [John 3:14-18; Numbers 21:8-9].  Look and live, that’s how we’re saved.  That’s what makes us Christians.  You can join the Masonic Lodge and be ethical in your teaching and life.  It’s a great fraternity.  And you can study philosophy and literature, and you’ll find all of those marvelous things, great, noble sentiments.  But there’s only one faith of redemption, and that’s this one: that Jesus died for our sins, and to those that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation [Hebrews 9:28].

Somebody you, trust Him, give your heart to Him, look to Him and be saved [Isaiah 45:22].  Would you?  Or into the fellowship of His church, however God would say the word and open the door, while we make the appeal and sing the song, would you come?  Would you come, while we stand and while we sing?


Dr. W.
A. Criswell

Corinthians 15:1-3


I.          Introduction

A.  Two
kinds of Christianity

1.  One
of idealism, inspiration

a. Salvation
is social amelioration

Jesus is one of the great idealists of the world, a great teacher

2.  One
of redemption and salvation

a. In
social Christianity, cross of Christ incidental – here it is central

B.  Christianity
of the Scriptures is the Christianity of the cross – in its power to save, as
Paul preached it

II.         “First of all”

A.  Not
in time, but in importance

As there is a first and great commandment, so there is a first and great
doctrine – the atonement of Christ(Matthew

2.  Without
payment of debt, there is no reconciliation

This differentiates Christian faith from all other religions

Sign of the gospel of Christ – the cross

III.        “According to the Scriptures”

A.  The
impact of the faith of Jesus found in His sufferings(Philippians 2:7-9)

B.  The
all in all of the preaching of the Christ(1
Corinthians 2:2, Galatians 6:14)

The teaching of Jesus Himself (John 7:46, Acts
20:35, 1 Corinthians 11:23-24)

The summary of the whole Bible(John 1:29,
Revelation 13:8, 1 John 3:5)

The message of the New Testament(John 2:19,
3:14, 6:53, 12:21,24, 32, 21:25, Luke 11:29, Matthew 26:6-13, 28:1-7)

The meaning of the ordinances (Matthew 26:26-28)

The preaching of the apostles (1 Peter 1:18-20,
2:24, 1 John 1:7, 2:2, Revelation 1:5, 5:9, Hebrews 9:13-14, 22, 27-28)

IV.       How the cross of Christ saves us

A.  His
life a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28)

B.  Christ
Jesus reconciling us unto Himself (2 Corinthians

Three ways you can look at God

D.  The doctrine of atonement I heard from unlettered men
who pastored the tiny churches in which I grew up meant more to me than any
other(John 3:16-18, Galatians 2:20, 1
Corinthians 15:3)