What We Were and Did Become
December 9th, 1956 @ 7:30 PM
WHAT WE WERE AND DID BECOME
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-9-56 7:30 p.m.
Now all of us turn to the second chapter of Ephesians, the second chapter of Ephesians. And this morning, we left off at the tenth verse; and tonight we begin at the eleventh verse and we’ll read to the end of the chapter. The second chapter of Ephesians, beginning at the eleventh verse; we’ll read to the end. Ephesians 2, we have it? The second chapter of Ephesians, beginning at the eleventh verse, now together:
Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called uncircumcision by that which is called the circumcision in the flesh made by hands;
That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
For He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
Having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
And that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:
And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.
For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
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.
Now the title of the sermon is What We Were and Did Become; and it is an exposition of the passage that you have just read. What We Were and What We Did Become.
There are only two states in which a man can live now and tomorrow or forever. He is either in Christ, or out of Christ. He’s in Christ or he’s in the world. You are saved or lost. You are on the glory road to heaven, or you are on the broad road to damnation. We are in God or out of God. We are at home, or away from home. We are in one of two states. That’s always and everlastingly true of us.
No man is just halfway, partly in partly out, one foot in heaven and the other foot in hell, part of him given to Christ, part of him outside of Christ. It may be a poor being in Jesus, it may be a poor specimen of what God can do for a man, but no man straddles the fence. No man is on one side and the other of the line at the same time. We are saved or we are lost.
To us, so much of the world, so much of life looks gray. But not to God; it’s either black or it’s white. Our sins are forgiven, or they’re upon us. God saves us for Christ’s sake, or we’re beyond the pale of His grace and His mercy. It’s one of two.
What we were is described here in this passage: "At that time ye were without Christ." That’s the greatest poverty that a man could ever know. That’s a destitution incomparable. Without Christ no profit, no praise, no advocate, no Savior, no intercessor, no friend in heaven; without Christ; there’s not anything that I have ever experienced that has in it the emptiness and the helplessness as to go to a home where death as come and they’re not Christians. What do you say? There’s not anything to say. What do you do? There’s not anything to do? Is there a word of hope? No. Is there any golden glow beyond the dark and lowering cloud? No. Is there any silver lining? No. No Christ, no Savior, just a blank darkness of an eternity without God.
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not Christ, I am become a sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.
And though I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith so that I can remove mountains, and have not Christ, I am nothing.
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not Christ, it profiteth me nothing.
Christ never faileth, never. Whither there be prophecies, they shall fail. Whither there by tongues, they shall cease. Whither there be knowledge it shall vanish away.
But there abideth faith, hope, Christ, these three; and the greatest of these is Christ.
[1 Corinthians 13:1-3, 8, 13]
What we were, we were without Christ.
We were "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise." That may be a strange thing for us today. For Paul to say we were that, "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel," we were not Jews. "And strangers from the covenants of promise," we were not of the seed of Abraham. That seems strange to us today, but it’s because we do not enter into the great truth and revelation of God in our sentimentality. In our cheap religiosity, in the veneer of what we call the Christian faith we have departed from the great revelation and truths and the covenants of God.
No man could build an altar and say, "This is God’s altar." God had to appoint it. No man could consecrate a priest and say, "This is God’s priest." God had to consecrate him. No man could say, "This is the house of God" and it be such. God had to choose it and put His name there. No man could offer a sacrifice and say, "This is God’s sacrifice." God had to choose it. No man could light a fire and say, "This is God’s fire." The fire had to come down from heaven. No man could say, "I belong to the chosen family of God." God had to choose him, and that’s what Paul meant when he said here:
We didn’t have an altar. We didn’t have a priest. We didn’t have a sacrifice. We didn’t have a house. We didn’t have a temple. We didn’t have a covenant. We were strangers to the covenant of promise, and we were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel.
[from Ephesians 2:12]
There’s a lot of religion in the world, but it’s not God’s religion. Outside of the choice of God, and the family of God, and the elective grace and mercy and purposes of God, outside of that all religious forms are a slavery. All of the attendants upon the temples, and the synagogues, and the churches are nothing but so much burden and waste of time. And all of our forms and ceremonies are empty, of superstitions. That’s what Paul meant. We were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel. We were strangers from the covenants of promise. We were not in the great chosen elected family of God. We were lost.
He goes further. "We were without Christ, we were aliens, we were strangers from the covenants, and we had no hope; we were without hope." That’s a vigorous thing for Paul to say. There comes to my mind, "without hope," didn’t have any hope. There comes to my mind a shipwrecked soul, and he’s thirsty, and no one around him but the endless briny deep. And he looks to heaven, and the heavens are brass. And he looks to earth, and the earth is iron. And he looks deeper and it’s the pit of hell; and to the right and to the left, and nothing but approaching death.
Death is stronger than we. However a man may say, "I am sufficient in myself," and however the youth may say, "And I am young," however a man may say, "And I am adequate." Death always drags down his victim like a staghound drags down the deer. Finally, waste and disease and decay and corruption always come without hope, without hope.
"But I shall send for the doctor," and the doctor needs the doctor. "And I shall send for the physician," and the physician needs the physician. "And I shall send for the pall bearer," but the pall bearer needs the pall bearer. "I shall send for the undertaker," and the undertaker needs the funeral director. "Then I’ll send for the preacher," and the preacher needs the preacher. There is nobody you can turn to whose strong arm is able to stay that everlasting coming slowly approaching inevitable visitor of the pale horseman without hope, without hope.
Our little incantations are so fruitless and futile. Our little magic words, our little tricks, our little fetishes, all that a man could assemble in the name of religion is nothing at all; dead, dead. May be beautifully washed, may be beautifully laid out, may be splendidly dressed, but without life, dead, without hope, and without God in the world.
It’s an awesome thing, what Paul says here, what we were outside of Christ, aliens from the commonwealth, strangers from the covenants, without hope, and without God. It’s an awesome thing, this isolation, this separation, this damnation; but not annihilation. I don’t die in my spirit and in my soul when this life is ended in the flesh; but I live beyond in just two places. And there are not three.
I’m either going to heaven when I die, or I’m going into damnation and perdition. There’s no purgatory. It’s not in the Book. It’s not in the Bible. It’s not in Christian revelation. It’s the figment of a man’s imagination, trying to draw back from the horror, and the terror, and the awesomeness of God’s wrath. They invented a purgatory but it’s a man’s invention. A man, when he dies, either goes to heaven or he goes to hell. He’s either on the glory road upward and with Christ, or he’s with the devil and his angels in everlasting fire and perdition, without God, without God.
It means more to be lost than to be a ship on a sea without a compass. It means more to be lost than to be a man lost in a fog shrouded mountain. It means more to be lost than a woman in the desert and the night draws cold and ominously burdensomely terribly near. It means more than a child lost in a trackless forest. For a man to be lost, for a child to be lost, for a woman to be lost and without God, without God, means the commiseration, the commingling, the heaping up, the gathering together of all of the miseries and all of the sorrows and all of the woes in life.
Many times have I seen parents stand by the bedside of a sick, sick child, and cry, and pray. And I’ve thought in my heart, "Oh, would to God that when they cry and when they pray it might not be just a body! But they would cry and they would pray for the salvation of the souls of their children." Without God, lost forever, and forever, and forever, and through the endless uncounted ages of all eternity, without God, lost, lost.
That’s what we were. You were a lost man. You were a lost soul. You were a lost child. You were lost. You were. We were, at one time, without Christ, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world; lost, forever lost. But what did we become? What did God do for us?
"But now, but now, in Christ Jesus, ye who sometimes were far off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ. But now," what did we become, "but now, in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ." Between us and God was a great range, vast jagged mountain peaks of the debt of sin, separating between us and God; and in Christ all of it was taken away, the debt paid, and the sin removed, and the mountains buried in the depths of the sea.
"But now, in Christ Jesus, you who sometimes were far off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ." Between us and God a great gulf fixed. If you ever saw a prince and a pauper stand side by side, the difference between them is but an inch, but a span, compared to the difference that separates between a soul that’s lost and God in heaven. "But we, who sometimes were far off, are made nigh by the blood of Jesus Christ."
The blood of Christ has sufficed in the power, and in the mercy, and in the goodness of God to breach that gulf that separates between our souls and our Maker. A debt to pay and He paid it. A suffering and He suffered in our stead. A substitution made; the infinite mystery of the reconciliation God made with us through Christ Jesus our Lord. No man can say that. No man can describe it. No man can enter into the unfathomable depths of its mystery, what God has done for us in Christ Jesus.
I have been a pastor, soon, thirty years. In those thirty years, I have heard God’s sainted people stand up and testify what Christ has done for them. But I’ve never heard a man yet, I’ve never heard a testimony meeting yet, I’ve never heard a people yet that began to plumb at the depths of what Christ has done for us. You can’t say it in words. You can’t put it in language. You can’t describe it, not in poetry, not in song, not in sermon, not in testimony, what Christ has done for us, bringing us to God, saving our souls from hell, lifting us up out of death and misery and sorrow and damnation and perdition, and bringing us as children of God into the circle of God’s grace and love and mercy. What Christ hath done for us.
I don’t think there’s a more eloquent way than any man ever tried to say it than an old Indian that I heard of, who was asked, "Tell us what Christ has done for you." And the old Indian took a little worm, and put it on the ground. And around the worm he made a little row of leaves, and he set fire to the leaves. And that little worm, from the heat of the flames, went this way, and met the fire; and that way, and met the fire; and this way, and that way, and met the fire. And the little thing returned to the center of the ring, and curled up to die.
And the old Indian reached down and took his hand and lifted the little helpless thing out of the ring of fire to safety. And the Indian said, "That’s what Jesus has done for me. With a pierced hand He reached down, and lifted me out of the flame of the fire, and saved my soul from death."
What do you have for a hope when you die? They send me word, "He’s been in a serious accident;" or, "He’s been cut down, and he has just a little while, would you come and stand by his bed?" And I come, and I look into your face, and I say, "Do you have any hope? Do you have any hope?"
"Oh, preacher, yes, I’ve got money! I’ve got money. Oh preacher, yes. I’ve got twelve houses. Preacher, I own the biggest building in the city." Oh! Do you have any hope? And what a sweet song to say, "Pastor, yes, yes, yes, back yonder, don’t you remember? Back yonder, have you forgot? Do you remember the day that I gave my heart to Jesus, and you baptized me? Remember pastor? Remember?"
Whether I do or not would be immaterial. God never forgets. God never forgets. He remembers. That name, with the point of a diamond and adamantine is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, and it stays there forever and ever. What Jesus has done for us.
Oh, this marvelous passage! He makes a new man out of us. Look at that fifteenth verse, "Making a new man." I haven’t time to enter into that, what God does for us, "We who one time were lost, without Christ, aliens, having no hope, without God in the world; but now, in Christ Jesus, through His blood, made nigh, made a new man." Look again, "Therefore, you are no more strangers and foreigners, aliens; but you are fellow citizens of the commonwealth of God."
Once we didn’t have an altar. Now we have an altar in heaven. Once we never had a sacrifice. Now we have a sacrifice: Jesus on the cross. Once we didn’t have a high priest. Now we have one that lives and intercedes forever. Once there was a veil between us and God. Now it is taken away and we can look into the Holy of holies, and there is the Mercy Seat of God.
What Christ has done for us; no longer a stranger, no longer an alien, no longer a foreigner; but in the household of faith, in the covenant promises of God, not children of wrath but children of Christ. "For as many as received Him, to them gave He the right to become the children of God; even to them that trust in His name." [John 1:12] What we were, what we did become, what God has done for us.
While we sing this song tonight, while we make this appeal tonight, would you open your heart to the mercies of Christ, would you? "Pastor, I have that hope too, and on that confession of faith of trusting Jesus, here I am, and here I come. I give you my hand. I have given my heart to God." Would you? Would you? Would you? Is there a family here, all of you would come, would you? All of you come. There’s not a reason that a man could say that would anywise outweigh the appeal of Christ that you come. If I had the scales of God in my hand, and on this side all of the reasons and excuses why not to, on this side God’s reason for you to, oh you couldn’t balance them. God’s call so far outweighs any reason for a man not to come. It’s infinite. It’s everything. Wouldn’t you? Put your family together in God. Your hope, it’s in Jesus. "Here I am, preacher, oh so glad to come." That aisle, down here, that first step, if you were to live a thousand years, and I were to ask you, "Say, do you regret that day you stepped into the aisle and down to the front?" Oh, what you’d say! "Preacher, that was the greatest day of my life. That was the greatest hour I’ve ever lived in; meant more to me with the passing of every passing year." Would you? Would you? As our people prayerfully sing this appeal, for you, for you, you, you, would you come? Would you make it now, while we stand and while we sing?