The Great Appeal
January 17th, 1960 @ 7:30 PM
THE GREAT APPEAL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-17-60 7:30 p.m.
Will you turn with me to the Book of Hebrews, chapter 10? And we begin at the nineteenth verse. Hebrews 10:19 and we read the passage for the evening. Hebrews 10:19, reading to the end of the chapter.
The title of the sermon is The Great Appeal. And you will read it. The doctrinal part of the epistle ends at the eighteenth verse of chapter 10, "Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin" [Hebrews 10:18]. That ends the part of the epistle that is doctrinal; beginning at the next verse, verse 19, he begins The Great Appeal.
Now let us read it together. Hebrews 10:19 to the end of the chapter:
Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the Holiest by the blood of Jesus,
By a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh;
And having an High Priest over the house of God;
Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering: (for He is faithful that promised:)
And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the Day approaching.
For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,
But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:
Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?
For we know Him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto Me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge His people.
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions;
Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used.
For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourself that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.
Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward.
For ye have need of patience, that after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.
For yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry.
Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, My soul shall have no pleasure in him.
But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.
As this author has progressed in his doctrinal statement, he finally comes to this great appeal, which turns into a veritable flame of fire. For the little congregation of Hebrew Christians have been wavering between continuing in the faith of Jesus or going back to the old rituals, and the old ceremonials, and the old service of the temple.
We ourselves find ourselves in a like place as this little band of Hebrew Christians did back there. It is so easy to turn the spiritual ministries of Christ into ceremonies and into rituals – dead, and decayed, and meaningless, things to be done, to get over with, and then to forget until the time of respectability demands that we come back and repeat those same rituals again.
I do not know why but every church and every expression of the Christian faith has a tendency to fall back into those same dead rituals and ceremonials. Also we have the same temptation to exchange the spiritual drive and dynamic and reality of the Christian faith for the deadness of worldliness, and indifference, and lethargy, and apathy. These same great appeals that this author made to that band of little Christians back there in the first century is the same appeal that the Spirit of God would make to our church and to His people today.
He first sums up the great propositions that he has made in the doctrinal section of his letter before. And he does it under three sentences. First, "Having therefore," the therefore refers back to all that he has said previously; "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the Holiest by the blood of Jesus" [Hebrews 10:19]; second, "Having a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, [the rent] flesh" [Hebrews 10:20]; and third, "And having a High Priest over the house of God" [Hebrews 10:21]. That’s a summary in three great propositions of all of the doctrinal portion of his letter expressed heretofore, "Having therefore boldness to enter into the Holiest by the blood of Jesus" [Hebrews 10:19].
The high priest could only enter into that innermost sanctuary just once a year [Hebrews 9:7]. But we in the blood of Christ can enter any time, any day, any moment, anywhere [Hebrews 10:19], face to face with God, and talk to God as a companion and as a friend. You could do it now if you bowed your head. Speak to God. The way is open wide; welcome, "Having therefore boldness to enter into the Holiest sanctuary by the blood of Jesus" [Hebrews 10:19].
Then his second proposition, "Having a new and living way, which Christ has consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say, His flesh" [Hebrews 10:20], there is no curtain, no partition between you and God. Come boldly to the throne of grace, and welcome [Hebrews 4:16]. Come anytime. Come anywhere. Come tonight by a new and living way, a fresh way for you, always new, always living; the invitation of our living Savior, and no veil in between.
When our Lord died in His torn flesh, through that death He entered into the sanctuary of God. And all of the children of the Lord can follow after. For in the death of our Savior that veil was rent in twain [Matthew 27:50-51], a symbol and a type of the body of our Lord that was broken and sacrificed that we might have a perfect access unto God [Hebrews 10:20]; no longer the need of a human mediator, no longer the need of an intercessory priest, no longer anyone to make appeal for you.
Make appeal for yourself. Go to God for yourself. Talk to God for yourself. You are now the great high priest in Jesus[Hebrews 10:20-21]. As He stands in the throne of the grace of the glory of God to lay before our Father our petitions, we need none other, just He alone [Romans 8:24; Hebrews 7:25].
For the years and the centuries, men have tried to block the access of a Christian believer to the throne of God. Priests have tried to use access to heaven for the purpose of emolument, and reward, and stipend, and pay.
The author of the Hebrews says the death of Christ took all that away. Every curtain, every veil, every block, every priest, priestcraft, anything that might stand between you and speaking face to face with God, in the death of Christ, in the torn veil has been taken away. And you can come and make appeal for yourself [Hebrews 10:20].
One of the most pitiful, pitiful of all the conferences I’ve ever had in the fifteen and more years of my pastorate here was an old, broken down scrub woman who came here to see me at the church in the days when my office was back of the auditorium. She told me the most pitiful story I think I ever listened to. A long time ago, her husband had died, leaving her in poverty and in want. And in order to support herself and the children that were left so small, she had taken in washing and she had done menial household chores.
And for years, and years, and years she told me she had taken the living of the labor of her hands and had given it week, by week, by week to a Roman Catholic priest in order that the priest might pray her husband out of purgatory. And in despair at the end of a long life of toil and effort, she had come to me, having listened to me preach over the radio, and said she could no longer work and she could no longer pay. And the priest would no longer pray, and her husband was still in purgatory. And seeking some ray of help and of hope, that dear old broken down woman had come to me to lay her heart before my soul.
I asked her for it’s hard for me to realize, I asked her, "Are you telling me that there is a clergyman, there is a priest, who has taken your money, year after year, by the toil and labor of your hands, to pray your husband out of purgatory?"
She said, "For the years and the years I have toiled. And each week all that I could, I have given it to the priest for my husband that he might be liberated out of the torment, and hell, and fury, and vengeance of God in purgatory."
To me that is one of the most pitiable of all of the conferences I’ve ever had in my life. And yet, though it is seldom here in this enlightened country and in this glorious city, there are uncounted, untold millions and millions and millions who live under priest-craft and in darkness. And the night has settled upon their souls, for in order to have access to God, they must have money to pay a so-called priest to make intercession for them at the throne of grace.
The great summation of this epistle to the Hebrews is this: there is no man to stand in between. There is no veil. There is no curtain. But each one of us can come to God for himself, and we can lay before the throne of grace the petitions that we desire of Him [Hebrews 10:20].
His third great proposition: "And having a High Priest over the house of God" [Hebrews 10:21]. There He stands at the golden altar of prayer, lending His own merit to our intercessions and our supplications [Romans 8:24; Hebrews 7:25]. Then he enters his threefold great exhortation, "Therefore, then, let us draw near" [Hebrews 10:22], second, "Let us hold fast" [Hebrews 10:23], and third, "And let us consider one another" [Hebrews 10:24].
His first great exhortation, "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance" [Hebrews 10:22]. "Let us draw near": if it’s just a doctrine, if it’s just a creed, however orthodox, however splendidly worded, however magnificently the feature is by their permit, if it is still just a creed, just a dead, dry orthodoxy, it will mean nothing in your life, and it will ultimately perish in the church and in its meaning to you. "Come," says the great author, "draw near." Not just an intellectual thing, not just a rational assent but, "Come, come, draw near" [Hebrews 10:22].
A shivering wreck on this cold Sunday night might intellectually know that the vaults in the Federal Reserve Bank here in Dallas are stored with thousands and thousands of dollars. But it would mean nothing to him as long as it is an intellectual, rational persuasion. So it is with our Christian faith. If it is of doctrine only, of creed only, if it is word, and language, and syllable only, it is nothing. Nor shall it ever be not until it takes flesh, and blood, and commitment in you!
"Let us," he says, "draw near" [Hebrews 10:22]. Come; the faith not in word and language but in life, and commitment, and in deed, "And let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for He is faithful that promised, for He is faithful that promised." The whole Book and all that’s in it, the whole record of the revelation of God is to encourage us in it. "He is faithful that promised)" [Hebrews 10:23].
The whole Word and the whole revelation is a promise of God, all of it. The great doctrine of the incarnation is a promise. He came into the world in our body and flesh to save us from our sins. The doctrine of the atonement is a promise. This is how God takes away our sin. The great doctrine of justification is a promise. This is how God cancels the judgments against us. The doctrine of sanctification is a promise. This is how God destroys the power of canceled sins.
All of the stories of the heroes of the Old Testament and the New Testament are promises that we might be see how God was faithful unto them. And the thousands of words in that Book that you label "promises" are for our comfort and our encouragement. "Let us hold fast, for He is faithful that promised" [Hebrews 10:23].
Those promises of God gave rapture to the glorious praise and singing of David. Those promises gave zeal and steadfastness to those first apostles, and martyrs, and evangelists. And those promises, the same Bible we have was their Bible, those promises accompanied the martyr to the stake, and the saints to the dungeon, and the people of God as they went through trial, and fire, and flood, and water, and persecution. These promises and words that are written in the Book of God, that steadied them in the hour of their crisis and trials can steady us today. "Let us hold fast the profession of our faith" [Hebrews 10:23].
I do not know of a more blessed thing in life than to visit the spots of this earth that have been consecrated by the blood and by the lives of the martyrs. Just outside Oxford is a monument where Latimer and Ridley were burned at the stake. Just beyond in the little city of Bedford is the jail where that Baptist preacher [John Bunyan] for twelve long years languished in a dungeon.
There in the midst of Zurich, Switzerland where the Limmat River flows through is the place where Felix Manz, our great Anabaptist preacher was drowned because he believed in water, baptism in water. In the Mamertine dungeon in Rome is the place where Paul languished before his martyrdom, writing his second and last letter to Timothy; and finally to Golgotha, where the Lord was raised between the sky and the earth [Matthew 2:33-35].
We stand at the brink of the same river of life where they drank immortal strength. And we can lift up our eyes to the same mountainous glories upon which they gazed.
The same Book they had is our Book. The same promises they loved are our promises. And the same hope that they embraced and loved is our hope today. "Let us hold fast the profession of our faith, for He is faithful that promised" [Hebrews 10:23].
"And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is" [Hebrews 10:24-25]. Let us gather together in the congregation, there to encourage each other in the faith, in the love, and devotion, and mercy, and goodness, and salvation of Christ.
The ordinance of God lies in the building up of the communion and the fellowship of the faith of the Lord. The church and its testimonies, and its praying, and its singing, and its Bible reading, and its exhortation, and its appeals, "not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together [Hebrews 10:25]. . . let us consider one another to encourage, and to love, and to good works" [Hebrews 10:24].
There’s a place in your lives in the economy and wisdom of God for the services of the people of the Lord.
Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.
We share our mutual woes,
Our mutual burdens bear;
And often for each other flows
The sympathizing tear.
When we asunder part,
It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart,
And hope to meet again.
["Blest Be the Ties That Bind," John Fawcett]
"Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together [Hebrews 10:25]. Consider one another to provoke, to encourage, unto love and unto good works" [Hebrews 10:24].
Then he makes the great remonstrance, and I just mentioned it before our appeal. He speaks first of that awful judgment of God that is coming upon Jerusalem and the type of the great final judgment that is coming upon the earth. "Exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching" [Hebrews 10:25]; that awful judgment of God spoken of by Jesus, spoken of by the apostles. And now this author just before that tragic day happens, exhorting that little band to cling unto Jesus, and to look unto Him in faith [Hebrews 10:29], and to exhort one another to be steadfast as the more, "you see the day approaching" [Hebrews 10:25].
And that day came. The awful judgment of God upon a city and upon a nation that refused their Lord, that did despite unto the Spirit of grace, that counted the blood of the covenant where Jesus was sanctified an unholy thing [Hebrews 10:29].
No to the preacher; no to the appeal; no to the congregation; no to the Spirit of God; no to the Father in heaven; no and the great day of judgment came. And he uses that as a type and a picture of the great judgment of God that shall fall upon those who say no to Jesus, and no to the Spirit, and no to the appeal of the preacher, and no to the love and prayers of God’s people.
Then he comforts them, "But you are not those. You are not those who draw back, who say no; but you are of those who believe to the saving of the soul" [Hebrews 10:39]. And that is our humble, earnest, prayerful persuasion of you. You are not of those who stand facing the city of judgment, and of destruction, and of death. But you are of them who turn to face the celestial city of God, the New Jerusalem, the heavenly home of the people of the Lord, believing to the saving of the soul [Revelation 21:1-3].
Could that same mighty preacher who made that appeal so long ago live again in this voice and in this appeal? Somebody you, turning in faith to the Lord to give his life and trust to Jesus, would you come? In this balcony round, somebody you; on this lower floor, somebody you; out of your seat, into the aisle, and down to the front, "Here I come, preacher, and here I am. I give you my hand. I give my heart to God."
Is there a family you, to come by baptism, or by letter, or by faith, or however God shall open the door and say the word? Would you make it tonight? While our people prayerfully join in the singing of this appeal, if you’ve never given your heart and trust to Jesus, would you do it tonight? If you’ve never stood up before a congregation saying, "I take Jesus openly and publicly as my Lord and my Savior," would you do it tonight?
"With the heart one believeth; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" [Romans 10:10].
"Here I am, preacher, and here I come"; or a family you, to put your life with us in the church. As the Spirit of Jesus shall say the word and lead the way, would you make it tonight? Would you make it now, while we stand and while we sing?
THE GREAT APPEAL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. The epistle glowing with ever increasing fervor – now a flame
B. Congregation wavering between Christianity and Judaism
C. We too have tendency to drift into formal religious ceremonies, indifference, worldliness
D. This same appeal and warning God would make to His people today
II. The threefold conclusion is summed up in three propositions(Hebrews 10:19)
A. We may boldly enter the holiest by the blood of Jesus(Hebrews 10:19)
B. Jesus has inaugurated a new and living way(Hebrews 10:20)
C. We have a great High Priest (Hebrews 10:21)
III. The threefold exhortation founded upon the previous conclusions
A. "Let us draw near"(Hebrews 10:22)
1. Intellectual faith not enough
B. "Let us hold fast"(Hebrews 10:23)
1. The whole Word is a promise
2. Visit the places where holy men poured out their lives unto death
a. The same Book they had is our Book
C. "Let us consider one another"(Hebrews 10:24)
1. The encouragement we are to each other in the faith
2. Hymn, "Blest Be the Ties that Bind"
IV. The threefold remonstrance
A. The awful judgment of God that is approaching(Hebrews 10:25-31)
B. Cast not away your past hope and faithfulness(Hebrews 10:32-36)
C. You are not of those facing the judgment, but who turn to face celestial city of God(Hebrews 10:37-39)