The Alpha and the Omega
August 4th, 1963 @ 8:15 AM
THE ALPHA AND THE OMEGA
Dr. W. A. Criswell
8-4-63 8:15 a.m.
You are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message, the second chapter of 1 Timothy and to the sixth verse. The whole sentence reads like this:
For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus;
Who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.
[1 Timothy 2:5-6]
One of the great, great sentences found in the Word of the Lord; this Lord’s Day morning we speak of the second half of that sentence: “Jesus, the ransom for our souls, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” [1 Timothy 2:6].
I would think, most certainly, that when Paul wrote that sentence he was very conscious of the strife and controversy which would rage then, and maybe unknown to him but certainly historically true, has raged through all the centuries about this text. It has in it a very plain and explicit pronouncement. No child would stumble at the meaning of these simple words; it is most evident, clear, lucid, apparent what the man says.
The controversy arises over whether or not we receive what the inspired apostle Paul writes to his young son in the ministry. Is there any approach to God except Jesus? Paul says no. “There is one God, and one Mediator, one approach to God, one approach of God to men: through the Man Christ Jesus” [1 Timothy 2:5]. Never a plainer doctrine could be written down than that. There is no approach to God except through Jesus Christ. That eliminates all the suitors that you find in chancels and churches and cloisters, all the images, all the saints, all the mediatrixes, all are brushed aside. There is no approach to God but through that Man of God, Christ Jesus, none at all, not according to the Word of the Lord. “There is one God, there is one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” [1 Timothy 2:5]. If we talk to God, if we pray to God, if we importune God, if we ask of God, if we plead with God, we must approach God through Christ our Lord. There is no other avenue, no other way, no other line of communication, there is no other mediator; it is that Man Christ Jesus.
Now the second half of that sentence is no less fraught with deepest, profoundest meaning. How is it that a man is saved? How can a man be saved? And over that also, I repeat, controversy has raged through the centuries. But not over what the Book says, not over what the Bible means; the controversy rages over whether or not men accept it. Now in the message this morning, I have made it in two parts. The first part is a delineation, a calling to mind, of what the Bible says, what God says how a man can be saved. Then the other part, the last part, is the controversy concerning it.
Now there is no question about the meaning of the word of Paul when he writes here that “Jesus Christ gave Himself a ransom for us” [1 Timothy 2:6]. There are two Greek words that make up what is translated here “a ransom for”; and those two words are very plain. And we’re going to look at them in the Bible, and as we look at them, the doctrine, the how of our salvation, will be very apparent. Now the Greek words that Paul uses here, “Christ gave Himself a ransom for all,” antilutrōn, antilutrōn huper pantōn, antilutrōn huper pantōn,” translated here “a ransom for.” That is almost like a word from Christ our Lord Himself in the twentieth chapter of the Book of Matthew, and the twenty-eighth verse, “Even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many [Matthew 20:28], dunai, to give, tēn psuchēn, His soul, tēn psuchēn auton, to the soul of Him, His soul.” “God shall see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied” [Isaiah 53:11]. “He poured out His soul unto death” [Isaiah 53:12].
A young man asked me this last week, “How is it that physical suffering, the body and blood of Jesus, could wash away spiritual sin?” I said, “I do not think that you have said it all.” The blood, and as we continue in the sermon it will be most apparent, the blood is a sign, a symbol of the pouring out of the essence of being; “He poured out his soul unto death” [Isaiah 53:12]. And the blood was a picture, an outward sign of the pouring out of His life. And the Greek here says “soul,” psuchē, “soul,” bios, “life,” zōos, “life,” psuchē, “soul,” dunai, “to give,” tēn psuchēn auton, “to the soul of Him.” Now these two words again: “Lutrōn huper panto, to give His life a ransom for, a ransom for, lutrōn huper pantōn, for all” [Mark 10:45; 1 Timothy 2:6].
Now we have two words there that both Jesus and Paul used to refer to what Jesus has done for us to save us. So, all we have to do is to take those two little Greek words, anti and lutrōn, and look at them through the Bible. And when you see what those two words mean, you have it exactly what Jesus did for us to save us. Now let’s take the first one, anti. Anti is a preposition of exchange, of substitution, of price. It never means anything else; there is no deviation from it. Anti, anti, means “a substitute”; it means “an exchange,” means a thing like a man would purchase, like he’d repurchase, redeem, like he’d pay for to possess. Now, for a moment, we look at it in the Book. In the second chapter of the Book of Matthew, and in the twenty-second verse, “But when Joseph heard that Archelaus did reign in Judea, anti his father Herod, when Joseph heard that Archelaus reigned in Judaea anti,” you have it translated here, “in the room of his father Herod.” You know what it means: instead of [Matthew 2:22], in place of, a substitute for. “Archelaus reigned anti his father Herod, instead of.” All right, another passage; in the sixteenth chapter of the same Gospel of Matthew, in the twenty-sixth verse, “What is a man profited, if he gained the whole world, and lose his own soul? [Matthew 16:26]. Or what shall a man give antallagma, for his soul? What would a man give in exchange for his soul?” No deviation from that; always it means “instead of, in exchange of, in substitution for.” It’s the preposition of price, of purchase.
In the eleventh chapter of the Book of Luke and the eleventh verse, “If a man has a son, and the son shall ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he anti a fish give him a serpent?” [Luke 11:11]. You have it translated here “for”; “If he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Will he anti a fish, give him a serpent? Will he instead of, in exchange, in substitution give him a serpent?” Anti, never any deviation from it. In the twelfth chapter of the Book of Hebrews, and the second verse, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who anti the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despised the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God [Hebrews 12:2]. Who anti the joy,” anti, as the price of, “looking unto Jesus, who as the price of the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” So, there is no doubt of the meaning of that little Greek preposition anti: it means “instead of,” it means “in exchange for,” it is a preposition of price [Hebrews 12:2].
Now, without deviation, the Word of God presents the death of Christ as a price, a blood-bought price of the redemption of our souls [1 Peter 1:18-19]. Paul would sometimes say, “Ye are not your own; ye are bought with a price” [1 Corinthians 6:19-20]; a purchase, a substitution. In the second chapter of 2 Peter, in the first verse, Peter describes some there “who deny the Lord who bought them” [2 Peter 2:1]; bought with a price. And that picture, these Gospel writers in the Bible uses, of that substitution, is the pouring out of the soul and the blood and the life of the Son of God. Dunai, “to give,”tēn psuchēn auton, “to the soul of him,” Lutrōn “a ransom,” anti, “instead of, for a purchased price, you” [1 Timothy 2:6]
You have there the, all of those types and symbols of the Old Testament sacrificial Levitical system. The animal was not a sacrifice till the purple stream ran down the sides of the altar, until the body was laid in the fire upon the wood. And that animal sacrifice, with its blood poured out at the base of the altar and the body consumed in fire on the wood [Leviticus 4:4-10], that was a Bible picture of the substitution, the “instead of” the man who had sinned in his soul. And as they went along together, Isaac, who had seen his father worship God through blood many times, said, “Father, here is the wood, and here is the fire, but where is the lamb?” And Abraham replied, “My son, my son, God will provide Himself,” and the Hebrew is very distinctly singular, “a lamb” [Genesis 22:7-8]. God will provide Himself a lamb for the sacrifice—the substitution, instead of. He poured out His soul instead of your dying and your condemnation and your suffering. No doubt about the meaning of that little preposition “instead of”; a substitution [Hebrews 12:2].
Now let’s take up that second word. I said there were two of them that form that translation “a ransom for” [1 Timothy 2:6]. That other little word is lutrōn, lutroō, lutroō is a very simple word meaning “to redeem, to purchase, to ransom by paying a price.” And lutrōn is the price. Lutroō is “to purchase, to ransom, to redeem by paying a price”; and lutrōn is that ransom price, the purchase price [1 Timothy 2:6]. Now, we look at the Book, just for a minute, on that word. You have it translated in your Bible “redeemed”; but the word is lutroō, “to pay a price, a ransom price, to buy, to purchase, to redeem, to recover.” In the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Luke, and the twenty-first verse, they’re talking about Jesus who had died, and in whom they had every hope: “We trusted that it had been He which should have lutroō Israel,” and you’d have it translated there “redeemed”; “We trusted, we had hoped it was Jesus who should have lutroō, purchased a ransom, Israel,” translated “redeemed” [Luke 24:21]. Over here in Titus, the second chapter and the fourteenth verse, “looking unto Jesus, who gave Himself for us, that He might lutroō, redeem us,” you have it translated, “from all iniquity” [Titus 2:14]. Pay a purchase price, buy us back, a ransom, lutroō; you call it here “redeem” [Titus 2:14].
Now in the first letter of the apostle Peter in the first chapter and the eighteenth verse, “As ye know that ye were not lutroō with corruptible things, as silver and gold…but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” [1 Peter 1:18-19]. Lutroō, you have it translated there “redeemed.” But lutroō means “to pay a ransom for, to purchase back.” Now, that word “purchase” is actually used in the fifth chapter of the Revelation, and the ninth verse, “And they sang a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” [Revelation 5:9], and the word there is “purchase,” agorazō, “redeem.” “Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us, purchased us to God by Thy blood” [Revelation 5:9].
So, your little Greek word anti, “instead of, a substitution,” and the word lutrōn, lutroō, which means “to pay a ransom for, to buy, to purchase” [1 Timothy 2:6]. Just like the figure, the type, in the redemption money in Israel, all of the firstborn in Israel who were males belonged to God, and their life was forfeit, and they were redeemed by a piece of silver, redemption money; the rich paid no more, the poor paid no less, all of them paid alike [Exodus 13:12-13]. And when the redemption money was paid, then the life that was forfeit was brought back, and these for whom the money had been paid were enrolled as the redeemed of the Lord. They were the purchased of God; they were bought unto God [Numbers 18:15-16]. For one not to be redeemed was to be cut off from Israel. A slave that had been sold could be redeemed, could be purchased back, a ransom paid for him, and the slave could be free [Deuteronomy 15:12-18]. So the picture is of our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave His soul a ransom [Mark 10:45; 1 Timothy 2:6], a purchase for us; and we who follow Him are the redeemed of the Lord. We are the blood-bought of the Lord. We belong to Him; He paid for us with a price [1 Peter 1:18-19]. We don’t belong to ourselves; we belong to God, who loved us and gave Himself for us [Ephesians 5:2; Galatians 2:20].
I read this week of the strangest parade. It was a funeral, happened a long time ago here in America. A great and famous physician had died. And after the memorial service, they were describing in this article I read, the trip out to the cemetery, which used to be quite a thing; we’ve gotten away from most of that now. But a long time ago, this physician died, and immediately behind the funeral car, there marched sixty pall bearers. Every one of the sixty owed his life to the man, the physician, who had died. And behind those sixty pall bearers there marched eight hundred other people whose ableness to walk and to be in the line they owed to the physician in the funeral car. And behind those eight hundred were two hundred ninety-three carriages of people whose lives had been saved by that physician. And behind those carriages it described a multitude who were walking in gratitude to what that physician had done in his ministrations to the sick, to the ill, to the crippled. And as I read that, and I could just see in my mind, there that hearse going by, and behind those hundreds and hundreds of people who had been given life and recovery and health by the genius and the dedication of that beloved and wonderful physician. And then my mind, as you would know, turned immediately to the great entrée that someday Jesus shall have in heaven, when He is followed by all of His redeemed people. Just think of it. Christ at the head of His blood-bought throng. Oh, what a redemptive glory!
I dreamed that hoary time had fled;
The sea and earth gave up their dead
The fire dissolved this ball
I saw the church’s ransomed throng;
I caught the burden of their song
‘Twas this: that Christ is all.
[from “Christ Is All,” W. A. Williams]
Lutrōn, a payment, a buying back; anti, instead of.
Now for just a moment, let’s put the two words together, antilutrōn; and Paul does it here in this text. “Who gave Himself a ransom for all of us, antilutrōn, a ransom, a price, a purchase, instead of” [1Timothy 2:6]. So what he says is this: our Savior has poured out His soul and His life instead of the payment God demands from us for our sins [Romans 6:23]. What the Bible pictures is this: no man shall escape the penalty of sin. There is no such thing in this Book as a man being forgiven by the naked mercy of God. Every sin demands its penalty. There is no such thing in the Book as forgiveness without suffering, without penalty, without paying the price of the sin. God’s government is everlastingly and eternally and always to be honored. “The soul that sins shall die” [Ezekiel 18:4]. And there’s no escape from that iron chain. “The wages of sin is death” [Romans 6:23]; God made that in the beginning! [Genesis 2:17]. And that iron chain is unbroken forever: sin and death! However man may plead the mercy of God, and however a man may plead his own righteous reformation, if he has sinned he dies. There’s no such thing as forgiveness without payment and without penalty. And those little words antilutrōn mean that the penalty, which for us would be eternal damnation, torment, excommunication, hell, fire, shut out from the presence of God, in darkness forever and ever, for us it means damnation, for Christ it meant our suffering substitute: He poured out His soul unto death for us [Isaiah 53:12; 1 Timothy 2:6]. He paid the penalty and the price of our sins for us, in our stead. He is our substitute [Romans 5:8]. And God says He does not require the penalty to be paid for twice. If Jesus pays it, then I’m free. If Jesus doesn’t pay it, then I pay it with my soul in hell. If He pays it, He doesn’t ask it twice; I’m free.
I could imagine a poor widow, whose home was mortgaged at the bank, and she couldn’t pay it, and a great, gracious, benevolent, philanthropically minded man came by and said, “Here, Mr. Banker, I pay this mortgage. And the debt’s closed. It’s all paid.” The poor widow goes up there to the bank expecting to lose her house and her home, and the teller says, or the president says, “Why, the debt’s paid.” What would you think of the banker if he said to the poor widow, “The debt’s paid by your friend, but you have to pay it again.”? Why, it’s unthinkable; it’s unthinkable.
I talked to a man this last week, for whom some of us had prayed for so many years. He’d been in prison twenty years and over. And as he sat down by my side, he said, “I have paid the debt I owe society.” Over twenty years of his life—went in when he was thirty – now he’s over fifty. Who would stand up to say he must pay it again? The debt’s paid. God doesn’t require it twice. And that’s what Paul means here when he says that, “Jesus Christ was God’s substitute for us”; and when He died, we who trust in Him have our sins paid for, washed away, forgiven, for Jesus’ sake. “He gave Himself a ransom for all” [1 Timothy 2:6].
Now, I have just a few minutes for what ought to take an hour. You will not see that as definitely as when you see it by contrast. I speak now of the controversy that has raged around that doctrine through the centuries. The controversy is this: is a man saved, can a man be saved without atonement, without paying the penalty of sin? Can a man be saved by inward enlightenment, by the cultivation of the nobler faculties? What is the answer of the Book? The answer of the Book is this: if you were to take a red pencil and go through the pages of this Bible and mark in red every passage that describes the sacrifice by blood, and the atonement of sins by offering, if you were to mark in red the witness of the Scriptures, that we are saved by the mediation of the cross of Christ, you’d hold a crimson Book in your hand. It’d be red, red, red, scarlet, scarlet, from cover to cover.
What do you think? What do you think? Did Jesus Christ come as a Greek philosopher, to be a light to lighten the Gentiles and to be the crown of the glory of Israel? What do you think? Whom do you think the people went out to see and to hear? A great prophet, the last and the greatest? Do you think He stood as a man, calling men to come to God, like any other preacher, like any other messenger, like any other harbinger? What do you think? Do you think the death of Christ was the sport of destiny, a cruel providence, or a noble martyrdom for truth? If you believe that men can be saved by the cultivation of their noble faculties, if you think men can be saved by fanning the divine spark that burns on the inside, if you think men can be saved by the encouragement to follow the alluring path of holiness, then Jesus stands as a great teacher and that’s all, as a great preacher and that’s all, as a great example and that’s all, calling men to the ennoblement of their finer instincts. But, if you’re like some of us, and you know what it is to wrestle with depravity and sin, and if you look on the inside of the human heart and see there all of those dark things that belong to human nature, what can wash such stain away? What can turn such bias to evil? You’ll say, “The Lord came not to be just another teacher, not just to be the enlightenment of our nobler faculties,” but you’ll say, “He came into the world to die for sinners; of whom I am chief” [1 Timothy 1:15].
“This is the blood of the new covenant, shed for the remission of sins” [Matthew 26:28]. This is the Lord who made atonement for us in His sufferings on the cross [1 Peter 2:24].
Through all of these centuries that great cleavage is always apparent. In the days of the first church, there were those, the Judaizers, who said, “A man is not saved by looking to Jesus alone, he must also keep the works of the law” [Acts 15:1-5]. Then in the century that followed, the Gnostics arose saying, “You don’t need to be saved by looking to Jesus; you need to be saved by that superior gnōsis of which we are able to impart. Then the centuries passed, and you had the days of the Great Reformation, when Martin Luther, climbing up the Scala Sancta on his knees, doing obeisance and homage to the images of Rome, stood up, walked out, began to preach, “The just shall live by faith [Habakkuk 2:4;Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11], by looking to Jesus. You had it in the days of John Wesley, when the word “grace, redemption” had fallen out of the vocabulary of the pulpit preachers. They called them back, “Flee the wrath to come” [Luke 3:7] by trusting in the blood of the Son of God. And you have it today; and you have it today—all over this world are learned, cultured theological preachers, who stand up and preach, and they say, “All that you need, all that you need is to follow after holiness, strive after righteousness, follow the alluring and charming path of the evolution of these nobler sensibilities. Just be like God. Fall in love with Jesus and emulate Him.”
But what do you do with that old time doctrine of total depravity? Not that men are as bad as they could be, but that human sin and error has entered every faculty of the human soul, and life, and heart, and mind. What do you do? Strive, fight, endeavor, achieve, run, but every one of those words just call my attention back to past failures and past sins. What do you do? How are you saved? By being good and then better, then finally best. O Lord, the Book says, by being washed in the blood of the Lamb [1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5], in the atoning sacrifice of Christ [Matthew 27:32-50; Romans 5:11].
What can wash away my sins?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
[“Nothing But the Blood,” Robert Lowry]
There’s a fountain filled with blood,
Drawn from Emmanuel’s veins
And sinners plunged beneath the flood,
Lose all their guilty stains.
[“There is a Fountain,” William Cowper]
I might be good, but I can never be good enough. I might try, but my trial would never be able enough. I cannot save myself. I must look to Jesus: God’s all sufficient sacrifice, His substitute [2 Corinthians 5:21]. That’s the gospel. Redeemed by the cross, saved by the blood [1 Peter 1:18-19], regenerated by the Spirit [Titus 3:5], trusting Jesus [Acts 16:30-31], the ransom paid for our souls [1 Timothy 2:5-6]. And that’s the appeal we make in this hushed and solemn moment.
Somebody you, turn aside from his own efforts and look in faith to Jesus [Romans 10:9-13], not believing like Jesus, but believing in Jesus; not following Jesus’ example, but trusting Jesus as Savior. If somebody you this solemn morning’s hour will give your heart to Christ, into the aisle, down to the front, would you come and stand by me? Maybe today you ought to put your life in the church. In these stairwells, front and back, coming down, stand by me. As the Spirit of God shall lead the way, into the aisle and down to the front, “Today, I look in faith to Jesus [Ephesians 2:8]; all my goodnesses I repudiate, I look to Jesus, I trust in Him. I’ll take Him as my Savior.” While we sing this song, “There’s a Fountain Filled with Blood,” on the first note of that first stanza, would you come?