The Exceeding Sinfulness of Sin

Romans

The Exceeding Sinfulness of Sin

November 24th, 1963 @ 7:30 PM

Romans 7:13

Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.
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THE EXCEEDING SINFULNESS OF SIN

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Romans 7:13

11-24-63          7:30 p.m.

 

 

On the radio, you’re sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  This is the pastor bringing the evening message, a message from a text found in the seventh chapter of the Book of Romans. And on the radio and here in this great auditorium, if you will turn to the Book of Romans, chapter 7, we begin reading at the twelfth verse and read to the end of the chapter.  The Book of Romans, chapter 7, verse 12, and all of us share it together.  If your Bible doesn’t – if your neighbor does not have his Bible, share yours with him.  And all of us read it out loud together, Romans chapter 7, beginning at verse 12:

Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just and good.

Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid! But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.

For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin.

For that which I do I allow not; for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.

If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.

Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing; for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.

For the good that I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do.

Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.

For I delight in the law of God after the inward man;

But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

[Romans 7:12-25]

 

I have changed the announced sermon tonight and have prepared an altogether different message.  My text is in Romans 7, verse 13, "that sin might become exceeding sinful," that sin might become exceeding sinful.

As with you, I have been aghast at the blood and the murder and the violence of these last few days.  Had I read of this in Vietnam, had I heard of this in the Belgian Congo, had this been purge in the Soviet Union, I would have said, "These are but repetitions of the same patterns of violence we have been following for these last several years."  But to read the dateline in Dallas, and to hear the unending series of comments made over radio and television with the latest report of the bloodshed and the violence in our queenly city, is strange to my ears and an indescribable heartbreak to my soul. 

That brought to my mind the emphasis, the never-ceasing reiteration of the Word of God that human nature is depraved, that we are a fallen humanity.  These are human beings; these are our brothers.  These are people; they breathe our air, they live in our land.  They are fellow citizens of our commonwealth.  We are identified as a race, as a human family, as a people with them.  However a man may extenuate, ameliorate, however a soul may seek to extricate himself from an identity with a sinful and fallen humanity, he will find those same propensities: the darkness and evil and depravity in his own soul and in his own life. 

These old-timers, these old theologians used to speak much and write much and preach much of total depravity, they did not mean by that, that man was as vile and as evil as he could be.  What they meant by the doctrine of total depravity is that a man’s life, and emotions, and faculties, all have been invaded by darkness and shortcomings, and iniquity.  It is the same fallen, reiterated story of all mankind: "There is none that doeth good; no," says God, "not one,they are all gone astray." [Psalm 14:1-3]

This is seen in three ways: one, in the lives of God’s saintliest disciples.  It is an amazing thing to read in the biographies of men, how the more blasphemous and evil and iniquitous a man is, the more that he boasts of his goodness and his righteousness.  But the more saintly and godly a man is, the more the feeling of unworthiness and iniquity overwhelms him.  That’s one of the astonishing things to be found in the biographies of men.  There never was a scoundrel as low and as wretched and as vile as Rousseau. And yet he boasted that he would return to God, a soul purer than God had first bestowed upon him.  Napoleon openly, wantonly, mercilessly boasted of his iniquities before those who were closest to him.  Goethe, the incomparable German poet, wrote his beautiful verse as matters of artistic creation, but his life was sordid and his mind was warped!  These who are farthest from God, these boast of their goodness and their righteousness. 

But a saintly A.J. Gordon, upon his deathbed asked to be left alone.  And being left alone, he spake in such terms of extravagance of the confession of his sins before God, that those who could not help but listen thought the man was out of his mind, "He was delirious!"  But being a saintly man nearing God, felt the unworthiness of his soul.

There never lived a more godly man than Jonathan Edwards and yet over, and yet again, and still repeated, are the confessions of Jonathan Edwards of the unworthiness of his soul, of the wrong and evil of his life, of the depravity of his nature.

There is a reflection of the true spirit of any man in the presence of God.  We have sinned; we belong to a fallen and a ruined race.  That is seen again in the revelation of the Word of God.  The Law was written down.  The Bible was inspired, "that sin by the word of God might become exceeding sinful."

When I reread this story in the second Book of the Chronicles, chapter [34] [verses 14-29], Josiah, who was one of the best kings Judah ever had, Josiah gathered funds for the rebuilding of the Temple.  And as they were refurbishing the Temple – washing it out, brushing it out, painting it, remaking it, opening it again – Hilkiah, the priest, said to Shaphan, the scribe, "I have found the Bible!"  It had been lost in the very house of the Lord, "I have found the Bible!" And Hilkiah the priest placed the Word of God in the hands of Shaphan the scribe.  And Shaphan the scribe came before the king and said, "We have found the Word of the Lord in God’s house."  And Josiah, the king, said to the scribe, "Read it.  Read it."  And when Josiah heard the words of God read, he descended from his throne and rent his mantle in twain and confessed the sins of the kingdom, of their king, and of the people.  The Law of God, the Word of God, will always have that impression upon the soul that reads it: the exceeding sinfulness of sin.

The presentation of humanity is the very direct opposite in the Bible from what the theories – oh, they are so false! – from what the theories of evolution would teach us and persuade us.  These false hypotheses of amelioration declare we improve and improve and improve and improve, until some day we shall be as archangels in heaven!

The Word of God says we have fallen from our perfection in Edenic glory and beauty, and are a depraved and a sinful and a lost race.  And how any man could read history, and how any man could be a partner to the headlines of this modern day and read the violence and the preparations for war, and the wars that our own eyes have seen in this generation, and not be convinced of the Word of God: that we are a depraved and a sinful and a fallen people.

The Word of God, the Lord says, is a mirror.  And as we look in it, it does not create our derangement, and our madness, and our sin.  The law of God, like a mirror but reflects it; we see ourselves written large on the page of the holy revelation of the Lord Almighty.  And what God shows us there – what the mirror reflects there, what God’s Word tells us there – is a story of lostness, and evil, and judgment, and iniquity.  Underneath this thin veneer of culture and civilization are the recesses and the depths of iniquity; a human depravity that is unfathomable and indescribable.  The exceeding sinfulness of sin.

I had a geologist near here in the city of Dallas, point out to me an outcropping of a great strata of rock.  And he said, "This outcropping here of rock that you see goes down into the earth and becomes a vast stratum that is miles, miles in diameter, buried into the heart of the earth."  How small a part it seems compared to the vast, vast, immense substance in the heart of the ground.  Like an iceberg: only [one-ninth] of an iceberg is ever seen above the water line.  Sometimes those great pieces of ice will rise 800 feet up above the level of the ocean, but eight-ninths of it is down underneath: that’s human sin and the depravity of human life. 

The light that plays on the ocean brings light and life, but just to a small part of the surface; down underneath – underneath and beginning at 1,300 feet – all the creatures are blind.  Underneath are the abysmal areas of miles of impenetrable darkness.  That is the human soul, and the human life, and the depravity of the human heart.  As a man fishing – as a man fishing, and he throws in his hook and he pulls out a piece of weed.  Then as he rolls in, reels in the line, that little piece becomes a vast, matted aggregate, rotting on the floor of the stagnant pond.  Touch human life, touch the human heart and see a piece of it, but underneath is the vast depravity of the human soul: the exceeding sinfulness of sin.

We see it mirrored in the Word of God.  I must face it.  We see it last, pictured dramatically in the death of the Prince of Glory, the crucifixion of the Son of God.  Who slew Him?  Who?  Who?

The eternal ages cry: "Who?"  The very corridors of heaven ring with the question, "Who?"  The centuries and the races of humanity cry, "Who?"

"Judas must have done that.  He betrayed Him, he delivered Him. Judas must have done that."  Oh, that unspeakable tragedy, "Judas did that!"  No, "The Jews did that.  The Jews did that.  They arraigned Him.  They accused Him.  They delivered Him.  The Jews did that!"  No.  "Pontius Pilate did that; He sentenced Him to crucifixion.  He placed Him, by Roman law in the hands of the executioners.  Pilate did that!"  No, "It was the Roman soldiers that did it; they drove the nails in His hands and His feet, they thrust the spear in His side – the Roman soldiers did it!"  And through those same centuries and through those same annals of humanity, I hear these cry aloud.  "Judas!"

Judas, "I betrayed Him for money, but I never thought it meant death for Him.  I didn’t intend it.  I never intended it!"  The Jews?  "Oh, no!  Would you bring upon us and our children the blood of this man?  No, no, no!"  Pontius Pilate, "I wash my hands.  I wash my hands.  I am guiltless of the blood of this innocent man, I have washed my hands!"  The Roman soldiers, "We were but men under authority; we did but obey the commandments of our superior officer.  We didn’t do it!"

Who slew the Son of God in that day of unspeakable tragedy?  It must have been we all had our part.  Our hands wove the crown of thorns pressed upon His brow.  Our sins nailed Him to the tree.  Our iniquities thrust into His side the spear of steel.  Our sins glazed His eyes in death and bowed His head in agony.  We all had a part.  We belong to the human race, we are members of the human family and we are a part of the depravity, and the sin, and the judgment of the whole:

Was it for crimes that I have done

He groaned upon the tree?

Amazing pity, grace unknown,

And love beyond degree.

But drops of grief can ne’er repay

The debt of love I owe.

Here, Lord, I give myself away.

‘Tis all that I can do. And as we look in it, it does not create our derangement, and our madness, and our sin.

I had a geologist near here in the city of Dallas, point out to me an outcropping of a great strata of rock. 

The light that plays on the ocean brings light and li

We see it mirrored in the Word of God.  I must face it.  We see it last, pictured dramatically in the death of the Prince of Glory, the crucifixion of the Son of God.  Who slew Him? 

The eternal ages cry: "Who?"  The very corridors of heaven ring with the question, "Who?"  The centuries and the races of humanity cry, "Who?"

"Judas must have done that. 

Judas, "I betrayed Him for money, but I never thought it meant death for Him. 

Who slew the Son of God in that day of unspeakable tragedy? 

Was it for crimes that I have done

He groaned upon the tree?

Amazing pity, grace unknown,

And love beyond degree.

But drops of grief can ne’er repay

The debt of love I owe.

Here, Lord, I give myself away.

‘Tis a

["At the Cross"; Isaac Watts]

 

Our sins bow us before God; our iniquities humble us in t