THIS IS THE GOSPEL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 15:1-4
7-28-63 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the evening message entitled This is the Gospel. In your Bible, turn to the first Corinthian letter. Acts, after the Gospels, Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians; chapter 15; we shall read the first four verses. The first Corinthian letter, chapter 15; the first Corinthian letter chapter 15, verses 1 through 4. This message tonight is an exposition of this part of Corinthians, with a few other passages in this same chapter. First Corinthians chapter 15, together, all of us reading the first four verses:
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures:
And that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.
[1 Corinthians 15:1-4]
That is what Paul defines as the gospel. “My brethren, I make known unto you the gospel; the gospel where in ye are saved, namely, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures: that He was buried, and that He arose again the third day according to the Scriptures” [1 Corinthians 15:1-4].
This is the gospel message that you see in the holy ordinance of baptism. John the Baptist, Ioannes Baptistés, John the one who baptizes, said that he received that ordinance from heaven [John 1:19, 24-25, 33]. All it meant to John was a purification, a cleansing. But when finally we came to know what it actually dramatized, it represented the death, the burial, and the resurrection of our Lord [Romans 6:3-5].
Paul says that, “This gospel I have preached unto you of the death, the burial, and the resurrection of Christ is not something that I invented. It is not something that originated with me; for I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received” [1 Corinthians 15:3]. As John the Baptist did not invent or initiate that holy ordinance of burial and resurrection, so Paul declares:
I did not invent my gospel message, which is portrayed in that holy ordinance. For I delivered unto you that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures:
He was buried, and the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures.
[1 Corinthians 15:3-4]
Any true gospel preacher is just like the apostle Paul. He is merely a mouthpiece. He is a voice. He does not invent his message. It does not originate in him, but he merely declares what God hath affirmed in His Word.
A long time ago, I remember, when the king of England was delivering a message to America, and when the time came for that message to be broadcast throughout the great nation of the United States, to the consternation and terror and horror of the technician, the cable broke through which that message was to be brought to America and distributed through all of the radio stations of our land. For having no time to repair it or to find another cable, the newspaper said that that technician took one end of that broken cable with one hand and the other end of that broken cable with the other hand, and that the message of the king of England that was broadcast to all America came through his body, as he completed the current with one hand and the other.
It is that same kind of a thing that a true messenger of Christ does today. He does not think it up. He does not invent it. He does not add to it. He does not take away from it. He merely receives it and delivers it as God hath written it here in His Holy Book. “For I delivered unto you that gospel, how that we are saved, which is that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures: that He was buried, and that the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures” [1 Corinthians 15:3-4].
Now I want you to see what he calls that message of the death, and the burial, and the resurrection of Christ. He calls it the gospel. “Brethren, I make known unto you the gospel” [1 Corinthians 15:1]. That word “gospel” is an old Anglo-Saxon word, and a good one. In ancient times, in the centuries gone by, a thousand years ago, the Anglo-Saxon word was “godspel, godspel, God’s story”; and it came into our modern English “godspel,” God’s story, “gospel.”
And in the Greek word that it is translated from, it means that same thing; a glad tidings, a euaggelion, eu, good will, aggelos, a messenger; a good news, a good message. For example, in the second chapter of the Book of Luke, I was reading through my Greek New Testament this afternoon, thinking about this message tonight, and I came across that word; and you don’t recognize it. Listen to it: “And the angel said unto those shepherds, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy; which shall be to all people” [Luke 2:10]. You don’t see that word there. This is what it is in Greek. “Fear not: said the angel, for, behold, I bring you the gospel of great joy; which shall be to all people” [Luke 2:10]. The gospel is the good news.
Some people looked upon it with a funereal expression. You get a wrong idea about it. Some people look upon it with disdain as though it were stupid. Some people have no interest in it at all. But to us who receive it and are saved by it, it’s the sublimest news in this earth; the gospel, the deliverance from our sin and our salvation unto God [Acts 16:31; Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4].
Back yonder in the days of the Second World War, all of us who were here in America followed so closely those men who were defending Corregidor. And when finally those men on the Bataan peninsula were crowded into that last stronghold at Corregidor, under the pounding of the Japanese army and air force and their guns, it finally surrendered. And those men were carried on a death march out of Bataan and placed in a prison in the interior of the island.
And after the passing of the years, when MacArthur returned, the first thing those Yankees did, the first thing those American soldiers did was to fight their way to that prison, where those men had been kept since they surrendered on Corregidor. And the story in the newspaper said that when those Yanks stole up there to those gates that were barbed and wired, they took snippers and broke them. And the men of the Bataan death march on the inside, hearing the noise, were filled with consternation. They thought maybe some kind of a final judgment had come from the Japanese military. And when they snipped those wires, and the men on the inside heard those prisoners, those American GI’s, why, to calm them down, the leader of our American group said, “Steady men, steady men, the Yanks are here! Liberty is here. Freedom is here. Life is here!” And when they opened those gates, and those men of the death march of Bataan staggered out, on either side stood our American soldiers, and each man was a hero as he walked through the line, and to liberty, and to freedom. Man, that’s good news! That’s good news.
That’s exactly what it is in the Word of God to hear the gospel message. It’s the grandest news in the earth! Now the message is this, why? First: because we are delivered, we are delivered from the penalty and the curse of our sins. Unforgiven sin damns and destroys and is judged by Almighty God. And all of us in sin, what shall we do? This is the good news, that in Christ all of our sins are taken away. Romans 5:6-8, “For when we were without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: but peradventure for a good man some would dare to die. But God commended His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners,” just as you are tonight, “while we were yet sinners,” as all of us are tonight, “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Second Corinthians 5:21, “For God hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” Psalm 103:
He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our transgressions.
For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that love Him.
As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us.
This is the good news; that Christ hath taken away our sins!
This is the good news; that He has overcome the victory of death and the grave [1 Corinthians 15:54-55, 57]. All that awaits a Christian now is the dissolution of this old Adam; and we exchange it in death for a new and a resurrected and an immortal house made without hands, when God shall give us our immortal bodies in glory [2 Corinthians 5:1]. “This body is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, this old Adam; it is raised a spiritual body” [1 Corinthians 15:42-44], like unto that of the Lord Jesus Christ, when He was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures on the third day [1 Corinthians 15:4]. “If for me to live is Christ, to die is a gain [Philippians 1:21]. “Because I live, ye shall live also” [John 14:19], said our Lord. This is the good news. There’s no victory in death. There’s no sting in sin. “O Death, where is thy victory? O Grave, where is thy sting? Thanks be unto God that giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” [1 Corinthians 15:55, 57]. This is the good news!
This is the good news, that judgment is passed for us! Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus.” John 5:24, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, verily, verily: but has passed out of death into life.” The judgment is passed for that one who puts his life in the trust, and love, and mercy, and forgiveness, and keeping of Jesus our Lord. It is over with. We are pardoned of our sins. God hath given us victory and life and liberty in His blessed name. That’s good news! That’s good news.
The warden of a penitentiary in Ohio said to the governor, “Let us carefully and secretly keep a record of the men in this convict system. And after six months, you come and announce that six of these prisoners are pardoned because of their fine and exemplary deportment.” And the governor acquiesced. And for six months the warden kept careful note of the life and deportment of their men in their convict system. And at the end of six months, they were all gathered together in the penitentiary auditorium. And the chaplain told them why they were gathered there. Six men that day were to be given their freedom. And the governor, introduced, stood up, and he began to make an address to the men. And the chaplain looked into their faces. They were pale in expectancy and hope!
And finally the chaplain stood up and walked to the governor in his address, and said, “Sir, the intensity of expectation and hope is more than the men can bear. Read out your men first. Read out your men first, and then make your address.” The governor acquiesced. So he opened his paper, and the first name he read was, “Reuben Johnson. Reuben Johnson.” And there was no response at all. And he read it again, “Reuben Johnson.” And the chaplain stood up and said, “Reuben, it’s you, Reuben. It’s you!” But Reuben Johnson, who was a life-termer, thought there was another man named Reuben Johnson, and he turned around to see who it was beyond him who’d received the pardon of freedom. And the chaplain said, “Reuben, it’s not somebody behind you or before you, either side of you. Reuben, stand up, it’s you! It’s you!” And Reuben stood up, and came and received his pardon.
And, after the service was done, and the address was made, why, the order was given, and the men stood up and cliqued and started marching out back to their prison cells. And like he’d done for the years of his life, Reuben Johnson stood up to get in line to march out with his fellow convicts. And the chaplain went over there and put his hand on his shoulder, and said, “Reuben, you’re a free man! You’re not a prisoner anymore. You’ve been pardoned, Reuben, get out of that line! Get out of that line.” That’s good news, man! That’s good news.
That’s what we’re talking about in the free pardon of the grace of God in our lives. Man, we’re not in some column somewhere being marched to the great judgment day of Almighty God. The Lord hath delivered us. That’s good news. That’s good news. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus” [Romans 8:1]. “Brethren, I make known unto you the gospel, the good news, wherein ye are saved” [1 Corinthians 15:1-2].
And a last avowal: it is the good news. It is the good news because we are reconciled to God in the death of His Son. Romans 5:10, “Reconciled to God, reconciled to God by the death of His Son.” And that incomparable last part of the fifth chapter of the second Corinthian letter: “God was in Christ, God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the ministry of reconciliation. . .wherefore and whereby we in God’s stead beseech ye. . . be ye reconciled to the Lord” [2 Corinthians 5:19-20]. Man, that’s the good news! God is reconciled to us in the death of His Son [Romans 5:10]. Now we are to be reconciled unto God [2 Corinthians 5:20].
In reading through some of these things of Dwight L. Moody I came across a story that Moody told. As I read it I thought, “Well, it doesn’t quite illustrate the truth of this marvelous message of the gospel of the Son of God, but it does almost.” The only place where it doesn’t quite illustrate it is that God is reconciled to us [Romans 5:10]. It is just needful that we be reconciled to God [2 Corinthians 5:20]. But outside of that one thing it just says it exactly, this story that I read in Dwight L. Moody.
Moody said that there was an English family of affluence and they had one son, one boy growing up in the home. And the boy, being spoiled from the days of his childhood, the boy when he became a young man was willful, and obstreperous, and incorrigible, and wayward, and prodigal. And his father had great difficulty with him. Time and again they quarreled bitterly because of the waywardness of the son.
Upon a day, when they especially and bitterly quarreled, the father said, “Son, you have broken our spirits. You have broken our hearts. You’re not to stay here any longer. Now go!” And the boy in bitterness replied, “My father, I will go, and I will never come back until you ask me to return.” And the father said, “I will never ask you to return.” And the boy said, “Then I will never come back.” And the boy left. And the father wrote him out of his books, and out of his memory, and out of his will.
Mothers don’t quite do things like that. And it grieved the heart of the mother, that one son, and the mother pled with the father, “Send for the boy. Send for the boy.”
“I will not.” And the mother wrote letters to the boy, “Oh son, come back home.” And the boy said, “I will not.” And the days multiplied into the years, and the poor mother grieved and grieved and grieved, and finally came to the last days of her life with a broken heart. And she in the last day of her life pled with her husband, “Send for the boy that I may see him before I die.” And the father said, “I’ll write the boy and I’ll tell him you want him to come.”
“No, no,” said the mother, “he won’t come. You’ll have to say, ‘Come.’” The father said, “I will not.” The mother said, “As a last request, please, please get my boy, please.” And being unable to deny that last request, he got the boy. He got the boy. And when they came into the room, the father stood on one side of the bed with his back to the boy, and the boy stood on the other side of the bed and wouldn’t look at his father. And the mother said to her husband, “Husband, turn, turn. Our boy is here. Turn, our boy is here.”
“I will not.” And the mother said to the boy, “Son, go to your father, go to your father, tell him you’re sorry. It’ll be all over. Do it, son.” And the boy said, “I will not, not until he asks me.” And there they were on either side of the bed, refusing to own a father as a father, a son as a son.
In her dying moments, she reached for the hand of her husband and she reached for the hand of the boy, and putting them together, and holding them together, she looked at one, she looked at the other, and went away to be with the Lord. The husband looked down into the still silent face of the love of his life and the wife of his heart. And the boy looked down into the still silent face of his dear mother. Then they looked at one another. And across that silent form they fell into one another’s arms and wept their bitterness and their hatred away. “Reconciled in the death of His Son” [Romans 5:10].
Oh, when I read it, I thought, “What a moving thing, what a moving thing!” I wish I could have heard Moody tell it. What a moving thing. But as I analyzed the story closely, there is in it a marvelous truth. The only thing that does not reflect perfectly is this. God doesn’t turn His back on us. God is not bitter toward us. God does not exclude us. God does not write us letters saying, “You shall not.” But the heart of our heavenly Father is always extended toward us. “Come,” says the Lord, “Come. Turn,” says the Lord, “turn.” He spoke through the mouth of His prophets, “As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked: but that the wicked turn from His evil way and live: turn ye, turn ye; for why will ye die?” [Ezekiel 33:11]. Always, always, and without variation, the love of God is toward us [John 3:16; 1 John 4:19].
And this is the gospel message of Jesus Christ, that to extend to us that grace of forgiveness and mercy [Ephesians 2:8; Titus 3:5], Christ died for our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3]; He paid the debt [1 John 2:2], and God does not require us twice to pay the debt. If Christ has paid it, then God does not require it of my hands. If Christ died, then I do not have to die [1 Corinthians 15:3]. And if Christ was judged for my sins [1 Peter 2:24], then I am not to stand at the judgment bar of God for them [Romans 8:1]. It is over for me. It is over for me. And now nothing abides and nothing remains but the joy and the gladness of that final rendezvous, when God shall call us in His glorious presence on the other side of the great divide [Acts 10:42].
This is the good news. This is the gospel of the Son of God. Man, turn, turn, look, man, come! [Revelation 22:17]. “Brethren, I declare unto you the gospel [1 Corinthians 15:1]: how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day for our justification according to the Scripture” [1 Corinthians 15:3-4, Romans 4:25]. Would you come? Would you turn? Would you believe? Would you be reconciled to God? Would you trust? Would you accept? Would you do it now? Tonight? “Preacher, here I come, best my heart knows how I trust in Jesus as my Savior [Acts 16:31]. Best I can, I take the Lord into my soul and heart and life, and here I am. Here I come.” “Pastor, there’s a family of us. There’s a family of us. We have a boy down here in the church. We have a child down here in the church, and we’re coming to put our lives with God’s people in the circle of His church.”
Would you come? Would you come? “Preacher, I have never been baptized like it says in the Book [Matthew 28:19-20], buried with the Lord in the likeness of His death, raised with the Lord in the likeness of His resurrection [Romans 6:3-5]; and I am coming, I am coming to be baptized as it says in the Book.” As the Spirit of the Lord shall open the door, shall say the word, shall lead in the way, will you come tonight? On the top part of that farthest row in the balcony, down a stairway, “Here I come, preacher, and here I am.” From the throng on this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front, “Here I am, preacher, and I make it tonight, gladly, gladly, trustingly, lovingly looking to God [Ephesians 2:8]. Here I am and here I come.” Would you do it now? Make it tonight, while we stand and while we sing.