To Them That Are Lost
March 3rd, 1963 @ 7:30 PM
TO THEM THAT ARE LOST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Corinthians 4:1-10
3-3-63 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the evening message. The title of it is a text in the fourth chapter of the second Corinthian letter: To Them That Are Lost [2 Corinthians 4:3]. And the message concerns what it means to be lost. Let us turn to the second Corinthian letter, chapter 4, and read together the first ten verses. The first ten verses of the second Corinthian letter chapter 4. All of us turn to it, and share your Bible with your neighbor, and all of us read it out loud together. And on the radio, you get your Bible and read it out loud with us. The second Corinthian letter, the fourth chapter and the first ten verses, and all of us out loud now, reading together:
Therefore, seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not;
But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.
But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:
In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;
Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.
[2 Corinthians 4:1-10]
And I hope in the course of the sermon to make it plain how this text is in such a passage as Paul here writes of the Christian, who though he may be troubled on every side, yet is not distressed. He may be perplexed, but he’s not in despair. He may be persecuted, but he’s not forsaken. He may be cast down, but he’s not destroyed. He may live in a body that is dying, but it is a body that houses an inward man that is renewed every day. And when finally it is dissolved, he has an house not made with hands, a building of God, eternal in the heavens. "But to them that are lost, these things are hidden from the minds of those who reject the gospel of Christ by the god of this world" [2 Corinthians 4:3-4].
Now that word there, "If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost" [2 Corinthians 4:3]; in the Revised Version, that word there, apollumi is translated "are perishing." And that word apollumi means "to be given unto death, to bring to naught, to perish, to die"; and in the middle passive tense of it, means "to be lost"; and it is used constantly in the New Testament. "What does it profit a man . . . if he lose his own soul" [Mark 8:36]; there’s that word. "All that Thou hast given Me have I kept . . . except the son of perdition, except the one that is lost" [John 17:12]. In the Old Testament that same and identical word is found in Hebrew abad, and is used – I have many instances of it here that I haven’t time to mention. To be lost is to be perishing, to be brought to death.
Now, why does a true minister of Christ speak on a text like this and on a subject like this? There are two reasons, and the first lies in the nature of sin. If a man had cancer, and he went to the doctor and the doctor said, "Why, why you have nothing particularly bad, this is just a boil," and so he treats it lightly, and the man dies of cancer, would he be an honored and worthy physician? If a man had tuberculosis and he goes to the doctor and the doctor says, "Why, this is just a bad cold. What you need is just a little exercise, and drink a glass of milk extra, and you’ll be all right," and the man dies of tuberculosis, is that the symbol and the practice of a worthy and noble physician?
So the people who belong in the congregation of and in the city of a true minister of Christ, shall he speak of sin lightly? And shall he treat it lightly? God’s Word says there is one end of sin, and that is death and damnation, called "the second death" [Revelation 20:11-14, 21:8]. "The wages of sin is death" [Romans 6:23],"And the soul that sins shall die" [Ezekiel 18:20]. And there are two things, according to God’s Word, that happen to our sins: one, they are borne by Christ and pardon us [John 3:14-18; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 10:5-14]; or, second, we bear their penalty forever in damnation and in hell [John 3:17-18; Romans 6:23]. It is no light thing when the minister faces sin.
Another reason why the true minister of Christ ought to speak of this thing of being lost: it lies not only in the nature of sin, but it lies in the nature of the soul. You see, a man can lose his money and live in poverty all his life, but when he dies, if he’s a Christian, all of the riches and all of the treasures of our heavenly Father are his forever and forever. The fact that he’s lost his wealth, and lost his money, and lost every possession that he had is nothing at all. In heaven the inheritance of all glory is his.
But if a man accumulates money until finally in prospect he owned everything in the world, and he dies losing his soul, then forever and forever and the eternities to come that man is in misery, and in anguish, and in torment [Luke 16:22-31]. And the fact he possessed all of the accumulated wealth of the earth is nothing at all, nothing.
If a man loses his health, and he’s broken on the iron wheel of illness and sickness, and he lives in suffering and pain in this life, and he dies, and he’s a Christian, there’s not any cancer in the grave. There’s not any tuberculosis in the grave. There’s not any arthritis in the grave. There are no blind eyes and no crippled limbs. There’s no sickness in the grave, for in heaven that Christian believing man has a new body, resurrected, glorified, immortalized [1 Corinthians 15:42-43, 51-52; Revelation 21:4].
But if a man has health and strength all of his life, but he dies unsaved, that’s just the beginning not the end. Death and the grave is the end of all sickness. It’s the finish of all poverty. It’s the concluding finality of all of the troubles and trials and tribulations in this life, all except sin. And when the man dies in unforgiven sin, the grave is just the beginning of the eternity of the awful unspeakable anguish of what it is to be shut out from the presence of God. And should not a minister carefully, earnestly, prayerfully speak to his people of these things to them that are lost?
A sinner is lost in this life. He’s lost here. He’s lost now. He’s lost in this world [John 3:16-18]. There’s nothing of prayer open to him. He’s shut out from God. "No man cometh unto the Father, but by Me [John 14:6] . . . And in the name of Jesus, we approach the throne of grace" [Hebrews 4:14-16]. And a lost sinner is shut out from asking God anything. He’s not given his heart to God, he’s not a professed believer in God. He believes in the world. And all of the resources of heaven are shut out to him. He’s lost in this world. Prayer is shut out to him. All comfort is taken away from him.
Just exactly how would you comfort a lost unbeliever? How would you do it? Let me tell you, I live in this kind of a world, and I don’t know anything as difficult or an assignment as hard as to go to a home where there is somebody who is dead, and they’re not Christians, and then have a funeral service, as I frequently do, and try to say words over the fallen still silent form of a man who’s not saved.
Oh, there’s a lot of things you can do! You can go to the home and say, "Well, he was a good whistler. He was sure a good whistler"; you could say that. Or you could go to the home and say, "Well, he wasn’t as bad all the time as he was most of the time." Or, you could go to the home and you could say, "Well, well, of course he wasn’t a Christian, and of course he wasn’t saved, and of course he’s not in heaven, and of course he’s not with God, but he sure was a," and then you could just say, "Well, he paid his debts, didn’t he?" or you could say, "Well, he was a good provider, wasn’t he?" or, "Well, he stayed on the job a long time, didn’t he?" or, "He paid his poll tax," that’s it, "He paid his poll tax every year, and he voted as a good citizen"; or you can just sit down and think of all kinds of things.
But there is no comfort, not unless the man is lying, there is no comfort to the lost, none at all, none at all! All you can say, if you were honest, is, "This man is in torment and in hell. He lift up his eyes, being in a flame of fire" [Luke 16:23-24]; you don’t say that because of the bereavement of the family left behind. I’m just pointing out to you that the man that is lost is lost in this life, in this world [John 3:16-19]. All comfort is shut out to him.
And the fellowship of God, and the fellowship of His kingdom, and the fellowship of the church is taken away from him. Why, he’s not in it. He may be a magnificent philanthropist, and he may be a magnificent civic leader, and he may be a magnificent contributor to many of the things in this lot and life, but he doesn’t belong to the fellowship of God, and he doesn’t belong to the fellowship of God’s people, and he doesn’t belong to the fellowship of God’s church. As far as he’s concerned, these things don’t exist. And if all followed him, they’d die in the earth. A lost sinner is not only lost yonder, but he’s lost now. He’s lost in this life – to them that are lost.
Second thing about a lost sinner: he’s lost in death. He’s lost in the day and the hour of that awful visitor. "Yea, but you don’t know me, preacher; no death is coming to my house. You don’t understand me, pastor, no death is going to cut me down. You’re talking about an ephemeral possibility. Preacher, you’re philosophizing now." Listen guy, I’ve been a pastor thirty-five years, and I’ve never looked into the face of a congregation yet that wasn’t dying, nor have I ever stood in the presence of a man that somewhere someday God didn’t meet face to face in the death and darkness of a life beyond the grave. And you’re no exception. You’re no exception.
You may be smart, and you may be cute, and you may be a whole lot of things dainty and nice, but some of these days you will face that dark and inevitable hour, and then what? And then what? All those cute things that you can think of to say, they don’t amount to much in that time. And all of those happy lightsome tripping things by which you forget and drown this awful and inevitable hour; they certainly are cheap and empty in that inevitable day. A lost sinner is lost in the hour of death. He’s lost then [Romans 6:23; 1 John 5:12].
Now that is exegesis, this passage that I haven’t time to go into. Paul is talking about the trial, and the trouble, and the age, and finally the death that comes to a Christian, a child of God. He speaks of that [2 Corinthians 4:3-5]. And he speaks of it as being triumphant for the Christian. It’s a glorious hour. It’s a precious hope to the child of God [2 Corinthians 4:5-6]. But to them that are lost, it’s an agony. It’s a judgment. It’s a darkness. It’s a death!
Well, how could a man in his right mind, how could even a child who is balanced, how could they choose the rejection and the life of unbelief rather than to look to God in appeal, in forgiveness, in faith? Paul says it’s because "the god of this world has blinded their minds" [2 Corinthians 4:3-4], and they don’t see, they don’t realize, and they believe a lie. They are deluded and deceived by that satanic archenemy of our souls. That’s why they’re lost. That’s why, in facing an inevitable judgment, they don’t turn and ask God for help, for forgiveness in repentance and faith.
Satan changes the sign posts that point to the city of refuge, and they miss the way. Satan tampers with the compass, and out there on the broad expanse of an illimitable sea with the blue sky above and the blue ocean beneath, they’re lost. They have no direction. And they live in darkness and fall into that inevitable darkness for their minds are blinded and lost, and they’re lost.
Some of you here are from Kentucky. I went down there one time to go through Mammoth Cave. They had found the mummy of a girl in Mammoth Cave. The child in the days passed, she looked to be about thirteen or fourteen years old, the child had been lost, somehow had been lost in that terrible, terrible cavern. And there she was, finally, and this is the way they found her: finally, she kind of curled up and buried her face in her hands, and had died in tears and in agony and in darkness and in terror, oh! That’s just a beginning of a slight picture of what God means by that word "lost." Lost, we’re lost in death.
The sinner is lost. The unrepentant sinner is lost at the judgment bar of God [Revelation 20:11-15]. He’s lost in this life. He’s lost in death. He’s lost at the judgment bar of God. I haven’t time in this brief moment to speak of that great and final judgment when the lost shall stand before God, and the great white throne is erected, and the Judge of all the earth shall sit there and shall judge these who’ve said no to Christ.
And I can see one of those men as he stands at the judgment bar of God, and the Lord says, "Search through the Books of Life, and see if you can find his name." And the angel searches through the Books of Life, and his name’s not there. It’s not there. It’s not there. He never turned. He never repented. He never accepted Jesus as his Savior. He never asked God to forgive his sins, and his name’s not there.
And when he’s assigned with his sins into outer darkness, I can see that man as he cries to God, "O God, O God, not that place, not that place! O God, let me plead my cause, let me speak to Thee."
And I can hear the Lord as He says, "Why, speak, you have all eternity to make out your case. Speak."
And the man says, "Lord, You don’t understand, it was like this, it was like this. There were too many hypocrites in the church, there were too many hypocrites."
And the Lord replies, "Did I say anything about hypocrites in the church? What I said was to turn and to look in faith to My Son!" [John 3:14-17, 1 John 5:10].
And the man replies, "Oh, but Lord, You don’t understand. You don’t understand. There were so many churches, and I was confused."
And the Lord God says, "Did I say anything about churches? Did I mention them? I thought I said to turn and to look in repentance and faith to the gift of My Son, Christ Jesus!"
And the man says, "Oh, but Lord, You don’t understand. I didn’t have the feeling. I didn’t have the right feeling, and I was waiting for the feeling."
And the Lord God says, "Did I say anything about feelings? Did I mention feelings? I thought I said turn and look in faith to My Son, who died for the sins of the world" [1 John 2:1-2, 5:10].
And the man says, "Oh, but Lord, You don’t understand. You don’t understand. I was looking for a great experience. I wanted something to come down and pick me up by the hair of the head and to set me in the kingdom of God. Or I was looking for a light or an angel. I was looking for a great experience, Lord, You don’t understand."
And the Lord God says, "Did I say anything to you about a great monstrous experience, alien to the mind of heaven? I thought I said turn and look in faith to Jesus" [Acts 16:30-31; 1 John 4:14-17].
And the angel writes, "Lost," lost, lost, lost at the judgment bar of God, beyond hope, beyond repentance, beyond the blood of Christ, beyond the grace of the Holy Spirit, beyond prayers, beyond tears, lost in time, lost in eternity, forever and forever lost. "To them," Paul says, "to them that are lost hath the god of this world blinded their minds that they should not believe" [2 Corinthians 4:3-4]. It’s a thing Satan has deluded us with. No man in his right mind would say no to God and no to Christ and face an eternity without God.
And that leads me to this last thing. A sinner is lost in this world, lost now [John 3:17-18; 1 John 5:12]. A sinner is lost in death [Romans 6:23]. A sinner is lost at the judgment bar of God [Revelation 20:11-15], and a sinner is lost in torment forever and ever [Luke 16:22-26].
Did you know, it is Jesus, it is Jesus who spoke most and most earnestly, practically all we know of that world of condemnation and perdition beyond the grave, all we know comes from His blessed lips? And He said, one, that it is a torment. "And in torment he lifted up his eyes, and cried, O, I am tormented in this flame" [Luke 16:24]. It’s a torment. It is second a memory and a remorse. And Abraham said, "Son, remember, remember, think of the times you had opportunity to give your heart to Jesus, think of the opportunities you had publicly to confess your life in the saving trust and power of the Lord Jesus, remember" [Luke 16:25]. And third, it is an everlasting fixedness. "And beside all this, between you and heaven there is a great gulf fixed, fixed: so that they that which would pass to you cannot: neither can they pass to us that would come from thence, from where you are" [Luke 16:26], that great gulf fixed, forever and ever and ever.
Any time a man wants to step over the line to Jesus now, all he’s got to do is step over the line. Any time a man wants to confess his sins to Jesus now, all he’s got to do is confess his sins. Any time that a man wants to ask God for forgiveness, all he’s got to do now is to ask Him. Any time a man wants to kneel by the side of his bed, wants to bow his head over his desk in prayer, wants to kneel on his office floor, any time, anywhere, now, that a man wants to name the name of God or call on the name of the Lord, all he’s got to do is ask Him, just cross over. Any time a man wants to be saved, he can be saved now [Acts 16:30-31]. But there is coming a day, there is coming an hour, there is coming a time when there is a fixedness from the hands, and disposition, and word, and mandate of Almighty God [Hebrews 9:27]; and beyond that time, our estates are never changed, forever and forever and forever – and, O Lord, that forever and forever!
Ever since I’ve been a little boy, once in a while I’d hear somebody say an illustration like this: "You know how long forever is? How long eternity is? You know how long it is? If there were a little bird, a little bird, and he came to this earth, and this earth were a solid rock of granite, and once in a thousand years that little bird flew from another planet, and he sharpened his little beak on this earth made out of solid granite, by the time that little bird had worn away this great earth made out of solid granite, by that time, wearing it away sharpening his beak one time in a thousand years, by the time he’d worn it away, one second of eternity would have passed."
O Lord, O Lord! If I’m going to be saved, if I’m ever going to be saved, I must be saved now. If I’m ever going to call on God’s name, I must call on His name now. If I’m ever going to ask Him, I must ask Him now. If I’m ever going to confess the Lord, I must confess Him now. If I’m ever going to turn, I must turn to the Lord now. This is God’s appeal to them that are lost, to them that are lost [2 Corinthians 6:2].
Last Sunday, I don’t know whether you – maybe I didn’t tell you – last Sunday there was a young woman, I baptized her last Sunday night; she came forward at the Sunday morning service. Last Sunday morning, there came a fine young woman, she works down here in one of these big office buildings. There came a blessed young woman. And she cried so when she came. And we knelt and prayed to God. You know what she was crying about? She said, "This week, this week, I had a dream. It was so real. I dreamed that I was at the judgment bar of Almighty God, and I was lost. And I was lost, and I was lost." And she said, "I can’t get away from that dream. I can’t forget it. I can’t put it out of my mind. And I was lost, and I was lost. And I have come to ask God to save me."
You know why that made such an impression upon me? Because I so well, and distinctly, and poignantly remember a day when I was not a Christian, before I gave my heart to Jesus, and one night in the middle of the night I awakened, and I went to the bedroom of my mother and my father, and I was crying my soul out. And mother listening to me sob, said, "Well, son, what’s the matter? What’s the matter?" And I said, "Oh, Mother," I can remember that dream now as distinctly as the day that I lived through it, "Oh, Mother," I said, "I dreamed that I stood at the judgment bar of God, and I was lost. And God shut me away from all of those who were entering heaven. And I was lost, and I was lost."
Well, you know how a mother would do. She put her arms around me, put me there close by her side, said those words of comfort and assurance to me, then asked God for my soul; and it wasn’t long after that that one day at a service in the church, that dear blessed mother behind whom I just happened to be seated at that morning revival hour, turned around and with many tears asked me, "Son, today, today will you give your heart to Jesus? Today?"
"Oh, Mother, yes," I said, "today, today." I lived through all of that when that girl came last Sunday morning and said, "Oh, and I was lost, and I was lost."
That is of the Lord. When God reveals to us that we need a Savior, that sin is sin, and death is death, and judgment is judgment, and these things we must inevitably face, when God reveals these things to us [John 16:8-11], and then He points us to the grace and the mercy that is all for us, ours in Christ Jesus [John 1:14-17], oh my friend, turn, look, repent, ask, kneel, humble yourself. And the Lord will answer. He will hear. He will save you. He will come into your heart [John 14:23]. He will write your name in the Book of Life [Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27]. That’s why the Savior came into the world: for us who were lost [Matthew 18:11; Luke 19:10].
The Lord bless you who’ve listened to this message on the radio. And we thank that WRR man who always lets that radio stay on beyond the time. If you’ve been in an automobile listening, if you’re in your home listening, and you’ve never turned in repentance and faith to Jesus [Romans 10:9-10], oh my friend, do it now. Ask God to come into your heart. Tell Him you’ll give Him your life now and forever. And at the first opportunity, make it known; confess our Lord openly and publicly.
And that’s our appeal to you tonight in this great throng in this auditorium. Somebody you, give his heart to Jesus. "Preacher, here I am, here I come." Somebody who feels the call of God to put his life with us in the church, or to give his life in a special way to the blessed Lord Jesus, you come. Make it tonight. Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.