The Beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
January 19th, 1964 @ 7:30 PM
THE BEGINNING OF THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Mark 1: 1-8
1-19-64 7:30 p.m.
In your Bible let us turn to the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark, and if you listen with us on the radio, you are invited to read out loud with us this Word of the living God; the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark. And we shall read together the first eight verses, and if your neighbor does not have his Bible, share yours with him, and all of us out loud. As it was written to be read aloud, the whole Word of God was written to be read aloud, let us read aloud together the first eight verses of the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark, together:
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As it is written in the Prophets, Behold, I send My messenger before Thy face, which shall prepare Thy way before Thee.
The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.
John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.
And there went out unto him all the land of Judea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.
And John was clothed with camel’s hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey;
And preached, saying, There cometh One mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose.
I indeed have baptized you with water: but He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.
This is the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as it is written in the Prophets [Mark 1:1]. And the title of the sermon tonight is The Beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and you who are listening on the radio, along with the throng of people in this vast auditorium, are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. Our pastor who brings the message tonight and now delivering his soul, this pastor is beginning tonight a series on the life of Christ—and this initial message, The Beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Where did it ultimately and first begin? The gospel of the grace of the Son of God, where was the beginning of the beginnings? Where first did the gospel begin? Was it when Paul preached it as he defined it in the fifteenth chapter of the Corinthian letter? “I declare unto you, I make known unto you, the gospel of Jesus Christ wherein ye are saved?” [1 Corinthians 15:1-2] Did it begin there, the preaching of the gospel of the Son of God? No. No. Where was the beginning of the gospel of the Son of God?
Was it at Pentecost, when Simon Peter delivered the message of the Lord that high and holy hour [Acts 2:14-40] and said, “Ye men of Israel, this Jesus whom you have slain, whom you have crucified, God hath made Him both Lord and Christ”? [Acts 2:36]. Is that the beginning of the gospel of the Son of God, the preaching at Pentecost? No.
Did the gospel begin in the day of the cross when the Lord said, “This is My blood of the new covenant shed for the remission of sins”? [Matthew 26:28]. When He bowed His head and cried, “It is finished,” and dismissed His spirit to God [John 19:30], was that the beginning in the day of the cross of the gospel of the grace of the Son of God? No. It was before that.
Then did the gospel begin in the Prophets, as in Isaiah, standing seven hundred fifty years before the Lord came into the earth, and as though he stood by the cross itself, cried, saying, “This Jesus, this One wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities” [Isaiah 53:5]—delivered for our offenses, as a root out of a dry ground with no comeliness that we should desire it, no beauty that we should want it [Isaiah 53:2]—“all we like sheep have gone astray, and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all” [Isaiah 53:6], as though he were standing at the foot of the cross, seven hundred fifty years before Jesus was born; did the gospel begin in the Prophets? Nay, it was before that.
Then where did the gospel begin? Was it in the heart of the psalmist David who cried the very bitter tears of the cross, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani”? [Matthew 27:46]. “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Psalm 22:1: did it begin there in the heart of David, in the cries and tears of the psalmist singer of Israel? No, it was before that.
Then surely the gospel must have begun in the night of the Passover when the blood of the lamb was spilled, and when it was struck in the form of a cross on the lintels and on either side of the doorposts; surely it must have begun then [Exodus 12:7, 13,23]. No, it was before that.
Then where did the gospel begin? Surely then in Abraham, on the day when he offered up Isaac on Mt. Moriah and when he rejoiced to see the day of the Lord: and he saw it, and was glad [Genesis 22:1-13; John 8:56], surely the gospel began then. No, it was before that.
Then it must have been whispered in the ear of Enoch in the days of the antediluvians [Genesis 5:18-24]. No, it was before that.
Then where did the gospel begin? It began surely in the Protevangelium in Genesis 3:15 when the Lord said, “Satan may bruise His heel, but He, the Seed of the woman, will crush Satan’s head.” Surely that is the beginning of the gospel; nay, it was before that.
Then it must have begun in heaven, in heaven, in a day of all created time and age, in eternity, in the beginning of beginnings. It must have begun when the crown Prince of Glory volunteered to offer Himself an atonement for sin [Hebrews 10:4-15], the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the earth [Revelation 13:8], when the Lord Jesus in glory said, “Lo, I come to do Thy will, O, God” [Psalm 40:6-8; Hebrews 10:7]. Nay, nay; the beginning of the beginnings of the gospel of the grace of the Son of God is before that!
Then where could it have begun? It began in the heart of the Lord God before time was. It began in the existence of God, who never had a beginning. Our minds cannot fathom the mystery of the heart of God. At the center of this universe is God, and in the center of God is redemption, grace, forgiveness, atonement [Isaiah 30:18; Romans 2:4; 2 Corinthians 1:3-5; 2 Peter 3:9], and beyond that, our minds cannot enter. We just look in wonder, and our wonder turns into awe and worship and speechlessness. The beginning of the gospel of the grace of the Son of God in the heart of the Father, in the eternity of the eternities, purposed, elected before the foundation of the world [Ephesians 1:4]; oh, the mystery of the unfathomable depths of the riches of the grace of God in Christ Jesus [Ephesians 1:7, 2:8], “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” [Mark 1:1].
I turn now from the beginning of beginnings in glory to “The beginning of the gospel of the Son of God in this earth. As it is written in the Prophets, Behold, I send My messenger before His face, the voice of one crying in the wilderness; Prepare ye the way of the Lord; make His paths straight” [Mark 1:1-3]. The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ as it is written in the Prophets.
The whole message of God in the dispensation of the old covenant and the Old Testament was with one accord, one great cry and exclamation, “Behold, behold, He cometh! He is coming. He is coming. The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ as it is written in the Prophets” [Mark 1:1-3].
Jacob, Jacob, in Genesis 49, turning to Judah and saying, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come” [Genesis 49:10]. He is coming! He is coming. As Moses said to his people, “After me, God shall raise up a Prophet from among you, and Him shall ye hear” [Deuteronomy 18:15]. As David was promised, “There shall be a Son born of thy seed, who shall sit upon thy throne and shall reign for ever” [2 Samuel 7:12-13, 16]. He is coming! He is coming!
As the prophets repeated Isaiah, “There shall come a Branch out of the root of Jesse, a stem out of his cut down tree, and unto Him shall the gathering of the people be” [Isaiah 11:1]. As Micah said, “Little town of Bethlehem, Judah, there shall He be born!” [Micah 5:2] As Malachi said, “And behold, He whom you seek shall come suddenly to His temple” [Malachi 3:1]. The entire voice of the old age and the old dispensation as it is written in the Prophets: “Behold, He is coming, He is coming!”
Did you ever notice? Did you ever notice that all of the dispensations of God are onward, or upward, or expansive, or progressive? Have you ever noticed that? All of them, all of them are. The entire divine economy is ever onward, and outward, and upward, and forward! The dispensations of God are never backward, never. They are never corrective, but they are progressive and expansive! Like a tree grows out of the root, like the fruit is found in the seed, so the whole dispensation of God is forward-looking, upward-looking, onward always!
When they observed the Passover, they did it with their feet shod, with their clothes in order, ready to move, ready to march! [Exodus 12:11]. That’s the dispensation of God! Even when it observes the memorial in the days past, it is to be done with their eyes lifted up to the glorious future that lies ahead. When we observe the memorial of the Lord’s Supper, “This is My body, eat, in remembrance of Me. This is My blood, drink in remembrance of Me. Achri hou elthe, till He come, till He come,” never backward [1 Corinthians 11:23-26]. And in a memorial that reminds us of a great sacrifice in days past; always with our eyes lifted up, forward, onward, upward; this is the divine economy and these are the dispensations of God, always progressive, always triumphant, always large with the promise of the future. This is God.
So with “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ . . . as it is written in the Prophets,” look. He is coming. He is coming. He is coming [Mark 1:1-3]. The Lord had to make a language so He could speak to us what it was His Son came into this world to do. There had to be a spiritual preparation for the people of God in the coming of our Lord. So the Lord used types, and He used figures, and He used rituals in order that we might understand the nomenclature of the Almighty, so that when God spake to us about an altar, we’d know what an altar is. When the Lord spake to us about a sacrifice, we’d know what a sacrifice is. When the Lord spake to us about atonement, we’d know what atonement is. When the Lord spake to us about expiation, and about propitiation, and about the washing away of our sins in the blood of the covenant, we would understand the language of God. So the Old Testament, the old dispensation types and figures, its altars, and its priesthood, and its sacrifices, and its rituals, that God might teach us a language whereby He could speak to us of the meaning of the coming and death of His Son, as it is written in the Prophets, the old dispensation [Mark 1:1-2].
And the Lord was preparing the world in its government, one great government for the entire civilized world. And the Lord was preparing the world in one language, one great expressive language for the entire civilized world. And the day came, and the day came, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as it is written in the Prophets” [Mark 1:1-2]. What is next? What is next? Eagerly, anxiously we await. What does God do next?
We have seen the great progression of history, of empire, and of kingdom. We have seen the great temples built. We have seen the procession of the priests and we have seen the altar and the sacrifices. And we have heard the flaming announcements and words of the prophets of the old dispensation, “He is coming! He is coming!” What next, O God? What next? Breathlessly, my soul waiting upon its decision, my destiny determined by what God does to save me from my sins. I turn the page. I turn the page and I read the marvelous announcement. This, this that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through His prophets saying, “Behold, behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which is interpreted, God with us” [Matthew 1:23].
This is the opening of the Gospel of Matthew, and I turn to the Gospel of Luke, “The angel said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” [Luke 1:35]. And I turn to the opening of the Fourth Gospel: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth” [John 1:14].
And the opening of the Gospel of Mark, my text, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the Prophets, Behold, He is coming, the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight” [Mark 1:1-3]. And there on the banks of the Jordan River [Mark 1:9-11], under the preaching of the great forerunner and messenger of God, there stands the Lord Jesus, our Savior, the promised hope and redemption of the world; the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God [Mark 1:9-11].
We have spoken of the beginning of beginnings, the gospel in the heart of God from eternity [Ephesians 1:4]. We have spoken of the beginning of the gospel in earth, when the Word was made flesh, born of a virgin in fulfillment of the cry of the prophets and in answer to all of the preparation God had made for the propitiation, for the expiation, for the atonement, for the washing away of our sins in the earth [1 John 2:2].
Now we speak of the beginning of the gospel of the Son of God in our hearts and in our souls [Romans 10:9-10]. The beginning of the gospel of Jesus in glory [Ephesians 1:4], the beginning of the gospel of Jesus in the earth [Mark 1:1], now the beginning of the gospel of Jesus in my soul and in my heart [Romans 10:9-10]. How does it begin? How does it begin? Well, how humbly, how sweetly, how quietly, how meaningfully, how precious.
When Naaman was healed, what was the beginning of his healing? When he dipped himself the seventh time in the waters of the Jordan and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child [2 Kings 5:14], was that the beginning of the healing? No! What was the beginning of the healing of Naaman the leper? When he made the journey from Damascus down to Samaria? [2 Kings 5:8-9]. No! What was the beginning of the healing of Naaman the leper? When the king of Syria gave him permission and gave him a gratuity to go see the prophet in Israel, was that the beginning? [2 Kings 5:5-6]. No! What was the beginning of the healing of Naaman the leper? When a little maid whom the marauding bands of Syria had taken captive out of Israel, when a little maid in the household of the great chieftain said to Mrs. Naaman, “Oh, would to God, would to God, our master might know of the ableness and the power to heal God hath bestowed upon the prophet in Israel” [2 Kings 5:2-3].
Why, I can imagine, I can just imagine when Naaman came home in the evening and his dear wife said, “Oh, Naaman, Naaman, Naaman, you know that little captive girl one of the bands took out of Israel and she helps me in the house? Naaman, she said that in Israel there is a prophet, there is a man of God that can heal a man of his leprosy!”
And Naaman said, “What? What? Is there in the earth, is there in the earth, is there healing for a man whose flesh is corrupting and decaying on his body, who lives in a living death—that in earth, that in earth there’s a man that can heal?”
“Yes,” said Mrs. Naaman, “My little maid told me so.”
Now can you imagine the conversation between that little girl, who was a slave and a captive, and the great chieftain, the chief of staff of the greatest power in the then-known world? And the little maid, a captive slave girl, says to the great military chieftain, “I know. I have seen him. In Israel, in Israel there is a prophet of the living and true God who has power to heal.” There it began. There it began in the humble, sweet testimony of a plain little slave girl taken captive out of the land of Israel [2 Kings 5:2-3].
Where does the beginning of the gospel of the Son of God commence in our hearts? Well, some of you, some of you like Jimmy Carem here, some of you, grown men, grown men, and upon a day there came a pastor to his store and sat down and talked to Jimmy Carem and witnessed to the saving grace of the Son of God. And in that humble testimony of a preacher of Jesus, the gospel began in his soul and in his heart [Romans 10:13-14].
Some of us go back and back and back to the time when we were children, and there, in a home, mother told us about Jesus, or daddy told us about Jesus. And in the pew, seated in the church, the pastor preached to us of the grace of the Son of God and its meaning and its message of love and forgiveness, and redemption began in our hearts. It’s almost always like that. No light from heaven, no angels, no ball of fire, no blowing of trumpets, no fanfare, just God’s blessing upon the sweet, precious, humble testimony of somebody that Jesus saves. Jesus forgives. Jesus heals. And we may take our sick souls unto Him and be well again [Romans 10:9-10, 13]. We may take our dying frames unto Him and be resurrected again. We may take our lost lives unto Him and be redeemed again. We can look in faith and trust to Him and live again. Somebody testifies to us of the grace of the gospel of the Son of God, and the message, the living hope of the Lord, begins in us.
Ah, how sweet, how precious the name and the invitation, the goodness of God toward us in Jesus our Lord, and ours tonight and forever [John 10:27-30]; yours tonight and for the asking; yours this precious, holy evening for the having. While we sing this hymn of appeal, while our people prayerfully wait in the presence of our Lord, you come, one somebody you. You come, a family you. You come, a grown strong man, you. You come, a precious couple you. You come, a little child you. You come, a youth in the strength of the glory of what today can mean, you. As God shall say the word and open the door and press the appeal, make it tonight. Make it tonight, while we stand and while we sing.
THE BEGINNING OF THE GOSPEL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-19-64I. The first beginning of the gospel
A. Where did it ultimately and first begin?
1. The places it did not (1 Corinthians 15:1-2, Acts 2:36, Matthew 26:28, John 19:30, Isaiah 53:4-6, Psalm 22:16-18, Exodus 12:7, 13, Genesis 22:3-14, 3:15, Psalm 40:6-8, Hebrews 10:7, Revelation 13:8)
B. Began in the heart of the Lord before time wasII. The second beginning in the Incarnation
A. As it is written in the prophets (Mark 1:1-3, Genesis :10, Deuteronomy 18:15, 2 Samuel 7:12-13, Isaiah 11:1, Jeremiah 23:5-6, Daniel 7:13-14, Micah 5:2, Zechariah 9:9-10, 14:4, Malachi 3:1-2, 4:2)
B. The divine dispensations looked toward that coming (Exodus 12, 1 Corinthians 11:26)
C. God had trained the world by types and figures – a language God could speak to us
D. God prepared the world in its government and language
E. Then, He is here, the Son of God (Matthew 1:23, Mark 1:1, Luke 1:35, John 1:14)III. The third beginning, in your heart and life
A. How does it begin?
1. Healing of Naaman (2 Kings 5)