The Unique Son of God
June 5th, 1966 @ 7:30 PM
TRULY THE SON OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-5-66 7:30 p.m.
In our Bibles let us turn to Matthew chapter 27, Matthew chapter 27. And in Matthew chapter 27 we begin reading at verse 46 and read through verse 54 [Matthew 27:45-54]. And on the radio, you who share this service over WRR, if you have opportunity turn in your Bible to the First Gospel, Matthew, chapter 27. We begin reading at verse 46 and read through verse 54 [Matthew 27:46-54]. You have some Aramaic words in there, “Eli, Eli, My God, My God, lama, why, sabachthani, hast Thou forsaken Me?” [Matthew 27:46]. Now let’s read it together, beginning at verse 45, and reading through verse 54 [Matthew 27:45-54]:
Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?
Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This Man calleth for Eliah.
And straightway one of them ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave Him to drink.
The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Eliah will come to save Him.
Jesus, when He had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.
And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;
And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,
And came out of the graves after His resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.
Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.
We have read a portion of the story of the crucifixion of our Lord, and the thought that we shall speak of tonight is the one expressed by this Roman centurion. He was the captain who presided over the execution. The Roman procurator gave to him the assignment of crucifying those three men: two insurrectionists, two malefactors, and One delivered to death because He said He was the Son of God [Matthew 27:43]. And as the centurion who was there watching the execution, and seeing the phenomena of nature, and seeing the death of the Master, in that awesome and terrible hour, he with those who were with him, feared greatly, saying, “Truly this was the Son of God” [Matthew 27:54].
So the thought that we shall speak of is that one that comes to my mind when I hear this explanation of the presiding soldier: “This Man was all that He said He was, unique, separate, apart; the monogenes of God, the Only Begotten, the only one of His kind” [John 3:16].
Now I have two or three things to say of that; and the first one is this: many have suffered in this world. From the days of the curse that fell upon our first parents [Genesis 3:16-19], to this present hour, the story of humanity can be written in tears and in blood. Many have suffered in this world, but the suffering of Christ the Son of God was unique, and separate, and apart [Hebrews 7:26-27]. For one thing, He volunteered the passion and suffering of His atoning grace and mercy in heaven before the world was made [Revelation 13:8].
There is a mystery of iniquity [2 Thessalonians 2:7], into which we cannot enter. Why did God allow, outside of the gate of the garden of Eden, that sinister presence? And why did God allow his entrance to our first parents? [Genesis 3:1-5]. And why has God allowed the continuation of darkness and iniquity through all of the centuries and the millenniums since? There is no answer to our minds. We cannot understand. No one can say. It belongs to a mystery hid in the heart of God. But God knew it. The Lord foresaw it, and all of the aftermath of that tragic transgression. And before it, and all that followed thereafter, the Lord, Prince of heaven, volunteered [Hebrews 10:9]. The Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world [Revelation 13:8] volunteered to make atonement for our sins, that the fallen children of Adam might be saved [Hebrews 10:5-14].
One of the most meaningful passages in the Bible is in the tenth chapter of the Book of Hebrews: “Offerings and sacrifice Thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou prepared for Me. Wherefore I said, Lo, I come, in the roll of the book it is written of Me, to do Thy will, O God” [Hebrews 10:5, 7]. There is no sacrifice for sin apart from the shedding of blood. And a body did God make for the Prince of Glory, fashioned it in the womb of a virgin, and God became incarnate [Matthew 1:20-23]. And in the voluntary offering of Jesus in heaven, in the fullness of time, in God’s sovereign appointment, the Lord came into this world to die for our sins [Hebrews 10:7]. Not by His beautiful life but by His stripes we are healed [Isaiah 53:5].
And He gave Himself to that passion and that sacrifice. He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem [Luke 9:51]. And when He was arrested, impetuous Simon Peter drew out his sword to defend the Lord and cut off, in one of his vigorous flashings of that instrument, cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest [Matthew 26:51; John 18:10]. But the Lord Jesus said, “Put the sword back in its place” [Matthew 26:52]. “If I but ask the Father, He would send Me twelve legions of angels” [Matthew 26:53]. Did you ever consider that? A legion was six thousand men. Twelve legions would be seventy-two thousand. One angel, not two, one angel passed over the army of Sennacherib, that bitter Assyrian surrounding Jerusalem, one angel. And the next morning, when the Assyrian general arose, he was surrounded by one hundred eighty-five thousand corpses [Isaiah 37:36; 2 Kings 19:35]. His army was dead; one angel. Think of seventy-two thousand angels.
He gave His life [1 Corinthians 15:3; Galatians 1:4; Hebrews 10:5-14]. And when they fastened Him to the cross, and passed up and down before Him, and blasphemously mocked, and jeered [Matthew 27:39-41], and dared Him, “The Son of God, ha! Come down from the cross, and we will believe in Thee” [Matthew 27:42]. When I read that, sometimes my spirit rises in me and I say, “O God, Jesus come down from the cross and strike terrifying fear in their heart. Do it Lord!” No, it will not be a man in super-human strength tearing Himself from the wood, coming down. It will be a limp and lifeless body [Matthew 27:46-50], who is taken down and wrapped in a linen shroud, and placed in a cold, still, and silent grave [Matthew 27:57-60]; there to take the sting out of death, and to rob the grave from its victory [1 Corinthians 15:55-57], and to rise from the dead to be our Lord and God [Matthew 28:1-7], triumphant forever, world without end. His suffering is unique, and separate, and apart . It had a meaning, and a significance, and a purpose beyond any other sacrifice in the earth; “Truly this Man was the Son of God” [Matthew 27:54].
A second avowal: the uniqueness of Calvary. It set apart this world, this earth, this terrestrial planet. It set apart this world, unique and different from any other planet in God’s far flung universe. We hear a great deal nowadays about the exploration of space. Most of it, to me is inane. I marvel at men. I cannot understand the thinking processes that lie back of so much that I read. In one little corner of one of God’s galaxies is our sun and its planets. We are just a part of what we call the Milky Way; an infinite series of vast universes. And the Milky Way itself is just a little tiny speck in the vast infinitudes of the worlds that God has flung into space.
And yet, some of these atheist cosmonauts have gone around this little speck of an earth, a little teeny weensy space of about a hundred miles up, and beyond them are billions, and multiplied billions, and trillions of light years away; God’s infinitude! And they have flown above this speck of an earth, a little tiny infinitesimal hundred miles, and then come back to announce to the world there are no angels, and there is no God, and there is no heaven. I wonder if He that sits upon the throne of glory does not laugh at the ineptitude, and stupidity, and gross ignorance of these insects who inhabit this earth. I could imagine that an ant could crawl on a railroad—the Santa Fe going through Arizona—and say, “I hear that such and such is the president of this railroad. Well, where is he? I looked two inches to this side of me, and one inch to this side of me, and one quarter of an inch to the other side of me––the world of an ant––and I don’t see him. Yet they say he lives in a place called Chicago.” The inanity and the stupidity.
And I cannot understand why people speak with such reluctance and dread about the exploration of a little piece of space around us. I’ve never been able to enter into that in my mind. For when the Lord created the man and set him in this earth He said, “Have dominion over the air and earth above you, the created universe above you, and the universe around you, and the universe underneath you” [Genesis 1:26-28]. All of it is in the province of God.
We are to learn; it is just now that we have discovered these ether waves, they were here from the beginning of creation. It is just now we are beginning to discover these marvelous chemicals in this earth like penicillin. They were here from the beginning of creation. It is just now that we are beginning to discover such things as radar, and television, and radio, and the use of jet propulsion. My brother, they were here from the beginning of the creation. It is just now that the fallen man is come to the place where he is beginning to lay hands upon some of the things that God placed in our possession.
And for us to excel in them, and to have dominion over them, and to enter conquest is the purpose of God from the beginning [Genesis 1:26-28]. But oh, to use all of these marvelous and incomparable things that God hath placed before us––and that we are now beginning to see and to understand––to use them as though they were instruments of blasphemy, and rejection, and atheism, and unbelief is unthinkable! And in God’s sight unexcusable, inexcusable, and unpardonable.
For how ever God’s throne may be above the heavens, and how ever the vast infinitude of the world around us, and how ever this glorious creation we see in the starry chalice of the sky, there is one place, just one. There is one earth, just one. There is one planet, just one where Jesus died and made atonement for a ruined and fallen universe [Matthew 27:32-50; John 12:27; 1 Timothy 1:15; Hebrews 10:5-14]. And that planet is called Earth. Jesus died in this world, and this planet is the moral axis of the universe. It is unique and set apart because Jesus died here.
I am sometimes asked, “Pastor, do you believe that there are people on other planets? And do you believe there is life in other places? And could it be that somewhere in this vast universe there are creatures who are moral, and intelligent, and sensitive to God? Do you?” Personally, no, I do not think so. But if they are in this universe, Christ died for them also. All of this universe is destroyed, all of it. It isn’t just this world in which we live. Look at those pictures of the moon; it is a blasted and a rocky and a barren desert. And the pictures we have of these other planets, and every speculation that might in anywise approach truth, shows that the whole universe has been cursed. It has fallen.
Did you ever think, as you read the most loved, and the most learned, memorized, the most precious of all of the words in the Bible, did you ever think, what kind of word John uses here when he says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son”? [John 3:16]. Did you ever pause to inquire what kind of a world is that, that God so loved? Listen to me for a moment. Listen to me. There are three words in Greek used for earth, for world, for this inhabited globe. One is gē, “G-E,” gē; your word geography, a writing down, a description of the world, of the earth; the word gē. The word gē means “land, the earth, the soil, this planet.” But it’s not the word here, “For God so loved the gē.” He did, He loves the soil of this earth. He made us out of it [Genesis 2:7], but that’s not the word used here. Second, there is a Greek word, oikoumenē. Oikos means “family, or a house, or a home, or the people who live in it. Oikoumenē means “this inhabited earth.” It refers to the inhabited world, the world of people, and nations, and families, and souls. You would expect that to be the word used here wouldn’t you? “For God so loved the oikoumenē, this inhabited earth, these people and families, but it’s not the word used here. There is another word in Greek for “world”; it’s kosmos. The Greek word kosmeō means “to adorn, to beautify.” The word “cosmetic” comes from it, to adorn the face, kosmeō. And the Greek as they looked upon God’s universe, saw it so beautifully arranged; the planets by law in their orbits, and all of the starry heavens, and the sun rising in glory and setting in splendor. They came to apply that word “beautiful order, and adornment” to the world itself; kosmos. And they called it a kosmos, an adornment, a beauty.”
And that is the word that God uses here in this John 3:16. “He so loved the kosmos—the whole creation.” It fell in the sin of Satan [Ezekiel 28:15], in a mystery into which we cannot enter, when Satan transgressed and the third of the angels in glory fell with him [Revelation 12:3-4], the whole beautiful creation of God fell with him. And the moon was blasted, and the universes were destroyed, and the earth became chaos, and darkness covered God’s glorious creation [Genesis 1:2]. “For God so loved the kosmos,” [John 3:16], every part of the marvelous work of His hands, not only the people who inhabit this earth, but the whole fallen universe above us, and beyond us, and around us, and beneath us.
And it is the purpose of God to redeem it all, all [Romans 8:2]. And the sacrifice of Christ in this earth was God’s great atoning mercy and grace toward [Ephesians 2:4-8] that final triumphant day, when there shall be a new heaven above us, and a new earth below us [Revelation 21:1-5]. It is the purpose of God to redeem the whole purchased possession, all of it, all of it [Ephesians 1:10-14]. Everything God has done, that Satan has destroyed, will God redeem, and remake, and glorify; kosmeō. It all shall be marvelously adorned, and beautifully restored.
There won’t be any graves in it either; no graves dug on these hillsides. And there won’t be any unbidden tears fall down to stain the ground. And there’ll not be any more sorrow, and pain, and heartache, and death, and tragedy [Revelation 21:4]. And there’ll be no more Satan [Revelation 20:10], and there’ll be no more false prophet, and there’ll be no more antichrist [Revelation 19-20]. But God shall restore in pristine beauty, and wonder, and glory all the work of His hands. And we shall rejoice in His goodness, and His greatness, and His glory. This universe and this earth is in the mind of God. And it was in this place, in this planet that the atonement was made [Romans 5:11].
Now I have one other. I have spoken of the suffering of Christ as being unique, apart, unlike, dissimilar [Matthew 27:54]. I’ve spoken of this planet on which we live, separate and apart, dedicated because Calvary is in this earth [Luke 23:33]. Now I have another so briefly to be mentioned. There is to be a dedication in our hearts for Jesus, that is unlike any other dedication, any other love, any other sacrificial commitment known to the human heart, separate, unique, and apart. And when they dined, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me more than these?”
And Simon said, “Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee” [John 21:15].
And when He repeated it three times, Peter said, “Lord, Thou knowest all things, Thou knowest that I love Thee” [John 21:15-17].
And the last picture you have of Simon Peter in the Gospels is following Jesus unto death; a devotion unto death [John 21:18]. Unlike, and separate, any other spiritual commitment known to the human heart; to Jesus, to Jesus.
I admire the Lord so much. My mind, my intellectual and moral and spiritual sensitivity, vibrates at everything that is of Jesus. There’s a very famous sentence spoken by the skeptic Rousseau, and I dare say no one here has ever heard the context of that famous sentence. I just wanted to read it. Here is an infidel and he writes of the blessed Savior. I quote from him:
What sweetness, what purity in His manners, what an effective gracefulness in His delivery, what sublimity in His maxims, what profound wisdom in His discourses, what presence of mind in His answers, how great the command over His passions; where is the man, where the philosopher who could so live and so die without weakness and without ostentation?
Then the famous sentence quoted all over this earth in every language and literature,
If the life and death of Socrates were those of a sage, the life and death of Jesus were those of a god.
Compare Him with any man that mind could summon to view, any philosopher, any poet, any statesman, any general, any leader. Compare Him with any man who ever lived. He stands alone, and unique, and apart [Hebrews 7:26]. My mind ascends to the superlative grandeur of Jesus. But that is nothing. That is nothing. What matters is, my heart and my soul. This is the Savior [John 3:11-17; 1 John 4:14]. This is God’s Son [John 3:16]. This is my hope of heaven [Titus 2:13]. This is my victory in the grave [1 Corinthians 15:55-57]. This love and mercy of Jesus is the basis upon which someday I hope to stand and see God’s face and live [Galatians 3:20]. My admiration of Him, my sensitivity to His moral, and spiritual, and philosophical, and religious grandeur is as nothing compared to the hope that I have in Him in my soul––unique, and separate, and apart [Hebrews 7:26].
If I were to bow down and call on the name of Socrates, I’d feel so foolish. If I were to kneel and importune the grace and mercy of Alexander, or of Caesar, or of Charlemagne, I would feel so foolish. But when I bow and call upon the name of Jesus, God’s Son, I feel so right. It fits. This is my Lord and my God.
If Jesus is a man, and only a man, I say,
That of all mankind I will follow Him and Him will I follow alway.
But if Jesus Christ is a god, and the only God, I swear
I will follow Him through heaven and earth, the land, the sea, and the air.
[“The Song of a Heathen,” Richard Watson Gilder]
My Lord and my God [John 20:28]; a commitment, a devotion—unique, separate, and apart [Hebrews 7:26]—”Truly this Man is the Son of God” [Matthew 27:54]. Do you believe that?
And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water:
and the eunuch said, See, here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptized?
And Philip answered and said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.
And the eunuch answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
[Acts 8:36, 37]
Do you, do you? “I believe that He is all that He said He was and can do all that He promised to do.” Do you? Do you? Then with us, with us, on this highway to glory, this pilgrimage to heaven, come and join this holy band, God’s redeemed. Come: “Pastor, I’m coming by confession of faith. I give my soul in trust to Jesus tonight, and here I am.” Come: “Pastor, this is my wife and these are our children, my whole family is coming tonight.” Come: a couple you, a one somebody you; I’ll be standing right here. And out of that balcony round, that throng of people, on this lower floor, down one of these stairwells at the front and the back, into the aisle and down here to the front: “Pastor, tonight I give my life to Jesus and here I am” [Romans 10:8-13]. However the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, make it now, make it tonight, come. On the first note of that first stanza, come. When you stand up, stand up coming, and let God see you through. Bless you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.