The Sinner and the Sacrifice on the Cross
March 24th, 1967 @ 12:00 PM
IN DEFENSE OF THE FAITH:
THE SINNER AND THE SACRIFICE ON THE CROSS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 15:3
3-24-67 12:00 p.m.
Today we conclude. We finish the forty-eighth consecutive year that our dear church has conducted noonday pre-Easter services in a downtown theater. For twenty-five years the illustrious and far-famed pastor of the First Baptist Church, Dr. George W. Truett, conducted these services. And this is now the twenty-third year that I have conducted them. Dr. Truett was pastor of the First Church here in Dallas for forty-seven years. And doubtless these Palace Theater services will be the only opportunity for me to exceed him in the years and the years of his ministry.
The gratitude that I would express to those who make these services possible, would be beyond what I could say in syllable or in sentence: to KRLD and Fritz Kuler, and Paul and Bessa Short, in those television programs they presented, preparing for this week, in the radio stations that announced the services, and of course above all to Ted Steinberg, the manager of the Palace Theater, and the interstate circuit for their wonderful and unusual kindness to us.
Now remember that as I deliver the message, it is done during a busy lunch hour. Some of you can stay a few minutes. Some can stay half-way through. Some will have to leave just before the benediction. And all of us understand, and most of all do I. You will not bother me at all when time comes that you must leave, you feel free to go.
The theme of the services this year has been "In Defense of the Faith." Monday it was The Atheist and the Reality of God. Tuesday it was The Liberal and the Deity of Christ. Wednesday it was The Communist and the Living Church. Yesterday it was The Materialist and the End of the World. And in keeping with that theme, the subject today – Friday, the day our Lord was crucified – the subject today is The Sinner and the Sacrifice on the Cross.
One time in the Bible is the gospel defined; explicitly, plainly, simply. It is the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, and it begins:
Moreover, my brethren, I declare unto you, I make known unto you,the gospel wherein ye are saved,For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ was crucified for our sins according to the Scriptures,how that Christ died for us –
in behalf of us –
how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.
[1 Corinthians 15:1-3]
There are two kinds of Christianity. There is a Christianity of social improvement and personal amelioration. In that kind of Christianity Jesus is preached as a great leader, a noble humanitarian, a magnificent reformer, a philanthropist, and a teacher, and philosopher. If the disciples of that kind of Christianity speak of salvation, they mean by the term, "personal and social improvement and amelioration."
They would say that Confucius was a great teacher, adding to the social order. Socrates was a great teacher, adding to the social order. Aurelius and Justinian were great teachers, adding to the social order. Jesus is a great teacher, adding to the social order. This is the Christianity that is almost exclusively known in the pulpits and in the academic circles of America and the western world. It is a social, ameliorating, reforming Christianity.
There is another kind of Christianity however: this is a redemptive Christianity. And it preaches that God in heaven in His mercy looked down upon a lost and dying people. And in God’s grace and in God’s mercy [Ephesians 2:8], God Himself came down in human flesh and was made in the likeness of a man that He might offer an atonement [Philippians 2:8], a sacrifice for our sins that we might be saved [1 Corinthians 15:3], that we might be delivered from the power of death [Hebrews 2:14], that we might see God’s face someday and live [1 John 3:2], that we might have eternal life [John 10:27-28]. That is redemptive Christianity.
In the first type of Christianity, that of social amelioration, the death of Christ is incidental, though possibly very moving. But in the second type of Christianity the death of Christ is central and around that expiation for our sins, all the other doctrines do cluster. In the first type of Christianity – that of social improvement – if you took away the death of Christ, it would make no difference. In fact, their theological leaders would like to be done with the cross and they purge out of the hymn books songs about the blood and atonement. And they refer to "that kind of Christianity" as a religion of the shambles and of the butcher shop.
But in the second kind of Christianity, that of redemption, the cross and the atoning death of Christ is central and without it we are still in our sins; we are lost and dying. Of those two kinds of Christianity, which is the Christianity of the Bible? Without exception, it is the Christianity of the cross. The cross, in all of its naked hideousness as the Romans would have it, in all of its philosophical irrationality as the Greek would have it, in all of its offense and shame as Paul describes it, "Brethren, I make known unto you the gospel, wherein ye are saved; for I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received; how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" [1 Corinthians 15:1-3].
First of all, not in time but in importance, "I delivered unto you first of all" [1 Corinthians 15:3]. As there is a first and a second great commandment in the law [Matthew 22:36-42], so there is a first and other doctrines in the Christian faith. There is the doctrine of the fatherhood of God, there is the doctrine of the kingdom of heaven, there is the doctrine of the incarnation; but out of all of the many doctrines that are presented in Christian theology, there is no doctrine that is as centrally dynamic, as significantly meaningful as the doctrine of the atonement for our sins. "First of all, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" [1 Corinthians 15:3]. This is the great central teaching of the Christian faith.
As in the Roman Forum, there was a golden milestone. And from that milestone, all of the Roman roads were numbered. And the milestones were placed clear to the ends of the empire. "All roads lead to Rome," or from that golden milestone, all roads poured out to the ends of the civilized world. So it is in the Christian faith: the great, central doctrine is the death of the Son of God, offered as a sacrifice, an expiation, an atonement for our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3].
The greatest preacher our people have ever produced was Charles Haddon Spurgeon of the last century in London, England. And somebody came up to him one time and said, "Mr. Spurgeon, your sermons sound all alike." And the great preacher replied, "That’s correct. They are all alike. Wherever," he said, "I pick a text in the Bible, I make a beeline to the cross."
"Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins" [Hebrews 9:22]. Without atonement there is no pardoning grace. Without a payment of debt there is no reconciliation. Not by His beautiful, and lovely, and perfect life, but "by His stripes we are healed" [Isaiah 53:6]. The birth of Christ, the temptation, the transfiguration, even the institution of the Lord’s Supper and His glorious ascension into heaven are left out of one or more of the Gospels, but they all carefully, prayerfully, faithfully delineate the expiatory death of our Lord.
"First of all, for I delivered unto you first of all how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" [1 Corinthians 15:3]. This is the doctrine that differentiates the Christian religion from all other religions of the world. The Christian religion, biblically, is a religion of redemption and expiation; delivering dying mankind from the penalty and the judgment of sin. It is first of all not an ethic, though it is ethical. It is first of all not a theology, though it has a theology. It is first of all not reformatory, though it has political, and social, and cultural overtones.
But it is first of all a redemptive grace. The preaching of the good news that in Christ death has been overcome [1 Corinthians 15:55-57], our sins have been forgiven [Ephesians 4:32], and some day, in His name, we shall see the face of God and live [1 John 3:2]. The sign of the church is not a burning bush. It is not two tables of stone on which are engraved commandments. It is not a seven-branched lampstand. It is not a halo above a submissive head. It is not even a kingly crown. But the sign of the Christian faith is a cross; a rugged, heavy instrument of death and expiation.
Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
["Are You Washed in the Blood?" Elisha A. Hoffman, 1878]
This is the central doctrine and the good news of the faith in Jesus Christ.
Now and briefly again, "My brethren, I make known unto you the gospel wherein you are saved; for I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" [1 Corinthians 15:1-3]. Then the theme of the Book I hold in my hand is this: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. And the atoning death of Christ is the scarlet thread throughout the Word of God.
In the garden of Eden, when the Lord slew an innocent animal and took the skins and covered the nakedness of our first parents [Genesis 3:21], it foreshadowed – it was an adumbration of, it was a type of, it looked forward to – the atoning blood of the Son of God. When the sacrifice of Abel was offered unto God [Genesis 4:4], and his own blood was mingled with that of his sacrifice [Genesis 4:8-10], it looked forward to the coming of the atoning grace in Jesus our Lord. When Isaac was offered up by his father Abraham on a sacrificial pile of rough uncut stones on a mountain, Moriah [Genesis 22:2-12], where the temple was built, it was a type and an adumbration of the great atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
When the Passover night saw the chosen people of God sprinkle blood in the form of a cross on the lentil and on either side of the doorposts in the house, on the front of the house [Exodus 12:7, 13, 22-23], it was a picture and a sign of Christ our Passover who was sacrificed for us [1 Corinthians 5:7]. All of the Levitical offerings and Levitical sacrifices were pictures of the atoning grace of the Son of God. As the Lord wrote in Leviticus 17:11:
For the life of the flesh is in the blood:
and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh atonement for the soul.
And the sacrifice every morning and the sacrifice every evening, when a lamb was offered whole unto God, it was a type of Him who should take away the sins of the world. This is the burden of the preaching of the prophets. As Isaiah 53:5 records:
He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities:
the chastisement of our peace is upon Him:
and with His stripes we are healed.
Written seven hundred fifty years before, and yet he speaks as though he stood that day when Jesus died, "All we like sheep" he said:
have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way;
and the Lord hath laid upon Him the iniquity of us all,
For it pleased the Lord to bruise Him . . .
He hath made His soul an offering for sin,
[Isaiah 53:6, 10]
This is the burden of the message of the Old Testament; it is the central presentation of the good news of the gospel of the New Testament.
The text of the New Testament is the sentence by which John the Baptist introduced Jesus to the world. "Behold, behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world" [John 1:29]. That is found in the very format, the very form of the Gospels themselves. John said there are so many things that Jesus did, that if they were all written, I suppose the world itself could not contain the books that should be written [John 21:25]. And there are ten thousand messages that are never recorded spoken by our Lord. And a thousand miraculous signs that He wrought that are never mentioned in these sacred four Gospels.
But they all take abundant time to describe the last hours when Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures [1 Corinthians 15:3]. And this was the teaching on the lips of our Lord. As He began His ministry He said to those in the temple, "Destroy," this body, "and in three days I will raise it up – destroy this temple" [John 2:19]; they didn’t know what He meant. We do; we understand. And the Lord said to Nicodemus, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up" [John 3:14]. He did not know what Jesus meant; we do. And as our Lord continued His ministry, He said, "Except ye eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of God, you have no life in you" [John 6:53]. And they strove saying, "How can one eat His flesh and drink His blood?" [John 6:52]. They didn’t understand, but we do. And the Lord said, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me" [John 12:32]. They did not understand; we do. And when Mary anointed His body, He said, "It is for the burying" [John 12:3-7]. They didn’t understand, but we do.
For it is in the death of the Son of God that we have remission of sins. In the recurring church ordinance, the Lord’s Supper, "And He blessed the cup and gave it to them and said, This is the cup of the new covenant shed for the remission of sins" [Matthew 26:27-28]. Our Lord wrought many miracles, but of no miracle did He say, "This miracle is wrought for the remission of sins." Our Lord healed many sick, but He never said, "This healing is bestowed for the remission of sins." Our Lord delivered many messages, but He never said, "This message is delivered for the remission of sins." And our Lord bore many trials, but He never said, "This trial is born for the remission of sins." But He did say, "This blood is of a new covenant, shed for the remission of sins" [Matthew 26:27-28].
And this is the glorious preaching of the apostles and the evangelists and the emissaries of the cross. The apostle Paul said, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" [Galatians 6:14]. And he added again, "My brethren, I determine to know nothing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified" [1 Corinthians 2:2]. And Paul said, "I am crucified with Him" [Galatians 2:20]. The apostle John wrote, "If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ God’s Son cleanseth us from all sin" [1 John 1:7].
And in the Revelation:
Unto Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood . . . to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever, Amen,
And there is no sun or moon in the holy and New Jerusalem, for the Lamb of God, our atoning Savior, is the light thereof.
[Revelation 1: 5, 6; 21:23]
From the opening verse in Genesis to the concluding benediction in the Revelation, it is a story, a recounting the good news, the evangelium, the gospel that Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures. As we stand today and look at the cross, what do you see? What do you see?
The enemies of the Lord stood there and saw Him die, and they congratulated themselves. Jesus had been done away; they have slain their greatest enemy. And the quaternion of soldiers who crucified Him stood there and watched Him die. And they saw five garments; one for each one – and the fifth, rather than tear it apart, they gambled for it at the foot of the cross [John 19:23-24]. What do you see when you look upon Jesus dying on Golgotha, the Hill of the Skull? What do you see? One of the crucified malefactors who died with Him turned and said, "He is just another criminal who deserves to be executed as I am" [Luke 23:39]. When you stand and look at the cross, what do you see? There were those who were passing by who heard Him cry, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" [Matthew 27:46] and they thought, not understanding His Aramaic, they thought He was calling for Eli, Elijah and they said, "Wait, wait, let’s see if Elijah comes down to deliver Him" [Matthew 27:47-]. And as curiosity watchers, they sat there to see what would happen.
What do you see when you stand at the foot of the cross and look upon the death of the Son of God? What do you see? We see – we, who have been saved – we see a revelation of the darkness, and the depth, and the despair of our sins. It is a revelation of the darkness and depravity of the human heart. We did it, we did it.
A dreamer was watching a man scourge Jesus. And the heavy thong with lead woven along, brought blood as the heavy castigator flogged the Lord Jesus. And the dreamer could no longer stand it. And when the man raised his hand to bring down that whip and scorpion with its leaded thongs again on the back of the Lord, he stepped forward and seized the hand and said, "No, no!" And the executioner turned around and looked at the dreamer in surprise; and the dreamer recognized himself. We cast that robe of mockery and ridicule around His shoulders, we pressed on His brow the crown of thorns; our sins nailed Him to the tree and we thrust that spear into His side. He died for our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3]. We did it; all mankind. When you stand at the foot of the cross and look at Jesus, what do you see? You see His infinite love and mercy for us. He did it for me, He did that for us.
I read in history, the Roman triumph over Tigranes the ancient king of Armenia. And when the Roman army triumphed, they captured Tigranes and his wife and his children. And they delivered the family of the king of Armenia – Tigranes – they delivered him in the presence of the Roman emperor for sentencing unto death.
And Tigranes fell on his knees and supplicated the Roman emperor, not for himself but for his wife and for his children. And so piteously did the king importune mercy and life for his wife and for his children, that the Roman emperor moved by his appeal, forgave him and sent him back to his people with his wife and with his family.
And as Tigranes rode away from the Roman palace and the throne room of the Roman emperor, as he rode away he turned to his wife and asked, he said, "What do you think of the Roman emperor?" And his wife replied, "I did not see him." And Tigranes said, "You did not see him? Why, you were there in his presence! Where were your eyes?" And his wife replied, "They were upon him who was offering to lay down his life for me and our children."
What do you see when you stand at the foot of the cross? The amazing, abounding, overflowing, heavenly love and mercy of the Son of God, our Savior, who died for our sins according to the Word and promise of God, Hoc feci pro te; Quid facis pro Me? "This have I done for thee, what hast thou done for Me?"
Ah Lord, this day shall be a day of commitment, of devotion beyond all I’ve ever offered unto Thee before. Bowing in Thy presence, kneeling at the foot of the cross, O God, I give myself again and anew to Thee. And our Master, in that spirit of loving commitment and infinite gratitude may God take us, wash us, save us, keep us, now and to the end of the way. A blood-bought, redeemed family of God, who some day shall know an eternity of praise and gratitude, expressed to Thee who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood . . .To whom be glory and dominion forever and ever [Romans 1:5-6], world without end, amen and amen.
THE SINNER AND THE SACRIFICE ON THE CROSS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 15:1-3
A. Two kinds of Christianity
1. One of idealism, inspiration
a. Salvation is social amelioration
b. Jesus is one of the great idealists of the world, a great teacher
2. One of redemption and salvation
a. In social Christianity, cross of Christ incidental – here it is central
B. Christianity of the Scriptures is the Christianity of the cross – in its power to save, as Paul preached it
II. "First of all"
A. Not in time, but in importance
1. As there is a first and great commandment, so there is a first and great doctrine – the atonement of Christ
2. Without payment of debt, there is no reconciliation
B. This differentiates Christian faith from all other religions
1. First of all a redemptive grace
2. Sign of the gospel of Christ – the cross
III. "According to the Scriptures"
A. The burden of the Old Testament is the atonement of Christ(Genesis 3:21, Exodus 12:13, Leviticus 17:11, Psalm 22, Isaiah 53:5-10)
B. The central presentation of the New Testament is the atonement of Christ
1. The gospels proclaim the message of redemption in this very form (John 1:29, 21:25)
2. As soon as Jesus began His public ministry, He refers to His death(John 2:19, 3:14, 6:52-53, 12:27, 32)
3. The meaning of the ordinances(1 Corinthians 11:25-26, Matthew 26:28)
4. The preaching of the apostles(1 Corinthians 2:2, Galatians 6:14, 1 John 1:7, Revelation 1:5-6, 21:23)
IV. Our gospel message of hope and salvation today
B. What do you see?
1. Revelation of the sin in our own hearts
2. Love and mercy beyond anything mind could imagine
3. A call of commitment and dedication from God for me