God’s Restoration of the Sinner


God’s Restoration of the Sinner

July 21st, 1968 @ 7:30 PM

Psalm 23:3

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

Psalm 23

7-21-68    7:30 p.m.


Now on the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  This is the pastor preaching the message entitled God’s Restoration, God’s Elevation, God’s Glorification of the Sinner, a sinner man, what God can do with somebody like us.  Now the reading is in one of the psalms that we learned when we were children.  Turn to Psalm 23, we will read it out loud together.  Some of you might not even need to turn to it; quote it.  The text is verse 3.  Now let us all read it out loud, Psalm 23, reading it out loud together:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

[Psalms 23:1-6]

And the text, “He restoreth my soul” [Psalm 23:3].  There are two Hebrew words in there that constitute the text; the word for soul, nephesh, and the word for restore, shuwb.  You know it is an unusual thing about the languages in which the Bible is written.  As the Hebrew describes how we are made and as the Greek describes the same thing, they used identical words.  The words mean identically the same thing.  There are two words that are used in Hebrew that describe our life, the living personality, you and me, and those same and identical words are employed in the Greek language, describing counterpoint by counterpoint the same idea.

Now the Hebrew will use the word nephesh, and that is the soul.  And the word ruach which is the word for breath or wind and is employed to describe the spirit.  The same identical thing is used in the Greek language.  The word psuchē, psyche and it is compounded with so many words in our English language.  Psuchē,  psyche refers to the soul.  And the word pneuma, an identical word like ruach, refers to breath, to wind, to spirit.

Now the difference between spirit and soul is this.  The difference between pneuma and psuchē, the difference between ruach and nephesh, the difference is this.  Spirit refers to entity, personality, intelligence, being, apart from body, apart from corporeality.  For example, God is pneuma.  God is ruach.  God is spirit.  But in no sense is God psyche, is God nephesh, for wherever the word soul is used, it demands a body.  And that is the difference between soul and spirit.  Wherever soul is, there must be body.

Now that is the word that is used here.  He restoreth my soul, nephesh, psyche, animus, the whole being.  You, whatever is you.  And that includes your body.  God restores.  That’s why I think for a man to be converted in his soul, in his spirit, and then die is a defeat for God if that’s all!  For God says He is going to redeem the whole purchased possession [Ephesians 1:14].  Not only will God regenerate our souls, not only will God regenerate my inmost being when I am converted—I am regenerated [Titus 3:5], I am born again [John 3:3, 7]—but God is going to redeem this body I live in also; He is going to save the house I live in [2 Corinthians 5:1-4].

And when I am converted here at the church and Jesus comes into my heart that is just half of me.  I’ve got another half of me.  I am not only spirit that lives in this body that I call soul, but I am also anatomy, I am also body, I am also corporeality; I am also soma, body [1 Thessalonians 5:23].  And at the great final day of the Lord, God is going to redeem, He is going to restore this house I live in, the body that I live in [Romans 8:11].

You know I had somebody come here to church one time and listen to me preach, and it happened to be, in preaching through the Bible, I was in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Gospel of Luke.  And I was preaching about the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  And when the Lord appeared to His disciples, they thought they were looking at a spirit [Luke 24:37].  And Jesus said, “Handle Me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, such as you see Me have” [Luke 24:39].   And He showed them His hands and His feet.  He had scars [Luke 24:40].  And when the disciples yet believe not for joy, He said, “Do you have anything here to eat?” And they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb.   And He did eat before them [Luke 24:41-43].  Now that’s in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Luke, and I was preaching on that here at this church one Sunday morning when I was preaching through the Bible.

And I was preaching what that Book says, that we are going to be raised from the dead [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17], and you are going to be you, only you will be glorified [1 Corinthians 15:41-42], and how we need it.  And there is not going to be any ugly noses stuck on our countenances anymore.  And there’s not going to be any eyes that don’t quite focus.  And there’s not going to be anything about us that isn’t perfect.  Think of that.  We are going to be raised from the dead, and we are going to be glorified like our Lord Jesus, and you are going to be you, and I am going to be I, and we are all going to be ourselves.

Well, I was preaching that.  And there was somebody here, and they said, “I have never heard such vulgarity in the pulpit in my life.  I have never heard such physical interpretations of the Word of God in my life as I heard down there at the First Baptist Church listening to that preacher.”  You see, people get so spiritual in their attitudes and in their self-conscious persuasions that to them anything that is material or physical is unthinkable and unspeakable in the kingdom of God.

Well, I want to ask you a question.  Who invented matter in the first place?  Who made this cosmos, this universe on which I walk and out of which I am made?  Who did that?  Doesn’t the Bible say the Lord God did it?  Isn’t that right?  Isn’t that right?  It’s in the Book.  God made matter, and God made this universe [Genesis 1:1-31]. And God made your body.  He framed it and fashioned it out of the dust of the ground, out of physical corporeality [Genesis 2:7].  That’s what we are.  And if God did it, He must like matter.  It must please Him.  And the Book says it pleased Him.  And He saw all the things that He had made, and, behold, it was very good [Genesis 1:31].  It was fine.

Matter pleases God, and He must like eating too.  Why, I have had people leave this church because we have suppers down here at this church; take their letters out of the church and leave.  Well, who invented eating in the first place?  As though that were something that displeased God, for me to eat.  Well, when the Lord was raised from the dead [Luke 24:1-7], He ate before them [Luke 24:41-43], and if I have any persuasion about these early Christians, it is this, that they were eating all the time [Acts 2:42, 46].

I like that.  And if I don’t stop it, you are going to roll me in this pulpit.  Don’t ever let anybody persuade you that you are unspiritual when you speak of the redemption of this body [Romans 8:11], this house that God made for us.  And don’t let anybody persuade you that you are unspiritual if you believe that heaven is a place.  Why, that is what God says.  “I go to prepare a topos, a place for you” [John 14:1], for a body has to have a place, and Jesus is in a place [John 14:3].  He is in Paradise [Luke 23:42-43], and He is preparing a place for us.  And we are going to be real people in a real body, raised from the dead, immortalized [John 14:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. 

And the generation that lives when Jesus comes again will be transformed, glorified in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye [1 Corinthians 15:51-53].  And we are going to be together in a real city, a beautiful one [Revelation 22:10-16].  And we are going to walk on streets made out of solid gold, and the gates are swung on solid pearl [Revelation 21:21], and the walls of the city are made out of solid diamond [Revelation 21:18].  And the whole fellowship is like being together, loving one another, world without end [Revelation 21:27].

That’s what God says.  And I didn’t intend to say a word of all that.  “He restoreth my soul” [Psalm 23:3].  I got off on that by talking about that word soul.  Soul always demands a body.  Spirit does not.  But nephesh does, psyche does.  “He restoreth my soul.”  That’s the inward me and the outward me; the whole me [1 Thessalonians 5:23].

Now let’s look at that word “restoreth,” shuwb.  The Hebrew word shuwb literally means to cause to return, to cause to come back, and so came to mean restoration, recreation.  Now there are two pictures that lie in that word about us.  By us I mean all of us now.  I am talking about the house, the framework, the tabernacle, the body in which we live, and the spirit that God breathed in us; the soul, all of us [1 Thessalonians 5:23].

There are two things about us in the Bible.  Two pictures of what has happened to us.  One picture is that we have been sold to sin and bondage and need redemption [Romans 7:14].  And the other is that we have fallen into ruin and need repairing; a better word, restoration [Romans 8:21-22]. 

That first one, we are sold to sin, to slavery, to bondage, and we need redemption [Romans 7:14].  A picture of that is the property that God gave, the allotments that God gave to the twelve tribes.  It was never to be sold; never [Leviticus 25:23].  And when the Year of Jubilee came every fiftieth year, if a man had fallen into poverty and was forced to sell the inheritance of his fathers, it had to be returned to the family at the Year of Jubilee, every fifty years; a restoration of a lost inheritance [Leviticus 25:10-28].  That’s why Naboth said to King Ahab, when Ahab said, “I will give you double more than it’s worth for this little garden of herbs by my winter palace in Jezreel” [1 Kings 21:2].  Naboth said, according to the Word of the Lord, “God forbid that I should give thee the inheritance of my fathers” [1 Kings 21:3]. Now that picture, that we have sold ourselves to sin and to iniquity, to slavery and to bondage, that’s one picture [Romans 7:14].

And the other picture is as of a temple in disrepair: fallen into ruins [Romans 8:21-22].  You know it comes to my mind when Emerson was taken to see Longfellow when Longfellow died—they had been close friends for a generation—when Emerson was taken to the funeral of Longfellow and was taken to the casket to look down into the face of his old friend, Emerson said, “He was a good man but I cannot remember his name”.  And Emerson had one of the most brilliant minds in human story.  But he couldn’t remember Longfellow’s name.  And I read in a literary article that when Emerson said that, a literary critic wrote saying that it reminded him, this falling away of Emerson’s mind, it reminded him of the decay of a great cathedral fallen into ruins.  That is also a picture in that word.

Fallen into ruin [Romans 8:21-22], this fine body that God made and this fine mind that God put in our bodies and all of the gifts and endowments of the human soul, all of it fallen into ruins.  He will restore it all: shuwb, He will cause it to come back, to return.  “He restoreth my soul” [Psalm 23:3].

Now as rapidly as I can, and we have so few minutes to do it in, may I speak of what this indicates of God and of us?  First of all, it indicates a trait, a characteristic of God that is astonishing to me, and that is this, that the Lord God, as He looks upon devastation and destruction, the Lord God is moved to restore and to recreate [Romans 8:21-22], and I don’t understand that.  Why doesn’t God brush it off?  Why doesn’t God leave it in its despair and destruction and ruin?  But He doesn’t [Isaiah 26:19].

 You find that in the first part of the Bible; “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” [Genesis 1:1].  And if God did it, it was perfect, it was beautiful.  “And the whole creation of God became without form, and void:  and darkness was upon the face of the deep” [Genesis 1:2].  And between that sentence and between that sentence, there is the introduction of sin.  That is the fall of Lucifer, the son of the morning, when sin entered God’s universe, and when Lucifer fell, it destroyed the whole of God’s creation [Isaiah 14:12].

Well, why didn’t God leave it in destruction, just pass it by?  Let it go?  But that is a characteristic of God, “And the Spirit of God brooded upon the face of the waters [Genesis 1:2], and God said” [Genesis 1:3], and then in the verses that follow, you have the story of the recreation of this planet and the garden of Eden [Genesis 1:3-2:9].  And that is God, and that is the Lord with you.  When we sin, and when we fall, and when we destroy ourselves, God does not leave us in our ruin and disaster, but God’s Spirit broods over us, and the Lord’s purpose is to remake us and to restore us [Isaiah 26:19].

Now I have another comment to make about that.  This also shows another marvelous facet of the personality of God.  God in His creation is a Lord of power and omnipotence.  By fiat, by word, He spoke into existence these planets, and these spheres, and these universes, and these Milky Ways, and the whole chalice of God’s heaven above us.  He did that by fiat, He spoke it into existence [Genesis 1:3-31].  But when God redeems us it isn’t by word.  It isn’t by fiat.   God redeems us in suffering, and in sacrifice, and in atonement, and in the shedding of blood [Colossians 1:14; 1 Peter 1:18-19].  And that leads to my other avowal.

How is it that God restores us?  Not by coercion, He doesn’t force us.  We are morally free.  But God does it by assuming Himself all of our sins and our iniquities [1 Peter 2:24].  Do you ever sometimes sit down and think, “How is it that God allowed sin in this world?”  And all of the suffering and death attendeth there unto?  Maybe I am doubly sensitive to it because I live in that kind of a world where people are in the hospital, and where they cry in despair, and where they grow aged and infirmed.  And the finest mind loses its balance and equilibrium.

Oh, the tears and the heartache and the suffering in this world, God only knows.  And do you ever think, “Lord, why did You allow such a thing?”  And is God good when He doesn’t stop such a thing?  What is God doing?  What is God about?  What is the purpose of God in allowing such ruin, and disaster, and disease, and death, and heartache?  O God, why?  Why?

Not only did the psalmist say that, “My God, my God, why?” [Psalm 22:1]  But Jesus said that on the cross.  “Eli, Eli, lama sabacthani?  My God, My God, why?” [Matthew 27:46].  If you haven’t come to that place in your life, you will.  There will be a time in your life when that question is forced from your soul.  “My God, why?”

Well, we are not told everything about the Lord God, but there are two things, and with this I must close, there are two things, poignantly to be said about it, and one is this.  Not any of our fallen humanity, not any of our transgressions and iniquities, not any of our suffering and trial, not any of it was hid from the mind of God, the eye of God.  He saw it all from the beginning.

But there are two things about it.  One: the intent and the purpose of God was to assume to Himself, to take to Himself, all of the penalty and judgment for our sins.  He bore our sins and our iniquities in His own body on the tree [1 Peter 2:24].  God took it Himself, as if a father had a prodigal, an unworthy boy, and all of the judgments and bitter rewards that that boy were heir to, the father assumed it himself, took it himself.  That’s what God has done for us.  All of our sins and iniquities, God has taken to Himself [Hebrews 10:5-14].

And the other is this: in that fall, and in that transgression, and in that sorrow and death that we experience in this life, it is the purpose of God to elevate us and to glorify us above anything we would ever have known otherwise [1 Peter 5:10].  Why, look, “The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” [Romans 8:16-17].

Look at that!  In the garden of Eden our first parents were innocent, but they were nothing other than dressers of the garden.  Isn’t that right?  God put them in the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it, that’s all.  They were gardeners in the garden.  They kept the garden that was all [Genesis 2:15].  And had they remained in that state of innocence, that’s all they would ever have been.  Vinekeepers, orchard trimmers, grass mowers, keeping the garden.  But in our fall [Genesis 3:1-7], and in our suffering, and in our death, and then in God’s program of redemption for us, the Lord is going to elevate us [Psalm 8:5-8].  Why, He says in one place that we shall judge the angels [1 Corinthians 6:3].  Think of that.  We, who are in this human flesh and frame, we are going to judge the angels, and we are going to sit on thrones, and we are going to share.  It says that.  “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ” [Romans 8:17]; whatever Christ is, we are also going to be.  If He is a king, we shall be a king.  The Bible says so, “and hath made us kings” [Revelation 5:10].  And if He is a great priest, we are going to be priests, “and hath made us priests” unto our God forever and ever” [Revelation 1:6].  And out of the transgression, and out of the fall, and out of the suffering and the heartache and the tears, and out of the death that comes in our fallen nature, it is the purpose of God to elevate us above the whole created hosts of heaven [Psalm 8:5-8].

There is not an angel that is going to be as exalted as you are, one of God’s saints.  Not even an archangel.  For an archangel is not going to be a fellow-heir with Christ.  You are [Romans 8:17].  And an archangel is not going to judge those angels who fell.  You are [1 Corinthians 6:3].  And an archangel is not heir to all the wonderful things God has prepared for those who love Him.  You are.  You are [1 Corinthians 2:9].  That’s just some of the things that God means when He says “He restoreth my soul” [Psalm 23:3].  Far more than we have ever lost because of the fall [Genesis 3:1-6], God is going to give us in the great restoration.  We must close.

While we sing our hymn of appeal, a family you, a couple you, a one somebody you to give your heart to Jesus, will you come and stand by me tonight?  To put your life in the fellowship of the church, as God shall press the word and the appeal to your heart, will you make it now?  Come and stand by me.  “Here I am, preacher, and here I come.”  In the balcony round, the throng on this lower floor, in the aisle and down here to the front, “Here I come.”  Do it now.  On the first note of this first stanza, come.  Come.  Come.  God bless you, angels attend you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.



Dr. W. A. Criswell

Psalms 23


Tragedy of sin unveils the marvelous character of God

God’s way of restoring the fallen sinner

A.   Not by coercion

B.   By redemptive love,
sacrifice, giving of Himself

C.   God paid the penalty
of sin

Greater blessing

A.   Fellow heirs with
Jesus Christ

B.   Members of the family
of God