Our Acceptance Before God
October 26th, 1969 @ 8:15 AM
OUR ACCEPTANCE BEFORE GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-26-69 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message from the first chapter of the Book of Ephesians and it is entitled Our Acceptance Before God. I shall read beginning at verse number 3 through verse number 7:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love:
Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,
To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved.
In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace;
Wherein He hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence.
Last Sunday morning I preached on the doctrine of predestination; "According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world . . . having predestinated us unto the adoption of children . . . being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His will" [Ephesians 1:4-5, 11]. That was the sermon last Sunday morning, the doctrine of predestination: that God is sovereign in this world, and God is sovereign in our lives.
Now we are going to take three other words in this sublime text and speak of them. First, adoption: "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will" [Ephesians 1:5].
By nature, by human nature we are alienated from God. We are dead in trespasses and in sins [Ephesians 2:1]. We don’t belong to the family of God by creation, by nature. We fell in our first parents [Genesis 3:1-6], and the repercussion of that sin is felt, and sensed, and experienced in all of our lives, all of us. The story of the fall of Adam and Eve is not just a story we read in the first chapters of Genesis, but it is a story that all of us feel and experience in our hearts. We are alienated from God; children of wrath and condemnation [Ephesians 2:3]. No man shall ever see the face of God and live [Exodus 33:20] by his human nature, his moral righteousness. There is a separation, an alienation between us and God [Isaiah 59:2]. Sin separates in between. But we become children of God by adoption, by being born a second time, John 1:11-12:
He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.
But as many as received Him, to them gave He the right, the privilege, the prerogative to become the children of God, even to them that trust in His name.
We are adopted into the family of God, and God adopts us through Jesus Christ. When we open our hearts to the Lord and we accept Jesus as our Savior, He gives us the right, the privilege to become the children of God. We are therein and thereupon adopted into the family of God.
And I am told that by law if you ever adopt a child you can never disinherit the child. He is your child forever. I would suppose that law would be because a family might adopt a child, get disgusted with him, and disinherit him; then maybe want him back again, adopt him again, and then disinherit him again. Such a procedure is fanciful and facetious; and it is no less so in the Bible, and with regard to our relationship with God. It is a fanciful doctrine and it is a facetious doctrine when one believes that you can be a member of the family of God and then not be a member of the family of God, and then come back and be a member of the family of God, and then not be a member of the family of God. You can be saved, and then unsaved, and then saved, and then unsaved – there is no such suggestion of anything like that in the Bible.
God’s Word says that when we are saved God gives us eternal, everlasting, unending life [John 3:16; 27:27-30]. If you have ever been born again, if you have ever been saved, you are saved forever and ever. You never get away from it. There is a new heart and a new life, there is a new love, there is a new creation in you and you never get away from it, fall away from it [2 Corinthians 5:17; John 10:28]. You cannot. God’s seed remains in you and that is illustrated precisely in this doctrine of adoption. When we are adopted into the family of God, we are adopted forever, and forever. God never disinherits us, disowns us, disavows us; we are His children forever [Romans 8:15-17, 23; Galatians 4:4-7; Ephesians 1:5-7].
Now God purposes for us a far greater gift than that we should be sons of God just by creation. God purposes some finer thing for us, even though our first parents fell [Genesis 3:1-6] and we have fallen [Romans 3:23]. The Lord’s purpose for us is that we shall be joint-heirs with Christ [Romans 8:17]. Whatever the Son of God possesses, we are to possess. His authority; we are to sit with Him on His throne [2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 3:21]. His great riches, all that God has is ours: every grace, every mercy, every gift, every procession, every reward, every authority, every rule over principalities, and powers, and things present, things to come, height, depth, everything is ours; that is the purpose of God [Ephesians 1:19-23, 3:17-21]. And He does this not because we are meritorious or worthy, but He does it because it is the good pleasure of His will to do it [Ephesians 1:5, 9]. And that humbles us. Not because of anything we do or any worth that we possess that God bestows upon us such incomparable riches and such marvelous blessings, but we are adopted children of God through Jesus Christ according to the good pleasure of His will [Ephesians 1:5, 9]. It is something God in His grace has done for us.
Oh, sometimes when I think of where I have been and the people I have seen, my heart overflows with unspeakable, abounding gratitude for the mercies of God toward me! I could have been born in a Muslim home. I could have been a Mohammedan, brought up worshiping Allah and Mohammed his prophet. Why wasn’t I born in a Mohammedan home, and why was I not raised a Muslim? Why am I not a son of Islam? Why am I not trying to make that lifetime pilgrimage toward Mecca?
I thank God for His grace, extended toward me, according to the good pleasure of His will [Ephesians 1:5]. I was not born in a Muslim home. God put me in a Christian home. Why was I not born in the heart of Africa, living all my life on a dirt floor, under a thatch roof worshiping animistic gods, gods of trees and gods of rocks and gods of stone?
I have walked around in the heart of Africa and here is blood on a tree, and here is blood on a stone, and here is blood on a rock, and here is blood on a stick. And I ask, well, why is this blood? And they have offered chickens and they have offered animals to the animistic spirits that live in the rocks, in the trees, in the stones. Why was I not born on one of those dirt floors, and why was I not raised in an animistic religion? The grace of God extended toward me.
I think of the homes in America; ah, the ungodliness of so much of the life in America. But I was born in a Christian home, in a godly home. The Lord’s Day to us was that. Wednesday was a prayer meeting night for us. Thursday was a choir practice night for us. And I used to attend when I was a little, little boy because my father went, and I loved to hear the people sing.
I have ten thousand precious memories as a child growing up in the heart of the church. Why was I not born in a godless and worldly home in America and why was I not brought up? All of those attitudes toward the Lord and toward God’s people and towards God’s Holy Day; it was a mercy from God toward me, that I was born in a Christian home and brought up in the love and nurture of the Lord.
That’s what God has done for us; adopted us into the family of God, a joint-heir and a brother with Jesus Christ according to the good pleasure of His will [Ephesians 1:5-7]. And that’s why, when we get to heaven, we sing and praise. We are not going to say, "Hallelujah to me, look what I did. Oh, glory to me, look at the achievements; oh, glory and praise to me, look at how far I have come; I’ve even climbed up here to heaven." It’s not going to be any suggestion of an approach to a doxology like that. But when we get to heaven, our praise and our glory is going to be unto Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God, His Father: unto Him the riches, and honor, and dominion, and glory, and power, and strength forever, and ever, and ever, and ever. Amen and amen [Revelation 1:5-6].
Jesus did it all. Jesus paid it all. That’s what you are going to sing when you get to glory. That’s what we ought to be a-singing here. It is Jesus. He did it; adopted; placed in the family of God, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of His glory and grace [Ephesians 1:5-6].
Well, we can’t stay on that glorious subject forever. We have another glorious subject. In whom we have redemption through His blood, redemption through His blood [Ephesians 1:7]. Now that’s what the Bible is about and that is what the life of our Lord is about [1 Peter 1:18-19]. He came to die for us, to redeem us through His own blood; "This is My blood of the new covenant shed for the remission of sins" [Matthew 26:28].
This is what the whole Bible is about. The theme of the Old Testament and the theme of the New Testament is that Christ came into this world to die for our sins. And all of those typologies, those old sacrifices of the ancient ritual, all the prophecies, they were pointing to the great coming of Jesus our Savior.
And the story of the life of our Lord, the miracles, the parables illustrate that grace and love. And the epistles expatiate upon it, and expound it and the glorious revelation is the consummation of our praise to God forever, because of what Jesus has done for us. The theme of the whole Bible is Jesus is coming to die for our sins [Isaiah 53:5]; or Jesus is here to die for our sins [John 1:29]; or Jesus has come to die for our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3]; or in the eternity praise to Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood [Revelation 1:5]. That’s the story of the Bible.
There are some of you who are here, many of you who are here, who, when New Year’s Eve came on Sunday night, you were here when I started at 7:30 o’clock and preached past midnight, preaching through the whole Bible. And do you remember the title of the sermon? It was The Scarlet Thread Through the Bible; the scarlet thread; from the shedding of blood of an innocent animal in the garden of Eden to clothe the nakedness of our father and mother [Genesis 3:7, 10-11, 21], and clear to the Revelation: "These are they who washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" [Revelation 7:14]. The whole theme and the whole story of the Bible is Jesus dying for our sins according to the Scriptures [1 Corinthians 15:3], raised for our justification to declare us righteous, according to the Scriptures [1 Corinthians 15:4; Romans 4:25].
Now how does the cross of Christ save us? We are redeemed through His blood [1 Peter 1:18-19]. How does the suffering of Jesus purge us from sin? How does the blood of Christ wash the stain of sin out of our souls? How are we saved in the blood of Christ?
Well, I took a course in my doctor’s work; I had a major and two minors. One of those minors that I chose in that doctoral study was the theories of the atonement, how the cross of Christ saves us. And after I studied that two years intimately, when I came to the conclusion of the study and passed a doctor’s examination concerning it, I didn’t know anymore about it than when I first started. The theories of the atonement change from age to age and generation to generation. Some of those theories are technical and artificial. Some of them are positively grotesque. Some of them are intellectually incredible. How does the blood of Christ save us? In my humble judgment, it is a divine wisdom inaccessible to human understanding. You cannot enter into it. It is beyond our comprehension. All we can do is just see the results of it, what the death of Christ does for us. You can see the effects of it in human life.
For example, the effect of the atoning grace of Jesus will correspond to the effect of a slave who has been ransomed and set free. Therefore, some of the theories of the atonement will refer to Jesus as a ransom for our sins, and He spoke of it Himself; "The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many" [Mark 10:45].
Again, the effect of the atoning love of Jesus corresponds to the effect of, say, a God who was angry, and His anger has been turned to favor, so we refer to the atonement of Christ as a propitiation, a rendering favorable [1 John 2:2; 4:10]. God is made favorable toward us in the death of Christ.
Sometimes you can look at the effect of the atonement of Christ and that effect will correspond to the effect of a worshiper who has been excluded from the temple because of his sins. And he brings the sacrifice for expiatory purposes, for expiation, and the effect of the atonement then is described as an expiation. It is a taking away. It is an at-one-ment with God concerning our sins [Romans 5:11].
Sometimes the effect of the death of Christ will correspond to the effect of one who has been separated. And there is an abyss between, and a reconciliation is effected, and they will speak of the atoning death of Christ as an instrument of reconciliation. In the death of the Lord we are reconciled to God [Romans 5:10]. God is reconciled to us in the death of Jesus, and we are called to be reconciled to God [2 Corinthians 5:20].
Oh, you could spend the hours and the days speaking of the grace and the mercy of Jesus in its effect upon us! Propitiation, expiation, atonement, reconciliation, ransom; but whatever it is, you will never say it, and you will never describe it. All you can do is just look upon the marvelous, incomparable results of the atoning grace of God in Christ Jesus. And they are legion: the effect of the preaching of the cross of Christ; the effect of the atoning grace and love and mercy of God in Christ Jesus. I won’t belabor the point, but for us to get into the feeling of it, I might cite some of the things that all of us read, and all of us experience.
George Whitefield, one of those preachers out of Oxford who was denied the pulpits of England and preached outside, in the commons, on the river banks, upon a day, when George Whitefield came to preach at Exeter, in southwest England, there came a ruffian whose pockets were filled with rocks; he was going to break up the meeting. So he stood there and began listening to George Whitefield.
"Well," he said, "I don’t want to throw these rocks at him in the prayer, so I will wait until prayer is done." Then he read his text. The ruffian said, "I am not going to throw these rocks at him while he is reading the Bible. I’ll wait until the text is read." Then when he’d read the text, George Whitefield began to launch into his message about the grace of God in Christ Jesus. That’s when he was going to throw his rocks, when the preacher was in his sermon.
He never threw them. After the message was over, he made his way to the preacher and said, "I’ve come here with my pocket full of rocks to break up this meeting but instead God has broken up my heart." He was saved, gloriously converted right there on the spot; the effect of the preaching of the gospel of the grace of God in Christ Jesus.
I read again this week, T. De Witt Talmage was one of the mighty preachers of all time. He described one day how the family became Christians. He said his grandparents went to hear Charles G. Finney preach, and they were wonderfully converted, and came back home seeking to win their children to Jesus. And the children smiled, and you know, we always say there is a generation gap; there has always been a generation gap. His children smiled and went off to the party. And as they left the house the mother said, "I’m going to stay on my knees praying for your salvation until you come back." And when they came back, there was that dear mother who had found the Lord, down on her knees praying for her children.
The next day they heard the daughter weeping in her room. They went upstairs, opened the door, and there she was under deep conviction. And she said, "My brothers, one is in the barn and one is in the wagon shed, under deep conviction." They went out to the barn and there was Elijah Talmage, who later became a preacher, bowed down before God. And they went to the wagon shed, and there was David, the father of T. De Witt Talmage, under great conviction from God. The entire family was saved, all of them. They lived in a little village and word spread, and it spread of the marvelous grace of God upon the Talmage family. And when the Sunday came for services, in the church, there were more than two hundred people that Sunday, taking Jesus as their Savior. That’s what T. De Witt Talmage said about his grandparents, and about his father, David. The effects of it are incomparable. They are indescribable. They are beyond what tongue, pen, poem, song could ever say.
Why, this last week Lee Roy and I have been out in a crusade in San Angelo, in a big coliseum. Every night after the appeal I’d walk by the counseling room and just look at it. Just look at it. There were some of the roughest, toughest boys out there you ever looked upon, and the coordinator of the crusade, Jimmy Hester, talked to them, encouraged them to come to the revival. And when I walked by the counseling room there was that whole row of rough toughies there with heads bowed, seeking the face of the Lord.
They told me about a woman that their hearts were going out to, who was an alcoholic. We used to call them a drunk. And to see a woman like that is the saddest sight you could ever look upon. And I walked by the counseling room Thursday night, and there she was, bowed head, seeking the face of the Lord.
And look on your own life and look all around you; the effects of the preaching of the gospel of the Son of God. Whatever your explanation, or theory of the atonement, it will never grasp it, it will never explain it, it will never describe it. It is something that partakes of the very infinitude of the presence, and character, and love, and grace of Almighty God Himself. Isn’t this a glorious gospel we preach? Dear me. Dear me.
Then the third thing: the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace [Ephesians 1:7]. There are three parts, there are three ways, there are three approaches to that forgiveness of sins. Forgiveness of sins; all of us come before the Lord, asking God to forgive us our sins. Most of our prayers would close like that; "Forgive us our sins."
There are three ways in which God forgives our sins. There are three ways in which sin can be forgiven. First, personal: a cessation of the moral indignation and righteous resentment of God because of our sins, personal. Second, ethical: the alleviation of the awful burden and oppression of guilt in our lives and on our souls. And third, legal: the commutation of the sentence of judgment and damnation and death. Those are the three ways in which God can forgive us.
Now let me summarize in the little moment that remains a something about each one of those three. Personal: God is a person. You are a person. You can feel. You can love. You can be angry. You can be grieved. You can be hurt. All those things are in God, and you see them in Christ. And He looked around, the Scriptures say, on the crowd with anger [Mark 3:5]. Or, He picked up that cord and made a whip out of it and drove them out of the temple [John 2:15]. He denounced the Pharisees for their hypocrisy and coveted unrighteousness [Matthew 23:13-29]. On and on; all of these things that you feel, God feels.
Now, personal forgiveness: when the prodigal came back [Luke 15:20], having wasted his life and his substance in riotous living, the father could not have forgiven him. Isn’t that right? The father could have been like the elder brother: "Now you have chosen your way; having made your bed, now you lie in it. And we don’t want to see your face and we don’t want to hear your name. We’ve buried you. We’ve had your funeral, and we want you out of our sight."
Now the father could have done that, and God could do that with us. But the sweet story of the parable of the prodigal son is that when the boy came to himself, and in humility and repentance bowed before his father [Luke 15:17-20], the father said, "Why, raise him to his feet, and put shoes on his bare feet, and put a robe around his shoulders, and take off those old, dirty, tattered garments, and put a ring on his finger, and kill the fatted calf, and let us rejoice: for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost, and is found." That’s personal forgiveness, and that’s the way God is with us. However we’ve wronged Him, and whatever we’ve done, when we come back home, God rejoices and accepts us, and forgives us. That’s personal forgiveness [1 John 1:8-9].
Ethical forgiveness: do you remember how John Bunyan begins his Pilgrim’s Progress? There is the pilgrim with his back to his house, and he is reading a book, reading the Bible. He is reading a book and as he reads it, he weeps. For it describes to him, his lost estate. And do you remember? He has a great burden on his back, the weight of his sins. Do you remember it? That’s in the first paragraph of Pilgrim’s Progress. And the great burden on his back, all of us know what that is; that sense of wrong and guilt, the drag of human sin, the burden on our backs. And as the Pilgrim progresses, the burden rolls away at the cross. We sing songs like that. Rolled away, rolled away:
At the cross, at the cross
Where I first saw the light.
And the burden of my sins rolled away.
[from "Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed?", Isaac Watts, 1707]
We sing about those things. That is the ethical side of forgiveness. God takes away the burden of our guilt and our sins [Isaiah 6:7].
And third: the great legal side of forgiveness. Because we have sinned and wronged, we deserve all of those judgments that fall upon us, all of them. But God commutes them. He pardons us. He blots them out, and not just some of them; all of them, all of them [Isaiah 45:22; Colossians 2:14].
You can rest assured when Noah’s Flood covered the highest mountains it also covered all of the little molehills. Isn’t that right?
That’s what God has done with our sins. He has covered them. That’s what the little word propitiation, propitiatory, atonement means; covering [1 John 2:2; 4:10]. The Lord has blotted them out. He has washed them away [Psalm 51:7, Acts 22:16]. He has commuted our sentence. We are not going to pay for them; Jesus paid for them [Romans 3:24]. We are not going to die; Jesus died in our stead [1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 5:8-11]. All that awaits us now is someday just to open our eyes and be in glory.
When peace like a river attendeth my way,
Or when sorrows like sea billows roll,
Thou hast taught me to say, Whatever my lot,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
My sins-oh, the blessedness of this glorious thought!
My sins-not in part but in whole.
Are nailed to the cross and I bear them no more;
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, oh my soul.
And, Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The heavens rolled back like a scroll,
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend
Even so it is well with my soul.
[from"It Is Well With My Soul," Horatio Spafford, 1876]
That’s the doctrine and that’s the faith. That’s the hope. That’s the blessedness. That’s the gift of God and the loving, atoning grace of Jesus our Lord [Ephesians 2:8]. Adopted, redeemed, and forgiven by the blood, in the blood, through the blood of the crucified One [Ephesians 1:5-7].
We must sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing it, a family you, a couple you, a one somebody you, give himself to Jesus, come into the fellowship of the church. On the first note of the first stanza, come. I’ll give you opportunity to go to your class and appointment in a moment. Nobody leaves right now. All of us stay, prayerfully looking to God. And as you share in the hymn of appeal, as you wait in the presence of the Almighty, praying for that family, praying for that couple, praying for that one somebody, while we sing this song and while we prayerfully wait, if you are on the back seat of that highest balcony, there is time and to spare. Down one of these stairwells on either side; the throng on this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front, "Here I come." Do it now. On the first note of that first stanza, come. Make the decision now, and when you stand up, stand up coming. We’ll look for you. God bless you in the way, while we stand and while we sing.
OUR ACCEPTANCE BEFORE GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. In Christ we are children of God
1. By natural birth we are children of wrath(Ephesians 2:3)
2. Through faith in the blood of Jesus (John 1:11-12)
3. Cannot be un-adopted (John 3:16, 10:28)
4. Being born again, we are never the same again(2 Corinthians 5:17)
B. God purposes some marvelous thing for us – fellow heirs with Christ
C. Not based on our merit, but because of what He has done(Revelation 1:5-6)
1. The goodness and grace of God toward us
a. Born in a Christian home
II. Redemption(Matthew 26:28, Luke 19:10)
A. The death of our Lord was not a mere martyrdom
B. Scriptures witness to the saving power of the cross
1. Scarlet thread through the Bible(Revelation 7:13-14)
C. How the blood of Christ saves us
1. Theories of atonement have varied from age to age
a. It is a knowledge inaccessible to human wisdom
2. Can observe the effects of the atonement
a. Like a slave ransomed and given his liberty(Matthew 20:28)
b. Turns the wrath of God into mercy
c. At-one-ment with God
d. Reconciliation to God
3. The effect on the people when it is faithfully preached
a. George Whitfield
b. T. DeWitt Talmage
c. Crusade in San Angelo
A. Three ways God forgives our sins
1. In a personal way(John 2:15, 10:30, 14:9, Luke 15:20-24)
2. In an ethical way – the burden taken off our backs
a. Pilgrim’s Progress
b. Hymns, "Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed", "O Happy Day"
3. In a legal way – God commutes the sentence
a. Hymn, "It is Well With My Soul"