Our Spiritual Resurrection
November 23rd, 1969 @ 10:50 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-23-69 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Our Spiritual Resurrection, our total victory in Christ.
Today is a marvelously meaningful, significant day in the life of our church. Tonight, in God’s grace and goodness, and in the devotion and response of our people, we are praying and believing that Mr. Ramsour, our business administrator, will be able to announce tonight that we have over-subscribed our giving program for the new year that totals for us and our mission program, $2,400,000, and then a gift from our people in behalf of our Chapel Choir in their mission Orient tour this coming summer. If you have not signed your pledge card and turned it in, be sure to do so by tonight. And all of the men of our church, all of you, are invited to break bread with us at noon today. We will meet in Coleman Hall, several hundred of us; we will enjoy a lovely Thanksgiving dinner, then we will go out and call on the homes of those who have forgotten to turn in their pledge cards. It is a blessing to us to go, to knock at the door. It is a blessing to the people to whom we are sent by the Spirit. There are people who are sick, we do not know of it; there are those in despair and distress and sorrow, and if we could even manufacture, conjure up a reason for the visitation, it would be a wonderful thing to do. And we have a wonderful cause to go for: our Lord’s work in the earth. So if you are at home and somebody knocks at your door, welcome them: they are emissaries from heaven; they are angels in disguise – even though they have a pledge card in their hands.
Now, on Sunday morning, during these days I am expounding the Word in Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus, the Book of Ephesians, and we begin today at chapter 2:
And you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins,
And were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
But God, but God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us,
Even when we were dead in sins, we were quickened, He quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
That in the ages to come God might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
Then one of the great passages in the Bible:
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works
lest any man should say, “I did it, look at me: walking down the streets of glory because I climbed a steep ascent of heaven through peril, toil, and pain. I made it!” No, we get there by the grace of God: and the glory, the honor, the dominion, the praise is all His.
Now let’s expound the Book: "And you who were dead in trespasses and sins, and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others" [Ephesians 2:1, 3]. All of us are alike: unregenerate nature is fallen, it is corrupt, it is sinful, it is iniquitous; it is not holy and righteous. By nature a man is lost: he is not a child of God. And Paul refers to unregenerate nature as one in death. A cadaver is a solemn sight wherever it is seen. Death is a formidable enemy.
Here is a man, and in some instances just a moment before, and he walks by, but he falls into death and is carried by others into the grave. Eyes that looked at you now glazed in sightlessness and darkness; lips and tongues that spoke to you are now lumps of clay; and the frame and the stature that was created by the ingenious and miraculous and mystic hands of God has now fallen into corruption and ruin and decay. That, says Paul, is an identical picture of our fallen spiritual natures: we are dead, we are cadaverous in our spirits and in our souls [Ephesians 2:1]. And that death is such a horrible thing. God calls death an interloper; it was not intended. God calls death an enemy [1 Corinthians 15:26].
In the Book of Genesis you have the story of the death of Sarah, the beautiful and beloved wife of Abraham. And the Word says that Abraham stood to lament and to weep over the death of Sarah, and Abraham bowed himself before the sons of Heth, and said, "Let me buy of thee a ground for a burying place, that I may bury my dead out of my sight" [Genesis 23:3-4]. However loved and however dear, when death comes and we turn into a corpse, even these who love us ask that we be buried out of their sight.
And there are no degrees in death: we are not somewhat dead. In our trespasses and sins, in our fallen nature, we are completely dead. There are no gradations in death. The daughter of Jairus, the twelve-year-old girl, looked as though she were asleep [Luke 8:52]. And when the Lord said to roll the stone away from the grave of Lazarus, Martha his sister, said, "O Lord, no, for he has been dead four days, and by now he is corrupt" [John 11:39]. And the sleeping child or the corrupting Lazarus are both alike, cadaverous: there are no degrees in death.
Today, when I have a funeral service – I have one tomorrow – when I have a funeral service, our modern way of doing embalms the body, and the artistic gift of the undertaker, the embalmer, makes it look as though our loved one is asleep. And we have flowers and music, all to cover over the harsh face of death. When I began my ministry out in the country and years ago, and among very poor people, they didn’t embalm their dead. Some did; many didn’t. They had no money. They put them in a very cheap box-like casket. And the habit was that the family should stay and listen to those clods as the neighbors shoveled the dirt on the box below. Death had a harsh visage; and those dear poor people to whom I ministered wept and cried. But whether I do it today in a beautiful surrounding, sometimes in a marble chapel, or whether I did it then, unembalmed, in a harsh and horrible way, it still is the same: there are no degrees in death. And God says by His Holy Word that this is an exact picture, an exact picture of our fallen spiritual corrupt nature.
We look at men and we say, "This is a fine man. This is an evil man." But by the Word of God they both alike are dead; and there are no gradations and no degrees in death. We are spiritually fallen; and the Book says that we are that by nature. All of us by nature are fallen. He calls us here "the children of wrath" [Ephesians 2:3]. That’s a Hebraism. A Hebrew would write, a prophet would write, if someone was to die, "He’s a child of death." If someone is poor, "He’s a child of poverty." All of us are children of wrath, of condemnation, all of us. And that judgment of death is born with us: we don’t learn it; it isn’t something that we have acquired by practice. We were born in sin, shapen in iniquity.
In the fifty-first Psalm, the psalmist David says, "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me" [Psalm 51:5]. I have heard men quote that passage in a terribly wrong misinterpretation. They make it mean that the act of love that would result in conception has in it, in itself sin. That isn’t true: the act of love that resulted in the conception of the child David was not an act of sin, nor did the psalmist refer to it like that. But what David was saying is, that, "When I was conceived, when I was born, there was in me, coursing in my veins, the black drop of death." We are fallen. The old-timers would call that "original sin." It’s not something you learn or something you acquire, something you pick up by practice; but we’re born with it. You don’t have to teach a child to be selfish; he’ll just be selfish. You don’t have to teach him to misrepresent; he will tell you an untruth. And all of us are alike in the course of human life. Sin is ever present in our members; all of our faculties are fallen: our minds, our hearts, our souls, our spirits, our understanding, our physical frame. We are born that way.
Nor can all of the education in the world eradicate it. We are ignorant sinners if we are unlearned; we are learned sinners if we are academicians and taught. There are no differences. All are alike, God says here in the text. We are fallen by nature; we are dead in trespasses and in sins [Ephesians 2:1]. And that nature always, and finally, will exhibit itself in our lives: it is there, and it is always there; we are born with it!
I read of a hunter in India, and while he was on his hunt the river overflowed; there was a great flood and he escaped to high ground. And while he was there, a tiger swam out of the swift-moving current and came to the little island now with the hunter. The tiger was wet and afraid and cowed, and was like a domestic cat. But the hunter took his gun and shot it. And you might have thought, as you read the story, "Well, what an inhumane and cruel act on his part." But the hunter was wise: he had sense enough to know that while the flood raged and while they were on that little island together, if the hunter went to sleep or if he turned his back, or whether he turned his back or not, if that tiger, as the days passed became hungry – the tiger is carnivorous, and the tiger doesn’t know the sum of the statutes of kindness that some of us propose to know. And when the tiger was hungry, he’d eat that man. It was the nature of the beast; born that way. It’s in his heart; made that way. So the tiger was shot. Now that is an identical picture of us! There is the latent ability of any kind of a sin in any man’s life. He can murder. And I’d say most murders are not premeditated; they are done in anger, and fury, and emotion, or in fear. We’re capable of anything, all of us. God says that we are a fallen people, that we are dead in trespasses and in sins, and we’re that by nature.
Then as the Word continues: "But God, but God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us" [Ephesians 2:4]. What a marvelous change in tempo, to turn from the death and corruption of fallen nature, to lift our faces and hearts upward and God-ward and heavenward – "but God, but God,"
Now, you’re going to listen to one of the great, great doctrines of the Bible; I suppose the greatest one. Wouldn’t it be right to ask, wouldn’t it be correct to ask, wouldn’t it be reasonable to ask, “If a man is dead and he’s a corpse and he’s a cadaver, how could he believe? How could he repent? How could he be saved?” And the answer from the Word of God is this: the man cannot. He can’t save himself, he can’t resurrect himself, he can’t even repent of himself. In the eleventh chapter of the Book of Acts, it says that repentance is a gift of God [Acts 11:18]. Well, how is this man ever to see, or to hear, or to feel, or to believe, or to repent, or to be saved? And the answer is that it is a work of God. For the man in himself is dead; and a dead man cannot resurrect himself. So a man who is dead toward God in his heart, in his spirit, he can see and see and see and see, but he never sees; or hear and hear and hear and hear, but he never hears; and feel and feel and feel and feel, but he never feels. He is dead!
Soon after the Second World War, I was in a bombed out shelter in Munich, Germany. And the refugees there were having a Christian service; they were Baptist people. And the service was in Ukraine. I was dead to it; meant nothing to me, I couldn’t understand. And the service was in Russian. I was dead to it; I couldn’t understand. And the service was in German. I was dead to it and I couldn’t understand. Then the service was in English, and I could understand. My mind was touched and moved in enlightenment. A dead man is like that: he can be in the presence of the Word of God, but if he’s dead it means nothing to him.
In this last and recent journey to Alaska, I sat in the plane by the side of a Belgian atheist. He was proudly an atheist. His wife, he said, was an atheist; and his children were atheists. And he spoke to me of the freedom and the unresponsibility of being an atheist: absolutely unbound and free! What a glory, listening to him. He is an atheist. But to me, as I listened to him, he described a panorama of death! He doesn’t see, and he doesn’t hear, and he doesn’t feel, and he doesn’t know, for he’s not quickened. How does a dead man see? How does a dead man hear? How does a dead man feel? All the preaching in the world will not resurrect a dead man.
"You might try it, preacher, if you think you can. Go to the cemetery, got lots of them out there. Preach to them. Preach to them." Preaching doesn’t resurrect the dead. And all of the faithful teaching in the world will not resurrect the dead. And all the tearful, sometimes heartbroken cries and intercessions of parents for the children will not resurrect the dead. It is a gift of God. It is something God does. God must touch the heart. God must unstop the ears. And God must quicken the soul. It is as great a miracle as when God flung these worlds into space. It is as great a miracle as when God created life and created you. It is as great a miracle as when God resurrected us from the dead. And Paul describes it: "And He raised us up, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come He might exhibit, He might show forth the exceeding riches of His grace and His kindness in Christ Jesus" [Ephesians 2:6-7]. It is something God does: God raises us up.
Here’s a man that sees and sees and sees, then suddenly he sees! Here’s a man that hears and hears and hears, then suddenly he hears! Here’s a man that feels and feels and feels, then suddenly he feels! Here’s a man who’s dead and he’s dead and he’s dead, and suddenly he’s quickened and alive in God! He is a new creation: not a patched up corpse, but he’s a new creation; "If any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creature" [2 Corinthians 5:17].
Down the aisle came a man giving his heart to Jesus, and he said, "I don’t understand. Either I am a new creation, or the whole world is altered, for everything is different." Another man came down the aisle confessing Christ as Savior, and he said, "For fifty years I have lived, and have not felt the presence of God." He said, "For these last fifty seconds, the greatest fact in the world to me is God!" A man lives and lives and lives and lives, and then suddenly God quickens his soul, and he’s aware, and he’s conscious of the Lord Almighty. Like Jacob: "Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not. . .This is none other than the house of God and the gate to glory" [Genesis 28:16-17].
"And He raised us up." That’s why this beautiful, meaningful baptismal service. God’s Holy Word says we are dead in trespasses and in sins [Ephesians 2:1], and buried with Christ; dead, buried, and we are raised in the likeness of His glorious, incomparable, triumphant resurrection [Ephesians 2:5-6]. Dead, buried, and raised, that’s what God hath done for us.
"And hath made us sit together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus" [Ephesians 2:6]. Living with the Lord, walking with the Lord, from Alp to Alp, over the seas and the mountains, over the stars into the highest heavens, as “Enoch walked with God: and was not; for God took him” [Genesis 5:24], he was with the Lord. So one who is quickened: over the seas, and over the mountains, and beyond the stars, now and forever he sits in heavenly places in Christ.
"That,” God has a purpose in it, "that in the ages to come God might show, might exhibit, the exceeding riches of His grace and His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus" [Ephesians 2:7]. For all of the eons and unending ages to roll, to come, to be, to exist, to live, we are to be reflectors of the glorious grace and goodness and kindness of God toward us, and exhibit, "This is what God can do. This is the grace and mercy of God; God’s redeemed." And we are to show that forth; we are to reflect that in all of the ages to come.
I cannot be but overwhelmed as I listen to these scientists as they take that lunar material brought back by the astronauts – and as you read in the papers they are bringing back another big load of it – as the astronauts bring back the material, and the scientists take it, and they chemically analyze it, and they look at it through microscopes, and they weigh it, and they study its chemical formulae, oh how interested they are, and we’re interested with them. And the papers say that these scientists are amazed, and they are overwhelmed by the component parts of that lunar material, "For," they say, "to our amazement, it’s covered in glass, glass, glass, little beads of glass, everywhere glass, glass; even the rocks are covered in glass. It is full of glass. The very moon dust is full of little beads of glass." Then they say, "And it has great amounts of titanium. And in its oxide form, titanium can bend light more beautifully and gloriously than a diamond!" And up there on the moon there are no trees, and no vegetation, and no oceans, and no clouds, and no mist. And up there on the moon there are craters and irregular features, like the channeled glass on the lamp of the headlight of your automobile. It is a perfect reflector, the moon is!
One of my men came to me this morning, and said, "Did you know that when you see these fluorescent signs, that in that paint are thousands and thousands of little tiny glass beads? That’s what makes it shine!" And the scientists, as they analyze the material of the moon, they say it is the most glorious reflector that mind could imagine. Well, they didn’t have to go to the moon to find that out. They didn’t have to analyze that material to learn that. For God said in the first chapter of Genesis that He made a giant reflector to give light on the earth by night [Genesis 1:14-19]. It reflects the light of the glory of God.
That’s what we’re going to be. That’s what we’re going to do: that in the ages and the ages to come, we may reflect the exceeding kindness and goodness and mercy of God. And no longer will it be said then, "The Lord God who made heaven and earth" [Jeremiah 32:17], but it will be said then, "The Lord God who redeemed a fallen and corrupt humanity into the glorious image of His Son, Jesus Christ." Oh! What a prospect: for all eternity, shining, reflecting the love and goodness and mercy of the Lord.
Not something we have done, but something God has done: saved by grace through the channel of faith [Ephesians 2:7-9]. That, not of ourselves, a gift from heaven: not of works, as though we did it, lest a man should be proud and boast; but something God did. “I was dead, and He raised me up. I was blind, and He opened my eyes. I was deaf, and He made me to hear. My tongue and my lips were lumps of clay; He made me to sing and to praise His name.” Glory, majesty, honor to God, through Jesus, forever and ever. Amen. That’s the Book. That’s the gospel. And that’s the preciousness of our hope in Jesus our Lord.
And while we sing our hymn of appeal, you, you, a family you, a couple you, a one somebody you, while we sing our hymn, if you’re in that balcony there’s a stairway at the back, at the front, and on either side, come, and there’s time and to spare. If you’re on this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front, "Pastor, we’ve made the decision. We are coming today. God has quickened my heart. The Lord has spoken to me. I hear His voice, and I am coming." Do it now. Make it now. Or a family you, a mother and children you, a couple you, or you one somebody, while we sing the hymn, you come. Make the decision now; and on the first note of the first stanza, into that aisle and down here to the front. Make it now, come now, do it now. God will bless you in the way, while we stand and while we sing.
I. "Who were dead" – the condition of
unregenerate human nature
A. The solemn sight of
a dead body(Genesis 23:3-4)
B. A metaphor for the
soul without Christ
1. There are no
degrees in death (John 11:39)
II. "By nature the children of wrath"
A. A Hebraism- one
doomed to die, "a child of death"
B. We are born in sin(Psalm 51:5)
reformation cannot eradicate it
1. Hunter in
III. "But Godâ€¦"(Ephesians
A. The point – God must
enable us(Acts 11:18)
B. God’s grace and
mercy made the difference(Ephesians 2:6-7)
IV. "Raised us up"
A. The new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17, Genesis 28:16-17)
B. The new resurrected
1. Meaningful baptismal
service – buried and raised(Colossians 2:12)
V. "Hath made us sit together in the
heavenlies in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:6)
A. "In the heavenlies" – where
the head is, the also is(Genesis 5:24)
B. Purpose of God that
He might show the riches of His grace in us
1. We are to be
forever reflectors of what He can do
2. The moon a