November 23rd, 1969 @ 8:15 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-23-69 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor leading this service, bringing the message. Now, the title of the sermon this morning is When God Raises Us from the Dead, or Total Victory.
On Sunday mornings, as you know, I am preaching now from the Book of Ephesians. We have come to chapter 2. If you would like to turn in your Bible to the second chapter of Ephesians, the messages are expositions of the Word of God.
Ephesians chapter 2 [Ephesians 2]:
And you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
Wherein the time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.
Now ye also had your living in times past in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; 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, hath 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 He 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 that I’ll be preaching about next Sunday, Sunday week, “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 boast” [Ephesians 2:8-9], saying, “I did it. The reason I’m in heaven is because I climbed up, and I was good, I was perfect in my ways.” No, we get there by the grace of God. It is a gift of the Lord [Ephesians 2:8].
Now to return to the beginning of the passage, “And you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins… and all of us were by nature the children of wrath, even as others” [Ephesians 2:1, 3]. We and others; there’s no difference, all of us. Unregenerate nature is looked upon in the Scriptures as being corpse-like, cadaverous. All of us are that way. There is no man who is not, by birth, spiritually dead.
The solemn sight of a cadaver, of a lifeless corpse, is forever unforgettable. Ah, whatever death is, and no man knows what it is, but whatever death is, here is the whole man, has all of his anatomical parts, there he is. But he’s a corpse. He’s a cadaver. He’s lifeless. He’s dead. It is a solemn and awesome sight. That’s why we hide it out of our eyes and cover it over with flowers and beautiful caskets and songs and sermons and poems. It is a solemn sight.
I grew up in a day and began my ministry in an area where many of the bodies were not embalmed when I buried them. And I ministered to people who were too poor to have, many times, even a doctor to come, just the neighbors to help.
Death is an awesome intrusion and a formidable enemy. A man walking in strength is now carried and put in the earth, buried beneath clods. And I used to hear, stand there and hear those clods as the neighbors filled up that grave, and the family would all stay. It was the custom. The family would all stay and hear and look at those clods as they fell on that wooden box.
Eyes that looked at you and recognized you are glazed in death. When a body dies, most of the time the eyes are not closed. You could look down in those eyes that recognized you just a few moments before, and they’re glazed in death. Lips and tongues that called your name are now just lumps of clay. And a stature and a frame that is made by the creative, mysterious, mystical, miraculous hand of God is now wasted in corruption.
Abraham loved Sarah, his wife; but when Sarah died—a beautiful woman—when Sarah died, Abraham arose to weep and mourn over Sarah [Genesis 23:1-2]. “And Abraham bowed himself before the sons of Heth and said, Let me purchase of thee a burying place that I might bury my dead out of my sight” [Genesis 23:3-8]. Death is a formidable enemy [1 Corinthians 15:26]. And all of us are like that. By nature, we are dead. We are cadaverous in trespasses and in sins [Ephesians 2:1]. As this body is fallen and finally corrupts and decays [Genesis 3:19], so the spiritual inside of a man, the man himself is also fallen and corrupt and cadaverous [Matthew 23:27]. To us, there are degrees in a man’s fallen life, to us. But there actually are no degrees in death [Job 21:26].
Jairus’ daughter was as though she were sleeping [Luke 8:52], the little twelve-year-old child [Luke 8:41, 42, 49]. But when Jesus suggested at the tomb of Lazarus that they roll the stone away, Martha, the sister, said, “Oh no, dear Lord for by now, he is corrupt!” [John 11:39]. But death has no degrees. The sweet little sleeping child, the daughter of Jairus, was as dead [Mark 5:35] as the corrupting Lazarus [John 11:43-44].
I think of this today. Today when I have a funeral service, everything is so beautifully done, and the embalmer has so ingeniously wrought his artistic work. But I compare it with the days when I buried the dead, and most of them were not embalmed and one is just as corrupt as the other. There are no degrees in death. And to us as we look at unregenerate nature, we may say this man is fine and this man is vile, but there are no degrees in the death of that unregenerate soul. Outside of Christ, all of us are dead [Ephesians 2:1]. We have a fallen nature.
By nature we are the children of wrath, even as others [Ephesians 2:3]. You are born that way; the Hebraism, children of wrath. If a man was sentenced to die, the Hebrew way of saying it is, “He’s a son of death.” Or if a man were poor, the Hebrew way of saying it is, “He’s a child of poverty.” This is a Hebraism, “by nature the children of wrath” [Ephesians 2:3]. We are born that way. You don’t get to be that way, you are that way. You do not learn and by practice become sinful or corrupt or fallen in your spiritual nature; you are born that way.
In the fifty-first Psalm, David says, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” [Psalm 51:5]. He was not referring that it was sinful or iniquitous, the act of love on the part of his mother when the child was conceived. There are people who say that in reading that passage. That’s not the sense of the meaning of it at all, as though the act of love that results in the conception of a child is sinful and evil. That’s not true. What David is talking about, he’s talking about himself. And he says that in his nature when he was born, there was that black drop in his face. In sin, in iniquity he was shaped and made. It’s a part of him, a fallen nature.
Some people call it original sin. Whatever you call it, it is true of all human life. You don’t have to teach the child to be selfish. He’ll just be selfish. You don’t teach him to lie. He will just lie. There is no one of us that in our life has not misrepresented. And there’s no one of us that selfishness has not touched. And there’s no one of us that by nature do not know sin. No one of us but knows sin; by nature the children of wrath [Ephesians 2:3], dead in trespasses and in sins [Ephesians 2:1].
In our day, there has been a psychology. In my generation, there has been a psychology that cries up the excellence of humanity. Hitlerites Germany, and Stalin’s Russia give a great blow to it. And I don’t hear it so much anymore, but it still was a philosophy back of the pedagogical system when I grew up; crying the excellency of human nature. God says the human heart is evil and deceitful and desperately wicked: who can know it? [Jeremiah 17:9]. By nature the children of wrath [Ephesians 2:3], born dead in trespasses and in sins [Ephesians 2:1].
I read one time of a hunter in India, and he was caught in a great flood. And the hunter found refuge, escape, in a high piece of ground. And as the flood waters swirled, it became an island, the great rushing torrents all around him, and he on that little high piece of ground that now was an island. And while he was there, there were different animals that swam out of the torrents and also found refuge on that one piece of land. And among the animals that swam out of the swirling river was a tiger. And the tiger swam through the current and finally climbed up on the island. The tiger was frightened, and it was very cowed and wet and very docile, cat-like, domestic-like; but the hunter took his gun and shot it. And when you think of that, you think, “Well, how cruel, that tiger so wet and so cowed and so frightened; yet the hunter shot it.” But the reason is very simple to learn. As the time passed and the hunter lay down to sleep or to rest or had his back turned, and as the times passed, that tiger would get hungry. And on the inside of that tiger is a nature that is wild and ferocious and carnivorous. And while the hunter might have seen it docile, inside of that wild animal there was death for the man. That is human nature.
If you’d like to know what human nature is like, look at the world around you today. Hanoi, Peking, or just remember us who are older, we who are older, Hitlerite Germany or Stalinist Russia. Human nature, God says, is depraved and corrupt and fallen [Romans 5:12, 7:14]. And we don’t learn that way. We are born that way.
Now we continue in the exposition of the passage: “But God, but God” [Ephesians 2:4]. Oh, what a relief to turn from fallen humanity and lift up our hearts heavenward and Christ-ward, “But God.” A diamond will shine so much more brilliantly if it is placed on a black velvet cloth. And it’s just like that here; “But God,” against the background of the depravity of human nature, violence and greed and sin and depravity and rape and murder, the things not only we read abroad, but see our own city filled with it. Ah, what a glory to turn upward! “But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ” [Ephesians 2:4-5].
Now that is one of the great theological presentations of the Bible. And I want you to listen to it. If you are half asleep, you pinch yourself real hard this morning or gouge yourself or say, “Neighbor, kick me on the shins.” This is one of the great theological truths of God’s Book, and listen to it.
Naturally, you could ask and rightly ask, “If a man is dead, and he’s a cadaver, how could he ever see? And how could he ever live? And how could he ever believe? And how could he ever turn? How could he ever repent? How could he ever be saved? If he’s dead, how could he ever do it?” Now that is the great theological thrust of the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. You can’t. You cannot. It is a gift of God. It is something God does for us [Ephesians 2:8].
As the eleventh chapter of the Book of Acts recounts, when the Jewish Christians heard of the Spirit poured out on the Gentiles in Caesarea [Acts 11:17], they praised God saying, “Then hath God granted unto the Gentiles repentance unto salvation” [Acts 11:18]. It’s a gift of God. It is something God does for us, for we can hear and hear, and hear and never hear; a dead body. And those eyes set could look and look and look, and never see. And that heart dead could feel and feel and feel, and never feel. You could thump it; all kinds of massages. It’s dead.
So it is with us. We are dead. And when we are saved, it is a gift of God [Ephesians 2:8]. It is a resurrection from the dead. It’s a miraculous intervention of heaven. A man outside of God is dead in the presence of the witness, in the presence of the preacher.
I remember right after World War II, I was in Munich, Germany. And in a bombed-out shelter, they were having services. The refugees that had poured out of Eastern Europe were there. And I sat there and listened and listened and looked and looked, and I could not comprehend. Some of the service was in Ukraine for the Ukrainians. Some of it was in Russian for the Russians. Some of it was in German for the Germans. But it meant nothing to me. I was not quickened in Ukraine or in Russian or in German. It is like that with a man who is lost. He is dead in the presence of the message of life.
On my trip to Alaska recently, there sat by my side a Belgian atheist. And he talked to me by the hours. He was an atheist, and his wife was an atheist, and his children were atheists. And he described to me all of the happiness and joys and irresponsibilities and freedoms of atheism. Not a syllable of the thing that he said to me meant anything to me. To me, as I listened to him, he was dead to God, and dead to Christ, and dead to heaven, and dead to life. It is a gift of God. It is something God does for us [Ephesians 2:8].
A preacher can preach and preach and preach and preach, but a preacher cannot raise a dead soul. He cannot convert a man. And a teacher can pray and pray and pray and faithfully teach, but he cannot convert a soul. He can’t raise the dead.
Even our fathers and mothers can weep and intercede over their children, but they can’t convert their children. This is an intervention of God. It is a gift of God [Ephesians 2:8]. It is a sign of the miraculous power of God, just as it is a sign of the power of God when He created the earth and the skies [Genesis 1:1-19]. Just as it is a sign of the power of God when He created life and the man [Genesis 1:20-31], so it is a sign of the creative power of God when He raises from the dead, when He recreates, us. It is something God does [Ephesians 2:8]. And no man on the earth can recreate himself, and he can’t raise himself. God has to do it. We are bound to the horns of the altar. It is an intervention. It is a mercy. It is a kindness of God.
I repeat, that’s why when you get to heaven, you’re not going to say, “Oh, praise to me, look what I did.” But that will be a sermon a little further along. It will be, “All praise to Jesus, look what Jesus did.” “And hath raised us up, and made us sit in heavenly places; that in the ages to come, the exceeding riches of His grace and kindness toward us through Christ, we might reflect the glory of God” [Ephesians 2:6, 7]. And He raised us up, raised us up. Ah, what a glory, God hath raised us up [Ephesians 2:6].
In the prayer in that first chapter, he spoke of the power of God that God wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at the right hand of the heavenlies [Ephesians 1:20]. And he uses the same imagery and the same illustration as he describes what God has done for us. He has raised us up, and He has set us in heavenly places in Christ [Ephesians 2:6]. That’s what God has done. He has raised us up, and set us in heavenly places in Christ. Like that man who came down the aisle and gave himself to Jesus, and he said, “I must be a new creature, or else the whole world has altered, for something has changed.” Like another man came down the aisle, gave his heart to God, and he said, “For fifty years, I never felt the presence of God, but for these fifty seconds, it’s the greatest fact of my life.” There is nothing like it in the earth. Here is a man who is dead to God, and dead to Christ, and dead to the church, and dead to spiritual things; and, now, he’s alive. The greatest fact in his life is God. And the greatest gift that has enriched his soul is the gift of life in Christ Jesus.
That’s why God gave us that symbolism of baptism. Dead and buried, but raised to walk in a new and glorious life in the Lord Jesus [Romans 6:3-5]. Raised, and made us to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus [Ephesians 2:6]. That’s Enoch, walking with God, from out to out, over the sea and the land, beyond the stars, up there where the glory of God is [Genesis 5:24]. That is what God hath done for us, that in the ages to come; we might show the exceeding riches of His grace [Ephesians 2:7]. For all of the eternities of the eternities, we are to be reflectors, Exhibit A’s, exhibits of what God’s grace has done. Isn’t that a marvelous thing? Throughout all the ages, we are to be exhibitors. We are to show forth. We are to be reflectors of God’s marvelous creative, redemptive love and grace [Ephesians 2:6-7].
I wish we had about an hour to say some of these things. I have been amazed at what the scientists have discovered in the lunar material. Those astronauts of ours go up there to the moon and gather that material and bring it back here to the earth. And they’re on the way back with another load. And the scientists are just amazed. They’re astonished at what they see.
Let me show you some of the things. They are astonished that the moon is covered with glass. Glass; little glass beads all over it. Glass; glass over the rocks, little glass beads in the moon’s sand, glass everywhere. They are astonished at the glass on the moon. And they are astonished at the titanium. And titanium; and many of its oxides can bend light more gloriously than a diamond! And up there are no clouds and no oceans and no vegetations and no trees to obscure the landscape. And up there, there is the irregular surface of all those craters and those mountain ranges. And it does the same thing as the corrugated lamplight on the front of your car. It helps concentrate the light. And when I read those things that the scientists are astonished at, I turn to the first chapter of Genesis and read God said that He made it to be a light, to shine on the earth at night [Genesis 1:14-19]. And it is a perfect reflector. Isn’t that something? Isn’t that something? Just like God said in His Book!
And that’s what we are to be in glory. We’re going to be perfect reflectors of God’s redemptive grace [Ephesians 2:8] and love [John 3:16]. He says so. Set us up there in heavenly places in Christ that through all of the ages to come, we might show forth, we might exhibit, we might reflect the wonderful goodness and glory and kindness of God toward us in Christ Jesus [Ephesians 2:5-7].
That’s when it will be said no longer, “The Lord God who made heaven and earth, who created the land and the sea” [Jeremiah 32:17]; they won’t say that anymore, but they will be saying, “The great Lord God who redeemed the fallen human soul, and made us into the likeness and into the image of our glorious Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” [1 John 3:2]. That will be a redemptive song forever and ever, Amen and amen [Revelation 5:9-14]. Isn’t that something? Isn’t that amazing what God hath purposed for His children? [1 Corinthians 2:9] Didn’t I tell you when we started out on this Book of Ephesians we were going to walk around in deep water?
Oh, the riches of His glory [Ephesians 3:16] and the fullness of His grace [John 1:16] in Christ Jesus; dead and raised, raised, raised above the height of the very skies [Matthew 28:5-7; Acts 1:9-10]. Cheer up, my brethren. It is the purpose of God that His saints shall inherit the earth [Matthew 5:5], and the kingdom [Matthew 5:3], and the stars, and the heavens. It is ours in the Lord.
Now we must sing our song of appeal. And while we sing it, a family you, a couple you, one somebody you, while we sing the song, if you’re in that balcony round, come. If you’re on this lower floor, come. “Pastor, I give you my hand giving my heart to the Lord [Romans 10:8-13]. The Lord hath quickened me. He has spoken to me, and I feel His presence. I hear His call, and I’m coming.” You are a fortunate somebody if hearing the gospel, you hear it. If looking at Jesus, you see Him. Oh, bless you as you come, 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