The New Humanity
January 18th, 1970 @ 10:50 AM
THE NEW HUMANITY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-18-70 10:50 a.m.
Now some of you who have tuned in on the radio and some of you unacquainted with us who are looking on television may not believe it, but you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled The New Man and the New Humanity. It is an exposition of a passage in the second chapter of the Book of Ephesians. In the morning hour, I am preaching through Paul’s letter to Ephesus. In the evening hour, I bring a message from the life of Christ. And tonight at seven-thirty o’clock, having preached through Matthew, Mark, and Luke, tonight I begin preaching through the Gospel of John, beginning at John 1:1. "In the beginning was the Word," the self-revelation of God. The message tonight, John 1:1, and the message this morning, Ephesians 2, beginning at verse 11 and expounding the passage through verse 19:
Wherefore remember, that in times past ye . . . were without Christ,
being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
For He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
Having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in Himself of twain one new man:
And that He might reconcile both under God . . .
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.
You will find in this passage that basic persuasion of all of the Word of God that there are only two classes of people, just two. We’re either dead or we’re alive. We’re in Christ or we’re in the world. We’re either saved or we’re lost. We’re one or the other. And the apostle so presents this message on that basic assumption of the Scriptures.
First: he describes the old life and the old man, the one that was lost, condemned under the judgment of God. Remember, he says, "that in times past ye were without Christ" [Ephesians 2:11-12]. Nor is there any poverty more destitute without a Lord to pray to, and a Savior to help us, and a God to whom to make appeal. "Ye were without Christ." Not only no poverty like it, no destitution so full of misery and hopelessness, but no substitute for it. There is nothing that can take the place of our Lord. Wealth, success, fame, fortune, anything is a poor thing compared to the riches of the glory that we have in Christ Jesus.
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not Christ, I am become as sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal.
And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I can remove mountains, and have not Christ, I am nothing.
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not Christ, it profiteth me nothing.
[1 Corinthians 13:1-3]
"Ye were without Christ," a poverty, a destitution, incomparable and beyond description; not only that, but, "ye were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise" [Ephesians 2:12]. This refers to the true worship of God which the Lord revealed to His chosen people, Israel. And we were outside of that covenant, and aliens and strangers to the household of faith. There is no temple unless it is ordained of God. There is no sacrifice and no altar except it be appointed of God. There is no priest and no mediator except he be chosen of God. There is no fire that falls down from heaven except God sends it. All of which is but another way to say that a man cannot invent his own religion. It is a self-revelation of God, and it is an ordaining and an appointing of God, or it is nothing at all; nothing.
On the plane coming back from preaching through the State Evangelistic Conference in Florida, I looked through those magazines that are in the rack. And two of the most popular, far and away the most popular in America today, as I read them, both of them had extensive articles on religion. Nor was I surprised at that, for it is my judgment that there is a working in the hearts and minds of America today in things of faith and religion beyond any other time in American history. You think that’s almost absurd for me to voice such a judgment, but I think the strivings that you see, and the outreaching that you see, and all of the things that you see in modern American life are basically a manifestation of the spiritual hunger and longing of our people.
As we have become more affluent and as the necessities of life recede in their pressures upon us, we are becoming increasingly conscious that our souls are empty, and our lives are meaningless. We live without purpose. And that’s why you see the young people taking drugs, looking for some kind of a trip or an experience or an answer. That’s why they dress as they do. That’s why they act as they do. And that’s why there are so many "-isms" and far-out expressions of religious faith as you are beginning to find in American life.
Well, these two magazines were concerning these far-out, unusual reachings for God; and, of course, including in it the established church. But the article that I read, to sum what the pictures were depicting and what the previous delineations were seeking to explain, the article that concluded it had this last sentence, "Try these religions, try them, you might find something in them that you like," as though religion where a matter of something that I liked, as though the true God were somebody that I could define in categories that pleased me, and as though faith and religion were nothing other but a blind seeking and a human searching after an unknown factor in life.
I am just avowing to you that God’s temple, and God’s worship, and God’s altar, and God’s sacrifice, and God’s mediator, and God’s Savior, and God’s true religion is from Him and a revelation from Him, or it is human speculation! It is one or the other. And without the appointments of God, all of our religious forms are so many chains of slavery, and all of our gatherings and meetings are so many burdens, and all of our professions are so many words of empty futility, and all of our efforts are nothing but carnal strivings in the flesh.
That’s what Paul meant when he said that we were aliens when we were lost, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise [Ephesians 2:12]. For God revealed Himself to Israel [Psalm 103:7], and God handed His Word to Israel [Romans 9:4], and we were strangers from those covenants. We were outside the realm of the promises. We did not belong to the chosen family of God. We were pagans, our forefathers were. We were heathen, our forefathers were. They worshiped Thor and Wotan and bowed down before all of the unnameable, unspeakable idols that their hands had made. Not only that, in times past, we were without hope, no hope [Ephesians 2:12].
If you have read Dante’s Divine Comedy, the three great parts: the Inferno, the Purgatorio, the Paradiso. The inferno is described like this: there is a great giant door that leads down into the pit and into the abyss. And Dante says above that door, are inscribed these words, "Despair of hope, all ye who enter here." And that is a description of us outside of the Lord, without hope. Our life without God is like a shipwrecked mariner, thirsting to death in a sea of brine, looking up to the burning sun, looking down to the bottomless pit, and looking around to death and decay. Our lives are like that.
Sometimes I think of it as a race with death in a great track. And when you’re young, that grim skeleton monster of death seems to be far behind. But as the days go on and the race continues, he approaches closer and closer and closer. And finally, if you look over your shoulder, you can see him breathing down your neck, the race of death. I don’t need to speculate who wins. He always wins, like a dog, a staghound that drags down the deer. So ultimately death inextricably and inevitably drags us down without hope. You’re not going to win. You can’t. And someday it will be of you as it has been with these who have preceded us.
When I was a young preacher we laid our dead away unembalmed, in crude coffins. Today, I bury our dead in caskets. They are beautifully washed and groomed and laid out, but no less dead. Without God and without Christ, we are without hope. That is the end of all life and of all existence for us, to fall into the arms of decay, corruption and disintegration.
"And we were without God" [Ephesians 2:12]. Oh, what an isolation! What a separation! What a damnation, and yet without annihilation, without God, separated from Him [Ephesians 2:1-3]. This is Paul’s description of the man without Christ, outside of the household of faith. Then he turns, "But now, but now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ" [Ephesians 2:13]. We were far, far away. There was a mountain of debt that we could never pay that separated between us and God, we on one side and God on the other. We far away. There was a time when there was a whole mountain range of sin, sin every day, sin all our lives. There was a whole mountain range of sin that separated between us and God, God on the other side and we on this side; God far away; as far away as the heavens are higher than the earth, as far away as the east is from the west; far, far away.
But now, we who are in Christ Jesus who sometimes were far off, we have been made nigh, brought close by the blood of Christ [Ephesians 2:13]. He has paid that debt and taken it away [Romans 5:18; 2 Corinthians 5:21]. He has forgiven our sins and moved it away [Ephesians 1:7]. He has lifted us up from the miry pit, from the depths of the abyss, and set us in the heavenly places close to God [Ephesians 2:6]. He has redeemed us, and saved us, and suffered for us [1 Peter 1:18-19], and died in our stead [2 Corinthians 5:21], and brought us, lifted us out and up, close to God [Ephesians 2:13].
When I was a pastor in Oklahoma, one of those old Indians up there was asked, "How did Christ save you? How did He do it? What happened to you? You say you’re saved, and He saved you. How did He do it?" And the old Indian took some dead leaves and put them in a circle, heaped them in a little circle. And he took a caterpillar of a worm and put it inside that circle. And he set fire all the way around to those leaves. And as the fire burned, that caterpillar crawled this way, seeking a way out, and then turned this way and back again this way and this way and this way. And finding himself encompassed in the flames, the worm drew as far away from the flame as he could and curled up to die. And the old Indian reached down his hand and picked up the worm and set it out and away. And the Indian said, "That’s what Jesus did to me. I was perishing and dying, and He lifted me up and saved me."
Why, we sing like that:
From sinking sand He lifted me.
With tender hand He lifted me.
From shades of night to plains of light,
O praise His name, He lifted me.
["He Lifted Me"; Charles H. Gabriel, 1905]
Thus hath God done for us.
When Christ died, we died, the old life died [Romans 6:3]. The life that shall inevitably someday die, it’s already dead in Him. When Christ was buried in that sleep, our sins were buried [Romans 6:4-6]. One of the most graphic of all of the scenes you’ll find in Pilgrim’s Progress is when Pilgrim, laden with the great burden of sin on his back, comes beyond the Wicket Gate, and there at the cross the burden rolls away, and it fell into the sepulcher where Christ died. Our sins were buried when He was buried. And when our Lord was raised from the dead, we were raised in righteousness and in justification [Romans 4:25], in sinlessness, in purity, in forgiveness, for He is our Brother, and we are joint-heirs with Him [Romans 8:17]. And someday, God’s Book says, we shall be like Him [1 John 3:2].
Now, but now, now we who are far off in Christ have been made nigh through His atoning grace [Ephesians 2:13]. Not only that, but He has made us a new man [Ephesians 2:13-19]. Now, there are two ways that I want to interpret that: the first is personal, the new man, you in Christ Jesus; and the other is the new man collectively, the new humanity.
First: the new man, you, in Christ Jesus [Ephesians 2:13]; God does not have an assignment of grooming cadavers. He doesn’t try just to touch us up and to reform us or to change us. God doesn’t take the dead, and He puts on a little rouge here, and He combs the hair there, and He dresses up the cadaver yonder. God says the old man dies and is dead and is buried [Romans 6:11]. And what God does for us, He creates a new man. "If any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creation" [2 Corinthians 5:17]. You have a new heart, and a new life, and a new vision, and a new love, and a new dream, and a new ambition, and a new purpose, and a new commitment. That’s what God does! He makes us a new man.
Now, if I were to exegete the passage exactly as Paul is saying it here, he is referring to a new humanity. For he says, "To make in Himself of twain" [Ephesians 2:15]; that is, the Jew and the Gentile.
That would include us all, wouldn’t it? To make all of us, the Jew and the Gentile, the two one new humanity, one new household of faith, one new body of Christ, one new worshipping congregation of the Lord; for he says up here that, in the Lord Jesus, He has broken down the middle walls of partition that separated us, those walls of partition and separation [Ephesians 2:14]. Had you gone to the Holy City to worship God when the Ethiopian eunuch went up for to worship [Acts 8:27], had you gone to the Holy City to worship the true God, you would have found as you entered the city and approached the holy temple, you would have found an enormous and gigantic wall of partition. And had you gone through that wall into the Court of Gentiles, you would have found again a gigantic wall of partition. Then had you gone through that wall beyond the Court of the Gentiles into the Court of Israel, there again you would have found another wall of partition. And had you gone beyond that wall from the Court of Israel into the Court of the Women, there again, you would have found a wall of partition. And had you gone through the wall of the Court of the Women into the Court of the Priest, there you would have found again a wall of partition. And had you gone beyond the Court of the Priest and approached the sanctuary itself, there you would have found a wall. And had you entered the sanctuary itself, as only the priest could do, there again you would have found a veil separating, partitioning [Exodus 26:33].
But in Christ all of these partitions are broken down [Ephesians 2:14]. There is no here, and then beyond is there, and beyond yet is here, and beyond there is yet again, but the whole concourse, all of it, is broken down. And in Christ, we’re all alike, all of us. We can walk directly into the very presence of God Himself, there, just stand in His presence and talk to Him face-to-face as a man would his best friend: what Christ has done for us, breaking down those walls of partition [Ephesians 2:14].
Oh, there’s so much of that in Paul’s writings, such as Galatians 3:28, "For in Christ Jesus there is neither Jew nor Gentile, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, but we are all one in Jesus, a common brotherhood." As the Lord said in Matthew 23, "There is one Master, even Christ: and all ye are brethren, all of us" [Matthew 23:8]. No big and no little in Jesus. No rich and no poor in Jesus. No learned and unlearned in Jesus. We all are alike before the Lord.
And he concludes, "Therefore, ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with all the saints in the household of God" [Ephesians 2:19]. Far off, yes, in days past, but now, near, as near as God’s language could describe it. Sometimes God will say in His Book that we are temples [1 Corinthians 6:19], that we are stones in His temple, making up the very household of the faithful itself [1 Peter 2:5]. Sometimes God will say we are the members of His body [Ephesians 5:30]. He is the Head, and we are the members of His body [Ephesians 5:30]. How close is my hand to me? How close is my foot to me? A part of me. How close is my heart to me? A part of me. How close is my breath to me? A part of me. That close are we who once were far off [Ephesians 2:13]. That close are we now to God, no wall or partition intervening, separating, between [Ephesians 2:14]. Where are you? If you’re a child of God, there’s the Lord [Matthew 28:20].
"Oh, but pastor, I’m in a room all shut up, and the door is closed!" You’re in that room by yourself; that is, you’re by yourself and God. "But I’m driving along in this automobile by myself"; that is, you’re by yourself and God. "But I’m alone." Yes, you are alone with God. I ought never to be discouraged, for He is there. I ought never to be full of fear or anxiety, for He is there. I ought never to lack wisdom, for He knows. I ought never to be weak. He is there in strength. I ought never to live a life of lack and poverty. Jesus is there, strength for me, wisdom for me, help for me, kindness for me, mercy for me, forgiveness for me, encouragement for me. And He invites me to come boldly to the throne of grace [Hebrews 4:16], just walk right up to Him and say what it is on my soul and on my heart.
Isn’t that a wonderful faith? What a godly religion and what a boon and what a blessing to us who know the Lord in Christ Jesus our Savior.
While we sing this hymn of appeal, a family you, a couple you, a one somebody you, to give your heart to God, come and stand by me. You’re in this balcony round, there’s a stairway at the back and the front and on either side, and time to spare, come down that stairway and to me, "Today I decide for God and here I am. I open my heart to the blessed Jesus, and here I am." Make that decision now. Where you’re seated, make it now. And on the first note of the first stanza, stand up, coming, "Here I am." "Pastor, this is my wife and my children. All of us are coming today." Do it now. Or just you and your wife, or just you, come now. Do it now, into that aisle and down here to the front, the greatest step you will ever take, and God’s angels will attend you in the way while you come, as you come, while we stand and while we sing.