Our Crucified and Ascended Lord
January 13th, 1974 @ 8:15 AM
1 Peter 3:18-22
OUR CRUCIFIED AND ASCENDED LORD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Peter 3:18-22
1-13-74 8:15 a.m.
We welcome you who share this service on the radio with the congregation of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Our Crucified and Ascended Lord. It is an exposition of a verse and a passage in the third chapter of 1 Peter. In our preaching through this general epistle of Simon Peter, the last time we spoke from the text it concerned Christ’s descent into hell, into Hades [1 Peter 3:19]. But before and after that passage, there is the presentation of our Lord as an atonement for our sins, a resurrection, and His session in heaven. And it is of that that we speak today. Beginning at verse 18 and then reading verse, the last of 21 and 22:
For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God. . .
By the resurrection of Jesus Christ:
Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him.
[1 Peter 3:18, 21-22]
This is a startling and tragic statement, “That He might bring us to God.” It would mean therefore that we have been away from the Lord; “That He might bring us to God” [1 Peter 3:18], would necessarily assume that we are away from God. We are lost. We are not saved. And those two words are the most tragic words in human speech, “not saved.”
Our cherished friends not saved, fathers and mothers not saved, children not saved, our own souls and lives not saved; the thought of it brings with it deep and moving emotion. In one of the laments of Jeremiah, he cried, “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved” [Jeremiah 8:20]. “Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the lost among the daughter of my people” [Jeremiah 9:1].
“That He might bring us to God” [1 Peter 3:18], therefore we were not with the Lord. We were away from Him. We were lost.
Will you notice another thing? The theology of the text runs counter, directly so, against the cheap, shallow theology of our modern ecclesiastical world. For we are taught today that all of us are children of God, that the purpose of the preacher is just to make the man aware that he’s saved, that he’s a child of God. And they couch that shallow doctrine under a little catchy phrase that they call “the universal fatherhood of God.” There is no such theology or doctrine like that taught in the Bible. If we are already with God, then it is strange that the Lord should die to bring us to God [Galatians 1:3-4]. His death is meaningless and was in vain. It is because we are not children of God by nature that Christ died to bring us to God, that He suffered for our sins [Ephesians 2:3-5].
I haven’t time to illustrate the truth of that in the Bible, but there’s no exception to it. The Bible presents us without exception as being by nature the children of wrath [Ephesians 2:3], and needing to be born again, to become the sons of God. In John 1:11, “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.” John 1:12:
But as many as received Him, to them gave He the right to become the children of God, even to them that trust in His name:
Who were born, not of blood, nor the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
For a man to be born of the flesh one time is to be lost, by nature the children of wrath; a man must be born again to become a child of God! [John 3:3, 7].
Or take just once again, in the fourth chapter of the Book of Galatians, the apostle Paul says that God sent forth Christ, made of a woman, that He might redeem us, and that we might receive the adoption of sons [Galatians 4:4-5]. Then he continues, “Wherefore He hath sent the Spirit of adoption in our hearts, whereby we cry, Abba, Father” [Galatians 4:6]. Tell me, did you ever hear of a man adopting his own son? It would be idiocy. It’d be unthinkable, unimaginable for a man to adopt his own son.
A man adopts a son who is not his son. He adopts a boy who is not his son. So it is in the doctrine of Christ. It is because we are not children of God. It is because by nature we are children of wrath that we become the children of God through the suffering of Christ, by adoption. “For Christ also hath suffered for our sins. . .that He might bring us to God” [1 Peter 3:18].
There are three ways that God could have responded to our sins. One; He could have done it in inexorable justice, destroy us all, condemn us all, execute us all, consign us all to eternal perdition; that’s one way. A second way God could have responded to our sins; He could have forsaken His moral justice, just turned aside from His righteous law; in which event the whole universe would be plunged into chaos. For the Lord to disregard His own government and His own righteous laws would have been to repudiate and deny His own character and the character of the universe in which we live.
There’s a third way that God could have responded to ours sins; it is this. He could pay them Himself. By atonement [Romans 5:11], and expiation [2 Corinthians 5:21], by substitution [Romans 5:8], He could be our righteousness, and our Savior, and our Redeemer [1 Peter 3:18-19]. And God chose, praise His name, God chose the latter. “Christ died for our sins, the just, huper, the just in behalf of the unjust, for us” [1 Peter 3:18].
When Spurgeon, the London preacher, was so seriously ill, he went to Menton in the Riviera in France. There in a salubrious climate seeking health, but there, growing worse, he died. He died at the very prime of his ministry, at the very apex of his life. It was one of the great sorrows of the world, and the world grieved when Spurgeon died.
A friend, seated by the side of the dying preacher, said to him, “Mr. Spurgeon, facing death, what is your gospel now?” And Spurgeon replied four little words, “Christ died for me.” This is the good news! This is the atonement! [1 Corinthians 15:3; Romans 5:11]. This is God’s way for us to live in His presence and not die. “Christ died for our sins, that He might bring us to God” [1 Peter 3:18].
That awesome and turgid stream that falls down, and down, and down the declivities of time and plunges us into the grave: Christ did not come for us as a great hero, another Seneca, or Socrates, or Lincoln, but He came to stand in the way of that awesome floodtide that sends us down into the grave, and to lift us in life into the presence of God, that we might live and not die.
“Christ suffered for our sins, that He might bring us to God” [1 Peter 3:18]. The old divines, and in some of the ancient confessions of faith, there will be a reference to “Thy known and unknown sufferings.” The known sufferings of Christ are depicted before our eyes in song, in drama, in music; nailed Him to the cross, thrust a spear into His side, in agony, bowing His head, giving up His spirit [John 19:30, 34].
But there are also unknown sufferings of our Lord. They are the hurt and the agony in His soul into which we cannot enter. In the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, the prophet speaking seven hundred fifty years before the Lord’s Day, as clearly, as distinctly, as poignantly as though he were standing on Mt. Calvary, the prophet Isaiah says, “God shall make His soul an offering for sin” [Isaiah 53:10]. And then again, “God shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied” [Isaiah 53:11].
The debt paid [Colossians 2:13-14], satisfied; the sin atoned for, satisfied [Romans 4:11]; our iniquities washed away [Revelation 1:5], “God shall be satisfied in the travail of His soul” [Isaiah 53:11]. I don’t know. We do not know what that refers to, the unknown agonies and sufferings of our Lord. We just know that the cross is the lifeline that God has flung to us who are dying. We just know that the cross is the great central pivot point between life and death, between God and man, between heaven and hell, between hope and despair. “Christ hath suffered for our sins, that He might bring us to God” [1 Peter 3:18].
Then the apostle continues, “By the resurrection of Jesus Christ” [1 Peter 3:21]. The bruised heel of the Son of God did not continue in lameness [Genesis 3:15]. He suffered. He was crucified. He died [Matthew 27:36-50]. But He also was raised from the dead! [Matthew 28:5-9]. As surely, as surely as He expired and died [Matthew 27:46-50], just so surely did the power of the Holy Spirit raise Him from the grave [Romans 1:4, 8:11].
It was not possible that the sepulcher could hold Him. As the sea was forced to give up Jonah on the third day [Jonah 1:17, 2:10], so the bands of death and of the grave were forced asunder as our Lord was raised! [Matthew 28:5-7]. The seal of the Roman government, the stone, the guard could not keep Him dead [Matthew 27:66], nor could the cold clay hands of corruption destroy His body [Acts 2:27].
He was raised from the dead [Matthew 28:5-7], and there’s no truth more authenticated than the truth of the living resurrection of our Christ, seen of one [John 20:11-18], then of two [Matthew 28:9-10], then of ten [John 20:19-25], then of eleven [John 20:26-31], then of above five hundred at once [1 Corinthians 15:6]; and corroborated through a period of forty days! [Acts 1:3]. Consider the truth of those forty days in which Christ appeared raised from the dead [Acts 1:3]. Consider it.
One: you have there an instance and an illustration of our Lord’s absolute victory over the powers of darkness, over sin and Satan, death and the grave [1 Corinthians 15:55-57]. Look! At the beginning of His ministry, the Lord was assailed in the days of the temptation, forty days! [Matthew 4:1-2]. Therein did Satan seek to undo the incarnation? [Matthew 1:20-25]. “Turn these stones into bread” [Matthew 4:3]. Men don’t live like that. Men live by the sweat of their brow, “You turn these stones into bread,” undo the incarnation. “Do not go to the cross for the saving of the souls of men, let them die. Just bow before me, and I will give you the kingdoms of the world and all their glory [Matthew 4:8-9]. Live the dramatic and spectacular life, fling Yourself down from the pinnacle of the temple, let the angels bear You up before the astonished gaze of all mankind [Matthew 4:5-6], but the life of lowliness of self-effacement and suffering, not for Thee.”
That did the king of darkness bring before our Lord at the beginning of His ministry. During these latter forty days [Acts 1:3], does Satan assail? Why did not Satan attack Him at the garden tomb? [Matthew 27:57-61]. Why did Satan not attack Him in Galilee? [Matthew 28:16-20]. Why did not Satan attack Him at the coals of the fire of breakfast thereon? [John 21:1-25]. Why at least did not Satan attack Him to interdict Him, to wail at Him in the air upon His ascent into heaven? [Acts 1:9].
The answer is very plain. Satan is destroyed. Satan is ruined. Satan is fallen. The powers of darkness have been overcome! [Hebrews 2:14]. The victory belongs to our Lord in His resurrection from the dead [Matthew 27:5-7]. And Satan and his hosts are a baffled and defeated kingdom, and the forty days is an authentication of it [Acts 1:3].
Another thing, the forty days in which Christ appeared to His disciples [Acts 1:3], they are adumbrations and anticipations of His millennial reign, when He comes to be with us personally [John 14:3], just as He was with those first disciples. There was peace. There was joy. There was gladness. There was victory. There was triumph. There was everything good and great in the resurrection of our Lord and in His appearance with His disciples [Acts 1:3].
Think of what it shall mean when His feet shall once again stand upon this earth [Zechariah 14:4], when the Lord shall move in and out among us, when we shall see His face, when He shall be our King [Revelation 22:3-5], when the dove of peace shall rest upon the still waters, and there are no storms and no wars [Isaiah 2:4]. The forty days are a harbinger of the millennial reign of our Lord, when He shall come in visible and personal form [Acts 1:11], and be Lord over God’s people [Matthew 19:28, 25:31].
Not only in the resurrection [Matthew 27:5-7], but, “He has gone into heaven, is seated on the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him” [1 Peter 3:22]. His ascension, He is gone into heaven [Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9-10]. Can you not think of the welcome to our Lord by the hosts of glory?
When Jacob, Israel, the prince of God came back to the Promised Land, the Scriptures say in Genesis, that the angels welcomed him, and Jacob called the name of that place Mahanaim. Two bands, two troops, two companies, great hosts, two hosts of angels met him [Genesis 32:1-2].
Thus it is and must have been with our Lord when He returned to glory and the hosts of heaven welcomed Him. He ascended into heaven [Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9-10]. Therefore, Joseph being gone from Egypt [Exodus 13:15], God’s people must prepare to be gone also, and away [Philippians 3:20-21]. Our home is not here, it’s there! [John 14:1-3; Revelation 21:1-5]. Our inheritance is not here, it’s there! [1 Peter 1:4]. Our King and our Head is in heaven, and that is our eternal home [Revelation2 2:3-5].
As the old timers used to sing:
I am a stranger here,
Heaven is my home
Earth is a desert drear,
Heaven is my home
Sorrows and dangers stand
Round me on every hand
Heaven is my fatherland,
Heaven is my home.
[from “I’m But a Stranger Here,” Thomas R. Taylor]
Do you notice, do you notice that in the record of the ascension of our Lord into heaven, there were in the disciples no disposition to lament, no tears, no crying, no sorrow? But as they saw their living Lord ascend into glory, they were filled with praise and great peace and exaltation [Luke 24:52-53]. Their hearts in the ascension of our Savior, their hearts were lifted up and they became mindful of heavenly things.
So it is with us. The ascension of our Lord is for good. It’s for our victory. It’s for our triumph. And to those that love Him shall He appear again apart from sin, unto salvation [Hebrews 9:28]. He has ascended into heaven and is on the right hand of God [1 Peter 3:22]. That is a figure of power. He has won the battle and He is seated now, the great Conqueror of death and Satan and sin and the grave [1 Corinthians 15:55-57]. He is now reigning as God! [John 17:5]. His session is in heaven complete [Ephesians 1:20], waiting until the earth be made His footstool [Hebrews 10:13]. Think of it. Think of it. The great God of the universe is a man, the Man Christ Jesus [1 Timothy 2:5].
He hasn’t changed [Hebrews 13:8]. As He was on the cross, so He is on the throne; as He was when the women of Jerusalem lamented over Him, so He is among the praise and exaltation of the angels. If we went to David in the cave when he was a refugee from Saul [1 Samuel 22:1], we can also go to him as our friend and companion on the throne of Israel [1 Chronicles 18:14]; and that’s our status with our living Lord [Hebrews 4:14-16]. He is our friend, though He is God of the universe.
The silvery sun, the golden moon,
And all the stars that shine
Were made by His omnipotent hand,
And He’s a friend of mine
When He shall come at trumpet sound,
To head the conquering line,
The earth shall bow before His feet,
And He is a friend of mine
[“He’s A Friend of Mine,” John H. Sammis]
He has taken His nature with Him into heaven. God now is a man who has a body, a human body, “seated at the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him” [1 Peter 3:22]. At His feet do all the angels bow, and at His feet shall heaven and earth bow, and at His dear feet someday, every man, every soul shall bow [Philippians 2:10-11]. Oh how blessed to do it now, when to bow before the Son of God is to receive remission [Matthew 26:28], and salvation [John 3:16], and atonement [Romans 5:11], and forgiveness [1 John 1:8; Revelation 1:5], and everlasting life from His gracious hands! [John 10:27-30].
Would you do it? By the side of the thousands of us who call upon His name, would you also bow? “I open my heart heavenward, to receive the benedictory blessings of God. Lord, forgive me my sins. Lord, save my soul. O God, write my name in the Book of Life [Luke 10:20; Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27]. O God, stand by me in this world. Stand by me in the hour of my death. Stand by me my Counselor, and Mediator, and Friend at the judgment day [2 Corinthians 5:10]. And Lord, receive my soul into everlasting glory. Dear God, remember me.” Would you?
In a moment we stand to sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing it, in the balcony round, you; on this lower floor, you; coming down one of those stairways, coming down one of these aisles, on the first note of the first stanza, “Here I am, pastor. Here I come. I give you my hand. I give my heart to God. I’ll kneel with you in the presence of men and angels before my great, glorious, triumphant Savior, and I’m coming.” To put your life into the church, a family, or just you, as the Spirit of Jesus shall press the appeal to your heart, come now. Make it now, do it now, while we stand and while we sing.
OUR CRUCIFIED AND ASCENDED LORD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Peter 3:18-22
1-13-74I. “That He might bring us to God”(1 Peter 3:18)
A. Startling and tragic statement
1. We were away from God, someplace else, lost(Jeremiah 8:20, 9:1)
2. Statement runs counter to cheap, shallow, modern theology
a. No such thing in Bible as the universal fatherhood of God
A. Three ways which God could have dealt with us in our sins
1. Stern, inexorable justice
2. Without regard to law, righteousness
3. He chose atonement, substitution
a. Final words of Spurgeon
B. Our sin atoned for, expiated
1. His known sufferings
2. His unknown sufferings (Isaiah 53:11)III. “By the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21)
A. He became subject to death, suffered as we suffered, and was raised for us – in His resurrection we also are raised(Hebrews 4:15)
B. No fact in history more sure than the raising of Christ from the dead
1. As the sea could not hold Jonah, the grave could not hold our Lord
C. He appeared to His disciples for a period of forty days
1. Demonstratesthat the powers of darkness, Satan are forever destroyed(Matthew 4:1-11)
2. A harbinger, anticipation of the millennial reign of our LordIV. “Gone into heaven” (1 Peter 3:22)
A. With what joy and exaltation did the angels of heaven receive Him
1. As hosts of angels met Jacob, welcoming him back to Promised Land(Genesis 32)
2. Our home is not this earth, it is in heaven
B. The ascension filled the disciples with hopeV. “The right hand of God”(1 Peter 3:22)
A. As victor He sits at the place of honor
B. This same Jesus – the God Man