OUR SINS AND OUR SALVATION
Dr. W.A. Criswell
2 Corinthians 5:21
12-4-74 7:30 p.m.
Now last Wednesday night we were speaking of the exile. There were three tremendous things that came out of the exile. Always, and we’re all alike and we never learn, always when we are in trouble, we think life is so hard, the way is so hard, and I do not understand what God is doing to me.
And always out of those unbelievable trials and tears, come our greatest blessings. Now you look at this. Out of the infinite, almost unimaginable sorrow of the captivity, can you imagine how those people grieved in heart-rending cries before God?
By the rivers of Babylon we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.
We hanged out harps upon the willow trees in the midst thereof.
For they that wasted us required of us mirth; and they that carried us into captivity required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. But how can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?
If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.
If I do not remember thee above my chief joys, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth
You can’t read that psalm without feeling the blood drops and the teardrops of the captivity, their nation destroyed, their temple in ruins, the walls beat down and all of the populous enslaved in a foreign land. Well, as always with us, in the midst of our tears and trials, we think God has forgotten us. But out of the captivity came these three tremendous things.
Number one: the Jew was never polytheistic again, never. He was then and forever after a monotheist. You could not conceive of a Jew worshipping at the shrine of an idol. You couldn’t. He lived in a world drowned in a sea of idolatry. He alone stood out pure, holy, separate and apart, worshipping the one true God. After the Babylonian captivity, he was never an idolater again.
Number two: out of the captivity came the canon of the Bible. It was born in those days of trouble and trial; the collection of the Holy Scriptures. That was a fruit of the captivity, the collection of the Old Testament Scriptures.
Number three: out of the captivity was born the synagogue. No one ever heard, dreamed of or saw a synagogue before the Babylonian carrying away, but in the Babylonian slavery, the synagogue was born, and you have a service today patterned after the synagogue.
Isn’t that a remarkable thing; for now two thousand six hundred years, we have been assembled in an institution born in the tears and blood drops of the Babylonian captivity. Then we followed through, after speaking of the captivity, we followed through some of these things in the lecture last Wednesday evening, preparing for the coming of our Lord, things of Jewish preparation – the canon, the synagogue, the Diaspora.
The Jew was scattered all over the civilized world, and wherever he went, he carried his seven-day week period with its Sabbath, he carried his Book, and he carried his synagogue. So the world was prepared, according to the Scriptures and the assembly of the people, for the coming of Christ.
And, of course, in that interbiblical period was the rise of the great Greek. The word "Greek" in Greek is Helen. When you use the word "Hellenistic," that is the adjectival form referring to something Greek. Hellas was their name for their country, Hellas, Hellenistic, Hellenic. In that period of time arose the great Hellenic, the Greek Empire. And everybody of any culture knew Greek, spoke Greek, were acquainted with Greek. And when Rome came and subdued the world, it still remained Greek. Isn’t that a remarkable thing?
Tell me, when Paul wrote his letter to the church at Rome, did he write it in Latin? No. He wrote it in Greek. Why did he write it in Greek? Because it was the language of the entire civilized world. Isn’t that a remarkable thing, what God did, preparing the world for the preaching of the gospel?
And in that interbiblical period, after the dissolution of the Greek Empire, Rome conquered the civilized world, laced it together with roads and subjected all the people to a Pax Romana, a forced peace, so that you could go anywhere in the Roman Empire, from the east to the west, walk down a road or ride down a road without fear, without trepidation. The robbers were taken care of. The pirates were swept off of the seas, and the merchants could go, and the people could visit and trade and move around anywhere in the Roman Empire. It was a marvelous situation into which God brought civilization as though for all the years, which truly He was, preparing the entire earth for the birth of Christ and for the preaching of the gospel.
That’s what Paul meant when, in Galatians 4:4, he said, "In the fullness of the time, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman." Now that is the lecture of last Wednesday night. Now this is what I thought we would do tonight. Before we begin in the New Testament, I thought just by way of summary and review we would look at the scarlet thread through the Old Testament. We’ve been taking it piece at a time in these Wednesday lectures this fall. I thought tonight we’d just summarize it all together. We would capsulate it, just put it all in a little capsule and look at the scarlet thread through the Old Testament.
First, we begin in heaven, atonement in heaven, that is, in the mind of God. In Revelation 13:8, it is said that, "The Lamb is slain from before the foundation of the world." Just exactly what all that means our finite minds could hardly enter into. But before God formed the heavens and the earth, Jesus Christ, in God’s mind, was crucified for our sins, slain from before the foundation of the world. And like a light through a stained glass window, thereafter it is always colored.
That light could go on for five hundred trillion miles, but after it passes through that colored window pane, it is forever that. So it is in the mind of God, before the creation of the world, the Lamb was slain. And in God’s mind thereafter, always, the providences of life, the turn and fortune of civilization, culture, the rising of people, always it is with that in mind.
God is reaching forth to the great day when Jesus is crucified for our sins. In Hebrews 10:4 through 7, there is described a scene in heaven, all of it before the creation of the world. This is the scene in the tenth chapter of the Book of Hebrews that is described in heaven: "Sacrifices, the blood of bulls and goats, Thou desirest not, Thou wouldest not, But a body hast Thou prepared for Me: then said I, Lo, I come (in the roll of the Book it is written of Me) to do Thy will, O, God." If the death of our Lord was coerced, if it was forced, He is not our Savior, and He did not die for our sins. The efficacy of the atonement of our Lord lies in no small measure in the voluntariness of His expiation, His death, His atonement. "I lay down My life for the sheep" [John 10:15]. And when did He make that voluntary offer? He did it before the world was made.
You know, we don’t have time ever to go into these things, mostly because they’re so highly speculative on our part. But when Satan tempted the Lord in the wilderness in, say, the fourth chapter of Matthew, when the – when the Lord was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, those two had known each other and confronted each other from the beginning of the beginning. How far back, I don’t know. But just speculating, I’ve always thought that what was the matter with Satan was in his beauty and in his power, and as you know, the Lord gave the whole creation into his hands. He was responsible to God. All the creation was responsible to him, and he was responsible to God.
In his beauty and in his power, he was uplifted, and he saw the Son. His human name is Jehovah Jesus. His godly name is the Son. He saw Christ, the Prince of glory, in heaven. And he was envious of Him and jealous of Him, and said, "I will be God" [Isaiah 14:13-14]. And there it began, before the beginning of the beginning, before the foundation of the world; there sin began in Satan, in Lucifer’s envy and jealousy of the Prince of glory.
And whenever that was, back there in the beginning of the beginning, and sin was found in Satan in the envy and jealousy of his heart concerning Christ whom we later know as Christ, the Prince of Peace, the God of glory, when that came to pass and sin was born and the whole issue of the millennia, the centuries, the eons to follow after, that was when the Prince of glory volunteered to die for the sins of the world and the redemption of mankind.
Oh, those things are beyond us! I just mention it, just pointing out to us that all of these after years in history, the centuries, the rise and fall of nations, all of it is not strange to God, nor does it find God off guard, nor are there providences that overwhelm Him. There are no surprises and there are no ifs in history.
All of it God sees, has seen, the end from the beginning, and in the beginning, the Lord offered Himself as an atonement, as a sacrifice for our sins [Hebrews 10:4-10], and that’s what is meant when Revelation says, "He is the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world" [Revelation 13:8]. Well, my sweet people if that is true with the great sweeping of history, and just think of how much has gone on in this world, think of how precious it is for us. We’re not lost in it. God hasn’t forgotten us in it, nor are the providences of life overwhelming to Him. He knows all about it. And if we find in ourselves that yieldedness and surrenderedness that Christ possessed when He gave Himself as a volunteer, He willingly laid down His life and prayed in Gethsemane, "Not My will, but Thine be done" [Matthew 26:39-40], if we could ever come to that place in our lives, my brother, you are triumphant! You are an overcomer. Just to believe this is good, though it is as dark as the midnight and though it takes our very lives away.
That is the faith, and it’s a triumphant one. So it began in heaven before the world was made. Now when God created the world, He did it by fiat, fiat [Genesis 1:3-25]. That’s a Latin word, let it be, fiat, let it be. And that’s all it took. God said, "Let it be," and it was. "Let there be light," and there was. He just spoke these spheres, and planets, and suns, and stars, and sidereal universes, and Milky Ways, He just spoke them into existence, and there they were.
But redemption is by blood, and that’s the scarlet thread through the Bible. Somehow, God can’t speak it and a man is saved. There has to be blood. "And without the shedding of blood, there is no remission" [Hebrews 9:22]. Our redemption is bought [1 Corinthians 6:20]. We are redeemed with a price, and the unfolding of that is in the Bible, and the first intimation of it is in Genesis 3:15 called the protevangelium, that is, the first promise of the evangelists, the first promise of the coming Redeemer. He is going to be bruised, and He is going to be slain, born of a woman, to die.
Then we find that atonement in the offering of Abel [Genesis 4:4]. I think, as you remember the lecture was, I think our parents were taught how to worship God on the east of Eden [Genesis 3:24]. By the way, I wish somebody would remind me. I’ve had several people ask me, "What does that mean, the east of Eden? Why on the east of Eden? Why on the west?" Well, I said, "The only thing that just comes to my mind is that the temple faced east, and the east was somehow connected with the entrance into the temple of the Lord," but I don’t know. I want to study that.
I wish – Mrs. C, why don’t you over there with a pencil write down, find out why it is that the cherubim and the sword of the Lord are on the east side of Eden. Why isn’t it on the north side or the west side or the south side? Why the east side? I’d just like to know that. Do you know? No, you don’t know. Well, we’ll both study it. In the lecture, I was saying that I think God taught our parents how to come before the Lord on the east gate, on the east side of Eden.
The Lord had to make some kind of an explanation of why He covered them with the sacrificial skins of victims, innocent animals [Genesis 3:21]. They had leaves [Genesis 3:7]. Couldn’t a leaf cover a man’s nakedness? Why, certainly. There’s nothing wrong with covering nakedness with leaves, fig leaves. They sewed fig leaves for aprons. The Hebrews says "apron." And they covered their nakedness with it. There’s nothing wrong with that, but God said it doesn’t do. And there in Eden, He slew the first victim.
And I think when Adam and Eve looked at it they saw for the first time what d-e-a-t-h meant, death. They had never seen it before. But here is an innocent animal, I suppose, maybe a lamb, slain and the blood poured out ecrimsoning the ground, and the skin taken to make a coat for the man and his wife.
In any event, I think on the east side of Eden where the cherubim were, and wherever in the Bible the cherubim are used or referred to, always they are emblems, they are symbols of grace; never an exception to it – they are emblems and symbols of God’s mercy and God’s grace. And I think there He taught them how to come before Him.
So when the two boys came before the Lord, Cain brought a vegetable offering. Anything wrong with that? No. In the five Levitical sacrifices, you’ll find often one of them is called a vegetable offering. In the Bible, it will be referred to as a meal offering, a vegetable offering, an offering that grew out of the plants of the ground. There’s nothing wrong with that, nothing wrong with that. Well, what was the matter with Cain’s offering? This was it. God had taught them that you approach God through the blood, always through the blood, always through the blood. Bring anything else that you’d like, bring any vegetable offering, any meal offering, any offering that you like, but always with the blood, by the blood, first the blood.
Well, Cain was not going to do that. The way of Cain is, "I have my own way to approach God. Do you think I’m going to come to God with Christ? No. Do you think I’m going to come to God through the blood of the cross? No. I’ve got my own ideas about it. I have my own way. I have my own approach. I think this, that and the other." No, what all men say.
Well, that’s the way of Cain, referred to in the Bible as the way of Cain, the man who approaches God without blood, without the cross, without God. He comes in himself. He comes by his own speculative ingenuities and philosophical persuasions and all the things you hear people say who won’t give their hearts to Jesus. That’s the way of Cain, and God refused it. But Abel brought a blood offering, and God had respect, acceptance to Abel and his offering [Genesis 4:1-5]. And it’s a sad story of how the world persecutes the children of the Lord.
Then we came to atonement in the in the twenty-second chapter of Genesis on Mt. Moriah. In Genesis 22:12: "The hand of Abraham was stayed," but on Calvary, there is nobody to stay the cruel blow: Romans 8:32: "He delivered up His Son." God gave His Son for our offenses. On Mt. Moriah, there was a ram caught in the thicket, a substitute, and Isaac lived [Genesis 22:13]. Christ is our substitute, and we live.
Atonement in the Passover in Exodus 12, 1 Corinthians 5:7: "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us." And in the sacrifice of the Passover, in the slaying of the Passover lamb and in the shedding of blood, no bone is to be broken [Exodus 12:46]. And in John 19:31-36 he said, "And having received permission from Pilate to take down the body before the Sabbath day," lest hung up there, they defile the land according to the law. Pilate gave them permission. So to dispatch one of the criminals, they broke his legs, and to dispatch the other criminal, they broke His legs, but when they came to Jesus, He was so certainly dead they break not his legs, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Passover lamb, not a bone shall be broken. But one of the soldiers took his spear and thrust it into His heart, and when he pulled out the spear there flowed after blood and water [John 19:34].
Atonement in Marah in Exodus 15; the waters were bitter; mara means bitter. Mara, bitter. The waters were made sweet by a tree. God said, "Cut down a tree and put it in the waters," and they were sweet [Exodus 15:25]. So the bitter waters of our sin and sorrow and death are made sweet by the cross of our Lord.
Atonement in the smitten rock in Exodus 17 at Rephidim; the people murmured because there was no water to drink and they were facing death in the blistering, burning sands of the desert with no water to drink. And the Lord God said to Moses, "Strike the rock" [Exodus 17:6]. Strike the rock, and out of the rock healing streams flowed.
What did we say about Calvary when the soldier thrust that iron spear into His side? There flowed out blood and water. Healing stream, "Rock of ages cleft for me," broken for me, smitten for me, struck for me:
Rock of ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed
Be of sin a double cure;
Save from [wrath] and make me pure.
["Rock of Ages"; August M. Toplady, 1830]
God’s type, the smitten rock.
And in Revelation 22: "And I saw a pure river of the water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb, the Lamb slain, and by the side of the river grew the tree of life, and the leaves were for the healing of the people" [Verses 1-2]. And in Revelation 22 [Verse 17] is the last invitation: "And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely," just one condition – drink, accept, none other. Look and live. Wash and be clean. Believe and be saved. Come, come.
Now here I want to pause, and we’re going to have our time all gone before we can even make a little brief summary here. I cannot pause here without a note of what God thinks about His types. Now to us, we may be unconcerned. To some of us, they’re insignificant. Maybe to some professors, all of this is just in our ecclesiastical imagination, but not to me. And I don’t know a finer illustration of God’s deep concern for His type than this one about the smitten rock.
God said to Moses at Rephidim, "Strike the rock, strike it" [Exodus 17:6]. And Moses took his rod and struck the rock, and forthwith flowed thereout streams of water. So, in Numbers 20, verse 8, God said to Moses: "Speak to the rock; speak to the rock; speak to the rock, and out of it will come streams of living water?" Moses said to the people, "Must we get water for you to drink?" [Numbers 20:10]. And in anger he smote the rock, and he smote it again! And God said to Moses, "You smite it? Did Christ die twice? Has Christ died thrice? He dies once. He is smitten once. He is struck once. He dies once! And Moses, I said speak, just ask, and you smite and you smite." And God said, "Moses, you will not enter in [Numbers 20:12]. You will die here on the other side of Jordan." And in Deuteronomy 3:26 the Lord said to Moses, "Speak to Me no more of the matter."
Moses had perverted the type. Moses had mutilated the figure. There is not anything more emphatic in the Word of God than that Jesus was once offered to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. Hebrews 9:26 and Hebrews 9:28 repeats it again. The importance of that word "once" can never be overstated, and that is the great theological basis for if a man is saved, he is saved forever. He can never be saved again. Christ died one time, just once [1 Peter 3:18].
And a man is saved just one time, just once. And if he’s lost, he’s lost forever. Christ died once, but that once is all sufficient. He doesn’t need to die twice. The blood of Christ, one drop of it, is efficacious to wash away the sins of the whole world [Hebrews 9:28]. So if a man is ever really saved once, forgiven, he is forgiven forever. Christ died just once. And in this story in Numbers, that’s why the great significance of what God thinks about His type.
Now atonement in Leviticus, saying it’s no trifling matter in the sight of God; it may be to us, but not to Him. And you have in Leviticus the offerings and in Leviticus 16 the Day of Atonement, which is one of the most marvelous pictures in the Bible.
The two goats, one is chosen to be slain, one is chosen to be taken out and driven away into the wilderness. The one that is slain on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the blood is taken into the veil, into the Holy of Holies, and there expiation is made, cleansing is made for the sins of the people.
And the high priest comes out, puts his hand on the head of the other goat, confesses the sins of the nation, and it’s driven away [Leviticus 16:3-28]. Why does God do all that? Remember how we started this lecture, this summation tonight? Back there in glory, God had all of this in His mind: the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world [Revelation 13:8], and what you read in this Holy Scripture is carried out in the mind of God. Those people had no idea what that meant, none at all. It was just something God had them to do, wrote for them to do. And when finally we came to understand it, that was it. In the shedding of blood, there is taken away our sins [Hebrews 9:22].
Then we had atonement in Numbers, the story of the fiery serpent [Numbers 21:8-9]. "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" [John 3:14-15]. What shows forth the glory of the Son of God? Wouldn’t you think a lily? Wouldn’t you think a rose? Wouldn’t you think a star? Wouldn’t you think a sun? No. It’s a serpent; dead, limp, lifeless, with its fangs extracted. He is the representative man, and sin is dead in him.
Second Corinthians 5:21: "God made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." When sin was nailed to the cross, God forever took it away [Colossians 2:13-14]. And to us who have fled in refuge to Jesus, there is no more condemnation, never [Romans 8:1]. Our sins are forgiven.
I listened to a program this afternoon, and I was just dumbfounded by what people say. The thing concerned suicide, and so many people were of the persuasion that if one took his life, he was therein lost, lost. And I listened to some of the reasons that the people gave for it, and I was astonished by it! Let me tell you. You can be sick in your mind and heart in the same way you can be sick in any other anatomical appurtenance, appendage, concomitant in your physical frame.
You can be sick in your stomach. You can be sick in your tube, or your ear, or your foot. You can be sick anywhere; in your lung, your gallbladder, your pancreas, your liver. You can be sick anywhere. You can be sick in your mind and in your heart.
And there are those who, in deepest depression, sick of heart and mind, will take their lives.
Do you think God loves me any less because I’m sick or weak? I think He loves me more. In my weakness, God pities me. And when someone takes his life, that’s an illness of heart, of soul, and God doesn’t see it or despise them because they’re depressed or sick.
Ah! I don’t understand how people say that. Christ became sick. Yes, Himself bear our illnesses and infirmities. It says so [2 Corinthians 5:21]. Christ became sin, suicide, despair, blackness, everything. Whatever it was, that’s what He was when He died in our stead on the cross. "God made Him to be sin for us in our stead, in behalf of us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." And sweet people, if you see somebody who is in despair and even takes his life, don’t go away and say, "Well, he’s sure in hell, he’s sure damned." Oh, that’s why Christ died, that we might be saved! He took that suicide and that depression and that illness. He took it. And He paid for it on the cross, that we might be delivered.
Atonement in Joshua; that’s where the scarlet line behind which Rahab the innkeeper saved her life and that of her family [Joshua 2:18; 6:23]. Atonement in the cry of Job, in Job 9:33, "Oh, that there were a daysman," that is, a mediator, a go-between, an umpire, an arbitrator. "Oh, that there was an umpire, an arbitrator, a mediator between me and God." Who is that mediator? Jesus.
"Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh" [1 Timothy 3:16]. Our mediator is the Lord God Himself. First Timothy 2:5, "There is one God, and one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus." Atonement in the Psalms, Psalm 22, that is something that is just like a man would write if he were watching Jesus die. David wrote that Psalm. Did he ever have those experiences? No. He was inspired by the Lord to write them.
Atonement in Isaiah; the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah is like an evangelist would preach it. You’d think that he had been commissioned by the Lord God Himself to go out and to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ. Look what He has done for us.
In Acts 8:26-39, you have the story of the Ethiopian eunuch, the treasurer of Ethiopia, and Philip, the evangelist. As he was returning back home from Jerusalem, he was reading Isaiah 53:
He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
He made His grave with the rich and the wicked in His death.
And who shall declare His generation?
[Isaiah 53: 5-6, 8-9]
Who shall somehow make possible the continuation of His line because He was cut off out of the land of the living? "God shall see of the travail of His soul and be," [Isaiah 53:1] – he was reading all of that. And he turned to the evangelist and said, "Is he talking about Himself? Of whom is He speaking?" And beginning at the same Scripture, he preached unto him Jesus, Jesus [Acts 8:34-35].
Atonement in Zechariah; you would think in Zechariah you were looking at the time of the end. In Zechariah 12, there are these incomparable words: "I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced" [Zechariah 12:10]. People ask me, "What is this, the Jews going back to Israel, to Palestine?" That’s what this is about. They are going back, God says. They are going back.
And in that land, I will pour upon the house of David, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplications; and they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him as one mourneth for his only son. And in that day, there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning for good King Josiah at Haddad Rimmon in the valley of Megiddo.
That is a valley, that is a mount, that is a place of Armageddon.
And in that day, there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.
And one shall say unto Him, What are these wounds in Thine hands? And He shall answer, They are they which I received in the house of My friends.
[Zechariah 13:1, 6]
I don’t see how you can escape the wonder of that prophecy, talking about the Jewish people receiving their Lord wounded at the time of the consummation.
There was a great – with this, I must close – there was a great minister of Christ named Joseph Rabinowitz. He was a Russian Jew. He was preaching after his conversion on the Mount of Olives in Palestine. Listen to him, quote:
We Jews are like a farmer on the way to the market. A wheel comes off the wagon, and the Jew is looking for the wheel up ahead on the road. He will never find it there. He must turn back to find the wheel, back to the Messiah, to Jesus, who alone can save him.
Isn’t that a remarkable thing? No. He is here, died for our sins according to the Scriptures [1 Corinthians 15:3]. And when we see Him there, who is it we see? The One with wounds in His hands, who in His blood provided a fountain of cleanliness for all of us who are fallen sinners.
Well, it’s just a marvelous, wonderful thing to look, to study, to learn the Word of God. So, next Wednesday night, we will start in the New Testament and go right on through this springtime. Now may we bow for just a moment?
Tonight, is there someone to give himself to Jesus or to put his life in the fellowship of our dear church? If that somebody is you, would you hold up your hand, anywhere, anywhere, anywhere? God love you, amen.