THE REMISSION OF SINS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-4-76 7:30 p.m.
And all of us are indebted to our choir for the songs that prepare our hearts for the message from God’s Word. We welcome you all over this vast southwestern part of the United States, who share with us this evening hour on KRLD radio. On the first Sunday of each month, and for the most part in the evening hour, we observe the Lord’s Supper. And it is my commitment in heart when we come to the breaking of bread and the sharing of the communion cup that the message be concerning the remission of sins, the pouring out of the blood of God’s Son, that we might have life eternal.
Every Sunday night it is the purpose of the pastor to preach from the life of Christ. At the morning hour there will be an exposition of some book in the Bible, such as now we are preaching through the Book of Isaiah. But in the evening hour, at 7:30 o’clock, every Sunday evening, the message will always be from the life of our Lord. And the message tonight in keeping with our Lord’s Supper and in keeping with the great purpose for which He came into the world, the message is from the last chapter of the Book of Luke. And let us turn to that chapter together; Luke chapter 24. And wherever you are listening on the radio, if you have opportunity to get your Bible, do so. And turn to the Third Gospel, Mathew, Mark, Luke. And in the Third Gospel, turn to the last chapter, chapter 24, and we shall read together verses 44 through 48. And on the radio if you have your Bible, as we read it out loud together here in this great assembly in the First Baptist Church in Dallas, you read it out loud with us. Luke chapter 24, verses 44 through 48. Now all of us, sharing our Bibles, looking on the page, read it out loud with the pastor together. Beginning at verse 44:
And He said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the Law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning Me.
Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures,
And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:
And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
And ye are witnesses of these things.
And now the text: “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations” [Luke 24:47]. That is a wonderfully interesting word, the word for “remission.” There is a verbal form of it, aphiēmi, aphiēmi, aphiēmi means literally “to send away.” And the substantive form of the verb aphesis means “a sending away,” a complete deliverance, a forgiveness. You have an antonym, paresis, means “the suspension” of punishment upon our sin. A man would sin and, in some ameliorating mercy of God, he would not receive a punishment for what he had done that is wrong, that is paresis. But aphesis means “a complete forgiveness,” a “blotting out of its remembrance,” “a sending away,” literally, of the wrong that we have done, and that repentance and remission of sins, aphesis, should be preached in His name among all nations [Luke 24:47].
We have herein a delineation, a description, of the gospel message of Jesus Christ. There is no doubt but that the preaching of the gospel has political and cultural and social overtones. And there is no doubt but that there are theological systems, there are churches and there are denominations who give themselves to those byproducts, those overtones, those affinities of the Christian faith. But according to the Word of God, those overtones and affinities and concomitants and corollaries and addenda are not the Christian faith itself.
The Christian faith addresses itself to the human heart. It addresses itself to the soul. There are a thousand alphabetical organizations, civic organizations, political organizations that devote themselves to the amelioration of the human condition and human society. But there is only one message that addresses itself to the human heart, and that is the converting, saving gospel of the Son of God.
Our message is fundamental and it is primary. You do not change a man by changing his clothes. A new suit does not make a new man. For a man to be new he must be born again [John 3:3, 7], he must be regenerated, he must give his heart and his life to God [Matthew 22:37], and there must be in his relationship before God a remission, a forgiveness of his sins [Ephesians 1:7]. No man can stand in the presence of the Lord in unforgiven sin. No man shall see God’s face in unforgiven sin. No man shall go to heaven in unforgiven sin [Isaiah 59:2; Hebrews 12:14]. There must be atonement—there must be “at-one-ment”—atonement, between us and God [Romans 5:8-11]. And that atonement is found in the loving, merciful, pitiful death of Jesus Christ for our souls [Romans 6:10]. This is the gospel of the remission of sins [Luke 24:47].
We’re first to consider the curse of the world. What is it? There’s not one of us who has followed the days of the pilgrimage of this life but has met its awesome reality. The curse of the world is sin. It brings death. “In the day that thou eatest therof thou shalt surely die” [Genesis 2:17]. And that day our first parents in their first transgression died spiritually [Genesis 3:1-6]. And in the day of the Lord—a thousand years on God’s calendar, on God’s clock, is a day [2 Peter 3:8, Psalm 90:4]—and in God’s day, they died physically [Genesis 5:5].
You know it is a wonderful thing, a revealing thing, to read in the Scriptures that no man has ever lived beyond that “one day of the Lord.” Adam died when he was nine hundred thirty years of age [Genesis 5:5]. Methuselah died when he was nine hundred sixty-nine years of age [Genesis 5:27]. But no man has ever lived through that “one day of the Lord.” “In the day that thou eatest therof thou shalt surely die” [Genesis 2:17]. And they died that day spiritually [Genesis 3:1-6], and they died in the day of the Lord physically [Genesis 5:5; 2 Peter 3:8]. Always there is that concomitant of death. We cannot escape it.
The judgment of God upon our sins is always a “following after.” God Himself has linked those two together: sin and death [Romans 8:2; 1 Corinthians 15:56]. And wherever sin touches, it brings woe and curse and misery. Add sin to anything, and it will bring with it an awesome and terrible judgment. Money plus sin is greed and covetousness. A gun plus sin is murder and violence. Success plus sin is egotism and all kinds of ostentation. Love plus sin is lust. A home plus sin is “hell on earth.” Achievement plus sin is egotism. Name anything in this earth and let sin touch it, let sin be a part of it, and it brings misery and woe and death and judgment.
In that curse of sin all of us have a part, and we cannot wash its results and its stain out of our lives, much less change the great book of Almighty God who writes every deed that we do and every thought that we think and every act that we have done with a pen of diamond up there in the books in glory [Ecclesiastes 12:14; Matthew 12:36; Romans 2:16]. Sometimes we are persuaded that the years and the passing of time, somehow hides away our sins; they are as fresh in the sight of God as the day they were committed. Do you remember in the forty-ninth chapter of the Book of Genesis when Jacob has gathered his twelve sons and one of them is to receive the blessing, is to be the progenitor of the great Messiah? Do you remember he starts at the eldest and he follows each one down to the youngest?
The eldest son of Jacob was Reuben. And when Reuben stood at the dying bed of his father, he supposed that he would have received the blessing. And Jacob addresses him first, “Reuben, thou art my firstborn, the strength and pride of my life. But thou shalt not prevail; unstable as water, Reuben” [Genesis 49:3-4], and then Jacob recalled to Reuben’s mind a sin, one of incest, that he had committed a generation ago! [Genesis 35:22]. I would think that, in the years that had passed, Reuben thought that the wrong had been buried out of sight. But at the great judgment day, it was as fresh as the day Reuben had committed it.
The next two boys were Simeon and Levi [Genesis 49:5]. And over forty years before, Simeon and Levi, brothers, had been co-conspirators to an atrocity that was unthinkable and unbelievable, destroying all of the men of the Shechemites [Genesis 34:25-26]. And Jacob turning to the next boy and the third boy, “Simeon and Levi, thou shalt not prevail, and the blessing shall not be yours.” And he called to their minds the day of violence and atrocity that those two boys had committed [Genesis 49:5-7]. Oh, what do we do with our sins? If a man sins it becomes a blot on the escutcheon. It is written down in the book of God and time and tide and the passing of years do not hide it away [John 9:39-41].
Do you remember in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Lady Macbeth persuades her husband, the thane of Scotland, to take a dagger and in the night plunge it into the heart of Duncan, the king of Scotland, who is a guest in the home of the thane? Do you remember, when he plunges the dagger into the heart of the king and pulls it out, the bloodstream of the king not only overflows the dagger itself, but stains the hand of the thane of Macbeth? And when he comes back to his wife, she sees the blood on his hand, and she says to him, “Look at that blood on your hand. Go to the fountain; wash it off. A little water will make it clean.” And the thane of Scotland, Macbeth, walks to the fountain of water to wash his hands, and as he walks, he says, “Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clean from my hand? No; rather this my hand will the multitudinous seas incarnadine, making the green one red” [Macbeth, Act 2, Scene 2]. What does a man do with his sins?
I remember a boy I grew up with, and as we became teenagers we went swimming, and I saw the lad naked, without his clothes, and he had the most horrible scars all over the front of his body that you could imagine. They were terrible-looking scars, and I said to him, “Donald, where did you get those scars?” and he replied, “I cannot remember. I cannot remember. My mother says that when I was a very small boy I pulled off of the stove a pan of boiling grease, and it covered the front of my body and left these terrible scars.” And the amazing thing to me: as the boy grew, the scars grew. As his body got bigger, the scars got bigger.
What do we do with our sins? Job cried, “What shall I do that I have sinned against Thee? What shall I do?” [Job 7:20]. Look at this. Crime is against the law, vice is against society, but sin is against God! That’s why David cried in Psalm 51:4, “Against Thee, and Thee only, have I sinned.” When a man sins, he does wrong in the sight of God. And what shall he do with his sins? If from this moment on I live virtuously and beautifully and sinlessly and perfectly, what shall I do with the stain of the sin in my soul for all of these days that have gone by? “I have sinned; what shall I do?” This is the message of the Son of God [Luke 24:47]. This is the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the revelation of the Holy Book that I hold in my hand [Romans 1:16]. Our faith and our religion has to do with our sin, getting right with God. The whole Book, the whole revelation is about that. It started with that [Galatians 3:22].
And the first couple God made, hearing the voice of the Lord as He came to visit with the man and the woman in the cool of the day [Genesis 3:8], as His wont was—for God made us for companionship, and friendship, and communion, for talking, for visiting, for being with the Lord, just face to face; the man and God who made him, somebody to love God, and talk to God, and think God’s thoughts after Him. How does a mountain range think God’s thoughts after Him? How does an ocean love God? How does a vast Milky Way express itself in adoration to the Almighty?
After the Lord had made the firmament and had made the world and all that was in it [Genesis 1:1-25], He last of all made a man [Genesis 1:26-27], that the man might talk to Him, and walk with Him, and visit with Him, and think His thoughts, and love Him. And this man that the Lord God made is now hiding from the face of the Lord. Hearing His voice in the cool of the day, the man hides himself away from God; he’s afraid [Genesis 1:8]. And when God calls to him, the man answers out of his hiding place, “I heard Your voice, and I was afraid, I was afraid” [Genesis 3:9-10]. All sin is like that—afraid to die, afraid of punishment, afraid of hell, afraid of revelation, afraid of discovery, afraid; sin is like that. “I heard Your voice, and I was afraid! For I am naked and I cannot stand in Your presence” [Genesis 3:10]. Isn’t that a come to pass? Why should he be ashamed to stand in the presence of God naked? Well, you tell me. Suppose you were attending the inauguration of the president of the United States, and all the cameras of the world were focused on you, and there you’re standing, looking at the incoming president of the United States, and you’re naked—why, you cringe at the idea!
How much more would a man cringe at the idea of standing naked before God in unforgiven sins, the burning of the judgment of the holiness of God? [Hebrews 10:29-30] And when a man appeared before the great High God in His nakedness, he had taken fig leaves and had sewn them together to make him an apron to cover over his nakedness [Genesis 3:7]. The Lord looked at him and said, “What you can do with your hands in weaving patterns of remission will not work, will not do; without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins” [Hebrews 9:22]. Blood has to be shed; that also is a law in the character of Almighty God. And the Lord slew an innocent animal. And for the first time Adam and Eve understood what it meant: “In the day that you eat thereof though shalt surely die” [Genesis 2:17]. What does “die” mean? What does “death” mean? Adam and Eve saw the Lord with His own hand slay an innocent animal and saw the red crimson of life stain the ground [Genesis 3:21]. Then he knew what “death” meant.
And the Lord took the skin of the animals that He slew and made coverings—covering [Genesis 3:21]. Isn’t that enough?—covering, that’s the word for atonement. He made covering, atonement, for the sins of our first parents. And the rest of this Book is nothing but an explanation and an exposition of the remission of our sins in the covering, in the atoning blood.
And the Lord set cherubim at the gate of the garden when He drove the man out [Genesis 3:24]. And wherever in the Bible you find cherubim, they are emblems of God’s grace, and God’s mercy, and God’s love, and God’s forgiveness, and God’s invitation to come back, to come back—cherubim. So over the mercy seat, over the propitiatory, over the place of oneness, of atonement with God, when the high priest went into the Holy of Holies once a year with blood of atonement, looking down upon it from either side and their wings touching above are the cherubim [Exodus 25:17-20; 1 Kings 6:27], signs of the mercies of God. And the whole ritual was that!
Do you remember my explanation of this word translated “remission of sins,” aphesis, which means “a sending away”? And on the Day of Atonement there is a sacrificial victim, and a lot is cast for this one that is slain, and this one that is sent away. And the blood of this one is brought into the Holy Place and sprinkled on the propitiatory, on the mercy seat, where the cherubim look upon it. And this one, called the scapegoat, is sent away [Leviticus 16:1-21]. That is a sign that in the blood God remises, God’s sends away our sin [Psalms 103:12]. There is complete forgiveness in His love and mercy [Ephesians 1:7].
Tell me; is that not the gospel of the prophets themselves? Listen to Isaiah 1:18: “Come, let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” And listen to the prophet again: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; but the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all” [Isaiah 53:6]. That’s the gospel; that’s the message of the Book. And is it not the ministry of our blessed Lord Himself? The announcing angel said, “Call His name Jesus, Joshua, lesous Savior; for He shall save His people from their sins” [Matthew 1:21].
When they bring these children to me and I talk with them, the chapter on what it means to be saved has a first question, and I always ask the child—however else I may talk to the youngster, I always ask him that first question—if Jesus is a Savior, He necessarily must save us from something. What does Jesus save us from? And the answer is: He saves us from our sins [Mark 2:1-11; Matthew 26:28; 1 John 1:7].
What is sin? It’s disobedience to God; breaking the law of God.
And who has sinned? All of us [Romans 3:10, 23].
And what is the penalty of our sin? Death [Ezekiel 18:4; Romans 6:23]. This death and the second death [Revelation 20:14]: spiritual death—what the Bible calls hell—separation from God.
And who can save us from it? The blessed, blessed Jesus [Acts 16:30-31]. I cannot save you, and your parents, who love you more than life itself, cannot save you. If you die before your father and mother do, they’ll call for me, and we’ll weep together and bury you out of our sight. We are helpless. It is only God who can raise us from the dead [Acts 2:24; 1 Thessalonians 4:14], and present us and receive us to Himself in glory in the forgiveness of our sins [Jude 1:24].
This is the gospel of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, our Savior. He said, “For the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many” [Mark 10:45]. And He said, “This is My blood of the new covenant,” of the new promise, of the new contract, “shed for the remission of sins” [Matthew 26:28].
This is the gospel preached by the apostles. When Simon Peter stood up at Pentecost in Acts 2:37, they being cut to the heart cried, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” “The awful thing we have done in crucifying the Prince of glory, what shall we do?” [Acts 2:36]. And Simon Peter replied, Acts 2:38, “Repent, repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ—e-i-s—because of the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
That was the preaching of the apostle John. “For if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ God’s Son cleanseth us from all sin” [1 John 1:7].
That was the gospel of the apostle Paul. “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man would one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would dare to die. But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” [Romans 5:6-8].
And this is the great theme of the Apocalypse. You remember Revelation 1:5, “Unto Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood… to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” [Revelation 1:5-6]. And Revelation 7:14, “These are they who have come out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
This is the gospel of the remission of sins that should be preached in His name among all the peoples of the world. I have a fullness of heart, knowing I have helped fulfill that mandate tonight, preaching the gospel of the grace of the Son of God that washes our sins away [Luke 24:47], that presents us spotless and forgiven in the presence of the great Glory [Jude 14], that opens the door for us into heaven to hear the welcome of God Himself to us who have been washed and made clean in the blood of the Lamb [1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5].
And this is the gospel message, in the love and mercy of Jesus [John 15:13], we present to your heart tonight; to give yourself in faith and repentance [Acts 20:21], in confession [Romans 10:9-10], in acceptance of His grace and mercy [Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5], to come before God tonight. In a moment when we stand to sing our invitation appeal, would you make the decision for God in your heart now and say, “Lord, here I am and here I come.” A family, placing your heart and life in the circle and circumference of the communion and fellowship of our dear church, a couple you, or just one somebody you, “Tonight, God has spoken to me in the fullness of His grace and in the blessedness and plenitude of His mercy, and I’m coming. I’m coming. I’m accepting the goodnesses of God in Christ Jesus [Titus 2:11], and I’m coming.”
There have been thousands and thousands of you who have listened to this message tonight on KRLD radio. Are you driving along on the highway, pull over to the side, bow your head over that steering wheel and say, “Lord, tonight I accept Jesus as my personal Savior.” If you’re in your bedroom, kneel down by the side of bed; if you’re in the living room, kneel down by the side of the chair. If you have a family, gather them together, and all of you, on your knees, give your heart in faith and in trust, in the forgiveness of God to the blessed Jesus. In the great throng in this auditorium tonight, in the balcony round, somebody you, in the press of people on this lower floor, somebody you, walking down an aisle, walking down one of these aisles, “Tonight, pastor, I make the decision for God, and here I am; here I come. I make it now.” Do it. Do it. On the first note of the first stanza, come, while we stand and while we sing.
REMISSION OF SINS
A. Definition of the
content of the gospel
addresses itself to the fundamental need of the human soul
II. The curse of the world
A. Death (Genesis 2:17)
III. The everlasting stain
A. We cannot wash
results of sin out of our lives (Genesis :1-4)
Friend with burn scars
IV. The guilt of us all
A. Sin is against God (Job 7:20, Psalm 51:4)
B. What do I do with my
V. The message of the gospel
A. The Old Testament
Eden – the covering and the cherubim (Genesis
3:7, 10, 17, 21, 24, Exodus 25:18-20, Hebrews 9:22)
The message of the prophets (Isaiah 1:18, 53:6)
B. The ministry of
Christ (Matthew 1:21, Mark 10:45, Matthew 26:28)
C. The preaching of the
apostles (Acts 2:38-38, 1 John 1:7, Romans
D. The apocalypse (Revelation 1:5-6, 7:14)