The Christ Paul Preached
November 12th, 1978 @ 7:30 PM
THE CHRIST PAUL PREACHED
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-12-78 7:30 p.m.
And welcome the thousands of you who are listening to the service on the great radio station of the Southwest KRLD, and on KCBI, the stereo Sonshine station of our Bible Institute. You are sharing the service of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Christ of Paul’s Gospel; what did Paul preach? The Christ Paul Preached.
In our preaching through the Book of Acts we have come to a magnificent chapter, the twentieth chapter of the Book of Acts, and in this twentieth chapter there are several references made to the preaching of the apostle Paul. In the second verse he says that he goes over all of those parts where he had visited before on his first and second missionary journeys. And the second verse says that he exhorted much as he visits those churches [Acts 20:2]. And then in the seventh verse, as he preaches at Troas, it says that he continued his speech until midnight [Acts 20:7]. Amen! And in the ninth verse it says, “And as Paul was long preaching” [Acts 20:9]. Glory to God, amen! And then, in the twentieth verse it says:
I kept back nothing profitable unto you, but have taught you and showed you publicly, and from house to house, testifying to the Jews, to the Greeks—to everybody—repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
Then in the twenty-fourth verse another reference—
I count not my life dear unto myself, that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I received of the Lord Jesus, to testify—to testify the gospel of the grace of God.
And then the twenty-seventh verse—
For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.
[Acts 20: 27]
This is just so much that is typical of the apostle as he speaks of the gospel that he preaches. In the [Roman] letter he refers to “my gospel” [Romans 2:16], and in the Book of Galatians he says, “I received it not of men, neither was I taught it by men, but I received it as a direct revelation from Jesus Christ” [Galatians 1:12]. So I thought tonight, looking at the preaching of the apostle Paul, that we would see what he preaches. How is it that he presents this glorious message of the crucified and risen Lord? What does he say, and how does he preach?
First of all, he preaches a Christ pre-existent. In the first chapter of Colossians and verse 17, Paul avows, our Lord Christ “is before all things” [Colossians 1:17]—the pre-existent Christ. That is the same kind of a doctrine as John begins his Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God” [John 1:1]—the pre-existent Christ.
Our minds cannot enter into that, for we are creatures of time and of place. I cannot conceive of endlessnesses. I cannot conceive of everlastingnesses. I cannot conceive of eternities, because I can only think in terms of time. To me, everything is either yesterday, or today, or tomorrow. And I cannot speak without tense; every verb that we use has tense and we cannot speak without it. And we cannot think in terms of endlessness, it is something beyond our capability. We are limited in our finite minds. I cannot conceive of anything immaterial that has not a body; I cannot imagine it, I cannot conceive of it. I cannot picture in my mind spirit—the abstract—I cannot do it. Everything that I think of has to have form and substance. I cannot imagine in my mind anything else. I am a creature of time and of place, of body and a tense—today, yesterday, or tomorrow.
But the Lord Christ was before all things, He was pre-existent [Colossians 1:17]. Before time was created, before matter and space were created, He was. Forever and forever in the eternity of the ages, Jesus was. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever He had formed the earth and the sea, Jesus was. Before the light of a billion suns were set aflame, and before these planets were flung into orbit, Jesus was. Paul preached Him a pre-existent Christ. He is before all things [Colossians 1:17].
Number two: in the gospel that Paul preached, he preached a Christ who was deity, who is God, who is the great Creator and Maker of this earth and all things therein. In this first chapter of the Book of Colossians he writes that Christ “is the image of the invisible God” [Colossians 1:15]—the express image of the person of God:
The first-born of every creature: for by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him.
[Colossians 1:15, 16]
Paul preaches that Christ is the great, omnipotent Creator God. That again is the same kind of an introduction as John preached in his Gospel:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made.
He is, in the gospel of Paul, the great Creator God of the universe [Colossians 1:15-16]. In the first chapter of Genesis there is a little note added: “and He made the stars also” [Genesis 1:16]. Think of the meaning of that little clause: “and He made the stars also.” Jesus created that vast infinitude of the firmament that, like a chalice, overarches us in the sky. Oh, how could such a thing be?
Long, long time ago, dreamy-eyed astrologists thought that they could count 1,022 stars. Then Ptolemy, in the centuries that followed after, said there were 1,066 stars. Then as the years passed, they thought that with the naked eye they could count 1,175 stars. Then Galileo took his crude telescope, and arranging the lenses he found that there were uncounted stars in the sky above us. Then Herschel and Rosse with their magnificent new telescopes, swept the heavens and found that there were an infinitude of burning and blazing suns, each one with its universe of planets around it. And now, with our vast photographic equipment and these marvelous telescopic lenses, we have found that there is an infinitude above us. You cannot count the stars and the solar systems and the planets that shine up there in God’s glorious firmament, and He made them all! They all are the creation of His omnipotent hand [John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17].
And He made us, He created us. He wove the tissue of our physical frames; He drilled the nerve endings; He domed the brain, and He created the man in His own likeness and in His own image [Genesis 1:27]. We are both deity and dust, made like unto God out of the dust of the ground [Genesis 2:7], the creation of the hands of the Lord.
One of these hippies, with his long hair, and his dirty clothes, and his sandals, and beads, came up to a professor, who was a godly man and teaching the truth of the Lord, and the dirty hippie with his beard, and his sandals, and his beads said to the professor, “It would not matter one particle to me if my grandfather was an anthropoid ape, not at all.” And the professor took off his glass and looked at him up and down and he said, “Well, son, looking at you, I think that is right; but I think it would be hard on your grandmother.” God made us, and that Lord God is the Jesus Christ of Paul’s gospel [Colossians 1:16-17].
Not only is He pre-existent in Paul’s gospel, and not only is He the Creator deity, the omnipotent Jehovah God [Colossians 1:16-17], but He is also the great God incarnate, in the flesh [Philippians 2:5-7]. In this marvelous, marvelous incomparable passage, the kenosis passage in the second chapter of Philippians, Paul says, “Our Lord Jesus Christ, who being in the morphē of God,” whatever the morphē of God is, no man can enter into it. I cannot think about it. What is the “form” of God? I do not know, but Jesus was “in the morphē, the form of God. “And being in the form of God, He thought it not a thing to be held onto, to be grasped, to be equal with God: but ekenōsen—”emptied Himself out” [Philippians 2:5-7].
There is a whole system of theology called the kenosis system of theology—the self-emptying of our Lord Christ. “Being in the form of God, He did not cease to hold on to the being in the form of God, but made Himself of no reputation, the King James Version reads. “He emptied Himself and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of man” [Philippians 2:6-7]; the incarnation of the Lord Christ. “He who was rich, for our sakes became poor, that we through His humiliation and His poverty might be made rich” [2 Corinthians 8:9].
My mind again cannot enter into the height of the glory of our Lord in heaven before the world was, and the vast condescension that brought Him down, and down, and down, and down, to be made out of the dust of the ground in the likeness of a man. I do say this, He is the perfect image of what God meant when He said, “Let Us make man in Our likeness” [Genesis 1:26]. That is what God meant when He created the perfect, and beautiful, and holy man. You see that creation in Jesus our Lord, the Christ that Paul preached, the beauty and the holiness of His life are without compare. When Jesus walks, it is God walking. When Jesus talks, it is God talking. When Jesus teaches, it is God teaching.
And when Jesus sets example before us, it is God’s example. He said, “I am the truth” [John 14:6], and He is the intellectual superior of all mankind. No one has ever begun to approach the glory of the intellectual life and holy beauty of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thinking will never transcend Him, philosophy will never outrun Him, and genius will never supplant Him. He is alone in the intellectual world, in the world of holiness and beauty, in the world of truth and revelation.
When Socrates gropes for the wall like a man blind, Jesus is walking in the light of the glory of the revelation of God. When Plato guesses, Jesus affirms. When Aristotle reasons, Jesus reveals. When the voice of Xeno dies in his own throat, Jesus Christ says, “I am the resurrection, and the life” [John 11:25]. When myriad-minded Shakespeare, the incomparable genius of all literature—when he stands like a night porter before the darkness of mystery, Jesus walks as a king in the realm and says, “Come, follow Me. I am the truth, and the way, and the life” [John 14:6]. You cannot expose Jesus too much. You cannot magnify Him too greatly; you cannot speak of Him in words that are too extraordinary or too extravagant. Jesus is the perfect man-God, God-Man, God incarnate [Philippians 2:5-7], the God that Paul preached.
Not only is He this Christ that Paul preached, the pre-existent Christ and the Creator Christ [Colossians 1:15-16; John 1:1-3], and the incarnate God Christ [Philippians 2:5-7], but He is also the crucified Christ [Philippians 2:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21]. Paul says, “And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” [Philippians 2:8]. As Paul would write in 2 Corinthians 5:21: “He who knew no sin”—the beautiful and holy and perfect Lord Jesus—”He who knew no sin was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” “He bore in His own body our sins on the tree” [1 Peter 2:24]. He died for us [1 Corinthians 15:3].
This is the gospel that Paul preached; Jesus died for me. He loved me, and gave Himself for me [Galatians 2:20]. And you know I don’t care who it is, you cannot help but be silent before the cross. Somehow the thud of those hammers awe us. Somehow those cries from the cross enthrall us. Somehow those violent streams of vitriolic hatred that poured out from His enemies who walked up and down before His cross [Matthew 27:39-43], they just reveal to us the hellish depths of depravity of mankind. The darkness terrifies us. You cannot help but be still and quiet at the foot of the cross. There is a mystery about Golgotha that overwhelms us. For you see, Jesus is tasting death for every man [John 1:29; 1 John 2:2]. He is dying for every sinner, and He is there opening for us a fountain of cleansing and of blessing [1 John 1:7-9]. That is the Christ Paul preached, crucified for us [Corinthians 15:3]; delivered for our offenses [Romans 4:25]; died in our stead [2 Corinthians 5:21].
But not only is He in Paul’s gospel the pre-existent Christ, and the Creator Christ [Colossians 1:15-16; John 1:1-3], and the incarnate Christ [Philippians 2:5-7], and the crucified Christ [Philippians 2:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21], but He is also the risen Christ. He was raised the third day from the dead [1 Corinthians 15:1-4]. And that, Paul says, is the triumphant word in His gospel. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul describes, delineates, defines the gospel, saying:
My brethren, I declare unto you, I make known unto you the gospel— how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; He was buried, and third day He was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures.
[1 Corinthians 15:1-4]
He is a resurrected, a risen, and a living Christ [Matthew 28:1-10].
This last week the wife of dear Dr. Brawley placed in my hands a little book entitled, The Jefferson Bible. Thomas Jefferson, who the Democrats think founded the order of democracy in America, Thomas Jefferson took the Bible and he says here, he says, “I am a real Christian,” and he emphasized that, “that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus.”
So in the preface he says that he took the Bible and he reduced the volume down to those things that were actually words of the Lord Jesus. And he says he pared off all of the misconceptions from all of that accrued story that you find in the evangelist, in the four Gospels, and then what he found remaining was the most sublime and benevolent code of morals that has ever been offered to man. So he says that he has it here, and he published it. And here it is published, and I hold The Jefferson Bible in my hand, and it is very fine. These are all the words of the Lord Jesus, what the Lord Jesus did.
Then when I turn to the end of his gospel, of his Bible, he leaves the Lord Jesus in the sepulcher. He leaves Him dead. That is no gospel! Oh, my soul, God raised Him from the dead! [Matthew 28:1-7]. That is the gospel! And Paul preached that, such as this in Romans 10:9: “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in thine heart that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”
We are saved by the life of our Lord. Paul preached it like this: “If . . . we have been reconciled to God by His death, much more being reconciled shall we be saved by His life”; that is, His resurrected life [Romans 5:10]. If the Lord is still in the tomb, we are still in our sins. It is a resurrection of our Lord that declares our justification in the sight of God [Romans 4:25].
No crucifix presents our living Lord. He is not there; He was raised from the dead [Matthew 28:1-7; Romans 1:4]. The entire citizenry of Jerusalem knew that He is dead. The disciples said, “He is dead.” The weeping women said that He is dead, the whole world that knew said, “He is dead.” They saw Him die [Matthew 27:32-50]; they buried Him in a tomb [Matthew 27:57-61]. But that tomb, God looked down upon it, and upon a day, the Lord God took hold of this planet and shook it. And the door of that tomb opened wide [Matthew 28:1-6].
You see, the entire authority of the Roman government was in that seal, placed on that tomb. And before that tomb paced up and down helmeted soldiers to see to it that no one rifled it and stole that body away [Matthew 27:62-66]. But the Lord God came down and broke that seal, the entire authority of the Roman government. And the Lord God struck blindness and paralysis to that Roman guard. And the angel rolled the stone away, and in contempt, sat upon it [Matthew 28:2]; as though a stone and a grave could keep down in death the Lord of life, Jesus Christ, our living Lord. He rose from the dead the third day [Matthew 28:1, 5-6; 1 Corinthians 15:4].
You know, I have heard this story forty times but every time I hear it I think “That’s right.” There was a little boy standing before a window in which were a whole lot of pictures. And in the center was a picture of Jesus on the cross. And the little boy, the little urchin in the street, was looking at that picture. And a kindly man came about and put his hand on the shoulder of the boy and said, “Son, what you looking at?” And the boy said, “I’m looking at that picture of the Lord Jesus.” And then the little boy almost unconsciously started to describe the sadness of the cross. “Yes, sir,” he said, “they nailed Him to the cross, and they crucified Him, and they killed Him, and He died.” And the little boy was kind of talking to himself about what evil men had done to the Lord Jesus nailing Him to the tree. And the man walked off. And the little boy suddenly became aware that the visitor who had his hand on his shoulder had walked away. And he looked and there he was walking down the street. He said, “Say, mister, wait up! Say, mister, wait up!” And the little boy ran and caught up with the man. And he said, “Say, mister, He rose from the dead! He rose from the dead!” That’s the gospel [Matthew 28:1-6; 1 Corinthians 15:4]. They killed Him [Matthew 27:32-50], He was crucified for our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21], “He was delivered for our offenses” [Romans 4:25], but He was raised from the dead by the power of God! [Ephesians 1:19-20]. That’s the gospel that Paul preached.
Not only that, not only is He a pre-existent Christ [Colossians 1:17]; not only is He Lord Jehovah God Creator Christ [Colossians 1:15-16; John 1:1-3]; not only is incarnate Christ [Philippians 2:5-7]; not only as the crucified Christ [Philippians 2:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21]; not only is He the risen Christ [1 Corinthians 15:1-4]; but He is also the exalted Christ [Philippians 2:9-11]. Listen to Paul as he says, “Wherefore:”
Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow . . . and every tongue should confess—
things in heaven, things in earth, things down there in another world—
that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
God hath highly exalted Him, and when I read that, I say, “Well done, God! Well done, God! That’s right, God!” “Wherefore God hath highly exalted Him . . .” [Philippians 2:9]. Oh, what God has done for the Lord Jesus!
. . . according to the working of His mighty power, God—what He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, He set Him at His own right hand . . .
Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:
And hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things of the church,
Which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all.
And my soul! What shall I read when I turn to the exaltation and worship of our Lord Jesus in heaven? There is not a more moving and beautiful scene in literature [or] all human writing than the fifth chapter of the book of the Revelation. There is that glorious Being, the Lord God, with the Book of Redemption sealed in His hand. And they searched heaven and earth to find someone “who is worthy to open the Book, and to loose the seals thereof” [Revelation 5:1-2]. And there’s not a man in heaven, there’s not one in earth—there’s not one in the netherworld that is able to open the book and to look thereon [Revelation 5:3].
And John is weeping because there’s no one who is able. There’s no one who is worthy [Revelation 5:4]. And one of the elders said, “Do not cry—weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah . . . He has prevailed, and He is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof” [Revelation 5:5]. And he turns, and looks in the midst of the throne, in the midst of the four cherubim, stood a Lamb as it had been slain [Revelation 5:6]. And He takes the book. He takes the book from Him that sits upon the throne, and when He takes the book, the cherubim and the four and twenty elders, they all bow down [Revelation 5:7-8]. And they sing a new song, saying, “Thou art worthy to take the book . . . because You have redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every nation, kindred, people, tribe under the sun, and made us kings and priests unto God” [Revelation 5:9-10].
I beheld, and behold, I heard the voice of many angels, round about the throne, and round about the four cherubim, and round about the four and twenty elders, and the number of them was ten thousand myriads times ten thousand myriads.
That’s the Greek way of saying the innumerable hosts of God’s heaven, thousands upon thousands, upon thousands of angels. And they cried with a loud voice and sang glory to God. Listen:
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying: Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.
And the four cherubim said: Amen.
And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshiped Him that liveth for ever and ever.
That’s our Lord! That’s our exalted Lord! That’s the Christ Paul preached, our exalted Lord at the right hand of God in heaven [Hebrews 1:3]. As the author of Hebrews says: “Wherefore He is able to save to the uttermost them who come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them” [Hebrews 7:25]. The session of our Lord at the right hand of the Majesty on High [Hebrews 8:1], that is the Christ that Paul preached!
And then one other, number seven:
- not only the pre-existent Christ [Colossians 1:17],
- not only the Lord Creator Christ [Colossians 1:15-16; John 1:1-3],
- not only the incarnate Christ [Philippians 2:5-7],
- and crucified Christ [Philippians 2:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21],
- and the risen Christ [1 Corinthians 15:1-4],
- and the exalted Christ [Philippians 2:9-11],
but number seven: Paul preached a Christ who is coming again [1 Thessalonians 4:13-17]. Amen, God is not done! The story is not told; there’s another chapter. There is a great finale and consummation to this wonderful thing that God hath wrought for us in Christ Jesus. Paul says:
My brethren, I would not have you without knowledge concerning them that fall asleep, that you sorrow not, even as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again—
and we do believe it—
even so them which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.
For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord—
It’s not something that I conjured up or I speculate. It is something God said—
For this we say by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not precede them that are asleep in Jesus.
For the trumpet shall sound, and the Lord shall descend from heaven with the voice of the archangel. And the dead in Christ shall rise first, and we shall be caught up to meet them in the air. So shall we ever be with the Lord.
[1 Thessalonians 4:13-17]
And Paul closed his life with that same avowal. “I am ready to be offered up, and the time of my departure is at hand” [2 Timothy 4:6]. The headsman with his ax is at the door; they’re calling for me out of this Mamertine dungeon. I fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. And then listen:
Henceforth, beyond this life—henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me on that day; and not to me only, but to all them also that love His appearing.
[2 Timothy. 4:7-8]
And that included me. And that included you. And that included all God’s children who lift up their faces beyond the tears we know in this life, and beyond the dark valleys through which we journey in this pilgrimage—beyond the cemetery, and the grave, and age, and death; lifting up our faces, looking forward to the great appearing of the Lord Jesus [Titus 2:3].
The consummation of our life and the end of our existence is not to be food for the worms, to be in corruption down in the grave, “but God hath purposed some better thing for us” [Hebrews 11:40]. We are to be redeemed saints, living in His glory, looking upon His face, worshiping Him, praising Him forever and ever [Revelation 22:3-5]. Hallelujah! Amen. That is the gospel that Paul preached, that’s the Christ that he named. What a wonderful message!
THE CHRIST PAUL PREACHED
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-12-78I. What did he preach?
A. Several references to the preaching of Paulhere(Acts 20:2, 7, 9, 20, 24, 27)
B. He refers to “my gospel”(Romans 2:16)II. Christ pre-existent(Colossians 1:17, John 1:1)
A. We can only think in terms of time
B. Before time and matter were created, He wasIII. Christ as deity, Creator God
A. What God essentially and eternally is, Jesus is(Colossians 1:15-16)
B. Creator God(John 1:1-3)
1. He made the stars also (Genesis 1:16)
2. He made usIV. God Incarnate
A. Kenosis passage(Philippians 2:5-7)
1. The self-emptying of Christ(1 Corinthians 8:9)
B. The beauty, holiness and moral perfection of His life(Genesis 1:26, John 11:15, 14:6)V. Christ crucified
A. He died for us(Philippians 2:8, 2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 2:24)VI. Christ resurrected(1 Corinthians 15:1-4)
A. The Jefferson Bible leaves Jesus in the sepulcher
B. We are saved by the life of our Lord (Romans 10:9, 5:10, 4:25)VII. Christ exalted
A. God has highly exalted Him (Philippians 2:9-11, Ephesians 1:19-22)
B. At the right hand of heaven(Revelation 5:5-14, Hebrews 7:25)VIII. Christ coming again
A. The consummation yet to come(1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, 2 Timothy 4:6-8)