How the Death of Christ Saves Us
May 24th, 1981 @ 8:15 AM
HOW THE DEATH OF CHRIST SAVES US
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-24-81 8:15 a.m.
And we are thankful no less for the great throngs of you who are listening to this service on radio. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas delivering once again a message in the series on the doctrine of Christ. The message today is entitled How the Death of Christ affects us, how it Saves Us. In the second chapter of the Book of Hebrews, verses 14 and 15, we read, Hebrews 2:14-15:
Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, HHe also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;
And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
In this passage of Scripture and in this message this morning, we are facing what Paul calls in 2 Thessalonians 2:7, “the mystery of iniquity.” In the Apocalypse, in the tenth chapter and in the seventh verse, it is called “the mystery of God”: “In the days of the sounding of the trumpet of the seventh angel, the mystery of God shall be finished” [Revelation 10:7] the mystery of evil and the mystery of God; why didn’t God crush Satan in his rebellion in heaven? [Revelation 12:7-9]. Why did God allow Satan to destroy this beautiful earth and bathe it in blood and in tears, to make it a place to bury dead people in, to fill it with war and violence and suffering? Why does God do that? We do not know; it is the mystery of iniquity [2 Thessalonians 2:7]. All we can do is just observe, and looking we cannot help but sense and see the awesome and fearful power of Satan.
He is called a god. Paul refers to him as “the god of this world” [2 Corinthians 4:4]. He is powerful, awesomely so, in himself, in his own person and presence. In Jude 9, “Michael the archangel dare not oppose him, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.” Michael the archangel dared not openly accuse him. I cannot conceive of the power of a person that even Michael the archangel dare not confront. He is awesomely powerful in his demonic hosts. The Scriptures say that the number of the angelic hosts of [God] are ten thousand times ten thousands, and thousands of thousands [Revelation 5:11], innumerable; but one-third of them chose to follow Satan rather than God [Revelation 12:4, 9]. He is powerful in the demons at his command and who fill this world. He is powerful, awesomely so, in his kingdom. As there is a kingdom of light presided over by Christ [Colossians 1:12-13], there is a kingdom of darkness and death presided over by Satan [Acts 26:18]. There is no other way to explain the marching thrust of communism, or of idolatry, or of Islam, other than the energizing presence of Satan.
He is awesomely power in his ableness to corrupt every good thing, every good thing. Love, which is so tender and dear, Satan adds to it sin, and it becomes lust and promiscuity. Home, which is so dear and precious, he adds to it sin, and it becomes a shrine of tears and misery and heartache. Money, which can be used for so many blessed things such as our proposed partnership with Rio de Janeiro in a great mission, or to help a boy to camp; money, he adds to it sin, and the Scriptures say it then becomes “the root of all kinds of evil” [1 Timothy 6:10]. The picture show, the radio, the television, the printing press, in how many ways could the media be used to glorify Christ; but Satan adds to it sin, and it becomes an instrument of violence and compromise and immorality. Alcohol, which is the most usable of all the substances in our medicinal and pharmaceutical world, Satan adds to it sin and makes drunkards. A car, a boat, which is such a blessed thing for someone to have, he adds to it sin, and it becomes an instrument of the Lord’s Day desecration, taking people away from the house of God: the awesome power of Satan, the mystery of iniquity [2 Thessalonians 2:7].
We see him again in his ableness to subvert the very chosen people of God. And when we read of his power to do it, it is awesome! Simon Peter, Jesus called “the rock” [John 1:42]; but Satan twisted him around his little finger, made a coward of him in the presence of a little maid. He curses and denies he even knows the Lord; Satan [Matthew 26:72-74]. John, the sainted apostle John, volative, in Samaria, when he asked the Lord for permission to call down fire from heaven to burn up those Samaritans [Luke 9:54]; Satan. Ananias and Sapphira are accosted by Simon Peter, and he says to them, “Satan has put it in your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit” [Acts 5:3]; Satan. That’s the story through all of the centuries and the generations past. He takes the people of God themselves and makes havoc and wreckage out of them.
Wouldn’t you have thought after the Flood when the earth was cleansed [Genesis 7:17-24, 9:17-19], surely the family of Noah will do better? The next verse reads, “And Noah became drunken, and naked”; and in some kind of a homosexual act, Canaan is cursed [Genesis 9:20-25]. Wouldn’t you have thought that after the deliverance from the fiery trial of Egypt [Deuteronomy 4:20], that Israel will do better? But out of all of those who were delivered out of Egypt, only two entered the Promised Land [Judges 2:11-13]; just two out of three and a half million, Joshua and Caleb [Numbers 3:7]. Wouldn’t you have thought when they entered the Promised Land that they would have done better? But the whole story of the Book of Judges is, “And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord” [Judges 2:11-23]. Wouldn’t you have thought they would have done better under kings? They wanted kings [1 Samuel 8:4-6]. Saul, their first king [1 Samuel 10:1, 17-24, 18:10], was eaten up with jealousy [1 Samuel 18:9], and the Spirit of the Lord left him [1 Samuel 16:14]. David fell into murder and adultery [2 Samuel 11:1-27]. Solomon was turned aside from God by seven hundred wives of foreign potentates [1 Kings 11:1-8]; Satan.
Wouldn’t you have thought after the Babylonian captivity they would have done better? [Matthew 15:8-9] But the Babylonian captivity was followed by the ultimate destruction of the nation in 70 AD; Satan—a universal kingdom of death and destruction and despair.
And if we say these things concerning the people of God in His awesome and fearful hands, what could we say in the story of the secular history of mankind? The Genghis Khans, and the Tamerlanes, and the Adolf Hitlers, bathing, literally, the earth in human blood. The kingdom of Satan universal—touching every life, yours; touching every nation, ours—touching all humanity, the fearsome power of Satan, the mystery of iniquity.
And the Bible says the purpose of the coming of Christ into the earth and the purpose of the death of our Lord was to break it up, to deliver us from the judgment and the power of him who has that power [Galatians 1:4; Hebrews 2:14]; namely, the Bible says, the devil, the “mystery of iniquity” [2 Thessalonians 2:7]. I would have thought, I think, as I read the Bible, that Satan supposed, Satan thought that his kingdom of destruction, and death, and sin, and the grave would reign forever. I’m almost certain that when Jesus was crucified [Matthew 27:32-50], Satan exalted in his triumph, “Israel has slain her own Son; look at Him, dead on the tree [1 Peter 2:24]. The promises of God, all of them, have fallen to the ground, in the dust. Look at Him, He is dead! Sin will reign forever, death will reign forever, Satan is king forever!” I’m sure that he thought that when Christ was crucified and when He died on the cross. But there was a mustērion in the heart of God, there’s another mystery in the heart of God beside the mystery of evil and iniquity [2 Thessalonians 2:7]. There is another mystery in the heart of God, and Satan didn’t know it: namely, that in the death of our Lord, Satan and his kingdom should be forever destroyed [Hebrews 2:14].
Well, how did God do that through the death of our Lord? In two ways: the first one, we just get a glimpse of by brief references in the Bible: between the death of our Lord and His resurrection, our Savior grappled in hades with Satan himself, and the kingdom of [Satan]. He grappled with him who had the power of death and the grave [Hebrews 2:14]. In the third chapter of 1 Peter, the Book says that He went down into Hades, and there proclaimed a great gospel message of deliverance [1 Peter 3:19]. And in the fourth chapter of the Book of Ephesians, it says that our Lord entered into heaven, into Paradise, taking captivity captive [Ephesians 4:8]. All of the saints of the Old Testament He brought into glory out of Hades, and He chained Satan to his chariot wheel, great victory had been won. In death, our Lord entered into the world of the dead and there forever broke up the kingdom of death presided over by Satan [Hebrews 2:14].
And in His resurrection [Matthew 28:1-7], our Lord opened a door through which all of us may enter into glory [2 Timothy 4:18]. That’s why Paul can cry in such triumphant words, “O Death, where now is thy sting? And O Grave, where now is thy victory?” [1 Corinthians 15:55]. But there is more, far more; there is still more. The apostle Paul writes, in Romans 5:10, “For if, when we were enemies [Romans 5:10], we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life,” by His resurrection life [Romans 5:10]. There is more in that passage than our minds can conceive of. “If, when we were enemies, we were brought into atonement, into at-one-ment, with God, by the death of our Lord, much more being at-one-ment with God, being forgiven with God, we shall be saved by His resurrected life,” by the pouring out of His life into the stream of humanity. That’s one of the most remarkable conceptions, one of the most remarkable revelations of God in all of the Bible: the pouring out of the crimson, of the blood, of the life of our Lord in the earth, saving us, changing us, regenerating us, remaking us.
In thinking through that, the pouring out of the life of our Lord in His blood, the crimson of His life pouring it out into humanity, this is something in our experience. His grappling with Satan in the netherworld, in the spirit world, is something I just read about. But when it says that the Lord poured out His life into this earth that we might be saved [Galatians 1:4], then that’s something of experience. I can verify it if it’s true. I’m also competent to deny it if it isn’t true. Is it true? The pouring out of the life of our Lord into the world, into us, is it true? [John 8:12].
I think of the life of the great pastor of this church, for forty-seven years, standing behind this sacred pulpit desk, preaching the gospel of Christ. And when I came, thirty-seven, soon, years ago, I was blessed—incomparably blessed—by the life and efforts of that great godly man, Dr. Truett. He poured his life, forty-seven years, into this sacred place. And when I came, I inherited the blessings of that marvelous ministry.
I think of the founding fathers of our country. Think of the blessings we enjoy in America because of their sacrifice; think of them! And how could I ever thank God enough for my parents, my father and mother, who poured their very lives into me; blessed by them. These are but small and halting illustrations of the blessings that come to us in the infinite ableness, and might, and glory of the life of Christ, poured out into the earth and reaching to us.
You see, the life of our Lord given for us does not speak to us of secular reform; but the life of our Lord speaks to us of resurrection, of regeneration, of a new life, of a new creation. If any one be in Christ Jesus, he is a new somebody [2 Corinthians 5:17]; he’s not that old self any longer. You see, the world plays, law plays, reformation plays with the manifestations of sin, not with the cause. It’s like a doctor trying to medicate the pimples on the skin, when the problem lies in the bloodstream. Pass a law and take away the gun from the hand of the murderer: he’s a murderer still in his heart. Pass a law and take away the bottle from the drunkard: he’s still a drunkard in his heart. Pass a law and take away the needle from the vein of the dope addict: he’s a dope addict still in his heart. Pass a law and take away the harlot from her paramour and she’s still a harlot in her heart. Penitentiaries, and jails, and reform schools, and policemen are all monuments to the failure of the world’s attempt to deal with the mystery of iniquity. But in Christ, in our blessed Lord, we have a resurrection life [Romans 8:11]; not a new suit, but a new man, a new somebody. O Lord, what a difference Jesus can make in a life: a regenerated, re-created somebody, a new heart, a new home, a new child, a new vision, a new hope, a new dedication, a new life.
This week there came to my hands a book, and its title caught my attention: Unshackled. And I looked at it, and it is a book sent out by the Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago. And the book lists marvelous, marvelous, wonderful conversions brought about by Christ in the Spirit of Jesus in that mission. As I held it in my hand and read through some of those marvelous conversions, I remembered as a youth, just stumbling upon that mission, just walking down the street I heard people singing, and I paused and went in the door, and it was that Pacific Garden Mission. That’s where Billy Sunday was saved. And I stayed there a while, just listening and watching. It moved my soul. Ah, those people testifying, lifted out of the very dregs and gutter of life: the drunkard standing in a new honor, the harlot pure and sanctified, the prodigal getting ready to go back to his father’s house, and that man out of the depths of degradation and despair now wearing the crown of the Savior.
And there’s not a pastor in this land but whose heart is filled with the remembrances of people who have been marvelously saved and delivered by the death and resurrection and the outpoured life of Jesus our Lord. And I heard it, and I listened to it, and it made a wooing appeal to my heart; and with tears I accepted what Jesus had done for me. But there’s one other thing, even more wonderful, “Pastor, you mean there is something more wonderful than to see men testify in the Pacific Garden Mission of how God had saved them?” Yes! “More wonderful than we see here in our own church when those men over there at the Y stand up here before us and testify of their deliverance in Christ, more wonderful? Yes! More wonderful than that?” Well, what could be more wonderful than that? You who have never known what it was to live the life of a harlot, or the life of a drunkard, or the life of a dope addict, or the life of a despairing gutter rat. Why, my brother, it is ten thousand times better to see a congregation of children, and teenagers, and young people, and college and career boys and girls, and young marrieds, and couples, and families who walk in the faith of the Lord all the days of their lives; delivered from the judgment, and the despair of sin, and degradation, and walking in the way of the Lord—that’s marvelous! That’s the most marvelous thing in the world: saved, regenerated, kept from falling by the blood and the death and the life of the Crucified One.
All praise to the Father,
All praise to the Son
All praise to the Spirit,
The great Three-in-One.
Saved, regenerated, delivered, exalted, lifted up by the death and the blood and the life of the Crucified One [Romans 5:10]. That’s the gospel that reached to us; that’s the gospel that I responded to as a boy, that’s the gospel I’ve been preaching since I was a teenager, that’s the gospel I see so blessed of God every day of my life. And that’s the gospel presented to you.
A family you, a couple you, a one somebody you, “Today, pastor, we have decided for God, and we’re coming. This moment, this moment, we’re coming down that aisle, give you our hand, taking Jesus as our Savior, or putting our lives in this dear church.” Make the decision now in your heart, and in a moment after the prayer, when we sing that song, come and welcome. While we stand, and while we pray.
Our Lord in heaven, how could our words ever contain the marvel and the wonder of Jesus our Lord?
“Oh, oh, what He has done for me!” With some of us, He has lifted us out of the miry clay and set our feet on the rock. With others of us, He has kept us from falling and preserved us unto the day of His wonderful coming.
But whether saved out of a life of degradation, or whether lifted up in strength and honor and glory, we love Thee Lord and praise Thee for the grace and the love that reaches down even to us.
While our people pray, and in this moment when we sing, out of the balcony, down a stairway, on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, we’ve decided and here we are.” Bless you as you come, God be good to you. Angels attend your way as you come, while we wait, while we pray, while we sing.
DEATH OF CHRIST SAVES US
The mystery of iniquity (Revelation 10:7, 2
Why did God not crush Satan in his rebellion in heaven? (Isaiah 14:12)
All we can do is observe
II. The fearful power of Satan (2 Corinthians 4:4, Matthew 4:8-9)
A. In himself (Jude 9)
B. In his demonic hosts
C. In his kingdom of
darkness and death
D. Able to corrupt
every existing thing (1 Timothy 6:10)
Most fearsome is his ability to degrade, demean and bemean God’s people (Matthew 16:17-18, 26:69-74, Luke 9:54, Acts 5:3)
Through all history his presence has been a damning, destroying, degrading
factor in life (Genesis 9:20-25, Hebrews 3:17, 1
Samuel 16:14, 2 Samuel 11:1-12:12, 1 Kings 11:1-40)
III. Christ came to break up Satan’s
universal reign of sin and death
A. Satan must have
thought death and sin would reign forever
B. But the musterion
he did not know
The three days in the grave – Jesus confronted Satan in hades (1 Peter 3:19, Ephesians 4:8)
By His resurrection, Christ broke up the kingdom of Satan (1 Corinthians 15:55)
C. We are saved by
Jesus’ resurrection life (Romans 5:10)
The life-blood of Christ has been poured out into the life stream of humanity
secular educational reform, but a regenerated life
The resurrection life in Christ – a new creation
a. Every pastor’s
experience full of instances
recounts miracles in Pacific Garden Mission