THE ABOUNDING GRACE OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-22-81 8:15 a.m.
And the Lord aboundingly bless the multitudes of you who are sharing with us in the First Baptist Church of Dallas this early morning worship hour. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Abounding Grace of God. In the Book of Romans, in chapter 5, in verse 20:
For where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:
That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign
through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.
The abounding grace of God, “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” [Romans 5:20]. Where sin abounded, pleonazō means “to increase,” to fill up. “Where sin increased,” filled up the heart, and the life, and the city, and the world, where sin pleonazō, increased and filled up, “there did grace.” Now you would have expected the apostle to write huperpleonazō, that is what he did in 1Timothy 1:14. But he chooses an altogether different word; perisseuō means “to exceed a limit, to be illimitable.” Then as though that were not enough, he adds to it huperpleonazō, “to be over and above and beyond the illimitable.” You couldn’t even translate a word like that with an equal word in the English language. “Where sin pleonazō, increased, filled up the whole human life and race, grace from God did huperperisseuō, did exceed, go beyond, over and above the illimitable”; the abounding grace of God [Romans 5:20].
“Where,” hou, “where,” we think of God as being in heaven. He is there watching the angels bow before Him in worship; that’s what we think. God’s Book says, “Where sin abounded, there God’s grace” [Romans 5:20]; God is in these cities, He is in these homes, He is up and down these streets. “Where sin abounds, there is God” [Romans 5:20]. And Paul uses one of the most beautiful words in language, “grace,” charis, charis. The accusative form of that word, we give in name to a girl, Karen. The word means “beauty, favor,” charis. And the Greeks poured into that word all of the beautiful meaning of which they were capable. The Greeks loved beauty; beauty of form, beauty of architecture, beauty of poetry, beauty of drama, beauty of the human form. That was charis. And the New Testament writers took that beautiful Greek word and applied it to the Lord God; the grace, the charis of the Lord God, who came down from His throne of righteous judgment [John 5:22], and in love and mercy assumed the penalty for our sins [Isaiah 53:5; 2 Corinthians 5:21], that we might have eternal life through Christ Jesus; the abounding grace of God [1 Timothy 1:14]. “Where sin abounded” [Romans 5:20]; Satan piling up sin on top of sin on top of sin, and filled the whole heart, and the whole life, and the whole home, and the whole family, and the whole city, and the whole nation, and the whole world with sin, piling it up, until finally it hides and covers the very face and love of God [Isaiah 59:2]; adding sin on top of sin, until in seas of blood and tears, he drowns the mercy of God. And it seems that he succeeds. Our papers headline his success, and our own desperate hearts and lives signal and affirm his success.
“But where sin abounded, grace, God’s love and mercy, did much more abound, overflow” [Romans 5:20]. Where sin abounded in the first Adam [Genesis 3:1-6], grace did much more abound in the second Adam [1 Corinthians 15:45-48]. Where sin abounded in the days of the Flood [Genesis 6:5], Noah found grace in the sight of the Lord [Genesis 6:8]. Where sin abounded in the days of the Midianites [Judges 6:1], the grace of God did much more abound in Gideon [Judges 6:11-7:24]. Where sin abounded in the lives of the kings of Israel, grace did much more abound in a repentant David [Psalm 51:1-19]. Where sin abounded in the tragedy of the Babylonian captivity [Isaiah 59:1-15], grace did much more abound in the life of Daniel, and Ezekiel, and Ezra, and Nehemiah. And where sin abounded in the sterile, ritual religion of the Sadducees and the Pharisees [Matthew 23:1-39], grace did much more abound in the shining face of God’s first martyr, Stephen [Acts 6:15, 7:55-60]. And where sin abounded in the persecution of the church [Acts 9:1-2], grace did much more abound in the marvelous conversion of Saul of Tarsus, God’s apostle, Paul [Acts 9:3-18].
Sin abounds unto condemnation always, but grace abounds unto justification [Romans 5:16, 18]. Sin abounds unto corruption [James 1:15], but grace abounds unto purification [Hebrews 9:14]. Sin abounds unto the breaking of the law and the opening of the gates of judgment, but grace abounds to the healing and the repairing of the breach. Sin abounds to the imprisonment of our souls, but grace abounds to the liberation of the captives. Sin abounds to the consuming of our lives, but grace abounds to the extinguishing of the fire. Sin abounds to the slaying and the slaughter and the death of our people, but grace abounds unto life and light and resurrection. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God,” and the grace and mercy of God, “is life everlasting” [Romans 6:23]: the abounding grace of God. And Paul writes of it in another way. In this way it is an act, an act of love and of mercy that God has done perfectly, and completely, marvelously, beautifully for us. I want you to notice five aorist verbs here, when Paul speaks of what God has done for us, in 2 Timothy 1:9-10. An aorist verb in the Greek is a thing that happened in a point of time, it’s done; God did it. “The gospel of the power of God” the first verb, “Who saved us”; the second verb, “who called us”; the third verb, “who has given us His grace in Christ Jesus”; the fourth verb, “He has abolished death”; and the fifth one, “He has brought life and immortality to light” [2 Timothy 1:8-10].
All of those verbs, all five of them, are aoristic participles. The first one, sōsantos, from sōzō, “to deliver, to save”; the second one, kalesantos, an aorist participle from kaleō, “to call”; the third one, dotheisan, a participial aorist from didōmi, “to give, to bestow”; katargēsantos, an aoristic participle from kartargeō, “to render useless, to abrogate, to annul”; and the last one, phōtisantos, your word “photograph, photo” comes from it, from phōtizō, meaning “to reveal, to bring to life.” All of those things are aorist verbs. That was done; God did it in a point of time. He saved us, He called us, He gave us grace in Christ Jesus [2 Timothy 1:9]. He abolished for us death [2 Timothy 1:10], and He brought life and immortality to light through the gospel [2 Timothy 1:10]. Do you notice it is something God did? God did it. Always! Jonah said it like this: down there in the belly of the great fish, helpless, how could he help himself? In the belly of the great fish, Jonah prayed [Jonah 2:1-8], and in the last sentence of his prayer, in Jonah 2:9, he says, “Salvation is of the Lord”; if I am delivered, God has to do it [Acts 4:12]. Helpless and hopeless, Jonah prayed, “Salvation, deliverance, is of the Lord” [Jonah 2:9]. God did it [Jonah 2:10]. Paul wrote it in Titus 3:5 like this, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.” Salvation is of the Lord; it is something God does for us [Jonah 2:9].
We can’t save ourselves. Creation does not create itself. Only in the fuzzy-thinking, aberrated minds of an evolutionist, of a pseudoscientist, does something come out of nothing, does innate matter create human personality. Creation cannot create itself, did not create itself; God did it [Genesis 1:1-31]. The dead cannot raise themselves. They are hopelessly and helplessly prostrate in corruption [1 Corinthians 15:42]. Neither can a lost sinner save himself; he has to be saved by the mercy and grace of God. God has to do it [Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5]. All of our strivings and all of our good works cannot suffice to deliver us from the judgment and penalty of death [Ephesians 2:8-9]. Our good works ever are just a consequence, not a cause of our salvation [Ephesians 2:10]. We just praise God and try to serve Him for what He has done for us, but we can’t save ourselves. And do you notice, it is in an aoristic past point in time? It’s something God did; that is, He did it fully, and wholly, and completely [2 Timothy 1:9-10].
We are never saved just partly by what Jesus did, and then partly by what we do. We are saved wholly, and completely, and absolutely by the loving mercy and grace and tender care of Jesus, our great and living Lord [Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5]. That’s a remarkable thing. Whenever you see a man who thinks he is saved partly by what Jesus did and partly by what he does, he has never really and fully trusted in the Lord Jesus. Our salvation is wholly of Him [Ephesians 2:8-9]. It’s exactly as a man going to the bank, and he has in his hand money to deposit. And as he stands there at the teller’s cage, the teller reaches forth his hand to receive his money, and the man says, “Let’s both take care of it. You take this half, and I’ll take this half.” That would be ridiculous; the man either trusts the bank and gives him the money, or he doesn’t trust the bank at all, and he keeps it. It can’t be the bank holds half of it, and the depositor holds the other half, no! The bank has all of it, and you either trust the bank, or you don’t make the deposit. It’s like a man going out to the airport, and he says, “I’m going to trust this airplane part way,” and he keeps one foot on the ground. He’s not going to fly. Like that crude fellow who said, “I never fully trusted my weight when I sat down on that thing.” No, you either trust or you don’t. You either fly in the plane, or you don’t fly at all. It isn’t partly it and partly you; it is altogether it.
Thus it is with our salvation. Salvation is a complete commitment, and a complete trust, a complete surrender and yieldedness to the loving grace and mercy of God. He does it! [Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7]. In the face of the judgment of death, and in the face of the great day of reckoning, “I’m too weak; I’m too feeble; I am not equal. Somebody,” as Jonah prayed, “must save me.” It has to be God [Jonah 2:9]. And when we try to save ourselves; we’re like a man climbing up a mountain and it’s made out of gravel, and the more we try, the more we slide back. But when a man trusts himself to the great, iron-granite mountain of God’s purpose and grace, it’s like great steps chiseled in the side of the solid granite. I thought of a thing like that when I stood on Mt. Sinai and saw those steps, toward the top, cut in that solid rock. Not partly me and partly Him, but all of Him. No man, by strivings can ever save himself; deliver himself from the judgment of death. God has to raise him up. God has to deliver him. It’s wholly of God [Ephesians 2:8-9].
Confessional booths, and beads, and masses, and purgatories, and absolutions, these cannot save us. God has to save us. It’s all of Him. The gospel of men is, “Strive, and do good, and you’ll be saved,” but the gospel of God is, “Look and live [John 3:14-16; Numbers 21:8-9]; look, my brother; look, look unto Him and be saved.”
‘Tis recorded in His Word, Hallelujah!
It is only that you look and live.
[from “Look and Live,” William Ogden]
The gospel of God is always, “Wash and be clean” [2 Kings 5:10; Revelation 7:14]. Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb? [Revelation 1:5]. The gospel always is, “Believe, and be saved” [Acts 16:30-31]. What a precious comfort to know that it is of Him, and He cannot fail [2 Timothy 2:13].
I, in my studying, I came across an old-time poem. It sounds old-timey:
Until I saw the blood, ‘twas hell my soul was fearing;
And dark and dreary in my eyes the future was appearing
While conscience told its tale of sin,
And caused a weight of woe within.
And when I saw the blood, and look’d at Him who shed it,
My right to peace was seen at once, and I with transport read it;
I found myself to God brought nigh,
And “Victory” became my cry.
My joy was in the blood, the news of which had told me,
That spotless as the Lamb of God, my Father could behold me,
And all my boast was in His name,
Through whom this great salvation came.
It’s of God. God does it—the abounding grace of God [Ephesians 2:8]. And in His tender mercy, the Lord hath reached down and saved us [Titus 3:5]. He has delivered us. He has paid our debt [Matthew 20:28]. He has satisfied the claims of the law we have broken [Matthew 5:17]. He has set us free. He has forgiven us [Acts 13:38-39]. He has saved us; God did it! [2 Timothy 1:9].
In these last years, there was a famous, gifted, literate, able orator, lecturer, went all over America. His name was Robert G. Ingersoll, an infidel. And in one of his dynamic and tremendous orations, Robert G. Ingersoll said:
I do not believe in forgiveness . . . If I rob Smith and afterward I get forgiveness, how does that help Smith? If I . . . cover some poor girl with the leprosy of some imputed crime, and she withers away like a blighted flower, and afterwards I get forgiveness . . . how does that help her? Even if there is another world, we have got to settle . . . No forgiveness . . . eternal, inexorable, everlasting justice . . . that is what I believe in.
[from “What Must We Do to Be Saved?” Robert G. Ingersoll, 1880]
Amen; one time the infidel is right! Inexorable, eternal, everlasting justice awaits us all, all of us, all of us. And the wages of the penalty for our sin and wrong is seen in this vast cemetery that we call the world; it’s a place in which to bury our dead. And beyond that vast cemetery, and surrounding it, is a high massive wall, and a great iron gate. And behind that wall and behind that high, iron gate is the agonizing race of mankind, sinning and paying the penalty of sin in death [Ezekiel 18:4, 20; Romans 6:23]; justice, justice, justice.
And Mercy comes and stands before that high wall and that iron gate weeping, “Oh,” she cries, “that I might go through this gate, and that I might go among those people dying, that I might wipe away their tears, that I might bring surcease from their sorrows, that I might be to them life and light and resurrection.” And she asks Justice, “May I enter in? Will you open the gate for me?” And Justice sternly replies to weeping Mercy, “No, the law is broken! The crime demands a punishment. Either they die, or justice dies.” That’s justice.
“The wages of sin is death” [Romans 6:23], and “the soul that sins shall die” [Ezekiel 18:4, 20]. That is justice; paying the penalty for breaking the law of God! And an embassy of angels on a celestial mission looks upon the sight and sees Mercy weeping at the Iron Gate, and Justice standing there to guard it. And the angels stop in their ambassadorial mission and ask, “Mercy, why do you weep?” And she replies, “Because Justice will not unlock the gate that I might enter in to comfort, to assuage, to bring hope and life.”
And the angels say to Justice, “Why do you not open the gate and let Mercy in that she might help and minister to these sorrowing of the human race?” And Justice replies, “They have broken the law, and the law must be upheld. Either they die, or justice dies.”
Then, from the band of angels, one steps forth like unto the Son of God, and He comes to Justice, and He says, “What are thy demands?” And Justice replies, “I must uphold the laws or else the universe will disintegrate. Physical laws must be observed, or the penalty paid—laws of gravity, laws of fire, laws of explosive motion. And moral, spiritual laws must be upheld.” When the law of God is broken, a penalty must be satisfied, and a debt must be paid.
And the Son of God says, “Are these your demands? Then I will pay the debt.” And when Jesus said that, I remembered the riches of our Lord in glory. And He said, “I will satisfy the claims”; and I remembered reading, “God shall see the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied” [Isaiah 53:11]. And on a day, on a hill called Calvary [Luke 23:33], Justice and Mercy stand awaiting the payment. That was a day in type, portrayed by every sacrifice, every lamb that was ever slain [John 1:29]. That was a day in prophecy from the beginning of grace: “And the Lord shall lay on Him the iniquity of us all” [Isaiah 53:6]. And according to the exact moment, at the conclusion of the sixty-ninth week of Daniel [Daniel 9:26], on the top of a hill called Golgotha, “the Place of a Skull” [Matthew 27:33; Mark 15:22; John 19:17], Justice said to Mercy, “Where is the Son of God?” And Mercy replied, “Behold, at the foot of the hill He comes, bearing His cross, followed by His weeping church.”
And the Son of God comes to Justice, and Justice has in his hands the laws, and the ordinances, and the penalties, and the judgments against us, and the Son of God takes them, and they are nailed to the cross [Colossians 2:14]. And Justice calls for Death to come and to consume the sacrifice. And Death replies, “I come, and after I consume this sacrifice, I will consume and slay the whole world.” And Death descends upon the offering, the sacrifice, the Lamb of God. And Death consumes the ordinances, and the laws, and the commandments, and the judgments, and the penalties, and Death consumes the humanity of the Son of God! But when Death touched His deity, His holiness, the righteousness of God’s Son, Death himself was consumed like a man touching a one hundred billion bolt of electricity, and Death expired.
And out of the darkness of that hour, a light began to shine. And the very trembling of the earth but opened the graves of the dead [Matthew 27:51-52]. And on a beautiful Sunday, Easter morning, the first day of the week, the Son of God stepped forth victor [Matthew 28:1-7]. And when Mercy saw it, she wept for joy. And when Grace saw it, grace overflowed and abounded. And the gospel of forgiveness and redemption was preached throughout the land and proclaimed throughout the world [Matthew 24:14].
Sin received its mortal wound, “and death and hell were cast into the lake of fire” [Revelation 20:14]. And the prison doors were open, and the great Iron Gate was ajar, and through it poured the multitudes. Immortality and Resurrection walked among the tombs of the dead. And as the throng poured forth from the prison house, the charnel house of death, and penalty, and despair, and judgment, they sang a song, one of praise and infinite victory.
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive honor, and glory, and majesty, and dominion, and wisdom, and power, and blessing.
For Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every nation, and tribe, and family in the earth . . .
And the four cherubim said, amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down. . .before Him that liveth for ever and ever and for ever.
Our salvation is a gift of the grace and mercy of God; it is something Jesus has done for us. He has paid our debt [Ephesians 2:8; Titus 3:5; Hebrews 9:12]. He has liberated us from the charnel house of death [2 Corinthians 1:10]. He has raised us up from the dead [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. And in His hands are the gifts of life and love, and blessing— heaven forever and ever and ever. That’s why we sing and praise the Lord and bow in His presence, and love Him, adore Him, worship Him, world without end. We are the children of His grace, the sheep of His pasture [John 10:16], the people of His redeemed household [Galatians 6:10; Ephesians 2:19]. We are loved of our Lord—the abounding grace of God [John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9].
May we stand together? O, our Lord, whose heart could but bow in adoration? Whose mouth but could say praises of thanksgiving and gratitude? Whose soul but could love God? What Jesus has done for us. In this moment, when no one moves, we just stand in awe before God, in His grace abounding [Romans 5:20]. A family you, a couple you, a one somebody you, “God’s goodness has called me, His grace has invited me, His love has made its appeal, and I’m answering with my life.” Confessing Him as Savior [Romans 10:9-10], putting your life in the church, as the Spirit shall lead in the way; make the decision now in your heart. And when we sing, be the first to come, down that stairway, down this aisle, “Here I am, pastor, I’m on the way.” And thank Thee, Lord, for the sweet harvest, in Thy precious name, amen. While we sing, while we sing, “Here I am, pastor.”