The Abounding Grace of God
February 22nd, 1981 @ 10:50 AM
THE ABOUNDING GRACE OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-22-81 10:50 a.m.
It is a gladness on the part of us in the First Baptist Church of Dallas to welcome the uncounted multitudes of you who are sharing this hour with us on radio and on television. We invite all of you also – beginning tonight at 7:00 o’clock, and every night through this week, we will be here in our annual School of the Prophets. I will be speaking at 7:00 o’clock each evening, beginning Monday through Friday. And then after I speak, there will be a marvelous and gifted preacher who will bring the closing message.
Tomorrow night it will be Dr. Tim Lahaye, who founded the Christian Heritage College in San Diego. One of the great, marvelous exponents of the Christian faith; just recently wrote that book on the battle for the mind [The Battle for the Mind : A Subtle Warfare]. Then the next night, Adrian Rogers will be the preacher. Tonight as Dr. Paige Patterson announced, the preacher will be Dr. Bailey Smith, the president of our Southern Baptist Convention, who last year baptized more than two thousand converts. It will be a great week and we would love for you to share it with us.
This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled The Abounding Grace Of God. It is one in a series on the doctrine of God; the doctrine of theology. In the fifth chapter of the Book of Romans, verses 20 and 21 – Romans 5, the last two verses:
But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.
That as sin has reigned unto death, so might grace reign
through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.
There are some interesting words in that text; "where sin, pleonazo, where sin increased, where sin filled up – filled up the human heart, filled up the human life, pervaded the whole earth, filled up the world; where sin, pleonazo, increased, filled up." Then you would think he would use huperpleonazo, "grace did much more fill up." That is the word Paul used in 1 Timothy 1:14. But he doesn’t use it here. He compounds a word.
There’s a word, perisseuo. That means "to go beyond a fixed limit, to be illimitable." He takes that word and he adds to it huper. Huperperisseuo; that means "over and beyond the illimitable"; you couldn’t translate it with an English word. "Where sin, pleonazo," increased, filled up, "the grace of God huperperisseuo," beyond and above the illimitable, immeasurable. That word "where," who, where, "where sin abounded grace" God’s grace, "did illimitably overflow."
We think God is up there in heaven; God is where the angels bow before Him and worship. The Book says God’s where sin is: God is in our cities, God is in our homes and houses, God is in our hearts. God is in our nation and He is in our world, Where sin abounds, there you will find the presence and the grace and the mercy of God – not out there somewhere – down here where we are.
That word, "grace": that’s the most beautiful word in the Greek language – charis, the accusative form of it. We name a girl Karen, Karin, Karen. Charis: that’s the Greek word for "form" and "beauty; symmetry." The Greeks loved beauty in architecture, in statuary, in painting, in art, in drama, in literature. The Greeks loved beauty – beauty of form. The New Testament authors took that word in the Greek language and applied it to God: the Lord God, who left His throne of judgment and bowed down in fashion as a man and paid the penalty for our sin. That’s called grace: the unmerited love and favor of our wonderful Lord. "For where sin increased, filled up, there did God’s grace illimitably, beyond and above – there did God’s grace overflow, abound" [Romans 5:20].
The picture of Satan in fallen humanity, piling up sin, piling it up and adding to it, until finally it covers over the face and the love of God Himself. The picture of Satan in humanity with an ocean of tears and of blood, drowning the mercy and the grace of our great God, and seemingly, he succeeds. When you read the headlines of the papers, you think he has succeeded. When you look at fallen humanity, it looks as if Satan has succeeded. When you follow the universality of the judgment of death, it looks as if Satan has succeeded.
"But where sin and death did abound, the grace of God did much more" overflowing all, "abound." When sin abounded in the garden of Eden, in the first Adam [Genesis 3:1-6], the grace of God did much more abound in the garden of Gethsemane, in the second Adam [John 1:14]. When sin abounded in the days of the flood, Noah found grace in the sight of the Lord [Genesis 6:8]. When sin abounded in the darkness and the slavery of Egypt, the grace of God did much more abound in the sacrifice of the Passover lamb [Exodus 12:3-13, 23].
You just think about it: when sin abounded in the days of the Midianites, grace did much more abound in Gideon [Judges 6-8]. When sin abounded in the lives of the kings of Israel, grace did much more abound in a repentant David [2 Samuel 12; Psalm 51]. When sin abounded in the awesome tragedy and sorrow of the Babylonian captivity, grace did much more abound in Daniel, and Ezekiel, and Ezra, and Nehemiah. When sin abounded in the days of the formal religion and sterile, empty worship of the Sadducees and the Pharisees, grace overflowed and abounded in the face of Stephen, God’s first Christian martyr [Acts 7:54-60]. When sin abounded in the persecution of the church, grace did much more abound in the marvelous conversion of Saul of Tarsus, who began to preach the faith that he once destroyed as Paul the apostle [Acts 9:1-22].
Sin abounds to condemn; but, grace abounds to justify.
Sin abounds to corrupt; but, grace abounds to purify.
Sin abounds to break the Law and open the gates of judgment and penalty; but, grace abounds to heal the breach.
Sin abounds to imprison in death and darkness; but, grace abounds to set the captives free.
Sin abounds to consume the soul and the life; but, grace abounds to abrogate the flame, to quench the fire.
Sin abounds to slay and to destroy; but, grace abounds to bestow life and light and glory.
"For the wages of sin is death; but the grace of God is eternal life" [Romans 6:23]. Paul writes of that in a marvelous and glorious way. Our salvation is a gift of God. It is something God does for us [Ephesians 2:8].
In this passage that I shall now read, Paul, describing that marvelous grace of God, he will use five aorist verbs; five of them and, all of them are alike. They are aorist participles. The Greek language has a system of verbs called aorist, we don’t have it in our language, it is in the Greek language. And it refers to something done at a point, at a time; it’s done, it’s passed, it’s accomplished, and there are five of them.
In 2 Timothy, chapter 1 and verses 9 and 10, speaking of the grace and power of God, he uses his first verb, "God hath saved us." His second one, "God hath called us." His third one, "God hath given us grace in Christ Jesus." His fourth one, "The Lord hath abolished death." And the fifth one, "He hath brought life and immortality to light." All five of those verbs are aoristic participles. "He hath saved us," sosantos. That’s an aorist participle from sozo, which means "to deliver, to save." Kalesantos, that’s an aorist participle from kaleo, "to call." Dotheisan, an aorist participle from didomi, "to give, to bestow." Katargesantos, an aorist participle from katargeo, which means "to render useless, to annul, to abrogate." And photisantos – you get your word "photograph, photo" from that – photisantos, from photizo, "to reveal," to bring to life. And all five of those referring to something God has already done: He has saved us, He has called us, He has given us His grace in Christ Jesus. He has abolished death, and He has brought life and immortality to light. What a marvelous and wondrous thing God has done for us! It is a gift of God, our deliverance, our salvation. He did it. He did it. He does it. It’s a work of God.
In the second chapter of the Book of Jonah, the chapter closes with Jonah’s prayer. He is in the belly of the great fish; he faces inevitable death. He can’t save himself, and in the prayer, the ninth verse closes, "Salvation is of the Lord." God has to do it, Jonah couldn’t save himself, God has to save him. God does it. The same doctrine is avowed by the apostle Paul in Titus 3:5: "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy," according to His grace, "God saves us." It’s a work of God; we can’t save ourselves.
Creation cannot create itself, God has to do it. Only in the fuzzy-minded thinking and in the aberration of a pseudoscientist does something ever come out of nothing. Does inanimate matter create personality and mind and intelligence? It is something God does. God has to create; creation cannot create itself, God does it.
A temple cannot build itself. An architect and a contractor and a builder has to raise it up. The dead cannot raise themselves, they are dead, and they cannot bring themselves to life and immortality. Neither can the lost sinner save himself; God has to do it for him. All of his good works do not avail, he still dies. All of his righteousnesses are filthy rags [Isaiah 64:6]. Gift and grace and mercy come from God. And resurrection, and forgiveness, and salvation, and deliverance come from His mighty hands. God saves us.
And our good works and our songs and our praises are in thanksgiving to what the Lord has done for us. And this marvelous work of grace that God has wrought in our souls is not partially or fragmentarily done. It is wholly and completely done in Christ. It is not a piece of a salvation or a gesture toward deliverance. It is not a suggestion of what God is able to do. It is a work wholly and completely and marvelously and finishedly done by our Lord [John 19:30]. It is finished, all of it; it is of grace, it is not of works [Ephesians 2:8-9]. That is a marvelous thing: what God has done for us in saving us. Not partly done, but wholly done, not something He has done a little bit of and we have done a small part of, but all of it of God, of grace. Any man who thinks that he is saved partly by trusting Jesus and partly by his own good works has never trusted Jesus. It is wholly of God.
It is as though a man went down here to the bank and he holds in his hand a deposit. And he stands at the teller’s cage and he says, "I want to deposit this money, but I don’t trust you for it. So I’m going to let you hold half of it on that end of it, and I’m going to hold the other half on this end of it." And the teller would look at a man like that and say, "I must have on my hands a sheer, unadulterated idiot." I either trust the bank, or I don’t trust the bank. I make the deposit, or I don’t make deposit. It is one or the other.
Thus it is when I go to the airport and ride an airplane. And there may be a man there who says, "I don’t trust this thing. So when I fly, I’m going to put one foot on the ground, going to keep one foot on terra firma." Brother, he not going to fly. You have to trust yourself. I think one of the craziest things I ever heard was that guy who got on a plane and said, "But I didn’t put my whole weight down." I either trust, or I don’t trust. I either fly or I don’t fly. I get in that thing or I don’t get in it. I take off or I stay on the ground.
It is exactly that with our blessed Lord. I either trust Him, or I don’t. It isn’t partly of Him and then the rest of it of me. It is completely of Him. And any work that I might do, any good that I might do, is not a cause of my salvation. It is a consequence of my salvation. And my life is to be given to the praise and the love and the worship and adoration of the great, wonderful God, whose grace lifted me out of death into the light of the immortality of His love and mercy. And our lives are just to praise Him for what He has done for us. There’s nothing of us in it. There’s no place for our confessional booths, or for our beads, or for our purgatories, or for our absolutions. It is all of God, and our lives are but to flow in thanksgiving to what the Lord has done for us in His goodness and in His grace. The gospel of the world is work and strife and "Try to do good and you will be saved." But the gospel of the Son of God is this, "Look and live." It is recorded in His word – Hallelujah! "It is only that you look and live."The gospel of salvation is this, always: "Wash and be clean":
What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
["Nothing But the Blood," Robert Lowry, 1876]
The gospel of the grace of the Son of God is always this: "Believe and be saved" [Acts 16:30-31].
When I read this poem, you will sense its old-timey-ness. In my studying, I came across it, written by an old-time Christian in an old-time day, in an old-time way.
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.
But 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.
["Quickly Ripened" a recollection of the Late Jasper Brown]
God did it. It’s a gift of God. It’s of grace, unmerited favor, "lest," as Paul wrote, "any man should boast" [Ephesians 2:8-9] – that is, lest he should say, "I did it. All praise to me." This marvelous gift of God is something the Lord has wrought for us. He did it.
In this last century, there was a very famous infidel, a man of pristine gifts, one of the greatest orators America ever produced. His name was Robert G. Ingersoll. He went all over the United States lecturing on atheism. And in one of those brilliant passages, 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 to – we’ve got to settle. No forgiveness, eternal, inexorable, everlasting justice; that is what I believe in."
That’s right. The infidel is absolutely right: An eternal, inexorable, everlasting justice is what he and all the rest of us shall inexorably and inevitably face. This world is one vast, illimitable cemetery in which those are paying the penalty of death for sin and breaking the law of God. There is a great high wall and in it is a massive iron gate. And behind that wall and behind that iron gate, is the agonizing of all humanity, facing death and judgment and going down to the grave in tears and indescribable sorrow.
And Justice stands at that gate to guard it, and he holds the keys in his hand. And before that gate, Mercy weeps and she cries, saying to Justice, "Open those iron bars and let me enter in, that I might wipe away their tears, and assuage their sorrow, and bring comfort and hope to their hearts. Open the gate and let me enter in." And Justice replies to weeping Mercy, "No. They have broken the law and the wages of the breaking of the law is death!" Either they die or Justice dies, Justice must be administered. So said the infidel; so says Justice. An emissary of angels, passing by on a celestial mission, looked upon that tragic scene and saw Mercy weeping at the iron gate of Justice. And the angels paused and said to Mercy, "Why do you weep?" And she replies, "Because I cannot enter in. I cannot help in sorrow or in death, I can only weep. Justice will not open the door, and Justice will not let me in." And Justice, in defense of himself, said to the emissary of ambassadorial angels, "Correct. They have broken the law, and the law must be honored, and the penalty must be paid. Either they die or Justice dies." Upon that, there stepped forth from the band of angels one in form and fashion like unto the Son of God. And He came up to Justice and said, "What are your terms?" And Justice replied, "They have broken the law, and if the law is not observed the universe will crumble."
Physical law must be observed with a penalty. The law of gravity: break it and you will pay a penalty. The law of fire: break it, you will pay a penalty. The law of explosive motion: break it and you’ll pay a penalty. The universe is governed by law, and law is law because it’s enforced with a penalty. Moral law is enforced. "The wages of sin is death" [Romans 6:23], and "The soul that sins shall die" [Ezekiel 18:4, 20]. A penalty has been incurred. The claim must be satisfied. The law must be honored, and the debt must be paid.
And the Lord Jesus replies to Justice, "If I pay the debt, if I satisfy the claim, will they go free?" And Justice replies, "If You pay the debt," and then I remembered the riches of glory in Christ Jesus [Philippians 4:19]. He is able. And the Lord says, "And if I satisfy the claims?" Then I remembered reading, "God shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied" [Isaiah 53:11]. "If I pay the debt and if I satisfy the claims, can they go free?" And Justice replies, "I will open the gate."
On a hill at a set time, Mercy and Justice stand waiting. That hill is called Golgotha, "the place of a skull"; in Latin, Calvary. That moment has been in type since the beginning of creation. Every lamb that was slain and every sacrifice that was offered and every blood poured out before the Lord, a type of that day. All of the prophecies of grace, upon Him, God laid the iniquity of us all that day at the exact time prophesied by Daniel the prophet in the sixty-ninth week [Daniel 9:26].
Justice said to Mercy, "Where is the Lamb of God?" And Mercy replied, "Behold, He cometh, bearing a cross, followed by His weeping church." And the Son of God came up that hill to Justice, and Justice had in his hand the ordinances, and the commandments, and the laws, and the penalties, and the judgment against us. The Lord took them from the hand of Justice and they were nailed to the cross [Colossians 2:14]. And Justice spoke to Death and said, "Come and consume this sacrifice." And Death replied, "I come. And after I have consumed the sacrifice, I will slay and consume the whole world." And Death descended upon the sacrifice of the Son of God and consumed the ordinances, and the laws, and the penalties, and the judgments, and consumed His humanity, and He died! But when Death touched the deity of the Son of God, His purity and His holiness, it was as though he had touched a volt in a wire of a billion powers. Death was consumed himself. He expired there that day on the cross.
And the darkness burst into light, and the very earth that shook but opened the graves of the pit. And on a Sabbath morning, on the first day of the week, on an Easter Sunday, the Son of God came forth triumphant and victorious [Matthew 28:1-7]. When Mercy looked upon the sight, she cried with rejoicing and gladness. When Grace looked upon that sight, he overflowed in abounding love. Proclaim throughout the world deliverance, salvation, for the great iron gate was opened wide, and God’s people poured forth in everlasting praise. Sin received its mortal blow. Death and hell were cast into the lake of fire [Revelation 20:14], and God’s redeemed and rejoicing people sang the praises of Him who liveth forever and ever:
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive honor, and glory, and dominion, and wisdom, and power, and blessing,
for He hath redeemed us by His blood unto God, and we shall reign forever and ever,
And the four cherubim said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped Him who liveth forever and forever.
It’s of God; He does it. It’s of grace, it’s in His love and mercy. Bound by death and an iron chain, we are helpless in trespasses and in sins. God does it. Immortality and resurrection walk among the tombs of the dead. The trumpet sounds, the archangel’s voice is heard, and God’s redeemed people rise in glory to praise our wonderful Lord forever and ever and ever. Amen [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17].
And that is our worship and our life. We don’t work and strive in order that we save ourselves as though to us be the glory of its achievements. But we gather in song, in prayer, in worship, in adoration, in praise, thanking God for what Jesus has done for us. "For where sin abounded, grace, God’s grace did much more abound" [Romans 5:20].
May we stand together?
Our wonderful, wonderful Lord, how could we ever frame the praise of paean, to thank Thee? How could ever we sing the song to express the fullness of our gratitude to Thee, the abounding grace that reaches down and touches me, lifts us out of the miry clay; sets our feet on the rock; gives us a song instead of our sorrow, joy instead of our tears, life instead of the death of the grave, and forgiveness in the hour of judgment? O Lord, that we knew how to love Thee better and serve Thee more fully.
In a moment we sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing the song, a family you, a couple you, a one somebody you, "Today, I open my heart God-ward and heavenward. Lord Jesus, come into my life, into my house, into my heart." Make that decision. Do it now. When we sing this song, out of the balcony round, down one of these stairways, the throng on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, "Pastor, today we have decided for God."
May the Lord bless you and angels attend you as you come, and thank You Lord for the sweet harvest, in Thy worthy and saving name, amen. While our ministers are here, and our deacons are here, and our people pray, make it now. Come now, while we sing, while we sing.