The Meaning For Us of the God-Man
April 5th, 1981 @ 8:15 AM
THE MEANING FOR US OF THE GOD-MAN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Matthew 27:39-43, 54
4-5-81 8:15 a.m.
And we are happy to welcome the great multitudes uncounted that share this hour with us on radio. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas delivering again one of the doctrinal sermons on Christology, on Christ. And the title of the message this morning is framed just a little different from what it is published in the bulletin; the title of the sermon is The Meaning for Us of the God-Man.
As a background text, reading in Matthew 27, verses 39 to 43; Matthew chapter 27, beginning at verse 39:
And they that passed by reviled Him, wagging their heads,
And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save Thyself. If Thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.
And the chief priests mocking with the scribes and elders, said,
He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He be the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him.
He trusted in God; let God deliver Him now, if He will have Him: for He said, I am the Son of God.
Now look at verse 54:
And when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.
The title of the message, The Meaning for Us of the God-Man.
There is no denial of the difficulty of the conception that in one person there is both God of very God and true humanity; true deity and true manhood in one person. That difficulty pressed with unparalleled force on the Jewish people. The reason for the writing of the epistle to the Hebrews, one of the letters in the New Testament, was the little Hebrew congregation that had accepted Christ was now in the act of repudiating Him and returning to Judaism [Hebrews 6:4-6].
It was difficult for the Jew to believe that the God of Sinai was a man, and it was compounded by the circumstances in the day in which they lived. Right there was the judgment hall in which their worst criminals were tried, condemned, and sentenced. And that’s the judgment hall where He was condemned and sentenced [John 18:28]. Their own leaders, their own priests, had clamored for His blood [Luke 23:13-25]. Right there He was executed, just right there, at the entrance of that city gate [John 19:20; Hebrews 13:12].
And His relatives lived among them; the relatives of God lived among them. The father of church history, Eusebius, quotes Hegesippus as saying that in the reign of Domitian, who reigned between 81 and 96, that two sons of Jude, the brother of Jesus, were brought before the emperor as being descendents of David and followers of Christ the King, thinking they might be insurrectionists. But Eusebius says that Hegesippus writes that when they looked at the men, they were peasant farmers. Their hands were gnarled with toil; ignorant and unlearned. And the Romans, in derision, dismissed them.
That was hard for the Jew to believe, that the God Jehovah is this Man Jesus; it was no less difficult for the disciples, who had followed the Lord. They believed in the coming of a material, visible, earthly, messianic kingdom. And when they saw Jesus, their supposed Messiah, crucified and buried [Matthew 27:32-61]—in that tomb was buried every dream they had of any golden tomorrow.
Their hopes and visions were dashed into the dust of the ground literally, buried. Even Thomas, one of the apostles who had seen all of the miracles of the Lord, who had heard His words of wisdom, even Thomas said, “Except I put my finger in the scars in His hands, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe” [John 20:25]. It was only after the resurrection of Christ from the dead [John 20:1-18], it was only after His triumphant entrance into immortalized life, victor over Death and the Grave [Revelation 1:18], that Thomas, by a personal appearance to Him of the Lord, could say, “My Lord and my God” [John 20:28].
But after the apostles and the disciples were convinced and were persuaded that Jesus was what He said He was, God of very God and man of very man, both deity and humanity, when they were convinced of it, they laid down their lives for the truth; all except John were martyred. And they preached a kerygma, a gospel message, an announcement that changed the course of civilization and human history. Thus, we look at the meaning of the God-Man Christ Jesus.
First: the incarnation of God [Matthew 1:20-23]. The presence of God in human flesh brought to us all truth, and wisdom, and knowledge in warm human form; close and comforting. Would you know the truth of God? Look at Jesus. Would you learn the wisdom of heaven? Sit at the feet of Jesus. All wisdom and all knowledge are found in Him; thus, Paul wrote in the Book of Colossians [Colossians 2:3].
No longer do we have to take off of the shelves those dry, dusty, heavy tomes, and pore over cabalistic, mysterious sentences of double meaning to try to find the truth in some esoteric and devious fashion. Just look to Jesus, all truth is in Him. For us He is precept because “He is the way”; for us He is doctrine, for “He is the truth”; for us He is experience, for “He is the life” [John 14:6]. Just look to Jesus.
I may be puzzled by the many theories of the atonement, how God forgives sin, but I can trust in Jesus. In my doctoral work at the seminary, one of my minors was the atonement; I studied it for two years. At the end of two years, I passed an examination upon the atonement. And when I got through of the study at the end of two years, I didn’t know any more about how God forgives sin in the blood of Christ than when I began, but I can look to Jesus and trust in Him. I may stagger at the divine mysteries that are the subjects of theology, subjects that baffle the masterminds of the ages, but I can look to Jesus, and I can trust in Jesus.
The Christian religion is of all things objective. We’re not looking to philosophy or to subjective mysticism in order to find the truth of God. The Holy Spirit does not speak of Himself; the Book says He will point us to Jesus [John 16:13-15]. And when I get out of myself and keep my eyes upon Him, there is a healing, and a strength, and a comfort, and a helpfulness found in no other stream, in no other way, in no other clime, in no other world.
My dear people, if I could get the subjects of psychiatry and psychology, all of those people that spend vast sums of money on the doctors, trying to heal their minds—their neurotic, and psychotic, and schizophrenic, and a thousand other mental, emotional aberrations—if I could just get them to get out of themselves and just look to Jesus, and think about Him, and love the Lord, and trust Him, they’d all be healed, all of them. Our faith is ever an objective faith; it’s not looking to me, it’s looking to Jesus [Hebrews 12:2]. That’s one thing that the incarnation of God, the God-Man, means for us [Matthew 1:20-23]. It is the truth of God in a warm, human form.
Number two, the meaning of the God-Man for us, what the incarnation of God in Christ means for us, number two: it revealed God to us in a new dimension. It revealed God to us as a precious, and loving, and tender shepherdly Savior [John 10:11]. I speak of that because of the idea of God in so much of the human frame and the human life.
I was standing one time in Calcutta at a temple, in a midst of a large group of worshipers who were standing in front of an idol. The idol was fierce looking, as fierce as the sculptor could cut him into stone, present him in stone—terrible looking, the eyes, and the teeth, and the hands, fierce. So I turned to a worshiper, one of those Hindus, and I said, “God, god is so terrible looking. He’s so fierce.” And he replied to me, “Yes indeed, that’s why I worship him. I’m afraid of him”; fierce.
Many of you have been to Bangkok, and before every temple in Bangkok there are those fierce guards and warriors; just their presence strikes terror to the heart. I was in Oyo, visiting the king there in the heart of Central Africa, and before his very large compound was a shrine at the very entrance, right in front of his great compound. At the entrance there was a devil house, where he worships the devil. And I asked him, “Why do you worship the devil?” And he says, “Because he can do me harm. I’m afraid of him.”
Even in the Old Testament, God is revealed to us in His first primary attribute, that of unapproachable holiness, the holiness of God. You see that when our first parents were driven out of the garden of Eden. They couldn’t stand in the presence of a righteous and holy God. They were driven out [Genesis 3:22-24].
You see that in the giving of the Ten Commandments, and the law at Sinai [Exodus 20:1-17]. The very mountains shook with the lightning, and the thunder, and the earthquake [Exodus 19:18]. God is speaking the commandments.
You see that in the temple worship. There is a court out here, then there’s a court there, then there’s a court there, then there’s a sanctuary there, then there is a veil. And these are kept out by this wall, and these are kept out by this wall, and these are kept out by that wall, and these are kept out by the door, and these are kept out, even the priests by the veil [Hebrews 9:6-7]. And beyond the veil, in the sanctuary of God, only a high priest once a year dared entered with blood of expiation [Hebrews 9:3-7]. But the incarnation of God [Matthew 1:20-23], brought to us a new dimension, God as a shepherd, tender and loving, a Savior who walked among men and lived our very life [John 1:14].
Look for just a moment, at the kind of a God revealed to us in Christ Jesus. Born in a stable, laid in a manger, surrounded by cattle, and herds, and flocks [Luke 2:7-16]. Even the unlearned shepherds felt perfectly at home in the presence of the Babe of Bethlehem. Anybody could approach a manger in a cattle stall. And look at His ministry: going about doing good [Acts 10:38], loving little children, holding them in His arms and blessing them [Mark 10:13-16], preaching the gospel of the good news to the poor, healing the sick, ministering to those in sorrow, the Lord Jesus [Matthew 11:4-5]. And the comfort of that blessed, blessed revelation of God in Christ Jesus is ours forever.
I have three passages in Hebrews I want you to underline. We could underline the whole Book of Hebrews, but I want us to mark these three. Turn in Hebrews to chapter 2, the last two verses; Hebrews chapter 2, the last two verses, verses 17 and 18:
Wherefore in all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.
For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succor them that are tempted.
Now the second one; turn to chapter 4, the last two verses, verses 15 and 16. Hebrews 4:15 and 16:
For we have not a High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tried like as we are, though He without sin.
Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
He knows all about us. He lived our life, and He invites us to come boldly.
Now the third one is in Hebrews 12; Hebrews 12, beginning at verse 18 and I’ll not take the time to read it:
Ye are not come unto the mount of Sinai, that burned with fire, and the voice that frightened the people,
But ye are come unto Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, to the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels,
To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven
And to Jesus, the Mediator of a new promise, a new covenant.
[Hebrews 12:18, 22-24]
Oh, the comfort and the strength to know that God is our friend, and our shepherd, and our Savior! He is our fellow pilgrim, and He is with us in strength forever [Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:8].
Many a sufferer, in the lone watches of the night, have felt His presence. There was a sentence that the pastor said in the funeral service of my father that has stayed in my mind through these many years since he’s translated. The pastor said that he went to see Mr. Criswell in the hospital where he died and that Mr. Criswell had said, “Pastor, the nights are long and lonely, but Jesus is with me.”
That sentence has stayed in my mind. There is many a soul that has agonized, that has been comforted, in the memory of Gethsemane [Matthew 26:36-56]. There is many a martyr who has laid down his life, clapping his hands with joy and singing songs of praise, remembering the crucifixion of our Lord [Matthew 27:32-50]. God is revealed to us in a new dimension in Christ, a shepherd, a Savior, One who was at all points tried as we are, though He without sin [Hebrews 14-15]. “Come boldly therefore to the throne of grace, that you may find help in time of need” [Hebrews 4:16].
Number three: the meaning for us of the God-Man. Only God can forgive sin [Isaiah 43:25; Mark 2:7], and only God can make atonement for our sins [Romans 3:25]. What can bear sin away? How can the stain be washed out of our souls? Could the blood of bulls and goats wash away sin? Could even the sacrifice of our sons and daughters cleanse us from iniquity? Do you remember the heart cry of Micah in Micah chapter 6, verses 6 and 7?
Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the High God? shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves of the year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my sins, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
What can forgive sins? Can the great saints of God and the leaders of the world die for me? Pay the penalty of my death and judgment? Could Moses die for me? Could David, or Daniel, or Samuel die for me? Could Peter, James, Paul, could they atone for my sins?
Or the great of the world that have walked across the pages of human history, the heroes of war from Alexander the Great to Napoleon, could they die for me? The mighty intellects who wrote our literature from Homer to Shakespeare, could Shakespeare die for me? The great men of science, could an Einstein die for me, an atheist? Could the great political leaders or economic leaders of the world, could they die for me?
My brother, it is the preeminent character of Christ that gives saving efficacy to His atoning work [1 Peter 2:21-24]. It’s because of who He was, it’s because He was God that He was able to make atonement for our sins [Hebrew 5:1-11]. And the acceptance of the sacrifice is because it was God Himself making atonement [Romans 5:11; 2 Corinthians 5:19]. And as the Holy Scriptures say, “Jesus tasted death for every man” [Hebrews 2:9]. He took in Himself, in His own body, the penalty of the judgment of our sins [1 Peter 2:24]. The sufferings of Christ, known and unknown, we cannot enter into—God, God paying the penalty for our sins.
When Job suffered, Satan was restrained. God said to Satan, “You can take everything that he has, but do not touch him” [Job 1:12]. And then again, “Satan, you can afflict him, but spare his life” [Job 2:6].
But with Christ there was no reserve, there was no interdiction, there was no boundary, and Satan afflicted Him beyond any way that we can enter into. Cursed, spit upon, beat, mocked, jeered, repudiated, nailed to a cross [Matthew 27:30-50]. Isaiah 52, last verse, says, “His visage was so marred, more than any man” [Isaiah 52:14]. Isaiah 53:11 says, “God shall see of the travail of His soul,” how He suffered in His soul. That is the atonement for our sins; only God could do it [Romans 5:11]. That’s the meaning of the God-Man [Titus 2:13].
Last, the incarnation of Christ: His humiliation and suffering did not take away from His glory. Rather, His humanity and His suffering ministered to His greater glory. He had a glory, the Bible says, before the world was [John 17:5]. But this is a different and an added glory—His incarnation [Matthew 1:20-23], His suffering [Isaiah 53:11], His death [Matthew 27:32-50] and resurrection [Matthew 28:1-7]. That glory is the glory, the glory He had before the world was, that was a glory of incommunicable deity, unapproachable holiness, the glory of God on His throne in heaven [John 17:5].
But this is a glory of being the Savior and the head of a redeemed humanity [Ephesians 1:22]. You couldn’t exalt the Lord too much. In this glory, added to the Lord because He suffered for us [1 Peter 3:18], and redeemed us [1 Peter 1:18-19], and made us brothers and sisters in the household of faith [Galatians 3:13], that is a glory that we preach about, and sing about, and rejoice in, in life, in death, and someday in heaven forever [Revelation 5:8-14], “Worthy is the Lamb” [Revelation 5:12].
And that is the great gospel message that we preach. And when a man preaches Christ, he preaches a message of deliverance, and elevation, and joy, and victory, and triumph, the glory of our Lord. Why, my friend, if the whole world were an alabaster box and heaven included, He is worthy that it be broken and poured over His head. You can’t exalt Him too much.
Tell me, did you ever hear a man say, “You know the preacher, he preaches Christ too much? He preaches Christ too joyfully, and too triumphantly, and too victoriously, and too hopefully.” Did you ever hear that in your life? Tell me, did you ever see a Christian man leave the congregation of the worship hour with a long and sad face and say, “You know the preacher, he exaggerated the praise of Jesus. He exalted the Lord too much.” Did you ever hear that?
Tell me, did you ever hear someone who is sick, listening to the service on the radio, say, “The pastor made too much of Jesus today? He made the Lord too prominent today.” Did you ever hear that? In all of your life, did you ever hear one who was bowed down with infinite grief and sorrow, and he says, “You know, I’m bitter? The pastor came and brought me the good news of the hope and promise in Christ Jesus.” Did you ever hear that?
You can’t exalt Him too much. You can’t preach about Him too much. You can’t sing about Him too much. You can’t love Him or serve Him too much! He is the great God and Savior Christ Jesus, the God-Man.
If Jesus is a man—
And only a man—I say
That of all mankind I will follow Him,
And Him will I follow always.
But if Jesus Christ is a God—
And the only God—I swear
I’ll follow Him through heaven and hell,
The earth, the sea, and the air!
[“The Song of a Heathen”; Richard Watson Gilder, 1787]
The meaning for us of the God-Man Christ Jesus [Titus 2:13].
May we stand together? Our Lord, that we had the eloquence to praise Thee the more wonderfully, to sing about Thee the more melodiously and beautifully, to serve and honor Thee the more faithfully and lovingly. O God, revealing Thyself to us in the humble, tender, shepherdly Lord Jesus, our hearts flow out in abounding praise and love. Thank Thee, Lord, for dying in our stead [Hebrews 10:5-14], forgiving our sins [Matthew 9:6], waiting for us in glory [Hebrews 10:12-13].
And in this moment that we pray before the Lord, asking God to give us you, a fellow pilgrim, a brother in the faith, could this be the day that you decide for Christ? Make it in your heart that commitment and confession of faith, “Lord, I accept Thee for all You said You are, and all You promise to be, and I’m confessing Thee now, publicly.” Or a family put your life in the church, a couple, or just one somebody you, coming to the Lord and to us.
And our Savior, thank Thee for the sweet harvest You give us this moment, in Thy wonderful and saving name, amen. Now while we wait, while we pray, and while we sing, come and welcome. Come.
THE MEANING FOR US OF THE GOD-MAN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. The difficulty pressed with unfathomable force upon the Jewish people
B. No less difficult a conception for the disciples (John 20:25, Matthew 28:17)
C. But convinced and persuaded they laid down their lives for the truthII. The incarnation brought to us all truth, wisdom and knowledge in human form
A. In Him the whole substance and revelation of God revealed(Colossians 2:3)
B. We may be puzzled by various theories of the atonement or stagger before mysteries of theology, but we can believe and trust Jesus
C. The work of the Holy Spirit is to point to Him(John 16:13-14)III. The incarnation revealed God in a new dimension
A. Conception of “god” in history for the most part is fierce
B. Even the revelation of God in the Old Testament attributes to Jehovah an unapproachable righteousness, holiness
C. The humanity of God in Christ Jesus (Hebrews 2:14-18, 4:15-16, 12:18-24)IV. Only God, revealed in Christ, could atone for our sins
A. Who or what can bear our sins away? (Micah 6:6-7)
B. He paid the penalty of suffering and death to the full, for every man(Hebrews 9:26, Isaiah 52:14, 53:11)V. The incarnation of God in Christ took away nothing of His glory
A. His humanity, condescension, suffering has ministered to His greater glory
B. An added glory (John 17:5, Philippians 2:2-11)
C. The more of Christ we preach, the more life and light and salvation (John 12:32)