The Gospel According to Ezekiel (Jesus Speaks to Us)
October 20th, 1985 @ 10:50 AM
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO EZEKIEL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-20-85 10:50 a.m.
And the Lord wonderfully bless the multitudes of you who share this hour with us on radio and on television. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas bringing the last message on the long series delivered on the prophet Ezekiel. The sermon today is entitled The Gospel According To Ezekiel. It is an exposition of the last part of the thirty-sixth chapter of the book; Ezekiel chapter 36. And it begins with the judgment of God upon our sin, verse 16 of Ezekiel 36:
Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,
Son of man, when the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they defiled it . . . their way was before Me as the uncleanness of a removed woman.
Wherefore I poured out My fury upon them for the blood that they had shed…
And I scattered them among the nations, they were dispersed through the countries: according to their way and according to their doings I judged them.
Sin always brings the judgment of God. The Lord is slow to anger, but the continued perverseness of the human spirit and the human life inevitably brings with it an interdiction and a judgment from heaven. It is just not the most depraved who are judged, the most maniacal who fall into the awful visitation from heaven but the elite, these who are socially acceptable. On both alike the judgment of God inevitably comes [Matthew 23:1-39].
I look at the Portland Vase in the British Museum. It is a cherished and precious relic from the ancient past. But a crazed maniac seized it, and dashed it to the floor and shattered it into pieces. And what you look at now is the beautiful Portland Vase reglued and remade. I have, as you, looked upon the incomparable Pieta in the church of St. Peter’s in Rome––a masterpiece of Michelangelo––the mother Mary holding the Lord Jesus as He was lifted down from the cross. But a maniac, a crazed aberrationist, took a heavy hammer and beat it; one of the most inexcusable of all of the depraved actions of men.
And I think of the depravity of the human family, not just these. Here in Dallas I was invited to lead the invocation of a vast throng of distinguished leaders in our city. We were honoring as our guest one of the great tremendous leaders of the American government in Washington, D.C. He is now at this moment in a federal penitentiary. The lostness, the aberration, the sinfulness of the human race! It is not just to a drunkard that the Lord says, “You must be sober.” It is not just to a libertine that the Lord says, “You must be pure.” It is not just to a thief that the Lord says, “You must be honest.” But it is also to a Nicodemus, who represents the finest of his nation [John 3:1], and of his culture, and of his religion that the Lord says, “You must be born again. You must be born into another world” [John 3:3, 7].
The hue of the skin, the color of the skin, or the shape of the skull, or the nationality to which we belong, or whether we’re civilized or savage, we all alike are under the condemnation of the perverseness and the lostness and the sinfulness of our souls. The disease is not at the top of the tree. It is at the root. The fountain is not polluted downstream but at its source. Men are lost in depravity, in transgressions, in iniquity, in sin, universally.
The lost man needs a Savior, someone to deliver him from the judgment upon his transgression. And this is universally so. The lost man is in love with the wrong world. His affections and his ambitions are like the weeping willow. They bow to the ground. They sweep the dust of the earth. His god is this world and his paradise is here. And all of his affections and achievements are in this life. The thoughts of God haunt him like specters. Prayer is an exercise disdainful. Worship is a dreary assignment. The Ten Commandments [Exodus 20:1-17], and the Sermon on the Mount [Matthew 5:1-7:29], and the Holy Scriptures are the opinions of men. His joys and his pleasures are his indulgences. He is like an animal. He is chained to this life, and death dissolves every achievement to which he has ever devoted his strength, and prayers, and aims, and ambitions, and work. He is a lost man, lost in this life, lost in death, lost at the great judgment bar of Almighty God, and lost for eternity.
In the Scripture in the twenty-sixth verse, he is referred to as one who has a heart of stone––hard, adamant, unmoved, dead [Ezekiel 36:26]. It is like a man; his tombstone is here, his statue is here, and the dead man is there, but all three are alike. They are cold and hard and dead. When you speak to them, they don’t respond. When you weep before them, they don’t cry. When you make appeal for the gospel message of Christ, they are not moved to respond. They are dead! Their hearts are stone, and they face the inevitable judgment of God. Whether they are dug in the cold arctic snows of the North or whether they are dug in the hot burning sands of the South, graves characterize every land, every nation, every people. Death is the king of the whole creation. He sits on his throne, and none dare dispute his sovereignty over the earth.
How do we rid ourselves of the curse of sin? It is like the atmosphere. It is everywhere. We breathe it into our very souls. It is like the drag of gravity, always down. It is a universal force in our lives. The same force that shapes the sun shapes a teardrop. It is everywhere. The disease of sin, how do you face it and how do you eradicate it? How do you confront it and combat it? How do you escape from the curse of sin? The test of the chemist cannot isolate it. The knife of the anatomist cannot discover it. The probing of the physiologist cannot reach it. And the instruments of the phrenologist cannot measure it. It is in the depth of the soul. Finding itself cursed with the presence of sin, the whole record and history and story of the human race is none other thing than an attempt to confront it. What do you do?
These in ancient times took their children and cast them into the fiery arms of Molech to assuage the judgment of death [Leviticus 20:2-5]. These in India sometimes will cast themselves before the rolling wheels of a great juggernaut in order to escape the penalty and judgment of death. Philanthropy––so much is motivated on the part of those who would seek by largess, by supporting worthy causes, to avoid the judgment of God—kind of like buying your way into His favor. And without end, world without end, do men seek by good works to commend themselves to the great Judge of all the earth. We will in our own works, and in our own goodness, and in our own merit commend ourselves and justify ourselves before God.
But good works to merit the favor of heaven is like weaving a rope of sand. It is futile. It is vain. It is sterile. It is empty. God never accepts a man because he comes before Him being self-righteous, justifying himself in his own merit, never. “Our righteousnesses,” God says, “are as filthy rags” in His sight [Isaiah 64:6]. We must be rid of our own rags that we might be clothed with the righteousness of God [Ephesians 4:23-24]. We must be unclothed that we might be clothed upon [2 Corinthians 5:2]. We must be wounded that we might be healed. We must be slain that we might be revived. We must be killed that we might live again. We must be dead that we might be resurrected. We must be buried that we might be lifted up in life before the Lord God.
Any man who ever is saved, who shall ever stand in the presence of the Lord, who shall ever enter the gates of glory of heaven must experience a death and a resurrection. He must be a new creature in the Lord [2 Corinthians 5:17]. It is sown in corruption if it is to be raised in incorruption. If it is sown in dishonor; it is to be raised in glory. If it is sown in weakness; it is to be raised in power. If it is sown a natural man; dead, it is thus to be raised a spiritual man in the power and ableness and omnipotence of God [1 Corinthians 15:42-44].
No man in himself shall ever find himself meriting God’s loving favor and eternal forgiveness. It is in the grace and mercy of the Lord. We cast ourselves, poor lost sinners, upon His love and forgiveness, and we beg His grace and pardon [Titus 3:5]. There is no other way we can be saved.
Thus it is that in this unusual chapter, in the thirty-sixth of Ezekiel, the prophet brings from God two things that the Lord does to cleanse us, to save us, to regenerate us, to make us fit to appear in His holy and heavenly presence. First He says, “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean” [Ezekiel 36:25]. Now to us that is hardly meaningful, “sprinkle clean water upon us.” But to the prophet, and to those who listened to him who had been reared in the services of the temple, that had a profound meaning. “I will sprinkle clean water upon you.” It referred to the cleansing of one defiled by a red heifer that had never been wrought, never been yoked. A red heifer without blemish was taken without the camp and was burned––a whole sacrifice before God. And the ashes of the red heifer were then mixed with living water, running water, and the water with the ashes of the red heifer were sprinkled upon the defiled that they might be clean [Numbers 19:2-3, 17-19; Hebrews 9:13]. A sacrifice, an atoning sacrifice, had been made that the one defiled might be cleansed.
Sprinkling clean water in the cleansing of the leper, two living birds, one was slain over living water, and the blood and the water caught in the basin, and the other bird was dipped in the blood and water and then turned loose in an open field. And the blood and water were sprinkled upon the one who was leprous that he might be cleansed: blood sacrifice, atonement, a price paid, blood poured out [Leviticus 14:4-7]. Not water such as falls from the weeping heavens, but water such as fell in teardrops from the eyes of our Lord. Not water such as falls from a dissolving cloud, but blood drops that fall from the wounds of our blessed Lord. “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot see the kingdom of God” [Ezekiel 36:25; John 3:5]. Except a man be born of the vicarious sacrifice, and atonement of Jesus, and the regenerating Spirit of God in his heart, he can never, ever be saved; the cleansing of the water.
And the second: “I will give him a new heart, and a new spirit will I put within him.” “I will take out his stony heart, and I will put a new heart in him and will put My Spirit within him” [Ezekiel 36:26-27]. What a remarkable thing! Not the old heart patched up. Not the old spirit remade. Our constitutions have not power to thrust sin out of our lives. And our old hearts are not capable in our hands of being remade, and even God Himself cannot remake and patch up our old hearts. God must give us a new heart, and God must give us a new spirit [Ezekiel 36:26]. And that God does for us lost sinners.
If I could choose one word that would characterize the enduring mercies of God, it would be that word “new.” If I could choose one word that would characterize the economy of grace, it would be that word “new.” God says, “Behold, I make all things new” [Revelation 21:5]. Our Lord was born from a virgin womb in which no previous child had ever been conceived [Luke 1:26-35; 2:7]. Our Lord was laid in a new tomb where no man had ever been laid [Luke 23:53]. He is the Mediator of a new covenant [Hebrews 12:24]. He is the author of a new testament [Luke 22:20]. He is the founder of a new day. His redeemed have a new name [Revelation 2:17]. They sing a new song [Revelation 5:9]. They live in a new city. Their home is the New Jerusalem. Above them is a new heaven, and beneath them is a new earth [Revelation 21:1-2].
“Behold, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; and all things are become new” [2 Corinthians 5:17]. And to fit us for our new home and our new life and our new city, God gives us a new heart, and a new spirit, and a new soul, and a new love, and a new life [2 Corinthians 5:17]. It is surprising and amazing how God fits His creatures for their environment, always. He will give wings to a bird. He will give fins to a fish. He will give hoofs to a horse. He will give sails to a thistle seed. He will give roots to a tree. He will give light to a glowworm. He will give tendrils to cling to a growing vine. And God gives to His people––His remade, His reborn, His heaven-bound, His heaven-called—God gives to them new hearts, new spirits, a new life. Everything is new. For our guilt, He gives us pardon. For our old garments and rags, He gives us garments of glory. For our impurity, He gives us sanctification. For our griefs, He gives us comfort. For our hopelessness He gives us heaven––all things new [Revelation 21:5].
And last, these things are in the omnipotent providence of God. “I the Lord have spoken it, and I will do it” [Ezekiel 22:14]. These are not the words of a man. Our words are limited, and halting, and feeble, and weak. But these are the words of omnipotence. “I the Lord have spoken it, and I will do it.” This is our certainty and our security––the unfailing, unchanging Word immutable of the living Lord God [1 Peter 1:23]. There is always confidence in His voice. There is no ambivalence in His tone. When God speaks, it is law. And the Lord hath thus spoken to us.
The first fiat was that there be light: and there was light [Genesis 1:3], the omnipotence of God. The last fiat in the last page of the last book of the Bible, the same omnipotent God: “’He that is athirst will I give to drink of the fountain of life” [Revelation 21:6]. “And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” [Revelation 22:17]. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life” [John 3:36]. “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish” [John 10:28]. This is the fiat and the word of God.
As the one hundred twenty-fifth Psalm will say: “They that trust in the Lord shall be as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abideth forever” [Psalm 125:1]. And the next glorious word: “As the mountains are round about the city of Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about them that love Him from henceforth even forever” [Psalm 125:2]. The immutable and unchangeable promises of God: “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish” [John 10:28]. “All that God hath given to Me,” says our Lord, “shall come to Me” [John 6:37], and they will never perish. “Nor can any man pluck them out of My hand. My Father, who gave them Me, is greater than all. And I and My Father are one” [John 10:28-30].
We are at home, and we are secure, and we are saved, and we are delivered, and we are pardoned in the ableness, and love, and vicarious atonement, and sacrifice, and blood, and grace, and mercy of our blessed Lord Jesus [Ephesians 1:7]. He is our hope, our salvation, our all in all [Acts 4:12]. Am I lost? He is the way [John 14:6]. Am I wounded and hurt? He is the balm of Gilead [Jeremiah 8:22]. Am I sick? He is my healing. Am I weak? He is my strength. Am I naked? He is my clothing. Am I poor? He is my riches. Am I homeless? He is my heaven. Am I hungry? He is the bread of life [John 6:35, 48, 51]. Am I thirsty? He is water indeed [John 4:10]. Am I in debt? He is my surety. Am I condemned? He is my pardon. Am I tried? He is my Advocate and Counselor [Isaiah 9:6]. Am I in darkness? He is my light [John 8:12, 9:5]. Am I lost? He is my way [John 14:6]. Do I seek a foundation upon which to build my hope, and my house, and my soul? He is the Rock that can never be moved [1 Corinthians 10:4]. Do I face the gathering storm? He is my refuge and my anchor that never fails [Hebrews 6:19]. He is my all in all.
I enter once a home of care,
And penury and want were there,
But joy and peace withal;
I asked the aged mother whence
Her helpless widowhood’s defense;
She answered, “Christ is all.”
I saw the martyr at the stake,
The flames could not his courage shake,
Nor death his soul appall;
I asked him whence his strength was giv’n;
He looked triumphantly to heav’n,
And answered, “Christ is all.”
I stood beside the dying bed,
Where lay a child with aching head,
Waiting Jesus’ call;
I saw him smile, ’twas sweet as May;
And as his spirit passed away,
He whispered, “Christ is all.”
I dreamed that hoary time had fled;
The earth and sea gave up their dead,
A fire dissolved this ball;
I saw the Church’s ransomed throng,
I caught the burden of their song,
‘Twas this: that “Christ is all in all in all.”
[“Christ Is All,” W. A. Williams, 1904
Our hope, our surety, our healer, our salvation, our heaven, our promise never failing: Jesus our Lord, and this is our invitation to you.
Thus to open your heart to the balm and the blessing of His presence, that His hands in benediction might rest upon your house, your heart, your home, your life, the work of your hands, that your children might be brought up in the love and nurture of our Lord Jesus [Ephesians 6:4]; that you might work as unto Him [Colossians 3:23]; that you might grow old in His love and grace, that you might die in His arms, and that you might enter into His heaven welcomed by the “Savior who loves you, and gave Himself for you” [Galatians 2:20]. “Today pastor I open my heart to the blessed Lord Jesus, and here I stand.” To put your life with us in the fellowship of our wonderful church, a thousand times welcome. To answer the call of the Holy Spirit in your heart as the Lord shall press the appeal, make it now. “This is God’s day for me, dear pastor.” In the balcony round, down one of these stairways, and there is time and to spare, in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, this is God’s day for me, and here I stand.” Make the decision now and on the first note of the first stanza, make that first step. It will be the greatest you have ever made in your life. Now let me pray for me, for us, for one another.
Our Lord in heaven, poor lost sinners how shall we confront, be made equal to the judgments we face in this world of death and in the judgment that is yet to come; O Lord, we need Thee for Advocate, and for Counselor, and for surety. We look to Thee for grace and for pardon. We look to Thee for strength and healing and help. And our Lord, may that infinite gladness that we have found in our Savior be shared today by everyone in divine presence.
When we sing our song of love and appeal, may it be that God shall move them to a like faith as has saved us, and delivered us, and now keeps us [Ephesians 2:8-9]. God bless these who turn their faces heavenward and God-ward and church-ward this holy day. And we thank Thee for those that You give us, in the saving, keeping name of our blessed Lord Jesus, amen. While we stand and while we sing, a thousand times welcome. “Here I am, pastor. Here I come.” Welcome.