The World’s Sin Bearer
August 10th, 1986 @ 10:50 AM
THE WORLD’S SIN BEARER
Dr. W. A. Criswell
8-10-86 10:50 a.m.
And it is no less a joy for us to welcome the throngs of you who share this hour on radio and on television. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And in keeping with our series, preaching through the Gospel of John, we are in the first chapter, beginning at verse 29. And we want you to take your Bible and open it and read out loud together verses 29 through 34 [John 1:29-34]; chapter 1, verses 29 to 34. The text is, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” [John 1:29]. And the title of the message is The World’s Sin Bearer. Now do you have it? The first chapter of John, verses 29 through 34. Now in the presence of the Lord may we stand together, and let us all read God’s Word out loud, beginning at verse 29 through verse 34, together:
The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith,
Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.
This is He of whom I said, After me cometh a Man which is preferred before me; for He was before me.
And I knew Him not; but that He should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.
And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon Him,
And I knew Him not: but He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, the same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.
And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.
Amen! We may be seated.
And the text, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” [John 1:29]. John was sent from heaven, a man to say one sentence. Had you been that someone ordained of God, what sentence would you have said? Could it be, “Behold a Man that can raise the dead”? [John 11:43-44] How infinitely comforting would that be to the uncounted millions who weep over the loss of their loved ones, “This Man can raise the dead.”
Would you have said, “Behold, a Man who can heal the sick”? [Matthew 8:16; Mark 1:32-34; Luke 4:40] Think of the suffering, and the cripple, and the hurting of this world, “This is a Man who can heal the sick.”
Would you have said, “This is a Man who can feed the five thousand with just a little bread and a few little fish”? [Matthew 14:15-21; John 6:5-13] Think of the starving millions in the world, “This is a Man who can heal and feed the famine-stricken areas of the earth!”
Would you have said, “This is a Man who can still the winds and walk on the water”? [Matthew 14:25-32] He can control all the forces of nature. Think of the hurt that comes from the drought, and the tornadoes, and the floods; and this is the Man that can control all the powers of nature.
Would you have said, “Behold, a Man who has in His command twelve legions of angels”? [Matthew 26:53] One angel destroyed 185,000 of the Assyrian troops of Sennacherib [2 Kings 19:35; Isaiah 37:36]. And this Man has in His command 72,000 such angels [Matthew 26:53]. No need for armaments or for armies, this one Man can defend the nation. Think of a Man like that. But instead of any of those, John lifted up his voice and said, “Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world” [John 1:29]. He saw the heart problem and the need of all humanity: the sin of the world.
I remember reading in the life of David Livingstone, having observed for years the indescribable hurt and trauma of the slave trade in Africa; just before he died he cried, saying, “May heaven’s blessings rest upon any man—be he American, Englishman, or Turk—who will help to heal this open sore of the world.” It is such with sin in human life. Sin is the curse of the whole universe.
There are darkened suns, and dead stars, and blasted planets, and black holes; and the earth on which we live is scorched and damned with deserts and ice. The whole universe is fallen, all of it. All nature is under the curse of sin, all of it. The flora, the beautiful flowers wilt, shrivel, and die. The fauna, these beautiful animals that fly and run, are yet dying. And the fields of the earth don’t yield their increase; subject to flood, and drought, and failure. The whole earth is cursed.
And the greatest hurt of all: the injury and the wrong done to those who are wholly innocent. I think of the beginning: Abel; what did Abel do except love God and worship the Lord? But his brother Cain in jealousy slew him [Genesis 4:8]. And it was his brother’s blood that cried unto God from the ground. Sin! [Genesis 4:10]. I think of Uriah the Hittite, a devoted soldier of the king, a great champion of the armies of God. And David says to Joab, captain of the hosts, “Place him next to the wall, then withdraw the army from him and let him die” [2 Samuel 11:15]. What tragedy: the curse of sin! Or even John the Baptist himself, his head brought on a charger, on a platter, to Herodias the queen; the victim of the dancing of a desolate girl [Matthew 14:6-11]. The curse of sin!
Nor does anyone of us escape it. We belong to a fallen family. It is congenital, we are born into it. David cried in that penitential fifty-first Psalm, “In sin did my mother conceive me; and I was shapened in iniquity” [Psalm 51:5]. Those unseen hands that formed me, formed me fallen.
I was amazed at an article I read in the United States News and World Report. It is quoting the Superior Court Judge William G. Long of Seattle, Washington. And that illustrious judge wrote, said in a verdict, these words. He is quoting from the Minnesota Crime Commission. I could not believe my eyes as I read this assessment of humanity:
What we call delinquent behavior is as old and universal as man. It is not something to which only an evil or moronic segment of humanity, different from the rest of us, is liable. It must be remembered that no infant is born a finished product. On the contrary, every baby starts life as a little savage; is equipped, among other things, with organs and muscles over which he has no control, with an urge for self-preservation, with aggressive drives and emotions like anger, fear, and love, over which, likewise, he has no control. He is completely selfish and self-centered. He wants what he wants when he wants it—his bottle, his mother’s attention, his playmate’s toy, his uncle’s watch—and deny him those wants, and he seethes with rage and aggression, which would be murderous, were he not so helpless. He is dirty. He has no morals, no knowledge, no skills. What this means, of course, is that all children, not just certain children, are born delinquent. And, if permitted to continue in the self-centered world of his infancy, given free reign to his impulsive actions to satisfy his wants, every child would grow up a criminal, a thief, a killer, a rapist. And in the process of growing up, it is normal for every child to be dirty, to fight, to grab, to steal, to tear things apart, to talk back, to disobey, to evade. Every child has to grow out of delinquent behavior.
I never read anything like that before in my life. And I never read anything that is more certainly true. We are born delinquents. We are born into a fallen family, and we belong to a sinful race [Psalm 51:5].
I so well remember Dr. Lee R. Scarborough, who was president of Southwestern Seminary, who was a wonderful evangelist. I remember his describing a child who came forward in the revival meeting, a little boy. And Dr. Scarborough sat down by the side of the lad, to guide him into the faith and the saviorihood of the Lord Jesus. And when he sat down by the lad, a Sunday school teacher sat down by him on the other side. So Dr. Scarborough said, he began talking to the boy and said, “Son, do you realize, do you realize that you are a sinner, that you’re lost and that you face the damnation of God and the judgment of hell? Do you realize that?”
And the Sunday school teacher broke in and said, “Dr. Scarborough, this is the best boy in my Sunday school class; you don’t realize it.” Paying no attention to her, the great preacher started again with the lad: “Do you realize that you are lost, that you face the judgment of God and the damnation of hell? Do you realize that you need a Savior?”
And the Sunday school teacher broke in again and said, “Dr. Scarborough, you’re a stranger here and you do not know our church, and you do not know the family, this boy belongs to one of the finest families in our church and one of the best boys in my Sunday school class.” Dr. Scarborough said he stood up and asked the boy to move on the other side, so that he sat between the boy and the teacher. Then, he started again with the lad, “Son, do you realize—do you realize that you’re lost, that you’re a sinner, that you face the judgment of God? Do you realize that? Does the conviction of the Holy Spirit make you realize that you are a sinner and lost, and face death and judgment? Do you?” And in no time, the preacher said, he had the boy into the kingdom. That’s where redemption begins, it starts in our lostness.
I am a lost sinner. I face inevitable death. I shall stand before God to be judged one of these days, and then, what shall become of me? Who stands by me? Who is my counselor and friend? What shall I do with my sins and transgressions? I was born into them. I have been guilty of them, I cannot deny them. Somehow all of the misery, and tears, and heartbrokenness, and trauma of life is due to our sin—all of it. You can add sin to anything, anything. However beautiful, or precious, or dear, add sin to it, and it will spell tragedy. The sweetest thing in this world, love—add sin to it, and it becomes lust, pornography, prostitution. The sweetest thing, the sweetest experience in human life, add sin to it, and it becomes darkened and sordid. Home, beautiful home, precious home, add sin to it, and it’s filled with jealousy, and confrontation, and emulation, and bitterness.
Money, it can be used so gloriously for the kingdom of God; Dr. McLaughlin, you started two hundred churches last year through our gifts of money, add sin to it, and it becomes greed, murderous, murder for hire, sin. Add it to anything; a gun plus sin; a movie plus sin; and they become salacious. TV plus sin, a book, poetry plus sin, anything. Sin damns. Sin brings to the human heart, and to the human family, and to the human life, all of the tears, and misery, and sorrow, that we know in this existence: the sin of the world. Where is there healing and where is there deliverance? Who can save us out of it?
There is a great Christian hymn: “What Can Wash Away My Sin?” Do you remember that traumatic scene in Macbeth—in Shakespeare’s Macbeth? He has just stabbed to death, he’s just murdered Duncan, king of Scotland, who is a guest in his home. And the Thane looks at the blood of the king on his hand, and he cries, “Can all Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clean from my hand? No. Rather this, my hand, will the multitudinous seas incarnadine, making the green one red.”
All of our sins are like that. What can wash away my sins? Who can make me clean and whole again? Who can? The world addresses itself to that question; inevitably so, inescapably so. But the world addresses itself to the pimples on the skin, when the problem is the bloodstream in the heart. Take the gun away from the murderer, and in his heart he is a murderer still. Take the bottle away from the drunkard, and in his heart he’s a drunkard still. Take the needle away from the addict, and in his heart he’s an addict still. Take the paramour away from the harlot, and in her heart she’s a harlot still. Who can change the bent of the soul, the turn of human life, the fallenness of our nature? Who can?
In addressing that tragic problem in human life, society builds jails, and penitentiaries, and reform schools. If you read the papers at all, you’re conscious that the legislature of Texas is battling day and night with the problem of how to build bigger penitentiaries, and more jails, and hire more guards. All they do is to create schools for more hardened criminals as though the jail or the penitentiary would change human hearts and human lives. A confrontation of humanity with the sin of the world from the beginning has been moral teaching, philosophies; they are as old as the human race.
There is not a boy that goes to school who is not introduced to the Code of Hammurabi, thousands and thousands of years ago. And the whole world knows the Ten Commandments of Moses [Exodus 20:1-17]. And what could we say of the great moral teaching of Plato, or of the Neoplatonists, or of the moral aphorisms of Seneca in Rome, or Marcus Aurelius, or the thousands of teachers who have lived since—as though moral teaching and philosophy could change our human hearts.
On this platform is seated the illustrious and gifted president of our Dallas Baptist University. Don’t you wish that we could solve the sin of the world by sending our young people to the universities, and they would be graduated pure, and holy, and righteous? Don’t you wish that life could be changed by instruction and by teaching? A bum walking down a rip track tears into a freight car to steal a can of tomatoes because he’s hungry. Take that same bum and send him to Harvard University, and he’ll steal the entire railway system and get away with it.
If you have read or been sensitive to these recent decades, there never has been a nation or a people that were as literate and as learned as the Third Reich, Germany. Their great universities were the central point of research, and teaching, and intellectual progress in the whole world. At the same time, there has never been a nation as cruel, and blood thirsty, and amoral as the Third Reich, slaying more than 18 million men. Would to God all we needed was just to educate the darkness of wrong and transgression out of us!
That is the pertinency of this wonderful announcement of John the Baptist: “Look, this is the sin-bearer of the world, to take away the sin of the world!” [John 1:29]. As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “If any one be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” It’s a new day; it’s a new life. It’s a new hope, it’s a new heaven; everything is new in Him. It’s a new home, it’s a new house. It’s a new child, it’s a new husband, it’s a new father, it’s a new family, it’s new! God has started all over again and created it anew, “That’s Jesus who bears away the sin of the world” [John 1:29].
Sweet people, did you ever consider this? John could have said, “Behold the Lion of the tribe of Judah!” Isn’t that His name? “Behold the Lion of the tribe of Judah who devours the sinners of the world!” He could have said that, but our Lord Christ does not consume the sinners; He takes away the sin [John 1:29]. He does not damn the offenders, He removes the offense [Romans 4:25]. That’s the gospel of redemption: “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself… and hath committed unto us this message, this glorious gospel of reconciliation. We then, as ambassadors for Christ… plead that you be reconciled to God” [2 Corinthians 5:19-20], for He is reconciled to us. Our Lord took our penalty; He carried our sins [1 Peter 2:24]. He paid the price of our judgment [2 Corinthians 5:21]. All that should have fallen on me fell upon Him [1 Corinthians 15:3]. And the damnation, and the hell, and the condemnation that is due me fell upon Him. He took it willingly, in love [John 3:16] and mercy [Titus 3:5]. He died in my stead [Hebrews 10:5-14].
I’ve often thought the man who would have the clearest idea of the substitutionary, atoning death of Jesus Christ is Barabbas, who was supposed to have been crucified on that center cross [Mark 15:6-15]. And as he stood there and looked at Jesus on Calvary, that’s where he should have been; instead, the Lord was there in his stead. I have often wondered, “What has become, what did become of Barabbas?” Nothing is ever said about him. But, oh! what that man saw when he looked at Jesus crucified on that center cross! But Barabbas is no different from me; he was a lost man, a sinner man. I am a lost man and a sinner man. I face that judgment of death, inevitable. I face that awesome hour of judgment and confrontation. And what shall I do? What shall I say? Where is my friend and counselor? Who is my substitute and Savior? I have none other than the Lord Jesus. But oh! the loving compassionate grace of our living Lord [Ephesians 2:8].
Did you ever think about it? That when He returned back to heaven, when He entered Paradise, He entered arm in arm with that dying thief? [Luke 23:40-43]. Ever think about that? Having come down from glory to teach us the way to God, when He had finished His mission and returned back to heaven [Romans 4:25], when He entered that golden gate in the presence of the saints and the angels of heaven, He entered arm in arm with a great king? With a beautiful queen? With the elite of the world? When He entered in that golden gate, He entered in arm in arm with a dying thief! [Luke 23:42-43] Oh, the mercy [Titus 3:5], and the grace [Ephesians 2:8], and the love of Jesus our Lord! [John 3:16].
I must close. One time in a revival meeting far, far away from our city of Dallas, a man in Mississippi called me on the telephone, never heard of him, to this day don’t know him. But he called me on the telephone from Mississippi and he said:
I am the spokesman and the voice of a young mother and wife here in our town, and in our church. She and her husband lived in Dallas. He was an electrical engineer. And while they were living in Dallas,” this man is explaining to me on the telephone, “while they were living this Dallas, you won her husband to the Lord in your study at the church, and you baptized him there in the fellowship of that congregation. In the providence of life they were sent to Mississippi. And here in our town, in an electrical installation, he died. He was electrocuted. And this dear wife and mother just asked me if I would not call you and tell you the everlasting gratitude of her heart: that you won her husband to the Lord Jesus, and that he is in heaven, awaiting the day of her coming.
Did you ever think that anything could be sweeter than that kindness? “She just wanted me to tell you her gratitude for winning her husband to the Lord Jesus.” Well, what the repercussion in my heart was: could there be a greater privilege in human life than to stand someplace, anyplace, and point to Jesus as the Savior of our souls? This is He who takes away the sins of our lives [John 1:29]. This is He who opens for us the door into heaven [John 14:2-3]. This is our Lord; this is our loving Friend and Redeemer! [1 Peter 1:18-19; Revelation 5:9] Just to stand and point to Him in a Sunday school class, on a platform, in a song service, walking down the street; to say a word to a stranger seated down in a home, talking to a business associate. What a glorious, glorious and incomparable privilege just to point to the Lord Jesus, just to say a word of love and gratitude to Him; most marvelous thing in the world!
I don’t have time even to recount the endlessnesses of those glorious moments, when these that I have won to the Lord say a word of gratitude and encouragement to me. There is not any open door God hath set before us that is so dear and so precious as the privilege to say something dear about Jesus to your child, to your husband, to your wife, to your friends, to your business associates, even to a casual acquaintance. “This is the hope and the Savior of the world” [Galatians 2:20; John 4:14].
And that is our invitation and encouragement to you this morning hour. “Pastor, today I’d like to open my heart to the Lord Jesus [Romans 10:8-13], that He come into my heart; that He come into my house, that He be a guest in my home.” To bring your family into the fellowship of this wonderful church [Hebrews 10:24-25], to answer a call of the Spirit in your heart; what a precious thing God has given to us, this freedom to choose God, to walk with Him, to live with Him, to die in His grace [Ephesians 2:8], and to live forever and forever in the company of His angels and His redeemed people [1 Peter 1:18-19; Revelation 5:9]. O God! Without loss of one, that we might find ourselves in His kingdom. May we pray now? Then we’ll sing our song of appeal.
Our Lord in heaven, how could I ever thank Thee enough for those who years ago pointed me to the Savior? That preacher who stayed in our home and talked to me every night about Jesus, my sainted mother who invited me to give my heart to the Lord—all of those dear people who prayed, encouraged. O God, I could never thank Thee enough for them. And I just humbly ask, Lord, that You will bless our witness and our testimony in this, our day, when we point others to Jesus, the Lamb of God [John 1:29]. May the Spirit also open the heart of the one to whom we are speaking. And may Jesus be real to the heart, and home, and family, and father, and mother, and children of these who so desperately need Jesus; and that includes us all. Open the door for us, Lord. May Thy Spirit affirm the truth of the message today and give us a gracious harvest. Humbly we ask, in Thy saving name, amen.
In this moment that we stand and sing our song of appeal, from the balcony round, down one of these stairways, on the lower floor, these dear people, into the aisle and down to the font, “Pastor, I’ve made that decision and here I come,” while we stand and while we sing. “This is God’s day for me, and I’m coming.”