The Gospel of Hope: The Good News
May 29th, 1988 @ 10:50 AM
THE GOSPEL OF HOPE: THE GOOD NEWS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 15:1
5-29-88 10:50 a.m.
Welcome, the multitudes of you who share this hour on radio and on television. This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the morning message. For these days and weeks and months, I am preaching through the Gospel of John. But I have turned aside from the usual course of exposition because of Memorial Day, a day in which we are encouraged by our national and state legislatures to remember our beloved dead. And in keeping with that thought and that remembrance this weekend, I have prepared a message entitled The Gospel of Hope for Memorial Day. It is an exposition of a part of the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians. There are many theologians who say that this fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians is the highest revelation to be found in all the Word of God. It concerns the resurrection of the dead. And he begins—in this letter of Paul to the church of Corinth—he begins:
Brethren, I make known unto you, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached,
which also you received, and wherein you stand;
Namely, by which you are saved…
For I delivered unto you that which also I received,
how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures;
That He was buried, and that He rose again . . . according to the Scriptures.
[1 Corinthians 15:1-4]
Then follows those marvelous appearances of our Lord to the witnesses who testified that He lives [1 Corinthians 15:5-8]. Then finally, in the later part of the glorious chapter, “We cannot enter,” beginning at verse 50 [1 Corinthians 15:50]:
the kingdom of God in this present house of corruption and decay.
But I declare unto you, I show you a mystery;
We may not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump;
for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead in Christ shall be raised incorruptible, and we, we shall all be changed.
[1 Corinthians 15:51-52]
He begins here with a definition of the gospel: “I make known to you—I declare unto you—the gospel which I preached, which you received, wherein you are saved.” Namely, and it has three glorious parts: the first one, that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures”; the second one, that “He was buried, and rose again according to the Scriptures” [1 Corinthians 15:1-4]; and the third one, and final and triumphant one, His glorious return which shall signal our own resurrection from the dead and our transformation, our transfiguration, our translation up to heaven to be with Him in heaven forever and ever [1 Corinthians 15:51-52].
He gives an illustration in verse 29 of this gospel of resurrection. He speaks of these that are baptized. If they are baptized, “What would it mean if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?” [1 Corinthians 15:29]. The ordinance of baptism, Paul says, is a gospel message in symbolic form. In the sixth chapter of his letter to the church of Rome, he defines it, “For we are buried with the Lord in the likeness of His death, and we are raised with the Lord in the likeness of His triumphant and glorious resurrection” [Romans 6:3-5]. That’s the gospel. That’s the gospel.
And baptism is a symbol of that death [Matthew 27:32-50], burial [Matthew 27:57-66], and resurrection [Matthew 28:1-6]. John the Baptist said he received that ordinance from heaven; God sent him to baptize [John 1:25, 33]. And when finally we came to know what it meant, that’s what it meant; a picture of the burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus [Romans 6:3-5]. John said: “I got it from heaven” [John 1:33]. Paul avows the same thing here: “Brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I received—I received” [1 Corinthians 15:1]. Paul says, “I am not an entrepreneur, I am not an originator, I am not an inventor. This gospel message that I preach, I received it from God in heaven” [1 Corinthians 15:1].
I remember several years ago when the king of England spoke to the people of America. The next day there was a report in the paper, the newspapers, that intrigued me. In one of those rare providences of life, as the king of England began to speak to our American people, the cable broke that carried his message to America across the sea. The engineer was frustrated, devastated. How could he repair it in a second of time? And the newspapers said what the engineer did: “He took one end of that cable and with his other hand took the other end of the cable, and the message of the king was delivered to America through his body.”
That is an exact picture of the gospel messenger of Christ: of Paul, of John, of all those who have enunciated, and pronounced, and proclaimed, and declared the saving message of Christ to the world. He is not an inventor. He is not an originator. It is a message that comes from heaven, and the preacher just declares it. He repeats it, “Brethren, I make known to you that which I have received, the gospel message wherein ye are saved” [1 Corinthians 15:3].
That word, “gospel”—“I declare unto you the gospel”—when a man, when a man stands in the pulpit and preaches the gospel, what does he preach? When a man is sent across the seas as a missionary to preach the gospel, what does he preach? The very definition, the very word that is used to describe his message is the “good news.” That’s what he preaches: the gospel, the good news. “Gospel” is an old Anglo-Saxon word for “good spell,” the good story, the good news, the good tidings.
It is the same thing in the Greek, euangelion—eu, the Greek word for “well, good,” angelion, the messenger with the good tidings. In the second chapter of the Book of Luke, the angel from heaven says: “I make known unto you, I declare unto you that euangelion, the “good news,” the “good tidings,” translated in the King James Version “the glad tidings” [Luke 2:10]. That’s the gospel message. It’s the good news.
How many times do we interdict that in our attitudes, and in our looks, and in our responses? People sometimes think of going to church as they would serving a sentence. They go under duress, and they have funereal looks and attitudes as they walk into the house of the Lord.
As a man said to his friend, “I hear you got religion.”
And he said, “No, I’ve just been sick. I’ve just been sick.”
A little girl was reprimanded for her ebulliency in church, and the little child went out in the yard so hurt and discouraged. And there was an old hound there. Is it a basset hound that has long, droopy ears and droopy eyes and droopy face? It was one of those hounds that looks like that. And the little girl went out there and put her arms around that hound dog and said, “You sure got a good case of religion.”
No, it’s the opposite! It’s the good news! It’s the best thing that ever happened to us or imaginable; good news, the gospel message of Jesus Christ.
I so well remember following the tragedy of that Second World War when Corregidor fell, and Bataan fell, and the death march of Bataan, and those soldiers who had survived were penned up in an enclosure with barbed wire. And when General MacArthur returned with our American army to the Philippines, they sent a contingency of those American troops to that imprisonment, where our American soldiers, the survivors of Corregidor and Bataan, where they were incarcerated. And when those soldiers came in the dead of the night to liberate them, they took snippers and cut those barbed wires. And the men, our soldiers on the inside, not knowing what had happened, were frightened. And the soldier with his snippers cutting those wires said, “Steady boys, steady. The Yanks are here.” The Yanks are here! Good news, good news! And when the men came out of that prison, our soldiers lined up on either side and received them in honor as heroes. I had one of the men here in this pulpit to speak to us, good news, glorious news, marvelous news, victorious news, triumphant news!
I think of that tremendous revival in Wales at the first of this century, led by Evan Roberts. It was a marvelous outpouring of the Spirit of God. And out of that marvelous revival came this song:
The Lord was slain on Calvary.
That’s the news, that’s the news.
To set a world of sinners free.
That’s the news, that’s the news.
‘Twas there His precious blood was shed.
Twas there He bowed His sacred head.
But now, He’s risen from the dead.
That’s the news, that’s the news.
His works reviving all around.
That’s the news, that’s the news.
And many have salvation found.
That’s the news, that’s the news.
And since these souls have caught the flame,
They shout hosannas to His name.
And all around they spread His fame.
That’s the news, that’s the news.
Where e’er we meet you always say,
“What’s the news, what’s the news?”
Pray what’s the order of the day?
What’s the news, what’s the news?
Oh, I have got news to tell,
My Savior has done all things well,
And triumphed over death and hell.
That’s the news, that’s the news.
[“What’s the News,” author unknown, Ulster Revival]
The gospel is good news. I have from this sacred text out of which I have been preaching several things that Paul avows that characterizes the gospel as good news. The first one he begins; in Christ, our sins are washed away—done away [1 John 1:7], pardoned, forgiven—as the Book says, “Buried in the depths of the sea” [Micah 7:19]. As the one hundred third Psalm says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us” [Psalm 103:12]. He took our place. He took our sins, “God made Him to be sin for us, He who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” [2 Corinthians 5:21]. That’s the good news! That’s the good news! Our sins are forgiven [1 John 1:9], our sins are washed away [Revelation 1:5], our sins are remembered no more [Hebrews 10:17]. God hath forgiven us for Christ’s sake, the good news [Ephesians 4:32].
What is the good news of the gospel? The good news of the gospel is that Christ has conquered and triumphed over Death and the Grave [1 Corinthians 1:55-57]. That’s the good news! Death now to the child of God is but an exchange of this old, decaying, atomic body for a new and resurrected and glorious body, fashioned after His in heaven. In this we mourn, grow old, senile, aged, helpless; this body is daily decaying. I could not think of a greater curse than to be remanded to this body forever and ever. No surcease from sorrow, no healing from hurt, just to suffer and suffer and suffer. But Christ has brought to us victory and triumph over death and the grave. That’s the good news, that’s the good news! And death now is but a taking away of this old body in which I live and giving me a new and a resurrected body like unto His in heaven.
O God! The glory that awaits us: not to fall into the ground, into the grave, not the end of life then to turn to food for worms and the dust of the earth. The good news: God hath prepared for us mansions in heaven [John 14:2-3; Revelation 21:1-5], and we shall live there in a new and resurrected body, made like unto His own glorious frame [Philippians 3:21].
I was talking to a man yesterday afternoon. He is a very able man and a successful businessman here in our city. And he was just interested in the gospel that I was preaching, and he said to me, “When the Lord comes, what you call…”
And I said “… The rapture.”
And he said, “Yes, the rapture, that’s it. When the rapture comes and we are taken up into heaven, is it just our spirits that are taken up into heaven?”
I said, “No, according to the Word of God, no! What is taken up into heaven is we—we, you, we—we are taken up into heaven.”
The apostle Paul wrote, “My brethren, I would not have you without knowledge concerning them who fall asleep in Jesus” [1 Thessalonians 4:13]. Isn’t that a glorious characterization? He doesn’t say dead. He says sleep, “These are just asleep in Jesus.”
I would not have you without knowledge concerning them that sleep in Jesus, that you sorrow not, as others who have no hope.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again,
even so those also who sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.
For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord,
that we who are alive and remain till the coming of the Lord shall not precede them which are asleep
[1 Thessalonians 4:13-15].
“For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead in Christ shall rise incorruptible, and we, we shall all be changed” as he says in this passage in Corinthians, “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump,} we shall all be changed [1 Corinthians 15:52]. Then shall we rise to meet our Lord in the sky with those who are coming from heaven [1 Thessalonians 4:14, 17]. What a marvelous thing: we, we. I am not we—I am not I without my body—I have a soul on the inside that lives in this body, and the whole procession, all of it, is to resurrected; all of it is to be changed [1 Corinthians 15:51-57; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17]. My spirit is regenerated, and my body is raised from the dead. And I shall live in this house, this body, only it will be perfect, it will be resurrected. It will be immortal; it will be like the resurrected body of our Lord Jesus.
You know what? I was preaching that one time—just in the Bible. I don’t invent the message, just declaring the Word of God—and a man who belongs to a certain cult, a certain sect, came up to me and said, “That message you preached today, that message you preached today, it is just as material as it can be: earthly! You preached that this body shall be raised and this body shall be immortalized.”
I said to him, “You know, God must like it that way. He must like materiality. He must like matter, He created it. God did it. You look at the great universe around you and above you, God did that. God made it. He must like it, He made it, He created it. And God created this body, this house of clay in which I live. God made it, and He must like it. And God is going to recreate and regenerate this physical body. God is going to do it, and we are going to be like Him” [Philippians 3:21, 1 John 3:2]
When the Lord appeared resurrected to His disciples, they were afraid and affrighted, supposing that they had seen a spirit [Luke 24:37]. And the Lord said to them, “Do not be afraid, a spirit hath not flesh and bones such as you see Me have. Handle me,” He said, “and see that it is I Myself” [Luke 24:39]. And He showed them His hands and His feet and His side [Luke 24:40]. It was the same Lord. He even had the scars of the nails in His hands and had the scar of the spear thrust into His side [John 19:34, 20:27]. It was the same Lord Jesus, raised from the dead [John 20:25-28].
You’re going to be like that. You’re going to be like that. He has taken the sting out of Death and the victory out of the Grave [1 Corinthians 15:55-57]. And we are going to live in His sight whole and complete: a regenerated spirit and a resurrected, immortalized body. That’s the news. That’s the gospel, that’s the good news! Call the good news—the gospel; our judgment is passed, it’s over, it’s done. We don’t face it; the judgment is gone for us [Romans 8:1]. There is nothing that remains for us except that great day when the Lord gathers us in Hs presence and He gives us the rewards for what we tried to do in His name in the earth [1 Corinthians 3:11-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10]. There is no judgment for us, it is over, it is past [John 3:16-18]. The judgment upon our sins was taken by Him on the cross [1 Corinthians 15:3], and nothing remains for us but life and glory and praise everlasting.
Paul begins the eighth chapter of the Book of Romans, “There is now no condemnation, there is now no judgment to them who are in Christ Jesus” [Romans 8:1]. John 5:24 reads:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on Me hath everlasting life,
and shall not come into condemnation—
shall not come into judgment—
but is passed already from death unto life.
I grew up, as some of you know, in northwest Texas. And the fear and the horror of that country is a vast prairie fire, blown by the wind. I have seen men literally sacrifice their lives fighting those consuming flames. What do you do in the face of a great, vast prairie fire, bearing down upon you and your house and your home? What they do is they burn a great area around the home; they burn the grass and foliage. They burn it all around the home, then when the prairie fire rages down, it is already burnt, it is already gone, and the fire fails and the fire dies. That’s the judgment. It is already over with us. It is already burned. It is already done! And we are delivered. That’s the good news. That’s the good news. There is no judgment of God that faces us, just the glory of being in His presence, and with one another, world without end, forever and ever and ever.
What’s the good news? May I take time just to mention just one other? What’s the good news? The gospel! What’s the good news? The good news is this: that it is open and extended to every soul in this earth, every one of us. We are all included, to every man, every human being: that’s the good news.
Did you ever think of the “whosoever” in the Bible? The “whosoever,” so many of them, the “whosoever.” In John 3:16, that wonderful verse that all of us know:
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever—
there it is again—
That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting—
Whosoever, whosoever: anyone. Take again the passage we just read in the eleventh chapter of the Gospel of John: “I am the resurrection, and the life. Whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die” [John 11:25-26]. There is a “whosoever.” Or, take once again the last great invitation in the Bible; Revelation 22:17:
The Spirit and the bride say, Come.
And let him that heareth say, Come.
And let him that is athirst come—
and, there it is again: “and whosoever will”—
And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.
Anybody, anybody: the whole family and race of God—anybody. Could I take that for just a moment to the Lord. Lord, You say “anybody.” You say “whosoever will.” Lord, let me ask You, when You were crucified, You were humiliated beyond any suffering soul in this earth. In the Sanhedrin they mocked You [Matthew 26:59-68]. And when You were dying on the cross, the high priest and the members of the Sanhedrin walked up and down in front and mocked You [Matthew 27:41-43]. Lord Jesus, if that high priest who presided over Your condemnation and who mocked You when You died, if he were to turn and say, “Lord, remember me,” would You forgive him? Would You forgive him?
And Lord, when they were trying You, one of those men smote You with his fist [John 18:22]; if he were to turn and say, “Lord, forgive me,” would You forgive him? Would You?
And Lord, that man that made that crown of thorns and pressed it upon Your brow [Matthew 27:29], if he turned and said, “Lord, I am sorry,” would You give him a crown in glory? Would You, Lord?
And that man that took that reed and smote You on your head [Matthew 27:30]; if he turned and said, “Lord, I am sorry,” would You give him a crown and a scepter in heaven? Would you, Lord?
And Lord, not to weary You, could I ask once again? If one of those soldiers who drove those great nails through Your hands and through Your feet [Matthew 27:35], if he were to come and say, “Lord, I am sorry,” would You forgive him?
And that brutal Roman who took his spear and thrust it into Your side [John 19:34], if he were to come and to say, “Lord, I didn’t know. I didn’t realize. Forgive me, Lord,” would You forgive him? Would You?
Lord, what do You mean by that “whosoever?” Anybody? Would You, Lord? But most of all, Lord, if I were to come and bow in Your presence and say, “Lord Jesus, forgive me,” Lord would You forgive me? Would You take me into the household of faith? Would You write my name in the Book of Life? [Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27]. Would You forgive my sins? Would You open the door of heaven for me? Would You, Lord?
My sin, O the bliss of this glorious thought.
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more.
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul.
[“It is Well with My Soul,” Horatio G. Spafford]
That’s the good news. That’s the good news! God, for Christ’s sake, hath forgiven us [Ephesians 4:32]. And we’re welcome into the very presence of His glory and someday to be fellow heirs with Him in the kingdom of God [1 Peter 1:3-4]. Good news. Good news! Good news.
And that is our appeal to you who are a part of this service on television. No matter who we are, no matter what we have done, we are welcome into the household of faith in the kingdom of God. Jesus came into this world to die just for you; and His work and His blood washes our sins away [Revelation 1:5], clean and white as though we had never erred or transgressed, a new creature in Christ Jesus. That’s why He rose from the dead, to declare us righteous; to ascend into heaven, to open heaven’s door for us. He was slain for our sins, and raised for our justification [Romans 4:25]; that is to declare us righteous; to see that we make it into that golden city—a fellow heir of the whole repurchased possession [Romans 8:17; 1 Peter 1:3-4].
And to accept the Lord is the greatest, most marvelous experience that we could ever have in human life, and it is ours for the choosing, ours for the taking. Do it. Make it now. And in the great throng in this sanctuary today, down one of these stairways from the balcony, down one of these aisles in the throngs of this lower floor, “Pastor, this is God’s day for me. I am accepting the Lord as my Savior and here I stand.” Or, “We’re coming into the fellowship of this dear church,” or, “I’m answering the call of God in my heart, and here I come.”
A thousand times, welcome! Welcome, while we stand and while we sing.