How Could God Die For Me?
February 19th, 1989 @ 8:15 AM
HOW COULD GOD DIE FOR ME?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-19-89 8:15 a.m.
Once again we welcome to our service the throngs of you who share this hour on KCBI. This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and I am the pastor bringing the message entitled How Could God Die for Me? In our preaching through the Gospel of John, the Fourth Gospel, we are in the days of His flesh, the last week of His life, His trial, and His crucifixion. And as a background text, we read in chapter 19 verses 16-22:
Then delivered Pilate Him unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led Him away.
And He bearing His cross went forth into a place called the Place of a Skull, called in the Hebrew Golgotha – in Latin "Calvary" –
where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the midst.
And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS.
This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin.
Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that He said, I am King of the Jews.
Pilate answered, Gegrapha, gegrapha, What I have written I have written.
It was the eternal purpose of God, before creation, before the world existed, before the universe was, it was the purpose of God that we should be redeemed. That’s one of the most amazing things that mind could imagine. But it’s true.
In the [thirteenth] chapter of the Book of the Revelation, our Lord is described as, quote, "The Lamb of God slain from before the foundation of the world" [Revelation 13:8]. Before the world was, Jesus in the presence and mind of God was offered as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
In the tenth chapter of the Book of Hebrews, we have a dramatic picture of our Lord volunteering to die for the sins of the world, up there in glory, before creation [Hebrews 10:5-10]. And the whole Bible is a prophecy of His coming into this earth as the sacrifice and the actual atoning grace of God, shed forth in the poured out crimson of the life of our Lord. It is an amazing revelation!
God in the beginning said "The soul that sins shall die" [Ezekiel 18:20]; "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" [Genesis 2:17]. And death became universal. And how shall I be delivered from it? Can you die for me? You are dying. Can I die for you? I am dying. All of us face that universal judgment of God; we have sinned. We face the penalty and judgment of death.
Only God is able to deliver us. Only God Himself can make atonement for us. But how can God suffer? How can God make atonement and how can God die for us? God is so great; His immensity fills the creation. God is so ethereal; He casts no shadow on the light of intelligence. God is so mighty and vast in purpose that it takes all duration of eternity and all time and space to carry through His heavenly purposes. And God is so intense in light that even the angels veil their faces and stand afar, beholding the continual glory of the Lord [Isaiah 6:2].
And yet God suffers because of our sins. The entire theological world avows that God, Divinity, cannot suffer. I may be the only one in the world that believes the opposite of that. I think God is touched with the feeling of our infirmities [Hebrews 4:15]. And God is hurt and God suffers because of the sins of His people [Isaiah 53:4]. For example, in the sixth chapter of the Book of Genesis, when God looked out over the evil and wicked world, the Bible says, "He was grieved in His heart" [Genesis 6:6].
I onetime heard of a homiletical professor who had his students, young preachers, stand before him and read the Fall in the Book of Genesis. And when they came to that question of God, after Adam and Eve had sinned, and God was walking in the garden and said, "Adam, where art thou?" [Genesis 3:9], some of them read it flippantly; some of them read it indifferently. There was one young fellow who read it with a sob in his voice, "Adam, where art thou?" And the professor turned to that young fellow and said, "Young man, you will be a great preacher." God can be touched, and God is hurt, and God grieves over the lostness of the people of the world.
But how could God die? What He did was, described so poignantly in the second chapter of the Book of Philippians. God poured Himself into a vessel:
He, being in the form of God, thought it not a thing to be grasped, to be equal with God – but poured Himself out –
Made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant – of a man – and being in form like a man,
He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."
God pouring Himself into the form of a man, and experience all of the horrors and terrors of crucifixion; the Prince of life dying that He might conquer sin – and that is the drama of the cross.
We follow it as it ensued in the life and death of our Lord. First the Via Dolorosa, the procession through the throngs and the multitudes of our Lord; the King of sorrows being led to His throne of grief; the angels of God looked upon it, and the spirits of just men made perfect watched it from the windows of heaven [Hebrews 12:23], and God Jehovah the Father looked upon that leading to a hill called Calvary.
There are three incidents along the way. Number one: they put upon Him His own clothes. They had taken Him and disrobed Him and put a mock purple robe upon Him. But lest He not be identified because of that purple robe, that it might be certain that it was He, they took off the purple robe mark rights, and put upon Him His own clothes, and led Him forth to be crucified [Matthew 27:38-31]. This is Jesus Himself. They took everything off of Him and put back upon Him His own clothes, all except the crown. They left the crown of thorns, the diadem placed there by His own blood.
The second incident: He fell underneath the weight of the cross. And they impressed and compelled one Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross before Him [Matthew 27:32].
This is one of the strange fortunes of life. Because of the cross, Simon was brought near and dear to the Lord Jesus. And in Mark, He is presented as a well-known Christian, a follower of Jesus; names his sons Rufus and Alexander [Mark 15:21]. And again in the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Romans, it speaks of the devotion of their mother. Somehow in his carrying the cross of our Lord, the whole family was brought into the orbit of God’s love, and grace, and forgiveness, and salvation. If you bare a burden, if you bare a cross, you’re in great company. You’re in the company of the Lord Jesus. And you’re in the company of Simon of Cyrene. Sometimes the burden of an indescribable sorrow is the greatest blessing that could ever happen to your life.
I think in one of my pastorates of a most successful businessman, most successful. No time for God and no time for the Lord. No time for the church. Stricken, tragically so, called for me; lamented the waste of his life, making money out in the business world, successful; asked me to pray for him that God would forgive him. Took the Lord as his personal Savior and then insisted to me that he be baptized. I said to him, "Sir, how can you be baptized? Invalid?" He said, "Somehow, I want to be baptized." So I gathered my deacons together and with several of our deacons, we baptized that invalid man before the congregation of the Lord. Never would have happened had it been for the cross of sorrow that struck down his life in the very prime of his strength.
A third incident that happened on the Via Dolorosa: the women lamenting and weeping. And sweet people, I don’t know why, but this week I discovered something I had never seen before in God’s Book. In all four of the evangelists, all four of those Gospels, there is never the appearance of a woman who denied or derided or blasphemed the Lord; not one. Men did. They cursed Him. They scorned Him. They mocked Him. They denied Him. But you’ll never find a woman, not one. They were the last at the cross, and they were the first at the tomb.
And as the Lord followed that Via Dolorosa, the women wept and lamented, tenderhearted. Some of them He had healed; their children He had blessed. And as they wept and cried, the Lord turned to them and said:
Do not weep for Me. You weep for yourself and your children.
The day is coming when they will say, Blessed are the barren who have never birthed, who have never borne. And blessed are the breasts that have never nourished a child . . .
The prophecy of the destruction of the nation that began in 66 AD and was consummated by Titus in 70 AD.
Three things now concerning the crucifixion of our Savior. Number one: He was nailed to the tree. He was offered as a sacrifice outside the city. It’s a remarkable thing to me that when you go back into the Old Testament, how many times and how meticulously the sin offering is depicted in the Word of God. In the twenty-ninth chapter of the Book of Exodus, in Leviticus chapter 4, in Leviticus chapter 8, in Leviticus chapter 16, and again in Numbers chapter 19 the sin offering is depicted. And it’s a strange thing how God did it. The sin offering was not made in the house of God, in the temple. Only sweet savor offerings were offered to God on the altar in the temple. But the sin offering was taken outside the city and there burned before God.
That is a picture of the great and final sin offering for our souls, outside and burned, consumed. He was not crucified in the city, enclosed by the walls of a metropolis. He was not crucified in the city, in the enclosure of one race. He was crucified outside, for the whole world, all humanity.
A second thing of that cross: from high noon, twelve o’clock, until three in the afternoon, darkness covered the earth [Matthew 27:45-46]. Men might gaze upon the sufferings of our Lord, but nature refused to do it. Men disrobed Him and made Him naked, and they gambled for His garments at the foot of the cross [Matthew 27:31]. But an unseen hand from heaven brought a drapery of darkness to cover His naked body Mark 15:33]. And nobody can enter into the depths of His sufferings for the sin of the world.
The earth was darkened, and the earth says, "I couldn’t see it." God in heaven turned His face away and heaven says, "We did not see it." The disciples had forsaken Him and fled and they say, "We didn’t see it." No one can enter into the depths of the sufferings of our Lord in atoning love for our sins.
And a third thing: how Jesus died is an amazing phenomenon. They came to Pilate and said, "The Sabbath is drawing nigh. Lest we be ceremonial defiled, let these be dispatched, slain immediately and taken away" [John 19:31].
Sometimes a criminal would languish for days on the cross. Isn’t that a strange thing on their part? The scribes and Pharisees, coming from the most atrocious sin that God ever allowed the man to commit, think nothing of it, but be sensitive to a ceremonial defilement of the Sabbath day.
Anyway, Pilate acquiesced and the soldiers were commanded to take wooden mallets and to beat their bones into fragments. But when they came to Jesus, He was so manifestly dead that they didn’t crush His bones. But one of the soldiers took a spear and thrust it into His heart – and John expatiates on that – when he withdrew the spear, there poured out blood and water [John 19:32-34]. And John says, "And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he writes that you might believe" [John 19:35]; blood of atonement and water for to cleanse.
Let the water and the blood,
From His wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Save from wrath and make me pure.
["Rock of Ages" by Augustus Toplady]
And the response, three things again. One: epitomized and summarized and characterized in those criminals who were crucified with Him – there was one on either side – there was formal balance. And when you looked at them, with Christ in the center, and those malefactors on either side; they both looked alike. But oh, how the cross reveals the difference [John 23:32-33, 39-40].
One of them cursed Christ. "It is ridiculously unthinkable that He can’t save Himself. How can He save others?" He had no sense of sin and therefore no sense of the need of a Savior. Had he been freed and pardoned, he’d have gone back into the same sin again.
Did you read last week, did you read last week, that man who was arrested and arraigned before the court for incest? He had violated the sixteen year old daughter in the home. And he was out on bond, awaiting trial. He was out on bond, and while he was out on bond, he violated that sixteen year old daughter, committed incest again. That’s exactly that. Had that criminal been freed, he would have gone out and done the same thing again – no sense of sin and no need of a Savior.
But the other one, what a difference the cross makes in the life of a man. The other criminal said, "We suffer indeed, justly, for our sins. But Lord Jesus, someday, when You come into Your kingdom, Lord, would You remember me? Forgive me? Save me?" And the Lord answered to him and said, "Today – semeron – this day – semeron – this day, thou shall be with Me in Paradise" [Luke 23:40-43].
I was asked yesterday, "Pastor, will we know each other in heaven?" I replied, "When Jesus entered the gates of glory, arm in arm with that malefactor, do you reckon they knew each other? My brother, we’ll not really know each other till we get to heaven. Not really; not really."
The two other things: one of them, one of the strangest things the Bible says, such as in the sixth chapter of the Book of Hebrews, a man who refuses the grace of our Lord crucifies to himself the Son of God afresh, and puts Him to an open shame [Hebrews 6:6].
When I refuse the love, and goodness, and atoning grace of God, I crucify Jesus again. "O Lord, how could such a thing be? Jesus with those throngs blaspheming Him, and those thieves cursing Him, and those infidels deriding, and the soldiers gambling, Lord God, how do You love us? How do You love us, and give Your life for us?"
And if you refuse Him, you crucify Him all over again. "O Lord, don’t let me be guilty of the death of Thy Son. Lord Jesus, I open my heart to You, and I receive Your grace and love both for me and all for whom I can pray."
And the other, in one of those opposites, we crucify Him afresh, God’s Book says, "When we spurn His love and His grace" [Hebrews 6:6]. And the other: He bowed His head on the cross and cried, saying, "It is finished!" [John 19:30]. There are no loose ends around the cross. This is God’s final exclamation and period. Of all of the things He has ever said, from eternity to eternity, this is God’s provision for us. There is none other and nothing else.
That’s the reason Paul says in 2 Corinthians chapter’s  and :
God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us this ministry of reconciliation.
For God made Him to be sin for us, Him who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.
Therefore, my brethren, as fellow workers with Christ, we beseech you that you receive not the grace of God in vain.
For He hath said, In a time accepted have I heard thee, And in the day of salvation, have I succored thee: behold, now is the accepted time; and behold, now is the day of salvation.
[2 Corinthians 5:19, 21; 6:1-2]
There’s no other way. There’s no other plan. God envisages no other invitation. It’s to come to Christ. It’s to receive His grace and love and forgiveness. And in that crimson flow, we’re washed white as snow [Revelation 1:5, 7:14]. And God opens for us the gates of heaven.
In this moment when we sing our hymn of appeal, a couple you, "Pastor, this is God’s day for me, and we’re standing in His presence." A family you, coming into the fellowship of the church; a one somebody you, accepting the Lord as your Savior; as the Spirit of appeal and invitation shall press the invitation on your heart, make the decision now, and on the first note of the first stanza, come. "Pastor, this is the day of salvation for me, and unashamedly, I am confessing my acceptance of Jesus as my Lord and Savior, and here I stand." God bless you and angels attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.