The Triumph of Christ Over Sin and Hell
April 10th, 1990 @ 12:00 PM
1 Corinthians 15
THE TRIUMPH OF CHRIST OVER SIN AND HELL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 15
4-10-90 12:00 p.m.
It is hard for me to realize this is the forty-sixth year that I have presided over them. Remember, it is your busy lunch hour. The services last from 12:00 – 12:30, and if you have to leave, all of us will understand. If it occurs right in the middle of a sentence, it’s all right. Just come when you can and leave when you must.
I cannot but again remark upon the reverential attention of our First Baptist Academy. It is an encouragement to me, beyond anything you could ever know, your listening to the Word of God. The theme for this year is "The Triumphant Christ. The Triumph of Christ." Yesterday: The Triumph of Christ over Satan. Tomorrow: Over Death. The next day: Over the World. On Friday: The Triumph from The Cross. And today: The Triumph of Christ over Sin and the Judgment of Damnation.
Many, many of the students of Holy Scripture say that the high water mark of all revelation is the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, and all five of the messages in this series are taken from that glorious part of the revealed Word of God; and this morning from the first verses:
Brethren, I declare – I make known – unto you the gospel which I preached, which also you received, wherein ye stand,
By which also ye are saved . . .
For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received: how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.
[1 Corinthians 15:1-3]
There are two kinds of Christianity. One is a Christianity of idealism, of inspiration. In that Christianity, Jesus is a great teacher, and a prophet, and a martyr. When they use the word of "salvation," they refer to social amelioration. Jesus is one – in that part of the presentation of the Christian faith, Jesus is one of the great inspirational idealists of the world. For example, Confucius was a great teacher contributing to the amelioration of mankind. Socrates was a great teacher. Justinian and Marcus Aurelius were great teachers, and Jesus also was one of those great teachers. That’s one of the presentations of the Christian faith.
There is another presentation of the Christian faith, and that is that Jesus "died for our sins according to the Scriptures" [1 Corinthians 15:3]. It is a gospel of redemption, of salvation for our souls. It is a message that God in heaven looked down in grace and mercy upon a lost humanity and sent His Son that we might be saved from the judgment of our sins [John 3:16].
In that first kind of Christianity, the cross of Christ is incidental. In the second, it is central. In that first kind of Christianity, the cross of Christ is, oh, however you might receive it or reject it. To me, it is an amazing thing that those people try to take out of our hymnbooks all of the songs of the cross and try to obliterate the sufferings of our Savior. But in this second kind of Christianity, it is a gospel of redemption. The heart and center of the gospel message is the cross of Jesus our Lord. Which one of those two presentations of the Christian faith is the gospel according to the Holy Scriptures, according to the Son of God? Without exception, it is the second.
Paul said: "God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" [Galatians 6:14]: the cross in all of its naked hideousness as the Romans would have it; the cross in all of its philosophical irrationality as the Greeks would have it; the cross in all of its suffering and shame as the Jews would have it; but the cross in its power to save as Paul preached it [Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 1:18-24].
So he avows here: he says, "I delivered unto you, I preached unto you first of all" [1 Corinthians 15:3]. That "first" does not refer to time, but it refers to emphasis and importance. Such as there is a first and great commandment of the Law [Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-31; Luke 10:25-27], so there is a first – a great first doctrine of the Christian faith. It is not the fatherhood of God, or the Kingdom of our Lord, or the incarnation of our Savior, but it is the message that Jesus "died for our sins according to the Scriptures" [1 Corinthians 15:3]. It is the gospel of redemption. This is the heart and the keystone of the Christian faith.
Somebody, one time, said to that great English London preacher Charles Spurgeon, "Your sermons sound all alike," and he replied, "That’s right. No matter where I take my text, I make a beeline to the cross" [Quoted in "Christian History: Charles Hadden Spurgeon," Christianity Today, 1991]. There is no redemption apart from the shedding of blood [Hebrews 9:22]. There’s no salvation apart from atonement; there’s no reconciliation apart from the payment of our debt [Romans 5:6-10, 6:23; Colossians 1:19-22, 2:13-14]. Not by His holy and beautiful life, but by His stripes we are saved [Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24].
You see that in the Gospels themselves [Matthew, Mark, Luke, John]. It is remarkable that one or the other of the gospels will leave out, say, the birth of our Lord, or the Sermon on the Mount, or the transfiguration of Christ, or the Lord’s Supper, or even His ascension into heaven. But all four of them, in great detail, recount the suffering and the death of our wonderful Lord [Matthew 26:47-27:56; Mark 14:43-15:47; Luke 22:47-23:56; John 18:1-19:42]. It is the message of salvation and hope for the world, and that differentiates the Christian faith from all other religions of mankind.
The Christian faith is not, in the first place, an ethic although it is ethical. It is not, in the first place, a theology although it has theological implications. It is not, in the first place, an amelioration – a reformation of society or of mankind – although it has reformational and ameliorational overtones; but the gospel of Christ is, first and above all, a message of redemption of the saving of our souls from the judgment of sin.
You see this in the sign and the aegis of the Christian gospel. The sign of the Christian faith is not a burning bush [Exodus 3:22-4:17]. It is not two tables of stone [Exodus 24:12, 31:18, 32:15-16]. It is not a seven-branch lampstand [Exodus 25:31-39]. It is not a halo around a submissive head. It is not even the crown of a victor, but it is a cross. When I think of a sign of the gospel of Christ, I think of a cross, a bloody cross, on which the Savior of our souls did die. "For I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received: how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures," according to the Scriptures [1 Corinthians 15:3].
I wonder if many of you were present when on a Sunday night, a New Year’s night, I announced that I was going to preach till midnight. Do you remember that? And I entitled the message The Scarlet Thread through the Bible. I started at seven thirty o’clock, in this pulpit, and preached until past midnight following through Holy Writ the sacred story of the preparation of our world for the atoning grace of Jesus, our Lord.
According to the Scriptures, Christ died for our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3]. The whole Bible concerns just that. In the beginning, when our first parents fell, they covered themselves with fig leaves [Genesis 3:7]; but our Lord said, "Not enough," and He shed blood – the first blood shed – He shed blood to cover the nakedness of our first parents [Genesis 3:21] . When those sons came before God with a minchah – with an offering – Abel offered blood, a lamb sacrifice [Genesis 4:3]. When Abraham was tempted of God and tried of the Lord, it concerned the dedication of the life of his son Isaac [Genesis 22:1-19]. When the Passover was instituted, God said, "When I see the blood, I will pass over you" [Exodus 12:13]. The heart of the Levitical worship system is the shedding of blood [Leviticus 4:1-6:6].
Do you remember Leviticus 17:11? "For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that maketh atonement for the soul" [Leviticus 17:11]. And all of the temple worship concern the sacrifices unto God [2 Chronicles 2:1-7:7]. "Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins" [Hebrews 9:22]. And the preaching of the prophets was that "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes," His stripes, His suffering, "we are healed" [Isaiah 53:5]. This is the Scriptures, and the Old Testament is but an introduction to the New Covenant.
The New Covenant begins in the same way: John the Baptist presenting our Lord saying, "Behold! The Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world!" [John 1:29] The sacrifice of blood that we might be washed from our iniquities, and the life of our Lord is just that. When He began His ministry, He said: "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" [John 2:19]. They had no idea to what He referred. John says He was referring to His coming death [John 2:20-22]. When the Lord spoke to Nicodemus, He said, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up" [John 3:14]. He began His ministry in the consciousness of His death for our sins, and it continued throughout all of the days of His flesh. In Capernaum, in His preaching, He said: "Except you eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of God, you have no life" [John 6:53]. When the Greeks came to see Him, He said: "And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me" [John 12:32], and when Mary of Bethany anointed Him, He said it was for His burial [John 12:4-7].
Do you remember the meaning of the ordinances? In the ordinance of baptism, He died for our sins and was buried and was raised for our justification [Romans 4:25]. In the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper: "This is My blood of the new covenant shed for the remission of sins" [Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24; 1 Corinthians 11:25]. Jesus wrought many marvelous miracles, but He never said, "This miracle is wrought for the remission of sins." Jesus preached marvelous sermons, but He never said, "These sermons are spoken for the remission of sins." Jesus healed many sick. He never said, "The healing of this sick is for the remission of sins." But He did say, "This blood of the New Testament – of the New Covenant, of the new promise and hope – is shed for the remission of sins" [Matthew 26:28]. And if I had time to follow through the preaching of the apostles, by the cross of Christ, in the shadow of the cross, they took their stand; and every message they preached and every word they wrote is inspired by the cross and is stained by the blood of our dear Lord.
May I close with the message of the cross to us? When you stand and look at the cross of Jesus, our Lord, what do you see? The Roman soldiers looked, and to them, in their greed, it was an opportunity to gamble for His garments [Psalm 22:18; Mark 15:24]. You have, world without end today, men who stand in the pulpit and deliver the message just for the sake of the abounding wealth that comes to them. They brought reproach upon the Christian faith beyond anything that the world has ever seen. That’s what some see in the cross: an opportunity for affluence and aggrandizement like those Roman soldiers. They looked at the cross and saw an opportunity to gamble for his garments.
There are those, like the Sanhedrinists and the Pharisees, who looked upon the cross and saw in it a way to obliterate their enemies [Matthew 26:59, 27:1; Mark 14:55; Luke 22:2]. I stood in Hyde Park in London one time, and a devout man of God was preaching the gospel. And while he was preaching, a man stood up and cursed God and said, "If I could get my hands upon Jesus Christ, I’d choke Him to death." There are those who look upon Him as though Sanhedrinsts seeing Him an enemy.
There are those who look at the cross and see someone who’s just like as they are. He’s dying. We’re dying. He’s no different from the rest of us. There are some who look at the cross and see, as the presiding officer of the Passover season, a pollution that ought to be taken down and be rid from the land.
What do you see when you look at the cross of Jesus Christ? What do you see? One thing: I see myself in my sins and the condemnation of God upon my iniquity, and my transgressions, and my wrong-doing [Isaiah 53:1-12; John 5:24; 2 Corinthians 5:24; 1 Peter 2:24].
I read of a man who, in a dream, saw Christ being beaten, and the beater had a leather thong and in it sharp-edged pieces of lead. And he was bringing down his arms in strength against the back of our Lord, and His back was torn and bloodied [Matthew 27:26; John 19:1]. And the man in his dream reached forth and seized the hand of the man, and the man turned around and looked at him in surprise; and the dreamer recognized himself. We’re that way.
What do you see when you look at the cross? I see me in all of my sins and my transgressions. I did that. We did that. We pressed upon His brow the crown of thorns [Matthew 27:29; Mark 15:17; John 19:1-5]. We nailed Him to the tree [Acts 5:30]. We thrust that spear into His side [John 19:34]. We did it. Our sins crucified our Lord [Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2, 4:10]. Then, I see something else. I see a love and a mercy beyond anything mind could ever think for or heart could ever imagine: the atoning grace and poured out love of our Savior for us [Luke 23:34; John 3:16; Romans 5:8].
A little pericope out of history: Tigranes was an enemy of the Roman Empire. He was the King of Armenia; and in the first century before Christ, Pompey, the Roman general, conquered Armenia and conquered Tigranes and brought Tigranes, the King of Armenia, with his wife and his children before the Emperor to be condemned to death. And, in the tribunal, Tigranes, the king, there with his wife and his children – Tigranes fell down before the Emperor of Rome and said to him, "You take my life. You do with me as you please. But for my wife and for my children, could you spare them and free them and give them life?"
Well, the appeal of the king so moved the heart of the Emperor that he not only spared the dear wife and the mother of the children and the children, but he spared the life of King Tigranes himself and let them go free back to Armenia. As they returned, King Tigranes said to his wife, "What did you think about the Roman Emperor? Did you see him presiding over that tribunal?"
And she replied, "No. I didn’t see him. I didn’t see him."
And the king said to his sweet wife, "You never saw him? He was there presiding over our trial. And you never saw him?"
And she said, "No. I never saw him. I never saw anybody but you. My eyes were fixed upon you, down on your knees, pleading for me and our children and offering your life for us. I never saw anybody but you."
That’s what we see when we look at the cross. His grace and His love and His mercy fill our souls with love and gratitude and our hearts with everlasting wonder at the love and grace of [God in Christ Jesus, our Lord].
THE TRIUMPH OF CHRIST OVER SIN AND HELL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 15:1-3
A. Two kinds of Christianity
1. One of idealism, inspiration
a. Salvation is social amelioration
b. Jesus is one of the great idealists of the world, a great teacher
2. One of redemption and salvation
a. In social Christianity, cross of Christ incidental – here it is central
B. Christianity of the Scriptures is the Christianity of the cross – in its power to save, as Paul preached it
II. "First of all"
A. Not in time, but in importance
1. As there is a first and great commandment, so there is a first and great doctrine – the atonement of Christ
2. No reconciliation without the payment of our debt
3. All four gospels recount the suffering and death of Christ
B. This differentiates Christian faith from all other religions
1. Above all a message of redemption, saving souls from judgment of sin
2. Sign of the gospel of Christ – the cross
III. "According to the Scriptures"
A. The burden of the Old Testament is the atonement of Christ(Exodus 12:13, Leviticus 17:11, Hebrews 9:22, Isaiah 53:5)
B. The burden of the New Testament is the atonement of Christ
1. The gospels proclaim the message of redemption in this very form(John 1:29)
2. As soon as Jesus began His public ministry, He refers to His death(John 2:19, 3:14, 6:53, 12:32)
3. The meaning of the ordinances(Matthew 26:28)
4. The preaching of the apostles
IV. Our gospel message of hope and salvation today
A. What do others see when they look at the cross?
B. What do you see?
1. Revelation of the sin in our own hearts
2. Love and mercy beyond anything mind could imagine