How God Saves Sinners
May 24th, 1992 @ 8:15 AM
HOW GOD SAVES SINNERS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Romans 1: 1-29
5-24-92 8:15 a.m.
And welcome the throngs of you who share this hour on radio and on television. You are now a part of our precious communion in the First Baptist Church of Dallas. This is the senior pastor, W. A. Criswell, bringing the message; it is the second from the Book of Romans, and it is entitled How God Saves Sinners. In the first chapter of Romans is the text, not only of the message but of the whole sixteen chapters of the letter:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the dunamis,
– the dynamic –
the power of God to salvation to every one who believes;
for in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith,
the just shall live by faith.
It is like, the format of this letter is like the Book of the Revelation: there is a text and then the sweep of the revelation after the announcement of that first dynamic avowal from God. In the Revelation, the text is chapter 1, verse 7: "Behold, He comes with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they who pierced Him: and the families and tribes of the earth will wail because of Him. Amen, even so." Then it continues, the whole sweep of the Revelation:
I John, your brother and companion in tribulation, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.
I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,
Saying, I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it to the seven churches of Asia.
And I turned to see the voice that spake unto me. And being turned, I saw seven golden lampstands;
And in the midst of the seven golden lampstands One like unto the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet, and girded about the breast with a golden girdle.
His hair and His head were white as wool, white as the snow; and His feet as if they burned in a furnace; His eyes were as a flame of fire: and His countenance was as the sun shineth in its strength.
And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. And He placed His right hand upon me, and said, Fear not; I am the First and the Last:
I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forevermore; and I, I have the keys of hell and of death.
Then the sweep, I say, of the whole revelation of God.
This Book of Romans is just like that:
Paul, I Paul, a [doulos] a slave of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle,
Concerning His Son Christ Jesus,declared to be the Son of God, horizo, pointed out to be the Son of God,by the resurrection from the dead,
To all who are in Rome, beloved of God,
– Then that text –
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God to salvation to every one that believes,
Then he starts off, as we preach through these first five chapters this morning, he starts off with a depiction of the fallen nature of all mankind. And in this first chapter there is the description of human life that is never read in public, never. But we live in a day when the medical doctor is publishing his diagnosis of human disease, and we hear it on television, and we hear it on radio, and we read it in the newspaper. So, I read it in this generation now. Three times God says in this first chapter, "God gave them up."
God gave them up to uncleanness,God gave them up to vile passions: for even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature,likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another; men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due,
The damnation of AIDS, which is going to flood this whole earth, including us:
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them up to a debased mind, to do that which was not fitting;
Being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness; envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness,
this modern generation.
That’s what Paul says of fallen humanity; then in chapters 2 and 3, he speaks of the inclusiveness of that condemnation from heaven:
There is none righteous, no, not one [Romans 3:10].
There is none who does good, no, not one [Romans 3:12].
All have sinned and come short of the glory of God [Romans 3:23].
Then he speaks the commandments. Murder: you say, "I haven’t murdered anybody!" God’s Book says when you are angry you are a murderer. Then he speaks of stealing. "I haven’t stolen!" you say; but we’ve kept back from God what rightfully belongs to Him – time, talents, and many times even what we possess. Adultery: you say, "I do not commit adultery." Have you ever looked upon anyone of the opposite sex? And idolatry: you say, "I’m not an idolater." The Bible says covetousness is idolatry. All of us come under that classification of sinners, "There is none righteous, no, not one."
I see that throughout the years and the years of my pastoral ministry; all of us under the condemnation of sin. For example, in one of my Kentucky pastorates, there was an overly zealous and righteous deacon. And one of the members in the church was seen drinking a beer in a public place. And he came to me and demanded that I have that man stand before the congregation and confess his ineptitude. So I got a hold of the man, and said, "You’re going to get turned out of the church if you don’t come and stand before the congregation and confess your digression." So he stood up there and confessed his drinking beer in a public place. Now the man who was the faithful deacon, every year sold his corn crop to a distillery in Nelson County, every year. And when the thing came up about the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment, the Prohibition amendment, he canvassed the church, getting together money to further the elimination of that Eighteenth Amendment. Can you believe how people are?
And when I was a boy, a lot younger than you young fellows, when I was a boy, down the aisle in our little white crackerbox of a church, was an aisle just like this, and when we had the Lord’s Supper in our little church, all of them who thought that they were worthy to take the Lord’s Supper, the preacher said, "You’ll sit on this side. And all of you who are not worthy to take the Lord’s Supper, you sit on that side." And I would sit there as a little boy, and look at these on this side who were worthy to take the Lord’s Supper, and I’d look at those on the other side not worthy to take the Lord’s Supper, and for the life of me it seemed to me that the best bunch was on the other side. Yes, it’s amazing.
And I want you to look at this: when Jesus tells the parable of the prodigal son, you tell me which one of those boys you can’t help but admire. That prodigal that God says wasted his substance with whores, and adulterers, and thieves, and murderers, and unrighteousness, wasted his whole life out there with that worldly crowd; and that elder brother, he says to his father, "I never transgressed thy commandments" [Luke 15:11-29]. But you tell me which one you admire: the elder brother full of jealousy and unforgiveness and censoriousness, and that prodigal boy coming back home. There is something about all of us – what is that thing that comes into my mind?
There’s so much good in the worst of us,
And so much bad in the best of us,
That it doesn’t behoove any of us
To talk about the rest of us.
[Hoyt’s New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), author unknown]
That’s what Paul is avowing in these chapters: We all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
Then in chapter , he speaks of our humanity seeking to justify itself and the feebleness and failure of that effort, "What shall then we say that Abraham our father has found? For if Abraham were justified by what he was trying to do,” to cover up his sin and to eliminate his sin, “if Abraham were justified by good works, he has something to boast about; but not before God" [Romans 4:1-2]. God knew him, just as He knows us. Nothing to boast about before God; because God remembered when he was in Egypt, he said of his wife, "She is my sister" [Genesis 12:13-19]. And when he was with Abimelech, the king of Gerar, he said, "She is my sister" [Genesis 20:12]. And to this day we are reaping the tragic results of what Abraham did when he lay with Hagar, the servant of his wife [Genesis 16:1-4], and the whole Muslim world – and the whole Islamic world is a result of that incest. He could boast of his good works; but not before God.
And thus, his second illustration with David: David stood before God, and what did David do? David says, "You do not desire sacrifice; else would I give it: You do not delight in burnt offerings" [Psalm 51:16]. David sought the best he knew how and could, to make atonement and propitiation for the sins of his life; and it all came to naught.
Do you remember Micah’s cry in Micah 6:6 and 8?
Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has told you, O man, what is good; to love mercy, and to do righteously, and to walk humbly with thy God.
To cast yourself upon the mercies of God – and thus David cried,
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise,Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Thy lovingkindness. I acknowledge my transgression: my sin is ever before me. Purge me, and I will be clean: wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Do not cast me away from Your presence. Give me the joy of Your salvation.
There is no way that we can come before God in our own impurity, and in our own unrighteousness, and in our own human and fallen nature; and that’s why we are led to the grace and redemptive love of our Lord Jesus Christ. And that’s what the apostle writes here in the Book of Romans.
He comes in the fifth chapter to what Jesus has done for us. It’s unusual how he speaks of it. In this fifth chapter, three different times he speaks of that first sin that brought the fallen nature of all mankind to all of us. "Through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin; and thus death spread to all men, all of us, because we all have sinned" [5:12]. Then he repeats it again: "By one man’s offense death reigned through one" [5:17]. And he speaks of it again: "For by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners" [5:19]. That is the beginning of the fallen story of all humanity. For God said to that one man, "In the day that you eat thereof, you shall surely die" [Genesis 2:17]. And that day Adam died in his spirit, in his heart. And in the day of the Lord – this is one of the most unusual things, “in the day of the Lord.” The Book says a thousand years is a day in God’s calendar [2 Peter 3:8]. And it’s an unusual thing, no man has ever lived beyond that one day: Adam died nine hundred thirty years of age, Methuselah died nine hundred sixty-nine years of age. No man has ever lived beyond that one day. "In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely, surely die." And that day, they died.
Adam looked upon himself and Eve looked upon herself, and they were aware that they were naked. Isn’t that remarkable, the result of sin? There’s not a one of you, if I had you come up here and you stand here naked, there’s not one of you, I don’t care who you are, but would feel, “They beheld they were naked" [Genesis 3:7], that’s sin.
And not only that, but that day they were cast out of the beautiful paradise of Eden into a world of darkness and death [Genesis 3:22-24]. And that day, that day – the first murder, their own son, Abel [Genesis 4:8] – and there was a mound in the dust of the ground which was cursed for their sakes; there was a mound of dirt, and under that mound was Abel. And marked, a curse was on Cain, the boy that remained [Genesis 4: 15]. And from that day till this, the story of all humanity: fallen.
And we come before God, and we cry the cry that one hundred thirtieth Psalm: "O God, if Thou dost mark iniquity, O Lord, who shall be able to stand?" All of us fallen, and all of us condemned, and all of us facing the judgment of death.
Then the glorious message and hope we have in our Lord: "For when we were still without strength, sinners, in due time Christ died for the ungodly; in due time" [Romans 5:6], that little phrase. [Romans 5:6] God purposed in human history to work out our salvation, and in due time it came to pass. When the man and his wife were cast out of the paradise of Eden, God placed at the entrance cherubim. A cherub in Hebrew is singular; an im is plural in Hebrew: cherubim, plural. And wherever those cherubim appear in Holy Scripture, they are always symbols of God’s mercy and God’s forgiveness and God’s love, the cherubim. "In due time, Christ died for our sins."
So when Abel came before God, he brought a lamb [Genesis 4:4]. And the wrath of Cain knew no bounds, when that lamb was brought before God; and in His wrath, God looked upon the first murderer.
The Lamb of God – that’s the most remarkable thing! And they spit upon Him, and they struck Him with their fists, and they plucked out His beard, and they cursed Him and damned Him. And finally, they nailed the Lamb of God to a tree, to a cross; and He died for the sins of the world. What God has done to save lost sinners, us! [Matthew 27:28-35]
And sweet people, when we get to heaven, there’ll not be one of us who will stand before the Almighty and say, "Look at me, look what I’ve done! I’m here by my own righteousness and my own goodness. I made it. I did it." There won’t be a one, not one, but who will say, "Unto Him who loved us, and gave Himself for us, and washed us in His own blood, to Him be glory, and honor, and dominion, and power, and thanksgiving forever and ever” [Revelation 1:5-6]. I’m here by the grace and love of God.
Rock of ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin a double cure;
Save from wrath and make me pure.
Could my tears forever flow,
Could my zeal no languor know,
These for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.
In my hands no price I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling.
["Rock of Ages"; Augustus M. Toplady]
How God saves sinners, how God saves us, casting ourselves upon the mercies of God. "And thus Abraham believed God, he trusted God; and God counted it for righteousness" [Romans 4:3]. And thus David cast himself upon the mercies of the Lord, and the Lord made him God’s greatest saint in the old covenant; even Jesus is called the Son of David.
Precious people, it’s a glorious gospel that reaches down even to us.
Now Fred, let’s sing us a song. And while we sing the song, a family you coming into the fellowship of our dear church; a couple you giving your heart to the blessed Jesus; or a one somebody you answering the call of the Spirit of God in your heart; make it now; decide it now; make that decision now. And in this moment when we sing our song of appeal, be the first to come down that stairway, the first to come down that aisle, "Pastor, this is God’s day for me, and I’m answering with my life, and here I stand." Welcome, and may angels attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.