Dr. W. A. Criswell
8-30-92 8:15 a.m.
And welcome the throngs of you who share this hour on radio and on television. You are now part of our precious First Baptist congregation in the queenly city of Dallas. This is the senior pastor, W. A. Criswell, bringing the message from the Book of Romans. This will be the thirteenth message from this incomparable revelation of the truth of God to the church at Rome. And our text is found in the third chapter. Romans 3:10, “As it is written: there is none righteous, no, not one.” Verse 12, “There is none who does good, no, not one” [Romans 3:12]. And verses 22, “For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” [Romans 3:22-23]. And the general nomenclature to describe the message this morning is For There Is No Difference.
The Greek of that is unusual: ou [gar estin] diastolē. When I say stolē, as you pronounce it in Greek, you don’t recognize it. S-t-o-l-e, stole, which is a garment of distinction. And the apostle writes, there is no such thing as a garment of distinction in the presence of God, over how other people may dress, even in rags. There is no distinction. There is no difference.
In the tenth chapter of the Book of Romans, in the passage you just read, that word stolē was translated “distinction” [Romans 10:12]. Here in the third chapter they translate it “difference” [Romans 3:22]. Now that’s unusual for us, that, in God’s sight, there is no distinction, there is no difference, but to us things are just the opposite of that. Men differ. They differ in physique and physical appearance. They differ in mentality and intellectual capacity. And they differ in emotions. They differ in every way. They differ in color. They differ in culture. They differ in civilization. They differ in life. They differ in disposition. You see it in the beginning with little children. Their dispositions are so different. But that’s the way we see it. God does not see it like that.
For example, when we read in the Gospels of that rich young ruler, he is so excellent; he is so moral; he is so up-and-outstanding. Even the Book says, “Jesus, beholding him, loved him” [Mark 10:21]. And we do, too.
On the other hand, Judas Iscariot. He is the scum of the earth and you can’t help but despise him. All of us feel that way about him. But in God’s sight, both of them are in perdition. They’re lost. Take again in the twelfth chapter of the Book of Luke, “Some,” the Lord said, “are going to be beaten with few stripes. And some are going to be beaten with many stripes” [Luke 12:47]. But whether it’s few or many, both of them are in damnation. To us, sin is big or little. Not to God. All sin damns [James 1:15]. And we are all alike: sinners [Romans 3:23]. There’s no difference. There’s no stolē.
The definition of sin in the Bible, there are two kinds, commission and omission. Last Wednesday night, our wonderful and gifted pastor, Dr. Gregory, spoke from the third chapter of 1 John. The commission of sin, which is defined in that third chapter as “transgression of the law” [1 John 3:4], or, as this translation has it, “lawlessness” [NKJV]. Sin is an overt transgression, disobedience to the law. The other kind of sin is omission. James, the pastor of the church in Jerusalem, spoke of it like this, “He that knows to do good and does it not, is guilty of sin” [James 4:17].
I don’t know whether you remember this or not, but some time ago in New London, East Texas, there was an enormous explosion in the schoolhouse there. Do you remember that? And it killed scores and scores and scores of boys and girls. It was an awesome, indescribable tragedy. You know where that came from? There was an employee in the school that knew of a faulty gas line and never reported it. Sin can be omission, as well as commission. And it’s both when we’re lost. As John writes, “He that believeth. . . hath everlasting life; but he that does not believe. . . shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth upon him” [John 3:36]. That’s sin.
What is the origin of sin? It goes back to our fathers and mothers, back to our grandparents, back and back and back, these have sinned and these have sinned, and it goes back to the garden of Eden [Genesis 3:1-6]. But, that’s not the beginning of sin. When you read the story of the garden of Eden, at the entrance, at the gate, is a sinister being [Genesis 3:1]. And he’s described in Isaiah 14 and in Ezekiel 28. He is an “anointed cherub” [Ezekiel 28:14]. He is the first of angelic orders. He is beautiful beyond compare. You see him now cursed as a serpent [Revelation 12:9, 20:2], but God created him the most beautiful of all the angelic order. And his pride led him to challenge the very authority and throne of God Himself. And that is the origin of evil [Isaiah 14:12-21, Ezekiel 28:12-17]. He fell, and was seen there at the gate of the garden of Eden [Genesis 3:1]. That’s the origin of sin [Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-17].
Who has sinned? The Book of Romans begins with that. The first chapters of the Book of Romans is a presentation of the sinful nature of all humanity, the Gentiles, the Jews, and all of us. It begins like that [Romans 1-2]. And this text that I read, even over here in the third chapter, is a continuation of that avowal [Romans 3:10-23]. And from the Book of Ecclesiastes 7:20: “There is not a just man on earth who does not sin.” The avowal of the Book is that all humanity belongs to one common denominator; there is no stolē. There is no distinction. There’s no difference [Romans 3:22-23].
And he’s not speaking here of an ancient extinct race. He’s talking about our generation, as every generation. All you have to do in any generation is to walk down any street and see a policeman, or see a court, or see a jail, or se e a penitentiary, or see a death row. These are all emphatic avowals that we are a sinful people.
But the most tragic of all of the avowals of that scriptural lack of distinction among us is the cemetery. When I was a youth, young preacher, I took my car and mother and daddy and we drove throughout the states of the West, the western United States. And my father, who was one of the best men that ever lived, my father had a little saying that he’d repeat as we’d drive through those towns in the western part of the United States. We’d always see a cemetery. And my father would say to me, “Son, drive on, they die here, too.” That is universal. That is universal. Who has sinned? Everybody [Romans 3:23].
What is the penalty of sin? [Ezekiel 18:4; Romans 6:23]. This is one of the most unusual studies that you could ever pursue. It is amazing to me, as I’ve looked at it, how the vast mass of humanity looks upon the penalty of sin as a petty peccadillo, “It is nothing.”
Yesterday in an editorial on the editorial page of the Dallas News there was a long column. And it was speaking of the dog racing that’s been legalized and the gambling that goes with it in Texas, then continued about the horse racing and the horse tracks and the gambling that attends it. Then it continued about the lottery and all the gambling that attends it. Then it continued about the casinos and the gambling that attends it. Then it spoke about the lack of prayer, the interdiction by law of prayer in the school, but the selling of condoms to the kids before recess. Then the last two sentences in that editorial were these, “If it’s taxable it’s not sin. The Texas legislature says so.” That is modern response to iniquity.
“Sin,” they say, “is misfortune,” thus avows the man at the card table who’s lost.
“Sin is a stumbling upward,” that’s what the evolutionist would avow.
“Sin is moral awkwardness,” that’s what the intellectual scholastic would avow.
“Sin is a misjudgment,” that’s what the defense attorney would avow.
“Sin is inexperience,” that’s what the psychologist would avow.
“Sin is an inherited characteristic,” that’s what the geneticist would avow.
“Sin is due to environment,” that’s what the sociologist would avow.
“Sin is a neurotic aberration,” that’s what the psychotherapist would avow.
I copied from the dictionary of the Communists when they took over Russia, “Sin: sin is an archaic, capitalistic word denoting the transgression of a mythical, so-called divine law.” I repeat, it was dumbfounding to me, as I looked through the gamut of human life, how sin is looked upon, as I called it, a petty peccadillo.
What does the Bible reveal about sin and its penalty? The Bible avows that sin is a condition of the heart, of the soul, and of the life that separates us from God [Isaiah 59:1-2]. Sin is a barrier between us and God. If you will look at human experience, sin separates. There’s no exception to it. Sin will separate between a husband and wife. Sin will separate between children and parents. Sin will separate between the boss and the employee. Sin will separate between friends. There’s no exception to that. Sin separates. And how tragic it is when it is a barrier between us and God.
Rousseau, that philosopher, one time said, “Man is born free, but is everywhere in chains.” He was speaking of the political status of humanity, but he could have also applied that to the human soul. We are born free, but we are everywhere in captivity to human sin. And of course, the ultimate is what the apostle avows in Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death,” death in this life, death in the life to come. The wages of sin is death.
But, there’s another lack of distinction. There’s no distinction, there’s no difference in God’s grace to save. Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death.” That’s right. We all die because we are sinners. “But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ” [Romans 6:23], and there’s no difference there. Praise His name! No stolē, no somebody precious in God’s sight, and these are despised and neglected, overlooked, forgotten. There’s no difference in the grace of God to save [Romans 3:22].
First of all, we all need to be remembered in the love and goodness of our Lord Jesus, all of us, there’s no distinction. All of us are lost, all of us have sinned, all of us have come short of the glory of God [Romans 3:23]. All of us need the remembrance of our precious Lord Jesus.
And second, the gospel of grace is fitted for every one of us, every one of us. There’s no distinction [Romans 3:22]. There’s no difference; the queen in her boudoir and that harlot on the street; that man in the counting house who’s president of the bank and that murderer on death row; the man of intellectual distinction and the elite and these that are the scum of the earth; all alike. Jesus has fitted a beautiful hope and a precious plan of salvation. Whether it be a self-righteous Caiaphas in Jerusalem [Matthew 26:56-67], or a murderous emperor like Nero in Rome; whether it be the centurion in Caesarea [Acts 10:1-48] or the Philippian jailer in Macedonia [Acts 16:30-34]; whether it be those philosophers on Areopagus [Acts 17:22-32], or those benighted Scythians in the Ukraine [Colossians 3:11]; all alike, there’s no distinction. Jesus has a plan of salvation for us all.
And the efficacy of that plan is a marvel to behold. I am looking at you now. Each one of you, if you were to stand and testify this solemn Sabbath morning hour, each one of you would have a wonderful word of how Jesus reached my heart. And each one would have a different story and a different testimony. It’s a marvelous thing how the gospel of Christ is efficacious in reaching lost souls, whether it be a Mary Magdalene, out of whom He cast seven demons [Luke 8:2], now a saint in God’s sight; or whether it be a cursing fisherman like Simon Peter [Matthew 26:74]. The marvel of the grace of God to save us [Ephesians 2:8-9], whether it be a emasculated eunuch serving in the court of Queen Candace of Ethiopia [Acts 8:26-38], or whether it be a graduate of the Hillel school of theology like Saul of Tarsus [Acts 22:3-16]; no distinction, no stolē, no difference, the grace of God, able to save us all [Romans 3:22]; or whether it be a little child, or whether it be an M.D. or a D.D. or a Ph.D., same ableness of efficacy of the gospel to save. It’s a marvelous thing as I look upon it. There are no distinctions in the definition of the spiritual status of God’s humanity in His presence, none at all [Romans 3:22, 10:12].
I came across one of the most moving little stories. The king of Sweden was dying, and they sent for the bishop to pray for him. And the bishop arrived in the presence of the king. He had on his miter, that beautiful pointed hat that goes with the bishopric. And he had on his stole, his stolē, and he had on his beautiful garments and his golden chain. And the bishop prayed in the language of the bishopric.
And when he was done, the king of Sweden said, “I’m not comforted. I am not encouraged. I am not helped.” Then he added, “I remember one time when I was lost on a hunting trip. There was a shepherd who took me into his hut and he prayed for me. And I’ve never forgotten that prayer. Could you send for that shepherd and ask him to come and to pray for me?”
So the court sent for the shepherd. And that uncouth, uneducated shepherd came into the presence of the king and prayed for him in the language of an uneducated shepherd. And when he had poured out his soul for the Lord, before the Lord, for his king, the king rejoiced and praised God and died, happy in the faith.
That’s the most unusual thing. There’s no distinction, not in God’s sight [Romans 3:22, 10:12]. In ours, yes, some are great and exalted and some are cast out and forgotten, but not in the Lord’s sight; there’s no distinction [Romans 3:22-23]. That’s what He says in that blessed Book. And that comes from the loving grace of Jesus, who paid the penalty for us all, who paid the debt for us all, the loving grace of Jesus for us [1 Corinthians 15:3, Galatians 1:4, 2:20].
A mother, whose boy had been caught in a robbery, said to her son, a young teenager, “When you stand before the judge in the court you confess to him what you’ve done, and you plead guilty; you tell him the truth.” And the lad listened to the voice of his mother, stood in the presence of the court and said what he’d done and pleaded guilty. When the judge sentenced the boy, the judge gave him, sentenced him with a large fine. If he couldn’t pay the fine, then, to the prison.
And when the judge pronounced the sentence, the mother cried, wept, “I have no money. I am poor. I have nothing at all. I can’t pay the fine. We can’t pay the fine, and my boy will be sent to prison.”
It touched the heart of the judge, and the judge replied, “I cannot discard or disregard the law. The boy has to be sentenced.” But, the judge added, “I’m a Christian. And I can pay the fine of the boy.” And the judge did it, and the boy went free.
That’s exactly what Jesus has done for us. He has paid our debt [1 Corinthians 15:3, Galatians 1:4, 2:20]. He has paid our obligation. He has fulfilled every sentence that God has pronounced over our sins, and we are free. We’re forgiven. It’s a beautiful gospel we have in Christ Jesus.
Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin hath left a crimson stain,
And He washed it white as snow.
[“Jesus Paid It All,” Elvina M Hall, 1865]
Jesus does it all. And the rest of our lives is just an outpouring of our heart’s love and gratitude for what Jesus has done for us [Hebrews 10:4-14].
And if you’ve been listening on radio or television, may it be that the Spirit of grace and the love of our Lord has touched your heart. And if you will receive Him as your Savior [Romans 10:9-13], we’ll walk together in heaven some glorious and triumphant day.
And in the great throng of people in God’s presence and in God’s house this precious hour, in the balcony around, a somebody you or a family you, in the press of people on this lower floor, you, “Today, pastor, I’m opening my heart to the grace and love of the precious Lord Jesus, and I’m coming forward [Romans 10:9-10]. I want to be in the kingdom of God. I want to be with the Lord’s people in this forever that is yet to come.”
Come into the fellowship of the church, and welcome. Answer the call of the Spirit of the Lord in your heart. On the first note of the first stanza, come, and welcome, while we stand and while we sing.
– garment of distinction; translated “distinction” or “difference”
There is no such thing as a garment of distinction in the presence of God
us, men differ in every way
Iscariot vs. the rich young ruler(Mark 10:21)
To us, sin is big or little; to God, all sin damns(Luke
II. Definition of sin in the Bible
are two kinds of sin
– transgression of the law(1 John 3:4)
Omission – knowing to do good and not doing it (James
Explosion in East Texas school was caused by a faulty gas line that was not
reported by a school employee
It is both when we are lost(John 3:36)
III. The origin of sin
the Garden of Eden
At the gate of the garden was a sinister being(Genesis
an “anointed cherub”, first of angelic orders, beautiful beyond compare – his
pride led him to challenge authority and throne of God Himself(Isaiah 14, Ezekiel 28)
IV. Who commits sin?
chapters of Romans a presentation of the sinful nature of all humanity(Romans 3:22, Ecclesiastes 7:20)
Not a picture of an ancient extinct race, but this is every generation –
present day humanity included
policeman, court, jail, penitentiary, death row are avowals that we are sinful
Most tragic avowal of the lack of distinction among us is the cemetery
Driving through towns my dad would say, “Son, drive on, they die here too.”
V. The penalty of sin
mass of humanity sees it as a petty peccadillo, nothing
in Dallas News – “If it’s taxable, it’s not sin…”
man at the card table who’s lost calls it misfortune
The evolutionist avows it is a stumbling upward
scholastic avows it is moral awkwardness
Defense attorney avows it is a misjudgment
avows it is inexperience
Geneticist avows it is an inherited characteristic
Sociologist avows it is due to environment
Psychotherapist avows it is a neurotic aberration
Communist dictionary says that “sin is an archaic, capitalistic word denoting
the transgression of a mythical, so-called divine law”
Bible avows that sin is a condition of the heart, soul, and lifethat separates
us from God
Sin separates – there is no exception
It is the curse of human life
– “Man is born free, but is everywhere in chainsâ€¦”
It results in death (Romans 6:23)
VI. There is another lack of distinction
our need for the gospel
In the provision of God for our salvation
In the efficacy of His plan
Not defined by status in life
King of Sweden and the prayer of a shepherd
It is all of Jesus, who paid the debt for us all
Judge paid the debt of a young man who pled guilty to robbery
Hymn, “Jesus Paid It All”