Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-27-92 8:15 a.m.
This is the senior pastor, W. A. Criswell, bringing the message on Redemption. And in our preaching through the Book of Romans, we are in chapter 3. And the reading of the text is beginning in verse 24:
Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
whom God set forth as a propitiation, as a reconciliation, by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate, to the present time, His righteousness…
that He might be just and the justifier of one who has faith in Jesus.
The word “redemption” in Greek, apolutrōsis, meaning “deliverance,” from apoluō, “to free for a ransom paid,” made up of apo, the Greek preposition “from, away from,” and luō, “to loosen, to unbind, to unfasten, to untie, to set free, to set at liberty.” All of you who have been introduced to Greek know that you start off with that conjugation, that paradigm of luō, luō, lueis luei, luomen, luete, luousi. That’s the way you start. And that’s this word, the basic word for redemption. Our word comes from the Latin redimere, meaning “to buy back.” And so in English, “redemption,” to recover, as by paying a price, to set free by paying a ransom, and theologically, to deliver from sin and its penitence as by a sacrifice made for the sinner [Romans 3:24-25]. That’s the meaning of the word redemption.
Redemption demonstrates the justice and the mercy and love of God. He says that in the text. God gave us our Lord Jesus a redemption in order to endeixis, “to point out, to manifest, a sign, a proof, translated here “to demonstrate,” and to demonstrate, to set forth, the justice and the love and mercy of God [Romans 3:26].
How can God be just and justify the ungodly, the sinner? How can God be righteous and declare the sinner righteous? How can God thus deliver into freedom the violent, the murderer, the sinner? How does any judge be a good judge and let the felon go free? How do you do that?
God is confronted with a trilemma. Number one, He can be all justice, without love and mercy, and confine all the sinners into damnation and hell. That’s one possibility. The other part of the trilemma is, He can be all love and mercy. There’s no moral law. There’s no judgment. There’s no punishment of any kind. All of the sinners and all of the violent just go free, no law at all. But there was a third possibility, and that is that there could be someone who could pay our debt. There could be someone who could suffer our punishment. And that is the part of the trilemma that God chose: someone suffers for us. Someone pays our debt. Someone is substituted for us who deserved the judgment of God. And that is the gospel.
The doctrine of redemption is one of the most amazing presentations in the Word of the Lord. For example, in Leviticus 25:25—remember what redemption means, “buying back”—in Leviticus 25:25, a poor brother loses his possessions, and the next of kin can redeem them. He can buy them back. In Leviticus 25:47-49 a poor brother sells himself into slavery, and the next of kin can redeem him, can buy him back.
One of the most amazing of all the things I’ve ever read in the Bible is this redemption described in Exodus 12, in Exodus 22, and in Numbers 3. In the Passover, the death angel passed over. And whoever put blood in the form of a cross on the doorpost and the lintel [Exodus 12:7], the death angel passed over and the firstborn was not slain. But, without the blood, the firstborn was slain [Exodus 12:22-23]. So, in Exodus and in Numbers, God said that firstborn belongs to Him [Exodus 22:29; Numbers 3:12-13]. And if one kept that firstborn, your child, if one kept that firstborn, that one had to be redeemed by a Levite. So the Levites had no inheritance in the land [Numbers 18:20-24]. They belonged to God. They were the redemptive price of that firstborn that was taken into the hands of the Lord.
So the idea of redemption is an actual payment of debt. It is a ransom paid for freedom. It is an equal exchange, such as a captain for several private soldiers, or a diamond for many dollars of debt, or a rich man purchasing the liberty of many poor. Thus you find in the Bible, in Matthew 20:28, “The Son of Man came to give His life, a ransom for us, for many.” Acts 20:28, “The church of God He purchased with His own blood”, He paid the price for us. In 1 Corinthians 6:20, “You are bought with a price.” In 1 Timothy 2:5-6, “The Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for us.” Titus 2:13-14, “Our great God and Savior who gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity.” Hebrews 9:12, “Not by the blood of bulls and goats, but by His own blood Christ obtained eternal redemption for us.” In 1 Peter 1:18-19, “We are not redeemed with corruptible things as silver and gold, but by the precious blood of Christ.” And in Revelation 1:5, “Unto Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood . . . to Him be glory forever and ever” [Revelation 1:5-6].
Thus it is that the Bible presents the actual substitution of Christ for us in our stead. In Galatians 2:20, “Christ loved me, and gave Himself for me.” In Hebrews 10:10, “We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Christ.” In 1 Peter 2:24, “Jesus Christ, His own self bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we should live, by whose stripes we are healed.” In 1 John 4:10, “God sent His Son to be a substitute, a propitiation for our sins.” And of course, that incomparable prophecy in Isaiah 53, “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed” [Isaiah 53:5]. This is the doctrine of redemption and this is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Now when we speak of someone substituting for us and paying the ransom and the debt for us, these who are scoffing at the gospel of our Lord say so bluntly. For example, the infidel Bob Ingersoll, having no idea of His atoning grace of Jesus’ substitution for us [Isaiah 53:5], Bob Ingersoll said, “They killed the wrong man.”
And Thomas Paine, the infidel here in America, in his Age of Reason said, “Moral justice cannot take the innocent for the guilty even if the innocent would offer himself. To suppose justice to do this is to destroy the principle of its existence, which is the thing itself. It is then no longer justice, it is indiscriminate revenge.” Then he continued, talking about us preachers, “Preaching the cross, the preachers say that the execution of Christ is an object for gratitude. The preachers daub themselves with blood like a troop of assassins and pretend to admire the brilliancy it gives them.”
On the other hand, in my humble avowal, I do not know of a virtue of the Christian life that is sweeter or dearer or more precious than giving yourself for somebody else, paying the debt of somebody else, suffering for somebody else, you for them.
As you know, when I began pastoring at seventeen years of age, for ten years I was single. And I lived among the people, actually living in their homes, eating at their tables. In those days, and this has been so long ago, I can call their names now, in those days, I was often in the home of J. R. Martin, Judge Martin. And they had a boy named Weldon, an older teenager. And that lad got into trouble again and again and again; was tried in the court and sentenced, “Either you pay a large fine or you go to the penitentiary.” And time and again that mother in that home would pay that fine. They were affluent farmers.
And visiting with her upon a day, I said, “Mother Martin, why don’t you let him go to the penitentiary? Why do you again and again and again pay for his liberty, pay that fine?”
And she replied to me, “Time and again, I have thought I’ll let him go to the pen. But when the time came and the sentence was pronounced, I could not, in my heart, see my boy go to the penitentiary. And always,” she said, “when that time comes, I pay the debt.” Whatever we may think about what that mother did, you can’t help but feel the compassion in your own heart she felt for that boy.
And that is exactly what the Lord has done for us. We were damned by our sins, condemned by our transgressions, facing eternal separation from God [Romans 6:23]; and the Lord in compassion paid our debt, suffered our punishment, and bought our freedom and salvation [Ephesians 2:12-13].
That has been so marvelously expressed by the great preachers of the age. For example, Spurgeon, speaking of his conversion, Spurgeon said,
I saw that, if Jesus suffered in my stead, I could not suffer, too. And that if he bore all my sin, I had no sin to bear. My iniquity must be blotted out, if Jesus bore it in my stead and suffered my penalty.
Every believer can claim that the sacrifice was actually made for him and, therefore, he may rest assured that he can never perish. The Lord would not receive this offering on our behalf and then condemn us to die. The law of God was more vindicated by the death of Christ than it would have been had all of us transgressors been sent to hell. The Son of God to suffer for sin was a more glorious establishment of the government of God, the law of God, than for the whole human race to be condemned.
May I just take one other? Dr. James Denney, marvelous Scottish preacher and a professor of New Testament in the University of Glasgow, he wrote,
This is His gospel: that the Righteous One has once for all faced and taken up, and in death exhausted the responsibilities of the unrighteous, so that they no more stand between them and God. Christ died for our sins once for all, and the man who accepts Christ and in His death has his relations to God once for all determined, not by his sin, but by the atoning love and grace of the Lord Jesus. Our relationship to God is not, “I’m a sinner and He is the Judge condemning me,” but our relationship to God now is, “I am pure and forgiven in Christ. And I have boldness to enter into His very presence.”
So I conclude. Precious people, that brings us to the incomparable, inexhaustible praise and thanksgiving by which we love and serve our Lord Jesus. He says here in my text, “Where is boasting? It is excluded” [Romans 3:27]. I couldn’t in my own right say, “Look at me. I did it. I have rid myself of imperfection and sin. And pure and holy and without sin, I can stand in the presence of God and in my own defense.” O Lord, it is the object. I am a sinner. I have sinned. I come short of the glory of God [Romans 3:23] and I face the inevitable consequences of my transgressions [Romans 6:23]. But Someone intervened for me. Someone saved me. Someone delivered me [Romans 5:8].
And could I read of the paean of praise and glory for what Jesus has done for us. Here in Revelation, chapter 5:
They sing a new song, saying: You, O Christ, are worthy . . . For You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood . . .
You have made us kings and priests unto the Lord.
And I looked, and I heard the voice of the angels around the throne, around the cherubim, around the elders, the number of them was muriades muriadōn, muriadōn, the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands;
Saying with a loud voice: Worthy is the Lamb who was slain . . .
And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and in the sea . . . I heard saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be to Him, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb forever and forever.
And the four cherubim said, Amen. And the twenty and four elders fell down and worshiped Him who liveth forever and ever.
That’s our paean of praise to what Jesus has done for us. And what a precious privilege it is to love our Lord and to bow in His presence [Philippians 2:9-11].
So I come to a thing that has happened to my ancestors in England. My people came, my ancestors came to Virginia from England. And in those days of the long ago, in the 1660s, London was swept by what they call the Black Death, the Black Death, the bubonic plague. I have read of that many times, that awesome devastation of death. There were so many corpses there were not hands to bury them. By the thousands and the thousands they died in that bubonic plague that Black Death.
And as though that were not enough, the year following that awesome devastation of death was the great London fire, immediately following, and the city was burned up. There were eighty-seven churches burned up, besides the chapels. There were more than one hundred churches and chapels that were burned up in that vast fire, a howling wind, blowing four days and four nights, burned up the city of London.
Well, in the city, and ministering to the remnant, were two Baptist preachers. Their names were Stennett. The father was named Joshua Stennett and the son was named Samuel Stennett. And they were pastors of that Devonshire Square Baptist Church. The father, all of his life, was pastor of that church. And his son Samuel was his associate as a boy. And when his father died, he was the pastor of that church all of his life, those two Baptist preachers ministering there in London to those who survived that awful death and that awful fire.
Well, they were scholarly men, gifted men and glorious poets, both of them, glorious poets. And I want to take two of their poems. One of them is entitled “On Jordan’s Stormy Banks I Stand.” Do you remember?
No chilling winds or poisonous breath
Can reach that healthful shore;
Sickness and sorrow, and pain and death,
Are felt and feared no more.
Oh, when shall I reach that happy place,
And be forever blessed,
When shall I see my Savior’s face
And in His bosom rest?
[“On Jordan’s Stormy Banks I Stand,” Samuel Stennett, 1787]
That’s one of the poems written by those two Baptist preachers. And it has been set to music of an American folk song, and we sing it today. All right, one other of those many poems that they wrote. It’s called “Majestic Sweetness Sits Enthroned.” And this is it.
He saw me plunged in deep distress
And came to my relief;
For me He bore the shameful cross
And carried all my grief.
To Him I owe my life and breath
And all the joys I have;
He makes me triumph over death
And saves me from the grave.
[“Majestic Sweetness Sit Enthroned,” Samuel Stennett]
And an American set that poem to music, written by Thomas Hastings.
I don’t know how to express the gratitude I feel in my heart for what Jesus has done for me and what He has done for you. And how those poems that have come out of that awesome Black Death and that tragic fire, how that Savior has been One of comfort and strength and blessing to those people who went through that terrible experience. Sweet people, there’s no way in the world we could love our Lord enough or praise Him too much for what He has done for us. Bless His name, amen.
Now we are going to sing us a song, and while we sing this song, a family you, a couple you, a one somebody you, giving you life to our blessed Lord [Romans 10:9-13], to live for Him, to love Him, to accept Him in His sacrifice for you, you come and stand by us. On the first note of the first stanza, welcome, while we stand and while we sing. “This is God’s day for me and I’m coming, I’m coming, I’m coming.”