The Universality Of The Gospel
September 20th, 1992 @ 10:50 AM
Romans 3:23-25, 27
THE UNIVERSALITY OF THE GOSPEL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Romans 3:23-25, 27
09-20-92 10:50 a.m.
God be praised for you, marvelous choir and orchestra. And welcome the multitudes and throngs, who share this hour on radio and on television. This is the senior pastor, W. A. Criswell, bringing a message from the book of Romans. In our preaching through this incomparable revelation from God, touching and regarding and defining our salvation, we are in chapter 3. Romans chapter 3, beginning at verse 23: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation,” as a reconciliation, as an atonement, “by his blood, through faith” [Romans 3:23-25]. Verse 27: “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By the law of works? No, but by the law of faith . . . For is he the God of the Jews only?” No. “Is he not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: since there is one God, who will justify the Jews by faith, and the Gentiles [through] faith” [Romans 3:27-30].
The universality of the gospel: “Where is boasting?” [Romans 3:27], as though our salvation were achieved by us in our worth and our good works. No, it is by faith; it is a gift of God [Ephesians 2:8-9]. We are indebted to Him for our hope in this world and in the world to come. And this ‘boasting excluded’ [Romans 3:27], is avowed by all the communions of the Christian religion. All communions confess our indebtedness to Christ.
The Lutheran: “We are justified by faith alone. The mercy of God for sinful man is apart from anything of us. We owe all to Christ.” The Calvinist: “God initiates our salvation. Our salvation is all of the mercy and grace of God. Not unto us, but unto him be the glory. Humility is the first, the second, and the last virtue in the Christian faith.” And the Roman Catholic: The Roman Catholic has a religion of sacramentarianism. “Our sanctity, our salvation is ascribed to sacramental elements. They are the vehicles of grace. The grace of God is independent of our desserts. Our sole relationship to God is one of debt.”
And of course, our Baptist communion in our confession of faith: “We believe that election is the eternal purpose of God, according to which He graciously saved sinners. It is a most glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness and it is utterly exclusive of boasting.”
Just a sample. Whatever the Christian faith, the expression is just the same. We are indebted to God the Christ for our hope and our deliverance from sin and our home in heaven. It is not of us. It is of God.
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 hand no price I bring.
Simply to Thy cross I cling.
[“Rock of Ages,” A. M. Toplady]
We are saved by the grace of our Lord [Ephesians 2:8]. And we are indebted to Him forever for that salvation. Our Lord is not to us just a hero, just a model of goodness, just a scion of morality. Our Lord to us is our reconciliation, between us sinners and Almighty God [Romans 5:11]. It is He who brings us into that relationship where we are acceptable in the presence of the great and mighty God of heaven [Ephesians 1:6]. And humility is not just to us a groveling in the dust of the ground; but to us, humility is the singing and the avowing of the grace and praise of God. “To him, who washed us from our sins in his own blood . . . to him be glory and honor forever and ever. Amen” [Revelation 1:5-6]. That’s the text of the Revelation.
Now again, not only is our boasting excluded, but this gospel of Christ is for everyone, anyone, no matter who that one is. Is He the God of the Jew only? No, He is the God of the Gentiles. There is one God and He justifies by faith the Jew, the circumcised, and the Gentile, the uncircumcised, through faith—both of them alike [Romans 3:27-30]. It’s hard for us to realize how, when this Bible was written, the disciples believed that the gospel was for the Jew alone.
Look at this: when He was raised from the dead in the last chapter of the Book of Luke, those two disciples say, “We were hoping that it was He, the Lord, who was going to redeem Israel” [Luke 24:21]. Well let me turn the page. In the first chapter of the book of Acts, the disciples come to the Lord. “And when they come together, they asked Him saying, Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” [Acts 1:6]. It never occurred to them that the gospel message of Christ went beyond the borders of the Jewish people. Never in their hearts did they suspect such a thing. And the reason for that conviction on their part is very apparent. No place in the world was acceptable for sacrifice to God but in Jerusalem [Deuteronomy 12:11]. That was the place where God said, “My name shall be there” [1 Kings 8:29]. And no one could offer sacrifice to God except the appointed high priest [Hebrews 9:7]. That’s why when Jerusalem was destroyed and the temple decimated in 587 BC, and the people were carried away into Babylonian captivity [Jeremiah 39:1-10, 52:4-30; 2 Chronicles 36:17-21], that’s why they thought that God had removed Himself from grace and mercy toward men [Jeremiah 33:24].
Remember that one hundred thirty-seventh Psalm: “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down. We wept when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willow trees in the midst thereof . . . If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my hand forget her cunning. If I do not prefer thee above my chief joy, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth” [Psalm 137:1-6]. We can hardly enter into the deep persuasion and conviction of those Jewish people that it was in Jerusalem alone that God was propitiated and that sacrifice was to be made [1 Kings 8:29].
So when we read from our Lord Jesus, listen to Him as He speaks to this Samaritan woman. Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor yet in Jerusalem, worship the Father [John 4:21]. You worship you do not know what all of those gods.” Did you know in India, I have read several times there are four hundred million gods in India alone. You worship you know not what. All through that ancient world, as in our world, gods innumerable were worshiped. “You worship you know not what: salvation is of the Jews,” that’s right. “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father seeketh such to worship Him” [John 4:23]—not in Jerusalem, not by a sacrificial ritual such as you read in the law of Moses. Worship God anywhere, call upon His name anywhere, and you can be acceptable in His holy presence. For—said our Lord—religion, real religion is not ceremonial, ritualistic. It is spiritual [John 4:24].
Let me read another one. “Not by the blood of bulls and goats” [Hebrews 10:4], such as the sacrifices in Jerusalem. Reading from the ninth chapter of Hebrews, “According to law, all things were purified with blood . . . without the shedding of blood there was no remission of sins [Hebrews 9:22] . . . But Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands,” such as in Jerusalem. They’re just copies of the truth. “But He’s entered into heaven itself to appear in the presence of God for us. Not that He offers Himself again and again” [Hebrews 9:24-25], as the sacrifices in Jerusalem. “But once, since the foundation of the world at the end of the age, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself [Hebrews 9:26]. And as it is appointed unto men once to die . . . but after this episode Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many” [Hebrews 9:27-28].
Just He. Just He. We have no need of any other intercessor, no need of any other mediator, no need of any other priest, much less a high priest who alone could enter the Holy of Holies. But anywhere is a good where to call upon the name of the Lord? Anywhere—this place, that place, your house, where you work—anywhere is a wonderful where to call upon the name of the Lord. There is no place where He is not. This is the heart of the Christian faith, and this religion that Christ came to give to us, he says here in my text, “Not the God of the Jew only, but the God of all the peoples, all of us, all of us alike” [Romans 3:27-30]. Any nation, every nation, any people every people, any household, every household, any soul, every soul, free to find access into the very presence of God Himself [Romans 3:29-30].
Could I take just a moment? You see that in the unfolding of the gospel message here in the record in the New Testament, first preached in Jerusalem [Acts 1:8]. Dear me, what Pentecost meant and was! [Acts 2:1-40]. And the Jews were converted, three thousand of them on that one day [Acts 2:41]. Preaching the gospel in Jerusalem; then, the Holy Spirit moving away, moving out, moving into the whole world. The Holy Spirit sends Philip to Samaria, half-Jews, and he preached the gospel unto them, and they were wonderfully converted [Acts 8:5-17].
Then the story continues. A proselyte of the temple—a black Ethiopian proselyte of the temple, somebody who had accepted all the religion of the Jews, even though he’s not a Jew by blood—a proselyte of the temple comes to Jerusalem for to worship, and the Holy Spirit wins him to the faith [Acts 8:26-30]. Then, continuing on where you read this morning, a proselyte of the gate—a Gentile who is a Gentile, but accepts all of the moral revelation of God in Holy Scripture, and in the law—a proselyte of the gate [Acts 10:1-48]. Then in the continuing story, they preach the gospel to down outright heathen idol worshipers [Acts 17:22-23]. And there in Antioch, the Holy Spirit is poured out upon men and women who all of their lives had bowed before a Baal, or a Juno, or a Jupiter, downright heathen; and they are gloriously converted [Acts 11:19-30].
And then the Holy Spirit says in that congregation, “Separate Me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them” [Acts 13:2]. And they carry the gospel to the entire civilized world [Acts 13:2-28:31]. That is the purpose of the preaching of the gospel of Christ to anybody, to everybody, to the whole world. Anybody, everybody, is precious in the sight of the Lord [2 Peter 2:4]. You are, we all are. Bless His name!
May I speak now a moment of the insignia of the cross? Did you ever think about it? There our Lord is, nailed to a cross. And when you look at Him, His arms are outstretched. His arms are outstretched as far as the east goes east and the west goes west. Just so far are the arms of the Lord extended including, embracing the entire world. The arms of our Lord are open wide.
Didn’t he say that in John 12? “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me” [John 12:32]. There’s not any nation, there’s not any people, there’s not any class, there’s not any color, there’s no one in God’s created world that is not invited into the love and mercy, the forgiveness of the grace of our blessed Lord Jesus. We’re welcome, all of us. And it is amazing how God can do, what His Spirit can bring to pass, in the hearts and lives of anyone, anywhere.
May I take a chapter out of the history? Charles Darwin—his mother was the daughter of Josiah Wedgewood, the great English porcelainist. Charles Darwin got on a ship called the Beagle, and circumnavigated the globe. And when he went around South America—a long time, I’m talking about 1835, a long time before the Panama Canal—went all the way around South America, and down there at the bottom is the Strait of Magellan. At one place it’s less than a mile wide. On this side, north, is the continent of South America. And on that side is the archipelago, the Tierra del Fuego, the land of fire—a bunch of islands down there. And when Charles Darwin, on the Beagle, visited those islands in Tierra del Fuego, he wrote an article, published it in England, and said, “I have found the missing link between an animal, between an ape and a monkey and a man. I have found the missing link, proving evolution. These Fuegans are subhuman. They’re not people. They’re not animals like apes but they’re next to them. I found the missing link between the animal and between the man, Homo sapiens. I found the missing link,” looking at those Fuegans.
Well, it was published, of course, in England and the Christian Missionary Alliance of England read that article. And they sent missionaries down there to the Fuegans, and Dr. Merrick—they were converted. They were gloriously saved, and they became modern Christians—those Fuegans that Darwin said were subhuman. They were marvelously saved and became a beautiful and glorious people. And when Darwin was introduced to the great fact of their conversion, he apologized and he became a contributor to the British Foreign Mission Society for the rest of his life.
Sweet people, there are no folks, there are no anybodies anywhere, that cannot but be elevated, and consecrated, and saved by the glorious message of the Son of God. It’s remarkable to me. In the day when it was not against the law, I preached for a week in the University of Alabama. In that big central auditorium, the thing jammed with professors and students, I preached for a week there at the University of Alabama. And then immediately, I went down to the Amazon jungle and preached to the Auca Indians, who had murdered five missionaries, preaching the gospel, the same message to them. Great God, what you can do?
I remember a morning service like this in Muskogee, Oklahoma. When I got through preaching and pressed invitation, down the aisle came old Bird Doublehead, 105 years old, a full-blood Cherokee Indian, giving his heart to the Lord Jesus and asking to be baptized into the church. And while I pressed the invitation, down the aisle came old Mickey McFarlane. He was the most famous outlaw in Indian Territory days. Coming down the aisle giving his heart to the Lord Jesus and asking to be baptized. As I pressed the appeal, down the aisle came little David Morgan, the scion, the son of one of the wealthiest families in eastern Oklahoma, and the rest of them. And as I stood there and looked, that old Bird Doublehead, 105; that Mickey McFarlane, famous outlaw; and the little boy, and all the rest of them, coming alive into the kingdom of God—O Lord! What a message, what a gospel, what a hope, what a salvation, and what a Savior!
I was preaching in Hong Kong, China. And while I was preaching—standing there behind a pulpit lectern like this, and my interpreter standing right here—while I was preaching, right in the middle of my sermon came a woman, came right down there and stood in front of me and that pulpit, with her hands clasped and her head bowed like this. And as I continued to preach, another woman came, clasped her hands with her head bowed like this. And as I continued preaching, a man came, and another man and pretty soon there were a dozen or so people standing in front of me.
Well, I quit preaching and I turned to my interpreter and I said, “What are these people doing here standing there like that?” And he said, “Preacher, praise the Lord! They can’t wait until you’re done with your message. They’re standing there, having accepted in their hearts the Lord Jesus, and this is their open confession.” With their hands clasped and their heads down. What a marvelous, wonderful thing.
See that baptistry right there? In that baptistry, I baptized the richest man in the whole world and his wife—precious beautiful wife—and their four teenage children. And at the same time and in the same waters, I baptized one of the poorest, uneducated, unlearned Mexican families in one of our chapels. It is glorious in what God can do, and what He is willing and able to do for us—you, we, us. O God!
Pastor, I want you to forgive me something. This is the sheer, unadulterated display of egotism, what I’m going to do now. Please just forgive me. This is from a Broadman commentary on the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7:58: “And they stoned Stephen, and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet whose name was Saul”—Paul.
All right, here’s what the commentator wrote: “Dr. Wallace Bassett, the long-time pastor, 48 years, pastor of the Cliff Temple Baptist Church in Dallas, once asked W. A. Criswell about his conversion experience. Criswell related that he had been saved at a revival meeting at Texline, Texas. (That is the most out-of-the way place in God’s whole world. There’s nothing in central Africa as out of the way as Texline is. Three hundred folks up there.) He related he’d been saved in a revival meeting in Texline conducted by Brother John Hicks, who had stayed in the Criswell home during the meeting.”
Reading this thing made such a moving appeal to me, it brought back a thousand precious memories. I was saved in that revival meeting by Brother John Hicks, who stayed in our home during the revival. Then Bassett told him that John Hicks had been a friend of his. During his last illness at Baylor Hospital in Dallas, Bassett would often visit Johnny Hicks who was dying. Shortly before he died, Hicks had told him that his life was over, that his preaching days were done, and that he had never done anything for Jesus. He felt that he was a failure. These were his last words.
Then Bassett observed, talking to me, that he was not a failure because he had been used to bring me into the kingdom of God. Stephen was put out of town and stoned to death for his witness [Acts 7:57-60]. But how much influence did it have on Saul, later known as Paul? [Acts 13:9]. Even though his death was an unmitigated tragedy, there was a marvelous result from it. Our influence on others, like that of Stephen on the life of Saul, is vital. You never know when a Paul or a Criswell might be standing in the crowd.
I read that this last week, that just moved my heart, as I thought of those days. I don’t suppose—well, I knew not that Preacher John Hicks died saying to Dr. Bassett, “I am a failure. I’m a failure.” But he didn’t know that it was in his meeting I was won to the Lord Jesus. You never know, you never know. That’s why, preacher, I’m so grateful for what you’re doing. This little tract, Now Which Way? placed in our hands—give it to anybody. Give it to everybody. Say a beautiful word for the Lord Jesus. You never know but God might use it and your humble testimony to bring to Jesus the sweetest, most marvelous sermon in the whole kingdom of God.
Let’s do it. We’re not trying to be pushy or disliked. We’re just being sweet. Do you know my wonderful Lord? This tract will teach you the way and this word that you speak may be used of God to bring somebody into the kingdom of our blessed Savior.
And to you who have listened on television, how we pray that the Spirit of the Lord will bear the message to you, the invitation to give your heart and life in trust to the Lord Jesus [Romans 10:9-13]. And if you don’t know how to be saved, there’s a telephone number on that screen. Call us. It’ll be the joy of our lives to introduce you to Him who is all in all in this world, and in the world to come. And in the great throng of people in the sanctuary, balcony, around down a stairway, the mass of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles. “Pastor, today, today I have decided for God, and here I stand, and here I come” on the first note of the first stanza, and welcome, while we stand and while we sing. “This is it, God’s day for me and I’m coming. The Lord has spoken to my heart and I’m responding with my life. I am coming today.”
This is the Lord’s day for me. While we make our appeal, while we sing our song. This is the Lord’s day. God bless you, sweet people, amen. Amen. Amen. While we pray, while we wait, while we save. God bless you dear, the Lord bless you. God bless you, sweet family, and you son, yes. Yes, as we make appeal, as we sing.