Dr. S. Lewis Johnson expounds Paul's passion for the grace of God as expressed in his conclusion of the letter to the Galatians.
[Message] Some of you may wonder why, as many evangelical churches we do not have a weekly prayer meeting in Believers Chapel. It is not, of course, that we are against the practice at all. It can be very useful and profitable. I’m sure all of us would acknowledge that. It is, of course, also possible for us as in almost any meeting to take things for granted and the practice of many of our churches, evangelical churches, is that in the prayer meeting the same pray and they also pray the same prayer week after week. I know that’s so because I used to have people come and say, “Mr. Johnson, please explain to me why this is so.” And I didn’t have any explanation for it. I used to cast around for good reasons but couldn’t find a whole lot for that.
But when Believers Chapel began the men who were involved decided that what they would do with a number of things was just to take a look at the New Testament and see what the New Testament said, and if it were possible for us to follow in our generation what we saw in the New Testament we would try to do it, not in a condemnatory way because we respect the freedom of others as well. And we surely acknowledge the fact that it’s certainly within the teaching of the New Testament to have a prayer meeting every week if a body of believers desires to do that, then there isn’t anything in Scripture that suggests that that is not a legitimate alternative.
But as we studied the New Testament we saw that the New Testament did not have a regular weekly prayer meeting, and furthermore that when they prayed it was usually out of a particular need. That is, if they were under persecution they prayed. If there was a need for the ministry of the word to the unreached as in Antioch, then there were specific prayer meetings that evidently were called by the elders and they had those prayer meetings. In other words, they were generally said in the context of special needs for a particular time.
And further, the observance of the Lord’s Supper every week as we observe it in Believers Chapel in our weekly meeting in which the men are as priests are free to stand and read Scripture or pray, then that afforded an opportunity for us to pray every week as a body of believers. So that is why we have not had, I think, one of the elders may countermand my little talk, which I did not clear with them incidentally. It’s not inspired. But that is essentially why we have not had a regular weekly meeting which we call the prayer meeting, and perhaps some of you may never have heard anyone try to explain why that is so. And that’s at least one explanation of one of the men who was involved in the beginning of the Chapel.
Our Scripture reading is Galatians chapter 6, verse 11 through verse 18, although the message this morning will center on one text alone, verse 14. So let me read beginning with verse 11,
“Ye see how large a letter (Now many of you who have other versions from the Authorized Version from which I’m reading will note the plural “with what large letters” or something like that. The original text has the plural.) Ye see with what large letters I have written unto you with mine own hand. (In other words, the apostle is referring to his writing style, whether that was forced by some difficulties that he had of a physical character or whether that just his style, he wrote with large letters not as an amanuensis or a secretary would do. He says in 2 Thessalonians that he ordinarily dictated his letters and then signed them with his own signature, writing the last verse. And this he does not do in this apostle, and we’ll make a comment about that in the beginning, but this is evidently a reference to the fact that he has written a whole epistle rather than the last text. And it evidences, of course, Paul’s concern over the issues in Galatia.) As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh (That is that they may regard you as one of them and may also use you as one of their statistics). But God forbid that I (There’s a great deal of emphasis in the original text on the “I.” In fact, it’s thrown forward for emphasis in the Greek text, and the apostle says something like this, “But may it not come to be to me that I boast in anything but the cross.” So we bare that in mind when he says, “God forbid that I should boast) save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. (There he refers to true believing Israelites who are member of the church of Jesus Christ who have not fallen for the false teaching of the Judaisers that it’s necessary to be circumcised in order to be saved. They are the Israel of God.) From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.”
How appropriate it is that the Epistle of the Galatians, which is really a letter about grace, should end on that note. As one of the Puritans says, “There is no reason for grace, but grace.” So this is the nicest ending that you could think of, “Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.” Let’s bow together in a moment of prayer.
[Prayer] Father, we are indeed grateful to Thee for the privilege that is ours to think over the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ as manifest in the cross by which we have been saved, by which our sins have been forgiven, by which we have been justified. For the Son of God loved us and gave himself for us, taking away our sins, taking them upon himself and bearing them and enabling us to have forgiveness. Lord, we worship Thee. We praise Thy name. We thank they triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for ministering to our needs, how blessed we are. And today Lord in this beautiful day, cold but beautiful, we thank Thee and praise Thee for the provisions of life.
We ask Thy blessing upon the whole church of Jesus Christ, upon each individual body of believers such as this one, where Christ is lifted up. May by Thy marvelous mercy many come to know him, whom to know is life eternal. And may the members of the body be strengthened and comforted by the word of God. We ask Thy blessing upon the whole body of Christ, upon all of the individual believers and individual bodies, may the name of our Lord be exalted.
We pray also for our country, and ask Thy blessing upon it. And we pray particularly Lord for those who are suffering, for those who have requested our prayers. We pray for them. We ask Thy blessing upon them, may their needs be met and may they lift up their hearts in Thanksgiving to Thee for the blessings of life from our great God. Bless now as we sing together, as we fellowship in the word of God, for Jesus’ sake, Amen.
[Message] The subject for today as we conclude the ministry for this year in Believers Chapel and look forward to 1988 is “Glorying in the Cross.” The end of the apostle’s great letter to the Galatians with its labored sprawling, scrawling, handwriting is at hand. He says “You see with what large letters I have written unto you in my own hand.” Now he sad in 2 Thessalonians, as I mentioned in the Scripture reading, that the sign of the genuineness of the Pauline letter was the final verse that he wrote with his own hand and signature. But this he has written all together in his own handwriting from chapter 1 and verse 1 all the way through. He’s not treated them like children. He has not used large letters for emphasis. They were perhaps the product of failing eyesight. But the reason that he has written in his own hand is because he was so disturbed over the things that were transpiring in Galatia and the possible falling from grace, that is the principles of grace, that is represented by their experience at this time.
He took up his pen and did not wait to find a secretary or an amanuensis and wrote it all out in his own handwriting. In other words, he was troubled over the possibility that the Galatians might add to faith in the Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, the requirement that one be circumcised in order to be saved. So the apostle was not writing about an incidental doctrinal difference. No, he was writing about the fundamental difference between the systems of legalism and grace. It was for him an issue of life and death.
I think we’ll gain a good understanding of how seriously Paul felt about the doctrine of grace if we remember, so far as we know the Galatian Judaisers believed in the deity of Jesus Christ. They believed in the fact that he died upon the cross. So far as we know, they believed in the resurrection. They believed in the Second Coming. In other words, so far as we know, they believed in the objective facts of the person and work of Christ. So far as we can tell they would have subscribed to the Apostles ‘ Creed.
One difference, however, is manifest. They required that an individual in order to be saved undergo the right of circumcision. In other words, everything else, so far as we can tell would be evangelical. Now, it’s true in the fourth chapter the apostle does mention the observance of a few things associated with what might be called the Law of Moses. But they were not the important things, and Paul does not emphasize them. He says, “Ye observe days and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you lest I bestowed your labor in vain.” They were incidentals. The big thing was circumcision, as is evident from writing for the remainder of the letter. Now, here is the striking thing about this. I’m sure that if we were to, in our day, as an evangelical church say here is a man who believes all of the objective facts of the Apostles ‘ Creed and yet he says, “We must be baptized in order to be saved.” And over here is another individual who believes all of the objective facts of the Apostles ‘ Creed and says “We believe simply that one must in faith receive the Lord Jesus and the benefits that he has accomplished in his death. We might be inclined in evangelicalism with its theological weaknesses so transparent today, be inclined to treat the other individual as a believing man; that is as a man who really belongs to us, as a man who really who should not be so sharply criticized.
But listen to what Paul says about these individuals who are saying simply, so far as we can tell, one must not simply believe in Christ but be circumcised in order to be saved. This is what he says, “Though we or an angel from heaven should preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” In other words, an individual might believe everything objectively found in the Apostles ‘ Creed but then say, “In order to be saved we must submit to a sacramental system.” Paul says such an individual should come under the curse of God. Now, lest you have any question about it, the apostle repeats himself. He says it twice. He goes on to say, “As we said before, I say now again. If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”
Why was Paul so disturbed about this? For the simple reason that grace can only be grace; grace can no longer be grace if it’s not gracious. To add one thing to the objective ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ to be received through the instrumentality of faith as a gift is to destroy in principle the grace of God. And the apostle knew it would only be time before further accretions of error and apostasy should result. That’s why he was concerned. He felt that if we in any way violated the principle of, let me say the unnecessary word, free grace (Grace is not grace if it is not free, of course, but we have to emphasize it,) free grace, the gospel goes. The good news goes. We lose the sense of salvation being totally of the Lord. So important, you can tell the difference between an individual who has come to understand free grace and an individual who talks about belief in Christ but hasn’t really understood free grace by the disposition of that believer. So the apostle was concerned, very concerned. He felt that the work that God had done in Galatia was, so far as he could tell, possibly to be destroyed by the individuals who have come in and have simply said, “One must also be circumcised in order to be saved.”
It was important to him. It was an issue of life and death. It was the bottom line doctrinally, for we have two different gospels if we anything added to the objective ministry of the Lord Jesus to be received through the instrumentality of faith. We have human doing over against Christ’s done. We have human merit, even so simple a thing as undergoing circumcision, we have human as over against the merit of the finished work of the Lord Jesus, communicated to us through faith, through faith alone. We have “This do and live” as over against the gospels’ “Live and do this in appreciation for what has been done for you.” What Augustus Toplady sang about is what Paul is talking about, “Not the labor of my hands can fulfill Thy laws demands; could my zeal no respite know; could my tears forever flow, all for sin could not atone. Thou must save and Thou alone.” That’s the Christian faith. That’s the essence of the gospel of the grace of God committed to the apostle to be preached not simply to the Jews but also to the Gentiles.
Now, I’d like to concentrate attention today on verse 14, seeking to discover why Paul, who deplored human boasting, he says this is more than one place, he didn’t believe in human boasting. He said, for example, “For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves. It’s the gift of God, lest any man should boast.” He doesn’t believe in boasting, and yet here is the apostle boasting. What did he find reason to boast in? Well he said, “I boast in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ.” It’s rather striking that one might analyze Paul’s statement, as some have done, as the three crosses on the hill of Golgotha when the Lord Jesus died. There is the central cross, and we think of it as the central cross, and the two thieves or the two malefactors on his side. Both of those malefactors remember, railed against our Lord. And then in the midst of hanging upon the cross one of them turned to the other one and began to rebuke him and say to him, “Don’t you realize what is transpiring here. This man has done nothing amiss. We are justly condemned.” And then finally turns in this great, magnificent expression of faith says, “Jesus,” I know the Authorized Version says Lord and I’d like to have retained that. It bothered me for a good while when I read the original text, and probably the more genuine reading is “Jesus, remember me.” That seemed a little bit of a come down. I wanted him, as the great theologian of his day, for that’s what he was. When he died, that dying thief, he knew more than Peter, he understood more than James and John because he understood that our Lord was going to enter into a kingdom and various other things. And he has been called by men from John Calvin down to modern students of the word of God as the greatest theologian of his day when he died. Magnificent what was communicated to him. But he said, not Lord, but Jesus.
I reflected on that a great deal, finally I realized after all if this man, no matter what he calls Jesus, whether he calls him the man from Nazareth, or whether he calls him simply a profit, to say to him, “Remember me when you come in your kingdom,” is to accord him ultimate authority, because only a God can remember someone when he comes in his kingdom. So he says in the climax of his expression of faith, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom.” So the apostle’s statement is, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,” and here is our Lord on the central cross. The other malefactor never, so far as we know, did anything other than rail upon our Lord and passed off into a Christ-less eternity.
But notice the remainder of Paul’s statement. He says, “By whom the world is crucified unto me.” That is, so far as the apostle is concerned, so far as he himself is concerned, the world also died when Christ died. I suggest to you that’s like the believing thief. For him too, when he acknowledged his faith in the Lord Jesus he was renouncing the world. But then he adds, “And I unto the world.” For when the apostle put his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ the world renounced him. And so consequently the middle cross is the cross of our Lord, the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; then Paul’s statement, “By whom the world is crucified unto me,” that suggests that believing thief on one side and then “I unto the world,” for the world hates the representative of the Lord Jesus Christ, that represents the thief who did not respond in repentance and faith. So hanging upon the cross as the apostle, perhaps thinking about the cross and thinking about the two on the side, constructs this magnificent statement of our Lord, of the believing thief, and of the unbelieving thief as well. We’ll think about that as the three crosses.
And first of all the cross on which Christ died. “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Judaisers had come in, they had been teaching and preaching, as we’ve been saying, that one must not simply believe in the Lord Jesus Christ but one also must undergo circumcision. Now, you know when we think about spiritual things and we think about divine authority, actually there are only two ultimate authorities, the Bible or anything else you want to make authoritative. There are only two, the word of God and everything else. And under everything else are all of the philosophies, all of the grounds for authority that men have constructed down through the centuries. There is the Bible on one hand, the word of God, the Scriptures to which our Lord gave allegiance, and the apostles and prophets gave allegiance, and the Christian church has given allegiance down through the years. And then all of the other constructions of authority are human constructions of authority. It’s the Bible or anything else you like. There’s no other choice. Everybody bases his opinion either upon this book or else not upon it. Many possibilities apart from the book, but it doesn’t matter because they’re all the same because they’re not the Bible. That is, they’re human bases of authority.
Now, the apostle grounded his authority upon the word of God. That’s what the Christian church has historically done, most purely in the Reformed branch of the Christian faith. They have recognized that. They have lived and died upon the authority of the word of God. So the apostle says in effect, “These individuals who have come in your midst. They may glory in circumcision. They may glory in the Law. They may glory in their religious requirements. But as for me, I’m glorying in the cross.” “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” That’s characteristic of the apostle, because when he came to the Corinthians, for example, he said, “I determine not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and him crucified.” He said to the Galatians the same thing. He said in chapter 3 of this same epistle, “O foolish Galatians, who hath laid an evil upon you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes,” that is before the Galatians’ eyes Jesus Christ has been placarded, crucified among you. In other words, he preached Christ crucified among them. I’m not surprised then to see the apostle saying, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ”
Let me just for a moment ask the question, what is the cross to the world? Well, to the world it’s a felon’s tree. That’s how our Lord died. He died as a felon. By the Roman government he was guilty of a felony. That’s a serious crime. That’s a serious crime today. When you read in the newspaper someone has been charged with a felony, that’s a serious charge. That’s not a misdemeanor. That’s a serious charge. As a matter of fact, in his case it was a charge that would lead to death. It was, in effect, the hangman’s noose. That was that with which the Lord Jesus was charged.
Now, the cross, as a result one can see the cross is to our minds, for we are like the Romans, remember. We are like the Jews. Don’t blame the Jews for the death of Christ. Blame the Gentiles also. All of them are guilty. The New Testament makes that very plain. There are some people who read it and say the Jews crucified Christ, well yes they did. But to say that is to misunderstand the New Testament. The New Testament also says the Gentiles crucified Christ as well. Caiaphas and Pilot and Herod and the rest got together on one thing, the world is an enemy of the cross of Christ, to our minds the cross is an offense. As Paul says, “If I were preaching circumcision and saying men must do something in order to be saved, I wouldn’t be an offense to the world. They would say, “You’re one of us. You require good works in order to be saved. And you acknowledge that we can do some good works. But since I’m not preaching circumcision and not preaching anything else except faith in a dying Redeemer,” then the apostle says, “My ministry is an offense to the world.” It says to us, you see, every one of you, to me, to you, to every one of you, you cannot do anything to please a righteous and holy God. That’s quite a charge.
In effect, my good looking congregation, you are iniquitous sinners. That’s what you are. Take a good look inside. Take a good look inside your mind, inside your heart, inside your spirit, and see what you really are. That’s what you are. And there’s no question about it, sinners die, and you’ll die. If the Lord doesn’t come, we’ll read your obituary in the newspapers. You young people, you look so healthy, so fresh, so the life if there. You can believe I’ll die [Laughter] but I’ll tell you one thing, I can believe you’ll die, too. As a matter of fact, the Scriptures say not that you will die, or I will die, the Scriptures my friend, say you are dying right now. Even when you are growing up with all of the vitality that your life from Adam possesses, you’re dying. We’re perishing, all of us are perishing.
So when Adam and Eve fell in the garden, what did they do? They sought to cover themselves. They sought to make it possible for them to not face the truth that they were naked, and fellowship was broken with the Lord God. Israel when they saw the Messiah in their midst thought about a great conquering Messiah who would come and bring them authority over the Romans and deliver them from the yolk of the nations and set them up as nation number one. The Scriptures however, that they said they believed, said that the Messiah must die. In fact, the Lord Jesus, after the death, burial, and resurrection said, “Oh fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have written.” So they thought of the Lord Jesus or the Messiah, the claim of Messiahship, as a conquering Messiah. And when it turned he was not a conquering Messiah, they were offended by him. They called him a blasphemer and that he was worth of death. Deliver us this individual who is a crook and a blasphemer, and guilty of all of the crimes truly against the Roman government, free him, and don’t free Jesus. In fact that’s been the attitude of men down through the years. The Gentiles thinking they can be saved by philosophy, by their good ideas. We don’t have any good ideas. We don’t have any ideas that are good that are not found in the word of God, or else inferences from the word of God.
And then when we deal in the atoning work of Christ and we talk about substitution, the world cries every man must die for his own sins. It’s not possible for one man to die for another person’s sins. We’ll talk about that, perhaps in the weeks to come. Scriptures say, “All we like sheep have gone astray. We have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” That’s substitutionary atonement. It’s very offensive. It’s the theology of blood and that is the theology of the word of God.
Martin Lloyd Jones, in one of his books, tells of a time when he sitting it, I think it was a club, a British Club. Wouldn’t it be nice to be a member of a British club where you could walk in and read the London Times or the Financial Times and have a cup of tea? Well, he was evidently, and then he was a physician before he was a preacher and a Harley Street physician, the finest that there is in London, England. He was sitting there, he said, and reading the paper, and he heard a conversation going on not too far from him, and finally one of the men came over and said, “Doctor, do you think maybe you could help us in our conversation?” And so he got up and he went over. He knew this man was a Christian man, so he walked over to the other man, and he said, “Well, what’s the dispute?” And the non-Christian said, “Well, it’s my good friend here. Of course I believe in morals, as he does. I believe in ethics. I believe in living a good life. I believe in improving this world. But he will bring in this blood and thunder element.” And of course, the blood and thunder element is nothing more than the Christian’s insistence that redemption is only through Christ who died on the cross. Yes, that’s blood and thunder element, that’s true. That’s exactly what it is, a blood and thunder element. It’s the opposite of the cult of self-expression and a belief in ourselves, with which we are regaled so much today by our society. But the apostle says, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross,” which is an offense to our minds. It’s an offense to our hearts. No hope in Jewishness. No hope in the Law of Moses. No hope in circumcision. No hope in religion. No hope in human wisdom. It’s an offense to our will. No resolution that we could possibly make for the New Year will not ultimately fail. We are left helpless. We are left hopeless. We are cut down to size, to use a biblical term, we are lost.
Most of you know I occasionally read the funny papers, every morning to be exact. [Laughter] And last year, over a year ago in Mister Boffo, I know you’ve probably never heard of that particular comic strip. The writer of Mister Boffo has two individuals sitting on a bench. I assume they’re on a bench in a park somewhere or perhaps in the financial district and they’re both bums, real bums. One of them is a woe-be-gone looking bum and the other is still proud though he’s a woe-be-gone bum, too. But he’s still kind of proud and he’s big. And the fellow who really looks bad says, “I’m nothing but a lousy, rotten, no-good, lazy leech.” And the other draws himself up and looks at him and says, “Two-bit, you keep forgetting two-bit.” [Laughter] What he should have said, “I’m a two-bit, lousy, rotten, no good, lazy, leech.” [Laughter] Well, actually that’s what we are. We are two bit sinners. That’s all we are in the sight of God. We are sinners. That’s what the Scriptures say, and if you think we are not that, I suggest you read Galatians chapter 3 and read beginning at verse 10 through verse 18, and you will find the apostle drawing from all of Scripture and putting passages together from about five places in the Old Testament to tell us there is no fear of God before our eyes. We’re a faithless people.
What’s the cross to the believer then? Shall we admire it as a great symbol, and shall we put it on our lapels and go around so that you can see we are identified with Christ? Maybe if we are an athlete we’ll join the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and maybe we’ll invite in someone to speak to us who is not necessarily a Christian at all, but after all it’s a great environment, Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Shall we think of the cross as representative of a beautiful act because of the principle involved, self-abnegation? An intellectually challenging idea that someone from a divine trinity, a God-man should come and take our place on the cross, that’s an intellectually challenging idea isn’t it? We’ll think about that. The apostle doesn’t think of the cross that way. He doesn’t think of it as something to be admired as a symbol. He doesn’t think of it as a beautiful act of self-giving. He doesn’t think of it as an intellectually challenging idea. He thinks of it as the only ground by which he can be saved from his sins. He thinks of it as the way by which he can be redeemed. And furthermore, he boasts in the cross. He doesn’t just think of it. As a matter of fact, he doesn’t even say I just believe in it, though he does. He boasts in it. And Christian friend, he boasts only in it. Did you notice what he said, “God forbid that I should glory.” God forbid that I should boast. The only ground upon which I can boast is in the cross, “save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” “Forbid it Lord that I should boast save in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
So the apostle is like Isaac Watts, he sings the same kinds of things that Watts sang. Or shall we put it the other way around? That Watts, when he writes, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” and writes, “Forbid it Lord that I should boast, save in the death of Christ my God, all the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to his blood.” He’s thinking Paul’s thoughts after him, and both are thinking God’s thoughts. God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Six minutes are not long enough to talk about what Paul saw in the cross, of course. It was a matchless exhibition of the attributes of God. If you want to know the justice of God, look at the cross. The death of Christ is required for the salvation of one sinner. Sufficient is his death for all sinners, but his death is required for the forgiveness of one sinner, that’s how deep our debt is before the Lord God. One can see the justice of God there. One can see the holiness of God. Even that thief on the cross says he thinks about our Lord as he looks at the placards. The Holy Spirit opens his blinded mind and he says, “We indeed justly are condemned, this man hath done nothing amiss.” And when our Lord finally breathed his last and gave up the ghost into the hands of the Father, the centurion said, “Certainly this was a righteous man.” One could even see it in the things that were transpiring in the life of our Lord, but it’s much deeper than that. One can see, of course, the great love of the Lord Jesus for sinners. One can see his wisdom. One can see his power. One can see his might, as Watts also sings in the same hymn. “See from his head, his hands, his feet. Sorrow and love flow mingled down. Did ere such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown?” I love that because the thorns suggest the curse, and the crown suggests that he’s truly the Messianic king. But the curse rests upon him and he’s bearing it, like Isaiah said, “All we like sheep have gone astray, we’ve turned everyone to his own way. And the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity,” the cross, the thorns, the thistles, representative of our sin.
The matchless glory of the atonement, who could ever talk about the work of Christ properly, the work that comes, the conscience; shall we glory in the ordinances? Do we glory in baptism? Do we glory in the church? Do we glory in Believers Chapel? Do we glory in the fact that in the chapel we try to follow the word of God? We don’t glory in ordinances. We don’t glory in the church. We don’t glory in good works. We have no good works. We glory in what has been done for us by the Lord Jesus Christ, the merits of his death. Mr. Spurgeon said, “Modern theologians bark like dogs at the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ.” And the he said, “You know, the dogs, will even bay at the moon.” And that’s exactly the result that the barking of liberal theologians against the truth of Scripture, that’s the result. There’ll be no resolve. The triumphs of infidelity are no triumphs at all. They cannot save one’s soul by their doctrine. Ask a Kant who has been saved by a philosophy, or a Hiegel who has been brought to the knowledge of truth through the things that you have taught, they cannot point to anyone. Or even a modern theologian like a Whitehead or a Wvignstein [phonetic], what can they do? Nothing, and in a matter of fact, if in a moment they are honest with themselves they will say, if you want the salvation of the soul, then you better go down to someplace like the Union Gospel Mission. Well, the facts are, of course, in many of our churches the gospel is preached, but triumphs of infidelity, there are no triumphs of infidelity. To save a man from his sins and to make him a new creature in Jesus Christ requires the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Two final words, this text is too great for any preacher. I just want to say one word about “By whom the world is crucified unto me.” That’s the cross on which the world died to Paul. The world was great for Paul for a long period of time. He advanced in Judaism beyond any of his contemporaries. He was very interested in public opinion, and public opinion was against the Lord Jesus Christ and the movement that had begun with him. Popular belief was very significant for him; the allurements of the world were very strong in the life of Paul. He tells us about it in more than place. And then he tells us that he met the Lord on the Damascus Road and then the world died to Paul. He saw the truth as the Scripture, as God sets forth, the world is an offense to the Lord God. In fact, John the Apostle will say later on, “The whole world lieth in the wicked one,” so public opinion, popular belief, the allurements of the world. “Make money, be a success, enjoy yourself, have a good time.” Paul was no longer enslaved to its pursuits, its maxims, its smiles. Mr. Spurgeon also says, “You notice the death of a poor man and the death of a rich man, when a poor man dies often they haven’t gotten enough money for the casket, so all of the family has to come together and get to know each other, because they each have to put up some money for the casket and for the cost of the funeral.” And said, “Actually the door of a poor man is often the means of brining a family back together; but a rich man?” We had a striking instance this week Claus Von Bulow is going to give up his right to the fortune of his wife, Martha, fifteen to forty million dollars. The children have been fighting over it for a long time. It was evident she was going to die. She was hopeless, must die. They’re fighting over the wealth before she even dies; so look, my Christian friend, making money, being a big success, is not the important thing.
Many can hardly endure it if someone should criticize them and their faith or their church. I don’t doubt in the slightest that if Helen Parmley should write in the Dallas Morning News something about Believers Chapel, and it would be negative; and there are a few things that Helen could probably find out that would be negative, beginning with the pulpit . But if she were there would be a lot of people who would say within themselves, “I think I’ll join another church.” The thought, the affect of the world’s attitude toward us is so great.
And finally, I wish I could talk more about that, the apostle say, “And I unto the world.” The cross on which Paul died to the world; the world poured contempt on the great rabbi, the one who was the man who advanced in Judaism beyond any of his contemporaries. He was a classical scholar, much to be admired, a soaring thinker. That’s evident from the letters he writes. No one has written literature like Paul. Shakespeare cannot compare with Paul. Dante cannot compare with Paul. Go down through the years, who has been read the most and who has been appreciated the most. He was a soaring thinker, great classical scholar, great rabbi, and when Paul begins to follow the Lord Jesus what do they say about him? He’s become a schlemiel. He’s off his rocker. He’s off the trolley. He’s minus some buttons. Stone him to death. So, the cross on which Paul died to the world. They would have been happy to get rid of him and eventually did.
So, our time’s up. The game is about to begin. In the cross then, the glory of the Godhead shines down upon it. We look into the face of him who always surveyed the face of the father. Count Zinzendorf a man who had everything according to this world. He had a title. He had money. He had position, but he found Christ. And when he found Christ he lived Galatians 6:14 “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” And Zinzendorf said, “I have but one passion and it is he and he alone.” If we believe he has delivered us from our sins and the judgment for our sins for eternity. If we believe that he has conveyed to us by grace the gift of eternal life, can we possibly believe in the Lord Jesus Christ without boasting in his cross?
If you’re here today and you have never believed in our Lord Jesus, we remind you he died for sinners. You may know eternal life by simply within your heart turning to him and saying, “Lord, I do see that I’m a sinner. The Scriptures say I come under the judgment of God. I’m headed for the judgment. I desire to be delivered through the Lord Jesus whom you say died on the cross at Calvary. And by the grace of God I want to trust him.” If that’s the decision made in your heart, so the Scriptures say brings you to the knowledge of him whom to know is life eternal. May God in his marvelous grace touch your heart so that you come to him, receive the forgiveness of sins, and come to boast in him who died for you. Let’s stand for the benediction.
[Prayer] Father, we give Thee thanks for Thy word. And we pray Lord that Thy word, the inspired word which Thou hast given to us through Holy Spirit and the prophets and the apostles…
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The SLJ Institute was founded to preserve the many sermons of the late Dr. S. Lewis Johnson. It is our prayer that these sermons be as great a blessing to you as they have been to us!
For over 30 years, Dr. S. Lewis Johnson led the congregation of Believer's Chapel in Dallas, TX. In loving recognition for all he has done, we dedicate this site to preserving his work.