Full text of evangelist Paul Washer’s sermon titled ‘The Heart of the Gospel’.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here:
Paul Washer – Founder, HeartCry
For me to be here with you tonight. Such a privilege.
My all-time favorite preacher is Charles Spurgeon. And you begin maybe when you start out preaching, when you’re young and you think to yourself, I would like to be like him. It doesn’t take very long for you, a few years, and you realize that’s not going to happen.
The one thing that I most appreciate about Charles Spurgeon is that he admitted that he really only had one sermon, and it was about the cross of Jesus Christ, about the person of Christ.
I also, after reading now many sermons, I find it interesting that it’s not uncommon for him to begin any sermon by preparing the people for a failure.
And after you read for a while and you study for a while and you pray for a while, you begin to understand his burden. You cannot preach Christ. You cannot be a success at preaching Christ. You will never even begin to reach the foothills of the magnitude of Jesus Christ.
The great French Reformed Pastor Adolphe Monod preached 19 sermons on his deathbed, most of them looking up at the ceiling and couldn’t even look at his own congregation. He said this that evangelicals today would not quickly understand. He said, “Oh, the cross of preaching the cross!”.
And what he meant by that was, here is a feeble, tiny, wicked man whose intellect could fit in a pill box, and yet he’s being told that he must talk about the most glorious, most splendid Person, and the most glorious and most splendid thing that has ever occurred.
I love saying this, that you will understand the Second Coming on the day that it happens, but you will be an eternity of eternities in heaven, and you will not even begin to grasp the glory of the cross.
And that is the great burden. The one burden. The thing that most kills my soul is when the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the United States of America is treated like Christianity 101 preschool, that leads to greater things.
If you catch nothing from what’s being said here tonight, know this: there is nothing greater than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is nothing deeper, nothing wider, nothing that so exalts the fullness of all that God is; nothing like the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
You need motivation for Godliness? Then go to the mystery of Godliness, which is God becoming flesh, dwelling among men, taking the sins of His people upon Himself and perishing under His own wrath.
You need motivation? You don’t need a conference. You don’t need to go acquire some fire. You just need to go deeper into the Person and work of Jesus Christ and you will find everything that you need.
I want to say some things tonight that will be, in a sense, common for some of you, but I want you to know that I travel all around the world and I preach some of the things that I’m going to preach tonight. And I have Christians come up to me who have been Christians for 30 years with tears running down their face saying, ‘I never heard that before in my life’.
And yet it’s the very center and substance of the gospel.
What we need to understand here in America is America is not hardened to the gospel; it’s ignorant of the gospel. And it is ignorant of the gospel because most of those preaching it are ignorant of the gospel.
CHARACTER OF GOD
So we want to look at some very common truths about the cross of Jesus Christ and revel in them.
The first one has to do with the Character of God. And I want you to go to Romans, chapter three.
In Romans 3, verse 23, it says, ‘for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’
I find it very, very important that the magnificent intellect of Paul is totally poured out on this truth. Do you realize that the book of Romans is the closest thing we have to a systematic theology? And yet Paul, for the first three chapters of this book, seems to be seeking to only do one thing: to condemn the whole world, to enclose men in the reality of their own depravity, to show them they have violated the law of God, and to show them how horrid, how terrifying that truth is.
And in gospel preaching, you must understand this; unless you are going to deal with men as they stand before a holy and righteous God. Unless you’re willing to do that, then take off the gospel mantle and never preach it again.
In order to know and to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, you must go hard after men.
I find it amazing there’s so many evangelical churches today that almost boast in the fact that not only do they not make much of sin, they do not preach on sin.
I can tell them that the Holy Spirit is a thousand miles from their ministry. And I can say it with the authority of Scripture, because one of the principal ministries of the Holy Spirit in the age of the church is to convict men of sin.
So if they are not dealing, they are not willing to deal with men as sinners, they’ll have nothing of the power of the Holy Spirit in their life or their ministry.
And so we see here Paul laboring ‘for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’
Now, there’s lecture after lecture in this, and I would like to go as deep as possible, but time prevents us from doing that. We must go on.
But the one thing that I want you to see is this: in your studying of the gospel and in your preaching of the gospel, you must go deep into Anthropology. You must go deep into what is a man, what has become of men since the fall. And if you’re unwilling to do that, you will never be able to appreciate the cross of Jesus Christ. Never.
I have a question for you. Where did all the stars go this afternoon? Did someone come by with a huge basket and gather them all together and hide them in a closet somewhere?
Where did all the stars go this afternoon? They’re still there. You just don’t see them. Why? Because of all the light.
But when the sun sets and darkness engulfs the sky, what’s going to happen? All those stars will be revealed. It’s the same way: we can only understand the beauty of the grace of the Gospel of Jesus Christ if we are willing to see it against the backdrop of human depravity.
It is a magnificent thing that a man would die for a good man. A magnificent thing. But how much more magnificent is it when a God becomes Man and lays down His life for depraved and twisted and dislocated people that have made of themselves monsters?
A reporter came to me one time and he was absolutely furious. He said, ‘Why are you always talking about sin?’
And I said, ‘because I want you to love God.’
He said, ‘how does that make me love God?’
I said, ‘have you never read: she loved much because she was forgiven much.’ And I said, ‘sir, you do not love God much because you do not know how much you’ve been forgiven. Because no one’s ever told you how wicked you are. And I am here to cure you of that malady.’
You see, you must, you must understand that. You must learn in your preaching to deal with souls, to bring men to see that they have no hope whatsoever in the flesh. They have no hope whatsoever in the flesh.
Paul here even going back and using Old Testament Scriptures in chapter 3, verses 10 through 20, what is he doing? He’s building a cage around all men. He’s pouring concrete on the floor that they cannot dig through. On all four sides, he is placing steel, iron bars that they cannot escape. There’s only one place to go for them. Up. Up. To the mercies of God. Just to the mercies of God.
We do a great service in our superficial evangelism, in our superficial dealing with the souls of men. We must labor hard in that until what happens? We see it in verse 19.
‘Now, we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law so that every mouth may be closed.’
The Gospel preacher, the great heart, the evangelist, his job is first and foremost to shut the mouth of every man. And he does that in two ways that I can see in Scripture.
One, as we see here, it’s by dealing with the sin of man, exposing the sin of man, using the law of God, using every other means to expose the sin of man.
But there’s still one more way and even greater way to expose the sin of man, and that is by preaching the attributes of God.
It wasn’t until God appeared, it wasn’t until Job said, ‘I’ve heard of you, but now I see you’, that he was willing to put his hand over his mouth and lay in the dust.
It was Moses, when God appeared to him, ‘show me your glory’ and when God showed him His glory and God proclaimed His attributes before Moses, Moses fell down and worshiped.
One of the reasons, another one of the reasons why the Gospel that is preached in America is so impotent is because it does not begin with the attributes of God. How can you fear a God you do not know? Or how can you fear a God that most evangelical preachers turn into a Santa Claus? A lack of knowledge of God, a lack of knowledge of men.
Our bookstores, our Christian bookstores are filled with every manner of trifling stupidity. But to find books on God and men and Christ and the cross and true salvation and true conversion and true regeneration and sanctification, no, nothing. And for this reason the Gospel is so poorly, so poorly understood.
Now I want to go on to something that is very important. It says in verse 24 of chapter 3, ‘being justified as a gift by His grace’.
Now I want to take this whole text apart, but we simply do not have time. But there’s something I want to point out here.
In verse 23, he comes to the conclusion of explaining the depravity, the wickedness of all men.
And then he goes to 24, speaking of some of those men as having been justified.
Now, what does justified mean? Justified does not mean that a moment a person believes in Jesus Christ, they are converted into or turned into a righteous being. It does not mean that they are infused with some supernatural grace and from that moment on they become righteous enough to earn their own salvation. That’s not what it means.
It’s a legal or forensic term that when a person places their faith in Jesus Christ, they are forensically legally declared righteous before God. They are declared right before God through faith in Jesus Christ. That’s what it means.
But therein lies the greatest problem in all the Scripture. I have just given to you the great philosophical problem of Scripture… of Christianity and of the Gospel.
Just look for a moment, just turn to Proverbs, where the doctrine is not so much taught here, because that’s not the intention, but it is illustrated beautifully.
Proverbs 17:15: ‘He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, both of them are like are an abomination to the Lord.’
Now again, he who justifies the wicked, closing the two phrases together is an abomination to the Lord.
Do you see the problem? In Romans, Paul is exalting. He is rejoicing over the fact that God is a God who justifies the wicked. Yet we know that to justify the wicked is an abomination before God.
So the great question of all the Scripture is this or not question, statement. If God is just, He cannot forgive you. If God is good, He cannot forgive you.
And you say, Why? That right there demonstrates that all ideas of righteousness and justice, not just as spiritual terms, but as legal terms, all ideas of that have been forgotten by our culture.
The great problem in Scripture is this: if God is a righteous and a good God, He cannot forgive you.
You say, Why? I’ll give you the illustration I gave in the park just a while ago to a group of young boys.
Let’s say that you go home to your house and you find that a man has slaughtered your entire family. And you see the man standing over your last child, squeezing the life out of him or her. And enraged, you fly at the man, and you knock him down on the ground, and you tie him up with a rope, and you call the police.
And the police come and haul him off to the jail. And then months pass, and he’s brought before a judge. And the judge looks down at this man that’s murdered your entire family and says, ‘I am a loving judge, therefore I forgive you. I pardon you. You are free.’
What are you going to do? I’ll tell you what you’re going to do. You’re going to write your Congressman. You’re going to get on the 06:00 News. You’re going to write even letters to the President.
You are going to declare that there is a judge on the bench that is far more vile, far more wicked than the man he sets free.
Use another illustration. Let’s say that I want to use a certain word. It’s the word ‘propicio’, from which we get this word, propitiation. Look what it says.
Let’s go to 24. ‘Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation.‘
Now, listen to me. How do we solve this problem? If God is just, how can He forgive wicked men and still be just?
The answer lies in this word ‘propitiation‘. Now, I preach in many places, and I always ask this question: how many of you would dare stand up and define that term?
And most people in most of the churches I preach in say, well, we’ve never even heard of the term, or we have no idea what it means. Yet you cannot even begin to understand the Gospel without this term.
Let me illustrate it for you. Let’s say that, we’re in [Via della d’espagne] in the year 1583, okay? And the penalty for being a thief is death. And so you are a slave, and you’re working in a household, and you are stealing things.
And one day, as you are stealing things, the master of the household walks in. He catches you red handed. The only thing left to do now is build the gallows to hang you from.
And so, as he grabs you by the back of the neck, and as he’s dragging you out of the house, you fall down, and in ancient [kastiano], you cry out, ‘sé propicio soy me’. Be propitious it’s me. Have mercy on me. Do not do to me what the law demands. Please don’t.
But now there’s another moral problem. The master who has grabbed him by the back of the neck is also charged by the law. The Law says he must die.
And so as you fall down on your knees and cry out, be merciful to me, what you’re actually asking your master to do is to break the law himself. Just look over this crime. Act like it never happened.
But you see, if he’s a just master, he cannot look over the crime. You must die unless someone can offer a sacrifice in your place to satisfy the demands of the Law and make it possible for a righteous judge to set you free.
Now, a few years ago, a movie came out based upon The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. I don’t know if any of you saw it. It was okay. I’m a big Narnia fan, so it was just okay.
But they made an error there, a terrible error. Edmund was the one who betrayed his family, betrayed all of Narnia. And because of that, the ancient law said that he must die.
Now the Witch comes up, and prior to her coming, everyone went to Aslan, said, can’t you do anything? I mean, the Witch is making a claim on him. He must die. The law demands that he dies. Can’t you do anything?
And Aslan said, Listen, this is where the error occurred. He said, ‘Listen to me, King Peter. There is a principle, a law that even I cannot violate.’ That’s really bad theology, and I’m going to show you why.
What they’re teaching, and what I’ve heard people teach before, is that the law demanded the death of the sinner. And even God has to submit to that law as though the law was something independent of God, over God, greater than God. And God Himself had to submit to that law and satisfy that law in order to save the sinner. That’s not true.
The justice that God had to satisfy wasn’t some law out here over His own head. The justice that He had to satisfy was His own. It was His own law. It was His own justice.
It’s not that there’s some principle in the universe that God has to satisfy before He can save wicked men. No, God is perfect in His attributes. The same God who is all of love is all of justice. And in order to demonstrate His love, He must satisfy His justice.
I have heard evangelists say this: you were guilty and God should have condemned you. But instead of being righteous with you, instead of dealing with you justly, God demonstrated His love toward you. Now the logical conclusion is God’s love is unjust. That’s not true.
God is perfect in His attributes. He is consistent in all His ways. He loves without violating His justice. He is just without violating love. He’s just perfect. And that’s why we can’t even get our minds even to begin to get around this.
Just know this He’s perfect in all His ways. There is no injustice, there is no darkness, there is no shadow. There is no variation due to change. He is perfect. To manifest His love, to work out a work of redemption, He cannot do it at the expense of His own justice.
And this is where Christ comes in. Christ becomes a Man, the Son of God. Gold the Son becomes Man. And He walks on this earth as a Man. And according to the foreordained, the counsel of God, He is placed on a cross and He is displayed there.
As Martyn Lloyd-Jones used to say, He was placarded on that cross, and on that cross He bore the sins of His people. And on that cross He experienced the wrath of God, the fury of God against the wickedness of His people. And when He died, He paid for our crimes. He satisfied the justice of God. And now God can be just and the justifier of the one who believes in Jesus.
But now I want us to go somewhere and I want us to look at something that’s very important.
I want us to go to 2 Corinthians 5:21: ‘He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.’
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf.
Now, here’s a question what does that mean? What does it mean that God made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf?
I want you to know that great scholars down through the ages warn us not to try to define this perfectly because this is very, very deep. We have to be very, very careful that we do not stand back and not see what this passage is teaching us about the Christ being the sin bearer. But we need to be careful not to say horrible things against Christ while He’s on that tree.
What does it mean? He who knew no sin was made to be sin on our behalf? What does it mean?
SINLESSNESS OF CHRIST
Well, first of all, I want to talk about the sinlessness of Christ.
I was hearing a discussion, I think it was yesterday someone was talking about certain people who have a perfectionist doctrine. They believe that they’ve gone 14 years without sin and things such as that.
Well, the problem is they’re redefining sin. Let me share with you what it means that Christ was without sin, that He was impeccable, it means that His life was perfectly conformed to the law of God. That’s true.
And I have said more there than I would ever understand or be able to explain. But His life was perfectly conformed to the law of God.
But let me put it in a different light. Maybe that will help you.
There has never been one moment in your entire life as a Christian, Not one moment when you loved the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Not one moment.
Now think about this. In offering your body as a martyr, you still will not be able to claim that at that moment you loved the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Who would dare rise up in this congregation and say there was a time when they did such a thing?
The most pious man on the face of the earth that’s ever walked this earth outside of the person of Christ would never raise his head and say there was even a moment when he loved the Lord his God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength, or that he loved God as God deserves to be loved.
Yet there was never one moment in the life of Jesus Christ that He did not love the Lord His God with all His heart, soul, mind and strength.
That bumps it up a little, doesn’t it? Do you see what that means?
Now think about this. There has never been one moment in your life when you have done everything you’ve done for the glory of God. You have never done one thing in one moment of your life in which you glorified God as He deserves to be glorified.
Yet the person of Jesus Christ glorified God with every beat of His heart and every breath of His mouth. There was never one moment when He was not the beloved Son in whom the Father was well pleased. Think about that.
When I first looked at it from that point of view, I just sat there in my study and I couldn’t move because I was thinking of all the miracles of Jesus Christ, of walking on the sea, of casting out demons, of raising the dead. Nothing seems to me to be as great as this, at least in the ministry of His life. I mean, this is amazing.
And yet He was made to be sin.
Now, what does that mean?
Well, I think the answer is found in the second part of the verse. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Now, how is the believer the righteousness of God in Christ?
Again, it does not mean that the moment we believed in Jesus Christ, we were somehow infused with a certain grace that enabled us to be righteous beings always doing righteous things. It did not elevate our nature to a point where we could be called holy, righteous creatures.
But when we trusted in Christ, we were legally declared righteous before the throne of God. And we were treated as such; in the same way when Jesus was on that tree. Now, be very careful.
Understand that this does not mean that when He was n that tree that His nature somehow deformed or degraded or became depraved or vile or any of the such. He was always the spotless Lamb. But when He was on that tree, our sin was imputed to Him. He was legally considered to bear it, and He was treated as we should have been treated.
As John Gill always says, He stood in our law place.
Now, I don’t want you to think for a moment that this explanation in any way lessens the pain of the cross. You see, I think that one of the things that is necessary to understand the cross cannot be done in a sermon. And it’s this, I think, that truly glory in the cross of Jesus Christ, you must go far, far back into the relationship of the Trinity.
You must see the splendid unity and beauty, the joy that the infinite incomparable joy that existed. The relationship, the Father delighting in the Son. The Son delighting in the Father, and this one old preacher I heard say one time in the Holy Spirit, just saying Hallelujah. Just wonderful in this spotless, impeccable pure love that is more blinding than the brightest light of the brightest star. Just God delighted in His Son.
Then His Son takes on the likeness of human flesh. I have had people that they portray Jesus Christ, and I’ve seen it in some novels, Christian, in which the Messiah comes to earth and he’s almost like a superman. Just absolute perfection, superhuman strength.
No, He took on the likeness of human flesh. He became like us. He bore our weaknesses. He bore everything we bear, but without sin.
And then He goes to that tree and on the tree our sins are imputed to Him in a real way. This was not theater. This was not play. Our sins were imputed to Him, and the Father turned on Him.
His Father saw Him legally and treated Him legally differently, completely different, as He should have treated us.
I want you to think for a moment about the bearing of sin. How can you and I know what that means? We were born in sin. We drink down iniquity like it was water. We no more understand the vileness of sin than a fish understands the wetness of water.
But let me just give you, let’s imagine some of you find women were to go out and have an outreach somewhere in some inner city to the prostitutes. And then all of a sudden you’re out there and you’re ministering but the paddy wagon comes by, grabs the prostitutes and slams them into the truck. And with the prostitutes, they rough handle you women and throw you into the truck.
Now, all the prostitutes, they’re sitting in that truck and they’re laughing and they’re telling jokes, and they’re calling their lawyers on their cell phone and they’re saying to themselves, we’ll be out of here by morning. This has happened to us a thousand times. They are not sad. They are not shamed. They are not broken. They are nothing.
And you’re sitting there, you can’t even breathe. You are so ashamed. You are so frightened. You feel so dirty. They pull you out of that truck. They rough handle you. They take your picture, they label you as vile. They throw you into the prison. And all the women are sitting around there laughing and telling jokes and having a good time, talking about at least they get to rest that night.
And you’re sitting there again without breath, thinking your very heart has split in two that doesn’t even, it’s almost an illustration that shouldn’t be given because it doesn’t even begin to tell us that this impeccable Christ in one moment bears His people’s sin, and His Father treats Him as such. His Father.
It is one thing for a sinner, and those of you who boast in your pride against God know this. It is a terrible thing for a sinner, the vilest sinner, the hardest sinner to stand before the bar of God and be judged.
Now, you think about one who knew no sin, who had such a history with His Father standing before the bar of God and being judged in your place.
Now I want to do some actually, I don’t know exactly who it was. I think it may have even been brother Sam mentioned to me a while back about RC Sproul preaching a sermon on Christ bearing the curse. And I listened to it, and it just broke me. And so then I went back into the Scriptures more and more and more, and I thought, Lord, I’ve got to just go through this. I can’t stop. I’ve got to look at what it meant once again for Christ to bear the curse.
So I want to share with you a few things. First of all, you know the passage well where it says that ‘Cursed is every man who does not abide by all the things written in the Book of the Law so as to perform them.‘ (Galatians 3:10)
I have searched for years trying to find an adequate illustration for that. The only one I’ve been able to come up to find is this, that the sinner is so vile, so lewd, carnal, such a filth, not only before a holy God and a holy heaven that the last thing that sinner will hear when he takes his first step into hell is all of creation standing to its feet and applauding God because God has rid the earth of him.
You say, Well, I don’t agree with that, and I don’t like that. That’s why you can’t relish the Gospel. It’s true.
And yet the Scriptures say that Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law having become a curse for us.
Now, I want you to think about something. Let’s just for a moment, let’s just take the Beatitudes. The Christian Manifesto: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’
Let’s take that, the beatitudes, turn about face with it and apply it to Christ.
The blessed and the beatitudes are granted the kingdom of heaven. The cursed are refused entrance.
The blessed are recipients of divine comfort. The cursed are objects of divine wrath.
The blessed are satisfied. The cursed are miserable and wretched.
The blessed receive mercy. The cursed are condemned without pity.
The blessed shall see God. The cursed are cut off from His presence.
The blessed are sons and daughters of God. The cursed are disowned and disgraced.
I want you, this is what I want to achieve tonight, is this one thing that every time you make this statement, ‘I am so blessed’, I want you to realize it’s, because He was so cursed.
Every time you talk about blessing, every time you sit at your table and talk about the blessing of the food and the blessing of this and the blessing of that, no, it is only possible because of what Christ suffered on that tree for you.
Then Christ will encompass you. Then you will be saturated with Him when you begin to see this. Did you realize and I talked to the secularist and the supposed atheist and the agnostic about this?
Do you realize the grace of God toward men, toward even wicked men? Don’t you realize this is a fallen world? There should be no leaves on trees. No one should be having babies that live. There should be like the stage waiting for Godot where two men are just sitting there in gray. There should be nothing.
And I submit to you, I don’t know how it works, but every good and perfect gift is to everyone. Every good and perfect gift that’s ever been given to anyone on this planet comes through Jesus Christ. And that’s why judgment will be so harsh against the sinner. And that will be the sinner’s great shame on the Day of Judgment, that it will be pointed out to them the goodness of Jesus Christ toward each and every one of them, and they refused it.
Just look at that. Every time that you rejoice in blessing, it’s because He suffered the curse.
Now, I want you to think about this, going back to the Book of Deuteronomy. Do you remember that when God led Israel out of Egypt, they stopped there at a place called Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal and divided up the troop of Israel, and one part stood on Mount Ebal and the other on Mount Gerizim, and the ones on Mount Ebal were to stand there and pronounce the curses of God against the law breaker, against the covenant breaker.
And the ones on Gerizim were to stand there and pronounce all the blessings upon the ones who were faithful to the covenant and obeyed their God. The blessings of Mount Gerizim are yours, only because the curses of Mount Ebal fell upon Christ.
Now, I’ve taken all those curses and I just want you to listen to them. This first statement, I’m quoting R. C. Sproul. And then from there, just the curses from Mount Ebal.
From behind the closed doors of heaven, the Father turned away from His only Son and every terror that should fall upon His people fell upon Him. When He raised His eyes to heaven to find His Father’s countenance, His Father turned away. When He cried out: ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’
His father replied: ‘The Lord, the Lord damns You.’
And now the curses, the Lord sends upon You curses, confusion and rebuke until You are destroyed and until You perish quickly. The Lord smites You with madness and with blindness and with bewilderment of heart. And You will grope at noon.
Sounds a lot like the cross, doesn’t it? You will grope at noon as the blind man gropes in darkness with none to save You.
The Lord delights over You to make You perish and destroy You. And You will be torn from the land.
Cursed shall You be in the city and cursed shall You be in the field. Cursed shall You be when You come in and cursed shall You be when You go out. The heavens which is over Your head shall be bronze. ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? And the earth which is under you iron, men mocked Him.
You shall be a whore, a proverb, a taunt among all the people. If He’s God’s Son, let Him cry out to God. Let’s see if God delivers Him. Let all these curses come upon You and pursue You and overtake You until You are destroyed.
Now listen to this. Because You would not obey the Lord Your God by keeping His commandments and His statutes, which He commanded You.
I want you to think about something. Again the Jehovah Witnesses sometimes come to my house and I tell them very clearly after I’ve dealt with them for a while, you listen to me: Jehovah’s only ever had one witness and He was Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
And furthermore, to everyone you ought to know this. Jehovah’s only ever had one servant. One true servant, one real servant. One servant who obeyed every demand of the covenant, every demand of the law. He’s only ever had one, and it was Jesus Christ.
This is what you should hear. Let all these curses come upon you. You should hear this at the bar of God. Let all these curses come upon you and pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed. Because you would not obey the Lord your God by keeping His commandments and His statutes, which He commanded you.
Every one of us should hear that. But instead of us the covenant breakers, hearing that the only one who ever kept the covenant heard it, it was pronounced over Him.
I find it interesting. There’s a passage in the book of Proverbs. It says this: like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying. So a curse without cause does not alight. (Proverbs 26:2)
There was no cause ever for a curse to alight upon the impeccable Lamb of God. But because our sin was imputed to Him, that curse did alight upon the branch and broke it in two.
Listen to this. Christ bore our sin upon Calvary. He was cursed; again from the Old Testament. He was cursed as a man who makes an idol and sets it up in secret. He was cursed as one who disowns his father or mother, who moves his neighbor’s boundary mark, or misleads a blind person on the road. He was cursed as one who distorts the justice due an alien, orphan, and widow. He was cursed as one who is guilty of every manner of immorality and perversion, who wounds his neighbor in secret or accepts a bribe to strike down the innocents. He was cursed as one who does not confirm all the words of the law by doing them.
That’s what Christ suffered for you. And in suffering this well, let me say this.
Just listen to this text from Psalm 32: ‘How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. How blessed is the man whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.’
Yet on the cross. Sin was imputed to Christ, and Christ was exposed before God in the host of heaven. He was placarded before men and made a spectacle to angels and devils alike. The transgressions He bore were not forgiven Him, and the sins He carried were not covered. If a man is counted blessed because iniquity is not imputed to him, then Christ was cursed beyond all measure, because all the iniquity of all of us was imputed to Him.
Now, when they renewed the covenant in Moab, there was a special warning given. Of all the warnings I read in Scripture, I don’t know why this one terrifies me the most of the roaring of the law against men.
It says this: the anger of the Lord and His jealousy will burn against that man, the covenant breaker, the law breaker. And every curse which is written in this book will rest on him, that’s you and the Lord will blot out his name from under heaven.
Now listen to this: Then the Lord will single him out for adversity from all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant which are written in the book of this law.
You, sir, should be singled out. Yes, you have a strong chest and a boasting tongue when you’re with a multitude of other sinners. But on the day of judgment, God will single you out and your chest will fall. It will cave in. It will not stop till it reaches your back. Your breath will be gone from you. He will single you out for adversity, for all the curses of the law will fall upon your head.
But in place of doing that to His people, God singled out the Messiah, the only one of Israel that was true Israel. He singled Him out for adversity, and He crushed Him under all the curses of the book of the Law.
He did that for you. He did that for you.
Do you remember the priestly blessing in Numbers chapter 6?
Let’s just turn there and read the positive side of that.
In Number six, verse 23, ‘Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, ‘thus you shall bless the sons of Israel, you shall say to them, the Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His countenance on you and give you peace.’
This I take directly from Dr. Sproul. But in order for that to be a reality for you, the Lord blessing you, the Lord lifting up His countenance upon you, the Lord caring for you, delighting in you, setting His face and His good pleasure upon you. In order for all that to happen, this is what had to happen to the Christ on the tree of Calvary.
The Lord curse you and give you over to destruction. The Lord take the light of His presence from you and condemn you. The Lord turn His face from you and fill you with misery.
Now, one of the greatest travesties in the preaching of the Gospel has to do with the garden of Gethsemane. And it is a perfect illustration of just how wrong we are.
Here we have Jesus Christ in the garden of Gethsemane, and three times He cries out, let this cup pass from Me. Three times He cries out to the point where the anguish is so great that blood escapes Him, it passes through His skin. If ever a man knew anguish, it was at that moment.
And then I hear preachers say this oh, the cruelty of the Roman cross, that Christ was there. And he was just almost beside Himself with the thought He could see into the future. And He could see that cat of nine tails coming across His back, and He could see that spear in His side, and He could see the crown of thorns on His head. He could see the mocking, He could see the nails. And He did not want to go to Calvary. That’s rubbish. It’s rubbish.
And I’ll prove it to you. After Christ’s death, thousands, tens of thousands of Christians were killed in the following generations, and many of them were crucified upside down, covered with tar and set on fire to provide lights for the streets of Rome.
And if the stories are true and we have no reason to doubt them. Those disciples, those followers of Jesus, went to the crosses singing and counting it all joy to follow their Master.
So are you going to tell me that these disciples are joyfully embracing a cross, yet the Captain of their salvation cowers in a garden and begs God to take it away from Him?
Do you honestly think He feared what a Roman soldier could do to Him? I’m not taking anything away from the physical sufferings of Christ. They are crucial. They are important. It had to be a bloody terrible death.
But you must understand, he was not afraid of a Roman lash. He knew that on that tree He would bear the iniquity of His people and His own Father would crush Him.
I heard a preacher one time blaspheme… blaspheme God, because this is what he said. He said, you want to know what was in the cup? I’ll tell you what was in the cup. It was the anger of the devil against him. And Christ knew what the devil was going to do to Him. That type of preaching deserves a lashing. It deserves being put in the stocks.
What was in the cup? I was at a reformed school years ago. I’ll never forget this as long as I live. What a blessed school.
I walk in and they said, Brother Paul, what are you going to teach in chapel today? I just arrived.
I said, Well, I need to know the ages because I’m thinking about teaching on propitiation.
And he said, oh, that will be great.
And I said, but what are the ages?
He said, Ought to be from first grade to 12th grade.
And I said, well…
he said, Brother Paul, it won’t be a problem here.
Okay. So I got up, and as I was preaching, I asked this question to the student body: what was in the cup? And I’ll never forget this little eight year old girl, eight or nine years old. She raised her hand and I go, yes, in pure reformed fashion, she stood up, stood beside her desk, put her hand on her desk, very proper, and she said, sir, the wrath of Almighty God was in the cup.
Out of the mouth of Babes.
Later on, I went to the second grade professor and he said, well, Brother Paul, I should have told you, I’m so sorry. We’ve been teaching on propitiation now for six weeks in the second grade.
Listen to this. Jeremiah 25:15: ‘For thus the Lord the God of Israel says to me, take this cup of the wine of wrath from My hand and cause all the nations to whom I send you to drink it. And they will drink and stagger and go mad because of the sword I am sending among them.’
The wrath of God rightly should have been poured out on you and on that tree it was poured out upon Christ.
Imagine for a moment, a dam that’s 10,000 miles high and 10,000 miles wide, and it’s filled to the brim with water. And you’re in a little village an 8th of a mile from the dam at the very foot of the thing, and all of a sudden, in 1 second, the entire wall is pulled away and that destructive force is running toward you and toward your city, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
The fleet of foot cannot escape, the strong swimmer cannot endure the torrent. You are going to die. And right before it can splash a speck upon your dress, the ground opens up and swallows the whole thing down. So the wrath of God was satisfied on that tree, so that not one drop would ever fall upon the people of God.
Imagine two gigantic millstones, one, 10,000 pounds, the other twice the size, one on top of the other, turning counter each other, grinding everything in between them. And you take a tiny kernel of wheat and you stick it in there between the rocks. In a millisecond, the [intros] bust out of the thing and by time it makes its way around to you, there’s nothing left. So it pleased Yahweh to crush Him and satisfy justice, the justice of God, and appease the wrath of God against you.
Now, I want to share with you. I’m not a scholar and I’m not a great reader. I find, I read something and about five minutes later I can’t even tell you what I read. But the little I am able to read, I love John Flavel. He makes my heart just sing.
And here is something that Flavel wrote. It’s a dialogue between the Father and the Son regarding fallen humanity. I call it the Father’s bargain.
This is what Flavel says: here you may suppose the Father to say when driving His bargain with Christ for you. People don’t talk that way anymore. And because of we’re dry, and whenever Christianity pales, beauty dies. Understand that in literature and everything, says here you may suppose the Father to say when driving His bargain with Christ for you.
The Father speaks, ‘My Son, here is a company of poor, miserable souls that have utterly undone themselves and now lie open to My justice.’
Now, one of the things that comes out here to me that’s so amazing is when we think of justice or wrath, we think of this convoluted mess of emotions that are twisted and changing and full of shadow. But just look, I know this is not inspired writing, but just look at what Flavel is saying here.
Look at the way the Father, the majesty of it. Yes, His wrath is burning. But just the strength of His character, the consistency of all His attributes.
Here is a company of poor, miserable souls that have utterly undone themselves and now lie open to My justice.
It’s no uncontrolled fury, no reaction, as Brother Waldron was talking about, no crazy reaction against us. A settled, sovereign, perfect response. Justice demands satisfaction for them or will satisfy itself in the eternal ruin of them.
You know, people debate on and on, why is hell eternal? And there are all sorts of reasons that are given. Oftentimes it’s well, sins are infinitely heinous because committed against infinitely good God. Many things such as that.
But there’s one thing I wish that you would think about on this matter. Do you honestly suppose that those in hell ever repent or demonstrate love toward God?
You see, the hatred of man against God is so great that still, if the doors of hell were flown open, the only reason why men might even think about leaving is out of self preservation. There’s nothing of genuine repentance. There’s nothing of a genuine recognition of sin. There is nothing. There would still be nothing of appreciation for God. Even if He saved them at that moment, they would still curse Him at the moment of salvation.
I honestly believe that if God threw open the doors of hell, said, come out, bow your knee, the door would slam and the voice would cry out, I’d rather rot in hell than bow my knee to You.
Young person, listen to me. Some of you have been raised in Christian home and possibly you’re in rebellion. And I’ve seen many Christian young people say this. I’ll get back at my parents the Day of Judgment when I’m thrown in hell, they will weep and be broken.
Let me tell you something. On the Day of Judgment, your parents will raise their hands to heaven and declare that the God, the Judge of all the Earth, has done right with you. There’ll be no one standing with you on that day. No one.
Now the Son responds, ‘Oh, My Father, such is My love too and pity for them.’
You know what man’s problem is? He doesn’t want pity. You pity me.
One of the first signs of regeneration of a work of God in the soul of man is pity is precious to him. He desires pity.
He said, ‘Such is My love to and pity for them.’
Now, I want you also to think about this. Everything that John Piper says about God doing everything for His own glory. That is true. It’s true, okay?
But I think a lot of people are looking at it the wrong way. Not Dr. Piper, but a lot of people quote him all the time.
Because God does everything for His own glory, then they turn His love into almost a mechanical show offy thing that’s not really real, but that’s not true.
I want you to know God really loves you. He really loves; it’s not a thing He has to do because He made a covenant. It’s not just a thing He does to show how great He is. He really does love.
I love that thing. When basically it’s something like Israel is looking at God and saying, Why did you love me? And His answer is, ‘Well, I loved you because I loved you.’
Because I loved you. God is love.
And I have no problem whatsoever, no searing of my conscience when I preach to the whole world that God is love. God is love. And He’s manifested His love to absolutely everyone who has ever walked on this planet. And it is the love of God that will condemn men on that day. He really loves you. He really does.
And He says, ‘Father, such is my love to and my pity for them that rather than they shall perish eternally, I will be responsible for them as their guarantee.’ Just think I’ll be responsible. ‘Bring in all Thy bills, Father, that I may see what they owe Thee.’
You know, a lot of times men romantically jump into a situation feeling full of love, only to see how horrid the situation is. And they back out after they have greater understanding of that commitment.
What Christ is saying here is, Father, bring in all Thy bills.
When He went to that cross, He knew exactly what He had to pay. It wasn’t some romanticism. It wasn’t something that He thought would be splendid. He knew the horror of the cross, and He went there anyway.
And think about this. This is one of the most beautiful things, and it so affects marriage. And it’s this: He went there for a bride that did not want Him and who was dirty and filthy. He did all this when we were still sinners. He did all this when we were vile. He did all this when it was His bride who was crying out, crucify Him.
What a love. He says, ‘Bring in all Thy bills that I may see what they owe Thee. Father, bring them all in.’
Now, listen to this, Christian. I’m telling you, Christian, if you could grasp this what I’m going to tell you here, you will be so happy, happy all the days of your life. And it’s this: ‘Bring in all Thy bills that I may see what they owe Thee, Lord. Bring them all in that there may be no after reckonings with them.’
Just know after reckonings.
Now, a carnal, wicked church member will hear that and say, well, then, let’s just sin that grace may abound, but a truly converted, truly regenerate heart goes, oh, I want to be so much more holy. I want to follow Him in such a deeper, greater way.
Why, there are no after reckonings. I’m free. I mean, you’re free. You really are free. And I don’t know how to say it. I thought, I’ve written, I’ve done everything, but it just comes out the same. You’re free, you’re loved. You don’t live in a world; you don’t understand.
Listen, the world doesn’t teach us this. Everything in the world is conditional. Everything in the world is performance. But in the kingdom of heaven, you have finally walked through a door where you are just loved.
And you’re loved because of the character, the nature and the work of the one dispensing the love, and it has absolutely nothing to do with you. Therefore, it does not change. In Israel you are not destroyed, that there be no after.
‘Reckonings with him, at My hand shall Thou require it. I would rather choose to suffer their wrath, the wrath due them, than that they should suffer it. Upon Me, my Father. Upon Me be all their debt.’
And the Father says, ‘But, My Son’, now listen. ‘If Thou undertake for them, Thou must reckon to pay the last mite, the last penny; expect no abatements.’
We would be on the Amazon river and the boat we had it never had a proper roof, so if a deluge was coming down the river, it could sink a boat in five minutes. So you were making your way to the shore and you were praying for an abatement. You were hoping that as you look down that river, that cloud would split and go around you, or that it would just die where it hung. Please let it abate. Please. When it gets here, there’ll be nothing left.
But the Father looks at the Son and He says this: ‘Thou must reckon to pay the last mite. Expect no abatement’; no diminishing of the punishment. Now listen to this: ‘If I spare them, I will not spare Thee.’
‘Content, Father, let it be so. Charge it all upon Me. I am able to discharge it.’ Right there is a declaration of the deity of Jesus Christ. I am able to discharge it.
Oh, this foolish songwriting that goes on. Oh, God looked all over heaven and couldn’t find an angel willing, he looked all over earth and couldn’t find a man clean enough. Crucify a million angels, crucify a million holy men. Only Christ, and Christ alone could pay this debt. He’s the only one who could do it. Though it impoverished all my riches, empty all my treasures, yet I am content to undertake it. Love brings a contentment.
He treats this as almost a small thing because of His greatness of His love toward His bride.
Now, we’ll finish with just this: in the Old Testament narrative, the epic saga of Abraham and Isaac. God says this to Abraham, take now your son, your only son, whom you love. Do you think God is pointing to something else here, let me share with you something again.
I’m not much of a scholar, but I have come to believe this. Don’t talk to me about the Old Testament just being a book of morality. If it’s a book of morality, it has very little help for me. Now, it does have a morality, it does have a law, and it does have an ethic. But that Old Testament is sweet to me because I see Jesus all over it.
Now, they say I read too many puritans and I’m too extravagant with my interpretation, but nonetheless, it is a blessing to my soul to see Christ in every jot and tittle.
‘Now take your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.’
So can you imagine? We have no account in Scripture of Isaac putting up any sort of battle, seems to submit to the will of his father, and then his father submits his will to that of God and possibly places his hand on the brow of his only son, his son whom he loved. And as he’s bringing down the knife upon his breast to slaughter him, he hears a voice that says, ‘Abraham, Abraham, do not stretch out your hand against the lad and do nothing to him, for now I know that you fear God since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.’ (Genesis 22:12)
Abraham turns around and he finds a ram in the thicket caught by its horns. We have the blessed name of Jehovah Jireh. The Lord will provide.
Now listen to me. I am not such a specimen as you would fear me, but if you ever want me to stop you dead in your tracks and in public in front of your friends and embarrass you, then you use this terminology, Jehovah Jireh, and you apply it to some Mercedes Benz you just bought.
When people do that, it just shows that they want a Mercedes Benz more than they want the Christ, more than they want salvation. I want you to know I used to think all these people following Joel Osteen and following all this other stuff, these poor people being driven away, no, Joel Osteen is the judgment of God upon those people, and I’ll tell you why. They want exactly what he wants and therefore they follow him.
Jehovah Jireh. The Lord will provide.
Let me ask you a question. What does He got to provide you? He has provided a lamb without spot. If my tongue rot in my head, if my arms come off my body, if I’m cast away by all my friends and cleaning myself with a pot shirt, I still demanded of me that I raised my hands and cry out that God is good because He has provided; on the Mount He provided.
You see, guys, listen to me. This is what drives your life. It’s just Him. You become a prisoner. It isn’t about courage, it isn’t about boldness, it isn’t about extreme this or extreme that. You become a prisoner.
When Paul said that he was a prisoner in chains, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, he wasn’t talking about what the Romans were doing to him. He was constrained by this magnificent story that captured his life and would not let him go. It even doesn’t have so much to do with the practice of personal piety. It has to do with being comprehended, apprehended, captured by the Son. Just Him.
And if you do it for any other reason than Him, it’s idolatry.
The world has only said it right when everything is about Jesus.
Now the curtain comes to a close, doesn’t it? The boy is saved. Ram in the thicket, an old man happy. The promises of God continue on.
The curtain closes and everyone goes. What a beautiful ending to the story. It wasn’t the ending. It was the intermission.
Generation after generation later, the curtains open again and there is a cross and there is God’s Son, His only Son, whom He loved.
Do you honestly think a ram in the thicket can save a man? It can only point in a very, very minute way to the one who can save a man.
And then God lays His hand upon the brow of His only begotten Son and takes that knife out of the hand of Abraham and He slaughters Him.
It’s an old poem, years ago. Offer up the sacrifice.
Creation sends forth the call. Offer up the sacrifice. One life to pay for them all. Offer up the sacrifice, the innocent one must be slain. Offer up the sacrifice and bring man back to God again.
Except it wasn’t creation sending forth the call. It was God sending forth the call. He not only made the demand, He supplied everything that was needed.
And now those of us who believe, we can now say to God something that God said to Abraham. God, my God, I know that You love me since You have not withheld Your Son, Your only Son, whom You love from Me.
I think that one of the reasons that I am… I think one of the reasons I’m very limited in my intellect and everything else is it causes a man to focus. I know one thing. Jesus Christ shed His own blood for my soul.
I know one thing. But praise God, by the grace of God, the one thing I know is the most important thing. He shed His own blood for my soul.
I want my little boys one day to be captivated, to be walking around in their room going, He shed His own blood for my soul.
Daddy, do you know what this means? It means everything. It means at one moment, everything is lost and everything is gained.
Dad, how can that be so? I don’t know, son. I’ve been walking with Him for 50 years and I don’t know.
He shed His own blood for your soul.
And you see what happens when we turn this into four spiritual laws or five things God wants you to know when we just say, Jesus died for you.
Listen to me, again, I want to go back to this. You young men who came here this weekend, you must be the best theologian you can be so that you can say these things to people. They need more than even Christian cliches that are correct.
You see, an evangelist, a preacher is not just a proclaimer. He is also a scribe. He’s an instructor. He sits down and explains to the Ethiopian what this means.
But there’s also in that there must be a mixture of passion. But let me give you a little thing that I’ve devised that’s helped me. If anybody ever tells you that theology and doctrine will make a heart cold, that is the most nonsensical statement that could ever… nothing more stupid or stupider or whatever could ever be said.
Why? Theology is the study of God. Now, bad theology can cool your heart, but biblical theology will never cool you. It will set you on fire. That’s why I sit there.
You read Hodge and read Gill and read all these people and Flavel, and you read them and you just sit there and you just put the book down and you fall on the floor. Because what’s really neat, they’re saying the very things that God has shown you. They can just say it a lot better, but you’re going the same Holy Spirit bore witness to me about this. They just they just know how to communicate it.
I want you to study fathers. You can’t have a passion to pour out on your children without this. Go deep, go deep, go deep. Cultivate a love relationship with Christ. A love relationship.
I was out playing basketball today. That’s what you get for being a preacher of reform persuasion, playing basketball in the Sabbath. I was doing it, though, for the sake of some young souls, I guess. Don’t put that on YouTube because I’ll really get criticized.
But my speed was so great, as I accelerated, I tore a muscle in my calf. But you know what? Because of theology, I walked over, some guys said, let’s pray. We pray. And while they’re praying, I’m just laughing. God, this was necessary. I’m just too athletic. It’s become an idol.
Just everything in your life. You’re sitting there and it’s just a loving God. It’s just a wonderful, loving God who has given us the signature, His guarantee in this cross and in His Son. In His Son.
And please, if there’s anyone here tonight and God has dealt with your soul and you don’t know whether or not you’re saved, we will stay here all night. And until tomorrow, whatever it takes to deal with your need of the gospel, we will not spend five minutes with you. We will not hand you a track and we will not pray a prayer with you. We will deal with you until the Holy Spirit has bore witness to your heart that he has done a work. And that’s a promise.
Father, I thank you for the kindness manifested in the cross of Jesus Christ. I thank you so much for Jesus Christ. I thank you for the people that are here and the privilege to be here. Lord, do a work in souls. Let there be a return on prayers, a return on preaching that the Lamb might receive the full reward of His suffering and that Your name be great among the nations. In Jesus name, amen.
Resources for Further Reading:
- Preparing for Hard Times: David Wilkerson (Transcript)
- The Healing of the Troubled Mind: David Wilkerson (Transcript)
- Priscilla Shirer: You’re Right Where You Need to Be (Transcript)
- R.C. Sproul: What Is Evil & Where Did It Come From? (Transcript)
- Israel, Hamas, and End Times: Gary Hamrick (Transcript)