The Good News
May 28th, 1972 @ 10:50 AM
1 Corinthians 15:3-4
THE GOOD NEWS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 15:3-4
5-28-72 10:50 a.m.
The title of the message today is The Good News, the glad tidings, the gospel, the God story, the good story. And it is a message from the first verses of the fifteenth chapter of the first Corinthian letter:
My brethren, I declare unto you, I make known unto you, I define for you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye received, wherein ye stand:
And by which ye are saved. For I delivered unto you first of all
Not chronologically, but with emphasis, the most important of all:
For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
And that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.
[1 Corinthians 15:1-4]
Not a dead Christ on a crucifix, but a living Christ raised from the dead, at the right hand of God, living to make mediatorial intercession for us, and coming again in power and great glory.
"Brethren, I declare, I make known unto you the gospel, the euangelion." You could translate that several ways. It is translated several ways in the New Testament; eu, the Greek word e-u, eu, "beautiful, good, well, glad," eu; angelos, "angel, a messenger"; euaggelos, the good message, the glad tidings, the good news, the gospel. Our Anglo-Saxon forefathers tried to take that word euangelion and spell it out exactly in good old Anglo-Saxon language. So they took euangelion and made it "God spell," spell, story, tale; the God story, or, the good story, the good news, the glad tidings. "Brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which ye received, wherein ye stand, by which ye are saved." What is that? "That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures" [1 Corinthians 15:3-4]. And then, as I turn the page in that chapter, that, "He is coming" [1 Corinthians 15:23]; when the dead in Christ are raised and raptured, and the whole earth beholds the glory of the Son of God. That is the gospel.
When you send a missionary out to preach the gospel, what does he preach? That’s the gospel, if he preaches the gospel, that Christ died for our sins, that He was buried, that the third day He was raised from the dead, and He is coming in majesty and glory. That’s what a minister preaches, when he preaches the gospel.
When you go to church and the pastor delivers God’s message, the gospel, what does he preach? If he preaches the gospel, that’s what it is: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; that He was buried, and the third day He was raised for our justification; and some glorious, triumphant, consummating day, He is coming again to be the Lord and Prince and God manifest, God in person, of the whole creation. That is the gospel!
"Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; He was buried, and the third day, He rose again according to the Scriptures" [1 Corinthians 3-4]. As Paul discusses it here, in the fifteenth chapter, he uses an illustration. "Else what shall they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not? why are they then baptized for the dead?" [1 Corinthians 15:29] That is, baptism is a symbol of, a dramatic presentation of the death, the burial, and the resurrection of our Lord.
I saw a man in Salt Lake City who had been baptized more than two thousand times. He was paid by genealogists who wanted him to be baptized for dead relatives. Oh, what a misconstruction of a plain, simple word from the apostle! The apostle says that baptism is a picture of the resurrection of Christ. And if there be no resurrection – – this is the argument in the fifteenth chapter of this book – – if there be no resurrection then why baptize? [1 Corinthians 15:29]. It loses its meaning. It has no pertinency. It has no picture whatsoever. For baptism is a picture of the burial and the resurrection of our Lord. And, of course, when we are baptized, we are dead with Christ, buried with our Lord, and raised in the likeness of His glorious resurrection [Romans 6:3-5].
Not only is the gospel that, baptism pictures the gospel which is that, but Paul says, "I did not originate it, nor did I invent it. I am not an originator. I am not an inventor. I am not an innovator. The message does not come from me. I am but a voice that declares it for I delivered unto you that which I also received" [1 Corinthians 15:3].
And any true preacher and any true messenger of Christ is that. He’s not standing in the sacred place to deliver his speculations, or his original thoughts, or his persuasions and philosophy of life; but the preacher has one mandate and one true assignment, and that is to deliver the message of God that is delivered to him in the Book. And that’s all. He is a voice. He is a spokesman. He is a declarer. He is a deliverer and that’s all.
The message does not originate in him. It comes from God. He’s no speculator. He’s no innovator. He is a man with a message to deliver. "For I delivered unto you that which I also received, how that," and then he defines the gospel. That is the office and the mandate and the high calling of the preacher.
I remember, in these years gone by, when the King of England made an address to the American nation. It was brief. It was about six, seven, eight minutes long. But to the consternation and frustration of the technicians, when the king began to speak, a cable broke. There was no time for repair. There was no time for new parts, because the deliverer was ready to speak, the king of England, to America! And the next day I read in the newspapers that a technician in the control room, seeing the cable broken and pulled apart, he took one end of the cable with this hand, and the other end of the cable with that hand, and the message of the king was delivered to the nation through the body of the technician in the control room. And when I read it, I thought, "That is exactly and precisely the definite definition and delineation of the assignment of the true preacher." He is a deliverer, and the message passes through his mind, and his heart, and his soul, and every fiber of his being!
He preaches, not something he invents, but something God has revealed from heaven, and he has received it in faith and assurance. "My brethren, I make known unto you the gospel. I delivered unto you that which I received: how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, and the third day He was raised again according to the Scriptures."
Now, he defines that, a euangelion, a glad tidings, a good news. May I point out to you a passage where that word is used, and you don’t realize it? In the second chapter of the Book of Luke, an angel appears. And he says to the startled shepherds near Bethlehem, "Behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, in Bethlehem, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord" [Luke 2:10-11]. Now, right in the middle of that verse, "Behold, I bring you glad tidings," the word there is euangelion, "gospel," the good news, translated there – – and beautifully so – – "glad tidings." For the gospel is glad tidings, it’s good news. It’s glorious reporting! That’s what it is! That’s it.
Well, you wouldn’t think it from most of us, would you? Here’s a fellow who has a good case of religion. Why, you’d think that he has, Dr. Bagwell, the measles or the smallpox or he’s sick. He ought to go to bed. He’s got religion. He looks that way. He’s somber, and lugubrious, and melancholy, and pious. He wouldn’t dare laugh. It’d crack his face or crack his religion. Oh dear, how opposite! The gospel itself, that’s what it is. It’s the good news!
I heard of a vivacious girl who was full of laughter and lilt and gladness; and she was reprimanded for it. It crushed her. She went outside and saw a donkey there, with his long, long face. She put her arms around that donkey’s neck, and stroking the hair on the donkey, said, "You are the most religious person I’ve ever seen. You’ve got religion." Isn’t that a shame? Oh what a travesty! For Paul says it’s the good news!
How many people define religion in terms of dull, stupid, dry sermons? That’s religion and you sit there and listen to it. By the way, I had more compliments this morning than I’ve had in memory. I don’t know how many of these teenagers came to me this morning after the service and said, "We want you to know that your sermons aren’t dull, dry, and stupid!" I like that. They may be dull, dry, and stupid, but I don’t want them to think that.
And yet, we define religion so many times in terms of sermonic listening. No! it’s something that flames, and burns, and rises in your soul! It’s the good news! So many people think of religion as being not pertinent. Why, we’re on the back stream of life, we’re in the eddies somewhere; and the great flowing, moving of life, and time, and history just passing us by. No. We’re in the mainstream of it! We are what it’s about. This is it. If you want to know where it’s at, here it is. It’s right here! That’s the good news of the gospel, the glad tidings of God.
I so well remember when our American soldiers made their last stand in the Philippine islands, on Bataan, and then in the fortress of Corregidor. And when Corregidor finally fell, there followed after the sorrowful, death march of Bataan. Our American soldiers fell out of rank, dying like flies. And those that remained were severely and tragically incarcerated in the Philippine islands.
MacArthur came back as he said. He returned to the Philippines; and the first assignment of those invading American soldiers was to liberate the prisoners of the death march of Bataan. And what I read in the papers describing that liberation was this, that those American soldiers, finding the camp, immediately took snippers and began to cut all of that wire that imprisoned our fainting and dying American men. And the first inkling that the prisoners had that something was happening was the sound of those snippers cutting the wire. They thought, the prisoners thought, our American soldiers thought that it was the Japanese getting ready to execute them all. And it threw them into fear and consternation. But the men, the American soldiers, with those wire cutters, when they saw their fellow soldiers in fear, said to them, "Steady there men, steady boy, steady men; the Yanks are here! They’ve come, we’re here."
And isn’t that what you’d call good news? You’re free. You’re liberated. We’ve come back for you. That’s good news. That’s the gospel. Wouldn’t it be the most marvelous news in this earth if our American prisoners of war, who have fallen out of those airplanes and are now incarcerated behind bars and stone walls in Vietnam, wouldn’t it be good news if the Yanks, the American soldiers were to be able to come there and say, "Steady there, men; you’re free?" That’s good news. That’s the gospel, the euangelion.
At the turn of this century, there broke out in Wales – – that boy married a girl from Wales; Hugh Bishop’s wife, our intern from Spurgeon’s College in England, is married to a full blooded Welsh girl. At the turn of the century there was a mighty revival, a tremendous one in Wales, and it was led by one Evan Roberts. He set the whole nation to singing.
I’ve read many descriptions of the revival in Wales. Those colliers would come out of the mines, arm in arm, singing. They’d walk down the village streets and the streets of the cities singing. The whole world there turned to glorious happiness and rejoicing. It was revival. And one of the songs that they sang, I copied down. I read it to you. It is called "The Good News." Listen to it:
The Lord was slain on Calvary!
That’s the news, that’s the news!
To set a world of sinners free,
That’s the news! that’s the news!.
‘Twas there His precious blood was shed,
‘Twas there He bowed His sacred head,
But now He’s risen from the dead,
That’s the news! that’s the news!
His works reviving all around,
That’s the news! that’s the news!
And many have salvation found,
That’s the news! that’s the news!
And since these souls have caught the flame,
They shout Hosannas in His name,
And all around they spread His fame;
That’s the news! that’s the news!
Where’er we meet, you always say,
What’s the news? What’s the news?
Pray, what’s the order of the day?
What’s the news! What’s the news?
O! I’ve got good news to tell!
My Savior has done all things well,
And triumphed over death and hell;
That’s the news! that’s the news!
[from "What’s the News"; author unknown, the Ulster Revival of 1859]
Imagine singing a song like that. Hilpin, why don’t we sing songs like that? I’m getting religion. I feel it in my soul.
Well, what’s the good news? He calls it the gospel, the euangelion, the glad tidings. What’s the good news? Now we could be here all day long, but I’m choosing one or two or three. What’s the good news? One: the one that Paul says first, one: "God, Christ, has taken our sins away." That’s the good news. "I delivered to you, first of all, that which I received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" [1 Corinthians 15:3]. He has taken our sins away:
Scarcely for a righteous man would one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would dare to die.
But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin;
that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.
[2 Corinthians 5:21]
That’s the good news! Christ has taken our sins away! As the Scriptures say, "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us" [Psalm 103:12]. How far is that? If one journeyed west and always went west, and one journeyed east and always went east, how far would that be? That’s how far God has taken our sins away. That’s the good news. Christ has died for our sins. He has taken them away.
There’s a rock song that I hear often when driving over the city of Dallas in visitation. There’s a song that I hear. If I’d have known I was going to use that, say this today, I’d have learned the crazy thing, and we might have a session here, be worth looking at it if I were to try to sing it for you. Now don’t laugh. I mean good singing, my singing that song. Well, here’s the song:
I want to go down to the river,
There’s a Man there walking on the water
His name is Jesus,
Here comes Jesus, walking on the water
He’ll save you, and set you free;
He’s the ruler of the waves that roll.
He’ll forgive your sins, and make you whole
His name is Jesus, He’s down at the river,
He’s baptizing to wash our sins away
Now do you recognize it, anybody? That’s something of it, you know. Oh man, when I hear them sing that, I say, "That’s glorious. That’s the gospel!" Jesus has washed our sins away! [1 John 1:7]. He’ll set you free! That’s what baptism pictures, among other things, that He washes our sins away. That’s the good news.
What’s the good news? This is the good news, that He is Conqueror over death and the grave. "For He must reign," Paul writes, "till He hath put all enemies under His feet, and the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" [1 Corinthians 15:25-26]. What’s the good news? He hath conquered death and the grave.
There are many scholarly critics who say that the highest watermark of all the revelation in the Bible is this fifteenth chapter of the first Corinthian letter. And the fifteenth chapter in the first Corinthian letter is a presentation of the resurrection of the dead; how we in Christ have triumphed over death and the grave! That’s the good news. Now Paul says all death can do is to reach, to destroy this outer, carnal, Adamic nature in man, the somatic body. And for it God shall give us another body, a glorious immortalized body. "This I say unto you, my brethren," he writes:
Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. But I show you a mystery;
We may not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we, we shall all be changed!
[1 Corinthians 15:50-52]
That’s the good news. We have triumphed in Christ over death and the grave. And this mortal flesh, that goes to feed worms and turns back into corruption and dust, is but an exchange for the glorious body that God has prepared for us in heaven. As Paul says in the Book, this body, this second, this Adamic nature, this house we live in; "It is planted in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is planted in dishonor; it is raised in glory: It is planted in weakness; it is raised in power: It is planted a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body" [1 Corinthians 15:42-44]. That’s the good news. In Christ we have triumph and victory over death and the grave.
What’s the good news? This is the good news: that for us, judgment is past. It is past. We shall never be judged. All that abides and remains for us is we shall stand at the bema of Christ to receive the rewards, the crown that God has prepared [2 Corinthians 5:10]. But we’ll never be judged. Our judgment was at the cross; and the judgment is past for us. As Paul will say in Romans 8:1; "There is therefore now no condemnation," the Greek word is judgment. "There is therefore now no condemnation, no judgment to them who are in Christ Jesus."
"Verily, verily I say unto you," our Lord said, "he that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath eternal life, and is passed out of judgment into life" [John 5:24]. It is past for us. It is gone for us. We will never be judged, never! Our judgment is past; it’s done for. It’s gone.
I remember as a boy in northwest Texas, sometimes that high plain, flat prairie land of the Panhandle would burst into fire. An awesome thing is a raging, rampaging, running prairie fire. When the grass is high and dead, and the wind is blowing, and it races, it’s a furious spectacle. Why, I can remember every able bodied man in the little town where I was fetched up called out to fight the fire; the whole earth seemed to be on fire. I’d seen those things from horizon to horizon. And here’s what they’d say to you: "If you stand in the way of a running, raging prairie fire, start a fire around you. Burn all of the grass around you. Then when it is burned, stand in the middle of it. And when the raging prairie fire comes, it can’t touch you for it’s already past for you. You’re already standing where the fire has already burned!" That’s it. That’s the good news. Our judgment is already past; it’s over with.
And how hard that is for us to realize; how many times will we read where God forgives our sins? How many times do we read where the Lord has liberated us and given us freedom, written our names in the Book of Life [Luke 10:20], saved us forever? We can never be lost. His Word is at stake, and God wouldn’t lie. "I give unto My sheep eternal life; and they shall never perish" [John 10:28]. How often do we stumble at that? It’s hard to realize, but it’s true, it’s true! That’s the good news! That’s it. That’s the gospel.
I don’t suppose there’s anybody in the world that ever told stories as illustrative and as moving as Dwight L. Moody. In preparing this message, let me tell you one that I read out of Moody. Moody said that the announcement was made in a state penitentiary of Ohio that they were going to keep secret records of all of the inmates of the penitentiary. And at such and such day, after the passing of such and such time, that there were six men who were going to be pardoned by the governor.
The records were kept. The day came. And all of the men in the penitentiary were assembled before the Ohio chief of state. And Moody said, in the story, that the governor took advantage of the occasion to make an elongated speech. But the men were so taut and tense, for there were six of them that day who were going to be free. As the governor continued to speak, and the tension mounted, that the chaplain of the institution finally rose and came to the governor and said, "Governor, the tension, the expectancy, the hope of the men is becoming unbearable. Governor, if you will, call the names of the six men, give them their pardon, and then continue with your address."
The governor said, "Yes," he acquiesced, "yes." So he called the name of the first man, "Will Reuben Johnson stand up and come forward and receive his pardon?" And no man stood up, much less come forward. And the governor called his name again, "Reuben Johnson"; and no man stood up. And he called it again, "Reuben Johnson." No man stood up.
And the chaplain, who knew the man, pointed to him from the rostrum and said, "Reuben Johnson, that’s you! Stand up." Now this life-termer had been so long in the penitentiary that he thought there must be another Reuben Johnson. So when the chaplain pointed toward him, Reuben Johnson turned around to see another Reuben Johnson who was to stand up and receive his pardon. The chaplain said, "Reuben, it is you. You, Reuben, stand up!"
And hesitantly Reuben Johnson stood up, and with timorous step made his way down to the front and received from the hand of the governor his full pardon. He went back to his seat. And after the service was over, why, the men under command stood up to get in file to go back to their iron cells. And as he’d done for years and years, Reuben Johnson stood up, fell into line to march back into his cell.
And the chaplain came to him and said, "Reuben, get out of line! Reuben, you’re a free man! You’re not a convict anymore. Reuben, you’ve got that pardon in your hand; you’re going to walk out of this penitentiary through those stone walls and those iron bars. You’re free. Reuben, step out of that line!"
And you know we’re so much like that. God’s made us free, the Lord has pardoned us. I’ve got the instrument in my hand, and yet you’d think from half the time that we act and believe that we’re still incarcerated, we’re still under judgment, we are still facing that interminable prison sentence. No! that’s the good news. Man, we’re free, O God! Let it be! Let it be. Let it be.
You know, Jenny Till’s going to join the church this morning, and her daddy and her mama are going to look at it. I’m going to give the invitation now, while we’re on television.
And anybody, you, to accept the goodness and mercy of God in Christ Jesus, to give your heart to the Lord, to come into the fellowship of the church, in the balcony round, you; on the lower floor, you; a family, a couple, any somebody you, coming, believing, trusting, giving your heart in faith and assurance, in victory and conquest, to put your life in His church with us, to accept the Lord as Savior, to come back home to God; or to us in the church, as the Spirit of Jesus shall press the appeal to your heart, make it now. Come now. On the first note of the first stanza, down one of these stairways, or into the aisle on this lower floor. "Here I am, pastor, and here I come." Make it now. Do it now. On the first note of the first stanza, come, and God bless you and give you victory in the way. While we stand and while we sing.
I realize – – ya’ll come on, right on down this aisle. I realize that in most every service when I give that appeal, those who are coming, come immediately. But often times – – come on up here, come on; God love you. But often times there are some who battle in their heart that decision. "Shall I answer God’s call with my life? Or shall I wait till some other time?" There’s no some other time with God. He says so. "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" [2 Corinthians 6:2]. We have no promise of any tomorrow. God could take away our very breath any moment, any day. If God calls, answer now, make it now. And if you battle in your heart, trust God for the victory, and come. Now all of us, let’s pray the best we know how.
Our Lord, in this moment of quiet, standing before Thee, bless this sweet couple who have come, and through them, Master, somebody else who does not quite know what to do, may they trust Thee for the answer. "Lord, here I am, take me, receive me, bless me. Here I come." While our people pray, and while the choir sings softly, if that somebody is you, answer now, come now. Maybe to give your life to the Lord in a new way, maybe to answer a call that the Spirit presses to your soul, however God would say the word, answer. Come now, do it now, while we pray and while we sing our song of appeal.