WITNESS OF CHRIST TO THE WORD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-16-80 10:50 a.m.
And we are no less grateful to the uncounted thousands of you who pray for us sharing the hour on radio and on television with all of us in the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor delivering the message entitled, The Witness of Christ to the Word, to the Bible. In our preaching through these morning hours, we are following a long series of doctrinal sermons. The series now is in bibliology, the doctrine of the Bible. The series at night, at seven o’clock, concerns human problems, and the message tonight is entitled Haman, the Gambler’s Fading Gold.
I have never lived in a gambler’s world, and there are ten thousand surprises about it. I never knew, for example, that eighty percent of American people gamble in some form or another. I never knew before that it is addictive. I never knew before that, as alcohol, one out of every ten who socially drink become alcoholics. And I never knew before that one out of ten who gamble become compulsive gamblers. Ah, it’s a whole world revealed to me. The title of the sermon tonight; Haman, the Gambler’s Fading Gold; the message this morning on the Bible; The Witness of Christ to the Word.
As a background text to the doctrinal message, we turn to Luke 24; the last chapter in the Third Gospel, Luke 24. And at verse 25, Jesus said unto them: “Ho anoetos. Ho, not understanding ones, not thinking ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory? And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” [Luke 24:25-27]. Verse 44: “And Jesus said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the Torah, in the Law of Moses.” That’s the first great division of the Hebrew Old Testament Scriptures. “Fulfilling all things written in the Torah, the Law of Moses, and in the Prophets” – the nevi’im. That’s the second great section, division, of the Hebrew Bible. “And in the Psalms,” the third great division of the Hebrew Old Testament Scriptures is the ketuvim, the Greek hagiographa; in English, “the Writings.” And the number one book in that section is the Psalms. So He uses the word “Psalms” for the whole ketuvim. “All things must be fulfilled written in the Torah, in the nevi’im, in ketuvim, concerning Me. Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures” [Luke 24:44-45]. The attitude, the witness of Christ to the Word of God, is all determinative to us who look upon Jesus as our Lord and Savior. The reverential love and devotion of the Orthodox Jew to the holy Old Testament Scriptures is one of the most moving and beautiful scenes you could ever look upon.
I was in Jerusalem shortly after the war of 1948 that ensued in the creation of the modern Israeli state, and they had just captured Mt. Zion, on the top of which is located the traditional tomb of King David. And they had turned the tomb, the building, into a synagogue. It was filled with worshippers, and especially Orthodox rabbis. And after reading the Torah, the Law of Moses, they kissed the words on the scroll, then they kissed the tassels of the scroll, then they kissed the sheath into which the scroll was beautifully and carefully and tenderly placed, then they kissed all of the sheath. Then they beautifully and reverently placed it in the ark. As I looked at those Jews and those rabbis and those dear people in their beautiful and reverential love for the Old Testament Scriptures, I could not help but think of our Lord who belonged to them – one of them: “salvation is of the Jews” [John 4:22] – and His own attitude and spirit of reverence, and devotion to the Word of God.
The Bible that Jesus loved is our Old Testament Scriptures, book for book, word for word. And the love that He had for that Book is the love that we enshrine in our hearts, in the same Book, the same Word. All of you who belong to this church and have listened to the pastor for so many years are of alike persuasion concerning the infallibility and inerrancy of the Word of God. Any church after five years is exactly like its pastor. They reflect his persuasion and convictions. So this congregation, having listened to the pastor now for thirty-seven years – this congregation has a deep, reverential, respect and love for the Word of God. But we are all most unique, peculiar, separate, apart.
When you look at the vast world of Christendom, and especially expressed in its academic community, the attitude of the academic, theological world is ever one of deep skepticism concerning the inspiration and the infallibility of the Word of God. And the contrast, the attitude and spirit of our Lord against the background of the modern, ordinary theological community – we have but to see it as the Lord speaks of it, and looks upon it, in contrast to the way they speak of it and they look upon it. For example, to them; to the liberal academic theological community – and by that I describe practically all of Christendom – to them, Adam and Eve are mythological characters. They were not real, nor was there any real garden of Eden. For the most part they are persuaded of Darwin’s theological explanation of where we came from. Our race grew out of some primordial ooze, and our forefathers were chimpanzees and orangutans and anthropoid apes and simian monkeys.
Against the background of that theological persuasion, the Lord Jesus, in the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Matthew [verse 4-6], will base the foundation of the home, of marriage, and of the family upon Adam and Eve – that God made one man for one woman, Adam for Eve, and Eve for Adam, and that she was taken out of his side, flesh of his flesh and bone of his bones [Genesis 2:21-24]. And that on that basis, of the original purpose of God, is founded the stability of marriage and the home. That is the Lord. And that is the Lord’s attitude toward the Bible.
Look again. To the whole liberal academic community – and as I say, I’m speaking of practically all of Christendom – Deuteronomy, the fifth book of Moses; Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy – to the whole liberal academic community, Deuteronomy is a forgery. It was a fake, pawned off on the Jewish nation in the days of King Josiah, a thousand years after Moses was supposed to have written it. That is the attitude of the academic community. But to the Lord Jesus, He quoted Deuteronomy as the word of Moses more than any other book in the Bible. That’s Jesus.
Look again. There’s not a liberal theologian in the world that believes in the authenticity of Daniel. To them, it is a spurious document and not written as it purports to be in, say, 600 BC, but written, actually, in 165 BC. And all of those marvelous prophecies in the Book of Daniel are actually history written back as though they were prophetic. The whole academic, liberal world believes, without exception, that Daniel is fakery and forgery and spurious documentation. But the Lord Jesus, in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Matthew, will speak of Daniel as a prophet [verse 15], the great prophet-statesman to whom God revealed the denouement and the consummation of history. That’s Jesus.
Take again. I don’t suppose there is a liberal theologian in the world but that laughs and scoffs and ridicules the idea that Jonah was ever swallowed by a great fish. To them it’s a royal joke. And when you read their writings, the fact that such a thing might ever be, betrays a weak and an adolescent mind. But to the Lord Jesus, as in the twelfth chapter of the Book of Matthew, He based the great fact of His resurrection upon the raising of Jonah out of the heart of the whale, out of the belly of the whale [verse 38-41]. That’s the Lord Jesus.
I remember one time, seated as you are there in this congregation, listening to Lee Scarborough, the president of the Southwestern Seminary and one of God’s great, noble men. And he was speaking about Jonah. And he said his little boy came in from Sunday school and said, “Daddy, I heard a story at Sunday school this morning that I just don’t believe.”
Dr. Scarborough said, “Well, son, what was it?”
And the little boy said, “Well, the story was about a man named Jonah, and that he’d been swallowed by a big fish, and that he lived in the belly of the fish three days, and then the fish vomited him up, and he’s still alive. And I just don’t believe any such thing as that.”
So the father, Dr. Scarborough, called the little boy to his side and said, “Well, son, let’s go into my study here and let’s sit down together, because I also have trouble with Jonah.”
So they sat down together and the great preacher said to his little boy, “Now, you say, what is your problem?”
And the little boy said, “Well, Daddy, I just don’t believe such a thing as that – that a big fish swallowed a man named Jonah, and lived down there three days in the belly of that fish, and he vomited him up still alive. I just don’t believe that.”
And the great preacher said, “Well, son, I also have a problem with that story, only my problem is a little different from you. What I can’t understand is how God could make a man. I don’t understand that. And I don’t understand how God could make a fish. I don’t understand that. If I could understand how God could make a man and how God could make a great fish, it would be easy for me to understand how He could put them together.”
That’s Jesus. To Jesus, the miracle of the mightiness of God is the ordinary. And when you look around you, if you will look with an unbiased mind, God signs His name to everything that He does: “miracle, supernatural, inexplicable.” We don’t understand anything, nor do we explain anything. We just observe it and marvel. And if you are of a mind to be a Christian, to bow in the presence of the great maker and praise His name, that’s Jesus.
Look again, just once again. We could continue this for hours; the attitude of our Lord toward the Word of God. He would say, “Till heaven and earth pass away, not one jot” – that’s a little yod – “and not one tittle” – that’s the little horn on the ‘t,’ the tet of the Hebrew alphabet. “There is not one jot or one tittle that will pass away from the law until all these things be fulfilled” [Matthew 5:18]. What an astonishing statement! This heaven and this earth may pass away, disintegrate, burn up with unquenchable fire, but God’s Word shall stand forever. That’s one reason I love my favorite verse: “The grass withereth, and the flower fadeth, but the word of God shall stand forever” [Isaiah 40:8]. That is the Lord Jesus.
Look at our Lord again, in His attitude, in His spirit toward the Word of God. He came preaching. If I could quote Mark, He came preaching with a Bible in His hand [Mark 1:14-15]. In the beautiful passage you just read, as He began His Messianic ministry there in the town of Nazareth in which He grew up, as His custom was, He went to church, He went to the synagogue. And apparently, as the custom of the people was, they placed in His hand the scroll of the Bible. And apparently, as His custom was, again, He delivered to them a message from the Lord [Luke 4:16-27].
Wouldn’t you have loved to have been in church that day, worshipping God, and the preacher is Jesus of Nazareth? And He opens the place in the scroll. He turns the scroll to Isaiah 61, verses 1 and 2, and He preaches to the people with a Bible in His hand [Luke 4:17]. That’s Jesus. And when He delivers His message, it will be with illustrations out of that book. In the message that you just read, after He reads from the scroll the sixty-first chapter of Isaiah, then applying that message to God’s healing of the human hurt and the human heart, He speaks of the Lord’s love for the whole world – you, us. And He illustrates it out of the Bible in the days of Elijah and the awesome famine. He was sent to Zarephath, to a widow in Sidon, to a pagan, to a heathen [Luke 4:25-26]. And He illustrates it again: in the days of Elisha a leper was healed, Naaman, a Syrian, a pagan [Luke 4:27]. That’s Jesus.
In the twelfth chapter of Matthew, He will speak of Queen of Sheba, who came marveling at the wisdom of Solomon. And then applied it, “And there’s a greater than Solomon here” [Verse 42]. In John 3:14 and 15, He will use the beautiful story of the raising of the serpent in the wilderness that the man, bitten and dying, could look and live [Numbers 21:8-9]. And He says, “This is the Son of Man raised up, that anybody who looks may live.” Nothing less could be required than just to look and live. The way is simple to the man who will respond. Or in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John: He is that manna, angel’s food, brought down from heaven that we may eat and live. “Your fathers ate manna in the wilderness. This is the manna that a man may eat and never die” [verses -50, 58]. That’s Jesus preaching the Word of God.
He used the Bible constantly for warning. In the tenth chapter of Luke, it will be concerning Sodom and Gomorrah – the cities of the plain and Tyre and Sidon – judged by the Lord God [verse 12]. In the seventeenth chapter of the Book of Luke, He will use Noah and the judgment of God in the days of the Flood [verse 26-27]. And Lot, when the cities of the plain were destroyed by fire [verses 28-30]. That’s the Lord; the Bible. And He used it for weaponry in the attack of Satan and the rulers of the temple who accosted Him so bitterly and so hatefully.
I want to show you how the Lord constantly used the Bible. I’ve turned in my Bible – this is the Criswell Study Bible – I’ve turned in my Bible to the Book of Mark, and the twelfth chapter, and we’re going to look at just one page of it. Just one page, that we might see how the Lord constantly used the Word of God. Here, His weapons of attack and of defense – Mark 12. Mark 12 begins with the story of a wicked husbandman who sent servants to receive the rent that was due him: And they beat them and killed them [Mark 12:1-5]. Then the husbandman sent his son. “They will reverence my son” [Mark 12:6]. And they slew him also. All right, His application; look at verse 10: “Have ye not read the Scripture?” And He quotes Psalm 118:23. All right, look again. Beginning at verse 18, there is a discussion concerning the resurrection of the dead, and the Sadducees tell Him that old story, “Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! This old woman who had seven husbands, last of all she died. Now, in the resurrection, which one of those husbands will have her? [Mark 12:20-23]. Ha, ha.” They’ve been silencing all those that believe in the resurrection for a hundred fifty years with that silly story.
Then the Lord speaks, “As touching the rsurrection, that they rise: have you not read in the Book of Moses?” [Mark 12:26]. And he quotes Exodus 3:6, “I am the God of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob.” “He is not the God of the dead but of the living. Ye therefore do greatly err” [Mark 12:27]. He bases the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead upon the tense of a verb in Exodus 3 verse 6. It’s not “I was the God of Abraham and Isaac. I am,” as though they were living in His presence and in His sight. That’s Jesus.
All right, look again, the next verse, verse 28. A scribe comes to Him – and all of this is on one page – a scribe comes to Him and says, “Master, which is the first commandment?” Then Jesus answered him and says, “The first of all the commandments is,” and He quotes Deuteronomy 6:5. Then He says [verse 31], “The second is like unto it,” and He quotes Leviticus 19:18. That’s the Lord. Or look again, beginning at verse 35: the Lord asked those bitterly, opposing, opposition rulers a question of His own. “How say the scribes that Christ is the Son of David? For David himself said by the Holy Spirit,” and He quotes Psalm 110:1. The Lord said unto my Lord, who is the son of David, how does David call Him Lord if He is his Son? [Mark 12:36-37]. That’s Jesus, His use of the Bible. Always it’s in His hands; always it’s in His heart; always it’s in His thoughts. Blessed is the Man. And His meditation is in the Book, in the Bible, in the Word of God, by day and by night. He would be like a tree planted by the rivers of water [Psalm 1:3].
Now last. The tremendous witness of Christ to the authority and authenticity of the Word of God is found in this: the incontrovertible authentication of the message and ministry of our Lord Jesus is found in the corroboration of the Word of God, the fulfillment of the great prophecies written in the Hebrew Old Testament Scriptures. That’s the reason as a background these texts in Luke 24 beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, “He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” [Luke 24:27], “And these are the things that I spake to you and taught you, that all things must be fulfilled which are written in the Torah, the Law of Moses, and in the Prophets, the nevi’im, and in the Writings the ketuvim, “Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures” [Luke 24:44-45]. The great authentication of the messianic ministry of our Lord, that He is what He said He was, the Son of God and the Savior of the world, the great corroborating testimony is the testimony, the witness of the Word of God.
I want you to look at the amazement of that, the wonder of that. He is standing there before them; He has been raised from the dead. They crucified Him, killed Him, murdered Him, buried Him, and on the third day He stands there raised from the dead. What is the great authentication of the truth of the message and ministry of Christ in the world? What is it? As He stands there before them, why doesn’t He perform some great miracle? Wouldn’t that authenticate it? His life was so wonderful and His deeds were so marvelous; they exclaimed, “It was never so seen in Israel” [Matthew 9:33]. And they had seen the miracles of Moses, of Elijah, of Elisha, but they’d never seen anything like that. Why didn’t He perform a miracle? Or again, why did He not refer to His great discourses? As they listened to Him, they said, “Never a man spake like that Man”[John 7:46]. And that’s so true. Not in all the literature of the human race is there anything that even begins to approach the wonder of the depth of the meaning of the words of Jesus Christ. Why didn’t He refer to His marvelous discourses, His words? No, what does He do to authenticate, to substantiate, to verify the truth of His message and ministry in the world? He does it by the Word of God; the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament Scriptures [Luke 24:44-45].
Justin Martyr, who lived, pastored the church in Samaria in 70 AD, Justin Martyr said, “To declare a thing should come to pass long before it is in being, and then to bring it to pass, this or nothing is the work of God.” And the great French scientist and physicist Pascal said, “The greatest of the proofs of Jesus Christ are the prophecies. They are also what God has most provided for. For the event which has fulfilled them is a miracle which has subsisted from the birth of Christ even to the end.” I say that is an astonishing thing! Raised from the dead He stands there before them, and the incontrovertible authentication of His ministry is the Word of God! [Luke 24:13-31, 36-48]. The Lord said it! And He fulfills it.
Christianity, the Judeo-Christian faith is unique in that respect. There is no other religion that has prophecy in it. There is no other religious book that has prophecy in it, and it is very explicable. Gautama the Buddha or Krishna the Hindu or Mohammed the prophet dare not predict the future. It would be most manifest that they are charlatans and deceivers. They couldn’t do it! But these men of God, speaking by the unction and power of the Holy Spirit, describe events thousands of years before they come to pass and will do it in detail as intimately and as minutely as if they were standing there face to face with the Lord or at the foot of the cross. It is an astonishing thing, this thing of miracle in prophecy, the Bible! For one man to speak of the coming of one like the Lord Jesus at one time in history would itself be a miracle. But these are men, many of them who lived hundreds of years apart, who are describing
someone who is coming a thousand years yet, or seven hundred fifty years, yet or two thousand years yet or five hundred years yet; and as I say they describe Him as minutely, as if they were standing there looking at Him. You’d see less of Him if you were looking at Him in the flesh. It’s a miracle. It’s a marvel. But the most marvelous thing of all is this, I think, the predictions and the prophecies they made about the Coming One are contradictory.
In the first chapter of 1 Peter, Simon Peter writes about that. He said, “The prophets, the prophets who wrote the prophecy could not understand it” [verses 10-11]. As the old rabbis, who pored over those prophecies, they couldn’t understand it. And John the Baptist couldn’t understand it. He said to the Lord Jesus, and said, “Is there more than one Christ? Are You one and are there others yet to come? I do not understand it”[Matthew 11:2-3]. And the angels in heaven, Peter writes in 1 Peter chapter 1, the angels in heaven could not understand those prophecies [verse 12]. Men of God moved by the Holy Spirit describing the coming of the Lord, they were contradictory. In one breath the prophet would say, “He is a coming conqueror, Jesus the King!” In the next breath, “He is lowly and meek and despised, riding the foal of an ass” [Zechariah 9:9]. And they couldn’t understand.
With one breath the prophecy would be made He is a great King, a coming King and in the next breath “He is despised like a root out of a dry ground: He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. Despised and rejected of men, acquainted with sorrow and with grief” [Isaiah 53:1-3], in the same breath. The prophecy would say, “He is the desire of all nations. This great Coming One, who is to be Ruler over all the earth,” and in the next breath, they pierced Him, His hands and His feet, and they crucified Him between felons, and they buried Him in the earth [Matthew 12:40]. They couldn’t understand. The men that wrote the prophecies couldn’t understand. The angels who looked upon those words couldn’t understand. And the disciples and the apostles and John the Baptist couldn’t understand.
The great authentication that Jesus is the Lord is the Word, the prophecy of God. He is the only One who fulfills them, He and He alone. But before you say that, an unbeliever will say to us, “Now wait, I have three objections to that account. Objection number one: the disciples reading those prophecies in the Old Testament Scriptures, the disciples made the life of Jesus conform to those prophecies. My brother, most of those prophecies were fulfilled by His enemies who hated Him, not by His disciples and friends but by those who crucified Him, those who bitterly denied Him.
Objection number two the unbeliever says, all of these things that Christ fulfilled were written into the documents by His friends. My brother, when Jesus lived that Bible was as finished and complete in those Old Testament Scriptures as they are today. After the days of Ezra, hundreds of years before Christ, the Bible was a sealed and finished book, and any intrusion or spurious documentation changing would have been seen immediately by thousands of scholarly rabbis. They couldn’t change the documents.
Then a third objection; all of those prophecies refer to somebody else. My friend, somebody who? Who? Who? These prophecies refer to Caesar? Ridiculous! To a Charlemagne? Unthinkable! To a Napoleon? Unimaginable! To a Churchill? Never thought for! There’s only one, and His name is called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace! [Isaiah 9:6]. All of the words in all of the prophecies point to Him! He fulfilled them all, and in that sacred and holy testimony, He found the authentication for His divine message, and ministry, and witness to us today. And that’s why, precious friend, God says in view of the plain evidence and the incontrovertible witness, it’s sin, it’s wrong to refuse the Lord, and if persisted in, it becomes an unpardonable and unforgiveable sin [Matthew 12:31-32]. The Lord has done all that even God could do in pointing to Jesus as the Savior of the world. The Lamb of God! Our King! Our Lord! “He that believeth on Him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” [John 3:18]. And John closes that great third chapter with that final witness, “He that hath the Son hath the life: he that hath not the Son hath not the life; but the wrath of God abideth upon him” [John 3:36]. God could do no more than God has done to lead our souls in reverential love at the feet of the Lord Jesus; to receive Him according to the witness of the Holy Scriptures. He is God! He is the Lord! He is the fulfillment of all prophecy. He is the Savior of the world! He is the King of all creation! And He is coming again! And He is our hope, our prospect for peace and life and resurrection and heaven. He is everything, our all in all. The Book points us to Jesus, and Jesus points us to the Book.
Now may we stand together?
Wonderful, wonderful Lord, whose name is Wonderful [Isaiah 9:6], how could anyone hesitate before the all-inclusive testimony of the Word of God? “This is the beloved Son, hear ye Him” [Matthew 17:5]. “To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His name, that whosoever believeth in Him should have remission of sins” [Acts 10:43]. He came to fulfill the prophecy wearing a crown of thorns, suffering for us [Matthew 27:29-50]. He is coming again [Mark 14:62; Revelation 7], wearing a crown of gold; King of heaven and earth. And that great, mighty King who sits on the throne of God is my friend and my Savior. He knows my name; He knows all about me and yet loves me, cares for me, died in my place, is my friend and fellow pilgrim. O wonder of wonders that Jesus loves me! How could it be? It is too marvelous. “Who hath believed our report?” said Isaiah [Isaiah 53:1]. It’s too marvelous that such a thing could be. What a wonder of wonders. We live in the midst of the amazing grace and goodness of God. We love Thee Lord, forever.
And while our people pray and stand in intercession for you, a family, a couple, or just one somebody you, “This day I have opened my heart to the Lord Jesus. I take Him, receive Him for all that He said He was; My Savior.” Or, “We want to put our lives in the fellowship of this wonderful church.” Or as the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, to answer with your life as God shall make appeal, make the decision now in your heart. And in a moment when we sing our hymn of appeal, down one of those stairways, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, here we are.” Ministers are here to welcome you; deacons are here to rejoice in your coming. Do it now, make it now, and angels attend you in the way. And thank You precious Lord for the beautiful harvest. In Thy saving and keeping name, amen. While we sing, “Here I am pastor, here I come.”