What Do the Scriptures Say?
November 29th, 1953 @ 10:50 AM
What Do the Scriptures Say?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-29-53 10:50 a.m.
You are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, and this is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled What Do the Scriptures Say? In our teaching through the Word, we have come to the seventeenth chapter of the Book of Acts.
Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews: And after his manner was, Paul went in unto them, and three Sabbath days reasoned with them out of the Scriptures, opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ. And the brethren sent Paul and Silas by night unto Berea. . . These received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed.
[Acts 17:1-3, 10-12]
This thought, these two texts; “Paul reasoned with them out of the Scriptures, this Jesus whom, I preach unto you, is Christ” [Acts 17:2-3]. The second one; “They searched the Scriptures daily, therefore many of them believed” [Acts 17:11-12]. What do the Scriptures say? They tell, reveal, proclaim, the story of Jesus. Second Peter 1:21, “For the Scriptures came not from old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” Many times, the men who wrote down God’s word did not realize what they said or the meaning of what they wrote.
From the beginning, the guiding hand of God wrote God’s Word, God’s Book. And it is the same hand through all the centuries. Two thousand years before Christ in the days of Abraham, fifteen hundred years before Christ in the days of Moses, a thousand years before Christ in the days of David, five hundred years before Christ in the days of Daniel, a hundred years after Christ in the days of the apostle John, “These things are written, that you might believe that He is the Christ, the Son of God” [John 20:31]. From the opening verse in Genesis to the grand “Amen” in the Apocalypse, the whole story is His story, written by the hand of God, “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” [2 Peter 1:21].
In the garden of Eden, the promise was made that in the Seed of a woman, in the Seed of the woman we should have our ultimate triumph over Satan [Genesis 3:15]. That’s a misnomer. It is a man that has seed, not the woman, and the old prophets pondered over the word, they could not know what it meant. When finally we came to its understanding; it referred to the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, God’s Son who was born, without an earthly father, of a woman [Matthew 1:20-25; Luke 1:26-35, 2:7-16]. They knew not what it meant, but they spake by the Spirit of God [2 Peter 1:20-21]. Abraham is a hundred years old. His wife Sarai is ninety years old, and they have no child and no heir [Genesis 17:16-17]. When Abraham took that matter to God, God took Abraham out under the canopy of the stars and said, “Can you number the stars? So shall thy seed be” [Genesis 15:3-5]. When ultimately we learn what it meant, it meant this: the child was to be the child of promise! [Galatians 4:28]. And his brethren, these are to be the children of faith that number like the stars in the sky [Genesis 15:5, 22:17, 26:24, Galatians 3:7].
On his deathbed, Jacob, Israel, turned to his fourth son, Judah, and said, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come” [Genesis 49:10]. He did not know what he meant, and for the centuries the scribes, the rabbis, the men of God read that verse, they did not know what it meant. When finally we came to know its meaning, God was saying that Judah shall have a government and a nation, and a people though all Israel are decimated and destroyed. Judah shall have a government until Shiloh come, until the Messiah, their King, comes to His people. When he spake, he knew not what he said. Can you think of a man speaking two thousand years before the event comes to pass, and God brings it to pass? You speak a thing—see, if two thousand years from now, it comes to pass. Ah, the incredible, astounding, amazing witness of the Word of God to the Son of God! David, in the twenty-second Psalm said:
They have pierced My hands and My feet.
They part My garments among them, and upon My vesture they cast lots. [Psalm 22:18]
I am poured out like wine, My bones are all out of joint.
He never had that experience. Nobody ever pierced his hands and his feet. Nobody ever cast lots upon his vesture. He was never hanged on a tree. But he spake by the power of the will of God, and when ultimately we came to know what it meant, it was a description of the cross of the Son of God. The court preacher, the glorious orator, the poet Isaiah said:
And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor,
the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father.
And the government shall rest upon His shoulder,
and He shall inherit the throne of His father David forever.
Turn the page in the same prophet Isaiah, and he says:
He was bruised for our transgression: the chastisement of our peace is upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
With one breath, He is the King, the Mighty [God], the Everlasting [Father] [Isaiah 9:6]; in the next breath, He is the Servant without comeliness; bearing the grief and reproaches of the people [Isaiah 53:2-4]. He didn’t know what he said, but “Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” [2 Peter 1:21]. What do the Scriptures say?
And so reasoned to them out of the Scriptures, opening and alleging that this Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.
And they searched the Scriptures daily, therefore they believed.
[Acts 17:2-3, 11-12]
What do the Scriptures say? They tell the story of Jesus [John 5:39]. What do the Scriptures say? They identify the Lord with His Word. They are inseparable, God and His Word—Christ the Word of God, the living Word, the spoken Word, the written Word, the Word incarnate—they all are one. Revelation 19:11-13:
And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was Faithful and True . . . His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns… He was clothed in a vesture dipped in blood: and His name is called The Word of God.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made.
Christ is identified with His Word. The living presence, the living Spirit is in the living Word. A man and his word may be two different things, but not God and His Word. God and His Word are inseparable. The Word and the Christ stand or fall together. When we minimize the Word, we dishonor Christ. When we glorify the Word, we glorify Christ.
The storm centers of Christianity in the centuries past and the storm centers in the faith today are around the inspiration of the Word of God and the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. And they stand and they fall together. To love the Word is to love Christ. To obey the Word is to obey Christ. To follow the Word is to follow Christ. To know spiritually the Word is to know spiritually Christ. To receive the Word is to receive Christ. To believe the Word is to believe Christ. To give yourself to the Word is to give yourself to Christ.
The universe is sustained by the word of God: Hebrews 1:3, “upholding all things by the word of His power.” We are convicted by the word of God, Hebrews 4:12-13:
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of the soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart . . . For all things are opened and naked before the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.
And we are saved, born again, by the word of God. First Peter 1:23-25, “born again… by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever . . . And this is the word which by the gospel is preached, I preach, unto you.” James 1:18, “By His own will, of His own will, begat He us through the word,” through the word. John 15:3, “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” Ephesians 5:26, “Ye are sanctified; ye are cleansed through the washing of water by the word.”
Anyone ask me what is the meaning of John 3:5: “Except a man be born of the water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God,” we are cleansed, we are sanctified, with the washing of water by the word. Except a man be saved, by the preaching of the gospel of Christ and the receiving of the Spirit of the testimony in his heart, he can never be saved. No man is ever saved aside from the word of Jesus Christ. Are the heathen lost, are they lost? How shall they hear without a preacher? How can they believe on Him in whom they have not heard, and how shall they hear without a preacher?” [Romans 10:14]. No man is ever saved without the word of God.
Why didn’t Jesus tell Paul what he must do? He sent him into Damascus that Ananias might say the words to him [Acts 9:6-18, 22:10-16]. Why didn’t the angel tell Cornelius how to be saved? He sent him down to Joppa for one Simon, that Simon might tell him words whereby he and his house might be saved [Acts 10:3-6]. We are saved by the washing of water by the word, and by the regenerating power of the Spirit in our hearts [Titus 3:5]. We are saved by water and by Spirit. “Except a man be born of water and born of the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” [John 3:5]. We are saved by the word of God! [1 Peter 1:23-25].
Now in India, far back, a missionary going along a lonesome road saw an Indian left behind to die. Peeping over, seeing the poor condition of the man, he had time for one question: “Sir, do you have any hope?” And to the missionary’s amazement the dying man replied, “The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin” [1 John 1:7]. He noticed in the man’s hand a leaf; he unclenched the fist, took it out of the dead man’s hand, and there was a leaf out of the Word of God.
Japan never had a greater statesman, leader, than Niijima. He helped to fashion the Christian foundation of what Christianity Japan has ever known; built the great Doshisha University. He was saved walking down the street of Kyoto. Seeing on a little lily pond a leaf floating on the surface of the water, picked it up, read it, bought the Book out of which it had been torn; found Jesus in the Word of God.
We are to walk by the Word of God: Psalm 119:105, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” We are to live by the word of God: Matthew 4:4, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” We are to die by the word of God: Revelation 3:10, “Because thou hast kept My word, I also will keep thee.” We are assured of our salvation by the word of God: John 5:24:
Verily, verily, I say unto thee, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come unto condemnation; but has passed out of death into life.
And we are to preach the word of God: 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God,” not pieces, or parts, or segments, or pericope—all of it! All of it. All Scripture, from the first sentence to the last amen:
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for instruction in righteousness, for reproof, for correction: That the man of God may be mature, grown up strong, perfect, truly furnished unto all good works.
[2 Timothy 3:16-17]
“I charge thee therefore” [2 Timothy 4:1]—but you never see that. Somebody stuck a chapter heading in between: 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God,” then you have the chapter heading, then you start again, “I charge ye therefore before Jesus Christ who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! No! In one passage:
All Scripture is given by the inspiration of God…I charge ye therefore by the Lord Jesus Christ, who someday shall come to judge the quick and the dead, Preach the word!
“Preach the word.” Not thus saith Einstein, and thus saith Plato, and thus saith Aristotle, and thus saith Socrates—sounding brass and dry as dust—no! Preach the Book, the Word of God! [Acts 4:2].
We’re to build our lives upon the Book, upon the word, Matthew 7:24-25:
He that heareth these sayings of Mine, and doeth them, shall be likened unto a man, that built his house upon the rock——upon the Rock—
And the rains came, and the floods descended, and the winds blew, and they beat on that house; and it fell not because it was founded upon the Rock of the living God.
Where shall I find the basis for my life? On the Book; on the Rock. Where shall we find the basis for the building of our nation? On the Book; on the Rock. Where shall we find a hope when the storms and the trials, in the tempest, in the disasters that inevitably overwhelm us in this life? We shall find it in the Word and in the promise of God.
The flower fadeth, the grass withereth:
but the Word of our God shall stand for ever.
Heaven and earth may pass away: but My words shall never pass away.
[Isaiah 40:8; Mark 13:31]
God’s word may pass into proverbs, it may pass into the literature, it may pass into laws, it may pass into doctrine, but it shall never pass away! God’s word is like Himself, the same yesterday, and today, and forever [Hebrews 13:8]. “Forever, O God, Thy Word is fixed in heaven” [Psalm 119:89]. That we might be a people of the Book, a people of the word; our assurance of salvation—not subverted, inverted, subjective—looking on the inside for assurances, no! Our assurance of salvation is objective, it is found in the Book. “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right, the authority, to become the children of God [John 1:12]. And my conversion is based not on a subjective experience, not on me; if it were on me, I’d fail. It’s on God and His immutable, imperishable Word that liveth and abideth forever [1 Peter 1:23], and that we as a people and as a church might be a people of the Book, of the Word of God [James 1:18].
In the days of this last war, I read a little newspaper account that has stayed in my memory. When the American navy was pushing toward the west, and they were taking those islands of the sea that had been fortified by Japan—first this group, then this group, then this group—they were fighting their way to the mainland of Nippon; in the line of battle on a little atoll in the Pacific was an island inhabited by black people. And out of compassion, the American navy sent a fleet of warships to that little atoll in order that they might take off of the island those black natives, lest they be destroyed in the line of fire. One of the big battlewagons of America sailed close enough in for the little boats to go to the shores of the little island, and they gathered together the people and explained to the chief and to the people why they had come to remove them from that island and settle them in another place. And their tribal chief was happy to acquiesce.
He gathered his people together and loaded them in the boat that they might be taken to the big warship of the United States Navy. But he had one request; the tribal chieftain asked that he and his people might be presented to the captain of the warship of America. They were happy to acquiesce, so there happened this scene: the captain of the American warship decided he’d do his part, this chieftain had been so gracious in his part.
So he got his big battlewagon all deployed. The men lined up on either side, and he took his place there at the head of the long deck, and everything was beautifully arranged to receive the tribal chieftain and his people. It was a glorious occasion, and this is how it came to pass. He loaded all of his men and their wives and their children in the boat—came over there to the big battlewagon—all of them climbed up on the side of the ship to the big deck. And there the American navy men, lined up on either side, sailors and officers, and then, up there at the head, the captain of the ship standing at attention ready to receive the black, native chieftain and his men and their wives and their families.
And when the native chieftain formed his procession to walk through the deck to present himself and his people to the captain of the ship, in front of the tribal chieftain was his prime minister, his right hand man. And he was carrying in his hand an open Bible. And they marched to the captain of the American warship, first his prime minister holding an open Bible, and behind the tribal chieftain, and their men and their wives and their children. He was saying in his own native way that “We who live on this little atoll, we are a people of the Book! Christian people, praying people, children of the Lord, followers of the Lamb.”
When I read that, I thought, “That’s the spirit, that’s the way, that’s the heart. Ah!” That we might be like that black leader! At the head, at the front is the Word of the living God. Here it is in our hearts, in our homes, in our classes, in our unions, in our church, in our denomination, in our lives, among our people [Romans 10:8]. This, the Word of God, until someday we shall see that Word incarnate, living in Christ, God’s Son, our holy, glorious, and coming Savior [John 1:14, 14:3].
Now let’s sing. And while we sing, in that topmost balcony, from side to side, anywhere, somebody you, “Preacher, not because I’m worthy but because He is worthy, I want to come give my heart to the Lord.” Anywhere, somebody you, you come and stand by me. Is there a family here this morning? Is there a family who today will put their lives in the fellowship of our church? Would you come? Would you come? Is there a youth today up there in that junior corps-department, in a class taught by one of you teachers? Is there a child today who ought to come? Anywhere, as the Lord shall say and the Spirit shall direct, anywhere, would you make it now, this day? “This God’s day, I’ll come, I’ll come.” On that first stanza would you so? Come down here and stand by me. Would you? While we stand and sing?