The Foundations for Our Faith
December 4th, 1955 @ 8:15 AM
THE FOUNDATION FOR OUR FAITH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Isaiah 8:19-20, 55:10-11
12-4-55 8:15 a.m.
The title of the message this morning is The Basis of Our Faith, The Foundation for Our Faith. Religion has to be authoritarian; we have no other choice in it. It either has the authority of God or it is the speculation of man. The authority upon which all of our faith and all of our religion is built is the unchanging and immutable Word of the living God. So when I speak this morning on The Foundation for our Faith, I speak of the immutable Word of our unchanging God. In the eighth chapter of the Book of Isaiah, and in the fifty-fifth chapter of the Book of Isaiah, Isaiah 8:19-20:
And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God?
To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
Now again, in the fifty-fifth chapter of the Book of Isaiah, the tenth through the eleventh verses:
For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:
So shall My word be that goeth forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereunto I sent it.
Lord Bacon, giant intellect, philosopher, one time held the Bible high above his head and said, "There God speaks." These phrases, "And the word of the Lord came," "Thus saith the Lord," and "The Lord commanded, saying," phrases like that are repeated more than seven hundred times in the Pentateuch alone. They are repeated more than four thousand times in all of the Holy Bible. This is the Word of God. We do not build our faith upon hearsay, upon hierarchy, upon what a man shall speculate. We do not build our faith or our church upon the commandments of any man or any organization or any group, no matter who they are or what they pretend to be. The Word of God is like Christ Himself: the same yesterday, and today, and forever [Hebrews 13:8]; and it endures, and it abides, and it never changes. When I wake up at two o’clock in the morning, if I have my Bible in my hand, there it is, the same immutable and unchanging promise of God. My feet may tremble, but the Rock upon which I stand is never, never moved.
Christ is the great separate and apart [Acts 4:12, 1 Timoth 2:5], and this Bible that I hold in my hand, the Word of God, is like Christ Himself: it is removed, and separate, and apart. I can hold it in my hand. My faith is not built upon superstition, it’s not built on hallucination, it’s not built upon self-deception; my faith is built upon a rock, and I can look at it, I can hold it, I can stand upon it, I can read it with the help, the illuminating power of the Holy Spirit. All that I need to understand I can understand of it. The faith of our, of our, of our religion is not something that we have built up through years of speculation and through years of hearsay and through years of tradition; but the faith of our religion, of our church, of our persuasion, is built upon something that I can see, that I can hear, that I can understand, that I can hold in my hand. I say, this Bible, this Book, is like Christ Himself: the great unlike, separate and apart.
There are things revealed in this Bible that were, that took place, that were wrought before the foundation of the world; things that happened before God threw this planet out into space. Where did we learn those things, and how did we find them out? No man was there before the foundation of this world; they were revealed by the Word of God. We know them because God has spoken in the Book. This same Book that revealed things before the foundation of the world, that same Book, the Book I hold in my hand, tells of things that were to happen thousands and thousands of years in advance. These men like Kiplinger, these men like Benson, these men like Gallup, they try to predict what may happen six months in advance and most of the times miss it. It’s the prerogative of God to say a thing shall come to pass, then bare His strong arm to make that word live, lest it fall to the ground or return unto Him void. The Word of God is like God Himself: when God says it, God does it; when God promises, He faithfully brings it to pass. I say there are things in the Book that God prophesied, God revealed would happen thousands of years in advance, and it came to pass. God said, for example, the Savior should be born of a woman, "The Seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head" [Genesis 3:15]. How long before that came to pass, when God prophesied it? I don’t know, I don’t know. But it was thousands and thousands and thousands of years. God said it, and it came to pass. Two thousand years before it came to pass, God said that out of Abraham and out of Isaac and out of Jacob should He be born, two thousand years before it came to pass [Genesis 21:12, :24; Hebrews 11:18]. Seven hundred fifty years before it came to pass, Micah said, "And He shall be born in that little town of Bethlehem" [Micah 5:2]. And about seven hundred twenty-five years before it came to pass, Isaiah wrote as though he were standing by the cross and the blood of the Lord Jesus fell on his hands [Isaiah 53:1-12]. That’s God’s Word.
And the power of this Book to change civilization, to change destiny, and to change life is nothing short of the miraculous power of God Himself. In the Fiji Islands, one of those black natives, and almost all of them have been converted, almost all of them are Christian, cannibals, and most all of them are Christian now. Over there in the Fiji Islands, one of those devout natives, black man, whose fathers ate other men, one of those black men was reading the Word of God. And a Frenchman happened to be there in the islands, a merchanting man. And seeing this unlettered, unlearned Fiji native reading the Bible, why, he laughed and scoffed and made fun of him reading the Word of God. And that Fiji Islander pointed to a boiling pot and said, "But sir, were it not for this Book, you’d be in that pot!" The power of this Book to change the course and destiny of men and of nations, I say, is nothing short of miraculous. There in no civilization, there’s no civilization like we think of civilization, there is no culture as we think of culture, nor is there any life as we think of an enlightened people, except that it is brought on the feet of the living Word of the living God.
And the power of this Word to comfort the heart is beyond any way that a man could ever speak of it or sing about it. How many, many, many of God’s people have opened this Book in hours of trial and sorrow? How many, many tears have bathed its pages? How many have read it and found comfort and strength and a light for the way through the valley of the shadow? That’s God’s Word. One of these men who loved his boy, like most fathers will love a son, the boy was a pilot in a plane, and down on the New England coast turned his plane out to the sea and was never heard from again. Something happened, oh, the sea holds the secret forever. And the father distracted; up and down that seashore on the New England coast, where the boy last was seen with his plane headed out into the great expanse of the ocean; they tried to get him to return home. No, in his distraction, and in his despair, and in his great sorrow, up and down the beach, peering out into the blue yonder; finally the man, being a Christian man, finally the man knelt down on the seashore and prayed, saying, "O God, that I might have just one sweet token in memory of my boy." And God answered that prayer. A jacket was washed up on the shore. It was his boy’s jacket. He reached into the pockets to see if there’s anything in the pockets of that jacket. And sure enough, in the right pocket was a little Bible, a little Bible that his mother had given him before she died. Those things enter into a realm, into a spirit, into a world that these who do not know and do not love the Word of God could never understand or never enter into. This is a token. This is the earnest. This is the promise. This I can hold in my hand. This I can see. This I can read. The speculations of men rise and fall; they come and go. What they say is what they say; but this is the Word, the promise of God who made us and will certainly bring it to pass.
This week, I found in an old timey book one of the sweetest poems I have ever read.
We’ve traveled together, my Bible and I
Through all kinds of weather, with smile or with sigh
In sorrow or sunshine, in tempest or calm
Thy friendship unchanging, my lamp and my psalm
We’ve traveled together, my Bible and I
When life has grown weary, and death e’en was nigh
But all through the darkness of miss and of wrong,
I found thee a solace, a prayer, and a song
So now, who shall part us, my Bible and I?
Shall ‘ism’, or ‘cism’, or new lies who shall try,
Shall shadow for substance, or stone for good bread
Supplant its sound wisdom, give folly instead?
Oh no, my dear Bible, revealer of light
Thou sword of the Spirit, put error to flight
And still through life’s journey, until the last sigh
We’ll travel together, my Bible and I.
["My Bible," M. H. Knobbloch]
That’s an old timey sentiment. That was written back in the days of our grandmothers and our grandfathers when they opened the Book and found strength for the courage to face the day of carving an empire out of an open wilderness.
Now, may I speak of the Bible in its witness to itself? One of the most miraculous, unbelievable, and wonderful things is how the men who propagated, who preached, who promulgated the Christian faith, how they faced the world with all of its desperate antagonisms and it’s cruel, merciless antipathies, how they faced that world with nothing but an open Bible in their hands. The Lord Jesus, when He went to Nazareth, after being filled with the Holy Spirit after His baptism [Luke 3:21-22], the Lord Jesus went to Nazareth, and as His custom was, what He did every Sabbath day, He went to the Lord’s house, like we do coming to this holy and sacred place, went to the Lord’s house, and they lay in His hand the Book. And He opened the Book that was delivered unto Him and read where it was written [Luke 4:16-20]. And there with an open Book in His hand, the Lord Jesus preached to the people the fulfillment of the promises of God that were made seven hundred twenty-five years before Jesus was born [Isaiah 61:1-2].
Now you look at this. When the Lord was resurrected from the dead [Luke 24:3-7] and He was there before the eyes of the apostles, what was the great authentication that He was risen, that He was alive, that He was quickened, that here He was? Why, you would think, there He is Himself. Isn’t that the proof? There He is. How do you know Mr. Souther is here? Look at him, look at him. How do you know Marshall’s over there? Just look at him. Wouldn’t you think that would be the great authentication of the resurrection of Jesus Christ? There He is, raised and alive! No, no. This is a great authentication that Jesus Christ, though He was buried, yet the third day did He rise again: this is the authentication:
And Jesus said, Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to have entered into His glory?
And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded unto them in all the things of the Scriptures how He should suffer these things and be raised again from the dead.
The great authentication that these things were true was not Christ Himself standing there before them, but the Word of God that He had in His hand: Moses said so, the Prophets said so, the Psalms said so! Same thing again, repeated here in the last chapter of the, the twenty-fourth chapter, the last one of the Gospel of Luke:
And He 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 Law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning Me.
Then opened He their minds, that they might understand the Scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day.
The great authentication that Christ is what He was, that He is able to do all that He said, was not Christ Himself, but the Word of God that He had in His hand! I say that’s one of the most amazing things that I could ever think for!
And the disciples did that. After the Lord was ascended up into glory [Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9-10], they brooded over the Word of God, they pored over its pages. They lived again that awful and tragic hour of the crucifixion of the Son of God [Luke 23:26-46]. And as they read the Book, and thought of that tragic and dark and despairing day, there written large on the page was the Word of God, hundreds of years written before, "I will smite the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered abroad" [Zechariah 13:7]. And they thought of His raised between the earth and the sky, between two malefactors [Luke 23:32-33], and there it was written in the Book hundreds of years before, that He will die, He will die with wicked men [Isaiah 53:9-12]. There He was stripped and naked, and exposed and shamed to the world, and the soldiers gambling for His garments at His feet [Luke 23:34]; they read that in the Book, written a thousand years before: "They will cast lots over My garments" [Psalm 22:17-18]. And He cries, "And I thirst" [John 19:28]; and there it was in the Book, written hundreds of years before [Psalm 22:15]. Bowing His head, giving up the ghost, and dying [Luke 23:46, John 19:30]; there it was, written hundreds of years before [Psalm 31:5]. Buried in a rich man’s tomb [Matthew 27:57-60], there it was written on the page, hundreds of years before [Isaiah 53:9].
And when they turned to face the world, preaching that Jesus was the Christ, that’s how they did it: they took the Bible in their hands, and they said, "See, here it is written on the page of the living God." That’s why you have a codex. All of the books before the Christians began to preach were rolls. You’d have to have a wheelbarrow to carry the Bible. But these men of God, these Christian preachers, and martyrs, and apostles, and evangelists, and witnesses, these men of God preached no other thing than the Book; but they couldn’t take a wheelbarrow with them and carry it around. So they invented something: they cut the leaves, they cut the roll of the Book, they cut it into sections, and they bound it at the back, and they call it a codex. And that’s how come you to have a Bible like that today. The Christians put it together that way, so they could easily turn from the roll of Moses to the roll of Isaiah, to the roll of Jeremiah, and there read out of the Book the word and the promise of the living God, and found it fulfilled in the life of Jesus Christ. The great witness to the Word of God incarnate is the Word of God spoken and written down on the immutable page, on the unchanging leaf.
So that’s what they did. As they faced the world with an open Bible in their hands, "See," said they. Look at it just for a moment. Going down through the desert in his chariot, reading the Bible, the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, and Philip the evangelist heard him reading out loud, walked up to the chariot, "Do you understand it?" [Acts 8:27-30].
"No, no," said the eunuch, "I do not understand that, I do not see that. Who, whom is this man talking about?" And he said, "Would you come up here and show me?" [Acts 8:31]. And the Bible says; now you listen, "And beginning at the same Scripture, he preached unto him Jesus" [Acts 8:35]. Because that’s where you find Him: you find Him in these syllables, you find Him in these sentences, and you don’t find Him any other place, no other place. Were it not for the witness of the Bible, you’d not know His name. Were it not for the witness of the Word, you’d have no idea or thought of the great ministry and atonement of Christ for us. It’s in the Book. "Lo, in the roll of the Book it is written of Me" [Hebrews 10:7]. That’s where you find it. "And beginning at the same Scripture, he preached unto him Jesus" [Acts 8:35].
That marvelous, noble band at Berea, the Bible says, "They were more noble than they at Thessalonica, for they searched in the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so" [Acts 17:11]; looking in the Bible for the truth of God, looking in the Book for Jesus. And when Priscilla and Aquila got hold of Apollos, it says, "When they instructed him in the way more perfectly, he stood up, and he convinced the Jews publicly, by the Holy Scriptures, that Jesus was the Son of God" [Acts 18:26-28]. And when Paul wrote to Timothy, he said, in 1 Timothy 4:13, "Till I come, give attendance to reading, to the reading of the Book"; and he meant reading it out to the people, reading it out to the church; "Till I come, give attendance to reading." And in that marvelous appeal in the last letter he wrote, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul said:
Timothy, all Scripture, all of it, is given by inspiration of God; all of it given by inspiration of God. And it is profitable, it is God’s message for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction and righteousness. I charge thee therefore before God, who shall judge the living and the dead at His appearing, preach that Word, preach that Book.
[2 Timothy 3:16-4:2]
Whittier, the poet Whittier, has described one of the most unusual and effective incidents that you could ever imagine: a Waldensian merchant in the Middle Ages, when this Bible was suppressed, and men were burned at the stake for just the possession of it, a Waldensian merchant is selling costly silks to a lady fair. And as he talks to her of his costly silks, and has them all out before her, the Waldensian merchant says, now you listen to him:
"O lady fair, I have yet a gem which purer luster flings,
Than the diamond flash from the jeweled crown on the lofty brow of kings;
A wonderful pearl of exceeding price, whose virtue will not decay
Whose light shall be a spell to thee, and a blessing on thy way!"
The cloud went off from the merchant’s brow, as a small meager Book
Unchaste with gold or gem of cost, from his flowing robes he took!
"Here, lady fair, is the pearl of price, may it prove as much to thee
Nay, keep thy gold, I ask it not; for the Word of God is free!"
["The Vaudois Teacher"; John Greenleaf Whittier]
Any man can read it for himself. Every man is a priest to his Lord and his God. His faith is built upon a rock that he can hold in his hand, and see for himself. Like the Lord Himself, the Word, the same yesterday, and today, and forever [Hebrews 13:8]. Isaiah 40:8, "The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word and promise of our God shall stand forever." Matthew 24:35, "Heaven and earth shall someday pass away; but My Word" – this Book – "shall never pass away."
Now may we sing one stanza of a hymn? And while we sing it, is there somebody you to give his heart to the Lord this day? Would you come now and stand by me? Is there somebody you to put his life in the church? Is there a family? While we sing this stanza, would you come? Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.
FOUNDATION FOR THE FAITH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. The text
A. In crisis many seek answers from astrologers, necromancers, diviners
B. The Word of God has meaning and purpose for our lives
C. Is there a word from the Lord?
1. In the creation around us
2. In history
3. In our conscience
4. In the providences of life
II. The assurance of the testimony of the Word of God
A. God speaks through His Word
B. Jesus’ ministry founded upon the Word
1. Began His public ministry reading from Isaiah
2. Overcame Satan in the temptation
3. Found comfort in prophecies concerning His resurrection