THIS IS YOUR BIBLE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Genesis 1:1, John 21:25
9-9-56 8:15 a.m.
You cannot know with what great gladness and anticipation I look forward to these services at 8:15 o’clock. They add immeasurably beyond what most anyone could realize to the burden of my ministry. The preparation of three sermons every week is almost more than I’m able to do, but it has an infinite compensation in it. Whether anybody else could be blessed by their preparation, I am blessed infinitely as I study for these hours.
That’s what I did practically all the time that I’ve been gone. For the first time in years, I’ve gone back to my Hebrew Scriptures. I have a little devotion for myself in Greek every day. No matter where I am, I take my Greek Testament with me, and sometime during the day, I have a little devotional with my Greek Testament. But I haven’t studied the Hebrew Scriptures for years and years. This summer, I got out my Hebrew Bible and my lexicons and my commentaries, and I’ve been pouring over these Hebrew Scriptures. I’ve been preparing for these 8:15 services. Ah, it’s meant much to me! I tried to say in my "Pastor’s Pen" what I had done.
"God made known His ways unto Moses, His acts to the children of Israel" [Psalm 103:7]. That is, the children of Israel saw what God did – the actions of God. But Moses was made to understand the ways of God – why God did what He did.
Now, that’s what I have sought to do in the preparation for these 8:15 o’clock services. Behind the written word, behind the story, behind the narrative, what is it that God is seeking to bring to pass? What is God doing, and why is He doing it?
Now, the message this morning – I don’t know what to call them. They’re not sermons; they’re not just lectures; they are presentations from the Bible. The presentation, the message, this morning is introductory – what the Bible is about – starting at the very first phrase, "In the beginning God" [Genesis 1:1]. Then, next Sunday morning, the message is, How God Made the World. And then it goes right on through beyond the thing that you read in the Bible: what it means and why God did it. Now, the message today is This is Your Bible – what the Bible is about. And ah, you do not know how earnestly I hope that when you come, you bring the Bible with you.
Many times, because I mark the passages, when I turn to a passage just like that, that doesn’t mean I can do it in your Bible. It merely means I have it marked in mine. I can turn to a passage just like that; I mark it. Well, you do not have them marked, of course, and many times you cannot follow me in the Bible. Many times you can, but it’s good to have it just in your hand: "This is my Bible."
Now, there are two places at which I’d like for you to open it. One is at the first verse of the first chapter, the opening verse in Genesis, and the other is the last chapter in the Book of John. Now, it starts off: "In the beginning God" [Genesis 1:1]. Then we have the following story to the twenty-first verse of the twenty-second chapter of the Revelation.
There’s a great principle that all of us ought to realize when we pick up the Bible and study it, when we read it, and that is from the beginning, the Bible is built around and upon a purposeful selection. Sometimes a theologian will call it "election." But from the beginning to the ending, all through the Word of God, there is this everlasting, purposeful selection. Now, I want to illustrate it to begin with by the two last chapters of the Book of John. This is the last chapter of the Book of John, the very last verse:
And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that not even the world itself could contain the books that should be written.
Jesus did so much and His life was so full with meaning that John says if a man were to seek to write down everything that Jesus did, the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Consequently, what you have in the Bible, in the life of Christ, is a selection – here, there, there.
Now, turn back one chapter and look at the end of the twentieth chapter of the Book of John, the last two verses. "And many other signs" [John 20:30] – sēmeia. Your word "semaphore" comes from that. Signs, not miracles; they were miracles, but John saw in them a revelation of the majesty of Christ. "And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book" [John 20:30] – lots of them not even mentioned – "but these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name" [John 20:31].
That is, all that John wrote, he wrote for a definite purpose. He selected this incident, and that story, and this parable, and this miracle out of a vast array that he said, "If I were to write it all would fill the whole world" [John 21:25]. He chose this, and this, and this, for a very definite purpose.
Now, the whole life of Christ, not only in John, is written just like that. There are four gospels of the life of the Lord Jesus, but all four of them together do not in anywise or in any sense comprise a biography. They took a few select incidents, mostly out of three brief years, and then mostly, the synoptics especially [Matthew, Mark, Luke], told the same incidents almost verbatim.
Consequently, in the life of Christ, you have in no wise a story full and complete of the life of our Lord in the days of His flesh, but you have a purposeful selection: here an incident and there a miracle, there a word, and here a sentence – all of it selected for a special purpose under the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit [2 Peter 1:21].
Now, the entire Bible is made like that. All of the Scriptures are like that. When you come back here to the Old Testament and the first verse, "In the beginning God" [Genesis 1:1], then what follows after is just a little tiny piece of what God hath done in the world.
For example, for the first thousands and thousands and uncounted millenniums and ages, when the whole human race is under review, there are only eleven chapters given to the whole story [Genesis 1-11]. Then thereafter, beginning at the twelfth chapter of the Book of Genesis, thereafter, all of the remainder of the story of the Bible is practically concerned with one tiny, infinitesimal little nation which isn’t as big as Dallas County.
The story of the Bible is a story with a purpose, and the material by which God put it together is highly selective and purposeful. The great moving elective purposes of God are from the beginning clear to the end.
So when I pick up my Bible, what I’m doing is I’m not going to read there all the things that a physicist might have in his book – not concerned with that. I’m not going to read in there all the things that an astronomer might have in his book – not concerned with astronomy. I’m not going to read in there all the things that a naturist or a biologist or a zoologist have in his books – not concerned with that.
But there is a very definite reason and a very purposeful selection that lies back of everything that you have in your Bible. Now, the message today is what that purpose is, what it is about – why God selected these chapters and placed them in the holy and immutable Word of God.
All right, what is it? There are three great purposes by which God selected these chapters and these words and, under the Holy Spirit, wrote them and gathered them in the Holy Bible [2 Peter 1:20-21]. Now, I’ll name the three, and then we’re going to discuss them until I have to quit this morning.
The first reason that lies back of the Bible is this. It is a self-disclosure. It is a self-revelation of God. The liberal says that the Bible is nothing other than a record of man’s blind search after God. That’s what he says.
We avow that the Scriptures is the self-revelation and self-disclosure of God as God sought the heart, and soul, and love, and allegiance of man – that it was God reaching down, that it was God searching, that it was God revealing Himself like you have in the beginning of the story: "And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day" [Genesis 3:8] coming to visit Adam, to seek him out. "And the Lord said, ‘Adam, where art thou?’" [Genesis 3:9].
"Where art thou?" God seeking man: that’s the first thing the Bible is about.
All right, the second thing is the great creation and man’s part in it – why God made the man, the purpose of His creation, what God expects of him, and man’s place in it which is mostly one of failure, transgression.
Then the third great purpose of the Bible is to reveal the story of redemption. Right from the beginning and clear to the end, you have that elective purpose, the selective purpose, of God as He reveals the great plan of redemption – the Person and the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. All right, now let’s start with those and look at them.
First, the Bible is about – it is about the self-revelation and the self-disclosure of Jehovah God. It starts off, "In the beginning God" [Genesis 1:1]. "In the beginning God" – never raises the question or argues the point about God. Psalm 14:1 says, "The fool hath said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’" The Bible never argues the point, never brings it up. "In the beginning God" [Genesis 1:1] takes it for granted the great fact of all creation. "In the beginning God." In the beginning what?
"In the beginning, the giant Tiamat slain by the god Marduk," said the Babylonians. "In the beginning, a cosmic egg made by the mud out of the Nile," said the Egyptians. "In the beginning, the limbs of a desevered giant," said the sacred scriptures of the Hindus, the Rig Veda. "In the beginning, a fire mist swirling in space," says the materialist physicist.
But when I pick up my Book [Bible], my Book says, "In the beginning God" [Genesis 1:1]. Then it begins, and we have, as I turn the page and as I read from the Book, we have the story of the self-disclosure, the self-revelation of this great, mighty Jehovah Lord.
At Grand Canyon two or three weeks ago, the sun was setting. I didn’t know there was a range of mountains beyond the Grand Canyon in the west, but there is: blue, blue, blue in the distance and the sun setting beyond that range of blue, blue mountains. Over the canyon, with all of its varied and multi-colored forms and shadows, I have not seen, not anywhere in this earth, as beautiful, as hushed, as sacred and holy a moment as standing there watching the sun go down beyond that purple range of mountains over the Grand Canyon.
And already there before I came was a car marked "The Park Service of the United States Department of Interior." And on the inside of the car was a man sitting there with a pipe, slowly smoking his pipe, transfixed by that beautiful sunset. And after the sun had gone down, I said to him, "Sir, you look interested. Beautiful, isn’t it?"
"Ah," he said, "it’s the Lord’s own doing."
I said, "What are you? I notice you’re with the Park Service."
He said, "Yes, sir. I’m a naturalist that is interested in the wildlife – in what God had placed in that beautiful place."
I got to thinking about him. That naturalist who loved things that God had made – the ground, and the trees, and the soil, and the animals of the woods, and the colors of God’s sunset, and all of the beauty of the majesty of His great creation – that naturalist, who is a trained observer, he’s given his life to nothing else but to look and to write down all of these things God has done. That naturalist could look at that canyon, and he could look at those purple mountains, and he could look at that gorgeous sunset, and he could look at all of the great creative works of God – he could look at them forever, and forever, and forever, and yet never know the God who did it – never – never know His name, never know what He was like, never know who He was.
The only way that naturalist could ever know, the only way the great us of humanity could ever know, is for God to disclose Himself: "Here I am, beyond a shadow, beyond that purple mountain range, beyond the gorgeous sunset, beyond the stars of the firmament, here I am. This is My name. This is what I’m like. This is I, the great God Jehovah."
To disclose Himself, to reveal Himself. And how did He do it? Not through stars. That’s just His handiwork. Not through the great, beautiful, creative works that we see. But we know Him through the Book [Bible], through the Book. And without the Book, you’d never know Him – never, never, never.
So, I say one of the great purposes of the Holy Scriptures is first, the self-disclosure and the self-revelation of God. "Would you know My name? Would you look upon My glory? Would you follow My works? Would you understand My deeds? Would you know what I’m like – what was, and is, and is to be? Then here it is. I’ve written it," says Jehovah Almighty, "in the Book, in the Book."
Now, just a word about the God who is self-revealed here in the Bible. It’s not anything like you’d think for – not anything. "In the beginning Elohim" [Genesis 1:1] – plural. Why, it’s an astounding thing. "In the beginning Elohim" – gods, but not gods for that’s the name of God plural: "Elohim."
To our amazement, to our amazement, this self-revealed God here is not one, but He is one. He’s not three, but He is three. To my amazement, in the great self-disclosure of God, first thing I run into is that mystery of His personality, of His presence – the eternal Father, the eternal Son, and the eternal Spirit.
Studying this week, I came – listen, you read a passage like this in English, say, you ought to read it in Hebrew! You think it’s strong in English; you ought to read in Hebrew. Let me tell you what I did this week. I read that thing in Hebrew and I just marveled at what I had read, and so I got an English translation of the Hebrew Scriptures by the Jewish people – a translation of their own Scriptures made by them themselves. And you know what I found out in that translation? They wouldn’t translate this! You’ll find in that Masoretic text translation of the Hebrew Scriptures by the Jewish synagogues of America – the Hebrew Fellowship of America – you will find their English translation, they don’t translate this. But in that English translation, you’ll find these words untranslated – just spelled out in English letters but untranslated.
And I wondered why. Well, I could guess why. You look at this. "For unto us a child is born, and unto us a Son is given: and the government shall rest upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called" – this is who He is – "and His name shall be called" – then you have it translated: "Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace" [Isaiah 9:6].
Well, I looked it up. My soul, who is this Second One from eternity? Pele Yaats. Pele: a miraculous thing, a wonderful thing, an extraordinary thing – a thing a man would never know or never realize.
Pele, a miraculous thing – you have it translated "Wonderful." Yaats, a Counselor.
Now look at the next one: El gibbor. Many times the Hebrew word Elohim can reply to deities, and when Jesus said – why, in your Psalms it said, "I called Him God" and so and so. You can use Elohim like that, but you never use El except to refer to absolute deity!
El gibbor: God the Mighty One. That’s the Second of the Trinity: the Son given – this miraculous thing, this extraordinary and wonderful thing. El, God Almighty Himself, God; Gibbor, the Mighty One. That’s who He is, but He’s not done. Abi: "the Father of;" ad "Eternity" – the forevers. Back there He was in the beginning. When I read in my Book, "In the beginning God" [Genesis 1:1] – in the beginning this marvelous, extraordinary One – the Son in the days of His flesh, abiad: God of all the eternities.
Sarshalom – that’s plain. Sar, prince, shalom, peace: Prince of Peace.
That’s the purpose of the Bible: revealing to us these great self-disclosures of the personality of God without which we’d never know Him. But in the Book, there He is. There He is. Not only the self-disclosure of the Person of God, who He is, but in the Bible, you have the disclosure of the ways, and the words, and the judgments of Almighty God.
May I just illustrate that? Then I’m going to have to quit. When the story starts off, it goes like this: "And Cain was with his brother out in a field, and Cain rose up, and he slew his brother Abel!" [Genesis 4:8]
Why wasn’t that all right? Why wasn’t it? Why wasn’t it all right for Cain to rise up and slay his brother Abel? Why wasn’t that all right?
Here is why that wasn’t all right: "And the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is thy brother Abel?’" [Genesis 4:9]. God intervenes, and that’s the purpose of the Book. Why
isn’t it all right for Abel to be slain by the angry and imperious Cain? Why isn’t that all right? Because of the Lord God and the disclosure of God, and the works of God, and the judgment of God.
"And the Lord God said to Cain, ‘Where is thy brother Abel?’ And Cain said, ‘I don’t know. I’m not his keeper.’ And the Lord said, ‘What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto Me from the ground’" [Genesis 4:9-10].
That’s why it’s not all right. It’s God that makes it not all right. "The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto Me from the ground" [Genesis 4:10]. That’s the disclosure of God. That’s the purpose of the Book.
May I choose just one other incident? "And it came to pass, when Jezebel heard that Naboth was stoned, and was dead, that Jezebel said, ‘Ahab, arise! Arise, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth . . . He’s not alive. He’s dead’" [1 Kings 21:15].
And the Bible says, "And Ahab arose and went down to Jezreel to take possession of Naboth’s vineyard" [1 Kings 21:16]. Why isn’t that all right? Why isn’t that all right? Who says that’s not all right? He’s the king. Isn’t that all right? And his queen is the imperious Jezebel [1 Kings 16:30-31]. Why isn’t that all right?
Here’s why that isn’t all right: "And the Word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, ‘You arise’" [1 Kings 21:17-18]. "You arise. Stand up, Elijah! Arise!"
Jezebel said to Ahab, "Arise!" But the Lord God says to Elijah, "Elijah, arise! Arise . . . And thus shalt thou speak to Ahab, saying, ‘Thus saith the Lord, "In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine"’" [1 Kings 21:17-19].
That’s the purpose of the Book. That’s the purpose of the Book: to reveal to us the commandments and the words and the judgments of God. God made this thing just this way, and God did this thing just this way, and God holds us accountable just this way. And this is the way God made this thing to run and to work, and the knowledge of that is in the Word of the Lord. It’s a self-disclosure of God, a revelation of the character, and personality, and expectations, and judgments of the Lord.
You know, I don’t see how I can mistime a message. I am exactly one-third done – exactly.
My second great purpose in the writing of the Book that I have found is man and his place in the creation of the world, and why God made him, and what God expects of him, and how he failed. Then the third great section is the great unfolding of the redemptive purposes of our Lord.
Next Sunday morning, we’ll do our best briefly to summarize those other two and then go on. I never had such a thrill in my life as I did in preparing this message of next Sunday morning: How God Made the World – created it.
I tell you, ever since I been looking at Carlsbad Cavern, and they say, "Now, here’s a stalagmite, sixty million years old," and every time I been looking at these old fossils – I don’t mean folks, I mean these, you know, old fossils in rocks, that kind – ever since I’ve been looking at them and these archeologists say, "And that fossil there died a hundred million years ago," I tell you ever since I been looking at that and reading those things, I’ve had an awful time with the Bible. But I got it settled now, that is, to my heart’s content, and I’m ready to tell you how I think it is how God made the world.
Now, I must close at 9:15 every one of these services, and I pray that I shall so we can go on with our program all through these unfolding days that lie ahead.
At all of these services, as of this one, we open the doors of the kingdom of God, by faith, somebody you, to enter in. We open the doors of the church of our Lord Jesus Christ. By confession of that faith, enter in. Have you ever been baptized according to the commandment of the Lord? You come. You come. Have you been baptized and you belong to the church already but you want to be in the circumference and fellowship of this blessed and precious group? You come. You come. However God shall say the word and open the door, while we sing the song of appeal, you come while we stand and while we sing.