ADORNING THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-28-58 10:50 a.m.
You are sharing with us these services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled Adorning the Doctrine of God. In our preaching through the Bible, we have come to the second chapter of the Book of Titus:
Speak thou the things which become sound doctrine:
That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience.
That aged women likewise, that they be in behavior as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;
That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,
To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.
Young men likewise exhort to be sober-minded.
In all things showing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine showing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity,
Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.
Exhort servants, slaves, to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again;
Not purloining, but showing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ;
Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.
So we shall do so this morning; “that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things” [Titus 2:10].
He started off, “Speak thou the things which becometh sound doctrine” [Titus 2:1]. Then when he delineates sound doctrine, all of these things of how the aged men are to do, and the aged women are to do, and the young men are to do, and the young women are to do, and the servants are to do, all of us, in speaking of sound doctrine, when he delineates it, he speaks of an adornment—that is the beautiful life that presents, in loveliness and in chastity and in duty, the doctrine of God [Titus 2:2-10].
Now those words are interesting and full of meaning: the “doctrine,” the didaskalia. The Greek word for “to teach” is didaskō, to teach. A didaskalos is a “teacher.” They address Jesus with that term, ho didaskalos: “Master, Teacher” [John 13:13-14]. And didaskalia is “what is taught”: it is the doctrine, it is the teaching. In Latin you would say doctrina. A doctor is a teacher. A long time before they had any medical doctors, the “doctors” referred to the ministers, the teachers of the Jewish law—well, the church law, canon law. The doctor, the doctrine, the didaskalia, the didaskalos, the teacher, the teaching; so the doctrine is the teaching [Titus 2:1].
Now to “adorn” it: kosmeō [Titus 2:10]. Any woman would recognize that word as “cosmetic.” Kosmeō means “to adorn, to beautify, to set in order, to arrange,” and your word “cosmetic” came from it. And the word kosmos was applied by the Greeks to “the world,” because to them it was beautifully ordered and beautifully arranged. So they called it the kosmos. Now kosmeō, “to adorn, to make beautiful, to make acceptable, to make lovely”: adorn the doctrine of God [Titus 2:10]. Now the sermon is built around those two words; first, the doctrine, the teaching, the summation of what God hath revealed and taught us in His Word [2 Thessalonians 2:15; 2 Timothy 3:14].
Doctrine, teaching, is all important—however, most of us think contrariwise—for we are what we are because of the teaching, because of the doctrine [Titus 2:1]. Our Christian civilization has been built upon Christian teaching, Christian doctrine. It was because of the rigidity of belief, the unbendingness of Christian avowal, that you have the heritage that you possess today. The Pilgrims, for example, refused to bow before the mandate of a king and a state church. And that principle, that commitment, that drive in every American if he is a true American, the unbendingness before a tyrant or before a state church is no small part of the American heritage, the rigidity of belief.
If I could have hours, I could illustrate that endlessly. Athanasius one time began, “I, Athanasius, against the whole world.” He refused to bend, to bow before Arius. That controversy of doctrine has been used all through history as an example of the divisiveness and the littleness of Christian leaders. Arius said, “Christ was homoiousios.” Athanasius said, “Christ is homoousios,” and the difference is a Greek iota. Edward Gibbon one time sarcastically remarked that they divided the entire Christian world over a Greek iota. And the Council of Nicaea was called, you remember, to settle the bitter controversy.
Thomas Carlyle picked up that thing from Edward Gibbon and likewise used it as an instance of the divisiveness, the argumentativeness, the pugnaciousness of Christian people. Thomas Carlyle later apologized for his former attitude, for the difference between a homoiousios and a homoousios is the difference between Christ being a man, which is what Arius said, and Christ being God, which is what Athanasius said.
And those two iotas that sometimes seemingly are so trivial and unimportant make all of the difference in the foundation of a church, of government, a state, or a life. In the world of mathematics, in the world of banking, the transposition of a little decimal point or a figure will throw the entire physicist off in computing his chemical, mathematical formulae, or throw a whole banking establishment out of balance. A pebble falling in the brook has changed the course of many a river. A raindrop bending low a twig has warped the giant oak forever. These things are important. Our lives, our heritage, our state, our church, our destiny are built upon doctrine, teaching. Orthodoxy is right thinking, straight teaching.
Now, that doctrine is the foundation upon which our lives are built [2 Timothy 3;14-15; Titus 2:1]. The tragedy of our modern day can easily be delineated in the persuasion of so many millions that these great doctrinal verities revealed in God are passé, they are medieval, they are so much excess baggage. And the thing that we must do in our time is to bow with the atheist at the shrine of science and worship knowledge. And we have come to the place where we have created such a Frankenstein monster we are afraid before the very god of knowledge and science and erudition that we have come to worship. “When the foundation is destroyed, what can the righteous do?” [Psalm 11:3]. These things are important. And there are millions of other people who have been pulled away from the great Christian foundations of life and of hope by false philosophy, secularism, materialism.
I came across this poem this week from Thomas Hardy, one of the great, great modern poets and novelists, died some few years ago. This is a one of the most pathetic utterances I ever read, one of the most wistful. Hardy stands in a cathedral; he watches the people at worship and prayer, and he says,
Since heart of mine knows not that ease
Which they know; since it be
That he who breathes All’s Well to them
Breathes no All’s Well to me,
My lack might move their sympathies
And Christian charity!
I am like a gazer who should mark
At inland company
Standing up-fingered, with “Hark! hark!
The glorious distant sea!”
And feel, “Alas, ‘tis but yon dark
And wind-swept pine to me!”
[“The Impercipient,” Thomas Hardy]
When the foundation, when the teaching, when the doctrine of the revelation of God in Christ Jesus has been removed, there is nothing but pitiable, helpless despair that remains.
Doctrine is important. The doctrine is the skeletal framework upon which God hangs all of His words and His revelations. The bony structure of our body gives it uprightness, and form, and contour, and locomotion. We would be queer creatures without a skeleton, without that bony structure. It was the divine wisdom of God, the greatest engineer in the universe, that created it: a cranial cavity in which to hold the brain, a thoracic cavity in which to hold and protect and to house the lungs and the heart, a spinal column to stand straight up, femurs for locomotion, tarsals and metatarsals for walking, carpals and metacarpals for handling. Engineers say it was the most divinely wrought schemes in this earth for utility, for strength. Without it we would be queer creatures indeed, biological blobs, hunks of jelly.
The skeleton is needed, the doctrine is vital. Peter Marshall one time said, “A fellow that does not stand for something will fall for anything.” Rigidity of belief: this is right, and this is correct, and this is the truth of God, and by God’s grace this is the purpose and dedication of my life. That is important.
Now, may I speak of Paul’s second word: that we may “adorn” [Titus 2:10], that we may clothe, that we may beautify the doctrine of God? The skeleton is needed, it is necessary. There is no life as we could know without it. But a skeleton in itself can be somewhat forbidding and unattractive. When Ezekiel, in the thirty-seventh chapter of his book, stood in the valley and looked before him, and behold, it was full of bones, and they were very dry [Ezekiel 37:1-2]; that is what the Bible says.
Them bones, them bones, them dry, dry bones.
And the neck bone connected with the shoulder bone.
The shoulder bone connected with the backbone.
The backbone connected with the thigh bone.
Thigh bone connected with the leg bone.
Leg bone connected with the ankle bone.
The ankle bone connected with the foot bone.
Hear ye the Word of the Lord!
Them bones, them bones, them dry, dry bones.
[“Dry Bones,” James Weldon Johnson]
I have heard you all sing that. Well, that is an unattractive sight.
When I was in Baylor I took several premed courses, and one of them we called “the cat course.” Every fellow went out and found him a cat and put him in a sack, took it up there, poured chloroform, put the lid down, stuck him in formaldehyde, and then we de-severed him from the tip of his nose to the end of his tail and had to learn every part in him in the meantime. And brother, that is an assignment! You do not know how many parts a cat has until you start dissecting him. Our professor had a skeleton there—hung him up by a screw in his skull. Then he had an enormous pan; that thing was as big as that grand piano there. And every day when he lectured to us on anatomy, he would have cause to reach down in that black pan and shake those bones, those dry, dry bones, until he found the little one that he wanted to illustrate. All of those human bones—takes something to be a doctor, I tell you; you got to get over some things.
Well, there is no way in the world of making a skeleton, as such, attractive. It needs something. And the Lord God said to Ezekiel, “Stand now and speak to the dry bones, that they be clothed: the sinews, the muscles, the skin, and the breath of life” [Ezekiel 37:4-6]. So it is with the great truths of the Word of God and the great doctrines of the faith; they must be incarnate, they must be clothed with flesh and blood, they must live again! As long as the Bible is just a book, and as long as the doctrine is just a teaching—theological precepts and conceptions—they lie inert and powerless and weak.
Not only that, but sometimes—could I say, I am afraid, many times—the great doctrine of a church and of a people are presented skeletal-like, cranial-like, bone-like, scary-like. A man can dicker, can discuss and assert himself upon the deity of Christ, upon the doctrines of the church, upon the truth of God, and he can do it with asperity and with biterness, with caustic acrimony. And some congregations and some people are never so much at peace as when they are in a fight, hating one another for the love of God. It is a strange thing, preaching the great truths of God with such bitterness of spirit, such caustic acidity, such violent offense, such denunciation, with such unloveliness. And instead of making converts, we drive them away.
There is an orthodoxy of the heart, an orthodoxy of the spirit, as well as an orthodoxy of the letter and of the Book. For fear of being misunderstood I want to use an illustration from a Unitarian student. His theology is wrong, but his heart is right. Several years ago there was a prized poem read at a Harvard commencement. The young man who read it is named Gilden. I know nothing else about him. The young fellow who read it is named Gilden, and he was taught in that Unitarian school. And at the end of his work and at the commencement of his life’s task at the Harvard commencement, he read this poem, which is from his Unitarian heart:
If Jesus Christ is a man—
And only a man—I say
That of all mankind I will [cleave to] Him,
And Him will I [cleave] alway;
But if Jesus Christ is a God,—
And the only God,—I swear
I will follow Him through heaven and hell,
The earth, the sea, and the air!
[“The Song of a Heathen,” Richard Watson Gilder]
Now the theology of that would not be acceptable to any disciple of Jesus. He doesn’t know. He’s not persuaded. He’s been taught a Unitarian theology. “If He is a man,” he says, “He is the best man of all mankind, and I will follow Him even as a man. If He is a God, He is the only God, and I would follow Him as God through heaven and hell, the earth, the sea, and the air.”
Now, I have used that as an illustration. The theology of the boy is wrong. We don’t have any “ifs” about Jesus. He is our Lord, so help us God. And to live and to die, we have entrusted our destiny with Him. We worship Him as our God. Paul calls Him that, “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ” [Titus 2:13]. Paul calls Him God. The theology is wrong, but the spirit is right. There is an orthodoxy of the spirit, of the heart, that God’s people ought always to pray for and to ask for: the doctrine beautifully presented, beautifully lived, beautifully exemplified [Titus 2:10]. These are the great truths of God, and here they are, in life, in you.
One of these famous atheists said, “I can answer the Christian apologist, but there is a little servant girl in our home whose pure, honest, upright, truthful life staggers me,” just knocks him out every time she appeared, “adorning the doctrine of God our Savior” [Titus 2:10]. They were in a discussion about the best translation of the Bible. “I like the King James,” says one. “I like the American Revised Version of 1901,” said another. “I like Weymouth’s,” said another. “I like my mother’s best,” said another.
We are the only Bible
The careless world will read,
We are the sinner’s gospel,
We are the scoffer’s creed;
We are the Lord’s last message,
Given in deed and word.
What if the print is crooked?
What if the type is blurred?
[“The World’s Bible,” Annie Johnson Flint]
“Adorning the doctrine of Christ our Savior” [Titus 2:10], to present it beautiful, gloriously, to make somebody say, “I would like to be like that.”
Now, however we may persuade ourselves otherwise, this is an everlastingly true thing. This world, this gainsaying, scoffing, unbelieving world is not very much interested in what you say, but they are always looking at you. “Can’t hear what you say,” said Emerson; “what you are speaks so loud.” They’re interested in you! They look at you!
Now this Bible has the whole revelation of God, but there are not many gainsayers and unbelievers that are going to look at the spiritual fine print; but they will read the bold print that is you! They are looking at you. They are interested in you. They are watching you! And any doctrine that they gain or learn from God has to come in us. Oh, that we might clothe it beautifully and present it gloriously, “adorning the doctrine of God our Savior” [Titus 2:10].
A missionary described in one of his books his way of thinking to the people. He was going, a pioneer, he was going where people had never seen a white man. And when he would go into a village, why, this is the way that he preached the gospel: he would go to the chief and ask the chief to gather his people together. Then he would take a board and put up there a picture of the life of the Lord, and he would tell them the story of the picture. Well, it was a motley group, and I can see that in my mind’s eye—whenever he went to a village, he gathered them together. Why, there would be the dogs and the chickens, and the goats, and the kids, and hollering and screaming, and the irreverent group. It was very difficult, but that is the way he did, and God blessed him.
So he went to this village, he says, and gathered all that bedlam together and put up his big picture and was telling the people, “That’s a picture.” There were two women seated down there right in front of him, seated on the ground in front of him, and there was something about his feet that greatly interested them. So finally one of the women held up her hand and said, “White man, we want to know something.” Well, he was busy. When she repeated the question, why, he said, “Now wait until I get through. And at the end, why, you can ask me all the questions you please.” She said, “White man, I want to know something now!” And when she said that, the entire motley bedlam out there took up the thing and chorused it, “White man, she wants an answer now.” So he stopped and he said, “What is it that you want to know?”
And she said, “White man, are your feet white like your hands and your face?” They could see his face. They could see his hands. “Are your feet white like your hands and your face?” He said, “Yes, my feet are white like my hands and my face.” And he picked up his thread of thought and started going with his lesson. But it was very evident that his answer had no satisfactoriness for those two women down there, and they kept an agitation until finally the other one stood up and put her bony finger right under his nose and said, “White man, you lie! Your face and your hands are white, but your feet are black!” That was a new experience for him, so he looked down there to see what had caused such an outbreak as that. While he was looking, why, the whole bedlam picked up again like a chorus, “White man, your face and your hands are white, but your feet are black. Your feet are black!”
Well, when he finally took in the situation, it was this. He wore high shoes, laced boots. Walking through the jungle, they helped him protect himself. And they could see that his boots were not a part of him; that was evident. But as he had tracked through the jungle that day, the tongue of one of the boots had slipped over. And through the lacing those two native women down there could see his black socks, and they thought the socks were a part of him. So they surmised that his face may be white and his hands may be white, but his feet are black.
And he couldn’t go on with his lesson, and he couldn’t go on with his sermon, and he couldn’t go on with his doctrine until first he sat down there in the midst of that motley bedlam, undone his shoes and took them off, took off his socks, and showed the natives that his feet were white like his hands and his face. After he did that, he said, he took his story and went right on preaching the gospel. He made no application of it in his book, but there is an application to be made. They are interested in how you walk. They are interested in your feet. They are interested in what you do. Are your feet white like your hands and your face? Are you walking like you speak and like you say? Do you do the doctrine of the Book? That’s what the world is interested in, and that is about all that they will ever notice.
Our tremendously important assignment, according to the Word of the Lord, is to “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior,” to make it beautiful, and fine, and acceptable, and upright, glorious—adorning it. Now here again, if I had several more hours, I would like to speak of that, adorning the doctrine of God our Savior, taking these doctrines and adorning them [Titus 2:10].
May I just point it out, and then I am through? The doctrine of sonship, of the new birth: when a man stands up to preach and he takes as his text, “You must be born again” [John 3:3,7], and he preaches a doctrinal sermon, the new birth, sons of God. Many people are sons of God, born again, saved, and know it. But O Lord, how we need people who are born again sons of God and show it! Demonstrate our sonship with God, adorning the doctrine of Christ our Lord. The doctrine of the atonement, that Christ died, is history. But between Pilate and Titus, that forty years in there, there were more than thirty thousand Jews that were crucified. Martyrs are no new thing to the earth. That Christ died is history, just a meaningless fact. That Christ died for our sins is theology [1 Corinthians 15:3], then His death has a meaning, it has a divine signification, it has a heavenly purpose. But it is still theology. That Christ died for me, my sins; that is the cross experiential. It comes out of history. It gets out of theology, and it becomes a part of my soul and my heart. My sins sharpened the nail and pointed the thorn; I, my sins [Isaiah 53:5].
Alexander Whyte tells the story of a dreamer. And in his dream he saw our Lord fastened to the post, and the Roman soldier with a scorpion in his hand, great chunks of lead down every lash to tear the flesh. And in the dream, the soldier lifted the terrible scourge and brought it down and down! Every heavy thrust left its welt and its stream of blood. And when the soldier raised his hand again to strike again, the dreamer rushed to stop the soldier. When he did so, the soldier turned around and the dreamer recognized himself. My sins drove the nails in His hands. My sins pressed the brow, pressed the crown of thorns on His brow. My sins slew Him on the tree. And were there no other sinners in the world, were I the only lost child in this world, He still would have died for me, saving me. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me” [Galatians 2:20].
It’s not history anymore. It’s not theology anymore. It’s life. It’s experience. It’s blood. It’s flesh. It’s tears. It’s commitment! It’s the incarnation of the truth of God. It lives again in you.
We must close, but O Lord, bless the message to us, for the way we walk, for the way we do, for the way we live, that God’s great teachings may find life and incarnation in us; adorning, living, clothing, the doctrine of God our Savior [Titus 2:10]. Many of you have been listening on this radio. If you’ve never given your heart to God, if you’re driving a car, would you pull to the side of the road and bow your head and say, “Jesus, today, I accept Thy atonement for my sins [Romans 5:8-11], Thy life for my death, Thy righteousness for my unrighteousness [2 Corinthians 5:21]. And in this world and the world to come, I look in faith and in hope unto Thee” [Ephesians 2:8-9].
Would you do it? If you’re seated in the chair in the living room, would you kneel by the chair and say, “Lord, today, owning my need and my life, I take Thee as personal Savior today, today”? And in the throng of people in this house, in the balcony around, on this lower floor, if you’ve never given your heart and life in trust, in faith to Jesus, would you do it now? [Romans 10:9-13; 2 Timothy 1:12]. Make it now; down that stairwell at the back or the front, or into the aisle and down here to the pastor. “I give you my hand, pastor. Today, I give my heart to Christ.” One somebody you, or a family you, coming into the fellowship of the church, however God shall say the word, open the way, will you come? Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.