GOD WHO CANNOT LIE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-30-58 7:30 p.m.
We turn now in our Bibles to the epistle of Paul to Titus, to Titus. It is not as possibly some of us would have arranged these books. Second Timothy is the last letter of Paul, and it describes the hour of his near departure. So when we preached this this morning at the end time of his life, you would think that would conclude his ministry, but here we start over again.
You see, these letters are arranged according to somebody’s idea of their importance, and usually they were based in their importance on how lengthy they were. Romans was somewhat lengthy and important, so they put it first. Then First and Second Corinthians were lengthy, and they put it next. Then the little epistles like Philippians and Colossians and Thessalonians is smaller, so they put it last. Really, the first letter that Paul wrote is First Thessalonians, yet it’s the last in the arrangement of his letters to the churches. Then they start with the letters to these individuals. Well, Philemon was a little bitty letter, so they put it last in these personal epistles.
Now it’sall right, but in preaching through the Bible as I am doing, it kind of turns the thing around somewhat in its spirit to come to the end of the way with the apostle Pauland close with the last chapter of Second Timothy then start again with Titus.But we are seeking the truth of God, and the message tonight, I pray, has in it a tremendous fact, a great truth.
Now let’sread the first five verses – no, the first four verses. Let’s read the first four verses, and the text is the second verse. Titus 1:1-4, together:
Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect and the acknowledging of truth which is after godliness,
In hope of eternal life which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began,
But hath in due times manifested His word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Savior;
To Titus, mine own son after the common faith:Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior.
This is the text:"In hope of eternal life which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began" [Titus 1:2]. And the sermon is built upon the little parenthetical clause by which Paul describes God: "God that cannot lie."
And to look at that, to hear that, seems so altogether superfluous. Why would one describe God as "this is the One who cannot lie"? It seems to be self-evident. Who would suppose that God could lie, would lie, might lie? Who would think it? Why should Paul add it?
"Paul, a servant of God . . . according to the faith of God’s elect, the acknowledging of the truth in hope of eternal life which God" [from Titus 1:1]. Why didn’t he just say, "In hope of eternal life which God hath promised before the world began"? Why place in that beautiful and meaningful sentence that little addendum, that little explanation, that little characterization, "In hope of eternal life which God that cannot lie promised before the world began"?
Now, that’s what I would think. That’s what most anyone would think. Isn’t that what you would think? "God that cannot lie" – why place that in the text?
But when you actually begin to consider it and to think upon it, you will come to the conclusion that I came to in preparing this sermon: that the very contrariwise is the universal reaction, response, characterization, that we find in the story of the human race. It is apparently hard for the children of old man Adam to believe what God says. "God that cannot lie" [Titus 1:2]: you’d think it is redundant; it is superfluous; it is an unnecessary addendum; it is an appendix which has no point. The thing’s already said when you name God.Why say "He cannot lie"?
But, contrariwise, the story and the history and the experience of the whole human race is that it is difficult for mankind to believe what God says. Somehow we have the persuasion that God does not tell the truth: He does not say the thing that is factual and correct – that God does lie.
Now, may I illustrate that? When Eve met the serpent, he wound her around his finger as though she were putty in his hands. And this is the way that he did it. He asked, "Did God say that?" [Genesis 3:1]
"Yes," said Eve, "God said that" [Genesis 3:2-3].
And then, the first recorded lie: "Ye shall not surely die" [Genesis 3:4].
But God said that she would. Satan said, "You will not." And Eve believed God lied. She believed Satan [Genesis 3:6], and that was in the beginning.
That whole story of the tragedy of old man Adam and mother Eve has been no different from the example set by our first parents. When God said in the days of Noah, "I will destroy this world by water" [Genesis 6:17], I can see now the whole human family scoffing at Noah, at the Word of God,and at Noah’s building an ark a hundred miles from where was the beginning of enough water to float so big a ship [Genesis 6:14-22].
I can just hear now the family of Lot, with all the rest of the Sodomites, laughing in derision at the word of Lot when he said, "God hath said this place shall be destroyed by fire" [Genesis 19:14]. In the days of the Old Testament the false prophet was believed, but a grea tgodly man like Micaiah was put in prison to eat bread of affliction and water of affliction until the Word of God that he pronounced should be proved to be a lie! [1 Kings 22:26-28]
I need not continue. It has never failed. It has been that same experience in all the story of the human family.
Now, you have no other truer record than recorded here in this Book, than recorded in human life and experience, that the words and the prophecies and the threatenings and the revelations of God are always "yea" and "amen" [2 Corinthians 1:20]: "God who cannot lie" [Titus 1:2].
Why, I can hardly imagine the thing that came to pass in the Garden of Eden. Tell me, you who think at all, isn’t it almost inconceivable to you that the Lord God Creator in heaven should have placed into this world the skill and the genius and the beauty in the creation of the Garden of Eden and then resign itand turn it over to the machinations and to the dominion of Satan, the archenemy of God and the destroyer of mankind? You who think, "Isn’t that almost inconceivable that this world, fashioned by His hand, should be given into the arms and direction of the archenemy of God and of us?" And isn’t it almost inconceivable to you that the man that God made in His own image should have been driven out to sweat, to toil, to suffer and to fall into the grave? [Genesis 3:17-19, 23]
Yet God said, "In the day that you eat thereof, thou shalt surely die" [Genesis 2:17] and God cannot lie [Titus 1:2]. And Eden was blasted, and the man was driven out, a wanderer upon a thorn-cursed earth and world [Genesis 3:22-24], because of the immutable, unchanging Word of the living God.
Same way as you carry that thought through all that God has said. God swept the entire human race away in the Flood saving only righteous Noah’s family [Genesis 7:1, 7, 21-24]. God said that He would [Genesis 7:4], and He did it [Genesis 7:11-12, 17-23]. And God rained fire and brimstone out of heaven and burned up the Sodomites and the Gomorrahites and the cities of the plain [Genesis 19:24-25]. He said that He would [Genesis 9:12-13, 15], and He did it [Genesis 19:24-25].
And when Ahab laughed and scoffed at Micaiah who delivered the Word of God, Ahab said, "Put him in prison and feed him afflicted bread and water until I come back again" [1 Kings 22:26-27]. In the battle, a man drew a bow at aventure: didn’t aim, didn’t have any mark;drew it back adventitiously and let it fly. And that arrow found a joint in the armor of Ahab, pierced his heart, and he fell down in his own blood dead in the chariot [1 Kings 22:34-35]. They brought him back home [1 Kings 22:37]. They washed the chariot out by the pool in Jezreel where Elijah had said, "In the place where Naboth’s blood was licked up by the dogs, the dogs shall lick up thy blood," [1 Kings 21:19, 22:38] according to the saying of the man of God.
And to pass by those howling wastes of Nineveh, those lonesome, dreary mounds that once was Babylon, to look upon the rock of Sidon, the place of Tyre, how God’s Word never fails! Even His beloved Jerusalemdestroyed – the city of God – in 587 BC by Nebuchadnezzar, destroyed by Titus in 70 AD, and today, not even permitted the Jews to go to the Wailing Wall there to repeat the lamentations of Jeremiah. The Word of God never fails: "God that cannot lie" [Titus 1:2].
This brings us to one of the great doctrines and revelations of the Holy Scriptures which is the immutability, the unchanging God. I want to read to you – and you listen to them – some very typical passages by which that doctrine is emphasized in the Word of the Lord. Listen to it.
Numbers 23:19: "God is not a man, that He should lie, neither the son of man that He should repent" – that He should change. "Hath He said, and shall He not do it? Hath He spoken, and shall He not make it good?"
Listen, again, as the Lord God speaks of the children and the family and the nation of David. This is Psalm 89: , following:
If the children forsake My law and walk not in My judgments,
If they break My statutes and keep not My commandments,
Then will I visit them and their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes.
Nevertheless, nevertheless, My lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer My faithfulness to fail.
My covenant will I not break, [nor alter] the thing that is gone out of My lips.
Once have I sworn by My holiness that I will not lie unto David:
His seed shall endure forever, and his throne as the sun before Me.
Another typical passage in Isaiah the fourteenth chapter:
The Lord of Hosts has sworn, saying, "Surely, as I have thought, so shall it come to pass, as I have purposed, so shall it stand:
This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth, and this is the hand that is stretched out upon all the nations.
For the Lord of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? And His hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?"
[Isaiah 14:24, 26-27]
Once again in Isaiah :
I am God, and there is none else,
Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure."
I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it.
And then summing it up, James, the pastor of the church at Jerusalem, said in 1:17:" . . . The father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow cast by turning" [James 1:17].
These are just typical passages that I have chosen to present the Bible doctrine, the unvarying doctrine, of the immutableness and the unchangeableness of the living God. "God is not a man that He should change, nor the son of man that He should lie" [from Numbers 23:19]. But the decrees of God, not written in sand, are written in the eternal iron and brass of His own unchanging nature and character.
The name of God, Yahweh, Jehovah, is made of four consonants; and that word, that name, never changes. It never varies. There’s never a prefix. There’s never a suffix. There’s never a syllable added. It is never pluralized. It is always the same. Thus it is with the nature of Almighty God. He never changes in His great plan and in His indelible purpose. It is always the same. And in the Holy Scriptures when God is presented as having changed His mind, it is always with the idea that God is following through that decree, that ultimate and final purpose in glory: "Forever, O God, Thy Word is fixed in heaven" [Psalm 119:89].
When Jonah preaches to the Ninevites, "Forty days and Nineveh will be destroyed" [Jonah 3:4], forty days – a number and a period of probation. And in keeping with the mercy of God, Nineveh was spared [Jonah 3:10], but in probation, they turned back to iniquity and Nineveh was destroyed. There are no howling wastes in this world as dreary as the mounds that once marked the great capital city of Nineveh: the immutability of God that cannot lie.
Therein is found an infinitely precious and glorious comforting hope for the child of God:
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
The soul, that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I will never, no never desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.
["How Firm a Foundation," author unknown, 1787]
"In hope of eternal life, which God that cannot lie," the immutable God, "promised before the world began" [Titus 1:2]. The hope of our souls is not on shifting sand. It is not based upon any angel, or any saint, or any virgin, or any mediator among men. Our hope of eternal life is not based upon ourselves, our righteousness which can turn into filthy rags [Isaiah 64:6]. But our salvation and our hope of eternal life lies in the foundation of the promise of God who cannot and does not and will not change forever and forever though hell and earth conspire and combine to destroy the soul that trusts in Jesus [Ephesians 6:12; 1 Peter 5:8]. Our faith and our hope and our promise lies in the unchanging hand of an unchanging God. "In hope of eternal life, which God that cannot lie, promised before the world began" [Titus 1:2].
There are two things that comprise hope. "In hope of eternal life, which God . . . promised before the world began" [Titus 1:2]. The two things that make up hope are desire and expectancy, and it takes both of them. One without the other will not constitute hope.
I may desire something, but that is not hope. I might desire a crown. I might desire a million dollars. I might desire a trip to Venus or Mars or up to glory somewhere, but I have no hope of doing it. I have no hope of making a trip to Venus or Mars. I have no hope even of making a trip to the moon.We will let some of these neophyteswho don’t have enough sense to stay in this earth, we let them make that trip up there to the moon and tell us about it. Oh, brother! I have no hope for that. I have no desire for it. I might desire it, but I have no plan and no hope for it.
Now, the second thing about hope is expectancy. I might expect to be electrocuted if I did some things, but I wouldn’t hope to be electrocuted. I might expect to be hanged or I might expect to be cut down by a terrible disease, but I wouldn’t hope for it. It takes both of those things to comprise hope. One is a desire for it – "I would like that" – and the other is an expectancy – "I believe that it’ll come." That throws us into this thing that Paul has, says, "In hope of eternal life which God hath promised" [Titus 1:2]. This thing of the hope of eternal life comes to us by believing in and expecting and desiring the promise of God, and that’s why we come to God and are saved before God by our trusting God, by our faith in God [Ephesians 2:8-9], in "the promise of God who cannot lie" [Titus 1:2].
And Paul says that promise was made before God fashioned the world, before He made the universe. The first thing is not the stars and is not the sun and is not the earth, but the first thing is the promise of God that He would save us who trust in Jesus, His Son. God made that promise before the earth was fashioned. Paul says here in the text the immutable, unchanging God, He hath said it. He will not change it. The soul that trusts in Jesus is kept by the power of God forever and ever, world without end [1 Peter 1:5].
That rainbow up there in the sky is God’s promise: "I will never again destroy the world by water and by flood" [Genesis 9:11-16]. And God will keep His promise. When Abram said to God, "I have no heir.I have no son. Yet you sayone born of my loins will number as the stars in the sky and as the sand of the seashore" [from Genesis 15:3]. And the Lord God took Abram out unto the sky and said, "Look! These stars, you don’t add to them. You can’t take away from them. So shall thy seed be" [from Genesis 15:5]: the immutable, unchanging God who cannot lie but who keeps His promise [Titus 1:2].
So it is in the promise to us to be saved in Jesus Christ. That promise was made before God fashioned the world, and in the Garden of Eden it was announced for the first time in the presence of men: "This is the Seed of the woman that shall bruise the serpent’s head" [from Genesis 3:15]. And all of those ancient sacrificial rites pointed toward Him, the promised One [Galatians 3:21-25; Hebrews 9:1-25], and all of the prophets lifting up their voices spake of the glory of the coming of that promised One [Isaiah 9:6-7]. And to us who turn in faith and believe in Him, we have from God an immutable, unchanging purpose – "God who cannot lie" – of eternal life [John 3:16; Titus 1:2].
Some believe in Satan: "Did God say that? Did God say that if a man turns and looks to Jesus and trusts, God will save Him forever?" Did God say that? "Why,"says Satan, "that’s a lie, that’s a lie!" And some choose to believe in Satan.
And there are others who are looking for signs and for wonders and for evidences and for frames. To them, they had rather trust in a sign or an evidence or a wonder or a frame than to trust in the Word and promise of God Himself [Matthew 12:38-40; Mark 8:12-13].When they are in a wonderful frame of mind, oh, God is good, and they’re saved, and they’re Christians. But when they fall out of that happy frame of mind, they think they have been forsaken of God and are lost.
What it is to trust in Jesus is when my heart is hard as stone, I still believe in Him. When I can’t sing, I still believe in Him. When I can’t pray, I still believe in Him. When the heavens are brass, I still believe in Him. When I’m down and out, still believe in Him. When the whole turns against me, I still believe in the promise of the Son of God. Anything else is a spider’s web – it has no substance; it has no strength; it has no power to hold and to keep – but this, the immutable word and promise of God, is forever and forever and forever: "God who cannot lie" [Titus 1:2] who never changes in His purpose.
I must close. These words become too multiplied.I cannot close without one final encouragement and comfort to us who have turned to Jesus in faith in hope of eternal life which God that cannot lie promised before the world began. Promised, the promises of God: all of them are for us – our comfort, our encouragement, our sustenance, our care, our strengthening in the way – all of them.
Somebody said – I have no way of recounting it personally – somebody said that in that Book there are more than three thousand promises. Think of the number of them: three thousand promises that God hath written in His Word just for your comfort, for your encouragement, that you might sing in the night, that you might have joy in the Holy Ghost, that you might be a pilgrim with the glory of Jesus in your heart. All of them are for you and all of themtrue.
What a wonderful inheritance. What a riches beyond compare! If a Christian could come to the place where he could say in his heart, "This is the Word and the promise of God. I believe it, and I put my whole life upon it. Here I stand on the promises of God: ‘I will never leave thee nor forsake thee’ [Hebrews 13:5]."
And if fifty providences and if 150 exigencies cast the scorn of it in your teeth – make you think God has lied, He has forsaken you and He has failed you – this is the comfort of the Christian faith. No. "Thoughfifty providences overwhelm me that I cannot explain, and though150 exigencies overwhelm my soul, not one of which I could understand, yet I still believe the Word, the promise of God, when He said, ‘I will never leave thee nor forsake thee’ [Hebrews 13:5]."
Why, bless your heart, if you could ever get to that place in your life, you’d be an undefeatable, victorious, triumphant Christian: "However, whatever, I believe the promise of God."
Isaiah 41:10: "Fear not, for I am with thee; be thou not dismayed, I am thy God. I will strengthen thee, yea, I will help thee, yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness." They’re all for you, just for you, all of ’em just for you: the immutable, unchanging promises of "God who could not lie" [Titus 1:2].
I want to recount this little thing that I read this week and then we’re going to sing our song. I read this week about a hungry, half-starved Indian that stumbled into a western village, begging something to eat.
And the merchant man there in the store, as he looked at that wretched, half-starved Indian, noticed a little, untanned, rawhide, leather pouch hanging around his neck.And he said to that wretched, illiterate, Indian, "What is that?"
And the Indian replied, "That is a charm. I have worn it ever since I was a youth. The man who gave it to me said that it would keep me from want all the days of my life."
And the merchantman looked at it more closely and saw something on the inside of it, asked permission to look at it. He opened the little rawhide, leather bag and pulled out a writing. And the writing was, "A life pension from the United States Government" signed by George Washington himself. And all of his life, that half-starved, miserable, and wretched Indian begging, begging, begging when he had in his hand the promise of the President of the United States.
And when I read it, I thought, "How like us." With all of the promises of God to cling to, to build on, to comfort our hearts, to feed our souls, to give us victory in the hour of battle and contest and need, we go through this life miserable and wretched, half-starved, when the treasures of heaven are in our hands – that is, if Paul’s text is true, in hope from "God who cannot lie" [Titus 1:2].
O bless us, as we turn in a renewed faith to Jesus.
Now let’s sing our song. And while we sing the song, somebody you, in this balcony around, in this lower floor, to give your heart to Christ, would you come tonight? Somebody, in trust to Jesus: "I will take Him, believe in Him, commit my soul to Him; I’ll let Him save me. There’s not anything that I can do; just look to Jesus. No righteousness of my own. I plead His grace, His mercy."
Not trust in a sign or a feeling or an experience, trusting Jesus, looking to Jesus, not expecting any evidence. If He gives it to me, however it comes, thank Him, but I still had rather just trust the promise: if I look, I’ll live [Numbers 21:6-9; John 3:14-15]; if I believe, I’ll be saved [John 3:16]. You come. Come now. A family you, or one somebody you, putting your life in the church, this blessed and precious congregation. Would you come? Make it now while we stand and while we sing.