The Living God
July 27th, 1958 @ 7:30 PM
THE LIVING GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Timothy 4:10
7-27-58 7:30 p.m.
Let all of us turn to 1 Timothy chapter 4; 1 Timothy chapter 4 and we read, beginning at the eighth verse, to the end. First Timothy 4; 1 Timothy 4, 8 through 16; 1 Timothy 4, beginning at the eighth verse, to the end of the chapter. Now let us all read it together, 1 Timothy 4:8:
For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.
This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation.
For therefore we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, specially of those that believe.
These things command and teach.
Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.
Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.
Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.
Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.
[1 Timothy 4:8-16]
This morning our text was the eighth and the ninth verses of this passage [1 Timothy 4:8-9]. Tonight, the text is the tenth verse. “For therefore we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in,” elpizō—we hope in, “the living God, who is”—and the word there means “preserver,” can be translated Savior, sōter—“Savior”—but he uses it in the sense of preserver and sustainer—“of all men, especially of those who believe” [1 Timothy 4:10]. God makes His rain to fall on the just and the unjust [Matthew 5:45]. He gives life and breath to all of His creatures. That’s what Paul means when he says: “This living God, who is the sōter,” Savior,” but preserver, life-giver, sustainer, “of all men, and especially of us who believe” [1 Timothy 4:10].
Now, I am to speak tonight on the living God. “For therefore we both labor and suffer reproach, because our hope is in the living God…” [1 Timothy 4:10]. The toils of the way to a Christian are sustained because his hope is in God—and the reproaches that a Christian might bear, whether of men or whether of cruel fortune and circumstance, he bears because his hope is in God. When we are inclined to lament over the mortality of this life, turn to Him, hope in Him who has the gift of immortality. And when we are discouraged by the changes that overwhelm us in this life, look to an unchanging God [Malachi 3:6; James 1:17]. Hope in the Lord! [1 Corinthians 15:58]. And when earthly joys fade and life turns to bitterness or to ashes, lift up your eyes and look unto Him, hope in the living God! Now that’s what he means, the spirit of the apostle as he makes the appeal in the text [1 Timothy 4:10].
Now I choose this part: “because our hope is in the living God, who is the sustainer, preserver, life-giver of all men, and especially of us who believe” [1 Timothy 4:10]. The living God, then, is personal. A sure sign of a man’s dead understanding is to be seen in that he can worship a dead, impersonal, inanimate god [Isaiah 44:14-17]. I am not only speaking of the heathen that bows down before his idols of gold and silver, but I am speaking also of the materialist who worships things; or of a pseudo-philosopher who worships his knowledge; or of a worldling who worships his pleasures and vanities and excesses, or of an atheist who worships some indescribable, unknowable principle or law or force or energy. He’s insulted when you call him an atheist. But when you ask him of the law, or the nature, or the energy that he worships, he stammers and he stutters. He’s an atheist.
But our God, we who hope in the living God [1 Timothy 4:10]—our God is personal! He is active. He is loving. He knows and He is knowable; He can be revealed. He can reveal Himself. He is no dream, no fantasy, no myth somebody has conjured up. He is no child of superstition, or ignorance, or fear, nor is He any blind, impersonal principle, wearing Himself out. Our God is somebody! His name, best we could say, is Jehovah, Jesus [Matthew 1:21]; and He rules this whole universe and overrules all providence and all nature! [1 Corinthians 15:27; Ephesians 1:22].
Our God is a living God; He is a personal God! And our God still walks among the trees in His garden [Genesis 3:8]. Our God walks in the seven-branched candlestick, among His churches [Revelation 1:12-13]. Our God still watches over the sheepfold [John 10:1-4]. Our God smiles upon us in His sunshine and scatters His blessings as the dew. He talks to us and walks with us and reveals Himself to us in the Person, and Spirit, and life, and presence of His Son. “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” [2 Corinthians 4:6].
We hope in the living God, a personal Lord [1 Timothy 4:10]. Our hope is in a living God. We are creatures of death and stand in a great, illimitable, innumerable procession of death. As it passes by, generation after generation, we are a part of it and shall die in it. This world is no land of the living; it is a world of death and of dying. It is a vast, colossal, illimitable cemetery. Every particle of dust that blows may have once been a part of one of God’s living creatures. The sorrowing and tears of this veil never cease to fall at the open grave of the dying and the dead. But our Lord God is a living God [1 Timothy 4:10]. He is all life; He is life in Himself; all of Him is life. It is impossible that any faculty or attribute of our God could ever be paralyzed or fail to function. The wisdom of God is always infinite; the power of God is always omnipotent; the energy of our God is always efficacious and effectual. It is impossible to think that He could ever grow weary, or bow down with age, or that He could ever fail. Our hope is in the living God!
Again, He is self-existent; that is, He lives in Himself; He is independent. All of us, in our life, we are dependent upon the divine breath. We live because there is a life given us from outside of ourselves. And when that brittle thread is broken or when that word is withdrawn, we perish like the flower of the field. The fire that burns in our bodies is a fire, the fuel of which is from the outside, never in itself. But the Lord God who lives, our living God, lives in Himself. He is like a sun that burns of its own glory. He is like a fire that flames because of its own energy. Our Lord God is dependent upon no one, no thing, nor is He to be identified with any of His creatures—most of all, least of all, this thought and philosophy of pantheism is an insult to God! To identify God with the creature, to make Him existent in all matter in the universe, in all creature in nature, is an insult to Him! He is separate and apart, independent, self-existent, self-contained! [Isaiah 45:5] The Lord God in heaven, our God, this living God sustains His courts by His own great wealth. He keeps His sovereign state not by armies but by His own omnipotence! [Revelation 19:6]. He is self-contained, self-existent in all time [John 17:5]. There was a time when we were not. There shall come a time when we shall be numbered among the innumerable dead. But there never was a time when God was not in the past, back, back, back, back, back, back beyond the beginning, before the first ray of light burst upon the darkness. Back, back, when the whole universe lay in the mind of God as a thought, like a forest would lie in an acorn. Back, back, back, before an angel was created to sing the holy sanctus. Back, back, back, before a human being ever bowed in reverence before Him or ever in tears repented in His presence. Back, back, and back, there was the living God. Always was!
In the present, God, our living God, all is present to Him. He sees from side to side, as a man would look at a map from side to side. He sees the end from the beginning, as a man looking from an airplane, high in altitude, can see the moving of the life along the highway. To these creatures down here below, the turns are seen one at a time, but God can see the end from the beginning, and it all is present to Him [Isaiah 46:10; Revelation 1:8]. The Lord God sees into the future, and the future is as the present to Him. All of us, someday, somewhere—everything we see and know, somewhere, someday, if it is mundane, if it is terrestrial, if it is of this life, if it is of matter, somewhere it has its ending. Never a river so long, but if it lose itself in the vast expanse of the sea; never a day that comes to life in the blush of the dawn, rises to meridian power, but that dies in the shades and twilight of the night; never a child reaching up its little arms in the cradle, but that shall see someday infirmity and old age. Even the nations who’ve been great and glorious have passed away. Yea, even this heaven above us and this earth beneath us shall dissolve into elemental form! [2 Peter 3:10]. But our God shall abide forever and forever! [Revelation 1:18]. Our hope, our trust is in the living God [1 Timothy 4:10].
Now what does that mean for us? It means first—life, life, life! Outside of Him, nothing but death and death and death—but in Him, there is life, always life, nothing but life! No man ever died in the presence of the Son of God. A man could not die in the presence of the Son of God. In God there is life, life, life; nothing but life! [Romans 8:11].
When the Sadducees, with their stock, sarcastic, facetious story by which they had slain the Pharisees, by which they had slain every enemy—these atheistic, infidel, materialistic Sadducees with their stock story: “A resurrection, ha! Immortality, ha! A life beyond the grave, ha!” A woman had seven husbands: according to the levirate marriage [Deuteronomy 25:5], when the first one died, the second brother had to take her. And when he died, the third brother had to take her. And when he died, the fourth one had to take her. (She must have been an old hag.) When he died, the fifth one had to take her. When the sixth one died, the seventh one had to take her. It was a matter of levirate law. Not any of them wanted her, but they had to take her; they were taking an example from the law of Moses. And then they just slayed their enemies. “Marry in the resurrection, ha! In the life to come, ha! Whose wife is she? All seven of them had her?” [Matthew 22:23-28]. Nobody had an answer. Nobody! So they all gathered round the temple to see what the Son of God would say. And His answer closed with this: “But concerning the resurrection—the life beyond the grave—concerning the resurrection, did you never read where it says in the Word: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living!” [Matthew 22: 29-32]. That meant Abraham cannot die in the presence of God, nor could Isaac, nor could Jacob. If God is their God, they live! They cannot die [Matthew 22:32]. “He that liveth and believeth in Me, shall never, never, never, never die!” [John 11:26]. It means for us—life, life, life, life forever, always, eternal, life, life—the living God! It means for us a fellowship, a communion supernal, the living God [John 3:16, 10:27-30], our Friend, our companion, our Brother, Jesus who lives, the God of life, Jesus, resurrected, the living God [Matthew 28:5-7; Romans 8:11]. It means for us an abounding, glorious, sustaining fellowship and communion, the living God [Hebrews 9:14].
A pastor went to see an old Scotsman who was so ill and old, and by the side of his bed was an empty chair. And the minister happened to remark upon it. And the old Scotsman said to the minister, he said, “I’ve never told anybody, but I’ll tell you, when I was a youth, when I was a boy, I had great difficulty praying. And I went to see my pastor, and he suggested, `Son,’ he said, `try this. Put an empty chair in front of you, talk to Jesus in that chair, just like you’d talk to me, talk to Jesus.’” The old man said, “And it worked. And I’ve been doing it ever since.”
The next morning the old man’s daughter was shown up to the study of the minister, and she said, “Sir, my father, my father died last night.” She said, “None of us expected it. I was with him, and went away for a moment, and came back, and he was gone.” And she added, “And the strangest thing, when I saw him so still, and so quiet, and so peaceful, he had his hand on the arm of the empty chair.” And the minister smiled, and he said, “I understand. I understand.”
“Our hope is in a God who lives”; the sustainer of life, the comforter of life, the keeper of life, “the Savior of life and of all, and especially to us who believe” [1 Timothy 4:10]. Why, I could go on as long as you would stay there and listen. Our living Lord—courage, encouragement, preservation, protection—keeping us; “He who keepeth Israel shall never slumber and sleep” [Psalm 121:4]. A thousand shall fall at Thy right hand, but He shall be thy shield; buckler [Psalm 91:7, 4]. It means salvation: “Look unto Me, all ye ends of the earth, and be saved: for I am God, and there is none besides. Look unto Me!” [Isaiah 45:22] And Spurgeon said, “When the layman in the little Methodist chapel, speaking on the text, pointed to me and said: `Young man, you look so miserable. Look to Jesus! Look to Jesus!'” And Spurgeon said, “And that night, I looked, and I lived.”
Our hope is in the living God. “Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth” [Isaiah 45:22]. And that includes me—you—us. While we sing this appeal tonight, into the aisle, down to the front, would you come? Put your trust in Jesus. Take Him as Savior and Lord—hope in God! [1 Timothy 4:10]. Would you put your life with us in the fellowship of this precious church, would you? In this throng in this balcony—I do believe our largest service is going to be here tonight. This is a larger group than we had at noon today, and I’m so glad because there are more people who come to church at night because their hearts are hungry. In the morning they go because they’re respectable, but when they come to church at night, they’re seeking something. Is there a word from the Lord? Is there? Is there a hope? Is there? Is there a message from heaven? Is there? Is there a God that you know? Is there? “Then tell it to me—here I am, open heart, open mind, open soul—speak it to me!” And you’re here tonight. While we sing this song, down these stairwells or from side to side into this aisle and to the front, “Pastor, I give you my hand. It is the sign and the token that I look in hope to Jesus. I take Him as Savior tonight.” Or to put your life with us in the church, as the Spirit of God bids you come, would you make it now, while we stand and while we sing.
toils of the way are sustained because our hope is in God
a Christian might bear he bears because his hope is in God
we are discouraged by changes that overwhelm us, we look to an unchanging God
If earthly joys fade, we can look to the Fountain of undying joy
II. The living God
Personal(2 Corinthians 4:6)
We are creatures of death – He is all life
– we live by divine decree, but the Lord lives in Himself
is self-contained in all time; past, present, future
III. What it means for us
Him there is life (Matthew 22:23-32, John 11:26)
The empty chair
protection(Psalm 121:4, Isaiah 45:22)