Man’s Need and God’s Answer
January 27th, 1963 @ 10:50 AM
MAN’S NEED AND GOD’S ANSWER
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-27-63 10:50 a.m.
On the radio you are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the eleven o’clock morning message entitled Man’s Need and God’s Answer. It is a subject sermon on a text in the Book of Acts. For these many, many years, I have been preaching through the Bible; and after the passing of more than fifteen of those years came to the last book of the Bible, the Apocalypse, and now for over two years have been preaching through the Revelation. I have come, in preaching through the Revelation, to chapter 17. And in these present weeks, about four of them, between Sundays I am preaching through state evangelistic conferences, and I have had to stop preaching through the Revelation. I have come to a hard spot, and I cannot prepare the sermons being gone Monday through Saturday. A family in this church, to whom I said that, looked at me in amazement and said, “Pastor, you mean to tell us that if you don’t study you can’t preach?” I said, “Oh, you don’t know the half of it.”
“Why,” they said, “we just thought you stood up there and the words and the sentences and the sermon just poured out of your mouth; sounds like that to us.”
Well, it may sound like that to you, but every time I preach a sermon, back of it is preparation and study. And I’ve come to a place in the Revelation that is very, very difficult. And after these about three and a half weeks now have passed and I can spend my time in the study, we’ll pick it up; but right now I’ve got to wait a while until I can find the mind of God in the interpretation of some of these difficult passages in the Apocalypse.
“Well then, how do you prepare the sermon when you are gone Monday through Saturday?” Well, a subject sermon, like is delivered this morning, is a sermon that’s made up of the things that I see and hear, and then meditate upon them with God’s Book, riding on a plane, just thinking about what I’ve seen, what I’ve heard; reading my Bible, thinking about the application and the truth of it to our day and to our generation. So the sermon this morning is one that comes out of things I’ve seen and things I’ve heard, especially in these conferences, and my observations concerning them; and then, of course, built upon a great truth found in the Word of God. If you’d like to read the passage with me, turn to the Book of Acts, chapter 4. We’ll begin reading at verse 5 and read through verse 12, which is the text.
And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes,
And Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem.
And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit,
Preach a sermon there, couldn’t you?
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel,
If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole;
Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by Him doth this man stand here before you whole.
This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.
Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
And that is our text, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” [Acts 4:12].
The answer of our multitudinous responders to the need of our present world, those answers are as discordant, and they are as varied, and they are as conflicting as they are many. One of the answers to the need of our weary and plagued world is economic amelioration. What we need is to solve all of these problems of production and distribution; and if we could do that we would find the panacea that would give to all mankind its ultimate and triumphant utopia. Our answers lie in production and in distribution; our answers lie in economic rearrangements. For example, I heard a college president deliver a very learned and a very splendidly prepared address. He delivered it well; he delivered it with force. And the idea of his address was this: that there are “have nations,” of course America being the number one; there are “have nations.” Then of course there are “have-not nations,” these who are poor and wretched and miserable. And the thesis of his address was that the answer to our present world situation lies in the philanthropy of our “have nations”; that we should take what we have and give to those who have not. Otherwise, he says, these “have-not nations” are coming over here by force, and they’re going to take away from us what we have. In order therefore to forestall and to foresee and to forego anything such as might be a coercive arresting of what we possess from our hands, our answer is to take what we have and send it to them and give it to them; and then, he says, we will solve the problems of the world.
In the providence of God, when I got on a plane, flying halfway across this nation, there sat that college president. And I sat down by his side. And as we began to talk, I complimented him upon his address: “A fine address,” I said. “It was carefully prepared and you delivered it splendidly. But if you don’t mind, may I ask you some questions? Have you ever been in Germany? Germany faces toward the east. There’s a line that divides their capital city, and that line has been raised to an ugly height. And there’s a line that divides their nation. And all of those millions, forty some odd millions of Germans who live in the West, every one of them has his face turned toward the east. Beyond that line, and beyond that barrier, are the graves of his fathers; they are the lands upon which so many of them were reared. They are the homes that they have known for thousands of years.”
I said to the college professor, “Do you think that money and economic amelioration will heal that, will solve that? It’s the same kind of a thing as if Latin Americans were to go to war against us, and push us back, and northward, and finally put a line at the Missouri River: every one of us who had thus been pushed back and away would stand at the line of the Missouri River and look down toward those counties, and toward those states, and toward those cities, and toward those towns where we grew up as children, where our fathers and our mothers were buried, and all the money in the world couldn’t take that drive in our hearts to get back these things that rightfully belong to us. You think money will solve that? Think economic amelioration will solve that? You think a redistribution of wealth will solve that?”
I asked him, I said, “Have you ever been in Israel? Have you ever been in Israel? Have you ever been in all those Muslim nations around Israel? Why, I’ve sat and listened to those Muslim leaders speak, their generals of their armies, their heads of state, their ministers, and without exception all of them say—without exception all of them say, ‘We look upon the nation of Israel as a man looks upon a cancer in his body. And the only way for the body to be well is to cut out the cancer. Israel must be cut out like a cancer.’ And as long as there have been generations, ever since Ishmael poked his tongue at Isaac and stuck out his tongue at Isaac [Genesis 21:9] there has been that bitterness between the children of Ishmael and the children of Isaac.”
And I said, “Do you think that money will solve that? You think economic amelioration will solve that? You think the redistribution of wealth will solve that? That’s a powder keg over there, and will be until the Lord comes again.”
I asked him, “Have you ever been to India? Have you ever looked at India? India, where they worship more than thirty million different kinds of gods, have you ever been there?” Why, if you were to pour into the millions and the millions of India all of the resources and wealth of America—after you had taken and impoverished our nation in order to enrich them—they would be just as poor as they were at the beginning. There’s a great fundamental wrong in the heart of India, in the life of India, that I want to speak of later on.
You see what the college president has done is this: unwittingly, unknowingly, he has fallen into the old Marxist trap of economic determinism; that the basis of life are to be found in materialities. If you can get people arranged in their materialities, if you can get their economic orders adjusted, if you can get the process of production and distribution arranged just right, then you enter into a paradise and utopia is ours. It is not so. Money, and affluence, and distribution, and productive capacity do not solve the basic problems that afflict and drive to destruction this weary world.
Well, then there are others among these discordant voices speaking of the needs of our earth. There are others who say—and I’m thinking now of an illustrious, one of the most illustrious ambassadors that the United States ever produced—he said to us at his dinner table, he said, “What we must have is moral teaching in these nations. And if it doesn’t come, it’s like plowing water: there must be morality instilled and moral teaching taught, or all of our efforts are coming to nought.”
Did you know, from the very dawn of civilization, as far back as a man can probe, there have been great and illustrious and gifted moral teachers? When they dug down into the ruins of Chaldea they found there those codes of Hammurabi, those cuneiform inscriptions written by that illustrious and far-famed and immortal ethical teacher; the code of Hammurabi, which is an excellent code for any nation and any civilization.
At the beginning of Greek culture and life, to which we are heir in the West—at the beginning of Greek culture and life, you have the great Solon, who wrote for his beloved Athenians laws of morality, and codes of justice, and law, and honor. Why, I haven’t time this morning to speak of Zoroaster, I haven’t time to speak of Confucius, one of the finest ethical leaders the world has ever produced. I haven’t time to speak of Lao-tze, whose teachings sound like the Sermon on the Mount [Matthew 5:1-7:29]. I haven’t time to speak of Epictetus, or Marcus Aurelius. Seneca, for example, was a contemporary with the apostle Paul; he was the teacher of the Roman emperor Nero. And yet with all of those beautiful aphorisms and axioms of Seneca, Rome was a cesspool, and his pupil was a butcher!
I remember a book by the name of Walter Pater, entitled Marius the Epicurean. And the philosopher is seated in the Coliseum watching the bloody fight of the gladiators down there whose blood was staining the sand. And in that book, Marius the Epicurean says to his young friend, “What is needed, what is needed is the heart that would make it impossible to look upon such bloodshed and suffering, and the future would belong to the force that could create that heart.” All of the fine ethical moral teaching, from the beginning of civilization, has never been able to change the human heart or human character or the destiny of a wayward nation.
Then of course in the discordant voices that are trying to answer man’s need, there are those, naturally, who speak of religion, religion, religion. One of the greatest curses, and as I prepared this sermon in my heart I put that sentence down in my mind, “The greatest curse of the world,” and I thought, well, I ought not to say that. So I’ll change it: “One of, one of the greatest curses of this world has been and still is false religion!” The masterpiece of Satan is a false prophet who deigns to speak for God, and does not.
Oh, this week! Sometimes, listening to a man speak, my blood boils! Sometimes fury rises in my soul until I can hardly sit there. I heard one of our illustrious representatives, one of God’s great men, and he is a true one, oh! God be blessed for that man! He had just returned from Spain; and he described situations there in Madrid. He said, he said, and this happened in the last few days, he said that at one of our little Baptist churches in Spain, sealed by the government because it’s a little Baptist church, on a penalty of fine and imprisonment, nobody dare open that door, nobody dare go in that chapel. He said that being excluded from the church and the door sealed by the government, he said, “Some of the devout of our faith deigned, had the temerity, to kneel in front of the door in prayer. And while they were kneeling in prayer in front of the door, a religious spy ran and got the police, arrested them all, and cast them in prison for kneeling at the door in prayer.”
Then he described another scene, and he said, “As I heard those men speak,” our fellow pastors, our Baptist pastors, he said, “I could smell the prison garments upon them; they had so lately come out of the dungeons and out of the bars and the chains in which they had been placed. Why? For being a simple and a humble preacher of the gospel of the Son of God,” religion, religion, religion! All in the name of religion!
I have stood, and watched, like at the foot of that Scala Sancta supposed to be the stairway up which the Lord walked, going up to Pontius Pilate’s palace for His trial, and I have seen those people, and by day and by night, twenty-four hours a day, they climb up the Scala Sancta on their knees; religion, religion! It was in that very and identical place, climbing up on his knees, that Martin Luther suddenly stood up, and the text in the Bible in Galatians rang like a fire in his mind: “The just shall live by faith!” [Galatians 3:11]. And he stood up and walked out, and nailed his ninety-five thesis to the church door at Wittenberg, and the Reformation was on. Religion, religion, it’s everywhere; false religion.
Some of these things—and I haven’t time to speak of them—some of these things I have met in the Islamic Muslim world are the most amazing and unbelievable things that eye could see. In the days of my youth, when the Ottoman Turk was murdering the Armenian Christians, I remember one of those men describing a blind man, a blind Muslim: to slaughter a Christian was a sure ticket to heaven; if a man wanted a great reward from Allah, the sure way to get it was to murder a Christian; and that blind man, with his knife drawn, was begging his fellow Islamic friends to take him to a Christian or to seize one and bring him to him, in order that he might slit his throat: murder him for a reward in heaven. And the other side of that picture is just as fierce. The so-called Church has murdered more than fifty million in their own blood; burning them at the stake, tearing them apart on the rack, putting them in dungeons to rot—religion, religion.
And that is the curse of India. That’s what I was speaking of a moment ago when I said, “Let me say a word about India.” One of the leaders of our Point Four Program was a great Baptist layman, the son of a Baptist preacher, killed over there in an airplane that fell. And he came back home one time after a visit to India and said, “What can you do? What can you do with a people whose every cow is a god, and every swine is a devil, and every old out-moded wooden plow belongs to a sacred ceremonial ritualism? What are you going to do? What are you going to do?”
Mahatma Gandhi, who was one of the great ethical and moral teachers of the earth, Mahatma Gandhi died believing that he would go to heaven on the back of a sacred cow. When I was in India, I heard the head of the congress that nominates, nominated Mahatma Gandhi that now supports Nero, I heard the president of the congress say in great pride that he had never worn shoes because he had never defaced and insulted the hide of a sacred cow. If you’ve ever been in Calcutta, one of the commonest sights you will see in Calcutta, a city bigger than Chicago, with great tall buildings and banks and vast department stores, you will never see such traffic jams in your life as you will see in Calcutta. Those cows sometimes by the hundreds take a notion to herd around the big bank, or herd around the big department store, or take a notion to walk right down the main boulevard, and the traffic snarl they cause, and the traffic jam they cause is indescribable.
I have been in villages in India where there were more monkeys a-sittin’ on a fence, and a-sittin’ on the porch, and a-sittin’ on the roof, and a-sittin’ on the trees, and a-sittin on the ground, there were more monkeys, a hundred to one, than there were people who lived in the villages, more monkeys. It was an astonishing thing, astonishing thing!
And some of the things that they believe over there in that religion just sweep you off your feet. They believe in the reincarnation of the soul, as you know, reincarnation. When you die you come back in some kind of a form. And if you’ve been bad, you’ll be reborn a dog. And if you’ve been worse, you’ll be reborn a spider. And if you’ve been vile, you’ll be reborn a reptile. But if you have been immeasurably wicked, you’ll be reborn a woman. Now wouldn’t that be a religion? Doesn’t that thrill your soul? Religion, the curse of religion! Why, I’ve just begun.
You couldn’t speak of animism, the curse of Africa, idolatry, the curse of the Christian world and most of the pagan world. You haven’t time to begin to speak of Buddha and Confucius. One of the most tragic of all of the turns of life has been the vast, vast international spread of Buddhism; a thing never thought for or dreamed of by Gautama, whom they call the Buddha, the “Enlightened One.” He was just a prince, seeking to find in India an answer to the immeasurable poverty and needs of his people; never dreamed that it would turn into the idolatrous religion that it has become. And there the Buddha sits with his arms folded, and his legs crossed, with that smile on his face, fat and affluent and happy. And there before him for a thousand miles in either direction will stretch a people and a nation afflicted with the most agonizing diseases and the most indescribable poverty that mind could think of! Yet for the centuries has he sat there unperturbed, and the whole earth fall into malignancy, and into disease, and into poverty, and into death all around him. Why, I’ve seen those people— they’ll have a big bell in front of the pagoda— I’ve seen those people come up and ring that bell and ring that bell and ring that bell, then go into the pagoda to make appeal to Buddha, hoping they have awakened the god, that his eyes could see, that his ears could hear, that his hands might help; but there he sits unperturbed: the curse of this world in religion.
Now, God’s answer to man’s need: “Neither,” says this preacher, filled with the Holy Ghost, “Neither is there salvation in any other”; not in economics, not in ethical teaching and morality, not in false religions. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” [Acts 4:12]. “More About Jesus”; that’s the subject printed in your bulletin this morning, “More About Jesus.” “Neither is there salvation in any other: there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” [Acts 4:12]. God addresses that to the nation. God addresses that to the state. God addresses that to the home. God addresses that to the soul. Jesus; “Neither is there salvation in any other name” [Acts 4:12].
I stood one time in the middle of a black church, made out of mud, waiting for the missionary to introduce me. As I stood in the middle of church, nobody could sit down; it was filled with those half-naked black people. They jammed into the church, they jammed into the yard, and I stood there pressed on every side by those half-naked bodies, waiting for my missionary to finish his introduction, make my way up there to the front, and to speak. And as I stood there in the midst of those black natives, looked beyond the missionary, somebody had tacked a placard up there above the pulpit on the back wall. The placard was a picture, a likeness of the Lord Jesus. And around it were these large words in big capital letters: “CHRIST IS THE ANSWER TO EVERY HUMAN NEED!” And as I stood there and looked around me, and up there to that placard, and then back around me, disease, their minds darkened with superstition, their hearts weighed down with false animistic idolatrous religion, looking at them and at that caption, “CHRIST IS THE ANSWER TO EVERY HUMAN NEED,” and thinking of them, and looking at the caption, ah!
Wherever the message of Christ is preached, there you’ll find a hospital. You won’t find it anywhere else. There you’ll find a hospital. “Christ is the answer to every human need,” healing diseased and broken bodies. “Christ is the answer to every human need.” Wherever the message of Christ is preached, there you’ll find the orphan’s home; you’ll find it nowhere else. “Christ is the answer to every human need.” Wherever the gospel of Christ is preached, there you’ll find the school, you’ll find the school, teaching those pagan and heathen children how to read, how to write, and in God’s goodness—oh, that it might be—the Word of God! Wherever you find the gospel of Christ preached, there will you find a little church with a spire pointing up to our Father who art in heaven. “Christ is the answer to every human need,” man’s need and God’s answer. “Neither is there salvation in any other” [Acts 4:12]. And that is God’s answer to the need of the human life and the human soul.
After I had preached four times through the state evangelistic conference in New Mexico, I spent the night going up to Chicago and then to Dayton, Ohio, to preach through the state evangelistic conference there. When finally the plane landed in Dayton, Ohio, nineteen degrees below zero, the coldest it had ever been in Dayton in the century, when the plane landed and I walked up the ramp and into the building, why, I heard my name over the P.A. system. So many times that means there’s been a death or there’s been a funeral at the church in Dallas, and I must call. Well, it was this: the man who was to meet me had never seen me, and he had no idea who I was, as I got off the plane, in order for him to pick me up, and take me the thirty some odd miles to the place where I was to stay. So he had gone to the United Airlines and said page me, and my name was being called. And when I walked up to the counter at United Airlines, why, I told him who I was; when I said my name there was a great big blonde, blue-eyed man who put his hand on my shoulder, and he said, “That’s my call, that’s my call. They have sent me to pick you up and take you to the conference.”
Well, we got in his car; my, what a fine, fine man, good looking man, and a splendid man. He was the president of the associational brotherhood in which the city of Dayton is located. So I got acquainted with him, began to talk to him; he hadn’t been a Christian very long; I think about three years. And we talked about our work up there, and about our preachers, and oh, there is no finer field in the earth, than our Southern Baptists have in the state of Ohio. Our churches are growing. All those young preachers up there are aflame and afire. And by the way, there’s not a liberal among them; and those young fellows said to me, “No liberal can take it! They come up here, why, they’re discouraged overnight! It’s only a man that believes in the Word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ that can come to a pioneer area and preach and stay and build a church!” All of them believe the Word and preach the gospel. Well, we were talking about all these things, and I asked him about his becoming a Christian, and about things, you know, and he just answered like those kind of northern people do; they, you don’t get close to them, they just kind of answer you. They don’t warm up, they don’t, I don’t know what, there’s a difference though. They don’t get very personal with you. Well, we had a trip of about thirty miles or more, so in thirty miles or more, why, great many things can be said as we visit together.
So when we got to the motel and he helped me check in, then he went with me to my room, why, I thanked him for meeting me at the plane and for taking me in his automobile to the motel. And then out of the blue of the sky, out of the blue of the sky, he said, “Before I leave, I might answer one of your questions.” Evidently, I’d been nice to him and kind of warmed his heart a little maybe, or something. He said, “You asked me about my being a Christian. Well,” he said, “my wife died about three years ago. She had cancer, and she died about three years ago and left us with three little boys.” Then the big fellow choked up, “Three little boys to raise.” He said, “Before she died, she made a plea, she said, ‘Husband, won’t you give your heart to Jesus? Won’t you be a Christian? And won’t you promise me that you’ll rear our three little boys in the Christian faith? Please, won’t you promise? Won’t you promise?’” And he said, “By her bed I knelt, and I promised her I’d give my heart to Jesus, and I would raise those three little boys in the Christian faith.” He said, “After she died I began to seek the Lord, to find Christ, to keep my promise to be a Christian.” He said, “That first step was so hard, I could hardly make it. But,” he said, “when I did it, when I made that first step,” he said, “the rest of it has been beautiful and easy and God-blessed the rest of the way.” And he said, “I am rearing my three little boys, though he’s unmarried, a widower, I am rearing my three little boys in the Christian faith, keeping my promise to my dear wife.”
Why man, there was no defeat in his voice. There was no abject disillusionment in his life. There was no bitterness, and vanity, and weakness, and vacuity, and emptiness in his life. He had found the Lord. He was living in triumph and in victory and in God-blessedness, as in the strength of heaven he was rearing his three little boys in the love and nurture of the Lord.
Oh, what a gospel! Man’s need and God’s answer. More about Jesus, and preacher, tonight…and that’s my sermon again, still more about Jesus; and every time we gather, still more about Jesus. Oh! It is a story of which you never tire; it’s a message that never grows old; it’s a hope and a blessedness, the luster of which is as precious today as it was when Peter stood in that chapter so long ago and preached, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven. . . whereby we must be saved” [Acts 4:12].
We must, we’re far over our time. We must sing our song of appeal. And while we sing it, while we sing it, somebody give his heart to Jesus today [Romans 10:9-13], would you come and give the pastor your hand? A family you to put your life with us in the fellowship of the church, would you come and give the pastor your hand? God has to make the appeal, and the Spirit of Jesus must press it to our hearts. To the top row of that last seat in the balcony, there’s time and to spare, come, come. “Today, pastor, I give my heart in trust to Christ” [Ephesians 2:8]. Or, “We are all coming today; this is my wife, these are our children, we’re all coming.” A couple you or one somebody you, as God shall open the door, as the Spirit shall lead in the way, make it now. Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.
NEED AND GOD’S ANSWER
I. The preaching of the apostle
A. Salvation in Christ
B. Original question
concerned a lame man
1. A starting
point for the preaching of the gospel
of John uses signs of Jesus (John 20:30-31, 21:25, 6:5-12, 31-54, 8:12,
Charles Haddon Spurgeon
II. They marveled at them (Acts 4:13)
A. At their boldness
B. Recognized they had
been with Jesus
III. What is man’s need?
A. Some say social
B. Some say religion
Christianity and the institutional church
C. The apostolic
preaching of the faith (Acts 4:12)
1. Christ is the
answer to every human need