JESUS AND HIS BIBLE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Luke 24:27, 44-45
11-8-64 10:50 a.m.
On television—and I thank God for our television program—and on radio—I thank the Lord for our radio—last Sunday a little bug invisible, infinitesimal, so small the doctors do not know what it is so they call it a virus. That is a doctor’s name, a medical term to cover everything that they do not know what is, you have got a virus. Well, last Lord’s Day I was laid prostrate with an invisible bug, and I listened to all three services, and at this one, of course, on television. Oh, it is a gift of God, the radio and the television. And you are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the pastor bringing the eleven o’clock morning message entitled Jesus and His Bible. The same Bible that I hold in my hand was the Bible that Jesus loved and studied. There were thirty-nine Books in the Bible that Jesus loved; there are thirty-nine books in the Old Covenant that I hold in my hand. The same words, the same Book, the same Bible that Jesus loved is the Bible that I hold in my hand. And I am going to preach this noonday about that Book that Jesus held in His hand.
As a foundation and as a beginning, I read from the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Luke, verse 27 and verse 44,
And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.
and verse 44,
And He said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the Law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning Me.
Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures.
The ancient Jewish people divided the Bible into three parts: the Torah, the Law of Moses, what we call the Pentateuch; the Neviim, the Prophets; and the Kethuvim, the Writings. In theological literature, they are called the Hagiographa, the sacred Writings. The largest and dominant part of the sacred Writings was the Psalms, so Jesus calls the third division, the Kethuvim, the Psalms. The Torah, the Neviim, the Kethuvim, the three great divisions by which ancient Jewry divided up the Word of God; and in every section of it, and in every syllable of it, and in every word of it, and in every line of it, He found Himself. “Beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, and in the Kethuvim, He expounded unto His disciples the things concerning Himself” [Luke 24:27].
The ancient Jew, and the true modern Jew, loves and reverences this Holy Book. Soon after the war between the Arab and the Jew and the establishment of the Israeli state, I made a visit to Palestine. The one part of the Old City that the Jew won for himself and incorporated into Israel is Mount Zion, and on Mount Zion, the tomb of David. At that time in their love and reverence for that sacred place, they had a synagogue built over David’s tomb. And I stayed in that synagogue a long time, watching those Jewish refugees and rabbis from the ends of the earth worshiping Jehovah God. Those old rabbis looked like somebody that has stepped out of a picture book, with their long heavy beards, their skull caps, and in some instances and especially those from Poland, with their fur hats and the little tassels all around. They took out of the ark God’s scroll, and they kissed it as they unclasped it, and then as they turned the scroll and read from the sacred page, they kissed the lines on the page. Then having read God’s Book, they turned back the scroll and kissed the pages again as they rerolled the manuscript. Then they kissed each one of the clasps, and then they kissed the tassels on the scroll. Then they placed it in its sheath, and they kissed the sheath. Then they reverently and adoringly laid it back into the ark above the tomb of the great king. Jesus reflects in His own life and testimony that holy reverence for the Word of God.
How different our Lord is from the caustic and rationalistic and ridiculous way that so many of modern so-called theologians look upon the holy Word of God. It is a habit, and has been for generations, in circles of academic scholastic to make fun, say, of the story of Jonah. And yet in the twelfth chapter of the First Gospel, our Lord took Jonah as a sign and a symbol and a prophecy of the resurrection from the dead: “As Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights; so the Son of Man shall be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights” [Matthew 12:40], in the power of God to be raised from the dust of the ground [Romans 1:4; Ephesians 1:19-20]—that’s Jesus and Jonah. In the same academic circles, it has long been the acceptable theological interpretation that Daniel wrote as though he were a prophet hundreds of years after the events came to pass. It is pseudepigraphic, it is a false prophecy. But in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew [Matthew 24:15], and in the thirteenth chapter of the Gospel of [Mark] [Mark 13:14], our Lord said, “Daniel the prophet.” To our Lord, the words of Daniel were holy and sacred, harbingering the great coming of the kingdom of God.
I suppose there is hardly a theological intellectual in the earth but that looks with disdain and scorn upon the Book of Genesis. They are naïve evolutionists. They are purveyors of pseudo-superiority: “In an ancient day, when people believed in myth and fable, then they would listen to the tales of Genesis as though it were true; but today in our superior intellectual scholasticism, we know that there never was such a thing as Adam and Eve [Genesis 1:26-27, 2:7, 21-25], and there wasn’t any such thing as the garden of Eden [Genesis 2:8-20], and all of those tales back there are myths and legends”; this is modern theology. But our Lord Jesus looked upon Genesis as one of the great books, holy and divinely inspired, of the sacred volume, and He looked upon Adam and Eve as being people, and in the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Matthew, cited them as God’s holy purpose for the human family, that there would be a man for a woman [Matthew 19:4-9]. “Yea,” said our Lord, “every jot and every tittle” in the Holy Scriptures is inspired by the breath of God” [Matthew 5:18].
In the great Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5, verse 17, 18, our Lord declared, “Think not that I am come to destroy the Law, and the Prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill” [Matthew 5:17]. Then He added, “Till heaven and earth shall pass, not one jot, not one tittle of the law will fail, till all be fulfilled” [Matthew 5:18]. Our Lord is avowing there that more certainly than the continuation of this physical universe is the foundational, everlasting, unmovable, unchanging Word of the living God! That’s why when I read these prophecies in the Old Testament that are yet to be fulfilled, that’s why I believe that in God’s time and in God’s sovereign and elective purpose they shall yet come to pass. There is not a jot, there is not a tittle, there is not the dotting of an “i,” there is not the crossing of a “t” in the Word of God but that God shall surely bring it to pass.
Talking about the continuation of this physical universe, God one time gave it as a sign of His indestructible, unchanging purposes for His people Israel. Jeremiah said by the Spirit:
Thus saith the Lord, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars by night . . .
If those ordinances depart from before Me . . . if there be no sun to shine, and no moon by the night . . .
“If those ordinances depart from before Me, then,” says the Lord, “so shall the seed of Israel shall cease from being a nation before Me forever.” Thus saith the Lord God: “According to the ordinances by which I have ordained the sun and the moon and the stars in heaven, by that same sovereignty have I said there shall never be an end of My people Israel.”
And I turn the page, and then I read in the chapter one later, where the Lord God says, “And I will bring them back, and settle them in their land; and they shall rejoice in the Lord God there ever, like as I brought an evil upon this people, and scattered them to the ends of the earth, so some day will I bring them back, and give them all of the good that I have promised” [Jeremiah 32:37-38]. Not one jot, not one tittle shall fail in all God’s Holy Word [Matthew 5:18]. The Lord said, the Lord said; Jesus and His Bible.
We must continue. He found in that Holy Word the way marked out by which He was to live. “For I say unto you,” said our Lord, “I say unto you, That this that is written must yet be accomplished in Me,” speaking of His passion, His suffering, and agony, and death, “this that is written must be accomplished in Me” [Luke 22:37]. Then He quoted the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah [Isaiah 53:12]; and then He added, “For the things concerning Me,” in the King James Version, “have an end; for the things concerning Me have an inevitable fulfillment.” All of these things that were written in the Old Testament Jesus lived by, and He guided His life by the Word of God.
The Word of God in human speech and the life of God in human flesh are indissolubly, and inevitably, and eternally, and inseparably connected. According to the Scriptures Christ lived; according to the Scriptures Christ died; according to the Scriptures Christ was buried; and according to the Scriptures God raised Him from the dead [1 Corinthians 15:3-4]. Jesus and His Bible; I am saying He reflected the old Jewish reverence and love for the Word of God.
Now may I speak of the way He used it. He used it for preaching. In the fourth chapter of the Third Gospel, there is recounted the story of the Lord Jesus after His baptism [Luke 3:21-22], and after His temptation [Luke 4:1-13], “then the Spirit sent Him to Nazareth, where He was brought up: and, as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read” [Luke 4:16]. I love that. “And He stood up for to read”; just as we do here in this great church.
And He stood up for to read.
And there was placed in His hand the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the scroll, He found the place where it was written, Then He quoted the sixty-first chapter of Isaiah, verses 1 and the first part of verse 2.
And then He closed the Book and gave it again to the minister. And the eyes of all them that were in the congregation were fastened on Him.
And He began to say in His sermon, This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.
[Luke 4:16-17, 20-21]
That’s the way Jesus used the Bible: He opened it when He stood up to read and to deliver His message, and His message was an exposition of the Word of God.
To you who are in this church that seems so familiar, so customary. Our pastor stands up in the pulpit, and he opens God’s Book, and he preaches out of God’s Book. But did you know that in the great mass of all the pulpits of the world for a man to stand up and begin his message with a reading from God’s Book is to be an exceptional man? There are many, many, many pulpits where the Bible is never referred to, it is never picked up, it is never opened. But Jesus and His Bible, when He was there in the synagogue, as His custom was, and preached to the people, first He opened God’s Book, and He read to them out of the prophecies of God’s Word [Luke 4:16-19]. Jesus and His Bible: He used it for preaching.
He used it for illustrations. Any sermon is the richer when the preacher will find the illustrations for his message in the indubitable and immutable Word of God. So our Lord, in the twelfth chapter of the First Gospel used the illustration of the queen of Sheba [Matthew 12:42], who came from afar to see the wisdom and the glory of Solomon [2 Chronicles 9:5-6]. And in this fourth chapter of the Book of Luke that I have just read out of, He used the illustration of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath [Luke 4:25-26]; the ministry of God in compassion to a Gentile poor widow [1 Kings 17:8-16]. And in this same chapter, He used the illustration of Elisha and the Syrian leper, Naaman; God’s compassion for a Syrian general [2 Kings 5:9-14; Luke 4:27]. And in the third chapter of John, He used the illustration, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up” [Numbers 21:8-9; John 3:14]. And in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, He used the illustration of manna that God sent from heaven to feed His children in the wilderness [Exodus 16:12-15; John 6:32-35]. Why, you could continue forever. He used His Bible for illustrations.
He used His Bible for warnings, for warnings. In the tenth chapter of the Book of Luke, He warns us, “Like it was in Sodom” [Luke 10:12], when God rained fire and brimstone from heaven” [Genesis 19:24-25; Luke 10:21]. In that same tenth chapter of Luke, He speaks of Tyre and of Sidon who would have repented had the great works that He has done had been done in their day and time. “And Tyre and Sidon shall rise in the day of judgment and shall condemn this generation” [Luke 10:13-14]; illustrations from the Word of God. And in the seventeenth chapter of the Book of Luke, He uses the illustration of the judgment day, and He says, “As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be in the days of the coming of the Son of Man [Luke 17:26-27]. And as it was in the days of Lot, so shall it be in the days of the coming of the Son of Man” [Luke 17:28-30]. He used His Bible for illustrations.
Then He used His Bible as the weapon of His warfare in opposing Satan and in meeting His enemies. There is not a child but is familiar with the story in the fourth chapter of the Book of Matthew: “And the devil took our Lord, diabolos, Satan took our Lord to try Him [Matthew 4:1-11]. And he tempted Him in the wilderness. You are hungry, fasting forty days, You are hungry: now You are the Son of God, You have all power, see these stones, turn them into bread” [Matthew 4:3]. But God said that a man was to live by the sweat of his brow [Genesis 3:19], and Satan sought to undo the incarnation at the beginning of our Lord’s ministry. And how did our Lord meet the challenge and the trial of Satan? He quoted God’s Word: Deuteronomy 8:3, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” [Matthew 4:3-4]. Then the second temptation, the Lord taken on the top of a high pinnacle in the temple, “Now jump down,” said [Satan], “and let all of these people be overwhelmed by the miraculous preservation of Your life. Jump,” said he, “jump,” said Satan, “and let the people look on You in awe and wonder” [Matthew 4:5-6]. And the Lord quoted again from Deuteronomy, Deuteronomy 6:16, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” [Matthew 4:7]. And then the last temptation on a high mountain, with all the glory of the world passing before the eyes of Jesus, “This will I give You,” said Satan, “this will I give You, if You will fall down and worship me” [Matthew 4:8-9]. And the Lord quoted again from the sixth chapter of Deuteronomy, this time verse 13, “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve” [Deuteronomy 6:13; Matthew 4:10].
The weapon of His warfare in the trial and battle of life, in the storm and fury, the weapon of His warfare was the Book, Jesus and His Bible.
I don’t think you could find that anymore poignantly and marvelously illustrated than in one chapter, say, the twelfth chapter of the Book of Mark, the Second Gospel. Our Lord has just told a parable to these who are destroying Him, rejecting Him [Mark 11:18], “We will not have this man to reign over us; take Him away” [Mark 12:7; Luke 19:14] and finally they said, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” [Mark 15:13]. Then the Lord said, “Have ye not read, have ye not read, have ye not read this Scripture” [Mark 12:10]; then He quotes the one hundred eighteenth Psalm, verses , , “The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner: This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes?” [Mark 12:10-11] This Man that they refused and rejected, this Man that they condemned and crucified [Acts 2:36], this Man they nailed to a tree [Acts 5:30], God hath made Him the head of the whole creation [Acts 2:36]. “It is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes” [Mark 12:11]. The Book said that; the Lord quoted.
Now in this same twelfth chapter, why, there came up to Him the Sadducees [Mark 12:18]. They were the rationalists of their day. They were the secularists of their day. They had all of the answers. They were the materialists. And they scoffed at the resurrection, and they scoffed at the idea of heaven, and they scoffed at the idea of a spirit world and an upper and better glory God might prepare for those who love Him. They laughed at it. And they had a stock story; they had slain the Pharisees with that story for generations, and they had mocked the revelation of God with that story for generations. It was that thing that you are familiar with [Mark 12:18-23]: “According to Levirate marriage [Deuteronomy 25:5-6], there was a brother who died, he had no seed, so his brother took the wife and sought to raise up seed, a child to his dead brother. And then he died; and the third one, and the fourth one, and the fifth one, and the sixth one, and the seventh; and finally the woman died. Now in the resurrection, ha, ha, ha,” said the Sadducee, “now in the resurrection, whose wife shall she be? For all seven of them had her, ha, ha, ha, ha,” said the Sadducee. And he had been laughing for generations. So they brought the story to Jesus and told that same old stock tale [Mark 12:18-23]. And the Lord, here in the twelfth chapter of the Book of Mark, “And the Lord said, But as touching the dead, but as touching the dead, that they rise [Mark 12:26], have ye not read in the book, have you not read how in the bush God spake unto Moses, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” [Exodus 3:6; Mark 12:26]. Now you look at this: the Lord bases His doctrine, His teaching of immortality and the resurrection of the dead on the tense of a verb in the Word of God! The Lord said, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living [Mark 12:26-27]. Ye do greatly err, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God!” [Mark 12:24]. Isn’t that an amazing thing?
The whole hope we have of a resurrection and a life to come Jesus bases upon the tense of the verb “to be.” “God never introduced Himself,” said Jesus, “saying, I am going to be the God, or, I was the God; but the Lord God said, I am the God of the living” [Exodus 12:26-27], Jesus and His Bible.
That same twelfth chapter of the Gospel of Mark: and one of the lawyers, one of the lawyers came and said to Him…. Now all of their lives and throughout their generations they had been taking the commandments and equating them. Some were less and some were greater, some were lighter and some were heavier. Now they did that for the purpose of seeing how little they could do, and yet get into the kingdom and yet be saved, how little I could give, how little I could love, how little I could serve. So if I broke this commandment, they said, well, that won’t matter much, but if you were to break this one, that might be a horrendous thing to do. Like certain people do today, they have venial sins and they have mortal sins, and you can commit venial sins and you can get by, and it isn’t fatal, but commit a mortal sin, that is something else. Well, that is the same sort of thing; that is rabbinical casuistry. So they took God’s commandments, and they made them great and little in order that they might know which they could interdict, which they could break, and which they could not break and still be saved.
Well, that is what the lawyer had in his mind. So he came up to Jesus to entrap Him in His words, as he said [Mark 12:28-34], “Now which is the great commandment in the Book?” And Jesus never failed to answer. Ask Him and He will have an answer; ask Him and He will have an answer for you, ask Him. And Jesus quoted from the Word of God: “And Jesus answered and said,” then He quotes Deuteronomy 6:4-5, the great Shema, “The first of all the commandments is this: Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment” [Mark 12:28-30]. And then He quotes from Leviticus 19:18: “And the second is like unto it, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. These are the great commandments: and there is none other greater than these” [Mark 12:31]. And when the lawyer heard Jesus quote from the Word of God, and thus to present the great message of time and eternity in the revelation of the Book, the lawyer said, “Master, Thou hast well said. Thou hast well said. For a man to love God with all of his heart and soul, and for a man to love his neighbor as himself is more than all whole burnt offering and sacrifice” [Mark 12:32-33]. And the Lord turned to the young lawyer and said, “Sir, you are not far from the kingdom of heaven” [Mark 12:34]. The Book. The Book.
You know that just reminds me of the convicting power of the Word of God, the convicting power. When the Lord answered the lawyer, not according to rabbinical casuistry and all of the fine-spun theology in the schools of Hillel and Shammai; but when the Lord went back to the Book and quoted him the heart of the Bible, that lawyer immediately moved in conviction, “Master, You have answered right. You have answered right: to love God in a man’s soul, and to love his neighbor as himself is more than all else in religion” [Mark 12:32-33]. You are near the kingdom when the Word of God enters your heart [Mark 12:34]. We must hasten.
Just continuing in this twelfth chapter, Jesus and the Bible, as He had the scribes, and the Pharisees, and the lawyers, and the Sadducees, and temple authorities and rulers, as He had them around Him, He said, “Let Me ask you a question. Let Me ask you a question,” then He quoted Psalm 110:1, “David said by the Holy Spirit, The Lord God said to my Lord Messiah, Sit Thou on My right hand, till I make Thine enemies Thy footstool. David therefore himself called his Son Lord; whence then is He his Son? David says, The Lord God said to the Messiah, and the Messiah is to be David’s Son, the Lord God said to the Messiah, David’s Son, Lord, sit on My right hand till I annihilate Thine enemies. The Lord God called David’s Son, Lord. And David in the Holy Ghost,” look how He makes the Bible the very breath of God, the very Word of God, “And David by the Holy Ghost wrote it down, calling his Son, Lord [Mark 12:35-37]. Well, how is He David’s Son?” Do you look upon your son as Lord, do you? No man ever looked on his son as Lord God; but David did. “How is that?” said the Lord, “How read you? How understand you the Scriptures?” And they said, “We do not know.” Then the next verse says, “And the common people heard Him gladly” [Mark 12:37]. When Jesus takes the Book, and opens it, and reads its pages, and quotes its sacred verses, the common people said, “Amen. Glory to God. Bless the name of the Lord.”
You know I have one question asked me more than all others put together, all others put together: you know it is known far and wide and wherever a Baptist is that I preach the Bible, preached through the Bible for so many, many years, and the question they always inevitably ask me is, “Well, do people come? Do people come? Do people come to hear a man just preach the Bible? You mean you don’t put on a three ring circus there?”
“Not intentionally,” I say. I don’t plan it that way.
“Are you not enthralled in all of the things of the day?”
“No,” I say, “you can listen to them on the radio. You can listen to them in the commentator; you can read it on the editorial paper.”
“Well, what do you do?” I say, “All I do is just stand up there and open God’s Book, and say, Look, thus saith the Lord.” And God’s people heard Jesus gladly [Mark 12:37]. God’s people will always hear God’s man gladly, when he opens the Book and explains the meaning thereof, Jesus and His Bible.
Ah, we must hasten. I have two brief things to say. According to the Word of God, He authenticated His ministry. Talking to His disciples and pointing out Judas, He says, “That the Scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with Me hath lifted up his heel against Me. Now I tell you before it come to pass, I tell you before it come to pass, that when it is come to pass ye may believe that I am He” [John 13:18-19]. He used the Bible to authenticate His ministry. That was my text, wasn’t it? “And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” [Luke 24:27]. The great witness to the identity and the sovereign purpose and the will of God in His life is the Scriptures. “This is My Son…this is Jesus the Messiah…this is Jesus Christ the Lord,” the great witness is the Word of God. And then I must close.
And Jesus to us made the earnest and awesome avowal: if we are saved, and if we have any hope, it is by listening to the Word of the Lord. “And Dives prayed, saying, father, I pray thee, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brethren there, that he may testify unto them, lest they come to this awful place of torment. Oh, father Abraham, send Lazarus; raise him from the dead, and let him speak and plead with my five brothers.” Abraham said, “They have Moses and the prophets. They have the Bible. Let him hear them.” And he cried, “Father Abraham, no, no, but if one went unto them from the dead, they would turn, they would repent” [Luke 16:27-30]. And Abraham said, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, if they will not listen to the Word of God, neither will they be persuaded, though one were raised from the dead” [Luke 16:31]. Oh my soul, my soul! Open my heart to the message of the Book, Lord, open my ears to hear and my eyes to see and my soul to understand. For if I am saved in the judgment that is to come [1 Thessalonians 1:10], it is because I listened, I listened, I opened my heart to the message of the Word of God; Jesus and His Bible, you and that sacred Book.
God grant we embrace its truth. Lord Jesus, according to Thy Holy Word, speak to my soul, bless my life, forgive my sins, stand by me in the day of judgment, and save us from the wrath to come. And according to Thy Word, bless us, Lord, Thy favor upon Thy people, wonderful Jesus. Oh, isn’t it the way to walk? Isn’t it the life to love? Isn’t it the commitment you’d like to make this morning? Make it now.
While we sing this song of appeal, coming down one of these stairways, into the aisle, “Preacher, I give you my hand; I give my heart to God. I’m putting my life in the fellowship of the church.” As the Spirit of the Savior shall make appeal and shall press the word to your heart, come. One somebody you, a couple you, a family you, “This is my wife, our children, all of us are coming.” Make it now; make it today, while we stand and while we sing.