THE FOUNDATION FOR THE FAITH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Peter 1:23-25
You are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the eleven o’clock morning message entitled The Foundation for the Faith. The sermon last Sunday morning, the message this morning, the message next Sunday morning will concern the enduring, and abiding, and unchanging, and eternal Word of God. This is the second message prepared in that series.
Out of the passage of Scripture that we read together I read.
Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.
For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass.
Then the apostle Simon Peter quotes Isaiah 40 and 8.
The grass withereth, and the flower fadeth:
But the Word of the Lord endureth for ever.
Then he adds by inspiration:
And this is the Word which by the gospel is preached unto you.
[1 Peter 1:23-25]
Wherein we are born again by the Word of God; so I speak of the foundation for the faith the abiding, and enduring, and incorruptible, and eternal Word of God.
Upon a day an infidel, an agnostic challenged a brilliant minister to a debate on the inspiration of the Bible. It was set and first the atheist stood up to deny the Word of God. And he opened his remarks with these words, "Now", he says, "In this debate we shall not turn to the Bible itself. For you cannot prove a thing by the thing itself. You cannot test a thing by the thing itself. And we are not to prove the Bible by the Bible itself. But our debate is to concern extraneous matters and materials."
It was a very shrewd thing to say. After he sat down this brilliant minister stood up and he said, "All of us have listened to the ground rule laid down by my opponent, this atheist. That in this debate we are not to appeal to the Bible itself. For he says we cannot prove a thing by the thing itself or test the thing by the thing itself but we must turn to extraneous evidences."
Then said this brilliant minister, he said,
That would just be as though a man who had a ranch went to the assayer and said, ‘You know, I have found a cropping of quartz on my ranch and in it are some yellow materials. And I think that I have gold in those mountains.’
And the assayer would say, ‘Bring me a piece of that quartz with those gold specks in it’.
And the ranchman would say, ‘Oh no, indeed not for you cannot prove a thing by the thing itself nor can you test a thing by the thing itself. You take one of the bricks out of the walls of this house and you test it and tell me whether or not there is gold on my ranch’".
Then he said,
Or it would be as though a man supposed someone was poisoning him and that they had put potassium cyanide in his sugar. So he goes to the chemist and he says, ‘I am fearful that someone is seeking to poison me. I am afraid there is cyanide in my sugar bowl.’
And the chemist says, ‘Well, you bring me the bowl of sugar and we will test it’.
‘Oh no,’ says the man, ‘You cannot prove a thing by the thing itself. Nor can you test the thing by itself. But you go to your kitchen and get the salt shaker off of your table and test it and tell me whether there is cyanide in my sugar bowl or not.’
Then he went right ahead as he should have done and looked at the Bible itself to see whether or not it is God breathed which is the actual meaning of the word, inspired. Now that is what we are going to do this morning in the few minutes allotted to me at this preaching hour.
I have chosen three things, three things that you will find in the Bible. The foundation for the faith, three very patent things, three things written on every and sacred page. First, all that we know of God and all that we know of true religion is found between the covers of that sacred and holy volume I hold in my hand.
You can study this natural world forever and forever and you can philosophize about it world without end. The heathen did. The pagan did. About all you’d ever learn, looking at the starry challis above us, Whoever made this and created this was Someone of vast, illimitable infinitude.
You could look at a beautiful sunset or at a glorious rainbow and surmise Whoever created this must have loved things beautiful. You could listen to the roar of a thunderstorm and the flash of the lightening and surmise Whoever lies back of this creation was one of vast power.
You could look on the inside of you and philosophize concerning that ultimate Creator is Someone who was Lord of right and of wrong. But you would never know who He is, and you would never know His name, and you would never know His character, and His personality. Did He not self-reveal? Did He not self-disclose Himself? All that you know of God is revealed in this holy Book. All that you know of Jesus is revealed in these sacred pages.
In secular history there is a sentence by Tacitus and there is a sentence by Suetonius, Roman historians who were writing immediately after the death of Caesar Nero. And in describing the life of Nero they came to the place where in the story of Nero he laid upon the Christians the blame for the burning of Rome.
Therefore the historian had to explain to a world that never had heard of Christ who Christ was. There is one sentence then in Tacitus and there is one sentence in Suetonius who described Jesus; that He was a Jew who was crucified under the Roman procurator, Pontius Pilate. And that’s all.
There is paragraph in Josephus that some think, though very small, some think is real. If we know anything about Jesus and if we are introduced to the Lord Christ, it is because of the self-disclosure of God in the pages of this Bible.
I was very impressed with the remark of my Greek teacher in the seminary; one of the far famed scholars of all time. And when we had done the course of the New Testament he said, "Young gentlemen, you have studied Christ Himself; the whole Christ; all of Christ. When you study the Bible, when you study the gospels, you are studying the Lord Himself for all that we know of the Lord is encompassed in these sacred pages."
I must hasten. All that we know of salvation we read in the book. What must I do to be saved? Let a heathen philosopher reply. Let a pagan theoretician reply. Let a metaphysician reply. Let a Hindu religionist reply. Let Confucius reply. Let a pseudo-scientist reply. You are as lost and as dark and in counsel as you listen as though you had never asked the question. What must I do to be saved?
And all we know of the future is revealed in this sacred Book. These men of ancient sage and ancient seer have looked to the long vistas ahead and have been baffled and darkened in counsel, and in word, and in wisdom as they try to ferret out some answer to the future that lies ahead. There is no other revelation other than is found in the immutable Word of the immutable God.
That is why I think the kingdom of darkness so violently and viciously attacks the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures. "If the foundations be destroyed," cried the Psalmist, "what can the righteous do"? [Psalm 11:3] If the Bible is destroyed and made to be the work of a natural, and ordinary, and human mind, then the foundation of our faith, the revelation of God, our hope of salvation and any knowledge we have in the Lord or of the future is thereby swept away in the so-called myth, and legend, and fantasy out of which they think somebody spun these holy words.
That’s the first observation. All that we know of God and of true religion is revealed in the pages of this holy Book.
Now I have a second observation as I hold the Word of the Lord in my hand. Its one theme produces an amazing, an astonishing unity in diversity. I carefully worked out that sentence. Its one great theme reveals an astonishing, an amazing unity in diversity.
There is one thread, a golden thread. I like to call it a scarlet thread. There is one golden, scarlet thread through all of the Word of God. There is one tremendous theme in all of the Word of God.
In the ancient day there is Someone who is coming. In the day of His incarnation, Someone has come. And in the day of an apocalyptic revelation Someone is coming again. This is the great one theme that binds this holy Book together. There is a Savior who is coming. There is a Savior who has come. There is a Lord omnipotent who is coming again.
And I say that one vast thing has produced an astonishing and an amazing unity in diversity. Last Sunday I spoke of the fact that there are at least forty writers in the Bible, forty of them. And that they were scattered over the period beyond 1500 years. They didn’t know each other. They were separated by culture and by background, by civilization, by every kind and type of life; and yet over 1500 years, over forty writers speaking the same thing, introducing the same revelation, repeating the same incomparable Word.
In the Book you will find romance, the story of Sarah, or Rebekkah, or Rachel, or Ruth. You will find law, the incomparable statutes of the Mosaic legislation. You will find history, the story of the kings of Israel, of Judah, and of the kingdoms of the world.
You will find poetry. "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters."
You will find proverb. You will find prophecy. One third of the Bible is prophecy. And yet for all of the gamut of its many faceted literatures there is one great molding, holding constant theme. The Lord is at hand. Maranatha, Maranatha, the Lord is coming.
You cannot divide this Book. You can’t separate it. It’s one; the old covenant, the new covenant, the Old Testament, the New Testament. What is enfolded in the Old Testament is unfolded in the New. What lies latent in the old is patent in the new. What is promised in the old and prophesied in the old is produced and revealed in the new. They are one.
"God who at sundry times and in diverse manners spake unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son," [Hebrews 1: 1,2] the Word of God. Whether by the prophet, the voice of the messenger, beholding or whether by the voice of the Son, achieving, producing, revealing, it is all one. The Word of God; it cannot be separated.
In my preparation for this hour I read of a young fellow in a big city in which are some big hills. The city is built on tall hills. And this young fellow had a contraption that in order to get up one of those tall hills well, he needed to get him a good run at it so he could make it up to the top.
Well, he got himself all wound up and got the contraption all geared up and he was getting ready to make it up that hill. And when he got to the intersection, to his right was an automobile coming followed by another one. So he had time to figure it all out in that little moment. And by letting the first one go by and braking his own jalopy and then by gunning his jalopy before the second one came into the intersection why, he had time just to go between the two and step up that hill.
The only thing was he hadn’t noticed that the front car was towing the second car and they were tied with a steel cable. And when he got out of the hospital and when he got through paying the bills he learned this great theological lesson. That it is very difficult to divide between things that are bound together. You will find that in the Word of God.
This piece belongs to this piece. And this section is indelibly connected with this section. And the whole thing is welded together by the great revelation of the Lord.
That’s the second thing you can notice when you hold the Book in your hand. It’s marvelous unity in diversity. It has one supreme announcement and one incomparably glorious message.
Now a third thing; as you hold the Book in your hand that gave rise that marvelous announcement, that gave rise to the miraculous phenomenon you will find in the Bible, the prophet and the Spirit of prophecy and the prophecy that they made. In no other religion, in no other culture, in no other philosophy, in no other part of human life or experience will you find that phenomenon. There is only one religion in the world. There is only one place in the world that you will find the prophet and prophecy. And that is found in the Word of God.
The answer is very plain. There is no one, nobody. There is no one who knows the future and can speak of the future except the Lord God who controls it and guides it and by His sovereign grace brings things that He has said to their ultimate and final consummation.
Yea, said Moses in the twenty-ninth chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy. "The secret things belong unto the Lord our God" [Deuteronomy 29:29]. It is only those things that are revealed that belong unto us and to our children forever. The secret things, the things that lie ahead, belong unto the Lord our God. He alone knows them and can reveal them.
My brother, if you are able to foresee the future for one week you can be an indescribably rich man. Nay, if you are able to know the future one day you could be a very rich man. Nay, if you can know the future one hour you can be a rich man. I’ll tell you how.
You walk right down there to that Republic Bank and in that Republic Bank, facing that direction is a brokerage, one of the most famous in the world. You just sit down there before that tape. And if you know the future one hour why you buy and sell and make a million dollars today, and two million dollars the next day, and four million dollars the next day, and eight million dollars the next day, and sixteen million dollars the next day, and thirty-two million dollars the next day, and sixty-four million dollars the next day and pretty soon you will own more money than the governmental debt. And that’s real rich.
All you would have to do is be able to predict the future one hour, just one hour. My brother I hold the Book in my hand. And I read predictions, thousands and thousands of years ahead. I read predictions centuries and centuries ahead. I read predictions of minutae, little tiny inconsequentials that God saw in the mosaic of the world that was yet to come.
One of the interesting things that you will find in the Book is how the Lord God challenges the gods of the nations and the gods of the heathens. Listen to Him. Listen to Him.
The Lord says,
Show the things that are to come hereafter that we may know that ye are gods. You so called gods of Persia, and gods of Assyria, and gods of Egypt, and gods of the Orient, wherever there is one who thinks himself wise or is a God, let him stand up and show the things that are to come hereafter that we may know that ye are gods. I am the Lord. I am the Lord, behold new things do I declare before they come to pass I tell you of them.
I turn the page, "Thus saith the Lord to the anointed Cyrus" [Isaiah 45:1]. Now what an amazing thing; this man is speaking in 750 BC. This prophet Isaiah is speaking in 750 BC and Cyrus never came on the scene of history until 550 BC. How many years is that? Two hundred years; two hundred years before Cyrus came onto the pages of history the Lord God called his name, called his name. Cyrus, that saith unto Cyrus two hundred years before he came to be the leader of those Persian armies.
Ah, let me show you right here the difference between a prophecy and a surmise. Suppose we have the Gallup Poll and they make a survey of all the United States and they say, "Now in this coming election, Thomas E. Dewey is going to be elected the President of the United States". And so the Chicago Herald Tribune, on the basis of one of those magnificent surveys, they publish in a big black headline, "Dewey Elected President". Lo me alive.
That’s your fine poll survey. And who was elected? Why, our good old so and so Baptist Harry Truman was elected. Isn’t that magnificent prognostication? Oh brother, what gifts! Now wait a minute. I am saying something else. I am going to show you the difference between a man surmising and prophecy. It is very simple to do.
When a poll is taken or when a politician in Washington surveys estimation and he says, "This coming November so and so is going to be elected." Well, that is political sagacity.
Now this is prophecy. Suppose the same politician stands up in Washington and names the man that is going to be elected in 2164 A.D. That is prophecy. That is prophecy. Stand up. Call the name of the President of the United States two hundred years from now. That is prophecy.
That is what God is saying here after He named Cyrus. For He named two hundred years before he came into history Cyrus, thus saith the Lord, the Holy One of Israel. That’s of things to come. "For I am the Lord and there is none else. I am God and there is none like me" [Isaiah 45:22]. Declaring the end from the beginning, He sees the whole consummation of the age declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times the things that are not yet done.
That’s the Lord God. Did you know in history they say, I don’t know anything to do except to follow after the pages I read. Did you know in history it is written that when Cyrus came into Babylon and took over the entire civilized world that there was one Zerubbabel who came to Cyrus and showed him in the Word of God how the Lord had called his name two hundred years before he appeared at the gates of the Chaldean Empire.
And when Cyrus read it he was astonished and amazed. And he gave that decree that you read in the first chapter of Ezra, giving Israel an opportunity to go back home and build their kingdom, and their city Jerusalem, and their temple.
Did you know one of the most eloquent passages in Josephus is when Josephus describes the onward march of Alexander the Great? And after Alexander the Great had swept through Asia Minor he came down the seacoast in order to conquer Egypt. And when he came by little Palestine he turned aside and went up to Jerusalem. And Josephus says when Alexander the Great appeared at the gates of Jerusalem that the high priest in all of his glory came with his fellow priests bearing before him the Word of God; and showed Alexander the Great from the prophet Daniel the exact day and hour of his coming and the great success by which God would crown his efforts.
And when Alexander the Great read it and saw it, Josephus says he fell on his face and worshipped the true God of heaven. And he spared the temple, and he spared Jerusalem, and he spared little Judah. What an amazing thing. This is God. This is God.
How many times will you find that conflict between the unbeliever and the Word of God in the Holy Scriptures? Jeremiah for example was carrying around on his neck in the city of Jerusalem an iron yoke. And he was parable-izing. He was preaching by example a sermon that God was going to send Nebuchadnezzar and destroy that place. And the people were going to be sold into captivity because of their iniquities.
And there was a wise sage by the name of Hananiah. And he met Jeremiah in front of the king and the princes. And he broke off that iron yoke from Jeremiah’s neck and he said, "You are not going into Babylonian captivity".
And Jeremiah stood up after the yoke was broken from off of his neck and he said, "This nation, and this king, and these princes shall surely go into captivity and this shall be the sign thereof. Hananiah, you false prophet, thou shalt die this year." And not long after that Hananiah died. And not long after that the people were carried away into Babylonian captivity.
Same kind of a story you read in the days of Micaiah. When Ahab called Jehoshophat and said, "Let’s go up to Ramoth-gilead and take it, it belongs to us." And Jehoshophat, who was a godly man said, "All these false prophets around here say go up and they prophesize success. Isn’t there one other man here?"
And Ahab said, "Yes, his name is Micaiah, but I hate him. I hate him. I hate him."
"Well", said Jehoshophat, "Don’t say that. Bring him before me."
And so they call Micaiah and they said, "All of these prophets are saying ‘Go up Ahab and take Ramoth-gilead because God has given it to you’".
Micaiah said, "By the grace of God I shall say what God says, the Word of the Lord".
And when Micaiah spoke, he spoke the death of Ahab and the destruction of the armies of Israel. And Zedekiah, the leader of the prophets went over and struck [Micaiah] on his cheek and said, "From whence went the Spirit of God from me to you".
And [Micaiah] said, "In the day when you crawl into your chamber in shame and disgrace". Then he turned to Ahab and said, "If you return from this battle this day, God hath not spoken unto me".
You remember the rest of the story. Ahab disguised himself so no one would know him and he went out into the war against Ramoth-gilead. And the Book says that an archer, an archer drew back a bow at a venture and let the arrow fly without even aiming. And that arrow found a joint in the harness of Ahab and pierced his heart and his blood flowed out in the chariot.
They brought him home and washed him, washed the chariot at the well at Jezreel, where Naboth’s body had been slain by Jezebel and Ahab. And the dogs licked up the blood as they washed the chariot. Now I quote according to the Word of God.
Now I had a large section of my sermon prepared that you might know these prophecies today. These prophecies today, I had a great deal prepared, how the prophets had described the destruction of Tyre, how Nahum described the destruction of Nineveh, the incomparable Greek historian not even realizing the destruction of great Nineveh exactly according to the prophecy of Nahum.
I wish I had time to describe what Isaiah, what Jeremiah said of the destruction of Jerusalem. Well, let’s get the things today. The prophecy is not just of old time. The prophecy is now. The Lord speaks to us now. He reveals to us now the things of this present age and in just a few minutes I have left may I speak of just some of them?
The course of the kingdoms of this world, from the days of Daniel, 600 BC, clear to the time of the consummation, and of course that includes us, four kingdoms Daniel said, four kingdoms. One, Babylon, two, Medo-Persia, three, Greek, four, Roman and thereafter, said Daniel in 600 BC, the world will never know a universal kingdom again. But it will be like ten toes divided into iron and clay, some weak, some strong. There will never be another universal kingdom.
We live in the day where there is strength and there is weakness among the nations. And nationalism is wry and it will be that until the days of that stone that strikes the feet of the image cut without hands from the mountain. That’s a typical instance of God who can see the end from the future.
Could I speak of Israel? Could I speak of Israel? I had a large section in this sermon prepared on Israel. The whole life of Israel was one of prophecy.
And the prophet says, "And they shall be destroyed."
And the prophet said, "And they shall be dispersed over the earth".
And the prophet said, "They shall be buried in the nations of the earth".
But the prophet says, "They shall be regathered in their land" and the prophet speaks of the future glory of the chosen family of God.
And our Lord said when He prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and their worldwide dispersion the Lord said, "But this race, this genus will be here when I come again" [Luke 21:20, Matthew 24:34]. The Jew will be here Jesus said, when He comes again. He’ll be here.
Did you ever see an Ammonite, or a Canaanite, or a Moabite, or any of the rest of those peoples back there that are named in the Bible? But the Jew, he is still here. He is still here and Jesus says he will be here when I come again. And I wish I had time to speak of the prophecy.
"For they shall look upon Him whom they pierced and they shall mourn as a family mourns for its only son. And there shall be a fountain in Israel for the cleansing and washing away of sin." [Zechariah 12:10, 13:1]
And according to the eleventh chapter of the Book of Romans, the apostle Paul says, "And so all Israel will turn to the Lord". Someday Israel will accept their Messiah, our Lord and Savior.
But oh, I must hasten. The Bible prophesied that the tenure of the world will be toward one great political configuration and confederation. And the Bible predicts that there will be a movement in the world in the last time moving toward one great ecclesiastical confederation.
And you see that in every newspaper you read every day. And the Bible speaks of the great apostasy when men shall turn away from the belief in the Word of God and the belief that even God Himself lives.
I’ll close now. I’ll close now. In the Bible, in the Bible I could somehow maybe see how a great nation, or a little nation, or a people, or a culture could speak of a coming redeemer and a coming Savior. But listen my brother, you listen. There are three hundred thirty three little details that describe the coming of our Lord and King; three hundred thirty-three. Listen, brother, listen. In the twenty-second chapter of the Psalms, in the twenty second Psalm alone there are more than thirty little descriptions of the cross of Jesus written in the day when the only execution that Israel knew was stoning.
Oh that we had time to follow such prophesies as this! You would have thought though he spake 750 years before the day, you would have thought that Isaiah was standing with the sainted apostle John at the foot of the cross and saw Jesus died when he spake 750 years before.
For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him crowned with thorns, bathed in blood.
He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.
Surely, surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
750 years before Jesus died on the cross.
This is the Word of God. No wonder the incomparable prophet said and no wonder the great apostle quoted, "The grass withereth, the flower fadeth, but the Word of our God shall abide forever".
And this is the foundation for the faith. Now while we sing our song of appeal, in the balcony round on this lower floor somebody you give his heart to Jesus. Or a family you, come into the fellowship of the church. A couple one, however God shall say the word and lead in the way, make it now. Make it now. I’ll be standing here to your right to my left. I’ll be standing here. And there is time and to spare. Make it this morning.
"Preacher, today I give my heart to Jesus." Or, "today I am coming into the fellowship of the church." Do it now. Do it now. On the first note of the first stanza while we stand and while we sing.
THE FOUNDATION OF THE FAITH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Peter 1:23-25, Isaiah 40:8
A. Harry Rimmer accepts atheist’s challenge to debate inspiration of Bible
1. Rimmer rejects the "ground rule" that you cannot prove a thing by itself
II. All we know of true religion is revealed in the Book
A. All that we know about a personal God
B. All that we know of Jesus
1. Greek teacher in seminary – "You have studied Jesus Himselfâ€¦"
C. All we know about salvation
D. All we know of the future
E. The reason the kingdom of darkness so viciously attacks inspiration of Scriptures – destroy the foundation, destroy the faith(Psalm 11:3)
III. One great theme reveals amazing unity in diversity
A. Scarlet thread – Someone who is coming, Someone who has come, Someone who is coming again
B. At least 40 writers over a period of 1,500 years
C. All kinds of literature(Psalm 23)
D. Unity of the Testaments(Hebrews 1:1-2)
1. Cannot be divided
2. Young driver tried to cut between two cars tied with steel cable
IV. The astonishing phenomenon of prophecy
A. Only God knows the future; only He could foretell (Deuteronomy 29:29)
B. The challenge of Jehovah(Isaiah 41:23, 45:1)
1. Difference between a prophecy and a surmise(Isaiah 45:22)
2. Cyrus (Ezra 1:1-4)
3. Alexander the Great
4. Conflict between unbeliever and the Word of God in Scriptures (Jeremiah 28:9, 1 Kings 22:25)
C. Future course of nations – Tyre, Nineveh, Jerusalem
D. Concerning our times
1. Course of kingdoms from the days of Daniel to the consummation(Daniel 2:31-44)
2. Israel – destruction, dispersion, future glory(Luke 21:20, Matthew 24:34, Zechariah 12:10, 13:1, Romans 11:26)
3. Us – moving toward one governmental confederation and one ecclesiastical confederation; apostasy
4. Jesus – prophecy of a Savior; 333 specific details(Isaiah 53:2-6)