The Sure Word of God
October 11th, 1964 @ 8:15 AM
THE SURE WORD OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Kings 22
10-11-64 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the early morning message entitled The True Word, The Sure Word of God. In summing up the tremendous teachings, doctrines, revelations of the Bible, I have been in a series on the Word of God. I spoke through the Sundays a series on the being of God, the Trinity, the deity of our Lord, and then we have turned now to the Word of God, the inspired, God-breathed Holy Scriptures. Three of those messages have already been delivered; they were preached before I went away on my trip to South America. And now we pick it up, and for these immediate Lord’s Days that lie ahead, we shall speak of the Word of the living God.
The twenty-second chapter of 1 Kings is one of the most unusual and unusually interesting of all of the stories that you will find in the Bible. And that chapter revolves around, how do you know the word of God? That is, how do you distinguish it from other words? How do you know what word is true? How do you know which word is delivered from God? Now that’s what this story is about. And I have chosen three ways in the Bible that God says you can tell His word. Now first may I summarize the story, which is a background for the message this morning?
Ahab is king of Israel, and Jehoshaphat, the good king Jehoshaphat is king of Judah. So Ahab says to Jehoshaphat, "Let us go against Ramoth-gilead on the other side of the Jordan River. It belongs to us, and the heathen possess it." So Jehoshaphat says to Ahab, "I am with you. My heart is as your heart. We will go up together against Ramoth-gilead" [1 Kings 22:4]. Now before they went up, they decided to inquire of the Lord, whether they should do it or not, and whether they would have success in the siege or not. So Ahab gathered before him four hundred of his prophets, four hundred men, and he asked them, "What does God say?" And all four hundred of those men said, "God says you go up against Ramoth-gilead; and God will give it to you." But Jehoshaphat as he listened to those four hundred men, he felt something in his heart, and Jehoshaphat said to Ahab, "Ahab, king, is there not one other prophet besides of whom we could inquire of the true word of God?" And Ahab said, "Yes, but I hate him."
"Oh," said Jehoshaphat, "speak not so. Bring him before the king, and let us inquire of the true word of God from him." So they brought before the king Micaiah, the prophet of the Lord [1 Kings 22:5-9]. And they said to Micaiah, "Shall we go up against Ramoth-gilead? All these other four hundred prophets, they say God says go up." And Micaiah said, "I saw a vision: the children of Israel scattered over the earth without a shepherd," his way of saying, "You go up, and the king will be killed and the people scattered abroad." Now, Zedekiah, who was the leader of those four hundred men, Zedekiah went over to Micaiah and smote him on the cheek, slapped him on the face, and said, "So you call all of us liars? Where went the Spirit of God from me to you that you speak the truth and I deliver a lie?" And Micaiah said, "You will see that in the day when you go into your chamber with shame to hide yourself." Then the king Ahab said to his guard, "This fellow," in contempt, "this fellow Micaiah, put him in prison, and feed him bread of affliction, and water of affliction, until I come in triumph and in victory." And Micaiah said, "If thou return at all, the Lord hath not spoken by me." And Ahab said, "Hearken all ye people, listen to him" [1 Kings 22:12-28]. And in the battle, an archer drew back a bow at a venture, didn’t aim it, and let fly the arrow; and that arrow found a joint in the harness of Ahab and pierced his heart. And the blood of the king poured out into the chariot. And they brought it back to the well by Jezreel, washed it out, and the dogs licked up the blood, according to the saying of the man of God [1 Kings 22:34-38].
Isn’t that some story? Now, the whole background of that story is this: how do you know, and how do you recognize the word of God? And why should someone avow this to be the word of God, and not some other word, or some other volume, or some other so-called inspired writing? How do you know that this is the word of God? How do you know that the word spoken by Micaiah is the word of God, and the words spoken by Zedekiah is the spirit of a lying prophet? How do you judge what are the criteria of the word of God, the true and sure word of God.
Now, I could be here, we could be here all week long and just mention these things; but out of the Bible itself, I have chosen three criteria, three tests by which the Book says you can distinguish the true and sure word of the Lord. All right, I turn first, first – and this is Deuteronomy 18:21, 22 – first, does it come to pass? When the word is spoken and the prophecy is delivered, does it come to pass? Now I read:
And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord – and they have it here in a negative presentation – How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken?"
Then God answers: When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.
So the test that God puts there to the word that is delivered is, does it come to pass?
Now I want to show you how profound and how significant and how unusual is that test. Did you know, the only religion in the world that has a prophet is the Bible religion, the Judeo-Christian faith? There’s no other religion that has a prophet, simply because you can’t prophesy and you can’t foretell unless God is in you. Now we’ve discussed some of this before, but lest you have forgotten, may I review it for a minute? If a man were to predict that so-and-so’s going to be elected in this campaign between the Republicans and the Democrats, he takes a poll, and he predicts. That is a surmise based upon the counting of noses, and there is no prophecy in it. But this would be prophecy: if a man were to stand up and say who is going to be elected in the presidential race in 2004 AD; that would be prophecy. Now, all you have to do in order to be enormously rich is to be able to predict just a few minutes what’s going to happen. If you can go to a horse race, and three minutes from the time they shoot the gun or pull the rope, or whatever they do in a horse race – I don’t know what they do in horse races – anyway, whatever they do to start the horses, if three minutes beforehand you can predict which one of those horses is going to win, did you know you can be rich overnight? All you got to do is go to the horse races, and pick that winner, and pick that winner, and pick that winner, and pick that winner, and you just get rich, oh man, there’s no limit to what you can do. Just three minutes, if you can just predict three minutes ahead, man, you have all the money in the world. You can go down here to this brokerage firm, and if you know just a day or two what’s going to happen, all you have to do is to place your money in that stock market, and you make today, and you sell tomorrow, and you can make today, and you sell tomorrow, and you make money buying, and you make money selling, and you make money trading, you make money going up, and make money going down; man, there’s no limit to what you can do if you can just predict a day or two what’s going to happen.
Listen, fellow: prediction belongs to the things of God, and there’s not any faith and there’s not any religion that has a prophet in it except the Judeo-Christian religion, simply because it is only God that can see and write of the future.
Now, we must hasten. May I show you the amazement of this word, this test we are applying to the word of God? Eight hundred years BC, eight hundred years BC, eight hundred years before He was born, there stood up a prophet by the name of Micah, and said, "He is going to be born in the little town of Bethlehem" [Micah 5:2]. But, eight hundred years later, they lived in Nazareth; they didn’t live in Bethlehem. They lived in Nazareth! But eight hundred years before, the prophet said He was going to be born in Bethlehem! "And it came to pass in those days, that a decree came out from Caesar Augustus," think how little he ever realized that God was working in history to bring to pass a prophecy said eight hundred years before! "In those days there came a decree from Caesar Augustus, for all the world to be enrolled, a universal census." And in Israel, according to their custom, each one went to the home of his birth and of his forefathers to be enrolled. And so important was the mandate of the Roman government, that they didn’t dare disobey; so significant was that mandate, that Joseph took his espoused wife, being heavy with child, and made a journey down to Bethlehem [Luke 2:1-5]. Why? Because eight hundred years before Micah said, "He is going to be born in Bethlehem." Now I just got through telling you if you can predict three minutes, you can be a millionaire overnight. Eight hundred years before, Micah said Bethlehem. Why fellow, we can do this all day long, all day long.
One thousand years before, one thousand years before, David, in the twenty-second Psalm, said that when He is crucified they are going to cast lots for His garments [Psalms 22:18]. And when they nailed Him to a tree, one soldier – a quaternion of soldiers crucified Him, under a centurion, four soldiers – one soldier said, "I’ll take His turban." Another soldier said, "I’ll take His outer garment." Another soldier said, "I’ll take His girdle." The fourth soldier said, "I’ll take His sandals." But He had one other garment: an inner garment that was woven without seam from top to bottom. And the soldiers said, "Let’s don’t tear it and divide it into four parts, let’s cast lots for it and see which one of us gets it" [John 19:23-24]. Why? Because one thousand years before the prophet David had said, "And on My garments they cast lots."
And they came by, and they break the bones of the one on the left; and they break the bones of the one on the right, and they came to the center, why didn’t they break His bones? [John 19:32-33]. Because one thousand years before, plus four hundred years – how many is that? That’s one thousand four hundred years before, God said of the paschal lamb, "Not a bone shall be broken, not a bone shall be broken" [Exodus 12:46]. And then Zechariah had said five hundred twenty years before, "And they shall look on Him whom they have pierced" [Zechariah 12:10]. And a Roman soldier took a spear and thrust it into His side; and blood and water flowed out, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet Zechariah five hundred twenty years before [John 19:34]. Not a bone broken, but pierced: a spear thrust in His side. This is the first test God says: the test of it coming to pass; God foreseeing the future. Oh, we must hasten.
The second test that I have chosen is the one in the one hundred nineteenth Psalm and the one hundred sixtieth verse: that it be without error. "Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of Thy righteous judgments endureth for ever." Now if God knows all this, and if the Lord wrote this Book, and if He created this world, and if He sees the end from the beginning, then there’s not any error in it: for God knows all these laws of science, and God knows all these things that enter into His creative world, and what God wrote, if God wrote it, if this is the sure Word of God, then it is free from error. Now the transmission of it, you may have a grammatical error, and scientific and textual criticism can see where a scribe made a mistake; but that true manuscript – and we can practically verify them by textual criticism – that true manuscript that was inspired and God-breathed is without error.
Now, I want to do something this morning. To me this is the number one interesting trial that was ever held in the history of the world. There’s only been one time in the history of the world when the Bible was on trial in a court as to whether or not it contained error. And I am going to summarize this trial. Now listen, because we must hasten. On the thirty-first of October in 1939, the following notice appeared in the Herald Tribune in New York City; now I quote from that published notice: "Reverend Harry Rimmer speaks nightly this week and Sunday at Central Baptist Church, 92nd Street and Amsterdam Avenue, on The Harmony of Science and Scripture. He offers one thousand dollars for a scientific error in the Bible," end quote. Now that was the advertisement. Upon that occasion, a Mr. William Floyd, read this and demanded the money, alleging a number of scientific errors in the Bible. He could not prove those scientific errors to the satisfaction of the preacher and the Central Baptist Church, so he entered suit in the courts of New York against both the evangelist and the Central Baptist Church.
Now the trial was held in New York City on February 15, 1940. Mr. William Floyd, the plaintiff, who brought the charge and the suit against the preacher and the Baptist Church, Mr. William Floyd brought in four chief witnesses to establish his case: the first witness, Rabbi Baruch Braunstein, of an ultra-liberal Hebrew synagogue; the second witness, Reverend John Hayes Holmes, pastor of the Community Church in New York City; third, Reverend Charles Francis Potter, pastor of the First Humanist Church in New York City; and fourth, Mr. Woolsley Teller, vice president of the American Association for the Advancement of Atheism.
All right, the trial begins, the trial begins, and here they start off in that New York court. Mr. William Floyd, the plaintiff, the man who is suing the church and the preacher for that $1000 because he is found a scientific error in the Bible, now he started off, he was the first witness. A large part of his case was an elaborate argument that the Bible makes absurd statements on the number of quail referred to in Numbers 11:31-32. All right, this is the passage of Scripture that he chose as an absurd and ridiculous scientific statement in the Bible, now I read it in the Bible:
And there went forth a wind from the Lord, and brought quails from the sea, and let them fall by the camp, as it were a day’s journey on this side, and as it were a day’s journey on the other side, round about the camp, and as it were two cubits high upon the face of the earth.
And the people stood up all that day, and all that night, and all the next day, and they gathered the quails: and he that gathered the least gathered ten homers of quails.
Now that is the passage in the Bible that he brings before the court. Now, this Mr. William Floyd figured that this means a deposit of quail about four feet deep, covering all the surface of the earth for 3,136 square miles. And then in his presentation he said, "The cubical contents of this mass of quails would be approximately 305,258,552,448 cubic feet of quails; estimating that each quail pressed in the mass would occupy about three inches by three inches of space, thus displacing some twenty-seven cubic inches of space per quail in the pile. The total number of quails therefore in this mass, or mess of quails, would be 19,538,467,356,672 quails presented to the eye of the fundamentalist faith." That’s what he did.
Well, this is just another instance of the amazing stupidity and absurdity of those who are trying to belittle and to ridicule the plain and simple Word of God. For God never said here that He delivered to those Israelites a mass of birds killed, plucked, dressed, packed together like sardines in a can; but what God said was this – now let me read it as the Hebrew would say it – "And there went forth a wind from the Lord, and brought quails from the sea, and let them fall by the camp, as it were on this side, and on that side, a day’s journey, and as it were two cubits high above," the Hebrew says, "two cubits above the face of the earth." A great wind blew those quails out of the Nile Valley, and they were confused in the wilderness, and they were flying in the wilderness about two cubits high, about that high, above, the Hebrew says, above the face of the earth. So the people could get them down with a stick, they could grab them with their hands, it was easy for them to capture them because the Lord had sent meat over there for His people who were wandering in the wilderness. And that was all there was to that.
All right, the next witness was Rabbi Braunstein. Now he was the second witness, and he started off by admitting he didn’t know anything about science but he had read a great deal, he said, concerning the Bible. And he alleged that the Bible contradicts itself as to the animals in the ark, saying there were two of each kind in one place, and seven of each kind in another place. Now the counsel for the defense was the honorable James E. Bennett; and he had that rabbi to turn over to the seventh chapter of the Book of Genesis, and to read verse 2. And verse 2 reads, "God said to Noah, Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee seven, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and the female." And when the rabbi read that, why he said that he was very positive that God’s Word was correct; and so he changed his testimony and turned out to be a fine witness for the defense, that the Bible was true.
Now the third witness they had was Reverend John Hayes Holmes, and he admitted he was not qualified to speak as an expert in any branch of science; and he said his ideas concerning the Bible account of creation were merely his own opinions, and he could not qualify to speak for anyone else. So this didn’t constitute legal evidence, and he was dismissed.
Now the third witness was Reverend Charles Francis Potter – I mean he was the fourth witness. And he stated his case, namely that there was no flood as described in Genesis. He said there’s just no such thing that ever happened like that. Now the judge then asked him if he was there, and if not, where did he get his information that there wasn’t any such thing as a flood back there. The preacher said he got it from reading and studying and finally admitted his opinions were merely his own.
Then in the cross examination by Harold E. Bennett, the honorable counsel for the defense, for the church and for the preacher, why, the pastor of the First Humanist Church, this fellow Potter, he admitted he did not know whether or not there is a God, since he was an agnostic and ignorant on that subject, and he admitted that he never prayed, and he thought that God was just an idea in a fellow’s mind; so he was dismissed.
Then the next day, Friday, the sixteenth, the vice president of the American Association for the Advancement of Atheism was the witness, Woolsley Teller. Oh, he was very positive about what he said, and he was very confident in repeating all of those things about the Bible that had been said by the atheist; from Celsus, to Voltaire, to Ingersoll, to this present moment. And he claimed to be a scientist, and he claimed to be an authority on the Bible, and his testimony was sure. Well, under cross examination, found out he had never been graduated from any college, that he was entirely self-educated, as he said, by reading books. And under cross examination, the examiner made him admit that he misunderstood, misread Darwin, he compelled him to admit that he knew nothing of Hebrew or Greek or Latin and compelled him to admit that the scientists make mistakes, and he used one of his scientific authorities to illustrate the point.
This fellow in the advancement of atheism, why he had used the testimony of Dr. Fairfield Osborn, who was the head of the American Museum of Natural History and was one of America’s greatest paleontologists. Now, he pointed out to him that these scientists can make gross and grievous and unbelievable errors. And the one he pointed out to this vice president for the Advancement of Atheism, was this tooth that they found up here in Nebraska some time ago, and they identified that tooth as belonging to a man who lived on the American continent one million years ago. And they named him Hesperopithecus, western ape man. And they made pictures of him, and they published magazines about him, and they added to him his wife, and they added to him his children, and the house he lived in, and everything; and they built up a whole race of men on Hesperopithecus, on account of that one tooth that they found.
I remember at the Scopes trial, reading about the Scopes trial of Bryan, in Tennessee – what’s the name of that town? – Dayton, Tennessee, that that same thing was brought up by the, by [Clarence] – who? No, the Darrow, yeah, Darrow, yeah – this fellow Fairfield Osborn, this fellow Fairfield Osborn had identified that tooth as belonging to a race of men who lived on the American continent one million years ago; and that Hesperopithecus was the missing link between the ape and the present human being we know as Homo sapiens. And [Clarence Darrow] said, "Well, you know, you don’t say anything like that when those experts come along and identified that." And [Clarence Darrow], "Well, we ought to wait for more, for more evidence. We don’t know quite know."
"Well," they said, "but Fairfield Osborn has identified this." Well anyway, anyway, they finally found the skeleton of that whole animal to which that tooth belonged; and it turned out to be a peccary, a wild hog that used to roam all over the American continent. And with that, why, the judge threw the case out of court, and that ended the trial of trying to prove in a court scientific errors in the Bible. That’s the only time in the history of the world a thing like that ever happened.
You just can’t do that! Now that Book was written by the inspired word of the Lord, and that is the Lord God who created all these things. And it is just now that we’re beginning to enter into the knowledge of that creation. Why man, jet propulsion has been here ever since the world began; and it’s just now we’re beginning to find it out. These ether waves, these ether waves, just going around just like that, they’ve been here from creation; it’s just now we’re beginning to discover them. God knew all that, the end from the beginning. Isn’t that what that test here said? "The Word of God is true from the beginning" [Psalm 119:160]. Now that’s the second test.
Now I just hurry and mention the third one. The third test that I have chosen here in the Bible is whether or not it accomplishes its purpose. "For as the rain" – this is the famous verse in Isaiah 55 – "For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, it shall not return,so My word shall be out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void; it shall accomplish that whereunto I have sent it" [Isaiah 55:10-11]. The third test, just out of many that you find in the Bible, the third is that it accomplishes its purpose, that it accomplishes its purpose. The purpose of the Word of God, of course, is not to teach us geology or astronomy or chemistry; the Bible has no purpose like that at all. It’s true, and certain and sure because God spake it. But the purpose of the Word of God is that we might be saved, that we might know His name and someday see His face. And now this third test, this third of the criteria of the word of the Lord is, does it accomplish its purpose? Oh man, look around you, look around you: witnesses and testifiers on every side, in front of you, back of you, on either side; look around you, look around you.
There was a man, an atheist, an infidel, an unbeliever in one of those cities where they have big, vast industrial complexes in England. And he was up there talking to those workmen about the inanity and insanity of believing in the Word of God. And he was talking about the legends and the myths in the Bible, and he talked about the story of the blessed Jesus as being a fable. And while he was talking, one of those mill hands stood up, and he said, "Mister, before you go any further, may I ask you a question?" And the man stopped and said, "Why certainly." And that ignorant, unlearned mill hand said, he said, "Sir, I was a curse to my family, and a curse to myself, and I was vile and wicked; and the Word of God came to my soul, and I found the Lord. And now I am blessed in my home, and I’m blessed in my life, and I’m blessed in my family, and I’m a blessing to myself. I’m happy in the Lord, walking in the light of the Savior. Now," he said, "the question I want to ask, if it’s myth and legend, and if the story of Jesus is a fable, how do you explain what happened in my soul?" Well, you just don’t explain that. You don’t explain that.
Who ever said, "I’m in great grief; bring me my book on astronomy"? Who ever said, "I am in despair and loss; bring me my book on chemistry"? Who ever said, "I am lost and undone; where’s my volume on geology?" Why, you don’t think things like that. But how many have said, "I am in the valley of the shadow of death; read me again the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel of John, where the Lord said, ‘Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in Me.’"? How many have said, "I face the great crossing; read me again, ‘And I John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven,’" [Revelation 21:2].
"Bring me the Book."
"There’s just one Book," said the old, old saint. And they brought him the Bible.
We must close. These are some of the things that assure us that the Word we read and the Book we love is the true and the sure Word of God.
Now, on the first note of this first stanza, somebody you, give his heart to Jesus; a family you, put your life in the fellowship of this dear church; or one somebody you, as the Spirit of God shall lead in the way and say the word, make it now. Come now, while we stand and while we sing.
THE SURE WORD OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Peter 1:12-21
A. Zedekiah and the false prophets; Micaiah and the true word of the Lord(1 Kings 22:1-38)
B. How do you know this is the Book of God?
II. That it came to pass(Deuteronomy 18:21-22)
A. The difficulty of that test
1. No other religion that has prophecy – only God can see the future
B. Big difference between survey and a poll forecast and a prophecy
C. Word of God prophesied hundreds of years before
1. That Jesus would be born in Bethlehem(Micah 5:2, Luke 2:1-3)
2. Soldiers casting lots for Jesus’ clothes(Psalm 22:18, Matthew 27:35)
3. None of Jesus’ bones would be broken(Exodus 12:46, John 19:31-36)
4. They will look on Him whom they pierced (Zechariah 12:10, John 19:34-37)
III. That it be without error(Psalm 119:160)
A. God who made all creation understands it, it is just now we are learning about it
B. God’s Word is like Himself – true yesterday, today, forever
C. New York trial on Scriptural accuracy
1. Rev. Harry Rimmer’s notice offering $1,000 for an error in the Bible
2. William Floyd demanded the money, alleging several errors
3. Floyd could not prove them satisfactorily to preacher, so he filed suit
4. He argued that the Bible makes absurd statements on the number of quail referred to in Numbers 11:31-32
5. Second witness changed testimony when he read Genesis 7:1-2
7. Fourth witness admitted his opinions merely his own
8. When cross-examined, fifth witness admitted scientists he quoted made grievous blunders, errors and mistakes
a. Dr. Henry Fairfield Osborn’s ape-man
IV. That it accomplish its purpose(Isaiah 55:10-11)
A. To bring us to God, save our souls
B. Comfort and hope when we face death (John 14:1-3)
C. Poem, "Thank God for the Bibleâ€¦"