The Sure Word of God
October 11th, 1964 @ 10:50 AM
2 Peter 1:12-21
THE TRUE WORD OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Kings 22
10-11-64 10:50 a.m.
On the radio whether you believe it or not 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 The True Word of God, the Sure Word of God.
After preaching for seventeen years and eight months through the Bible I announced to our congregation that we were going to take the whole Word and see what God says, just sum it up, instead of taking it chapter by chapter as we did for so many years. Now we are starting at the front of the Bible and to the end of the Bible and just putting together what God has said.
Now until I went away on this visit to the Amazon jungle I was preaching sermons and delivering messages on the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures. I delivered three of these sermons and now this is the fourth. And it is entitled The True Word of God.
In the twenty-second chapter of 1 Kings there is recounted one of the most unusually interesting stories to be found in all literature. King Ahab of Israel said to King Jehoshaphat of Judah, "Ramothgilead across the Jordan River belongs to us. Let’s take it from the hands of those even. So it pleased Jehoshaphat and he said my heart is with yours. So they joined their armies together in preparation for an invasion of Gilead."
Now Jehoshaphat said, "Let us inquire at the mouth of the Lord." So King Ahab of Israel called together four hundred of his prophets and he asked them, "What does God say about this campaign against Ramothgilead?"
"Oh," they all said, "The Lord said, ‘Go up and take it. Deliver it unto thy hand." But Jehoshaphat had a hesitation and he said to Ahab, "But is there not one other prophet of Jehovah from whom we might inquire?" And Ahab replied, "Yes there is but I hate him."
"Oh," said Jehoshaphat, "Let not the king say so. Bring him before us that we might inquire the Word of the Lord from him." So Micaiah was brought before the king and they said, "Micaiah, what does God say? What is the Word of the Lord?" And Micaiah answered, "I saw a vision. Israel scattered like sheep upon a hill without a shepherd." That was his way of saying you go up against Gilead and the army will be defeated and the king will be slain. And Zedekiah who was the leader of these four hundred other prophets who were purporting to deliver the Word of the Lord, Zedekiah went over to Micaiah and in contempt, slapped him on his cheek; smote him on the face. And said, "How was it and when that the Spirit of God and the Word of the Lord departed from me and went to you?"
And Micaiah, the prophet of God answered, "You will see it in this day when you hide yourself in your chamber in shame." And then Ahab, the king of Israel said to his bodyguard, "Take that Micaiah and put him in prison and feed him bread of affliction and water of affliction until I come again in triumph and in victory." And Micaiah, the prophet of the Lord said, "If you come again at all the Lord hath not spoken by me."
So they went against Ramothgilead. And the Book says here in the story in the battle, an archer drew back his bow at a venture, never aimed it and let fly the arrow. And the arrow found a joint in the harness of King Ahab and went through his heart and his blood spilled out on the floor of the chariot. And they brought him back to Jezreel dead. And of course the rest of the story is they washed out the chariot there and the dogs licked up the blood and according to the saying of the man of God.
Now, that is the background. The center of that story revolves around how do you know the Word of God? How do you know this is the Book of God?
There are many books the purport to be God’s books. There are many things that are said that purport to be what God says. How do you test the Word of God and what are the criteria, the testings of the Word of God? How do you recognize it? Now that is the sermon this morning and out of the Book itself – out of a multitude that we could choose – out of the Book itself, I have chosen three criteria that are mentioned here in this sacred volume: how you can tell the Word of God. The first one, the first one, "and if thou say in thine heart," this is Deuteronomy 18:21-22:
And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the Word which the Lord hath not spoken?
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 in presumption: thou shalt not be afraid of him.
So the first test according to the Word of the Lord, the first test is when a man makes a prophecy does it come to pass? Is he able to prophecy? Is he able to foretell the future? Now, that is a far more significant and far more difficult test than you realize.
Did you know there is not any other religion in the earth that has a prophet except the Bible religion, the Judeo-Christian faith? Did you know there is not any other prophecy to be found in any religion of the earth except the prophecy in our religion? Why? For the simple reason that only God can foresee the future and only God can prophesy. It is not in the power of a man to do it.
Now there is a big difference between a survey and a poll forecast and a prophecy. Could I illustrate it? You could take a survey, a poll of the American people now and make a prediction that when the November election comes so in so is going to be President of the United States. Now you can do that now and that is within human ability. That is a survey; that is a poll forecast, that is not prophecy. This is prophecy: let a man stand up anywhere in the United States and tell us who will be president of this country in 2004 A.D. That would be prophecy, that would be prophecy.
May I illustrate it again? If you can foretell what will happen three minutes from now you would be rich, rich, rich, rich, rich. Now I’ll tell you how to do it. I’ll tell you how to do it. I don’t know what they do at a race track to get the horses started. Do they shoot a gun, or pull a bar, or let down a rope or what do they do? Whatever they do to get those horses started.
If you are able to predict what will happen three minutes later you can get rich. You go out there to one of these racetracks and you bet on that one, boy, you’ve got it made. Bet on that one, you’ve got it made. Bet on that and bet on that and just go through the racetracks all your life and you will accumulate a mass of fortune beyond anything anybody ever heard of on the earth. If you can just predict three minutes later what is going to happen.
Or if you want to do it a little bit more legitimately, you go down here to one of these brokerage firms, and you put money in the stock market, and it goes up this day, and you make money. And then it goes down the next day and you’ve made more money. And it goes up and down, and up and down, and you make money going up and going down in the depression and in any other time if you can predict what is going to happen in just a few days.
And you look at God. You look at the Lord. Eight hundred years before Christ, eight hundred years before Christ a humble prophet named Micah said, "The Lord is coming and He is going to be born in a little town named Bethlehem." But they live in Nazareth! They don’t live in Bethlehem. They live in Nazareth. But eight hundred years, I’m not talking about three minutes. I’m not talking about three days. I’m talking about eight hundred years, eight hundred years Micah said He was going to be born in Bethlehem.
And in those days there came a decree from Caesar Augustus in the imperial city of Rome that all the world should be enrolled, going to have a universal census [Luke 2:1-3]. He never dreamed that he was fulfilling the prophecy of God made eight hundred years before.
Why, the United States is only about 188 or 189 years old since 1776 till now, however long that is. That is how old this country is. Eight hundred years God said going to be born in Bethlehem. And unknown, Caesar Augustus, the imperial potentate of the Roman Empire said the whole world is to be enrolled. We are going to have a universal census.
And according to the custom of Israel – would have had a revolution to do it any other way – according to the custom of Israel this Joseph and his wife, she being heavy with child made that solemn journey down to the city of Bethlehem that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Micah the prophet saying, "In Bethlehem shall He be born who shall govern My people," eight hundred years.
And when they nailed Him to a tree He was crucified by a quaternion of soldiers under a centurion. And as the custom was in the Roman day of crucifixion, the clothing, the raiment of the criminal was divided among the soldiers. So one of the soldiers took His turban and one of the soldiers took His outer garment and one of the soldiers took His girdle and the fourth soldier took His sandals.
But there was one garment left, a fifth. And it was woven without seam from top to bottom, His inner garment. And the soldiers said, "Let’s not tear it and divide it into four parts. Let’s cast lots for it and see who gets it" [Matthew 27:35], that it might be fulfilled which was said by the prophet David one thousand years before. "They divided My raiment among them and on My vesture they did cast lots" [Psalm 22:18], one thousand years before.
And when He died those same soldiers went to the man crucified, the malefactor who died on the left and they break his bones. And went to the one of the right and they break his bones. When they came to the one in the center they didn’t break His bones. But one of the soldiers took a spear and thrust it into His side and when he ruptured His heart blood and water flowed out that it might be fulfilled that which was spoken by the prophet one thousand four hundred years before [John 19:31-36]. "Not a bone shall be broken" [Exodus 12:46].
And that it might be fulfilled that which was spoken by the prophet Zechariah five hundred and twenty years before, "They shall look upon Him whom they pierced" [Zechariah 10:12, John 19:34-37]. We can spend the rest of the day talking about that, thousands of years sometimes, hundreds of years other times. God prophesying and you can’t tell the future three minutes from now.
That’s God. That’s the Word of the living Lord. And that’s the first test here. Can you prophesy? Can you say what is coming to pass a thousand years from now, five hundred years from now, eight hundred years from now? This is the true and sure Word of God. Oh we must hasten!
Now the second one that I have chosen; in Psalm 119 verse 160, "Thy Word is true from the beginning and every one of Thy righteous judgments endureth forever." The second criterion here is that it be without error, "Thy Word is true from the beginning."
The Lord God who made all this creation understands it, it is just now we are learning about it. This thing of jet propulsion has been here from the beginning of creation, it is just now we are learning to use it. These ether waves that go on this radio and on which these words ride in television, those ether waves were here from the beginning, it’s just now we are discovering them. And the Lord God who made these things and spake of these things is the one who understands them from the creation.
And if the Lord God speaks of them in error well, then it is not the Word of God. If God makes a mistake in His Book, and if God isn’t up on the latest things, and if God doesn’t understand these scientific things that we are now discovering, God didn’t do it and God didn’t speak it; a man spake of it who didn’t know it and didn’t understand it. But He said the Word is true from the beginning. God saw it, and God understood it, and God who knows all things wouldn’t make an error in describing the world that He created. Now I have an illustration to that.
This is the beatenist thing that ever happened I think in the history of jurisprudence. On the thirty-first day of October in 1939 the following notice appeared in the Herald Tribune in New York City. I quote, this was the notice published in the paper:
Reverend Harry Rimmer speaks nightly this week and Sunday at the Central Baptist Church, ninety-second street and Amsterdam Avenue, on the Harmony of Science and Scripture. He offers $1000 for a scientific error in the Bible.
That was what appeared; one thousand dollars to anyone who can point out a scientific error in the Bible. Now a Mr. William Floyd read this and demanded the money alleging a number of scientific errors in the Bible. Now he couldn’t prove there were scientific errors to the satisfaction of the preacher and the church so he entered suit in the courts of New York against both the preacher and the Central Baptist Church.
So the trial was held. This is the only time such a thing has happened in the history of the world. The trial was held in New York City on the fifteenth day of February 1940. And Mr. William Floyd, the plaintiff, the fellow who’s bringing the suit brought in four chief witnesses to establish his case.
One, he brought in Rabbi Beruit Bronstein of an ultra-liberal Hebrew synagogue. Second, he brought in Reverend John Hayes Holmes, pastor of the Community Church. Third, he brought in Reverend Charles Frances Potter, pastor of the First Humanist Church. And then his fourth witness was Mr. Woolsey Teller, vice president of the American Association for the Advancement of Atheism, all of them of New York City. So the trial got under way and they are going to prove in the courts a scientific error in the Bible in order to collect that thousand dollars from the preacher who is preaching down there at the Central Baptist Church.
All right, first one to come before the court was Mr. William Floyd, the plaintiff, the fellow who is bringing the suit. Now one of the things that he really majored on was Numbers 11:31-32. That describes those quail that the Lord sent over there in order to give flesh to the murmuring Israelites going through the wilderness journey. Now this is the passage in Numbers 11:31-32 that he read before the court.
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: he that gathered least gathered ten homers.
Now that’s the passage in the Bible that he cited. And this is what he said and I quote from him, "The cubit," he figures this means, it means they deposited quail about four feet deep, covering all the surface of the earth for 3,136 square miles. And then he continued. Now I quote from him directly:
The cubical contents of this mass of quail would be approximately 305 billion, 258 million, 552 thousand, 448 – 305,258,552,448 – cubic feet of quail, estimating that each quail pressed in the mass would occupy 3 inches by 3 inches of space thus displacing some 27 cubic inches of space per quail in the pile. The total number of quails therefore in this mass or mess of quails would be19 trillion, 538 billion, 468 million, 306 thousand, 672 – 19,538,468,306,672 – quail presented to the eye of the fundamentalist faith.
That is what he said there in the court. Well, it is just too bad that the witness didn’t know Hebrew. For all that God said in writing this in under the inspiration of the Mosaic authorship, all God said was that God blew in all of those quails in the wilderness from the Nile Valley. And they were confused there in the wilderness.
And the Hebrew says they were flying above the face of the earth about two cubits. Not that they were pressed down, and dressed, and packed like cans in a sardine. But they were flying above the face of the earth about two cubits, about that high. And being confused and lost over there in the wilderness, why it was very easy for those people to catch them with their hands and knock them down with a stick. And that’s all that God said in His book.
So the judge dismissed him. All right, the second one was brought in. The second one was brought in and that was Rabbi Bronstein. Now he started off and he said, "I am a member of the liberal wing of the Hebrew faith, and I am a scholar, and I’ve read a great deal." So he said the Bible contradicts itself as to the animals in the ark, saying in one place there were two of a kind he brought in the ark and another place it says seven of each kind was brought in the ark.
Well, he said that is an error in the Bible. So Honorable James E. Bennett, the council for the defense cross examined him. And his fellow lawyer Bennett, turned to Genesis 7:2 and said to the Rabbi, "Read out loud this verse." So the Rabbi read, "God said to Noah, Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female." [Genesis 7:2] And the Rabbi said, "Well, you know I think I am mistaken. I now believe that the Bible is correct." And he turned out to be a witness for the defense. So the judge dismissed him.
Now they brought in Reverend John Hayes Holmes, pastor of that Community Church in New York City. And under questioning why, he admitted he didn’t know a thing about science, that is he wasn’t an authority in science and he admitted that his ideas concerning the Bible and accounted creation were merely his own opinions. And he could not qualify to speak for anyone else and that didn’t constitute legal evidence so the judge dismissed him.
All right, the next one was Charles Frances Potter and he is a humdinger of a witness. He stated that there was no such thing that happened as the flood described in Genesis. Well, the judge kind of took that over and the judge asked him if he was there and if he wasn’t there, where did he get his information if there wasn’t any such thing as a flood? Oh, that fellow pastor of the Humanist Church in New York City, he said that he got his information from reading, and studying, and he finally admitted that his opinions were just his own. And under cross examination this shrewd lawyer, James Bennett, he made that fellow admit that he didn’t know whether or not there was a God and since he was an agnostic and ignorant on that subject, and he admitted that he never prayed, and thought that the idea of God was just a figment in some people’s minds. So the judge dismissed him.
Now the next one was a corker. That’s the vice president for the American Association for the Advancement of Atheism, Woolsey Teller. And he appeared the next day on Friday, the sixteenth – on February sixteenth – Friday of 1940. Oh man, he really had a lot to say! He repeated all of those infidel things that have been said against the Bible, Word of God, from the days of Celsus to Voltaire to Ingersoll to 1940. And he claimed to be an accredited scientist and he claimed to be a liberally educated in theology and on and on.
So they got a hold of him. Well, when they cross examined that fellow they made him admit that he had never been to college. And they made him admit that all that he knew he had learned from reading magazines and articles in infidel books. And when they continued to cross examine that atheist why, they compelled him to admit, one right after another, the scientific monstrosities that have been pawned off as being the truth and as being the infallible findings of research. And one of the men that this atheist had used for an authority was the famous Dr. Fairfield Osborn of the American Museum of Natural History, one of America’s greatest paleontologists and one of the great anthropologists of the whole world. Now he was one of the authorities cited by this atheist in order to point out errors, scientific errors in the Bible.
Now that fellow who was for the defense, he is in the court defending the preacher of the Central Baptist Church. He was some humdinger of a lawyer – he’s like the lawyers we have in this church; man, they shine – well, he got up and he started out on that atheist. And he said, "Now, I see that you cite here as one of your great anthropological and paleontological authorities Dr. Fairfield Osborn. And you quote him as being one of those infallible men who give judgments on the research of science that has assured results."
"Now," he said, "I want to ask you about one thing that this Fairfield Osborn did." He said, "Sometime ago there was discovered a tooth up here in Nebraska by a Mr. Harold Cook. And they named that tooth. They named it Hesperopithecus. It belonged to a western ape man. And that’s what Hesperopithecus means. It means western ape man.
And they took that tooth and around it they built an ape man, the missing link between the anthropoid and the homosapiens, between us and the animal. And they built a man around that ape. And they built a female around that tooth. And then they built a whole race of men around that tooth. And then they built their habitats, and their habits, and all and said there was this ape anthropoid, ape man Hesperopithecus who covered this continent over a million years ago. And he is the missing link between the anthropoid and the human species.
And that was used in the trial and I haven’t time to go through that in the trial of that fellow, "Scopes" in Dayton, Tennessee. Clarence Darrow used that same thing. And William Jennings Bryan said, "I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to say. You say because of that tooth you found there was an anthropoid man, an ape man, Hesperopithecus who lived here a million years ago? I don’t know what to say. But let’s wait for more evidence." Oh they just laughed and ridiculed William Jennings Bryan!
Why, they got that tooth and this fellow Fairfield Osborn and his fellow anthropologists have constructed the whole life of these people. Well, bless your soul! In the years since and in the days past, they found the skeleton of that animal to which that tooth belonged. And it turned out to be a peccary, wild hog that used to roam the mid-continent of the America a long, long, long, long time ago.
Well, now we’ve got to go on with this trial. Well, when they got to talking about those things the trial got so ridiculous that with that the judge threw the case out of the court and that has ended it and it has never been mentioned anymore.
I want to tell you something my young friend, whoever you are and wherever you are studying. When you assume to yourself that God doesn’t know what He is talking about, and when you say that God made scientific errors in this book, and when you seek to point them out and to prove them my brother, you’ve got troubles on your hand. There never has lived a man yet who is smarter than God. And that second criteria we have here is the Word is true from the beginning and every one of Thy righteous judgments endureth forever.
Oh my, we must hurry! I’ve got a third one: the first one was it? Has in it prophecy and it comes to pass; the second one was the Word of God is without error; now the third one is that I’ve chosen here in the Bible. The third one is that the Word of God accomplishes its purpose. "For," said Isaiah 55:10-11:
For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:
So shall My word be that goeth forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
This third and last criteria is that it accomplishes its purpose, that God’s Word does for God what the Lord has willed for it. Now what does God will for His Word?
This is not a Book of geology, it was not intended for it. This is not a Book of chemistry, God never wrote it for that purpose. This is not a Book of astronomy; it has nothing at all to do with all of these things that enter into the modern scientific life that has so blessed us today. The purpose of God’s Word is that we might someday see His face and live, that we might be delivered from the penalty and judgment of our sins.
All of us are under condemnation. All of us are fallen. All of us face death. All of us face the judgment. And when a man faces death and when a man faces the judgment, what shall he do and where shall he turn and what shall he say? God’s Book is that we might be redeemed, that we might be saved, that we might know the name of the Lord that someday we might live with Him in a better world that is yet to come.
Does it accomplish its purpose? Is it able to deliver?
In one of those industrial cities in England, in a great mill complex there was an atheist and an infidel who was standing up there haranguing those mill workers about the inadequacies of the Bible and about the myths and the fables in the Word of God. And he said, "All of this story about Jesus and all of those things about the Lord in the Bible, they are just fables, and myths, and legends."
And while he was talking, one of those unlettered, uneducated, ignorant mill hands stood up and said, "But may I ask you a question?"
And the fellow said, "Yes."
And that uneducated mill hand said, "Until recently, until recently I was a vile sinner. I was a curse to myself, and a curse to my family, and a curse to all who knew me." Then he said, "I heard the blessed story of Jesus and I opened my heart to the precious Savior and now," he says, "And now I am a new man, and I live a new life, and my life is a blessing to myself. I am happy in the Lord and I am a blessing to my family and to all who know and love me."
Then the man said, "If this is false, and if it is a fable, and if it is a myth then what is it that happened to my soul? What happened in my heart? What changed me out of the depths of the mire and set me up before the Lord with my feet on a rock?"
Well, you don’t answer that. You don’t answer that. This is God’s Book and that is the purpose. When a man faces despair does he say, "Bring me my Book of geology?" When a man faces the deep trials of life does he say, "Where’s my Book of chemistry?" When a man faces the judgment day that is to come does he cry, "Where is my Book of astronomy?" But when the deep, dark days come and we face the sullen river and look over on the other side, how many tears have fallen on the passage in the Book of John where the Lord said:
Let not your heart be troubled. Ye believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions. I go to prepare for you And someday I will come again and receive you to Myself that where I am there ye may be also.
And the heart is quieted, and the spirit is comforted, and we have faith, and hope, and commit ourselves to the love and the grace of God. That’s what the Bible is for and that’s what it brings to our souls.
I have to close:
Thank God for the Bible whose clear shining ray
Has lightened our path and turned our night into day.
Its wonderful treasures have never been told
More precious than riches set round with pure gold.
Thank God for the Bible in sickness in health
It brings richer comforts than honors or wealth.
Its blessings are boundless and infinite store
We may drink at the fountain and thirst never more.
Thank God for the Bible.
How dark is the night
Where no ray from its pages shed forth its pure light.
No Jesus, no Bible, no heaven of rest.
How could we live were our lives so unblessed?
Thank God for the Bible.
[Gospel Digest, January 1959]
The sure true Word of God tested, tried and known. This is God speaking to our souls.
Now while we sing our hymn of appeal, while we sing our hymn of appeal, somebody you, give his heart in trust to Jesus; a family you coming into the fellowship of the church in this balcony round there is a stairwell, at the back, at the front and on either side. And time and to spare, come. The throng on this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front, come while we make appeal, while we sing this song, on the first note of its first stanza, come.
"Preacher today I give you my hand. I’ve given my heart to the Lord." Or, "We are coming into the fellowship of this wonderful church and here we are, the whole family of us," or just one somebody you, do it now. Make it now, come now, while we stand and while we sing.