On Christ the Solid Rock
June 20th, 1965 @ 7:30 PM
ON CHRIST THE SOLID ROCK
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-20-65 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the pastor bringing the evening message entitled On Christ the Solid Rock; a message brought by our Singing Churchmen, and a message delivered tonight from the concluding message of our Lord from the Sermon on the Mount.
Now on the radio and here in this great audience, turn to the First Gospel, the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 7, and we shall begin reading at verse 24 and read to the end of the chapter [Matthew 7:24-29]; the First Gospel, the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 7, beginning at verse 24 and reading to the end of the chapter [Matthew 7:24-29].
Thursday night I shared the evangelistic hour out at our camp. And I want you to know that, even though there were nearly five hundred children there, they were as quiet and as reverent, they were as thoughtful and attentive, as any adult group to which I’ve ever preached in my life. And yet it was under an open tabernacle, and out there with all of the accouterments and surroundings of a camp, of an outdoor meeting. I was amazed. I was astonished at the reverence of these Juniors. Now they are here tonight by the hundreds but you are not conscious of it because they are behaving as quietly and as beautifully as adults. Before I begin preaching and we start reading this passage of Scripture, you Juniors stand up. I want our people to see you. I want you to look at them. God bless this marvelous group of our church tomorrow. Thank you, dear wonderful boys and girls. And they’re so quiet and so reverent you wouldn’t know they were here.
Now let’s read it out loud together, everybody, verse 24, chapter 7 of Matthew, together:
Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of Mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:
And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
And every one that heareth these sayings of Mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:
And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at His doctrine:
For He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
Do you notice, do you notice, that in both instances, these men, the one who built his house upon the rock and the other who built his house upon the sand, do you notice that in both instances, they built their house in a riverbed? They built their house in the face of a flood. They built their house before an oncoming storm. For whether the house was built on the rock, or whether the house was built on the sand, it says, “When the rains descended, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house” [Matthew 7:25, 27]; whether it was built on the rock or whether it was built on the sand.
Now the first thing you would naturally inquire is this. Why did this man build his house in a riverbed? Why did he build it in the face of a flood? Why didn’t he find high ground and build his house on a hill or on a mountainside, above the reach of the flood? Why didn’t he?
And that’s the point of the parable. First of all, every man who builds his house, builds his house in the face of a flood, he builds his house in a riverbed. And there’s no high ground upon which a man can build his house in this life and in this world. All of us are subject to the same winds that blow, and the same floods that beat, and the same storms that come, all of us.
Whether you are a Christian or whether you are an infidel, whether you are a good man or a bad man, whether you are a believer or an unbeliever, all of us alike build our houses in this life and in this world in the face of a flood. And there’s no escaping them. They rise from the earth, “the floods rose”; and they come from above, “the rains beat down”; and they swirl around the walls of the house, “and the winds blew” [Matthew 7:25, 27]. Every life is built in a riverbed and in the face of a flood.
We all face the trials, and the temptations, and the tragedies of this life, all of us alike. And we all face inevitable death. “It is appointed unto men once to die, and after that the judgment” [Hebrews 9:27]. And that goes for me, though I’m pastor of the church. And that goes for the deacon, though he’s ordained to serve God in the household of faith. And it goes for every member of the church, every child of God born again. And it goes for every infidel, and every unbeliever, and every sinner, and every rejecter, all of us alike build our houses in the face of a flood. “It is appointed unto men once to die, and after that the judgment” [Hebrews 9:27] all of us shall someday stand at the judgment bar of Almighty God.
This lost man shall stand as a sinner before the great white throne [Revelation 20:11-15]. And all of us who are saved shall stand at the bēma of Jesus Christ, to give an accounting for the things we have done in the flesh [2 Corinthians 5:10]. There is no escape. There is no higher ground. There’s no place to build your house except in the face of a coming flood and an awful storm.
And whether we’re young, we face that storm. Whether we’re old, we face it. Whether we’re in the prime of life of manhood or womanhood, we face it. In these funeral services that I conduct, I conduct them for every age that you can name; for a little baby, for a little child, for a junior boy, for a junior girl, for a teenager, for the young fellow at the very threshold of his strength, for the man, for the woman, for the aged, the senile. There is no age beyond the reach of that terrible flood.
And when we die, we go to stand before God. That’s the first point of that parable. The man that built his house on the rock built it in the face of a storm, and the man that build his house on the sand built his house in the face of a storm [Matthew 7:24-27]. It is coming for every one of us. Get ready. Get ready. It may be today for some. It may be tomorrow for another. It may be beyond another day for still yet another; but some day it is coming. “It is appointed by God, unto us, that we die, and after that the judgment” [Hebrews 9:27].
But there is something else marvelous in this parable. All of us face alike the storms of life, the vicissitudes and fortunes of providence. All of us stand in the way of death, and in the way of judgment, and in the way of giving an accounting to Almighty God. All of us build our house in a riverbed, in the face of a flood.
But there is something else. There are two ways that a man can build his house as he faces the winds, and the trials, and the floods, and the beating that comes in life. There are two ways that a man can build but only two, only two. Do you notice the Lord will always divide mankind into just two parts? Always, never a third, always just two. There are the saved and the lost, one or the other.
You’re not half saved or half lost. You’re not partly saved and partly lost. You’re either saved or you’re lost. You’re on the way to heaven or you’re on the way to hell, just two. The Lord said there are just two ways. There is the broad way that leads down to hell and damnation, and there is the narrow way that leads to heaven [Matthew 7:13-14]. And there is no such thing as a man having his foot in one of those ways and his other foot in the other of those ways. You’re on the broad road to damnation, or you’re on the narrow road to heaven, one or the other. There are just two ways [Matthew 7:13-14].
The Lord says that we’re either in the kingdom or we’re out of the kingdom [Matthew 8:11-12]. The Lord says that we are against Him or we are for Him, the Lord says we either sow with Him or we scatter abroad [Matthew 12:30]. There is no such thing as being half a wheat and half a tare; we are either a tare or a wheat [Matthew 13:30]. There’s no such a thing as being half a goat and half a sheep; we’re either a goat or a sheep [Matthew 25:31-32]. There’s no such thing as being on His right hand and on His left hand; we’re either on His right hand or on His left hand [Matthew 25:33]. In the whole Word of God there’s no exception to that. There are only two classes in this world, according to the judgment of the Almighty in heaven: not the rich and poor, the old and the young; there’s only two classes, and that is we’re either saved or we’re either lost.
Now to us that seems so different, so very different. For to us there’s a great mass of mankind that’s neither white and is neither black. It’s kind of gray, that it is to us. But in the judgment of God that is never so. Underneath, way down where human eyes don’t see, underneath there is a great foundation decision that makes the difference between a lost man and a saved man. And I may not be able to see it on the outside, but God sees that ultimate decision that decides whether we’re saved or whether we’re lost.
I listened to a conversation of two of our men one time, and they were talking about another man. And as they talked, they were discussing that other man. And they said this, “Now that man’s not saved, I know. He’s not a Christian, I know. And he’s not in the church, I know. And he’s never been baptized, I know.” And they said, “He’s outside of the kingdom of God, that’s right. But he’s a good man, and he’s one of the best men we’ve ever known. And we think it’s all right with him.” Now that’s the way a man judges.
A man judges by his eyes, by his appearance, by the outside, but God doesn’t judge like that [1 Samuel 16:7]. That man is a lost man, however good he may be. And however fine he may be constructing his life, and however beautiful the mansion he may be raising, but that man is building his life on the sand and the day will come when the infallible judges of the rain and the storm and the flood will test it! [Matthew 7:25, 27].
And then it will be apparent what isn’t to us. Then it’ll be apparent what is apparent to God. It’ll be apparent that the man is lost. For you’re either lost or saved. You’re building your house on the rock or on the sand. and if that house down there in those decisions that matter to God, if that house is not built on the eternal and solid rock, it shall fall in the day of the testing and the trial that is yet to come [Matthew 7:24-29].
As you know, I was pastor in Muskogee, Oklahoma, before I came down here to Dallas. And Muskogee is built on the Arkansas River. And right there where the Arkansas River runs by Muskogee, the Grand River runs down, and the Verdigris runs down; those three rivers run down; and just beyond, the North and South Canadian pour into the Arkansas.
And while we were there, living in that city, there came the worst and most devastating flood that they had ever known. Far back as memory could tell there was nothing like that terrible flood on the Arkansas River. The Arkansas River is flooding now, coming down out of Colorado into Kansas, and down into Oklahoma, and so through the state of Arkansas.
When I read that in the paper, my mind goes back to that day when in Oklahoma and in Muskogee the whole earth turned to water, the great massive walls of flood pouring down the Arkansas River basin. And you know one of the things, one of the rumors that got out in those days? As you know, eastern Oklahoma is cut to here and here and here with beautiful streams and rivers, and the government has built great dams across those streams; some of the most beautiful lakes in the world are in eastern Oklahoma.
Well, one of those dams, when the first one was built, is called the Pensacola Dam. We call it the Grand River Dam. And it is an enormous dam, and it holds those waters back up there miles and miles and miles above Muskogee, up the Grand River before it pours into the Arkansas. And one of the rumors that got out in the days when that great massive flood was pouring down the Arkansas river basin, one of the rumors that got out was this: “Did you know? Did you hear? They say that the Grand River Dam is about to go out.” And another one call on the telephone, “Did you know that the Grand River Dam is about to go out?” And another one called and said, “Did you know that the great Grand River Dam is about to be swept out?” And had that dam broken it would have been one of the most colossal tragedies that you ever read about in human history. For the world down there was already flooded with water, and had that great dam let loose, that vast lake up the Grand River, the Lord only knows what would have happened. And in those days of that rumor, “Did you know the Grand River Dam’s about to go out? Did you know the Grand River Dam is about to break? Did you know the Grand River Dam is about to be swept away?” In those days there stood up an Army engineer. And the Army engineer said, “I was there, and I helped build that dam. And I saw the foundations of that great structure reach down, and down, and down into the very heart of the earth, built on the solid rock!” And he said, “How ever much the winds may blow, and the rains may fall, and the storms may beat, and the floods may come, that dam will never go out.” You see, when we weren’t looking, and when we were asleep, and when we didn’t know, those Army engineers were digging down into the bowels of the earth, there to build that great structure on the solid rock. And when the testing time came, and the day of flood and trial came, there it stood like Gibraltar itself: built on the solid rock [Mattew 7:24-25].
And that’s the way with a man’s life. We look at the superstructure. We look at the top side of it. We look at the mansion end of it. We look at the part that we can judge by human eye, but God looks at the foundation and at the solid rock or at the sand that lies underneath. Oh, what a tragedy here! “And one of them built his house upon the sand” [Matthew 7:26]. He built his house upon the shifting inclinations of life. He built his house upon transitory aims. He built his life upon fair weather philosophy. He built his life upon a self-cultivated conscience. He built his life upon a manmade philosophy. He built his house upon the shifting sand. And when that day of trial came, he was found to have built his house, and his life, and his soul, and his destiny upon sand that is unable to sustain anything. Why, even the wind blows it like it does in the desert; and any little ripple of water will carry it away. He built his house upon the sand [Matthew 7:26].
But this other man, “The rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock” [Matthew 7:25]. And Paul says, and that Rock is Jesus; “and that Rock is Christ” [1 Corinthians 10:4]. One of the most glorious passages you’ll find in this First Gospel, the sixteenth chapter, is when the Lord says, “But whom say ye that I am?” [Matthew 16:15], and Simon Peter said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: flesh and blood hath not told you this, revealed it to thee, it is My Father which is in heaven. And I say unto Thee, that thou art petros” [Matthew 16:16-17], and there’s that same word, “For he had built his house upon a petra,” upon a foundation, upon a ledge, a stratum, a rock [Matthew 7:24]. “I say unto thee, That thou art petros, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” [Matthew 16:18].
There was a magnificent background for that. They were at Caesarea Philippi, and Caesarea Philippi, the capital of all that part of the upper Jordan, was built upon a great ledge, a great rock, a vast foundation. And the Lord God said that is the foundation. “I am the Christ, the Son of the living God;” that is the great foundation [Matthew 16:16-17]. And when we build our lives upon Jesus, and upon our confession of faith in Christ, and upon the hope we have in Him, whether the storm is a trial or a sorrow, whether the storm is the day of death, or whether the storm is the judgment of Almighty God, it makes no difference at all. For our house, and our hope, and our promise, and our life, and our destiny are built upon the eternal Rock of the living God, and that Rock is Christ [1 Corinthians 10:4].
And the Lord says another thing here, and a last thing, He says, “And great was the fall of it” [Matthew 7:27], the house built on the sand. And then He says of the house built on the rock, “For it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock” [Matthew 7:25]. What a difference, what a difference. Oh, what a difference!
I want to show you that difference, if God will bless this study that I made. I went through history and literature in order that you might see, that you might see the difference it makes in a man’s life when he builds his house upon Christ or if he builds his house upon the philosophies and the vanities and the transitory aims and pleasures and enticements and allurements and rewards of this world. Now I want to show it to you.
I have taken out of the sixteenth century, the seventeenth century, the eighteenth century, the nineteenth century, and the twentieth century, I have taken these typical men. And they are great men, and they are brilliant men, and they are marvelous men. And I want you to look at the difference in them. I want you to look. First the sixteenth century, we will take Francois Rabelais, one of the great French philosophers, and satirists, and authors. All right, in his dying day, in his dying day, Rabelais wrote, Rabelais said, quote, “Draw the curtain, the farce is played out”; and he died like that. “Draw the curtain, the farce is played out, my life is over.”
Now in that day, in that day, the marvelous fellow Frenchman, moved over there to Switzerland, to Geneva, this marvelous fellow Frenchman, John Calvin, John Calvin wrote to five young men in Lyons, who were facing martyrdom for the faith. Now you listen to John Calvin as he writes: “My brothers, be confident that you will be strengthened according to your need by the Spirit of the Lord. If He pleases to make use of you even to death in this battle, He will uphold you by His mighty hand.”
What a difference, what a difference! Two great Frenchmen, and one dying, saying, “My life is an empty farce, throw down the curtain”; and the other saying, “If Jesus pleases to make your life in this battle an example, He will uphold you by His mighty hand,” one on the sand [Matthew 7:26], and the other on the rock [Matthew 7:24].
All right, now we go to the seventeenth century. I have chosen John Dryden, the famous English poet. And listen to John Dryden as he writes, quote, “Life is a cheat. Life is a cheat.” That’s what Dryden said. Now I want you to listen to Thomas Ken, who lived the same time John Dryden did. Listen to Thomas Ken as he writes:
Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below
Praise Him above ye heavenly host,
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
[“The Doxology”; Thomas Ken]
What a difference, what a difference; one with his house on the sand [Matthew 7:26], and the other with his house on a rock [Matthew 7:24].
Now we go to the eighteenth century, eighteenth century. Francois Voltaire wrote of life, “The end is dreary. The middle is worthless, and the commencement is ridiculous.” Abraham Cowley, English poet, eighteenth century, “Life is an incurable disease.” Even William Cowper––by the way, let me put those two together––William Cowper and Charles Wesley lived almost side by side, and one time Cooper wrote this, describing his impression of life:
A painful passage o’er a restless flood,
A vain pursuit of fugitive, false good,
A scene of fancied bliss and heartfelt care,
Closing at last with darkness and despair.
[“Hope”; William Cowper]
That’s life. Now at that same time, his neighbor Charles Wesley wrote,
O for a thousand tongues to sing,
My great Redeemer’s praise
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of His grace
[“O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing”; Charles Wesley]
One on the sand [Matthew 7:26], and the other on the rock [Matthew 7:24].
Now I come to the nineteenth century. James Thomson, Scotch pessimistic poet, wrote his experience of life in a book. You know what he called that book? “The City of the Dreadful Night”. Arthur Schopenhauer, the famous German philosopher, born in a rich family, gave his life to leisure and study, and after twenty years of thought, concluded, and I quote from him, “Life is a tragedy and a misfortune.” That’s what the great philosopher of Germany, Schopenhaur said. Now in their day, Robert Browning, the great Christian and immortal poet of Jesus, wrote in “Pippa Passes,”
The year’s at the spring,
The day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hillside’s dew-pearl’d;
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn;
God’s in His heaven—
All’s right with the world!
[from “Bells and Pomegranates”; Robert Browning 1841]
One building his house on the rock [Matthew 7:24], and the other building his house on the sand [Matthew 7:26].
Now I want to come to my day, the twentieth century. Clarence Darrow made a great impression upon me when I was a boy. He was brilliant, and he was smart, and he was shrewd. And in one after those trials that headlined every paper in the world, Clarence Darrow was incomparable, the criminal lawyer of Chicago beyond compare, Clarence Darrow.
He wrote the story of his life when he was eighty years old and I read it when I was in the seminary. And looking back over his life at the age of eighty, he declared that there were times when he felt otherwise, but on the whole he believed life was not worth the living. And he wrote in that book that he supposed that with his last breath he’d struggle to take just one more, but it wasn’t worth it. Now that was Clarence Darrow, the great agnostic.
Now in those days, when I was in the seminary, reading that book about Clarence Darrow, I was in a classroom listening to John R. Sampey, my Hebrew teacher and my Old Testament teacher. I was listening to John R. Sampey as he was describing some of the things to which he’d given his life. He was the president of the seminary when I was there; signed my degree when I was graduated from the seminary, and my teacher of Hebrew.
Now in those days, when Clarence Darrow was writing that book and saying that sometimes he felt otherwise, but on the whole he felt life was not worth the living, in those days I copied in my notes––and I have it here––I want you to listen to John R. Sampey, my old Hebrew teacher, now in glory. I want you to listen to him as he says, I quote from him:
I wish that I were worthy of the title which James and Paul delighted in: ‘a slave of Jesus Christ.’ In my conversion on the trundle bed I surrendered all to the Lord Jesus, and resolved to trust Him. I gave my life to the preaching of the gospel of Christ. I little imagined at the time that I would be a teacher in the seminary for fifty-eight years. But all the while a passion for winning the lost to the Lord Jesus has burned almost constantly in my soul. I wonder if any other member of the faculty ever had as many evangelistic meetings while teaching in the seminary. Fishing for men is the greatest privilege I ever enjoy. Heavenly Father, raise up flaming soulwinners in all the lands of the earth. Now unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, be blessing, and honor, and glory, and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Just one of the things I wrote down in a class at the seminary. Oh, what a difference! What a difference when a man builds his life on the shifting sand, on fair weather philosophy, on what he’s able to see or to know or to judge by his own human mind, or when he gives his life to the vanity and the empty rewards of this world. But oh, what of the man that builds his house on the rock, on the rock? And the rains descend, and the winds blow, and the floods rise, and they beat on that house, but it falls not because it is founded on a rock [Matthew 7:25]; “and that Rock is Christ” [1 Corinthians 10:4].
And my brethren, and my sisters, and my young friends, you boys and girls, and families, and couples, and one somebody you, while we sing this hymn tonight:
On Christ the solid rock I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne!
On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
[“The Solid Rock”; Edward Mote]
Let’s sing that song. Let’s sing that song and while we sing it, somebody you, give himself to Jesus [Romans 10:8-13]. Somebody you, give your heart, and life, and soul, and destiny to God, come, come. Somebody you, put your life in the church [Hebrews 10:24-25]; somebody you to be baptized [Matthew 28:18-22; Acts 8:36-38]; somebody you to come by letter. A child, a youth, a couple, a family, as God shall press the appeal, make the decision now. Make it tonight. When you stand, stand coming, “Here I am, preacher, here I come.” Make it now. Make it tonight. Make it now, on the first note of the first stanza, while we stand and sing.