The Faith of Our Mothers
May 12th, 1968 @ 10:50 AM
2 Timothy 1:1-4
THE FAITH OF OUR MOTHERS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Timothy 1:5
5-12-68 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television you are sharing the First Baptist Church services in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled, The Faith of our Mothers, and the title and the text are very much together. It is in God’s Word, in 2 Timothy 1:5:
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus,
To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus.
I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day;
Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy;
When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.
[2 Timothy 1:1-5]
And this fifth verse is that text. “The unfeigned faith that dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded in thee also” [2 Timothy 1:5]—the faith of the grandmother Lois and the faith of the mother Eunice which dwelt so richly in the grandson and the son Timothy. So when I entitled the sermon The Faith of our Mothers, the faith of our grandmothers, the faith of our foremothers, I am just saying what I read in the Bible. I shall speak of it first of a religion, a faith that is so largely shaped and framed by them. The Old Testament prophets had a habit of calling Israel back to the remembrance of their forbearers. For example Isaiah will say in Isaiah 51:1-2:
Look unto the rock from whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit from whence ye are digged.
Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah who bare you.
It was a faith so greatly largely shaped by our mothers. You will see it in the beginning of the chosen race, the chosen family of God. Sarah is the wife of Abraham and the mother of Isaac [Genesis 17:19], Rebekah is the wife of Isaac and the mother of Jacob [Genesis 25:20-27], and Rachel is the wife of Jacob and the mother of Joseph [Genesis 30:22-26].
Not only in the beginning of the chosen race but in the beginning of the nation itself, for the Hebrew people were a nomadic people, like the Bedouin Arabs, until down in the slavery of Egypt they were forged into one great nation. And in their trails and journeys through the wilderness, they came into the land of Palestine a people [Joshua 1:1-6]. And where did that nation come from? It was largely framed by the greatest son of Israel in the Old Covenant, in the Old Testament. His name was Moses.
And where did he come from? From a time and a day when the Pharaoh decreed that all the male children of the Hebrew families should be slain [Exodus 1:16, 22]. But there was a mother in Israel whose name was Jochebed, and she took the beautifully born and formed and countenanced little boy that God had laid in her arms, and to spare him the death, she made a little ark and set it in the bulrushes among the flags on the banks of the Nile where Pharaoh’s daughter came down to bathe [Exodus 2:1-5]. And when Pharaoh’s daughter saw the little ark floating on the water, she sent a servant to fetch it, and when it was brought to her and she opened it, there that little child, crying [Exodus 2:6]. And seeing that Pharaoh’s daughter was moved with compassion, Miriam, the little baby’s sister, whom the mother had placed there to see what should come of the child, Miriam the little girl ran to Pharaoh’s daughter and asked if she might not seek a nurse to rear the child [Exodus 2:4, 7]. And when the daughter of Pharaoh acquiesced, the little sister Miriam got the mother of the little babe, and that mother reared that child up for Pharaoh‘s daughter [Exodus 2:8-10].
He became the heir apparent, the Prince of Wales [Hebrews 11:24], and in his manhood, as he was prepared by education and by training to ascend the throne of the Pharaohs [Acts 7:22], he looked upon the slavery, the servitude, the wailing cries of the burden of his people [Exodus 2:11], and made a great decision in his life. He chose to suffer affliction with the people of God, to identify himself with the slaves of Egypt, rather than to ascend the throne of the Pharaoh [Exodus 2:11-12; Hebrews 11:24-26].
Where did that come from? How could such a decision be made? The answer is very simple and very plain. As that Hebrew mother reared that little boy, nursing him into childhood, and from childhood into teenage, and from teenage years into young manhood, she taught that growing little lad the faith of God and the name of Jehovah [Exodus 2:1-10]. And when the time came for a choice to be made he cast his life, his lot, his destiny with God’s people [Hebrews 11:24-26].
Just saying, it is a faith so largely shaped and formed by mothers. I carry it all through the Bible, not only the beginning of the chosen race in a Sarah and a Rebekah and a Rachel, and not only in the beginning of the formation of the nation in Jochebed the mother of Moses, but in the beginning of the days of the prophets. For Hannah, a godly woman, prayed, and God answered her prayer [1 Samuel 1:10-11]. And she called the name of the little boy Samuel, the most beautifully, meaningful name in the Bible outside of Joshua, Jesus, which means “Savior.” She called his name Samuel, which means “Asked of God” [1 Samuel 1:20]. And as the little lad grew, God spoke to him [1 Samuel 3:1-18], and the Bible says in the succeeding verse, “And the Lord let no word of Samuel fall to the ground” [1 Samuel 3:19]. Then the next verse says, “And from Dan to Beersheba all Israel knew that Samuel was appointed a prophet of God” [1 Samuel 3:20], the last of the judges, the first of the prophets, framed and loved a faith by his devout mother [1 Samuel 1:27-28].
And I can say the same thing about the kings. Where does the story of the kings of God’s people begin? Where? It begins in the heart of a Moabitess by the name of Ruth [Ruth 1:4], who became the wife of Boaz [Ruth 4:13], and a little son laid in her arms, Obed, who was the father of Jesse, who was the father of David [Ruth 4:13-17, 21-22]. And it is not without significance that as the story of the kingdom of Israel begins, it begins in the heart of that Moabitess girl, the great-grandmother of David [Ruth 4:21-22].
When I pick up the New Testament, it is no different—the faith of our mothers. For example, when I open the Bible at the New Testament and look at the first verse, I read the book of the birth roll of Jesus Christ, the book of the birth roll of Jesus Christ [Matthew 1:1-17]. And what are the first stories of that birth roll?
They come from the pen of a beloved physician, Dr. Luke; and no one could have known, no one could have written but a physician. And he tells and he describes the most intimidate things that concerns the birth of John the Baptist, the son of Elizabeth [Luke 1:5-25, 57-66]; and the birth of Jesus the Christ the Son of God, in the virgin womb of a sweet and pure Hebrew maiden by the name of Mary [Luke 1:26-35; 2:1-20]. The birth roll of Jesus Christ—and it begins with those stories of Dr. Luke concerning Elizabeth and Mary.
And as I continue the story on, in the days of the preaching of the gospel, it was first proclaimed and announced in the household of a devout woman named Lydia [Acts 16:14-16, 40]. And all through the propagation of the gospel message of Christ throughout the Greco-Roman world, in a thousand unknown, unnamed incidents did it begin in the heart of a woman.
For example, the second epistle of John is addressed like this: “The elder, John, unto”—and in the King James Version it is translated—“unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth” [2 John 1:1]. Many of these versions of the Bible that you will pick will read like this: “The elder unto eklektē.” If you are an Eastern Star, you are familiar with the name. “The elder unto eklektē,” a woman somewhere, in some unknown, unnamed city, into whose heart the message of God came in saving grace and purifying power. The whole book thus presents it; a faith so largely framed and shaped by her.
Now a second thing: it is a faith above all others in the world that exalts and honors womanhood. You are not conscious of that, you are so familiar from birth with the attitude of chivalry and deference toward womanhood. And we take it as a way of life because the background of our nation is Christian, but if you read very much or if you travel extensively, you will become increasingly sensitive to the vast chasm of difference that separates our Christian civilization and culture and our attitude toward womankind from the other faiths and religions of the world. For example, in the Mohammedan world—and the Mohammedan world is a vast one. It starts at Dakar on the western shore of Africa and sweeps around clear through Indonesia, through half of the earth. In that Mohammedan religion, their faith says any man can have just four wives—that is, four at a time—and he can change them just as often as he pleases.
As I have gone several times through that Islamic world, I’ve talked to scores and hundreds of those Mohammedan men, and usually I’ll try to talk to them about their religion, and many times about their homes, and that involves their wives and the way they live. And I will say to a Mohammedan man—and I’m thinking of one now that I could talk to, who could understand me—“How about those four wives?” Well, then he tells me about those four wives. Then I will ask him, “And what happens if you decide you want to change one of them?” Now, I can’t quote exactly, but this is what he said to me: “When I get tired of one of them, I say to her, ‘Get the h____ out of here.’ And then I get me another one.”
That is Mohammedan Islamic religion. That’s God to the Mohammedan. And when he looks forward to heaven, his idea of heaven is a lustful harem. There has never been any religion that more degraded womankind and motherhood than the Islamic faith.
All right, let’s take one other, just for contradistinction, that’s all, that we might realize what Christianity has done and what it means. The Hindu religion is the religion of millions and millions of people, and how do they think about a woman? Their basic doctrine, of course, is the transmigration of the soul. When you die, your soul takes another form, and the soul you now have was in a form before you. Now, this is typical of Hindu doctrine and Hindu religion. If you have been bad, you’ll come back into this world, the transmigration of your soul, if you been bad you come back a monkey. If you have been worse, you’ll come back a spider. But if you have been abominable, you’ll come back a woman, the worst of all. That is Hindu religion and Hindu faith. The whole ancient concept and definition of a woman was below a slave, like the dirt of the ground. And the whole concept of Orientalism was no less.
The first time that womanhood was ever received in love and nobility was in the days of God’s chosen families, as Abraham loved Sarah [Genesis 23:2], and as Isaac loved Rebekah [Genesis 24:67], and as Jacob loved Rachel [Genesis 29:20], and as Boaz loved Ruth [Ruth 4:13]. And the spirit of that deference toward womanhood was carried to its finest fruition in the Christian faith.
It was to a woman that God revealed the glory of the Christ Child, in the temple to aged prophetess Anna [Luke 2:36-38]. It was to a woman, and she a despised outcast Samaritan, that Jesus preached the greatest sermon on worship, true religion [John 4:7-26]. It was to a woman that Jesus pointed when He said, out of the superfluity and abundance of their possession, “These all have given, but look at her: a poor widow, she had given to God all she had, even all her living” [Mark 12:41-44]. It was for a woman that Jesus stopped the funeral procession in name and gave back to her heart her only child and only son [Luke 7:11-15]. It was for two precious sisters that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and gave him back to Mary and to Martha [John 11:43-44]. It was in the care of a woman that Jesus turned to John on the cross and said, “Son, look upon your mother!” and to His mother, “Mother, look upon your son!” [John 19:26-27]. And it was for a woman that Jesus said, “Wherever in the world the gospel is preached this shall be spoken of as a memorial for her,” and He commended and blessed forever the woman who broke over His head the alabaster box of ointment [Mark 14:1, 9]. And in keeping with the whole spirit of our Lord and of the Christian faith, it was to a woman and to the women who ministered to Him from Galilee [Mark 15:40-41], that the Lord appeared first when He was raised from the dead [John 20:11-18; Matthew 28:9-10]. Christianity is mother’s religion, and Christ is mother’s God.
These things that I read in history are sometimes the most astonishing, astounding, unbelievable things! Truth, they say, is stranger than fiction. Well, this is an instance of it. Did you know, did you know that there was a time when it seemed as if the entire civilized world would worship Mithras? Mithraism was the religion that apparently was consuming and overwhelming the Greco-Roman world. You never heard of Mithras, most of you, yet it was the religion that came well nigh being the universal religion of the Roman Empire. That it failed, why? For a very plain and simple reason: only a man could be initiated into the mysteries and into the rites of Mithras. But Christ and Christianity was mother’s God, and it was motherhood and womanhood that made Christianity triumphant and destroyed in decay the worship of Mithras.
I copied here—I’ll not read it—there is a poem, “The faith of our mothers, guiding faith; the faith of our mothers, Christian faith. We will be true to thee till death” [from “Faith of our Mothers,” Arthur B. Patten, 1920]. Womanhood owes more to Christ and to the Christian faith than to any other of God’s benedictions in the history of the human race.
Now I have a third thing to speak of. I’ve spoken of the faith of our mothers, one so largely shaped and framed by her. I have spoken of the faith of our mothers, a faith that exalts her and blesses her. I speak now of that faith as she expresses it in her life.
If you have a Christian mother, or if you had a Christian mother, you will know the poignancy and the preciousness of the thing that I speak: a faith, a devotion, a Lord, a worship so beautifully expressed in her life. A group of men were discussing the translations of the Bible, and one said, “I like William’s translation,” another, “I like the King James translation,” and another, “I like Moffatt’s translation,” and another the Revised Standard translation, and one of them spoke, “The translation I like best is my mother’s.” Isn’t that true? As a little boy or as a little girl growing up, if you had a Christian mother, all of those things that led to Jesus, Christ-ward, God-ward, heavenward, all of those things are memories treasured, precious forever.
My mother sang as she worked in the kitchen and around the house. Sang what? She sang songs of Zion, Christian hymns. When I’d go to church I’d hear her sing and watch her sing. She never used a book. She just sang out of her heart. She seemed to know all of the stanzas of all of those hymns, and as she washed dishes and cooked the meal and worked around the house, she sang those Christian songs. I can hear her now:
Blessed assurance: Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.
Thou my everlasting portion,
More than friend or life to me;
All along my pilgrim journey,
Savior, let me walk with Thee.
[from “Blessed Assurance” and “Close to thee,” Fanny J. Crosby]
Why, I could never forget them. And it is a faith that led us to the Lord. If you had a Christian mother, and if you were reared in a Christian home, the unconscious influence of her life and her testimony and her faithfulness led you to God. Sometimes, as with me, my mother is the one who won me to the Savior. “Son, today will you accept Christ as your Lord?” “Yes, mother, today, today.” And the testimony of so many of our people would be, “As I think of my sainted mother, I think of the things of God.” Her care for us, her prayers for us, her tears over us, her love and devotion that never ceased. There is no more precious poem in the language to my heart than this:
I ofttimes think as the night draws nigh
Of an old house on the hill,
Of a yard all wide and blossom-starred
Where the children played at will.
And when at last the night came down,
Hushing their merry din,
Mother would look around and ask,
“Are all the children in?”
‘Tis many and many a year since then,
And the old house on the hill
No longer echoes to childish feet,
And the yard is now so still.
But I see it all as the shadows move,
And though many the years have been
I still can hear my mother ask,
“Are all the children in?”
I wonder if when the shadows fall
On the last short, earthly day,
When we say goodbye to the world outside,
All tired from our childish play,
When we step into that other land
Where mother so long has been,
Will we hear her ask, just as of old,
“Are all the children in?”
[from”Are All the Children In?”; Florence Jones Hadley]
Are we? Are we?
Someday soon when God shall gather His redeemed in that upper and better land, will there be an unbroken circle? Are all the children in, all of us? Do all of us belong to God? Do we love the Lord, do we? That’s why our convocation, why our being together, why our singing, why our preaching, why our appealing. You, you, will you bring your whole family and come? Will you? Will you bring your wife, just the two of you, and come? Will you dedicate your children to God? Will you bring the children and come? One somebody you, will you come? In a moment we shall stand to sing our hymn of appeal, and as we sing the song, down one of these stairways—there’s one at the back, there’s one at the front and on either side—would you come? The throng on this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the preacher: “Here I am, preacher. Here I come.”
As God shall say the word, as the Spirit of Jesus shall press the appeal to your heart, come, make it now. Do it now, decide now right where you are seated, and in a moment when we stand to sing, stand up coming. On the first note of the first stanza, come, and God bless and attend you in the way. Do it now, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.