BELIEVING WHAT THE SCRIPTURES SAY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-12-69 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled What Do the Prophets Say, or, “I Believe the Word of God – How Do I Fare Believing It?” For a background and just for a background, I read the [twenty-sixth] chapter of Acts, beginning at verse 24:
And as Paul thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad. You are insane.
But Paul said, I am not mad, I am not insane, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.
For the king—
who was a Jew, Festus of course was a Roman—
for the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely . . .
King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? Do you believe the Bible? I know that thou believest.
Now, I believe the Word of God. For me it is the answer, it settles all economic, political, moral, worldwide, nationwide, scientific, for me it settles all the problems of this earth. I face no decision in which I do not have the guidance of the Word of God; nor is there any development in economic or political contemporary history for which the Bible does not have an answer for me. Now believing that, how do I fare? If we had forty hours this morning, we would take a great multitude of these contemporary questions that we face. But because of the brevity of the moment, I hope I have time to speak of just three.
First: I shall speak of creation, the world around us. Where did it come from? God’s Book tells me that the Lord God Jehovah made it: “In the beginning God, in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” [Genesis 1:1]. You cannot know the thrill that came to my heart—and to yours if you had your television or radio on—the thrill that came to my heart when those three astronauts swinging around the moon and coming back safely to this earth, read as they looked upon the heavens and the good earth, as they read these verses from Genesis. I believe this Genesis account of creation. Now, believing it, how do I fare?
I find it confirmed by everything that I see, everything that I know, everything that I can observe, and in everything that is truth that I read. First: the creation of matter; God’s Book says that God made it. God created it out of nothing [Genesis 1:1; Hebrews 11:3]; God did it [Genesis 1:31]. I find that confirmed in everything that I see and in everything that I can know. Out of nothing, nothing comes; nothing does not create something. Somebody made this substance and this matter: for substance and matter cannot, and does not, create or make itself.
All right, a second thing that I read here in this Genesis account of creation: nine times— and I counted them this week several times to be sure of my number—nine times in this first chapter of Genesis it says that God created these things: animals, plants; and by His decree each plant and each animal, the plant is to yield fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself after his kind [Genesis 1:11-12]; the great moving creatures of the sea bringing forth abundantly after their kind [Genesis 1:21]; and the living creatures, the cattle, the creeping things of the earth after his kind; the beast after his kind [Genesis 1:24-25]. Nine times God says that “after his kind.” Do I see that in the world around me? I don’t see anything other. There is mutation. There are little dogs and big dogs, there are black dogs and white dogs, there are spotted dogs and striped dogs; there are all kinds of dogs. That is mutation. But God says there is no such thing as transmutation. The iron clad law of God in life is that each produces after its kind. Dogs produce dogs, and cats produce cats, and horses produce horses, and birds produce birds, and cattle produce cattle, and people produce people, after his kind. But there’s no such thing, God says, as transmutation, after a different kind.
I would be amazed if an elephant were to give birth to a hippopotamus. I would be surprised if a giraffe were to give birth to a mockingbird. I would be very surprised if a mockingbird were to hatch out a horse. I would be so amazed if a thistle were to give birth in its roots to an orange tree. That’s what God says. And of course, we who believe that “are mad; we are insane.” But God said it, and I believe it, and everything I know and experience and can read in life confirms it.
How do I fare believing the Bible? One other thing in this chapter of creation: “And God said, Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness” [Genesis 1:26]. Let him have dominion over the whole creation; that means the sun, the moon, the stars, and the whole earth, and we’re just now beginning to touch the hem of the garment. Let him have dominion over the whole creation [Genesis 1:26]. “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them” [Genesis 1:27]. “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” [Genesis 2:7]. I believe that. “God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and he became a quickened, a living soul.”
Am I one of the primates? A primate, a monkey, an orangutan, a chimpanzee, the apes, the anthropoids, am I also one of the primates? You listen to me: we are looked upon as mad and insane who believe that God made us, and formed us, and quickened us, and made us living souls; but you listen to me, if you ever are persuaded that we are none other but one of the primates, you will look to the brute world for all the answers that we face in our lives. Naturally you will and naturally the world does; and that is no small part of the degeneration of our academic and scientific community. We are beginning to reap the teachings of these generations. You teach people that they are none other but brutes, animals, and they will act like it. And in this modern world in which we live, believing that we are nothing but primates, anthropoids, we are seeking for our answers in the brute world. But you teach a man he is made in the image of God [Genesis 1:27], and he will turn upward and look to God for his answers.
For example, when a dear young couple stand before me, and they are pledging to one another a troth that shall bind them together forever, and I say, “When God created the first man and placed him in the garden of Eden, He said, ‘It is not good for the man that he live alone’ [Genesis 2:18]. And He made for him an help meet, the last and the crowning creation, the woman [Genesis 2:21-22]. And there in the paradise of Eden, our heavenly Father hallowed and sanctified our first home.” Of what am I speaking, and to what do I refer? Am I talking about two anthropoids, hairy animal, brute, going around on all fours? No, I am speaking of what Jesus spoke of when He said, “In the beginning God made them a man and a woman . . . and they two shall be one flesh.” [Matthew 19:4-5] I am just pointing out to you that when I believe the Bible, my conceptions, my ideals are exalted heavenward, God-ward. And what I read in the Bible is confirmed by what I see in human experience.
All right, we must hasten. Second—and these have no connection at all. I am just taking three out of forty or forty thousand of these contemporary things we face. I am just pointing out to you how I fare when I believe the Bible. Second: we are going to take this tragic tension in the Middle East. Whose is the land of Palestine? To whom does it belong? It is like the whole world of nations living on a powder keg: the terrible tragic tension in the Middle East. But the Bible settles that for me. However anyone may speak to me politically, or economically, or militarily, or culturally, or historically, the Bible settles that question for me. God says, the Bible says, the Scriptures say that Palestine belongs to Israel. For example, in the one hundred fifth Psalm, beginning at verse 8,
God hath remembered His covenant for ever, the word which He commanded to a thousand generations.
Which covenant He made with Abraham, and His oath unto Isaac;
And confirmed the same unto Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant:
Saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, the lot of your inheritance.
And just one other typical passage: Amos closes with these words:
I will bring again the captivity of My people of Israel, they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; they shall make gardens, and eat the fruit of them.
I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God.
God says the land belongs to Israel, and God says the Israelites will go back to that land, and some day they will inhabit it as a gift of God forever. However there are political developments, and however there are things that mitigate—and there are mitigations—however it is, God says that Israel is to inherit the land of Palestine. And to me, that settles it forever: Palestine belongs to the Jew.
Now, looking at that in the Bible and reading that in the Bible, how do I fare as I look out and see it in the world? There is no description adequate to describe the Jewish love for Palestine. “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy” [Psalm 137:5-6]. Thus they cried in captivity, and thus they sang when they returned to Zion:
When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream.
Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The Lord hath done great things for them.
The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.
These were the psalms of two thousand five hundred years ago. He is just that same way today. Look.
I can hardly pronounce the names of these men they are so strange to me. This is a poem that I found published, written by a Jew and translated by another Jew. And in the translation of course, it doesn’t sound like poetry to us, but the translation is this—this is a Jew speaking—
With my heart in the East, in Palestine, and I in the remote West,
How can I relish what I eat, how savor its taste?
How can I keep all my vows and bonds,
While Zion is in Edom’s boundary, and I am in Arabia bound?
I would easily leave all the bounties of Spain
For one glimpse of the dust of the temple’s ruins.
[from “My Heart Is In the East”; Judah Ha-Levi]
The reason, Lee Roy, that made such an impression upon me when I read it, we saw them sifting, sifting, sifting the dust of the temple ruins, the archaeologists. And this man says, whoever he is, “I’d give up all of the treasures of the West for just one glimpse of the dust of the temple ruins.”
Or again, I have a letter here from an illustrious professor in one of our Baptist seminaries. He had finished his Ph.D. work—he is a professor of Semitic languages—he had finished his Ph.D. work in Semitic languages, in a great school in Philadelphia. And here is a paragraph out of his letter to me:
During the Six Day War of last year, I was in Philadelphia graduating from a Jewish graduate school. It is impossible to relate the emotions of my Jewish professors. Our commencement speaker, a most distinguished and articulate Jewish scholar, repeatedly broke down and wept during his address. The Jewish editor of the Philadelphia newspaper personally gave five hundred thousand dollars out of his own pocket to aid his fellow Jews in Israel.
Wherever there is a Jew, his heart is in Palestine. Now, that’s what I see, and this is what I read in God’s Book. And to me, God’s Word settles it forever: Palestine belongs to the Jew.
Now, in just the moment that remains, one other: I believe the Bible; how do I fare believing it? I believe in the imminent, personal, visible return of Jesus Christ [Acts 1:11; Revelation 1:7]. Someday this stolid world and someday these human eyes shall look upon the descending and reigning and glorified Savior. I believe that. “I know that my Redeemer liveth . . . And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself” [Job 19:25-27]. I believe in the personal, visible return of our Lord. How do I fare believing it? In the third chapter of 2 Peter:
Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts,
And saying, Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.
[2 Peter 3:3-4]
Look out there, there is no sign of His coming, but they are forgetful that a thousand years with the Lord is but as a day, and a day is like a thousand years [2 Peter 3:8]. By God’s clock—God’s clock is different from ours—by God’s clock a thousand years is a day. So our Lord has been gone two days; maybe the third day He will come.
Now I believe that, what the Scriptures say about the personal return of our Lord. How do I fare believing it? And what do I see? This is what I see: I do not know of a doctrine of a teaching that builds in the hearts of people such godly expectancy and hope and assurance as to accept the promise of the Scripture, that “This same Jesus, whom you have seen go away into heaven, shall so come in like manner” [Acts 1:11]. And “Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him.” [Revelation 1:7] People who believe that live in godly expectancy [Titus 2:11-15].
The pastor of this church here, standing behind this sacred desk, for forty-seven years, my predecessor George W. Truett, the whole world knew of Dr. Truett; but the world hardly knew of Jim Truett, his brother. But when you would ask Mrs. Truett, the mother, Mother Truett, and tell her how marvelous a son she had in George, she would always reply, “But have you heard my son Jim?” She loved both of the boys, and especially Jim. Jim lived to be to an old age. When he could not preach anymore, he had a little pulpit in the closet that he would bring out when no one was at home, and there he would preach the unsearchable riches of God in Christ Jesus [Ephesians 3:8]. And every morning when the sun rose Jim Truett would go to the eastern side of his house and raise the shades of the window toward the setting sun, and say, “Perhaps today He will come. Perhaps today He will come.”
I visited a pastor, and above his desk were the words from God’s Holy Book in Luke 19, “Occupy till I come. Occupy till I come” [Luke 19:13]. Till He comes. Here I am back of this sacred desk, but when He comes this pulpit shall be His. Here I am undershepherd of this church, but when He comes, this church shall be His. Here I am living in this world, but when He comes, this world shall be His. Revelation 11:15: “…The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever and ever.” “Occupy till I come,” a godly expectancy [Luke 19:13].
Believing the Book, how do I fare? My life is blessed, my soul is encouraged, and God’s sweet presence is with me; believing the Word of God.
When we sing our hymn, to give your heart to the Lord, to put your life with us in the fellowship of this dear church, as God shall press the appeal to your heart, make it now, come this morning. A family you, a couple you, or one somebody you, while we sing our song, while we make this appeal, into this aisle and down to the front, “Here I am, pastor, and here I come. I make it now. I decide now.” And deciding for God and for us, come. Do it now. On the first note of the first stanza, come. And God bless you in the way, while we stand and while we sing.