The Infallible Word of God
December 6th, 1970 @ 8:15 AM
THE INFALLIBLE WORD OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Timothy 2:1-2
12-6-70 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 message entitled The Infallible Word of God. It is actually a message concerning our Bible institute. In the second chapter of the Book of 2 Timothy, which is Paul’s swan song, it is his last words of admonition to his young son in the ministry who is pastor of the church at Ephesus. Who begins the second chapter with these two verses:
Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.
[2 Timothy 2:1-2]
And the thought back of the message, “The things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses”; the preaching of the gospel of the Son of God, “the same—that message, that gospel—“commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” [2 Timothy 2:2]. That has been God’s program for the Christian faith through the centuries and shall be till the Lord comes again. We are to commit to faithful men this revelation of the grace and goodness of God, who in their turn will commit it to other men, each generation teaching the following generation [2 Timothy 2:2].
Now that is no small part of my conception as I read the Bible of the church. I had a man yesterday ask me: these vast facilities, millions of dollars of property, these buildings that are seated and built on four blocks, why would you need an outlay like that for a church? It all depends upon our understanding of the church. If the church is nothing other than a quiet assembly of a pietistic group, and that’s all, then you wouldn’t need them. But to me the church is a vast teaching, preaching, outreaching ministry.
I never heard a man walk down the street of any city in the earth and ask, “Why do you have these great school buildings? They’re superfluous, aren’t they? Look at the money you have invested in your public school system.” I never heard a man ask that in my life. Neither should we stumble at the investment we have in the facilities to teach the Word of God.
Now I am not saying it is not important that these youngsters be taught reading, writing, and arithmetic. I am in favor of a literacy program. Our people ought to go to school and they ought to be taught. It elevates life for a people to be literate. But I am saying that reading and writing and arithmetic does not encompass the whole being and meaning of a man. He also has a heart. He has a soul. And there is a Lord he ought to know. And to teach the truth of God is kind of like the Lord said, “This is life eternal, to know Thee, the only true and living God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent” [John 17:3].
So we have here these vast facilities in order to teach the truth of God. And this great auditorium is just one facet of that vast ministry God has given to our care. It’s in this text. “My son in the ministry, pastor of the church at Ephesus, the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” [2 Timothy 2:2].
Now in the expanding program of this teaching ministry, we have come to the place where we are launching a Bible institute. And the message today is that we might understand where that came from and why we are placing it in the heart of this church. The idea was originally born in my persuasion that our people need to be taught the truth of God. And a little thirty-minute period once a week in our Sunday school is all important. It’s the very lifeline of our church. We use our Sunday school as the arms of outreach of our congregation.
But there are such immeasurable, unfathomable depths of riches and treasures and meaning and value in the church of God and in the revelation of Christ beyond what we could even touch in little thirty-minute periods, teaching in the Sunday school hour. So I began to turn over in my mind the possibility of an evening school of the Bible. Having a program down here at night, not like Sunday school which is taught by lay people, busy men who are attorneys and otherwise employed in the week, and busy housewives who are rearing children and many of them working downtown; but an evening school of the Bible taught by people who have felt called of God to give their whole lives to that professorial ministry. Well, as I turned that over in my mind I felt it would be easily possible for us because the professors are here. They belong to our church. And for us to have an evening school of the Bible would be almost as easy as having a Sunday school itself.
Then I learned that Mr. Lee Roy Till, our minister of music, was interested in launching a conservatory of music here in the church, teaching instruments, teaching voice, teaching gospel music. So as the thing continued, why, we called some of our men together and began speaking of it and looking forward toward it.
Originally, of course, it had not been my thought at all to use the word “institute,” back there when I first began to think of this teaching program. But an evening school of the Bible is not an inclusive enough term to define what evidently God was leading us to do. Because an evening school of the Bible, that name, would refer to just teaching the Bible. But we also were proposing with our minister of music to have courses in gospel music. And we also, as time went on, began to think in terms of having methodology courses, courses in methods, courses in how to build a church.
Well, as our men began thinking about this, they were not particularly drawn to the word institute. But we could not find any other name that would include the whole circumference of what we wanted to teach except the word institute. So it was decided to call it an institute to include the teaching of the Bible and the teaching of music and the teaching of church methods.
Now I greatly objected to their calling it the Criswell Bible Institute. It makes me self-conscious and I have a handicap in my inward spirit about promoting it. But the men said there has to be a name given to that institute that will immediately define what kind of a teaching it’s going to present. And they said to me when you use that word Criswell with it, there is no doubt about what kind of teaching is going to be in that school.
And I could understand that after writing that book, Why I Preach the Bible Is Literally True, and there have already been about fifty-seven thousand copies of that book scattered over the earth. And after writing a book that is coming out the first part of next year, in January or February, The Scarlet Thread Through the Bible, why, I could understand why the men felt that to use the name of the pastor would certainly designate the kind of a teaching program to be involved. So at the insistence of the men, and they would hear no other thing, it was finally called the Criswell Bible Institute.
Now let us name five reasons for launching this program and organizing this effort in our church. I feel exactly about this as Eliezer said, who was sent by Abraham to Padan-aram to his father’s house to find a bride for his son, Isaac [Genesis 24:1-9]. In the goodness of God, as you know, Eliezer the servant of Abraham met Rebekah at the well [Genesis 24:15-17]. And in his rejoicing Eliezer said, “I being in the way, was led of the Lord” [Genesis 24:27].
I feel that way in this work. “I being in the way, was led by the Lord.” God placed the open door before us, and God has made it possible for us to reach out toward its consummation for these five reasons: first, we have the facilities. As I look on the millions, plural, the millions of dollars that we have invested in these buildings, as I just walk around and look at them, and we are getting ready to add to them and to enlarge them—as I look at these facilities, I think, O Lord, that God would give us wisdom to use them, to use them to a maximum usefulness. I think any businessman would do that with his properties. How can I use this land, or these lots, or these buildings? He would do that. It is nothing but common sense for us to do the same thing in the work of the Lord. How can we use these facilities to their finest, highest usefulness?
They are magnificent properties. We are multimillionaires in owning these downtown properties. And God has given them to us for a reason, and we are to be good stewards and to be accountable to God for their use. So we have the facilities here, magnificent ones located in the very heart of this great metropolitan area.
Second: we have the dedicated people. If I could use a figure of our Lord, it’s like fertile ground, ready to receive the seed of the Word [Luke 8:5-15]. There are literally thousands of us in this church to whom the church is our very life. It is mine. My life is centered in this church.
We don’t come down here to church as though it were a chore, a necessity, an assignment that we have to meet, and we get through with it just as quick as we can in order to dash out to the golf course or to the fishing boat. We don’t do that. To thousands of us in this church the church is our very life; our friendship life, our social life, the life of our children. The homes and the souls that are kind of stuck together with God in this church are almost legion. And we have a dedicated people to respond to a deepening, teaching ministry such as is represented in this institute.
Then third: we have the teachers. They belong to our church. They are our fellow members, and they are compatriots who also are dedicated to the Word of God, who can be found in our Dallas Baptist College and in the Southwestern Theological Seminary, and in the Dallas Theological Seminary. These men are gifted men. They have given their whole lives to a study of the Word of the Lord, and they believe that Book just as we believe that Book. And for us to attempt to take the teaching that they now have confined in a classroom and bring it to what we might call the grassroots of our people, the teachers and the Sunday school superintendents, would be a marvelous thing to achieve. Then, of course, to have our pastors come in for refreshment and renewal would be a glorious thing for all of us who preach and teach the Word of God.
Then a fourth reason lies in the necessity of our present day to inculcate the truth, the doctrine of God’s blessed revelation. We are bound by the Word of the Lord to “commit to faithful men who shall teach others also” the things that God, through His blessed Word, has taught us [2 Timothy 2:2].
May I show you how important I think that true doctrine and true faith is? We have in this city a medical school. It is a part of the system of the University of Texas. And I read this last week where the state of Texas is getting ready to pour forty million dollars into that medical college here in Dallas. When I read it I was grateful. That is fine. I think these men who are being trained to be physicians ought to be trained well. If a surgeon cuts me wide open and looks on the inside of whatever those innards are, I surely hope that he knows the difference between my pancreas and my gizzard. I want him to be taught well, and I am in favor of anything that we could do to make effective the education and training of a physician.
But if it is important for the physician to be taught the truth and the right knowledge of anatomy and chemistry, and all of the things that refer to life and metabolism and assimilation—if that is important, and it is important, it is just as important that the man be taught the truth of the eternal God.
Now the physician has to do with the body. The teacher of God has to do with the soul. And if the physician makes a mistake he buries his patient. I have buried people who belong to this church who died because of a mistake of the physician. For example, a physician gave one of my members a big dose of sulfanilamide. He was allergic to it, and the man died, and I buried him. The physician makes a mistake and he buries his patient. The teacher of God makes a mistake, and he has lost an eternal soul. If it is important that the physician knows what he is doing, how important it is that the teacher of God’s Word knows what he is doing.
Now Paul says in the fourth chapter of the Book of Ephesians, Paul says God gave us in the church pastors and teachers, and evangelists, and prophets, and apostles [Ephesians 4:11], in order, and let me quote a few verses down, that we might not be “carried about with every wind of doctrine” [Ephesians 4:14]. There is a form, Paul writes, of words, holy words. There is a rightness of doctrine and teaching. And if we don’t know that, we can be led into any kind of error and heresy and extremity. We need to be taught rightly, that we might walk in the light of the truth of God’s revelation [2 Timothy 2:15].
Five, the fifth reason for such a school: to magnify the Word of the Lord. And to magnify the Word of the Lord is to exalt our blessed Savior Himself. He identifies Himself with His Word; His name is The Word of God. Revelation 19:11-13:
And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True . . .
His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns . . .
He was dressed in a vesture dipped in blood: and His name is called The Word of God.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” [John 1:1]. Christ identifies Himself with His Word. To magnify the written Word is to exalt the incarnate Word. To debase the written Word is to dishonor the living Word. God’s Word is like Himself: the same yesterday, and today, and forever [Hebrews 13:8]. Psalm 119:89, “For ever, O God, Thy word is fixed in heaven.” And Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth may pass away, but My words will never pass away.” They are eternal like God Himself.
Now a man and his word may be two different things, but not God and His Word. God’s Word is identified with Himself. Whatever God is, His Word is. Those two are the same. Witness the Holy Scriptures: it is testimony to itself, to the Book. To a Jew the most meaningful of all of the chapters of the Bible is the sixth chapter of Deuteronomy. It is the Shema, the “hear,” the Shema. Do you remember it?
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord:
And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
And now listen:
And these words, and these words that I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
And thou shalt teach them, and thou shall teach them diligently unto thy children, and thou shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
And they shall be as a sign upon thine hand, and be as frontlets between thine eyes.
And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and upon thy gates. For I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God.
[Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 15]
“These words that I command thee” [Deuteronomy 6:6], this Book. Isaiah 40:8, “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall endure for ever.” The attitude of Matthew:
This was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying,
Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and call His name Immanuel, God with us.
And the whole Book of Matthew is that: “This was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet” [Matthew 1:22]. As Jesus said, “And the Scripture cannot be broken” [John 10:35]. As the apostle Peter wrote, “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” [2 Peter 1:21]. The witness of the Bible to itself: this is the Word of God.
Look at the witness of the men of God through the centuries: great theologians like John Calvin expounding and exegeting these words; great preachers like Charles Hadden Spurgeon standing in the Metropolitan pulpit in London, preaching the Word of God. But today what a different kind of a world do we face and have we come to; what a different kind of a world. The Word is disclaimed and dishonored by the theologian liberal, who is all over the earth.
There is not a liberal theologian in the earth that believes in the first eleven chapters of Genesis [Genesis 1:11]. To him they are myths and fairy tales. There never was any such person as Adam or any such person as Eve [Genesis 2:7, 18, 21-25]. There never was a garden of Eden [Genesis 2:8-17]. There never was any such thing as a Fall [Genesis 3:1-6]. We evolved up through the marsupials and the monkeys. There never was any such person as Noah [Genesis 6:9-10:32]. There never was a Flood [Genesis 7:17-24]. There’s not a liberal in the earth who believes in the authenticity of the Book of Daniel. There’s not a liberal in the earth that believes in the historicity of the Book of Jonah.
And what happens when you start on that bend and on that tack as this? It is not long until you believe no longer in the virgin birth [Matthew 1:21-2:1; Luke 1:26-35, 2:9-16]. And you believe no longer in the resurrection of the dead [Matthew 28:1-10]. And you believe no longer in the return of Christ [Acts 1:11; Matthew 24:30]. And you believe no longer in the authenticity of 1 and 2 Peter, and finally in the Revelation. And it isn’t long until the whole thing has turned into a fabrication.
It’s like a cancer. How do you contain a cancer? It just eats just so far but no further. How do you do it? How do you contain a disease when it gets started in your body? That’s liberalism in its attitude toward the Word of God. And what is the result? Can you imagine facing this kind of a world armed with myths and with legends and with fairy tales? It’s like a Don Quixote going out to fight windmills.
What do you think about the power of a church and the power of a preacher who stands in the pulpit with a Bible in his hand and he reads about Adam and Eve [Genesis 2-3], and he says that’s a lie. Then he reads about Noah and the Flood [Genesis 6-9], and he says that’s a lie. Then he reads the Book of Daniel, and he says that’s a lie. Then he reads the Book of Jonah, and he says that’s a lie.
Several weeks ago there was a man from East Texas who came here to speak to our Sodalitan banquet. And he said way over there in deep East Texas there was a trial, and the two attorneys before the judge were selecting a jury. And there came a prospective juror, seated in the box, and they were examining her. She was a hatchet-faced woman with a hat like that, and a flower growing out of it; and arms folded, and you could just tell she had come to do her duty to serve on the jury.
So the attorney for the plaintiff stood up and they just ask them all kinds of questions. So he asked that little lady, he said, “Do you see that man over there? He’s the prosecuting attorney. Do you know him?”
She said, “Yes, I know him. He’s a crook.”
So he looked at her and he said to her, “I am the attorney for the defendant here. Do you know me?”
And she said, “Yes, I know you. You’re a crook.”
The judge called for order in the courtroom and called the two attorneys over to him and whispering where nobody else could hear he said, “Now you know I am up for reelection. And if either one of you ask that little lady if she knows me, I’ll hold you both in contempt of court.”
Can you imagine that? Turn the pages of the Bible. This is a legend. Turn the pages of the Bible. This is a fairy tale. Turn the pages of the Bible. This is a forgery. Turn the pages of the Bible. This is a myth. No wonder the church is emptied and the preacher has lost his power. How do you face the flesh and the world and the devil armed with myths and legends and lies?
I had a dear friend, a teacher, who went to Chicago University to get his Ph.D. in pedagogy. And while the teacher was there, my friend was there, he formed a friendship with a young man in the Chicago Divinity School. And the Chicago Divinity school is as liberal as any school in the earth. What they believe, the Lord would only know. What kind of a God they would worship, the God Himself would hardly know.
So when the young theologue got his divinity degree he was called to a certain church in the Midwestern part of the United States, and it was a Bible-believing, devout congregation. And the young minister, not knowing what to do, was trying to decide how to answer that call. So he went to my friend who is up there getting his Ph.D. in pedagogy and he said to my friend, he said, “You know, I have been called to be the pastor of such-and-such church located in a city in the Midwest. But,” he said, “it is a Bible-believing church. It is one of those old-fashioned congregations that believes the Bible is the Word of God.” And he said, “I don’t believe in the Bible. What do you think I ought to do?”
And my friend replied to him, “I can tell you exactly what you ought to do.”
And that young theologue eagerly said, “Well, what?”
And my friend said, “I think you ought to quit the ministry.”
I believe the same thing. Any man who does not believe in the Word of God ought to quit the ministry. Let him do anything else he wants to, but don’t stand in God’s sacred pulpit, there to deny in the name of the Lord the Word of the Lord God revealed in this blessed Book. You don’t know God outside of His self-revelation. You cannot find God outside of the self disclosure of the Lord. We wouldn’t even know the name of Jesus were it not that He is written and exhibited and revealed in this blessed volume.
I have to close. How wonderful it is, how blessed it is, how glorious it is for a preacher to stand in his pulpit and underneath him is the immovable rock of the revelation of God. Why, it is as deep as the foundation of the world itself. How precious it is for a teacher to stand before the class and there open the inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word of the living God [2 Timothy 3:16].
And this is the commitment to which we are pouring our lives in this church. We face a flood tide, a veritable flood tide, an avalanche, a tidal wave of unbelief and rejection and dishonor done in the name of scholarship, done in the name of academic liberty, done in the name of liberty and freedom. But however it comes, and however it is presented, it is still a denial of the Word of God.
That’s what Satan did in the beginning. He began with a question mark about God’s Word. “Yea, did God say” [Genesis 3:1], and I can just hear the tone of his voice as he spake to the first woman. “Yea, did God say thou shalt surely die?” Then an outright denial, “Thou shalt not surely die” [Genesis 3:1-4].
A denial of the Word of God, and Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit [Genesis 3:1-6], and their souls died that day. “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” [Genesis 2:17], God said. And when Adam and Eve transgressed, believed Satan and denied the Word of God [Genesis 3:6], in that day Adam and Eve died, their souls died that day [Genesis 2:17]. They became fallen spiritual creatures that day, like the angels fell [Revelation 12:4]; they fell in their souls.
And isn’t it a strange thing? Their bodies died in the day of the Lord. You know, it’s a strange thing. A day is a thousand years on God’s calendar, on God’s clock [2 Peter 3:8; Psalm 90:4]. And isn’t it a strange thing, not a one has ever lived beyond that day? Methuselah died when he was nine hundred sixty-nine years old [Genesis 5:27]. Adam died when he was nine hundred thirty years old [Genesis 5:5]. “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” [Genesis 2:17].
“Yea,” said Satan, “did God say that?” [Genesis 3:1]. Oh, my soul trembles for the whole foundation of church, and denomination, and institution, and soul, and life, and eternity, when the minister and the teacher begins to doubt the Word of God. “ Yea, did God say?” [Genesis 3:1].
Please Him, in His grace and blessing we have committed ourselves, and there is no turning back [Luke 9:62]. We have committed ourselves to the preaching and the teaching of the infallible, and inerrant, and inspired, and God-breathed Word of the Lord [2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20].
Now we must sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing it, a family you, a couple you, a one somebody you, to give himself to God [Romans 10:8-13], to fellowship with us in the circle of this dear church [Hebrews 10:24-25]; as God shall press the appeal to your heart, as God shall say the word, will you come and stand by me? Down one of these stairways to the front and the back on the lower floor into the aisle, “Pastor, here I come. I’ve made that decision for the Lord and here I am. Here I am. I believe in God, and I believe in Christ, and I believe in His blessed revelation, and I believe in His church, and I believe in this congregation, and I love these people, and I want to come.” As God shall lay the appeal before you, answer with your life. Make the decision now. Right where you are seated, make the decision now; and in a moment when you stand up, stand up coming. We will look for you, and God Himself welcomes you as you come, as we stand and as we sing.