The Infallible Word of God
December 6th, 1970 @ 10:50 AM
2 Timothy 2:1-2
THE INFALLIBLE WORD OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Timothy 2:1, 2
12-6-70 10:50 a.m.
Now on television and on radio you are listening to the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and welcome, for I have a great report to make. And I could pray God shall bless the message that is brought this morning on The Infallible Word of God; which is a way, as you shall see when it’s come to its conclusion, of presenting our Bible Institute.
In the last letter that Paul wrote to his son in the ministry, Timothy, pastor of the church at Ephesus, the apostle said these words in the second chapter of the second letter to Timothy: “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]. What you have received from me, the gospel of the grace of the Son of God, commit thou to faithful men who in their turn shall be able to teach their generation.” And the succession of that passes down through these centuries, and comes to us today. The gospel message of Christ that we have received, that saves our souls [Hebrews 10:39], “Commit thou to faithful men, who in their turn shall teach it to their generation; and do so until the Lord comes again” [2 Timothy 2:2].
The implementation of that word from the apostle lies back of the attempt of our church in this new, and I pray, most meaningful departure. We are launching here, beginning the twelfth of January, this coming month; we are launching a Bible Institute. And for you to know what lies back of it and the reasons for it, comprise the message today.
For a long time—I cannot remember how long—I’ve turned over in my heart an evening school of the Bible, taught by gifted men here in this church. We have thirty minutes on a Sunday morning to teach the Book; it is so small, so very shortened a period. There are such depths immeasurable, unfathomable, of the riches of God in this treasured volume, that we never touch and we never see. And under the guidance of gifted men, and taking time for it, we could do that in an evening school of the Bible. But as I turned it over in my own heart about teaching the Word of God, I found that our minister of music, Mr. Lee Roy Till, had in his heart the creation, the building of a conservatory of religious music, of gospel song, here in the church, teaching instruments, teaching voice, teaching theory, teaching music, how we can praise God more beautifully, more gloriously. Then as time went on and as time shall go on, there’ll be opportunity to teach methodology in the church, how to do a thing, how to build a church, all of those outreaches that save the lost and build up the congregation of the Lord. Well, as the days and the years multiplied, it was finally decided that to call it the evening school of the Bible would not be inclusive enough; the nomenclature would indicate we were just going to have classes in the Book. But it was broader than that: we’re to have classes in methodology; we’re to have classes in music, beside classes studying the Bible itself. No one seemingly was able to come up with a name that would include all that. So they finally chose to call it an institute, where all of these subjects, and others that God might lead us into, could be faithfully presented.
Now, over my strenuous objection, they wanted to call it the Criswell Bible Institute. I objected to it, not because I did not feel honored by it—I did feel honored by it—but it makes me self-conscious in promoting it. When it has my name to it, as I promote it and as I try to build it up, it sort of has the implication, as the editor of one of our papers said, of the perpetuation of my own name. Nothing could be farther from the truth, and nothing could be more dissimilar to my own spirit. Well, the reason the men insisted on calling it the Criswell Bible Institute was this: they said, “There ought to be some name given that work whereby people will know what kind of a teaching it encompasses.” And they said, “Believe me, when you put Criswell on it, there’ll be no doubt about what kind of teaching it is.” They were so insistent on that, after the publication of the book, Why I Preach that the Bible is Literally True, and the book that is to come out within the next two months, The Scarlet Thread through the Bible, they were so insistent on that, that I had no other choice but to acquiesce. So it will be called the Criswell Bible Institute.
Now the five reasons that lie back of the creation of such a school: I feel exactly as Eliezer felt when Abraham sent his chief servant to Padan-aram in the northern part of Mesopotamia to the house of Nahor to find a wife for his son, Isaac [Genesis 24:1-10]. And Eliezer, this servant of Abraham, prayed God, that the Lord would prosper his mission [Genesis 124:11-14]. And the Lord led him to the well where Rebekah was standing [Genesis 24:15-26]. And Eliezer, in praising God for the prayer answered, said, “I being in the way, the Lord led me” [Genesis 24:27]. That’s one of the most beautifully turned expressions that I could think for: “I being in the way, the Lord led me” [Genesis 24:27]. I feel that way about this work. We being in the way, the Lord opened to us this open door. It is something from the hands of the Lord.
Now, why? For five reasons, number one: we have here these vast facilities. They are valued at more than eight millions—plural—millions of dollars. God gave them to us. And I feel as any businessman would feel as he looks on the investment, buildings or lot or whatever, a businessman would say, “I must make it count for the most. I must make it produce. It must be useful.” Well, I feel the same way exactly about these great facilities. They are here. They represent a magnificent sacrificial investment, and it ought to be used, it ought to be used to the utmost!
Yesterday a man asked me, “You have buildings there on four blocks in the heart of Dallas. What a vast outlay. Why do you have so much invested in those buildings covering four blocks? How is it that a church would call for, demand, an outlay like that?” Well, the reason he asked the question is, he does not understand my idea of the church as I read it here in the Book of God. For most people, a church would be somewhere a little or a large conclave, and in it you’d find some pietistic people who are praying, or they’re singing, or they’re chanting, or they’re worshiping; that’s a church. Well, the church in the Bible is nothing like that at all. The church is a tremendous teaching, and preaching, and soul-winning dedication. That’s what it is. And to confine it within, say, four walls, behind beautiful windows, covered over by a high steeple, and to define it and to confine it in those areas, is to blind our eyes to the whole mission and commandment given the church here in the Bible.
For example—and I can illustrate it better than I can elucidate—did you ever hear a man walk down the streets or drive through the streets of a city, and he looks at these great high schools that cost millions of dollars, and at these elementary schools that cost other millions of dollars, did you ever hear a man drive down the streets of a city and ask, “Why those vast buildings and why that tremendous investment of millions of dollars in these facilities?” You never heard a man ask that question in your life, for we build those buildings in order to teach reading, writing, arithmetic; and to have a literate people is to have a stronger, finer citizenry, and we all know it. Well, isn’t it a strange come to pass that a people would ever think that we need great facilities and vast outlays and expenditures to teach reading and writing and arithmetic, but we don’t need any instruction that will elevate a man’s soul, that will save him to God, that will build in his heart those great spiritual commitments that raise him above the animal?
I’m very happy for every dime that the taxpayer spends to educate our children in all of the secular studies of science, of sociology, of literature, of all of these subjects. But I am saying at the same time and in the same breath, for us to define a man as being a lone animal, that animality comprises human life, is for us to forget those great overtones that God put in us: the God-wardness of a man’s life, the upwardness of a man’s life, the possibility of holiness and sanctity and spirituality of a man’s life. Now that’s why the investment in the building: while they’re teaching the three “R’s,” we’re going to teach the Word of life. And for those purposes we need these tremendous facilities. But we need to use them; we need to use them to their fullest extent. So as I walk around and see these classrooms and these assemblies, I think, “O Lord, give us wisdom to use them to their highest effectiveness.” And that’s one reason for the Institute: we have the place.
Second: a second reason for it lies in our people. We have the dedicated people for the building of such a school. I think of our people as the Lord spoke of the rich and fertile ground in which the good seed fell and brought forth an hundredfold unto God [Matthew 13:8]. Our people are like that; we’re like that by the thousands. To us, this is our life; the church is everything to us. It’s the center of our homes. It is the center of our social life. It is the hope of our children. We don’t come to church as though it were a chore, an assignment grievous and heavy to get rid of as soon as we can and then dash out to the golf course or to the fishing boat. By the thousands, we’re not like that. We have given our whole lives, our love, and interest to the church and to the service of Christ. Consequently, for us to go deep with God, and to sit at the feet of the Lord, and to learn of the treasures of grace in Him is an infinite, glorious possibility. We have the people, the dedication to do it. There are leaders in our church, superintendents and teachers, that will respond to a program like this; and we’re by the hundreds like that.
Third: why such an institute in the church; because we have the gifted teachers to lead in it. These are men who have their doctor’s degrees in their separate subjects; some of them in Semitics, some of them in Assyriology, some of them in archaeology, some of them in Greek, some of them in New Testament, some in Old Testament, some in Christology, in how many fields of theological approach will you find these gifted men who have given their whole lives to the study and to the teaching of the truth of God. They belong to our church, and they’re compatriots and compeers; teach in Dallas Baptist College, and in the Southwestern Theological Seminary, and in the Dallas Theological Seminary. They’re here. And it seemed to me a marvelous opportunity to take the excellence of their teaching in the classroom and to bring it out where the people are, I could almost say down to the grass roots.
Here are laymen and laywomen, and here are pastors who need refreshment and renewal, and here are all of us, and an open door to be introduced into those magnificent understandings and depths of comprehension and apprehension of the truths of God in Christ Jesus. Not just skimming the surface, not just an introduction, not just a bare approach or suggestion as you could make in a few minutes on Sunday morning, but an in-depth study of the Word of the Lord; we have that opportunity under the guidance of these dedicated Christian professors.
A fourth reason for the Institute: we need the inculcation and the indoctrination of the truth of God. That’s why the apostle wrote to his son in the ministry, “The things that thou hast heard of me . . . the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” [2 Timothy 2:2]. We need the truth of the Word of God, the doctrinal correctness of what God has said and what the Lord has taught.
We have in the city of Dallas a great and an increasingly greater medical college. It belongs to the system of the University of Texas. I read last week where the Texas legislature had appropriated a program totaling forty millions of dollars for that school. That is glorious! All of us are deepest in sympathy with the physician being carefully, meticulously taught: we want him to know what he’s about. When he starts thumping on us, we want him to know what that thump means. And when he slits us open and he looks down there among our innards, we want him to know the difference between my spleen and my gizzard, we want him. We think he ought to be taught, and taught carefully. That’s a wonderful commitment. But while we are emphasizing that a man ought to be taught in order to care for the human body, which is made out of dust [Genesis 2:7], why should we hesitate before a tremendous emphasis that the man who teaches my soul the truth of God for eternity ought no less to be carefully trained and wondrously taught? The physician can make a mistake, and he buries his patient. That’s the end of that mortal life. But if the preacher or the teacher makes a mistake, there is no ending of the life of the soul; that mistake has repercussion for eternity.
Now, does the doctor ever make a mistake? How he does! I bury them with my own hands. Why, I remember one of the finest men in this church. The doctor gave him a dose of sulfanilamide. He was allergic to it, and he died. And I buried him. A mistake of a physician here in this city; but that is nothing compared to the mistakes of the preachers in this city who teach false doctrine and who lead the soul to eternal despair, and separation, and damnation. I am just saying that if it is important for the physician to be taught beautifully and carefully, lest he make a mistake and the body be destroyed, I am saying that no less is it vitally necessary for the preacher and the teacher who’s handling the soul to be no less wondrously taught, lest he make a mistake and the soul is lost.
Oh! how the Bible will speak of that: listen, in the fourth chapter of the Book of Ephesians, which is an encyclical, it’s a circular letter that Paul wrote to all of the churches—the copy we have in the Bible happened to be the one at Ephesus, so you find the name Ephesus, “Paul, to the church at Ephesus,” in it [Ephesians 1:1]. It was also like this: “Paul, to the church at Laodicea” [Colossians 4:16]. It was a blank place, and they filled it in. It is a general letter. Now in that general letter that Paul wrote to all the churches, in the fourth chapter he says, “God placed in the church some, apostles; some, prophets; some, evangelists; some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints” [Ephesians 4:11-12], and on and on and on. Then he says, “Lest we be carried away by every wind of doctrine” [Ephesians 4:14]. To deliver us from error and from heresy and from extremities, God revealed to us this Holy Word and placed it in the hands of His preachers and His teachers. And if we don’t conform to that Word of God, and bring our experience into conformity to the Word of the Lord, I tell you truly, I don’t exaggerate it when I say we can be swept into anything and everything. Just look around you, look around you. Oh, the spiritual error, and disharmony, and denial, and dislocation, and extremity that I see on every hand! Always we must judge and try our experience by the Word of God! If we do not do that, we can go off into any kind of a tangent and to any extremity! It is vital for us that we be taught and that we know the truth of the doctrine of the teaching of God.
Last, the fifth reason for such a school: that we might magnify the infallible, inerrant, inspired, theopneustos, God-breathed Word of the Lord [2 Timothy 3:16]. God identifies Himself with His Word. That is His name. Listen: In the nineteenth chapter of the Revelation, beginning at verse 11, “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was 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” [Revelation 19:11-13]. That is His name. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” [John 1:1]. God identifies Himself with His Word: the incarnate Word [John 1:1, 14], the written Word [Psalm 138:2; 2 Timothy 3:16], the spoken Word, and those are the same! When we magnify the written Word of God, we exalt the living incarnate Word! When we debase the written Word, we dishonor the incarnate and the living Word!
Spiritually, to know the Word of God is to know the Lord! To accept the Word of God is to accept the Lord! To believe the Word of God is to believe the Lord! We could not know God without His self-disclosure. We’d not even know the name of Jesus had He not revealed Himself to us in this blessed Book! And to magnify that Book is to magnify the blessed Lord! A man and his word may be two different things; but not God and His Word. The Word of God is like the Lord Himself: the same yesterday, and today, and forever [Hebrews 13:8]. Even as the psalmist, 119, out of which you read, verse 89, says, “For ever, O God, Thy Word is fixed, is settled in heaven” [Psalm 119:89].
Just for a moment, witness the testimony of the Bible to itself, of the Word of God to the Holy Scripture. In all Jewry, to any Jew in the earth, there is no greater chapter in the Bible than the sixth chapter of Deuteronomy, the Shema, the “O hear.” Listen how it speaks. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord thy 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” [Deuteronomy 6:4-5]. Now continue,
And these words, that I command thee this day, and these words, these words that I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt 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 for a sign upon thine hand, and for frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them, thou shalt inscribe them upon the posts of thine house, and upon thy gates.
For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God.
These words that I command thee, in thy heart, teach thy children—
That is God’s attitude toward His revelation.
My favorite verse, Isaiah 40:8, “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of God shall stand for ever.” This is the New Testament: “All of this came to pass that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying” [Matthew 1:22]—and so it starts—”And behold, a virgin shall be with Child, and shall bear a Son; and they shall call His name Immanuel, God with us” [Matthew 1:22-23]. That’s the whole New Testament, “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the holy prophet” [Matthew 1:22]. The Lord Jesus said, “For the Scripture cannot be broken” [John 10:35]. And the apostle Peter wrote, “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]. This is the Word of God. The Lord wrote it. It has back of it divine, holy authorship.
And consider the witness of the servants of Christ to that Holy Book through the ages, a tremendous theologian like John Calvin expounding the words of the Book, and exegeting the very syllables of the sentences. Or think of an incomparable preacher like Charles Haddon Spurgeon, standing in the Metropolitan pulpit in London, England, and preaching the Word of God, nothing else, nothing else. It is the witness of the Lord to the sanctity and holiness and inspiration of the Book [2 Timothy 3:16-17]. It is the witness of God’s great servants who exegete it and expound it through the centuries.
And we come to our present day. Oh, what do I find? One of the ministers on this platform, one of my associates, is a graduate of a certain school, a state school. And he says, “Pastor, what you said this morning at the 8:15 service regarding the floodtide of liberalism that makes a shambles of the Word of God is so true.” He said, “We have come to this modern day and this modern place where it is hardly intellectually academically acceptable to believe in the inspiration, in the inerrancy and infallibility of the Word of God” [2 Timothy 3:16]. It is a floodtide; it is everywhere. I suppose there is not a liberal in the earth that believes in the first eleven chapters of Genesis; the story of Adam, of Eve, of Eden, of Noah, of the Flood. There is not a liberal in the earth that believes in the authenticity of the Book of Daniel. There is not a liberal in the earth that believes in the historicity of the Book of Jonah. And what happens when we begin that way, when we turn that way? It is not long until there is not a man who believes in the virgin birth [Matthew 1:20-2:1; Luke 1:26-35, 2:8-16], and in the resurrection of our Lord [Matthew 28:5-9], and the personal, visible return of Christ to earth [Matthew 24:30; Acts 1:10-11], and the authenticity of 1 and 2 Peter, or the authenticity of the Book of the Revelation. And the day comes when the whole is washed away. It’s like a fungus, it’s like a disease, it’s like a cancer: how do you contain it just this much? Whenever it starts, it spreads, and it spreads until finally the whole message of the Bible is washed out. That’s why the churches are increasingly empty. And that’s why the preachers increasingly have nothing to say. How are you going to face the terrific trials and problems of the age in which God has cast our life and lot, armed with myths and fables and fairy tales? Why, the man is defeated and the church is lost even before they entered the fray, like a Don Quixote trying to fight windmills.
What do you think about the man who stands up, and he opens the Bible, and he reads about Adam and Eve and Eden [Genesis 2-3], and he says, “Well, that’s a lie.” And he turns the page and he reads about Noah and the Flood [Genesis 6-9], and he says, “That’s a lie.” And then he turns the page and he comes to Daniel, and he says, “That’s a lie. That’s a forgery.” And he comes to Jonah, and he says, “That’s a lie.” And then he comes to the miracles of the New Testament, and he says, “That’s a delusion, that’s an illusion, that’s a lie.” Can you imagine it?
The Sedalitan Sunday school class had banquet a few weeks ago, and they had an attorney over there in East Texas come and speak to them. And that attorney from way down in deep, deep, piney woods of East Texas said that over there they were having a trial, and they were trying to get a jury. And so the lawyer was up there questioning one of the prospective jurors, and it was a little hatchet-faced woman, who had a hat so, and a flower growing out of the top of the hat, with her arms folded. She had come to dedicate herself to do her duty and to serve on the jury. So the lawyer said to her, he said, “Do you see that man over there?”
“Yes,” she said. “Well,” he said, “that is the attorney for the prosecution. Do you know him?”
“Yes,” said the little lady, “I know him, he’s a crook!” Well, the attorney looked at her, and he says, “Now you see this man over here? I am the attorney for the defense. Do you know me?” She said, “Yeah, I know you. You’re a crook!” The judge called the two attorneys, the prosecutor and the defending attorney, and said, “You will approach the bench.” So they came before the bar, and the judge lowered his voice where nobody could hear, and he said to those two attorneys, “As you know, I’m up for re-election. If you ask that little woman if she knows me, I’ll hold you both in contempt of court.”
I just cannot conceive of a church or an institution or a man of God standing in the sacred pulpit and turning the pages of the Bible, and, saying, “That’s crooked, that’s a delusion, that’s a forgery, that’s a lie.” I can’t conceive of it!
I had a friend who went to the Chicago University to get a PhD in pedagogy; he’s a teacher. And when he came back, he said to me, “Do you know I formed the acquaintance of a man up there in the Chicago Divinity School”—which is the most liberal and unbelieving and blasphemous, I think, of all the schools I know of, the Chicago Divinity School. Whatever kind of a God they believe in I don’t think they themselves could define—well anyway, he was getting his degree, and he’d been called to be pastor of a certain church in the midwestern United States. So he went to my friend, who’s up there getting his PhD in pedagogy, and he said to him, he said, “You know, I’m in a great dilemma; I don’t know what to do.” He said, “I’ve been called to be pastor of a church in the Midwest, but it’s one of those old time churches that believes the Bible is the Word of God, and I don’t believe the Bible is the Word of God. And I don’t know what to do.” And my friend said to him, “Well, I’ll tell you what to do.” And he said, “What?” And my friend said, “I think you ought to quit the ministry!” And I say amen a thousand times! When you get to the place where you don’t believe the Bible is the Word of God, you ought to quit! You ought not to stand up there in the pulpit and try to deceive the people as though you were God’s representative, when you deny God; as though you were preaching the truth of the Lord, when you deny the truth; as though you were God’s emissary delivering God’s message, when you don’t believe in it. You ought to quit. You ought to quit. That’s what is the matter with our churches today and with our pulpits today: our men have ceased to believe that God has spoken in this precious Book.
Oh, how Satan undermines us! The first attack, “Yea, did God say” [Genesis 3:1]—and I can just hear Satan’s rising question mark—”Yea, did God say that if you ate of that forbidden tree you would surely die? Yea, did God say that?” Then following, as always, the outright denial: “Ye shall not surely die [Genesis 3:4]; it’s a lie! It’s a lie! What God said is a lie. Thou shalt not surely die.” And they ate of the forbidden fruit [Genesis 3:6], and that day, “In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die” [Genesis 2:17, 3:3], in that day they died. They died spiritually; their souls died that day. And isn’t it a strange thing, in the day of the Lord, their bodies died. The Book says that on God’s clock “A day is a thousand years” [2 Peter 3:8]. And it’s a strange thing, not a one of those ever lived to be a thousand years. Methuselah died at the age of nine hundred sixty-nine [Genesis 5:27]. Adam died at the age of nine hundred thirty [Genesis 5:5]. “In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die” [Genesis 2:17]…”Yea, did God say?” [Genesis 3:1]. And to deny the Word of God, it’s death. It’s like death in the pot [2 Kings 4:40]. It’s like death for the soul. It’s like death for the church. It’s like death for the people of the Lord. When we deny the Word of God, we shall surely, surely die.
Conversely, oh how strong, when the preacher stands upon the immutable foundation of the revelation of God in this Book, and he opens it, and he says to the people, “Thus saith the Lord God.” And with what distinction, and with what honor, and with what assurance can a teacher open that blessed Book and stand before the class and say, “These are the words from heaven; and this is the way, walk ye in it” [Isaiah 30:21].
“The flower fades”—my favorite verse—”and the grass withers”—my favorite verse—”but the Word of God”—my favorite verse—”shall stand for ever” [Isaiah 40:8]. That’s why the Institute: drawing our people to a study of the immutable, inerrant, infallible, inspired, eternal Word of the living God [2 Timothy 3:16-17].
Our time is gone. We stand in a moment to sing our hymn of appeal. And a family you, to come to be with us; a couple you, answering God’s call; a one somebody you; while we sing this hymn of appeal, come. Make it now. In your heart decide, make the decision in your soul, and in a moment when you stand up, stand up coming, “Here I am, pastor, I’m making it today.” Do it now, come now, while we stand and while we sing.