WE BELIEVE IN CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-24-70 12:00 p.m.
And the message today, We Believe in Christ. In the twenty-seventh chapter of the First Gospel, when our Lord was nailed to the tree, “They that passed by reviled Him, wagging their heads, and saying,” then they cast into His teeth something the Lord had said, “likewise the chief priests mocking, with the scribes and elders, said” [Matthew 27:39-40], and they cast something into His teeth. For He said, “I am the Son of God” [Mark 14:61-62]. And “The thieves also, which were crucified with Him, cast the same in His teeth” [Matthew 27:44]. That is a very poignant expression. All those that were looking at Him die, and the passer-by who just stopped to behold, and the leaders of the religionists, and even the thieves, they all cast the same into His teeth, “for He said,” and they quote what He said.
So that brings to my heart as I read it, “Is Jesus what He said He was, and can He do what He said He could do?” Have we any right, reasonable, empirical, experiential to believe in Christ? I’m not a young man anymore. I’ve lived many, many years. I’ve been a pastor forty-three years. Do I have any right after these years of my own life to believe that Christ is what He said He was and can do what He claimed to be able to do?
I also can read. I have a wonderful library. I can turn over those tomes and those pages of recorded history two thousand years now since the Lord died and was raised from the dead [Matthew 27:32-28:9]. I can judge from history also for myself. Are these things true that the Lord said of Himself personally, and of the things that He said He was able to do? Well, we shall look at that today.
First: is He what He said He was? He said He was the Son of God and that God was His Father [Mark 14:61-62]. His mother said He was conceived of the Holy Spirit [Luke 1:27-35], and the Scriptures say He was born of a virgin [Matthew 1:23-25]. Was He? One time a man came to a minister and said to him, “What would you think if an unwed young woman came to you and said that God was the father of her baby? What would you think and what would you believe?” And the minister, after reflection, replied, “You know, if that child had been foretold in prophecy for thousands and hundreds of years [Micah 5:2; Isaiah 53:1-12]; and if, when time came for him to be conceived, his birth was announced by an angel from heaven [Luke 2:8-16]; and if, when the time came for the virgin to be delivered, the stars in the heavens marked the place of his incarnation [Matthew 2:2-11]; and if he had lived a life and taught words [John 7:46] that none other man ever lived or taught [Matthew 9:32-35]; and if, when he was crucified and buried [Matthew 27:32-61], he’d been raised from the dead the third day [Matthew 28:1-7]; and if, after his ascension into heaven [Acts 1:9-10], the whole world had heard his gospel [Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8], and he’d had the greatest influence for good on mankind of anyone who’d ever lived, I sort of believe that I would accept what the girl said to me.”
And I feel that same thing about Christ our Lord when He says that God is His Father [Mark 14:61-62].
One time a man came to Napoleon Bonaparte––whom I do not particularly admire, but he was a brilliant genius––a man came to Napoleon Bonaparte and said to him, “I’m trying to start a new religion, but I’m having difficulty getting people to believe in me.” And Napoleon replied, “Why, it’d be very simple. Just get yourself born of a virgin, and then after you’re crucified rise from the dead the third day, and I think it’d be very simple to get people to believe in you.” What He said He was.
He also said, “I am the light of the world” [John 8:12]. What an astonishing statement for just a mere man to say. What the sun is to this earth, Christ said He was and is to the world. “I am the light of the world.” Is He? Is He? I have just returned as many of you know from an extensive five week mission preaching tour through East Africa. And as I journeyed from nation to nation and city to city and bush country to bush country and saw what the gospel of Christ is doing in East Africa today, I thought of that wondrous verse from the prophet, “The people who have sat in darkness have seen a great light: and to them who have sat in the valley of the shadow of death, to them, light has sprung up” [Isaiah 9:2]. The change is miraculous. It’s indescribable. Out of heathenism, paganism, sometimes cannibalism, into the glorious light of the knowledge of the grace of the Son of God; “I am the light of the world” [John 8:12]. He said. We have volumes, we could speak of it, describe it, things that we have seen with our own eyes.
He said, “I am the resurrection, and the life: and he that believeth in Me shall never die” [John 11:25]. No man in the earth ever approximated a statement like that. No wonder when the people heard Him they said, “Never a man spake like that Man” [John 7:46]; no philosopher, no poet, no literary genius, no man of magnitude, no one in statecraft, no one who ever spoke ever said anything like that. “I am the resurrection, and the life” [John 11:25].
All of the nations of history have cringed before the appalling presence of death. The ancient Greek looked into that dark, misty beyond; and the most he could discern was the River Styx. Even the ancient Hebrew looked into that dark valley and called it a sheol, a name for a cave; the shadowy, indistinct figures beyond. But the Scriptures say of the Lord that “He brought life and immortality to light” [2 Timothy 1:10].
Those words, “I am the resurrection, and the life,” were spoken before the grave of Lazarus who had been dead four days, buried un-embalmed [John 11:25]. Even His sister cringed when He said, “We shall remove the stone.” And she said, “By now he is corrupted” [John 11:39]. But as the sign that He is what He said He was, “I am the resurrection, and the life,” after prayer He said, “Lazarus, come forth!” [John 11:41-43]. A wag asked the minister, “Why did He say that? ‘Lazarus, come forth.’” And the preacher replied, “Had the Lord not said, ‘Lazarus, come forth,’ the whole cemetery would have come forth to meet the Lord.” And as a sign that He is all that He said He was, Lazarus walked out of that grave [John 11:44], a type and a harbinger of our own resurrection from the dead, when the trumpet shall sound and the voice of God shall be heard, and we, who are buried in the heart of the earth or in the depths of the sea, shall rise to the sound of the voice of the Son of God [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17].
That’s why Paul can say, “O Grave, where is thy sting? And O Death, where is thy victory? Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” [1 Corinthians 15:55-57]. One of the marks of a Christian anywhere in the earth is how lovingly, and carefully, and tenderly he will lay aside his dead, because the resurrection of the dead is one of the great cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith. In the Roman Empire, they burned their dead. But the Roman Christians, even against the law, carefully and lovingly, tenderly and preciously, laid their beloved dead away. And they had to do it clandestinely in the, what you call, the catacombs of the city. The Greek word for “to sleep” is koimaō; and the Greek word for “sleeping place” is koimeterion. And when you take the word koimeterion and spell it out in English, it comes out “cemetery.” That’s a Christian word; it’s a sleeping place, where we lay our beloved dead away until God shall speak life and immortality and resurrection even to this fallen frame [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. We must hasten.
Not only speaking is He what He said He was, but can He do what He said He could? He said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” [John 2:19]. He was speaking, the Scriptures say, of the temple of His body [John 2:21]. Out of all the things the Lord said, His enemies remembered that first and foremost. At His trial they repeated it [Matthew 26:61]. There on the cross as He died they repeated it [Matthew 27:40; Mark 15:29]. And when He was laid in the tomb, they remembered it; the third day He was going to rise from the dead, and they put a great stone over the sepulcher, and they sealed it with the Roman seal [Matthew 27:62-66]. And I can imagine those guards who were sent there to guard the tomb must have scoffed and laughed at the thought, “Look at that mutilated body, buried and dead; look at that great stone, and who would dare break the seal, the aegis of the power of the Roman Empire?” But the Scriptures say that as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week that an angel came down from heaven and moved that stone, and in contempt sat upon it as though a stone could incarcerate the Son of God [Matthew 28:1-2]. And the Scriptures also say that the guards at the tomb, at the sepulcher, became as dead men for fear [Matthew 28:4]. Can He do what He said He could?
He said He could forgive sins [Mark 2:10-11]. Look around you. Look at ourselves; all of us sinners [Romans 3:23], some of us gross sinners. Last Sunday I shook hands with a man in our church. That man had been as vile, and as wicked, and as drunken, and as blasphemous as any man who ever walked the face of the earth; a vile, villainous, wicked, iniquitous man. Look at him today with a beautiful home, with precious children, with a godly family, and a pillar in the church. What Jesus is able to do. I must close.
He said that he came to give us life, and that more abundantly [John 10:10]. Can He? Does He? The Lord said, “Whosoever drinks of the water of the world, of this life, shall thirst again” [John 4:13]. There’s a sterile emptiness in the rewards of this world that is oppressive. Lord Byron, the famous, gifted English poet, was born a nobleman. He was rich, and he was pampered all the days of his life. Do you remember his poem entitled “Upon Coming to My Thirty-Sixth Birthday”? He died a few months afterward. The poem starts off like this:
My days are in the yellow leaf,
The flowering fruits of love are gone
The worm, the canker, and the grief
Are mine alone…
Rich, famous, gifted, pampered, petted, loved, adored, thirty-six years of age.
Robert Burns lived a desolate life; gave himself to carnality and lust. Bobby Burns wrote:
Pleasures are like poppies spread,
You seize the flower, the bloom is shed;
Or as the snow falls on the river,
A moment white—then gone forever;
Or like the borealis race,
That flit ere you could point their place;
Or like the rainbow’s lovely form
Evanishing amid the storm.
[from “Tam O’Shanter,” Robert Burns]
The emptiness of the pleasures of the rewards of this life.
But He said, “I am come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly” [John 10:10]. Does He give it to us? I think of the missionary on a foreign field; I think of the martyr burned at the stake, yet victorious and happy in Him. If money is my life, to be poor is to be miserable. If success is my life, to fail is to be miserable. If pleasure is my life, to be satiated is to be miserable. If health is my life, to be sick is to be miserable. If liberty is my life, to be imprisoned is to be miserable. If power is my life, to be weak is to be miserable. If popularity is my life, to be passed by is to be miserable. If fame and fortune is my life, to be unknown is to be miserable. But if Christ is my life, whether I am poor, or sick, or imprisoned, or despised, or outcast, or forgotten, is yet to be happy in Him.
I entered once a home of care,
And penury and want were there,
But joy and peace withal;
I asked the aged mother whence
Her helpless widowhood’s defense;
She answered, “Christ is all.”
I saw the martyr at the stake,
The flames could not his courage shake,
Nor death his soul appall;
I asked him whence his strength was giv’n;
He looked triumphantly to Heaven,
And answered, “Christ is all.”
I stood beside the dying bed,
Where lay a child with aching head,
Waiting Jesus’ call;
I saw him smile, ‘twas sweet as May;
And as his spirit passed away
He whispered, “Christ is all.”
I dreamed that hoary time had fled,
The earth and sea gave up their dead,
A fire dissolved this ball;
I saw the church’s ransomed throng,
I caught the burden of their song,
‘twas this: That Christ is all in all in all.
[“Christ is All,” W. A. Williams, 1989]
Everything He said He was, able to do all He said He could, and still eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, nor hath entered into the heart of a man what God is able to do for us [1 Corinthians 2:9].
And our Lord, in that sublime assurance, may we live in the love and faith of our Savior all the days of our life. In His dear name, amen.
WE BELIEVE IN CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Those at the crucifixion mocked Jesus and what He had claimed(Matthew 14:61-62, 27:39-40, 44)
B. Are these things that He said true?II. Is He what He said He was?
A. He is the Son of God(Matthew 27:43)
1. Virgin birth – would you believe her?
a. Yes, ifâ€¦
2. Napoleon’s answer for getting people to believe
B. He is the Light of the world(John 8:12)
1. Preaching tour through East Africa (Isaiah 9:2)
C. He is the resurrection and the life(John 11:25-26, 7:46)
1. All the nations of history have cringed before death(2 Timothy 1:10)
2. The raising of Lazarus a harbinger of our own resurrection (John 11:39, 43, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
3. Jesus took sting out of death and victory from the grave(1 Corinthians 15:55-57, John 14:2-3)III. Can He do what He said He could?
A. Destroy this temple and in three days raise it up(John 2:19, 21, Matthew 26:6, 59-61, 27:40, 62-66, 28:1-2, 4, Mark 15:29)
B. He forgives sins(Matthew 9:2-7, Luke 5:19-25, Mark 2:10-11)
C. He gives us abundant, overflowing life(John 10:10)
1. The sterile emptiness in the rewards of this world (John 4:13)
2. We cannot imagine what God is able to do for us (1 Corinthians 2:9)