WE BELIEVE IN THE BIBLE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-25-70 12:00 p.m.
Now today…We Believe in the Bible. Revelation 19:11-13:
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.
John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The spoken Word, the written Word, and the incarnate Word, and all three of them are one. A man and his word may be two different things; but not God and His Word. The Word of God is like God Himself: the same yesterday, and today, and forever [Hebrews 13:8]; even as the psalmist wrote, “For ever, O God, Thy word is fixed in heaven” [Psalm 119:89].
I hold in my hand the world’s best seller. A new English translation has just come out from Rodney Saltill’s land of Oxford and Cambridge, published by both universities. And even now the bookstores in Dallas cannot keep it on the shelves for the great demand for the new translation. For generations it has been the world’s best seller; but the astonishing lack of knowledge of that Book is an appalling thing to me. It is nothing short of a wonder that it still survives.
There was a woman who went into a shop and asked for the printing of some little cards. And when she gave her address it was 1415 Pocahontas; and the clerk asked how she spelled Pocahontas. And she said, “Young man, I am surprised at your lack of biblical knowledge. Have you never read the beautiful story in the Bible of Pocahontas?” Dear me.
At a testimony meeting, an old woman rose up and said, “Brothers and sisters, I have rheumatiz in my shoulder, and I’ve got rheumatiz in my back, and I’ve got rheumatiz in my legs, and I’ve got rheumatiz in my hands; but I am upheld and encouraged by that beautiful biblical word, ‘grin and bear it.’”
I don’t suppose there is a story that I have heard more universally than the Sunday school teacher who was saying, “Dan, the city, is up there; and Beersheba, the city, is down here.” And one of them said, “Cities? I thought Dan and Beersheba were husband and wife, like Sodom and Gomorrah.”
Down here in one of these business offices they told me one of the men said to the other one, “You think you know so much about the Bible; I’ll bet you ten dollars you can’t repeat the Lord’s Prayer” [Matthew 6:9-13]. He said, “I’ll take the bet,” and started off, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep,” and went through it. And the other guy said, “Well, I didn’t know you knew it,” and gave him the ten dollars.
And no small part of the appalling and pathetic lack of knowledge of that Holy Book lies in the minister himself. The minister said to Mrs. Smith, “I’m afraid you forgot to tell your husband to be sure to be present this morning because I’m preaching on municipal problems.” And the wife said, “Oh, reverend, I did tell him. It was the last thing I said to him. But he told me he was going to stay at home and read the Bible.”
And that launches me into my first avowal. We are to preach the Word of God. Second Timothy 3:16-4:1: “All Scripture,” all of it, from the first letter to the last syllable, “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God,” all of it. These modern liberals say it is inspired in spots, and they’re inspired to pick out the spots. God says, “All Scripture,” all of it, the whole Bible, “is theopneusta, it is God-breathed, and is profitable for doctrine, for correction, for reproof, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect” [2 Timothy 3:16-17], may be mature, rising to the full stature of the expectation of God in him. “I charge thee therefore” [2 Timothy 4:1], what a shame there’s a chapter heading there, “I charge thee therefore”; the “therefore” refers to the avowal of the apostle, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” [2 Timothy 3:16].
“I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the world at His appearing and His kingdom; Preach the word” [2 Timothy 4:1-2]. The minister has one great primary assignment, and it is this: to preach the word of God [2 Timothy 4:2]. Does God say anything? Does God speak to us? If He does, what does God say? That is the assignment of the God-called preacher.
We are convicted by the word of God. Hebrews 4:12-13:
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart…
For all things are opened and naked before Him with whom we have to do.
We are born again, we are saved by the word of God:
- 1 Peter 1:23-25: “Being born again…by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever…And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.”
- James 1:18: “Of His own will begat He us by the word of God.”
- John 15:3: “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.”
- Ephesians 5:26: “Now ye are sanctified, ye are cleansed with the washing of water, the laver of water, by the word.”
We are kept from sin by the word of God. Psalm 119:11: “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against God.”
We are to walk by the word of God. Psalm 119:105: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”
We are to live by the word of God. Matthew 4:4: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”
We are to die by the word of God. Revelation 3:10: “Because thou hast kept My word, I also will keep thee in the hour of trial that shall come over the whole earth.”
Down from New York City came a man who married one of the dear Christian women in our church. He had been a godless reprobate; but he was wonderfully saved. And seemingly in an attempt to redeem the time, he read his Bible day and night. When he’d shave he’d prop it up by the mirror, and as he’d shave he’d read the Bible. He took a little testament and put it in his pocket, in his pajamas, when he went to bed at night. He died suddenly of a heart attack. And when I conducted his memorial service, I looked down into his still and silent face, and there in the casket, his wife had placed that Holy Bible, holding it in his right hand, against his breast. And when the people passed by, they saw that living testimony to the living and quickening Word in the hand of a man who had died in the faith, in the Lord, and in the assurance of that holy Word. We are to die by the comfort and assurance of the Word of God.
And our promise of heaven, our election, our assurance that someday we shall walk down those golden streets [Revelation 21:21], and mingle with God’s redeemed, is to be found in the immutable and unchanging and inerrant and infallible word of God [1 Peter 1:23].
I was converted when I was a little fellow about ten years of age. It was at a weekday service in a revival. The preacher stayed in our house. I grew up in a little, tiny town. And the services were held in a little white crackerbox of a church house. And the preacher, the evangelist, stayed in our house. And in the evening when we’d go to church and come back, my mother would always prepare for him a glass of buttermilk. And he would sit at the kitchen table and drink that buttermilk, and talk to me about the Lord. At a weekday morning service, after he had preached, he gave an appeal; and I happened to be seated back of my mother. And she turned to me and crying said, “Son, today, will you take the Lord Jesus as your Savior?”
I replied, “Mother, today I will take the Lord Jesus as my Savior.” And I went down the aisle, couldn’t see the preacher for the tears in my eyes. That was my conversion.
When I began preaching, I was seventeen years old; and I preached for years out in the country, both here and in revival meetings especially in the Knob country in Kentucky. They’d have grove prayer meetings, and in those prayer meetings they’d testify of the grace of God that reached down to them, and their testimonies were astonishing for me to hear.
For example, one of the men said, “I mourned for years with a great burden of sin on my soul. And I was standing in such and such place, and there came a ball of fire down from heaven and burst over my head, and struck me blinded to the ground. And how long I lay in that estate I do not know; but when I awakened,” then he described the new world and the new life; how the mules looked with which he was plowing, how the birds sang, how the trees were foliated.
Oh, they were wonderful experiences! But listening to them I came to the conclusion that I’d never been saved; I wasn’t really born again, I hadn’t seen any ball of fire. I hadn’t seen a light from heaven, I hadn’t seen an angel. All I’d done was in that revival meeting I’d accepted the Lord as my Savior as a little boy. And that’s all the testimony I had. It plunged me for years into the most distressing spiritual experience I’ve ever lived through, because I was a young minister, and on Sunday I’d try to preach; and then every evening of the week I’d get down on my knees by my bed and cry to God, “Lord, I’m not saved, I’m not really born again, I am not a Christian. I’ve never seen a light, or an angel, or even a ball of fire.” And I used to plead with the Lord in those days, “Lord, give me a sign. Open up heaven. Lord, let me know that I have believed in Jesus, that my sins are forgiven, and that my name’s written in the Book of Life, that I’m a Christian.”
Well, in those days, of course, I read the Book, and I found where Satan deceives these on the earth by raining down from heaven fire; that’s in the thirteenth chapter of the Revelation [Revelation 13:13]. I read also in the Book, in the eleventh chapter of the second Corinthian letter, where Satan transforms himself into an angel of light to deceive the people in the earth [2 Corinthians 11:14]. Then I began by the Holy Spirit to be led to the greatest and most comforting assurance that I’ve ever known in my fifty years as a Christian. Someday—the sermon tomorrow—we shall all stand at the judgment bar of Almighty God [2 Timothy 4:1]. And when the saints are marching in and I assay to join their number, the Lord God stops me and says, “By what right and by what authority do you enter My beautiful city and walk on My golden streets?” [Revelation 21:21]. And I say, “Lord, I know I’m a Christian. I know I’ve been born again, because I saw a ball of fire burst over my head from heaven.”
And Satan’s laugh: “Oh, listen to him, he says he’s a Christian because he saw a ball of fire!” Then Satan says, “I sent that ball of fire just to deceive him. He belongs to me,” and he drags my soul down to hell.
What could I say, and what could I do? Or, when I stand at the great judgment bar of Almighty God [2 Timothy 4:1], and the saints are entering in, and I purpose to join their number and the Lord God says, “By what right and by what authority do you mingle with My redeemed?” And I say, “Lord, I know I’m a Christian. I’ve been saved; I’ve been born again. I saw an angel of light from heaven.”
And Satan laughs, “Ha, ha, ha, listen to him. He says he’s a Christian because he saw an angel of light. I transformed myself in that angel of light just to deceive him,” and he drags my soul into the abyss.
What could I say and what could I do? Someday, when we stand in the great assize [2 Timothy 4:1], and the saints are marching in, and the Lord God says to me, “By what right and by what authority do you mingle with My redeemed and walk on My golden streets?” You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to turn to the first chapter of John and the twelfth verse: “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But to as many as received Him, to them gave He the right, the prerogative, the power to become the children of God, even to them that trust in His name” [John 1:11-12].
“See, Lord, right there it is in the Book. And when I was a boy about ten years of age, we were in a revival meeting in our little church, and the evangelist stayed in our home. He loved to drink a glass of buttermilk before he went to bed in the evening. And as he drank that glass of buttermilk at the kitchen table he talked to me about the Lord. And on a weekday morning when he gave the appeal my mother asked me, ‘Son, today will you receive the Lord Jesus as your Savior?’ And I said, ‘Mother, today, I will.’ And I took You as my Savior, the best that a ten-year-old boy knew how to do it. And now, Lord, I don’t have any other appeal, I have no other recourse, I have no other refuge. I’m just depending upon God to keep His promise. For He said, ‘To them who trusted in Him he gave the right, the prerogative to become the children of God’ [John 1:12]. And Lord, it’s in your hands.”
Then I defy Satan to scorn, or to lie, or to mock, or to ridicule, or to interdict; for my salvation is not between me and Satan. I am not equal to the archangel Lucifer that fell from glory [Isaiah 14:12]. But my salvation is a matter now between God and the arch adversary and accuser. And I rest assured that God is able; He will prevail. “The flower may fade, and the grass may wither; but the word and promise of God shall stand for ever” [Isaiah 40:8]. Heaven and earth may pass away, but His word and His keeping promise will never pass away [Matthew 24:35]. The Word of God may pass into proverbs. It may pass into literature. It may pass into doctrine. It may pass into laws, but it will never pass away. And that is my assurance of salvation [Matthew 24:35]. I can awaken at two o’clock in the morning and turn to it, and there it is. It never changes. For the word of God is like God Himself: yesterday, and today, and forever, amen [Hebrews 13:8].