The Infallible Word of God
December 31st, 1972 @ 7:30 PM
2 Timothy 3:14-17
THE INFALLIBLE WORD OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Timothy 3:14–17
12-31-72 7:30 p.m.
And on the radio, if you are sharing with us this glorious service, turn to the Book of 2 Timothy and read it out loud with us. We shall begin at verse 14 in the third chapter and read through verse 5 in the fourth chapter. Now let us all read it out loud together, beginning in the fourteenth verse of the third chapter. And then when we get to the fourth chapter, why, I will remind you that we will close at the fifth verse of the next one. Now let us all read it together:
But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;
And that from a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
[2 Timothy 3:14-17]
Now the fifth verse, down to the fifth verse in chapter 4:
I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom;
Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.
[2 Timothy 4:1-5]
And the background words, “All Scripture, all of it, is given by inspiration of God” [2 Timothy 3:16]; all, panta, all of it, from the beginning to the end of it, from the first verse in Genesis to the last benedictory verse in the Apocalypse, all of it is theopneustos, God-breathed, all of it. These liberals say that the Scriptures are inspired in spots, and they are inspired to pick out the spots. The Scriptures say all of it is God-breathed. “I charge thee therefore,” what does that “therefore” refer to? To what the apostle has just avowed: that all the Scripture is given by inspiration of God. “I charge thee therefore” [2 Timothy 4:1]. Isn’t it a shame that there’s a chapter division there, because it separates it in our minds when we look at it? “I charge thee therefore,” on the basis that all of the Bible is the inspired Word of God, “I charge thee therefore,” then he solemnizes the adjuration, “before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom; Preach the Word” [2 Timothy 4:1-2].
Why that serious, solemn admonition and adjuration? Because Paul knew there would be a temptation—and a constant one—in the ministry not to preach the Bible, not to preach the Word. “I charge thee therefore before God and the Lord Jesus, preach the Book!” When you go to church, that’s what God’s man is supposed to do: he’s to preach the Word of God! Now this message tonight concerns: can I do that intellectually, honestly? Can I? Can I keep in my mind my sound-based reason and at the same time preach all of these things that are in the Bible? Can I? Can I be academically, scholastically, intellectually honest and preach the Book? Can I? This is the message tonight: the God-breathed Word.
There has never been any generation or any century in the story of mankind that has not seen its vicious attacks against the inspiration of this Holy Book. Possibly the most astute and the most learned and the most intellectual was by a man named Porphyry in 200 AD. There lived in Alexandria a great, famous, marvelous, gifted, learned Greek philosopher by the name of Plotinus; and he was the father and the greatest leader of neoplatonic philosophy, which was the last development of Hellenistic philosophy. Plotinus had a brilliant pupil by the name of Porphyry. And in about 200 AD, Plotinus and his brilliant, scholastic pupil Porphyry saw that the greatest threat to Hellenistic philosophy and to neoplatonism was this new religion called Christianity. So Porphyry took upon himself to mount an attack against the Christian religion, and he did it in fifteen books. Porphyry, the brilliant neoplatonist philosopher, wrote fifteen books against the Christian religion.
What was the basis of his attack? How did he do it? Porphyry noticed something: when he went to the Christian service and when he listened to the Christian preacher, he noticed that the Christian preacher had a Book in his hand. And what he preached he based on the authority of that Book. As you’ve heard me explain many times here in classes in our church, that’s where the Book came from as you look at it, called a codex. All of the books, until the Christian preachers came along, were scrolls, and as a man read he turned the scroll and unwound it, and wound it. But the Christian preacher, proving that Jesus is the Christ and using the Bible for his authority, the Christian preacher had to turn to a passage immediately. So what he did was to take the scroll and to cut it up, cut it up. And he put the back of it together like that, so that he could immediately turn to the passage in the Bible, proving the truth of the holy Son of God. And it was called a codex; you call it a book. That’s where a book came from: from the preacher standing up and using the Bible as the great basis and authority for the message that he delivered. So when Porphyry listened to the Christian preacher, he noticed that he based his truth and his revelation and his message on a book. So Porphyry was wise enough to see that if he could undermine the Book, if he could destroy the authority upon which the Christian preacher stood, he could destroy the preacher, the preacher’s message, and the Christian religion. So Porphyry made the brunt and the heart of his attack against the Bible!
So effective were these fifteen books of Porphyry that Eusebius of Caesarea, the great historian of the early Christian faith, felt called upon to answer Porphyry; and Methodius, the brilliant bishop of the Greek Catholic church, answered Porphyry. And so marvelous were those books in ingenuity and in brilliance of attack, that Emperor Theodosius II, in 335 AD, had them found and spirited out in the Roman Empire, and burned publicly.
You know, Porphyry was correct: if you can destroy the basis and the authority of the Christian religion, you can destroy the religion itself. That’s what Satan has always thought and said and done. Satan is a subtle beast, the most subtle beast of the field. And in the beginning, the first attack of Satan was against the word of God: “Yea, did God say?” question mark [Genesis 3:1], doubting the inspiration of the word of God.
And that is the basis and the center of the attack against the Christian faith and the Christian religion itself today; only today you don’t find it in an infidel, and you don’t find it in an agnostic, and you don’t find it in a Christ-rejector. Today, that attack against the Word of God has been mounted in the pulpit, and in the seminary, and in the academic school itself. The greatest enemy to the inspiration of the Word of God is found in the circle of the Christian church itself! That is one of the greatest tragedies of all time! And these are the things that the Christian liberal says today, who rejects and denies the inspiration of the Word of God. He says: “You had might as well preach Jason and the Golden Fleece as to preach Adam and Eve and the garden of Eden. You had might as well preach Hercules and the twelve great labors, as to preach about Moses and the twelve tribes of Israel. You had as well preach Agamemnon and Achilles and the Trojan War, as to preach Joshua and the conquest of Canaan. You had as well preach Aesop’s golden fables as to preach the Bible and the miracles and the supernatural thereof.” That’s what the liberal in the Christian church is saying today.
Now when you talk to them, they will say to you, “Why, I cannot believe in the inspiration of the Word of God, because it is full of historical and scientific errors.” Well, let’s look at that for a minute: first, the historical errors. They have conjured up a multitude, I mean a multitude of so-called historical errors that they have found in the Word of God. But did you know, the archaeologist has been digging in the earth for hundreds and hundreds of years, and there has never yet—there has never yet been one spade turned by the archaeologist that has ever denied the facts that are presented in this Holy Bible! That itself is a miracle. Why, it hasn’t been long when these Christ-rejectors, and these skeptics, and unbelievers, and these deniers of the inspiration of God’s Book, it hasn’t been long since they said, “The Bible is incorrect because it says Moses wrote; and there wasn’t writing in the days of Moses.” But as the archaeologist has dug and dug and dug, we have now found that writing was known to the humankind thousands of years before the days of Moses.
It hasn’t been long when these skeptics said, “There never lived anything like a Hittite, and the Bible is full of references to Hittites. There never lived anything like a Hittite.” And now we know that there was a great Hittite empire, with its capital in Asia Minor, and it covered all of the Levant. It hasn’t been long since the skeptics scoffed at such a creature as Belshazzar in the Book of Daniel. And now, digging down in the ruins of Babylon, we could write a veritable biography about Belshazzar.
Why, it hasn’t been long since the skeptic said that the Gospel of John couldn’t be written by the disciple of the Lord because the theology exhibited in the Fourth Gospel would take two hundred fifty years after Christ to develop. And then while they were saying it, they dug down in the hermetically sealed sands of Egypt and found a papyrus that quoted the Gospel of John that must have been written in about 95 or 98 AD, right in the days when John composed the Gospel. There has never been a spade of dirt turned by the archaeologist but that has confirmed the historicity and the truth of the Word of God!
Now let’s look at some of these “scientific errors” they say are in the Bible. The only thing we have to remember about that kind of an objection is you have to be mighty sure about your scientific facts, and you have to be very sure about your scriptural facts. Now I have a quotation from an eminent theologian: he is apologizing for the Bible and here is what he says, quote, “Of course there are scientific errors in the Bible. However, we can excuse such mistakes on the ground that the Bible is not a textbook of science, and therefore we do not expect it to be scientifically accurate.” My brother, if that is correct, if the Bible is full of scientific inaccuracies, then it is not the Word of God; because God knows all about these scientific things. He created them in the beginning. And if the Bible is full of scientific inaccuracies, then it’s the speculations of men, and it is not the Word of God. It is that plain and simple to me.
Now I say, before we pass judgment upon the Holy Scriptures and say it is full of scientific errors, let’s be sure about our scriptural facts and let’s be sure about our scientific facts. Now these scriptural facts—oh, how people think and say! There was a famous lecturer and theologian who went all up and down this country. And when he’d go to a place, he’d advertise in the paper, just to get people interested in what he’s doing. And he put in the paper, “I’ll give anybody a thousand dollars who can show me a scientific error in the Bible.” Well, upon a day, he got a letter from a woman in Michigan, and she said:
I claim the thousand dollars because we have discovered a scientific error in the Bible. It has been scientifically proved that apples will not grow in the Mesopotamian Valley. And we know that the garden of Eden was in the Mesopotamian Valley, because one of the rivers that ran through it is the Euphrates River. Now, it says in the Bible that Adam and Eve ate an apple. That is a scientific error, and I want the thousand dollars.
And so the man wrote back to the critter and said to her, he said, he said to her, “It doesn’t say in the Bible that Adam and Eve at an apple. That’s not in the Word of God.” There was a long delay and silence; and finally he heard from that female, and she said, “I cannot find it in the Bible where it says Adam and Eve ate an apple. But I know they did because my teacher in college said so.” Let’s be sure about our scriptural facts.
Second: let’s be mighty sure about our scientific facts. Science is like a chicken: it molts all the time; it changes every day. You can’t put your finger on it; about the time you think you’ve got it spotted, then it’s something elusive and something else. You know, I read one time that there are three and one-half miles of scientific textbooks in the library of the Louvre in Paris, France, that are obsolete! Three and one-half miles of shelves of them, why it’s unbelievable!
Did you know every generation has always persuaded itself that the Bible ought to be updated, and rewritten according to the latest scientific facts? What if that had been done in 1000 BC? What if that had been done in 500 BC? What if that had been done in 1 BC? What if that had been done in 500 AD or 1000 AD or 1500 AD? Had that been done, had the Bible been updated according to the latest scientific facts, it would be today a useless assembly of absurdities! But the Bible is above it and beyond it because it is theopneustos, God-breathed [2 Timothy 3:16]. And I want to demonstrate that.
The Bible was written by forty men over the span of about a thousand six hundred years. Think of that. These didn’t corroborate with these, or in collusion with these; these men lived over a span of sixteen centuries, and they were forty different in their number. And yet the Book they wrote is one Book. Now the marvel of what they wrote is, these men lived in a background of unbelievable superstition and the weirdest ideas and persuasions in their culture. So naturally—wouldn’t you think naturally? Naturally, when I pick up the Bible and I read about these men and what they wrote, I would expect to find some reflection of the weird ideas in which they were introduced, and under which they lived, and that they’d been taught all of their lives.
For example, it says that Moses was learned in all the arts and science and wisdom of the Egyptians [Acts 7:22]. Now these archaeologists have been digging down there in the hermetically sealed sands of Egypt, and they have uncovered the very textbooks that Moses studied. And we can read them today! Now the Egyptians had a cosmogony of doctrine, of science, of study, of the origination of the world. And this is the textbook that Moses studied: it says that in the beginning there was an egg, and it flew around and around and around and around. And when the process of mitosis was complete, the world hatched out of that flying egg. Well, that was the way Moses was taught. So I turn in the Bible to read about that flying ovoid, but instead I read the ten sublimest words in the English language: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” [Genesis 1:1]. There is nothing of the weird and the superstitious reflected in the Word of God, whatever the background of these men. It’s a miracle! How does a man write and not reflect the life in which he lives? These men did.
Take again, much of the Bible was written against the Chaldean culture and the Babylonian historical background. Well, these archaeologists have dug up all of those textbooks that were studied and taught by the Babylonians who excelled in science and wisdom; the Chaldees were known for their marvelous insights. So we read about their cosmogony and their anthropology, and this is what the Babylonians said: they said that way back there were two great giants. One was named Marduk, and he was a good god; and one was named Tiamat, and he was a chaos monster. And Marduk and Tiamat fought and fought, and Marduk the good giant was victorious. And their latest cosmogony said—now this is the Babylonian system of science—their cosmogony said that Marduk flattened out the body of Tiamat, and that became the earth. And then this is their anthropology and the Babylonian science, those latest, finest textbooks written by the Chaldees: it said, “And Marduk spit and where he spat men sprang up; and the men spit, and where they spat women sprang up; and the women spit, and where the women spat animals sprang up.” When I read that, I thought of that old gag: a sign in a warehouse, “Don’t smoke, remember the Chicago fire”; and a wag wrote underneath, “Don’t spit, remember the Johnstown flood.”
There is nothing of the weird and the outlandish and the superstition in the Word of God. It is theopneustos; it is “God inspired” [2 Timothy 3:16]. Now if we had hours—and we may take them tonight—we could speak of the marvelous, unbelievable scientific accuracy of the Bible.
For example, in the twenty-sixth chapter of the gospel of Job, there the word says, “God hung the world on nothing” [Job 26:7]. Now you think of that. It was untold centuries after that was written in the Old Testament that men came to see that the world was held in a great unseen hand that we call gravity, because we don’t know what else to call it, that swings around that central sun orb. But in the twenty-sixth chapter of Job, the Word of God says that the Lord hung the world on nothing! [Job 26:7]. Now when that was written, everybody in this earth believed that there was something solid and substantial that held up this world; all the world believed that. The Egyptians believed it was held up by five great pillars: one at each corner, and one in the middle. Now I submit to you, you could crawl to the edge of the world and verify that one at each corner; but I tell you it was sheer speculation to speak about that one in the middle underneath there. But that’s what the Egyptians believed; that the world was sustained by five great pillars.
And the Greeks—for the Greeks were the most academically advanced of any race that ever lived—what did they believe? Any schoolboy could tell you: the Greeks believed that the world was held up on the back of a great giant named Atlas. Atlas held up the earth. But the Hindus had the best theory of all: they said that the world rested on the back of a giant elephant that stood on the back of a giant turtle that was swimming in a cosmic sea; and when the turtle shifted his weight and the elephant was unbalanced it shook the world, and that’s where earthquakes came from. That’s pretty good theory, it’s a pretty good theory—that was the latest science. But in the Bible it says God hung the world on nothing! [Job 26:7]. Think of that.
Take another example: in the fortieth chapter of Isaiah, it speaks of the Lord God seated above the circle of the earth, above the circle of the earth [Isaiah 40:22]. Now any schoolboy can tell you that it was centuries and centuries—because that was written in 750 BC, it was centuries, and centuries, and centuries, and centuries before men came to know that the earth was round and not square or flat. Yet there by inspiration Isaiah speaks of the Lord God who sits above the circle of the earth.
Did you read in the paper, about two days ago, they are looking at these scientific samples that are brought back from the moon? They’ve been looking at those samples I don’t know how long. And they’re saying interesting things about them. I want you to look at some of the things they are saying about them. One: what amazed the first astronauts when they went up there on the moon was that that moon dust is little tiny, tiny globules of glass, and that the rocks are splattered with glass. And about two days ago, [there] came out a big headline in paper, that orange stuff that they see in the moon, and they scraped up a little of it and brought it back, that orange stuff is silky glass, little tiny droplets of glass. Another thing these scientists have discovered in looking at those moon samples: it’s full of titanium, full of titanium. Another thing that they already guessed at: there’s no atmosphere there, and no vegetation there. And another thing that was already known: it’s highly irregular; the moon’s surface is full of irregularities.
Now you look at that: the earth standing below the moon, seeing that orb up there in the sky, what that thing is up there, glass beads, and the rocks covered with glass. Why, if you have a screen at home and you are showing home movies, you look at that screen: it’s got little tiny glass beads on it for reflection. Titanium: titanium is an element. It is a mineral that will reflect light better than a diamond! There’s no atmosphere to becloud the glory of its shining. And it is irregular in its surface, like the headlight on your automobile; it is channeled glass in order to make it reflect better. In other words, the Bible is correct when it says that the moon is nothing but one great, big, vast, giant, luminary reflector! [Isaiah 30:26]. That’s what the Book says. And did you know, if the American government had asked me about it before they sent out the Apollo…had they asked me, I could have saved the American taxpayer six billion dollars! Just like the Book says.
There’s not anything that a scientist will ever discover, there’s not anything that an archaeologist will ever uncover, there’s not anything that a historian will ever read that will ever contradict the Word of God; because the Lord that wrote it knew all of these things from the beginning, and each syllable and each sentence and each word in this Book is theopneustos, it is God-breathed [2 Timothy 3:16].
Now, I am the first to admit that it is not a book of history as such; it wasn’t written for that. It is not a book of science as such; it wasn’t written for that. It’s not a book of chemistry or physics or anthropology or cosmogony as such; it wasn’t written for that. The Bible is a Book of redemption; and it was written to save our souls, that we might know God, and that we might see His face and live some glorious and ultimate day, and that we might be happy and magnify His name in the days of our life in the earth. The Bible is given to us that we might come to know the living Lord and the glorious Savior. And in that it does its work gloriously, unbelievably preciously.
Look: in one of my little churches, long time ago, in one of my little churches I had a deacon named Ed Davidson. He was a farmer, a fine farmer. And upon a day, a man put a little Bible in his hand, put a little Bible in his hand. And he looked at it, and he couldn’t read a word of it. He found out that it was written in Spanish; it was a Spanish Bible. Now on his farm, down there in a little house down the road, on his farm was a Mexican family. And Brother Ed decided he’d go down there and put that Book in their hands. Bless the Lord! It wasn’t long until the family came a-knocking at the door, and said, “We’ve been reading the Book. And we’ve accepted Jesus as our Savior. And we want to know if your pastor will baptize us. We have found the Lord.” And I baptized them, the whole tribe of them.
And did you know, upon a time when I went out to my little church to preach, the people in the community said, “The Martinez family’s house burned down. It’s all burned up, and they are out here in a shack somewhere, and we’re taking care of them. And we thought maybe you’d like to go and have a prayer with them.” I said, “Let’s get in the car and go.” So we went down the road to the little place where the Martinez family was housed, and I prayed with them. And did you know, when I went into the door, they said to me, “Pastor, our house is all burned, and our clothes are all gone, and everything we have has been burned by the fire. But we rescued one thing,” and they placed in my hand a Bible that was half burned. And they said, “We rescued the most precious possession. We dashed into the fire and we rescued God’s Book,” God’s Book. That’s why the Lord wrote it [2 Timothy 3:16]: that we might know Him.
Pretty soon, two Sundays from now, you’ll have Pat Zondervan here in the pulpit, and he represents the Gideons; and he puts a man, as you know, at each door with an open Bible. And we give them, they are a bunch of businessmen and they pay their own expenses, we give them money to buy Bibles to put in the school rooms, and to put in the hotel and motel rooms. Well, do you remember the last time Pat Zondervan was here? He held up a little New Testament about that big, and it had a bullet hole right through the middle of it. And he said that an American chaplain, in searching the body of an American boy who had been shot and killed in Vietnam, that the chaplain found this little Book right over his heart, stained with blood. And the chaplain had given the little Book to Pat Zondervan. And when Pat Zondervan came and sat down, I said to him, “Pat, if you don’t mind, would you put that little Book in my hand? I’d just like to hold it.” And he put it in my hand that big bullet right through the middle of it, stained with blood, the blood of that American boy. And I turned the pages of the little Testament, and there on the last page I read these words: “On this day, I, Wilton Thomas, take Jesus Christ as my personal Savior”; and he dated it and signed his name to it. That’s why the Book.
One of the most beautiful and effective of all of the stories to me in English literature is this: when Sir Walter Scott lay dying, he turned to his son-in-law Lockhart, and said, “Son, bring me the Book.” Sir Walter Scott had a large, vast library, and his son-in-law said, “Father, what book?” And the dying bard said, “Son, there’s just one Book, there is just one Book.” And Lockhart went into the library, and brought to Sir Walter Scott the Bible. And Sir Walter Scott died with that Holy Book in his hand.
‘There’s just one Book!’ cried the dying sage;
‘Read me the old, old story.’
And the winged words that can never age
Wafted his soul to glory.
There’s just one Book.
[author and work unknown]
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God. All Scripture is theopneustos, it is God-breathed . . . [2 Timothy 3:16]. I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and at His kingdom: Preach, kerussō, proclaim the word” [2 Timothy 4:1-2]. The Word is like Jesus Himself: the same yesterday, and today, and forever [Hebrews 13:8]. The word of God is as Christ described it: “Heaven and earth may pass away, but My words will never pass away” [Matthew 24:35]. The word of God may pass into proverbs, it may pass into law, it may pass into legislation, it may pass into culture, it may pass into life; but it will not pass away, for the word of God is like God Himself: today, yesterday, and forever the same. “For ever, O God, Thy word is fixed in heaven” [Psalm 119:89]. And when a man stands on the word of God, his feet are on the rock! He may tremble, but the rock on which he stands is never moved [Psalm 40:2; Matthew 7:24-25].
Now we’re going to stand in a moment and sing a hymn of invitation. And in this balcony round, on that last row and topmost seat, somebody you; on the lower floor, a family you, a couple you, just as the Spirit would make the appeal to your heart, giving your life in trust to Jesus, come now [Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8]. Putting your life in the circle and fellowship of this dear church, come now. Whatever the Spirit would press upon your heart, answer with your life now. Make the decision now. And in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up coming down one of those stairways or walking down one of these aisles. And God speed you and angels attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.