The Wondrous Claim
April 16th, 1972 @ 7:30 PM
THE WONDROUS CLAIM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-16-72 7:30 p.m.
On the radio of the city of Dallas you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Wondrous Claim. In your Bible, will you turn to the fourteenth chapter of John, John chapter 14? We have been preaching through the life of Christ in the Gospel of John, and we shall read together verses 7 through 14. And on the radio, wherever you are, if you have opportunity to get your Bible, get your Bible. Open it to John 14 and read out loud with us. John 14, beginning at verse 7 and reading through verse 14. All of us out loud together:
If ye had known Me, ye should have known My Father also: and from henceforth ye know Him, and have seen Him.
Philip saith unto Him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.
Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip? he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, show us the Father?
Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of Myself: but the Father that dwelleth in Me, He doeth the works.
Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me: or else believe Me for the very works’ sake.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto My Father.
And whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
If ye shall ask any thing in My name, I will do it.
And the text, John 14:9, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father”; that is the wondrous claim. And it is a stupendous thing, a man, a man to say, “He that looks at Me looks at God. And if you have seen Me, you have seen God. For I and God the Father are one” [John 10:30]. Who is Christ? Who is this Man? And how could a man say a thing like that? “He that hath seen Me hath seen God!” [John 14:9].
In the first centuries of this Christian era, all the civilized world was thrown into turmoil over those Christological controversies. They were almost universal debates concerning the nature, the humanity, and the deity of Christ. It tore the Roman Empire apart, and it racked the churches.
The Arian controversy was about the person of Christ. The Nestorian controversy was about the person of Christ. The Monophystic controversy was about the person of Christ. The Eutychian controversy was about the person of Christ. The Sabellian controversy was about the person of Christ. All of those controversies concerned the nature of our Lord: who is He?
Today, the theological world, almost without exception, has come to the conclusion that our Lord was a mere man; He is not deity, He is not God. One of the great theologians of our modern era is the Swiss scholar [Paul Wilhelm] Schmiedel. And Schmiedel lists several things that he says proves that Jesus is a man, a mere man, a human man and not God.
One of the things that he chooses is His refusal to be called “good.” When the rich young ruler knelt down before Him, he said, “Good Master, agathē didaskalē, Good Teacher” [Luke 18:18], and the Lord corrected him saying, “There is none good, but one, and that is God” [Luke 18:19]. And Schmiedel takes that as one of his arguments that Jesus was a mere man and not God. Another one he chose was that the Lord said, “Blasphemy against the Son will be forgiven; but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven” [Matthew 12:31-32]. And he argues from that that Jesus considered Himself something less than the Spirit of God.
A third thing, Schmiedel says that the Lord Jesus confessed that He was ignorant of the day when He would return. God the Father knows it, but He does not know it [Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:32]. And the theologian argues therefore Christ was a man and not God. He was ignorant of something that God knows. Then Schmiedel spoke again saying that the cry of destitution of Christ from the cross [Matthew 27:46] was the sign of His humanity and His circumscription.
Then he quoted, saying that His refusal to do miracles before Herod Antipas was the sign that He wasn’t able to do it [Luke 23:8-9]. And then he spoke of the inability of our Lord to do miracles at Nazareth because of their unbelief [Matthew 13:58]. These are some of the things that that theologian, speaking for the modern world, saying that Christ is not God but man and man alone; Unitarian, Socinian, modern, academic.
Well, we must take into consideration all of these things that Schmiedel has said; but let’s add to them. There are many other things we can also avow in the life of Christ His humanity is demonstrated in. He was born a baby, as any other baby is born [Matthew 1:20-25; Luke 2:7-16]; and He grew up in childhood and youth to manhood. He was a child as any other child. He came to be a man as any other youth becomes a man. He was a human being, that’s right. That’s right.
Not only that, let’s add to what Schmiedel says. He was a working man. When He was growing up He was known as the carpenter’s son [Matthew 13:55]. And when He reached manhood He worked with His hands. He was a carpenter [Mark 6:3]. He was a day laborer. His hands were rough and I suppose gnarled by heavy manual tasks. He was a man. That’s right.
Let’s add to what Schmiedel says. He also suffered pain, and He knew hunger [Matthew 21:18; Luke 4:2], and weariness [John 4:6]. He was a man as any other man. Again, when He was wounded, He bled [John 19:34]. And He died like any other man dies [Matthew 27:46-50; Luke 23:43-46]. All of these things can be added to what Schmiedel says: Christ was not a god walking around pretending to be a man. He was a man, a human being as all the rest of us are people, human beings.
But there are some things about Christ that set Him apart. He is unlike, He is different. He is the great unique. May I point out some of those things tonight? And these things that I say are demonstrable. They are empirical. They are pragmatic. They can be demonstrated in human experience, these wondrous claims of our Lord.
First: He claimed sinless perfection, that there was no blot or blemish in His life. He one time challenged His critics, “Who convicts Me of sin?” [John 8:46]. There was no stain in the life of our Lord, and it is not enough to say that He was a moral Shakespeare, or a Napoleon of holiness, or an ethical Socrates of the highest order. He was something above and beyond! His stainless, sinless manhood argues for a sinless childhood; and His sinless childhood argues for an immaculate and marvelous and incorruptible conception, unlike any other human being was the Lord Christ. When Pilate examined Him, he said, “I find in Him no fault at all” [John 18:38]. After two thousand years under the bright, brilliant burning light of criticism, we have looked at the life of our Lord for these centuries. And at the end of the centuries there has never been one like Him! He is different and apart, separate, and unique! [Hebrews 7:26].
I listened to a man one time describe a service of the great pastor of this church, Dr. George W. Truett, on a university campus in India. In those days, Dr. Truett was making a tour around the earth on a preaching mission, presenting the claims of Christ. Before he went to this university campus in India, he was told they are very rough on speakers. Sometimes they harass and heckle him. Sometimes, they say, they openly meet, stand up in a meeting and challenge the speaker.
So they said to Dr. Truett, “You be prepared for anything when you go before that university of Indian students.” So Dr. Truett appeared, and he presented Christ as only Dr. Truett could preach Jesus. And when he was done, Dr. Truett stood there behind the podium seeking to answer any question any student might ask. And after a long silence, when the preacher had finished, there was a Brahman who stood up, and looking at Dr. Truett said, “Sir, we find nothing wrong in the Christ that you preach.” This is the verdict of the ages. How much is wrong with the church? How much is wrong with the ministry? How much is wrong with the members? How much is wrong with the program; but there is nothing wrong in Him! The sinless purity, the stainless perfection of Christ sets Him apart as being different from all other men! A man, yes, Schmiedel, a man; but something more, and beyond, and beside.
All right, number two: a man, yes, but something more than a man; He not only claimed sinless perfection for Himself [John 8:46], but He claimed to forgive the sins of others. Did any man ever say that? Did any man ever make a claim like that, that he could forgive sins in others? [Mark 2:10] There was brought to Him borne of four, a man who was paralyzed. When he was let down before Jesus, the Lord said, “Son, thy sins be forgiven thee” [Mark 2:5]. And the scribes and the doctors of canon law who heard Him say that, said in their hearts, “He blasphemes. No one can forgive sins but God!” [Mark 2:6-7]. And the Lord knowing their thoughts said, “Which one is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up, take thy bed, and walk home?” [Mark 2:8-11]. To me, one would be as easy as the other. I cannot do that, nor is there any other man who can do that.
Those miracles that our Lord performed were great affirmations and confirmations of His deity, of His Godhood! And the Lord said, “Which is easier to say, to this man paralyzed all of his life, pick up your bed and go home, or, thy sins be forgiven thee?” [Mark 2:9]. Then, turning to the critics, He said, “That ye may know that the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins, I say, son stand up, walk home”; and that moment, he who was paralyzed stood up and walked home [Mark 2:10-12]. He is different. By fiat, by word of mouth, He could recreate a man’s life and forgive a man’s sin.
Is that verifiable, demonstrable in human experience? There is no one who is a Christian but has knelt down and prayed to Jesus and in His name that has been raised from his feet with the feeling and the knowledge that God in Christ has forgiven him. You have felt that. I have felt that. It’s one of the greatest religious experiences of human life. He has power to forgive sins [Ephesians 4:32]. Schmiedel, He is a man, yes, but He is different from any other man who ever lived. He is the great unique and alone! [John 14:9].
Third: without ostentation, just peremptorily, summarily, He spoke as though He were above the divine law of that Old Covenant. He would say, “Those of old time have said,” and then quote the law, “but I say unto you.” He would say, “Moses said unto you, but I say unto you” [Matthew 5:21-44], as though He were greater than the divine revelation in the divine law. Here is a man that speaks as though He could change, or alter, or add to, or take away from the law of Almighty God; but He did.
Now, let’s look at it in human experience. There was no time when our Lord said that but that each time it was a greater truth, and a greater revelation, and a more meaningful thing for human life! I take one example, the Lord said, “In the old covenant, in the old Mosaic legislation, it said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth; but I say unto you, Love your enemies, pray for them who despitefully use you, and persecute you, that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven” [Matthew 5:38, 44-45].
There is no instance in the life of our Lord, in His teaching, in the preaching, in the doctrine but that the old covenant is elevated! It is lifted upward, it is made more spiritual and more holy and more like God! He is a man, yes, but He is unique, and separate, and apart, and different! [John 14:9].
Fourth: “He said that all judgment is given unto Him” [John 5:22]; both in this life and in the life that is to come. It is the Christ who shall judge us. When we stand at the judgment bar someday, it will be at the bēma of Christ [2 Corinthians 5:10]. And our lives are judged according to His word, and His law, and His great holy righteousness. Is that demonstrable?
There’s no one, there’s no life but that knows and senses that what we do, if we have the blessing of Christ upon us, there is rest and peace in our hearts, in our consciences. But if we violate the law and will of Christ, there is turbulence, and trouble, and trial, and tribulation! That’s why it is so vital that what we do we ask His blessings upon us. He is the great Judge of all the earth and of the souls of men [2 Corinthians 5:22]. He is a man, yes; Schmiedel. He is a man, but He is more than a man! He is the Judge of all the souls of men who have ever lived.
Five: He said that His presence would be with us to the end of the age. “I will be with you alway, even to the consummation of the age” [Matthew 28:20]. And again, “I stand at the door and knock: if any one hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and sup with him, and he with Me” [Revelation 3:20]. The presence; is that demonstrable? Is that empirical? Is that pragmatic? Is that experiential? Is it?
There’s no one of us who has ever invited Christ into his heart but that knows the experience of the presence of Jesus in his life, all of us. Why, that’s the easiest thing to demonstrate that I know. Take any man, any man, any man, any man, come down here and kneel and pray to Him.
Socrates was the greatest of the Greeks. Just come down here, and bow, and pray to Socrates and see how you feel. Shakespeare, the myriad minded Shakespeare, the incomparable literary genius of all time; just come down here and pray to Shakespeare, see how you feel. Washington, the great founding father of the Revolution, of the freedom, and of the Constitution of America, a great man; come down here and kneel and pray to Washington, see how you feel. One of the greatest men of all time, both in his mind, and in his heart, and in his political genius, and in his statesmanship was Abraham Lincoln. Everything you will learn about Lincoln will make you admire him the more. He was a great man. Come down here and kneel and pray to Abraham Lincoln, and see how you feel. Possibly one of the greatest statesman and political geniuses of all human history lived in our day, Winston Churchill; come down here, and kneel, and pray to Winston Churchill and see how you feel.
I’m just saying His presence is empirical; it is demonstrable; it is experiential. Come down here, kneel by my side, and lift up your voice in prayer to the Lord Jesus and see how you feel. There is a living presence in Him, now, tomorrow, to the consummation of the age! He is a man, yes; but different, unique, over and beyond [John 14:9].
Six: He has the power over death and the grave. “I am the resurrection, and the life,” He said; no man ever said those words, but He did. “I am the resurrection, and the life” [John 11:25]. And to the sainted apostle John, prostrate before Him on the isle of Patmos, He said, “Do not be afraid, fear not; I am He that liveth, and was dead; and I am alive for evermore, and I, I have the keys of Death and of Hell!” [Revelation 1:17-18]. Oh! A man, but oh, over and beyond, the power latent in Him, the Godhead in Him, the deity of Him; speak a word to the wind and it ceases. Speak a word to the waves and they are calm [Luke 8:23-24]. Speak a word to the demons and they cower [Matthew 8:28-32]. Speak a word to the leper and he’s clean [Matthew 8:23-27; Mark 1:40-42]. Speak a word to the blind and he can see [Luke 18:40-42]. Speak a word to the dead and they live again [John 11:43-44].
And today, to us: “Fear not, do not be afraid; I have the keys of Death and of the Grave. Do not be afraid” [Revelation 1:17-18]. Is that also pragmatic? Is that empirical? Is that experiential? Is that demonstrable? My brother, I live in that kind of a world. This last week, one of our members was told by the physician that the case was terminal, cancer, and soon death. A friend came to me and said, “Would you go have a prayer? The death sentence is so heavy.” I made my way to the room, expecting the heavy heartedness that greets a word like that from the doctor. “You have incurable cancer, and just so long and you’ll die.”
What did I find? What did I hear? What did I see? As I spoke, as I visited, I found victory. There was quietness. There was confidence. There was assurance. There was Christ. There was heaven. There was glory. There was everything that’s marvelous in the Christian faith; absolutely unafraid, unmoved, just looking toward the glorious vistas of heaven. “Tomorrow, or the next day, or the next day, I’ll be in His presence, face to face with God in glory” [Revelation 22:3-4].
A man, yes, Schmiedel, He is a man. But He also is our Lord and our God! “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father” [John 14:9]. What is God like? That’s what He is like. Whatever Jesus is, God is. And the wondrous love and friendship of Christ is literally and demonstrably the love and friendship of God. Oh, what a blessedness, what an assurance, what a strength, what a comfort, what a help, what a presence, what a promise! O Lord, O Lord! No wonder the cry of Thomas, His doubting disciple, when he saw Him raised from the dead, “My Lord and my God!” [John 20:28]
May He be yours tonight. In a moment we sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing it you, you, coming in faith to Christ [Ephesians 2:8-9], in trust, in commitment, in assurance, coming to the Lord: “O God, here I am, here I come.” Do it now. Make that decision now. Come now. On the first note of that first stanza: “Here I am. Here I come.” In the balcony round, on this lower floor, you, down one of these stairways, into this aisle, here to the front: “Here I am, pastor. Here I come. I decide for Christ tonight. Here I am. Here I am.” Make the decision now, and when you stand up in a moment, stand up responding, coming down that aisle: “Here I am, here I come.” A family you, a couple you, or just you, on the first note of that first stanza, take that first step. It’s the most meaningful, significant step you’ll ever make in your life. It’s the greatest decision you could ever know, walking toward God with your hand in His, down through the avenue of the years that lie ahead. “I’m making the decision now, pastor, and I’m coming.” You, or a family, or a couple, as the Holy Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, come now. Do it now, make it tonight, while we stand and while we sing.