Pre Easter Sermon
Christ the Savior of the World
CHRIST, THE WORD OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-10-74 12:00 p.m.
The theme for this week in our pre-Easter services is "Christ, the Savior of the World." On Monday, Christ, the Power of God; yesterday, Christ, the Gift of God; tomorrow, Christ, the Way to God; and Friday, Christ, the Man of God. And the title of the message today is Christ, the Word of God. In the Revelation, chapter 19, verses 11 through 13:
And I beheld and lo 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. And he was dressed in a vesture dipped in blood: and His name is called The Word of God.
[from Revelation 19:11-13]
In John 1:1:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
– -pros ton theon, face to face with God –
and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.
Christ and His Word are identified. They are one: the spoken Word, the written Word, and the incarnate Word. To minimize the written Word is to debase the incarnate Word, but to glorify the written Word is to magnify the living Word.
A man and his word may be two different things, but not God and His Word. God’s Word is one, and God’s Word is like Himself: "The same yesterday, and today, and forever" [Hebrews 13:8]. As the psalmist avowed, "Forever, O God, Thy Word is written, is fixed, is set in heaven" [Psalm 119:89].
When we love the word, we love God. When we obey the Word, we obey God. When we follow the Word, we follow God. When we receive the Word, we receive God. Spiritually to know the Word is to know God, for God is identified with His Word, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" [John 1:1].
All things are upheld by the word of our Lord’s power: Hebrews 1:3, "upholding all things by the word of His power." If you have even a cursory introduction to astronomy, you cannot but be overwhelmed by the unseen, invisible hands that sustain and uphold this universe. The power, invisible, by the spoken word of God, the laws fiat, that control all of destiny of these swinging orbits is infinite, immeasurable, indescribable.
I was for a week in executive session with the Baptist World Alliance on the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia. And the tide there rises every day twenty feet. When it is out, the twenty feet elevation is way out, and when it comes in, the rising of the ocean is phenomenal. Think of the invisible hands that are able to move the great Atlantic ocean twenty feet higher and then move it out to the other side; the invisible power of just the moon.
I spent a long time one year in Panama Canal Zone. And there I witnessed the same thing, the great pulling of the entire Pacific ocean to a tide against the shores of Panama, nineteen and twenty feet high. And then when it ebbs, way, way out does the ocean go, a pulling by invisible hands, just from the moon itself.
And think of the swinging of these planets around the central sun. Even this little earth, ninety-three million miles in one way and then swinging all the way around to ninety-three million miles in the other way; and invisible hands each time seizing it and pulling it back in its orbit. What, where, how the infinite magnitude of that invisible power? Where does it come from? The Scriptures say from the fiat, the word of Almighty God, "upholding all things by His word" [Hebrews 1:3].
We are convicted by the Word of God. Hebrews 4:12 and 13, "For the word of God is quick," living:
For the word of God is livin, 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 the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.
[from Hebrews 4:12-13]
The piercing, thrusting, dividing, sword-like power, the convicting power of the Word of God. And we are saved, we are born again by the Word of God: 1 Peter 1:23, 25, "Born again,,by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you." James 1:18, "Of His own will begat He us by," through, with, "the word of God." John 15:3, "Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Ephesians 5:26, "We are sanctified, we are cleansed, by the washing of water by the word."
To me, that is the great explanation, interpretation, exegetical truth to be found in the third chapter of John, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" [John 3:5]. What is it for a man to be born of water? That is, except a man be born of the cleansing, of the sanctifying, of the laver, of the Word of God, he can never be saved.
When, in the Book of Acts, Saul of Tarsus met the sublime and exalted and iridescent Jesus on the road to Damascus he fell at His feet and said, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" And the Lord replied, "Go into Damascus, and there it shall be told thee what thou must do" [Acts 9:6].
Why didn’t Jesus tell him what to do? Because no man ever comes into the will of God for his life except through the mediation of another man, the delivered Word of God from human lips.
Take again. And the angel said to Cornelius at Caesarea, "Send down to Joppa for one Simon Peter who will come and tell thee words whereby thou and thy house may be saved" [Acts 10:5-6]. Why did not the angel tell him the words whereby he and his house might be saved? Because nobody ever comes into the knowledge of the truth of salvation except through the preaching of the Word of another man. That is why the burden and the responsibility of the salvation of the lost, the nations, the pagans, the heathen is always upon us.
"For whosoever," said the apostle Paul in the tenth chapter of Romans:
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. But how shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?
And how shall they preach, except they be sent?
A man is born again by the Word of God, and apart from that delivered word, no man is ever saved. No man ever enters into the kingdom of God.
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 Thee." 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." And 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."
There came to Dallas upon a day, a man who had for the years of his life been a director of Broadway plays in New York City, a very gifted man but a very worldly man. He married a woman who belonged to our church, and they came to Dallas to live. And while they were here she brought him to church, and in the grace of God and the regenerating presence of the Holy Spirit he found the Lord as his Savior. He was gloriously converted. I baptized him, and every time the church door was open there he was, listening and rejoicing in the gospel of the grace of our Savior.
To my great sorrow, after the passing of, say, a year or a year and a half he died of a heart attack. And when I went to the funeral home to conduct those last memorial services I looked down in the casket, standing there by the side of his wife, and on his breast in his right hand he was holding a Bible. I said to his wife, "I’ve never seen that before but it moves my heart. I said, "Why did you do it?" And she replied, "When he was saved he read the Bible day and night. When he’d shave he’d prop it up by the mirror. When he’d go to bed he’d carry it with him to bed. When he went in the car it was always there by his side. When he ate at the table it was always by the plate." And she said, "When the funeral director had prepared his body and placed it just so in the casket, the hand seemed so empty that I had so often seen holding the Word of God. So," she said, "I went to the room and got his Bible, and I slipped it in his hand as a last testimony to the goodness of the grace of God that had so miraculously saved him from death." What a beautiful thing! We are to die by the Word of God.
And we are to preach the word of God: 2 Timothy, chapter 3, verse  through 2 Timothy chapter 4, verse 2, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God," theopneustos, God-breathed, all of it from the beginning to the end of it, all of it and all the way through. "I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at His coming and His kingdom; preach the word" [2 Timothy 4:1-2].
This is the great assignment of the pastor, of the evangelist, of the emissary and ambassador of heaven; to declare, to make known the Word of God. He’s to stand in the pulpit, not with a "thus saith Einstein," or a "thus saith Rabbi Smellfungus," or "thus saith Professor Dry-as-dust," or "thus saith Teacher Sounding Brass," or thus saith anybody else in the earth. But the preacher is to stand upon the immovable, impregnable rock of the revelation of God and to say, "Thus saith the Lord." That is his great calling and his great assignment.
And last: we are promised in our assurance of our salvation in heaven, in glory, by the Word of God. John 5:24:
Verily, verily I say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life,
and shall not come into condemnation, into judgment; but is passed out of death into life.
For the first ten years of my pastoral ministry, I lived and preached out in the country and in small villages. And always we would have tremendous revival meetings in those villages or wide open country places, sometimes under tabernacles and arbors. We also had in those days what they called grove prayer meetings, grove prayer meetings. The men would go under a grove of trees, under the shade of a tree, and the women would go to a shade of a tree, under a grove of trees, and there they would have pre-services before the services, under the tabernacle or under the arbor.
And in those grove prayer services, they would also have testimonies, and I listened for many, many times. I listened to the marvelous experiences of conversion of those people who would testify in those grove prayer meetings. They were miraculous.
For example, one of the men described a spot that he said, "Right there I was standing, having been under the burden of my sins for years and years, and there came a great ball of fire from heaven that burst over my head and struck me to the ground. How long I lay in that estate I do not know. But when I awakened and stood to my feet, the burden of my sin was gone." And then he described how the birds sang, and how the trees looked, and how the mules with which he was plowing, how they had reshaped themselves into other celestial animals, and ah! It was marvelous to behold and to hear.
After I had listened to those testimonies for many times, I came to the conclusion that I was not saved, I hadn’t found the Lord. I hadn’t been regenerated, I hadn’t been converted, I wasn’t born again, for I had no such experience to relate. I never saw a light from heaven. I never saw an angel. I never heard a voice, and I concluded I was not a Christian. So, for years, for years I lived in that agony of life. On Sunday preaching at my little church and then every night getting down by the bedside and crying to God saying, "Lord, I’m not really saved. I’m not really born again. I’m not really a Christian. I haven’t seen a light. I haven’t looked upon the face of an angel. I haven’t heard a voice from heaven. O God, give me a sign that I am born again, that I am regenerated."
While that went on, of course, I studied and read the Bible. And as the years passed, there was solidified in my mind a certain theme – foundational, primary, everlasting – that is the comfort of my soul and the assurance of my life and my salvation. Someday we shall stand in the presence of Almighty God, and I shall be there too. And when I see the saints of the Lord go marching in, the Lord stops me and says, "By what right and by what prerogative do you enter My beautiful city and walk on My golden streets?" And I reply, "Lord, I know that I have been saved. I’ve been born again. I’m a Christian because I saw an angel from heaven." And Satan laughs. "Ha, ha, ha! He saw an angel from heaven? I was that angel, and I appeared to him just to deceive him!" And Satan drags my soul down to hell; what could I do? Because in the eleventh chapter of the second Corinthian letter, it says that Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light; what could I do?
Or when that great assize comes and I stand in the presence of Almighty God, and the saints are marching in, and I deign to follow and mingle in their number, and the Lord God stops me and says, "By what right and by what prerogative do you enter My golden city and mingle with My redeemed?" And I say, "Lord, I know I am a Christian. I’ve been born again. Lord, I saw a ball of fire break over my head. I know I am saved." And Satan laughs, "Ha, ha, ha! So he saw a ball of fire fall from heaven? I sent that ball of fire just to deceive him!" And he drags my soul down to hell. What could I say, and what could I do? For in the thirteenth chapter of the Apocalypse it says, "And he, the great deceiver, caused fire to fall down from heaven to deceive them that are upon the earth" [Revelation 13:13-14].
When the great assize comes and we stand before God in heaven, and the saints go marching in and I deign to follow in their number, and the Lord God stops me and says, "By what right and by what prerogative do you mingle with My people and enter My holy city?" Then shall I say, "Dear God, when I was ten years old, in a revival meeting in our little village church, the preacher stayed in our home. And every night after the service, my mother would give him a glass of fresh churned buttermilk. And as he sat at the kitchen table drinking that milk, as a little boy I drew up my chair and sat by his side, and he talked to me about You. And on a weekday morning, having been given a little note to give to the teacher that I could be dismissed, I went to the morning service. I happened to be seated back of my mother. And when the preacher gave the invitation and the people stood up and sang the song, ‘There is a Fountain Filled with Blood,’ my mother with tears turned around to me and said, ‘Son, today will you trust Jesus as your Savior?’ And I said, ‘Mother, today I will take Jesus as my Savior.’ And I stepped into the aisle and down to the front, and gave the preacher my hand, taking Thee, trusting Thee as my Savior. And Lord, You said in Your Word, in John 1:12, ‘But as many as received Him, to them gave He the right, the authority, the prerogative to become the children of God, even to them that trust on His name.’ And Lord Jesus, that day when I was ten years old, the best a ten year old boy could, I received Thee as my Savior. I trusted Thee as my Lord. And Lord, I’m just depending upon You to keep Your word. That’s all."
And if God can lie, I may be lost. But if God keeps His word, I am saved. It’s the assurance of our salvation, the Word and promise of God. And I can awaken at 2 o’clock in the morning, and there it is; it doesn’t change. I may fall into all kinds of doubts and difficulties, but there it is; it doesn’t change.
Sweet people, if I were to see a light from heaven now, if I were to have a vision of an angel now, if I were to see a ball of fire come out of the sky now, I might thank God for the vision, that I had the experience, but it would never occur to me now to connect it with my salvation. For my salvation is based not upon an angel, or a light, or a ball of fire, but my hope is built on the Word and promise of God. And as long as God keeps His Word, I am saved. I am saved.
"The flower fadeth, the grass withereth, but the word of God shall stand forever," Isaiah 40, verse 8. Matthew 24:35, "Heaven and earth may pass away, the very elements be dissolved, but My words shall never pass away." The Word of God may pass into laws, it may pass into proverbs, it may pass into literature, it may pass into doctrines, but it will never pass away. For God’s Word is like God Himself. It shall endure, it shall stand forever.
And our blessed Savior, who is to us the Word and revelation of God, in Thee and in the written page, may we find that hope, that comfort that shall bless, and sustain, and enrich, and save our souls forever. In Thy keeping name, amen.